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Title: The Coming of the Friars
Author: Jessopp, Augustus, 1823-1914
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Hon. Canon in Norwich Cathedral, Hon. Fellow of Worcester College,
Oxford, and Hon. Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge






[These Essays have appeared at various times in "The Nineteenth
Century," and are now printed with some alterations, corrections, and











Sweet St. Francis of Assisi, would that he were here again!--_Lord

When King Richard of England, whom men call the Lion-hearted, was
wasting his time at Messina, after his boisterous fashion, in the
winter of 1190, he heard of the fame of Abbot Joachim, and sent for
that renowned personage, that he might hear from his own lips the words
of prophecy and their interpretation.

Around the personality of Joachim there has gathered no small amount of
_mythus._ He was, it appears, the inventor of that mystical method of
Hermeneutics which has in our time received the name of "the year-day
theory," and which, though now abandoned for the most part by sane men,
has still some devout and superstitious advocates in the school of Dr.
Cumming and kindred visionaries.

Abbot Joachim proclaimed that a stupendous catastrophe was at hand.
Opening the Book of the Revelation of St. John he read, pondered, and
interpreted. A divine illumination opened out to him the dark things
that were written in the sacred pages. The unenlightened could make
nothing of "a time, times, and half a time" [Footnote: Dan. xii. 7.];
to them the terrors of the 1,260 days [Footnote: Rev. xi 3.] were an
insoluble enigma long since given up as hopeless, whose answer would
come only at the Day of Judgment. Abbot Joachim declared that the key
to the mystery had been to him revealed. What could "a time, times, and
half a time" mean, but three years and a half? What could a year mean
in the divine economy but the _lunar_ year of 360 days? for was not the
moon the symbol of the Church of God? What were those 1,260 days but
the sum of the days of three years and a half? Moreover, as it had been
with the prophet Ezekiel, to whom it was said, "I have appointed thee a
day for a year," so it must needs be with other seers who saw the
visions of God. To them the "day" was not as our brief prosaic day--to
them too had been "appointed a day for a year." The "time, times, and
half a time" were the 1,260 days, and these were 1,260 years, and the
stupendous catastrophe, the battle of Armageddon, the reign of
Antichrist, the new heavens and the new earth, the slaughter and the
resurrection of the two heavenly witnesses, were at hand. Eleven
hundred and ninety years had passed away of those 1,260. "Hear, O
heavens, and give ear, O earth," said Joachim; "Antichrist is already
born, yea born in the city of Rome!"

Though King Richard, in the strange interview of which contemporary
historians have left us a curious narrative, exhibited much more of the
spirit of the scoffer than of the convert, and evidently had no faith
in Abbott Joachim's theories and his mission, it was otherwise with the
world at large. At the close of the twelfth century a very general
belief, the result of a true instinct, pervaded all classes that
European society was passing through a tremendous crisis, that the dawn
of a new era, or, as they phrased it, "the end of all things" was at

The Abbot Joachim was only the spokesman of his age who was lucky
enough to get a hearing. He spoke a language that was a jargon of
rhapsody, but he spoke vaguely of terrors, and perils, and earthquakes,
and thunderings, the day of wrath; and because he spoke so darkly men
listened all the more eagerly, for there was a vague anticipation of
the breaking up of the great waters, and that things that had been
heretofore could not continue as they were.

Verily when the thirteenth century opened, the times were evil, and no
hope seemed anywhere on the horizon. The grasp of the infidel was
tightened upon the Holy City, and what little force there ever had been
among the rabble of Crusaders was gone now; the truculent ruffianism
that pretended to be animated by the crusading spirit showed its real
character in the hideous atrocities for which Simon de Montfort is
answerable, and in the unparalleled enormities of the sack of
Constantinople in 1204. For ten years (1198--1208) through the length
and breadth of Germany there was ceaseless and sanguinary conflict. In
the great Italian towns party warfare, never hesitating to resort to
every kind of crime, had long been chronic. The history of Sicily is
one long record of cruelty, tyranny, and wrong--committed, suffered, or
revenged. Over the whole continent of Europe people seem to have had no
_homes;_ the merchant, the student, the soldier, the ecclesiastic were
always on the move. Young men made no difficulty in crossing the Alps
to attend lectures at Bologna, or crossing the Channel to or from
Oxford and Paris. The soldier or the scholar was equally a free-lance,
ready to take service whereever it offered, and to settle wherever
there was dread to win or money to save. No one trusted in the
stability of anything. [Footnote: M. Jusserand's beautiful book, "La
Vie Nomade," was not published till 1884, _i.e.,_ a year after this
essay appeared.]

