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9. The History and Antiquities of the Metropolitical Church of York, illustrated by a Series of Engravings of Views, Plans, Elevations, and Details, of the Architecture of that Edifice; with Biographical Anecdotes of the Archbishops. By J. Britton, F. S. A. 4to. 1819.
TO elucidate the Architecture and History of our Cathedrals, is an undertaking of such magnitude, demanding such energy and perseverance,we will also add, such a co-operation of men of talent and ability,-that it appears an exertion better suited to the united labours of a Society than to the efforts of an individual. It is, however, highly honourable to an individual, to engage in an enterprize so replete with difficulties, undaunted by apparent obstacles, and zealously striving to accomplish, with unabated excellence of execution, a work which, when completed, will contain an unrivalled mass of architectural information and of graphic beauty.
The pre-eminence of York Minster over our other Cathedrals is generally admitted. Willis expressly says that "every thing of this Church is so very magnificent, that it deserves a particular representation, for words cannot express the beauty and elegance of the architecture of each part." There is indeed a certain uniformity of style pervading the whole, which renders it more generally pleasing than a structure more heterogeneous in its parts, although at the same time of less interest to the antiquary and to the student of our antient architecture.
In this latter respect it cannot enter into competition with the rival fabric at Canterbury; which, although far inferior in regularity of structure, in general dimensions, and in the extent
and beauty of its facade, yet from the complexity of its plan, the extent of its crypts, the richness of its tombs and chapels, and the number of antient buildings annexed to the principal edifice, together with the variety of styles and dates that it exhibits, possesses attractions more powerful for the architectural antiquary, and indeed the general visitor, than are to be found in that of York.
Indeed, in these particulars, the latter must yield the palm of superiority to its nearer neighbour at Lincoln, which possesses more architectural beauties and interesting features. These comparative and distinctive peculiarities can only be known and appreciated by a careful and impartial examination of the different edifices; and, as this advantage can be enjoyed but by comparatively few persons, we are more indebted to those authors and artists who enable us to contemplate them with nearly equal effect, and certainly more leisurely, and with opportunity of more exact comparison, in our own libraries.
The History of the Cathedral in the volume before us, is introduced by some preliminary observations relative to the city itself, the existence of which can be traced back, with tolerable precision, nearly two thousand years, although of course but faintly marked. It is rendered memorable by the decease of two Roman Eperors, and the inauguration of a third nor less so by Edwin having here openly renounced the tenets of bis ancestors, and adopted the Christian religion. His conversion was effected partly by the zeal of his Queen, Ethelburga; partly by the exhortations of Boniface, the Roman pontiff, and Paulinus. Tradition also relates that he had been predisposed towards it in consequence of a vision which appeared to him during his banishment at the Court of Redwald, King of the Angles, whose protection he sought against the persecutions of Ethelfrid. This legendary narrative will perhaps excite the scepticism of modern readers: however, it is certain that in consequence of the admonitions of Paulinus, he convened an assembly of his counsellors and priests to discuss the propriety of adopting the new faith, when his determination was speedily fixed by the advice of
Coifi, the chief of the priests, who, so far from endeavouring to support their own religion, was zealous in rejecting it as a vain and unprofitable superstition; and, not contented with a mere abjuration, he manifested the sincerity of his sentiments by openly profaning those very altars at which he had served. In the 11th year of his reign Edwin was baptized at York, in a church erected there by himself of timber, and dedicated to the apostle Peter. This may be considered as the origin of the august and stupendous fabric which has subsequently procured for the city a higher degree of reputation than it could otherwise have obtained. It is not to be expected that we should pursue at length the sequel of the history, as it would not only protract this critique beyond its limits, but anticipate that information which we presume most of the readers of this article will be rather disposed to seek from the work itself.
After relating the death of Edwin, who fell (A. D. 633) in a contest against the leagued Kings Cadwallo and Penda, the writer proceeds to give some account of Osric and anfrid, the immediate successors of Edwin, and apostates from the faith; also of Oswald, who re-established the Christian religion. He then continues his history by acquainting us of some of the early Bishops, and of the disputes for precedency which took place between the two archi-episcopal Sees.
We cannot spare much room for quotation, but in order to afford our readers a specimen of the style and of the matter, we shall make an extract from this part of the work.
