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Venerable Bede The Ecclesiastical History Of The English Nation

 
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Venerable Bede
The Ecclesiastical History Of The English Nation
page 2



Dagoberti Francorum Regis, eo nomine primi. Auctore P. F. Chiffletio, Soc. Jesu Presbyt. Parisiis, 1681. To this succeeded the edition of Smith, which superseded all the preceding. It is thus entitled : — Bedæ Venerabilis Hist. Eccl. gentis Anglorura, una cum reliqui8 ejus Operibus Historicis in unum volu-men collectis, cura Johannis Smith S. T. P. et Eccl. Dunelmensis non ita quidem Canonici. Cantabrigiae, 1722. The basis of this edition was a MS. formerly belonging to More, Bishop of Ely, and now deposited in the public library at Cambridge. [Kk, 5,16.] At the end of the volume, which is written in Anglo-Saxon letters, are the following notes in a somewhat later handwriting. ANNO DXLVII Ida regnare coepit a quo regalis Nordanhymbrorum prosapia originem tenet et XII annos in regno permansit. Post hunc Glappa I annum, Adda VIII, Ædilric IV, Theodric VII, Frid-wald VI, Hussa VII, Aldfrid XX, Osred XI, Coin-red I, Osric XI, Ceolwulf VIII. Baptizavit Paulinus ante an. CXI. Eclipsis ante an. LXXIII. Penda moritur ante an. LXXIX. Pugna Ecgfridi ante an. LXIII. iElfvini ante an. LVIII. Monasterium aet Wiraemoda ante an. LXIV. Cometae visæ ante an. VIII. Eodem anno pater Ecgberct transi vit ad Christum. Angli in Brittania ante an. CCXCII. By calculating these dates it would appear that the volume was copied in the year 737, i. e. two years after Bede's death, and probably from the author's original manuscript. In addition to More's MS., Smith collated two others from the Cottonian Library [Tib. C, II and A, XIV], and one in the King's Library, besides referring to a large number of others. His text, however, appears to be almost a fac-simile of More's MS., and he has given the readings of the other copies, which he collated, at the bottom of the page. The last edition of this celebrated and valuable work is that of Stevenson, published by the English Historical Society, Lond. 8vo. 1838. The editor professes to have used the same MS. of Bishop More, and to have occasionally collated four others [Cotton. Tib. C, II, Tib. A, XIV., Harl. 4978, and King's MS. 13 C, V.]. Prefixed to the volume is a copious and valuable notice of the author and his work, from which we take the liberty of making the following long extract, as containing the most judicious account of this our author's greatest work, and of the aids which he enjoyed in executing it. "The scope of the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum is sufficiently indicated by its title. After some observations upon the position, inhabitants and natural productions of Britain, the author gives a rapid sketch of its history from the earliest period until the arrival of Augustine in A.D. 597, at which æra, in his opinion, the Ecclesiastical History of our nation had its commencement. After that event, he treats, as was to be expected, for a time exclusively of the circumstances which occurred in Kent; but, as Christianity extended itself over the other kingdoms into which England was then divided, he gradually includes their history in his narrative, until he reaches the year 731. Here he concludes his work, which embraces a space of one hundred and thirty-four years, with a general outline of the ecclesiastical state of the island. "The Introduction, which extends from the commencement of the work to the conversion of the Saxons to Christianity, is gleaned, as Beda himself informs us, from various writers. The chief sources for the description of Britain are Pliny, Solinus, Orosius and Gildas ; St. Basil is also cited ; and the traditions which were current in Beda's own day are occasionally introduced. The history of the Romans in Britain is founded chiefly upon Orosius, Eutropius, and Gildas, corrected, however, in some places by the author, apparently from tradition or local information, and augmented by an account of the introduction of Christianity under Lucius, of the martyrdom of St. Alban, copied apparently from some legend, and of the origin of the Pelagian heresy,—all of them circumstances intimately connected with the ecclesiastical history of the island. The mention of Hengist and Horsa, and the allusion to the tomb of the latter at Horstead, render it probable that the account which Beda gives of the arrival of the Teutonic tribes, and their settlement in England, was communicated by Albinus and Nothhelm. It is purely fabulous, being, in fact, not the history, but the tradition, of the Jutish kingdom of Kent, as appears from circumstances mentioned elsewhere in this work, as well as from the authorities there quoted. The two visits of Germanus to England, so important in the history of its religion, are introduced in the very words of Constantius Lugdunensis, and must therefore have been copied from that author. The ante-Augustine portion of the history is terminated by extracts from Gildas, relative to the conflicts between the Saxons and Britons. As the mission of Augustine in A.D. 596 is the period at which Beda ceases to speak of himself as a compiler, and assumes the character of an Historian, it becomes incumbent upon us to examine into the sources upon which he has founded this, by far the most interesting portion of his History. The materials which he employed seem to have consisted of (i.) written documents, and (u.) verbal information. (i.) The written materials may be divided into (1.) Historical information drawn up and communicated by his correspondents for the express purpose of being employed in his work ; (2.) documents pre-existing in a narrative form, and (3.) transcripts of official documents. "(1.) That Beda's correspondents drew up and communicated to him information which he used when writing this History, is certain from what he states in its Prologue ; and it is highly probable that to them we are indebted for many particulars connected with the history of kingdoms situated to the south of the river Humber, with which a monk of Jarrow, from his local position, was probably unacquainted. Traces of the assistance which he derived from Canterbury are perceptible in the minute acquaintance which he exhibits not only with the topography of Kent, but with its condition at the time when he wrote ; and the same remark is applicable, although in a more limited degree, to most of the other southern kingdoms.



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