To a thoughtful man watching the signs of the times, it may well have
seemed that the hope for the future of civilization--the hope for any
future, whether of art, science, or religion-lay in the steady growth
of the towns. It might be that the barrier of the Alps would always
limit the influence of Italian cities to Italy and the islands of the
Mediterranean; but for the great towns of what is now Belgium and
Germany what part might not be left for them to play in the history of
the world? In England the towns were as yet insignificant communities
compared with such mighty aggregates of population as were to be found
in Bruges, Antwerp, or Cologne; but even the English towns _were_
communities, and they were beginning to assert themselves somewhat
loudly while clinging to their chartered rights with jealous tenacity.
Those rights, however, were eminently exclusive and selfish in their
character. The chartered towns were ruled in all cases by an oligarchy.
[Footnote: Stubbs, "Constitutional History," vol. i. Section 131.] The
increase in the population brought wealth to a class, the class of
privileged traders, associated into guilds, who kept their several
_mysteries_ to themselves by vigilant measures of protection. Outside
the well-guarded defences which these trades-unions constructed, there
were the masses--hewers of wood and drawers of water--standing to the
skilled artizan of the thirteenth century almost precisely in the same
relation as the bricklayer's labourer does to the mason in our own
time. The _sediment_ of the town population in the Middle Ages was a
dense slough of stagnant misery, squalor, famine, loathsome disease,
and dull despair, such as the worst slums of London, Paris, or
Liverpool know nothing of. When we hear of the mortality among the
townsmen during the periodical outbreaks of pestilence or famine,
horror suggests that we should dismiss as incredible such stories as
the imagination shrinks from dwelling on. What greatly added to the
dreary wretchedness of the lower order in the towns was the fact that
the ever-increasing throngs of beggars, outlaws, and ruffian runaways
were simply left to shift for themselves. The civil authorities took no
account of them as long as they quietly rotted and died; and, what was
still more dreadful, the whole machinery of the Church polity had been
formed and was adapted to deal with entirely different conditions of
society from those which had now arisen.

The idea of the parish priest taking the oversight of his flock, and
ministering to each member as the shepherd of the people, is a grand
one, but it is an idea which can be realized, and then only
approximately, in the village community. In the towns of the Middle
Ages the parochial system, except as a _civil_ institution, had broken

The other idea, of men and women weary of the hard struggle with sin,
and fleeing from the wrath to come, joining together to give themselves
up to the higher life, out of the reach of temptation and safe from the
witcheries of Mammon,--that too was a grand idea, and not unfrequently
it had been carried out grandly. But the monk was nothing and did
nothing for the townsman; he fled away to his solitude; the rapture of
silent adoration was his joy and exceeding great reward; his nights and
days might be spent in praise and prayer, sometimes in study and
research, sometimes in battling with the powers of darkness and
ignorance, sometimes in throwing himself heart and soul into art which
it was easy to persuade himself he was doing only for the glory of God;
but all this must go on far away from the busy haunts of men, certainly
not within earshot of the multitude. Moreover the monk was, by birth,
education, and sympathy, one with the upper classes. What were the
rabble to him? [Footnote: The 20th Article of the Assize of Clarendon
is very significant: "Prohibet dominus rex ne monachi... recipiant
_aliquem de minuto populo in monachum,_ vel canonicum vel fratrem,"
&c.--Stubbs, "Benedict Abbas," pref. p. cliv.] In return the townsmen
hated him cordially, as a supercilious aristocrat and Pharisee, with
the guile and greed of the Scribe and lawyer superadded.

Upon the townsmen--whatever it may have been among the countrymen--the
ministers of religion exercised the smallest possible _restraint._ Nay!
it was only too evident that the bonds of ecclesiastical discipline
which had so often exercised a salutary check upon the unruly had
become seriously relaxed of late, both in town and country; they had
been put to too great a strain and had snapped. By the suicidal methods
of Excommunication and Interdict all ranks were schooled into doing
without the rites of religion, the baptism of their children, or the
blessing upon the marriage union. In the meantime it was notorious that
even in high places there were instances not a few of Christians who
had denied the faith and had given themselves up to strange beliefs, of
which the creed of the Moslem was not the worst. Men must have received
with a smile the doctrine that Marriage was a Sacrament when everybody
knew that, among the upper classes at least, the bonds of matrimony
were soluble almost at pleasure. [Footnote: Eleanor of Aquitaine,
consort of Henry II., had been divorced by Louis VII. of France.
Constance of Brittany, mother of Arthur--Shakespeare's idealized
Constance--left her husband, Ranulph, Earl of Chester, to unite herself
with Guy of Flanders. Conrad of Montferat divorced the daughter of
Isaac Angelus, Emperor of Constantinople, to marry Isabella, daughter
of Amalric, King of Jerusalem, the bride repudiating her husband
Henfrid of Thouars. Philip II. of France married the sister of the King
of Denmark one day and divorced her the next; then married a German
lady, left her, and returned to the repudiated Dane. King John in 1189
divorced Hawisia, Countess of Gloucester, and took Isabella of
Angouleme to wife, but how little he cared to be faithful to the one or
the other the chronicles disdain to ask.] It seems hardly worth while
to notice that the observance of Sunday was almost universally
neglected, or that sermons had become so rare that when Eustace, Abbot
of Flai, preached in various places in England in 1200, miracles were
said to have ensued as the ordinary effects of his eloquence.
Earnestness in such an age seemed in itself miraculous. Here and there
men and women, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, raised
their sobbing prayer to heaven that the Lord would shortly accomplish
the number of his elect and hasten his coming, and Abbot Joachim's
dreams were talked of and his vague mutterings made the sanguine hope
for better days. Among those mutterings had there not been a speech of
the two heavenly witnesses who were to do--ah! what were they not to
do? And these heavenly witnesses, who were they? When and where would
they appear?