"The controversy which had been kept up for ages before, with occasional modifications of asperity, was at length to be decided in the reign of the Conqueror, though the successors to the see of York continued to urge their unavailing pretensious for a considerable time afterwards. The King having appointed an ecclesiastic, named Thomas, who was of the same country with himself, to the vacant see of York, the latter refused to profess obedience to Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury. This necessarily revived the contest which had been comparatively suspended for a long time; and both prelates having proceeded to Rome to urge their respective claims before the Pope, he referred them back to the English King, who, in a council which he called at Windsor, A. D. 1072,
pronounced by Hugh, the Pope's Legate, his decree in favour of Canterbury. That see founded its claim to precedency on three propositions, or facts, against which the northern see contended with more of
sophistry than argument. It stated that Gregory the Great created the two archbishoprics with powers perfectly independent of each other; and that their respective prelates took alternate precedency according to the seniority of their consecrations, till Lanfranc, ambitious to domi neer over the clergy, as his master did over the laity of England, assumed an undue right over the see of York. Referring to the question of antiquity, York sought an argument in the story of King Lucius, to
which we shall not a second time advert. But in conclusion that see insisted, that comparing the extent of their respective jurisdictions, she, though presiding over
the more limited space in England, had the larger in Britain, as embracing the entire kingdom of Scotland. Besides that, if the bishoprics of Worcester, Lichfield, and Lincoln, of which he had been unjustly deprived, were again restored, she might vie with Canterbury even with respect to English territory. It is not, however, of much consequence or interest to trace the history of these ecclesiastical contentions, which, after all, only serve to shew the folly and weakness of man, when he suffers pride to domineer over reason."
For several years after this event, the Prelates of York were extremely reluctant to admit the supremacy of the rival see, and at length yielded only at the express command of the Roman pontiff.
Having bestowed so much attention on this first chapter, we can only recapitulate the heads of those that remain.
The second relates to the foundation of the present church, and the successive additions that have been made to it. Wilfrid's Cathedral was destroyed by fire in 741. The second edifice built by Egbert experienced a similar fate during the siege of the Norman garrison by the Danes and Northumbrians (1069). Thomas, the Archbishop, soon restored it to even more than its pristine splendour, but in vain, for it was doomed to suffer a third time. Archbishop Roger rebuilt the Choir (1171) but the present one was erected by Archbishop Thoresby between the years 1361 and
it might reasonably be presumed, even if documents had been wanting to establish the fact, that a place possessing so many local advantages, the beauty of the scenery, the variety of the views, and its vicinity to the metropolis, would not be overlooked by those, whose rank and fortune enabled them to select a suitable residence. accordingly, became from the earliest pe
riods, the residence of nobles, whose opulence and taste adorned it with mansions, adapted to their dignity and station. These, indeed, have long since so entirely disappeared as to leave nothing behind them but the name. But though no remains at present serve to point out to the eye of antiquarian curiosity, even the spot, which once boasted of these distinctions, yet the memory delights to cherish the idea of former ages, and the imagination, to call up anew the scenes which the hand of time has long since withdrawn. The reader, then, will not be left destitute of this pleasure, in the perusal of the following sheets.
of the Church, accompanied by criti-
3. The History and Antiquities of the Parish
Nichols and Son.
In our last Volume, Part ii. p. 432, Mr. Robinson was introduced as the Historian of Tottenham. He now appears, in due form, as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, to record the History of another considerable Township in Middlesex; and it is but common justice to say that he possesses every requisite qualification."
"In reviewing the Topographical recommendations of the parish of Edmonton,
But whatever chasms time may have left in the ancient history of Edmonton, they are amply compensated for, by the copious information I have been able to adduce respecting its modern state. This tance, that cannot fail to render it interestcircumstance will stamp it with an impor
to every one, in whom this parish can excite any interest."
in number) are some good Portraits; Among the Embellishments (XII but the plate which is of the most real consequence is a Map of the Parish, which is a copy of the survey made in 1801 and 1802, and corrected by the original.
The History is well digested; and that it contains not merely dry matters of antiquarian research, may appear from the following extracts :
"Norden, in his Speculum, says:
"There is a fable of oue Peter Fabell have beguiled the devill by policie for that lyeth in this church, who is said to money; but the devill is deceit itself, and hardly deceived.'
"Belike (says Weever) he was some ingenious conceited gentleman who did use some fleightie tricks for his own disport. He lived and died in the reign of Henry VII. says the book of his merry pranks.'
"This book, which is mentioned by Weever, is a very scarce pamphlet, and is called The Life and Death of the Merry Devil of Edmonton, with the pleasant pranks of Smug the Smith, Sir John, and mine host of the George, about stealing the Venison.'
"On the title-page there is a wood cut, with the figure of a man upon a horse,
"The pleasant pranks compose the greater part of the book, which informs us that Maister Peter Fabell, otherwise called the Merry Devil of Edmonton (for the many excellent jeasts he did,) was a man of good descent; and a man, either for his gifts externall or internall, inferior to few. For his person he was absolute. Nature had never showne the fulnesse of her skill more in any than in him: for the other, I meane bis great learning (including many misteries) hee was as amply blest as any.'