Eight years before King Richard was in Sicily a child had been born in
the thriving town of Assisi, thirteen miles from Perugia, who was
destined to be one of the great movers of the world. Giovanni
Bernardone was the son of a wealthy merchant at Assisi, and from all
that appears an only child. He was from infancy intended for a
mercantile career, nor does he seem to have felt any dislike to it. One
story--and it is as probable as the other--accounts for his name
Francesco by assuring us that he earned it by his unusual familiarity
with the French language, acquired during his residence in France while
managing his father's business. The new name clung to him; the old
baptismal name was dropped; posterity has almost forgotten that it was
ever imposed. From the mass of tradition and personal recollections
that have come down to us from so many different sources it is not
always easy to decide when we are dealing with pure invention of pious
fraud, and when with mere exaggeration of actual fact, but it scarcely
admits of doubt that the young merchant of Assisi was engaged in trade
and commerce till his twenty-fourth year, living in the main as others
live, but perhaps early conspicuous for aiming at a loftier ideal than
that of his everyday associates, and characterized by the devout and
ardent temperament essential to the religious reformer. It was in the
year 1206 that he became a changed man. He fell ill--he lay at Death's
door. From the languor and delirium he recovered but slowly--when he
did recover old things had passed away; behold! all things had become
new. From this time Giovanni Bernardone passes out of sight, and from
the ashes of a dead past, from the seed which has withered that the new
life might germinate and fructify, Francis--why grudge to call him
Saint Francis?--of Assisi rises.

Very early the young man had shown a taste for Church restoration. The
material fabric of the houses of God in the land could not but exhibit
the decay of living faith; the churches were falling into ruins. The
little chapel of St. Mary and the Angels at Assisi was in a scandalous
condition of decay. It troubled the heart of the young pietist
profoundly to see the Christian church squalid and tottering to its
fall while within sight of it was the Roman temple in which men had
worshipped the idols. There it stood, as it had stood for a thousand
years--as it stands to this day. Oh, shame! that Christian men should
build so slightly while the heathen built so strongly!

To the little squalid ruin St. Francis came time and again, and poured
out his heart, perplexed and sad; and there, we are told, God met him
and a voice said, "Go, and build my church again." It was a "thought
beyond his thought," and with the straightforward simplicity of his
nature he accepted the message in its literal sense and at once set
about obeying it as he understood it.

He began by giving all he could lay his hands on to provide funds for
the work. His own resources exhausted, he applied for contributions to
all who came in his way. His father became alarmed at his son's
excessive liberality and the consequences that might ensue from his
strange recklessness; it is even said that he turned him out of doors;
it seems that the commercial partnership was cancelled: it is certain
that the son was compelled to make some great renunciation of wealth,
and that his private means were seriously restricted. That a man of
business should be blind to the preciousness of money was a sufficient
proof then, as now, that he must be mad.

O ye wary men of the world, bristling with the shrewdest of maxims,
bursting with the lessons of experience, ye of the cool heads and the
cold grey eyes, ye whom the statesman loves, and the tradesman trusts,
cautious, sagacious, prudent; when the rumbling of the earthquake tells
us that the foundations of the earth are out of course, we must look
for deliverance to other than you! A grain of enthusiasm is of mightier
force than a million tons of wisdom such as yours; then when the hour
of the great upheaval has arrived, and things can no longer be kept

"Build up my church!" said the voice again to this gushing emaciated
fanatic in the second-rate Italian town, this dismal bankrupt of
twenty-four years of age, "of lamentably low extraction," whom no
University claimed as her own, and whom the learned pundits pitied. At
last he understood the profounder meaning of the words. It was no
temple made with hands, but the _living_ Church that needed raising.
The dust of corruption must be swept away, the dry bones be stirred;
the breath of the divine Spirit blow and reanimate them. Did not the
voice mean that? What remained but to obey?

In his journeyings through France it is hardly possible that St.
Francis should not have heard of _the poor men of Lyons_ whose peculiar
tenets at this time were arousing very general attention. It is not
improbable that he may have fallen in with one of those translations of
the New Testament into the vernacular executed by Stephen de Emsa at
the expense of Peter Waldo, and through his means widely circulated
among all classes. [Footnote: See "Facts and Documents Illustrative of
the History, Doctrine, and Rites, of the Ancient Albigenses and
Waldenses," by the Rev. S. R, Maitland, London, 8vo., 1832, p. 127 _et
seq._] Be it as it may, the words addressed by our Lord to the seventy,
when he sent them forth to preach the kingdom of heaven, seemed to St.
Francis to be written in letters of flame. They haunted him waking and
sleeping. "The lust of gain in the spirit of Cain!" what had it done
for the world or the Church but saturate the one and the other with
sordid greed? Mere wealth had not added to the sum of human happiness.
Nay, misery was growing; kings fought, and the people bled at every
pore. Merchants reared their palaces, and the masses were perishing.
Where riches increased, there pride and ungodliness were rampant. What
had corrupted the monks, whose lives should be so pure and exemplary?
What but their vast possessions, bringing with them luxury and the
paralysis of devotion and of all lofty endeavour? It was openly
maintained that the original Benedictine Rule could not be kept now as
of yore. One attempt after another to bring back the old monastic
discipline had failed deplorably. The Cluniac revival had been followed
by the Cluniac laxity, splendour, and ostentation. The Cistercians, who
for a generation had been the sour puritans of the cloister, had become
the most potent religious corporation in Europe; but theirs was the
power of the purse now. Where had the old strictness and the old
fervour gone? Each man was lusting for all that was not his own; but
free alms, where were they? and pity for the sad, and reverence for the
stricken, and tenderness and sympathy? "O gentle Jesus, where art Thou?
and is there no love of Thee anywhere, nor any love for Thy lost sheep,
Thou crucified Saviour of men?"

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Knocking at his heart--not merely buzzing in his brain--the words kept
smiting him, "Provide neither gold nor silver nor brass in your purses,
neither scrip for your journey, neither two coats, nor yet staves, for
the workman is worthy of his meat!" Once men had changed the face of
the world with no other equipment. Faith then had removed mountains.
Why not again? He threw away his staff and shoes; he went forth with
literally a single garment; he was girt with a common rope round his
loins. He no more doubted of his mission, he no more feared for the
morrow than he feared for the young ravens that he loved and spake to
in an ecstasy of joy.

Henceforth there was "not a bird upon the tree but half forgave his
being human;" the flowers of the field looked out at him with special
greetings, the wolf of the mountains met him with no fierce glare in
his eye. Great men smiled at the craze of the monomaniac. Old men shook
their grey heads and remembered that they themselves had been young and
foolish. Practical men would not waste their words upon the folly of
the thing. Rich men, serenely confident of their position, affirmed
that they knew of only one who could overcome the world--to wit, the
veritable hero, he who holds the purse-strings. St. Francis did not
speak to these. "Oh, ye miserable, helpless, and despairing; ye who
find yourselves so unutterably forlorn--so very, very far astray; ye
lost souls whom Satan has bound through the long weary years; ye of the
broken hearts, bowed down and crushed; ye with your wasted bodies
loathsome to every sense, to whom life is torture and whom death will
not deliver; ye whose very nearness by the wayside makes the traveller
as he passes shudder with uncontrollable horror lest your breath should
light upon his garments, look! I am poor as you--I am one of
yourselves. Christ, the very Christ of God, has sent me with a message
to you. Listen!"

It is observable that we never hear of St. Francis that he was a
sermon-maker. He had received no clerical or even academical training.
Up to 1207 he had not even a license to preach. It was only after this
that he was--and apparently without desiring it--ordained a deacon. In
its first beginnings the Franciscan movement was essentially moral, not
theological, still less intellectual. The absence of anything like
dogma in the sermons of the early Minorites was their characteristic.
One is tempted to say it was a mere accident that these men were not
sectaries, so little in common had they with the ecclesiastics of the
time, so entirely did they live and labour among the laity of whom they
were and with whom they so profoundly sympathized.

The secret of the overwhelming, the irresistible attraction which St.
Francis exercised is to be found in his matchless simplicity, in his
sublime self-surrender. He removed mountains because he believed
intensely in the infinite power of _mere goodness_. While from the
writhing millions all over Europe--the millions ignorant, neglected,
plague-stricken, despairing--an inarticulate wail was going up to God,
St. Francis made it articulate. Then he boldly proclaimed: "God has
heard your cry! It meant this and that. I am sent to you with the good
God's answer." There was less than a step between accepting him as the
interpreter of their vague yearnings and embracing him as the
ambassador of Heaven to themselves.

St. Francis was hardly twenty-eight years old when he set out for Rome,
to lay himself at the feet of the great Pope Innocent the Third, and to
ask from him some formal recognition. The pontiff, so the story goes,
was walking in the garden of the Lateran when the momentous meeting
took place. Startled by the sudden apparition of an emaciated young
man, bareheaded, shoeless, half-clad, but--for all his gentleness--a
beggar who would take no denial, Innocent hesitated. It was but for a
brief hour, the next he was won.