"Very pleasant, kinde, and freeharted was hee, to or with his familiars: very affable, and courteous to strangers, and very liberal, full of commisseration and pitie to the poore and needy: both abroad from his purse, and at home from his table. In his time very well knowne to him, and some time (in pastime) very familiar with him, were these men: Oliver Smug, Sir John the merry Parson, Banks the miller, and mine Host of the George: in whose companies many times for recre. ation, he would spend some hours.
Edmonton he was born, lived and died in the reigne of Henry the Seventh.'*
"In the dispersed library of the late Mr. Wm. Collins, I saw,' says Warton, 'a thin folio of two sheets in the black letter, containing a poem in the octave stanza, entitled, Fabyl's Ghoste, printed by John Rastal, in 1553. This piece has no merit; but the subject throws some light on our early drama. Peter Fabell, whose apparition speaks in this poem, was called the Merrie Devil of Edmonton, near London.'
"This story was worked up into a play, which was also called The Merry Devil of Edmonton ;' and has been falsely attributed to Shakespeare;+ but generally supposed to have been written by Michael Drayton. There are five editions of it, the first came out in 1608; the second in
"From a curious Tract in the black
letter, 1631, in the possession of J. Perry, esq. and which has been lately reprinted in the Roman letter, preserving the original character, with the wood cut on the titlepage."
+"One Kirkman, a bookseller, who, in the sixteenth century, made diligent inquiry after old plays, ascribed this play to Shakespeare. If a judgment may be formed of the author from internal evidence, it certainly will not be assigned to our great dramatic Bard, being in every respect unworthy his genius. There are many other circumstances from which it
may be collected, that some other writer
must take the merit or dishonour of the performance. Coxeter (in his Companion to the Playhouse,) says, that, in an old MS of this play, he had seen it assigned to Michael Drayton: and Oldys, in his MS notes to Langbaine, speaks to the same effect. But some other author must yet be sought for; as from the entry in the books of the Stationers' Company, in the year 1608, when it was first published, it appears that the initial letters of the author's name were T. B. [Probably Thomas Brewer-the initials T. B. being on the title-page of the Tract mentioned in note 198, and the last page is signed "Tho. Brewer."] It had been acted before that time, being mentioned in the Blacke Booke by T. M. 1604, Give him leave to see the Merry Devil of Edmonton ; or, a Woman Killed with Kindness:' and that it was a favourite performance, may be concluded from the following lines in Ben. Jonson's prologue to "The Devil is an Ass" :
If you'll come To see new plays, pray you afford us room, And shew this but the same face you have done
Your dear delight-the Merry Devil of Edmonton!'
1617; the third in 1626; the fourth in 1631; and the fifth in 1655. * The scene is laid at Edmonton and Enfield; and it was reprinted in the Ancient British Drama by Miller, in 1810."
Sermons, Doctrinal and Practical, preached in King-street, Brompton, Quebec, and Fitzroy Chapels. By the Rev. T. F. Dibdin. 8vo. pp. 515. Longman and Co.
CONSIDERING the quarter from which it comes, this book may be pronounced a sort of miracle in its way. Here is a plain, substantial octavo volume,published by theRev.Mr.Dibdin, without head-piece, middle-piece, or tail-piece. Not one single embellishment, upon copper or upon wood, meets the inquisitive eye—as in the other multifarious productions of the Author. From beginning to end it is all pure, solid text; with scarcely the semblance of a note-a circumstance also not less extraordinary, considering the quarter whence it proceeds! We are very glad to see such a performance from the pen of its reverend Author. It is right and proper that Clergymen of the Church of England -especially those, who, as in the present instance, have a literary reputation to support-should leave behind them testimonies of the faith which
they have preached, and thus disseminate more widely those principles which result from the propagation of Mr. Dibdin has, moresuch a faith. over, been the joint Spiritual Pastor of four several flocks; and we are perfectly persuaded that these flocks, to whom he has dedicated his labours, will unite hand and heart in attesting the integrity and ability of their Shepherd.
We are not sure, however, whether, at the very outset of our examination, we are not disposed to pick a bone of contention with Mr. Dibdin. preface, which he modestly calls an
Advertisement,' is undoubtedly both short and sweet: but why should he apologize for a publication, which it is clear that he considers as a duty to bring forward? Certainly any thing is better than arrogance and insolence; but we must say that the reverend Author has been unnecessarily, and
*"This edition of 1655 is of little or no value from the number of errors it contains."