Francis returned to Assisi with the Papal sanction for what was,
probably, a draught of his afterwards famous "Rule." He was met by the
whole city, who received him with a frenzy of excitement. By this time
his enthusiasm had kindled that of eleven other young men, all now
aglow with the same divine fire. A twelfth soon was added--he,
moreover, a layman of gentle blood and of knightly rank. All these had
surrendered their claim to everything in the shape of property, and had
resolved to follow their great leader's example by stripping themselves
of all worldly possessions, and suffering the loss of all things. They
were beggars--literally barefooted beggars. The love of money was the
root of all evil. They would not touch the accursed thing lest they
should be defiled--no, not with the tips of their fingers. "Ye cannot
serve God and Mammon."

Beggars they were, but they were brethren--_Fratres (Frères)_. We in
England have got to call them _Friars_. Francis was never known in his
lifetime as anything higher than _Brother Francis_, and his community
he insisted should be called the community of the lesser
brethren--_Fratres Minores_--for none could be or should be less than
they. Abbots and Priors, he would have none of them. "He that will be
chief among you," he said, in Christ's own words, "let him be your
servant." The highest official among the _Minorites_ was the
_Minister_, the elect of all, the servant of all, and if not humble
enough to serve, not fit to rule.

People talk of "Monks and Friars" as if these were convertible terms.
The truth is that the difference between the Monks and the Friars was
almost one of kind. The Monk was supposed never to leave his cloister.
The Friar in St. Francis' first intention had no cloister to leave.
Even when he had where to lay his head, his life-work was not to save
his own soul, but first and foremost to save the bodies and souls of
others. The Monk had nothing to do with ministering to others. At best
his business was to be the salt of the earth, and it behoved him to be
much more upon his guard that the salt should not lose his savour, than
that the earth should be sweetened. The Friar was an itinerant
evangelist, always on the move. He was a preacher of righteousness. He
lifted up his voice against sin and wrong. "Save yourselves from this
untoward generation!" he cried; "save yourselves from the wrath to
come." The Monk, as has been said, was an aristocrat. The Friar
belonged to the great unwashed!

Without the loss of a day the new apostles of poverty, of pity, of an
all-embracing love, went forth by two and two to build up the ruined
Church of God. Theology they were, from anything that appears,
sublimely ignorant of. Except that they were masters of every phrase
and word in the Gospels, their stock in trade was scarcely more than
that of an average candidate for Anglican orders; but to each and all
of them Christ was simply _everything_. If ever men have preached
Christ, these men did; Christ, nothing but Christ, the Alpha and the
Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. They had no
system, they had no views, they combated no opinions, they took no
side. Let the dialecticians dispute about this nice distinction or
that. There _could_ be no doubt that Christ had died and risen, and was
alive for evermore. There was no place for controversy or opinions when
here was a mere simple, indisputable, but most awful fact. Did you want
to wrangle about the aspect of the fact, the evidence, the what not?
St. Francis had no mission to argue with you. "The pearl of great
price--will you have it or not? Whether or not, there are millions
sighing for it, crying for it, dying for it. To the poor at any rate
the Gospel shall be preached now as of old."

To the poor by the poor. Those masses, those dreadful masses, crawling,
sweltering in the foul hovels, in many a southern town with never a
roof to cover them, huddling in groups under a dry arch, alive with
vermin; gibbering _cretins_ with the ghastly wens; lepers by the
hundred, too shocking for mothers to gaze at, and therefore driven
forth to curse and howl in the lazar-house outside the walls, there
stretching out their bony hands to clutch the frightened almsgiver's
dole, or, failing that, to pick up shreds of offal from the heaps of
garbage--to these St. Francis came.

More wonderful still!--to these outcasts came those other twelve, so
utterly had their leader's sublime self-surrender communicated itself
to his converts. "We are come," they said, "to live among you and be
your servants, and wash your sores, and make your lot less hard than it
is. We only want to do as Christ bids us do. We are beggars too, and we
too have not where to lay our heads. Christ sent us to you. Yes. Christ
the crucified, whose we are, and whose you are. Be not wroth with us,
we will help you if we can."

As they spoke, so they lived. They _were_ less than the least, as St.
Francis told them they must strive to be. Incredulous cynicism was put
to silence. It was wonderful, it was inexplicable, it was disgusting,
it was anything you please; but where there were outcasts, lepers,
pariahs, there, there were these penniless Minorites tending the
miserable sufferers with a cheerful look, and not seldom with a merry
laugh. As one reads the stories of those earlier Franciscans, one is
reminded every now and then of the extravagances of the Salvation Army.

The heroic example set by these men at first startled, and then
fascinated the upper classes. While labouring to save the lowest, they
took captive the highest. The Brotherhood grew in numbers day by day;
as it grew, new problems presented themselves. How to dispose of all
the wealth renounced, how to employ the energies of all the crowds of
brethren. Hardest of all, what to do with the earnest, highly-trained,
and sometimes erudite convert who could not divest himself of the
treasures of learning which he had amassed. "Must I part with my
books?" said the scholar, with a sinking heart. "Carry nothing with you
for your journey!" was the inexorable answer. "Not a Breviary? not even
the Psalms of David?" "Get them into your heart of hearts, and provide
yourself with a treasure in the heavens. Who ever heard of Christ
reading books save when He opened the book in the synagogue, and then
_closed_ it and went forth to teach the world for ever?"

In 1215 the new Order held its first Chapter at the Church of the
Portiuncula. The numbers of the Brotherhood and the area over which
their labours extended had increased so vastly that it was already
found necessary to nominate Provincial Ministers in France, Germany,
and Spain.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

While these things were going on in Italy, another notable reformer was
vexing his righteous soul in Spain. St. Dominic was a very different
man from the gentle and romantic young Italian. Of high birth, which
among the haughty Castillians has always counted for a great deal, he
had passed his boyhood among ecclesiastics and academics. He was twelve
years older than St. Francis. He studied theology for ten years at the
University of Palencia, and before the twelfth century closed he was an
Augustinian Canon. In 1203, while St. Francis was still poring over his
father's ledgers, Dominic was associated with the Bishop of Osma in
negotiating a marriage for Alphonso the Eighth, king of Castille. For
the next ten years he was more or less concerned with the hideous
atrocities of the Albigensian war. During that dark period of his
career he was brought every day face to face with heresy and schism.
From infancy he must have heard those around him talk with a savage
intolerance of the Moors of the South and the stubborn Jews of Toledo
nearer home. Now his eyes were open to the perils that beset the Church
from sectaries who from within were for casting off her divine
authority. Wretches who questioned the very creeds and rejected the
Sacraments, yet perversely insisted that they were Christian men and
women, with a clearer insight into Gospel mysteries than Bishops and
Cardinals or the Holy Father himself. Here was heresy rampant, and
immortal souls, all astray, beguiled by evil men and deceivers, "whose
word doth eat as doth a canker." Dominic "saw that there was no man,
and marvelled that there was no intercessor."

It was not ungodliness that Dominic, in the first instance, determined
to war with, but ignorance and error. _These_ were to him the monster
evils, whose natural fruit was moral corruption. Get rid of them and
the depraved heart might be dealt with by-and-by. Dominic stood forth
as the determined champion of orthodoxy. "Preach the word in season,
out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort"--that was his panacea. His
success at the first was but small. Preachers with the divine fervour,
with the gift of utterance, with the power to drive truth home--are
rare. They are not to be had for the asking; they are not to be trained
in a day. Years passed, but little was achieved.

Dominic was patient He had, indeed, founded a small religious community
of sixteen brethren at St. Ronain, near Toulouse--one of these, we are
told, was an Englishman--whose aim and object were to produce an effect
through the agency of the pulpit, to confute the heretics and instruct
the unlearned. The Order, if it deserved the name, was established on
the old lines. A monastery was founded, a local habitation secured. The
maintenance of the brotherhood was provided for by a sufficient
endowment; the petty cares and anxieties of life were in the main
guarded against; but when Innocent the Third gave his formal sanction
to the new community, it was given to Dominic and his associates, on
the 8th of October, 1215, as to a house of _Augustinian Canons_, who
received permission to enjoy in their corporate capacity the endowments
which had been bestowed upon them. [Footnote: So "La Cordaire, vie de
S. Dominique" (1872), p. 120. It was, however, a very curious
community, as appears from "Ripolli Bullarium Praedicat:" I.i.]

In the following July Innocent died, and was at once succeeded by
Honorius the Third. Dominic set out for Rome, and on the 22nd of
December he received from the new Pope a bare confirmation of what his
predecessor had granted, with little more than a passing allusion to
the fact that the new canons were to be emphatically _Preachers_ of the
faith. In the autumn of 1217 Dominic turned his back upon Languedoc for
ever. He took up his residence at Rome, and at once rose high in the
favour of the Pope. His eloquence, his earnestness, his absorbing
enthusiasm, his matchless dialectic skill, his perfect scholastic
training--all combined to attract precisely those cultured churchmen
whose fastidious sense of the fitness of things revolted from the
austerities of St. Francis and the enormous demands which the Minorites
made upon their converts. While Francis was acting upon the masses from
Assisi, Dominic was stirring the dry bones to a new vitality among
scholars and ecclesiastics at Rome.

Thus far we have heard little or nothing of poverty among the more
highly educated _Friars Preachers_, as they got to be called. That
seems to have been quite an afterthought. So far as Dominic may be said
to have accepted the Voluntary Principle and, renouncing all
endowments, to have thrown himself and his followers for support upon
the alms of the faithful, so far he was a disciple of St. Francis. The
Champion of Orthodoxy was a convert to the Apostle of Poverty.

How soon the Dominicans gave in their adhesion to the distinctive tenet
of the Minorites will never now be known, nor how far St. Francis
himself adopted it from others; but a conviction that holiness of life
had deteriorated in the Church and the cloister by reason of the
excessive wealth of monks and ecclesiastics was prevalent everywhere,
and a belief was growing that sanctity was attainable only by those who
were ready to part with all their worldly possessions and give to such
as needed. Even before St. Francis had applied to Innocent the Third,
the poor men of Lyons had come to Rome begging for papal sanction to
their missionary plans; they met with little favour, and vanished from
the scene. But they too declaimed against endowments--they too were to
live on alms. The Gospel of Poverty was "_in the air_."

In 1219 the Franciscans held their second general Chapter. It was
evident that they were taking the world by storm; evident, too, that
their astonishing success was due less to their preaching than to their
self-denying lives. It was abundantly plain that this vast army of
fervent missionaries could live from day to day and work wonders in
evangelizing the masses without owning a rood of land, or having
anything to depend upon but the perennial stream of bounty which flowed
from the gratitude of the converts. If the Preaching Friars were to
succeed at such a time as this, they could only hope to do so by
exhibiting as sublime a faith as the Minorites displayed to the world.
Accordingly, in the very year after the second Chapter of the
Franciscans was held at Assisi, a general Chapter of the Dominicans was
held at Bologna, and there the profession of poverty was formally
adopted, and the renunciation of all means of support, except such as
might be offered from day to day, was insisted on. Henceforth the two
orders were to labour side by side in magnificent rivalry--mendicants
who went forth like Gideon's host with empty pitchers to fight the
battles of the Lord, and whose desires, as far as the good things of
this world went, were summed up in the simple petition, "Give us this
day our daily bread!"

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Thus far the friars had scarcely been heard of in England. The
Dominicans--trained men of education, addressing themselves mainly to
the educated classes, and sure of being understood wherever Latin, the
universal medium of communication among scholars, was in daily and
hourly use--the Dominicans could have little or no difficulty in
getting an audience such as they were qualified to address. It was
otherwise with the Franciscans. If the world was to be divided between
these two great bands, obviously the Minorites' sphere of labour must
be mainly among the lowest, that of the Preaching Friars among the
cultured classes.

When the Minorites preached among Italians or Frenchmen they were
received with tumultuous welcome. They spoke the language of the
people; and in the vulgar speech of the people--rugged, plastic, and
reckless of grammar--the message came as glad tidings of great joy.
When they tried the same method in Germany, we are told, they signally
failed. The gift of tongues, alas! had ceased. That, at any rate, was
denied, even to such faith as theirs. They were met with ridicule. The
rabble of Cologne or Bremen, hoarsely grumbling out their grating
gutturals, were not to be moved by the most impassioned pleading of
angels in human form, soft though their voices might be, and musical
their tones. "Ach Himmel! was sagt er?" growled one. And peradventure
some well-meaning interpreter replied: "Zu suchen und selig zu machen."
When the Italian tried to repeat the words his utterance, not his
faith, collapsed! The German-speaking people must wait till a door
should be opened. Must England wait too? Yes! For the Franciscan
missionaries England too must wait a little while.

But England was exactly the land for the Dominican to turn to. Unhappy
England! Dominic was born in the same year that Thomas a Becket was
murdered in Canterbury Cathedral; Francis in the year before the
judgment of the Most High began to fall upon the guilty king and his
accursed progeny. Since then everything seemed to have gone wrong. The
last six years of Henry the Second's reign were years of piteous
misery, shame, and bitterness. His two elder sons died in arms against
their father, the one childless, the other, Geoffrey, with a baby boy
never destined to arrive at manhood. The two younger ones were Richard
and John. History has no story more sad than that of the wretched king,
hard at death's door, compelled to submit to the ferocious
vindictiveness of the one son, and turning his face to the wall with a
broken heart when he discovered the hateful treachery of the other. Ten
years after this Richard died childless, and King John was crowned--the
falsest, meanest, worst, and wickedest king that ever sat upon the
throne of England. And now John himself was dead; and "Woe to thee, O
land, when thy king is a child!" for Henry the Third was crowned, a boy
just nine years old.

For eight years England had lain under the terrible interdict; for most
of the time only a single bishop had remained in England. John had
small need to tax the people: he lived upon the plunder of bishops and
abbots. The churches were desolate; the worship of God in large
districts almost came to an end. Only in the Cistercian monasteries,
and in them only for a time, and to a very limited extent, were the
rites of religion continued. It is hardly conceivable that the places
of those clergy who died during the eight years of the interdict were
supplied by fresh ordinations; and some excuse may have been found for
the outrageous demands of the Pope to present to English benefices in
the fact that many cures must have been vacant, and the supply of
qualified Englishmen to succeed them had fallen short.

Strange to say, in the midst of all this religious famine, and while
the Church was being ruthlessly pillaged and her ministers put to
rebuke, there was more intellectual activity in the country than had
existed for centuries. The schools at Oxford were attracting students
from far and near; and when, in consequence of the disgraceful murder
of three _clerics_ in 1209, apparently at the instance of King John,
the whole body of masters and scholars dispersed--some to Cambridge,
others to Reading--it is said their number amounted to 3,000. These
were for the most part youths hardly as old as the undergraduates in a
Scotch university in our own time; but there was evidently an ample
supply of competent teachers, or the reputation of Oxford could not
have been maintained.

It was during the year after the Chapter of the Dominicans held at
Bologna in 1220, that the first brethren of the order arrived in
England. They were under the direction of one Gilbert de Fraxineto, who
was accompanied by twelve associates. They landed early in August,
probably at Dover. They were at once received with cordiality by
Archbishop Langton, who put their powers to the test by commanding one
of their number to preach before him. The Primate took them into his
favour, and sent them on their way. On the 10th of August they were
preaching in London, and on the 15th they appeared in Oxford, and were
welcomed as the bringers-in of new things. Their success was
unequivocal. We hardly hear of their arrival before we learn that they
were well established in their school and surrounded by eager disciples.

Be it remembered that any systematic training of young men to serve as
evangelists--any attempt to educate them directly as preachers well
furnished with arguments to confute the erring, and carefully taught to
practise the graces of oratory--had never been made in England. These
Dominicans were already the Sophists of their age, masters of dialectic
methods then in vogue, whereby disputation had been raised to the
dignity of a science. Then a scholar was looked upon as a mere
pretender who could not maintain a _thesis_ against all comers before a
crowded audience of sharp-witted critics and eager partisans, not too
nice in their expressions of dissent or approval. The exercises still
kept up for the Doctor's degree in Divinity at Oxford and Cambridge are
but the shadow of what was a reality in the past. Whether we have not
lost much in the discontinuance of the old _Acts_ and _Apponencies_,
which at least assured that a young man should be required to stand up
before a public audience to defend the reasonableness of his opinions,
may fairly be doubted. The aim of the Dominican teachers was to turn
out trained preachers furnished with all tricks of dialectic fence, and
practised to extempore speaking on the most momentous subjects.
Unfortunately the historian, when he has told us of the arrival of his
brethren, leaves us in the dark as to all their early struggles and
difficulties, and passes on to other matters with which we are less
concerned. What would we not give to know the history, say during only
twenty years, of the labours of the Preaching Friars in England? Alas!
it seems never to have been written. We are only told enough to awaken
curiousity and disappoint it.

Happily, of the early labours of the Franciscan friars in England much
fuller details have reached us, though the very existence of the
records in which they were handed down was known to very few, and the
wonderful story had been forgotten for centuries when the appearance of
the "Monumenta Franciscana" in the series of chronicles published under
direction of the Master of the Rolls in 1858 may be said to have marked
an event in literature. If the late Mr. Brewer had done no more than
bring to light the remarkable series of documents which that volume
contains, he would have won for himself the lasting gratitude of all
seekers after truth.

The Dominicans had been settled in Oxford just two years when the first
band of Franciscan brethren landed in England on the 11th of September,
1224. They landed penniless; their passage over had been paid by the
monks of Fécamp; they numbered in all nine persons, five were laymen,
four were clerics. Of the latter three were Englishmen, the fourth was
an Italian, Agnellus of Pisa by name. Agnellus had been some time
previously destined by St. Francis as the first _Minister_ for the
province of England, not improbably because he had some familiarity
with our language. He was about thirty years of age, and as yet only in
deacon's orders. Indeed, of the whole company _only one was a priest_,
a man of middle age who had made his mark and was famous as a preacher
of rare gifts and deep earnestness. He was a Norfolk man born, Richard
of Ingworth by name and presumably a priest of the diocese of Norwich.
Of the five laymen one was a Lombard, who may have had some kinsfolk
and friends in London, where he was allowed to remain as warden for
some years, and one, Lawrence of Beauvais, was a personal and intimate
friend of St. Francis, who on his death-bed gave him the habit which he
himself had worn.

The whole party were hospitably entertained for two days at the Priory
of the Holy Trinity at Canterbury. Then brother Richard Ingworth, with
another Richard--a Devonshire youth conspicuous for his ascetic fervour
and devotion, but only old enough to be admitted to minor orders--set
out for London, accompanied by the Lombard and another foreigner,
leaving behind him Agnellus and the rest, among them William of Esseby,
the third Englishman, enthusiastic and ardent as the others, but a mere
youth and as yet a novice. He, too, I conjecture to have been a Norfolk
or Suffolk man, whose birth-place, _Ashby_, in the East Anglian
dialect, would be pronounced nearly as it is written in Eccleston's
manuscript. It was arranged that Richard Ingworth should lose no time
in trying to secure some place where they might all lay their heads,
and from whence as a centre they might begin the great work they had in
hand. The Canterbury party were received into the Priest's House and
allowed to remain for a while. Soon they received permission to sleep
in a building used as a school during the day-time, and while the boys
were being taught the poor friars huddled together in a small room
adjoining, where they were confined as if they had been prisoners. When
the scholars went home the friars crept out, lit a fire and sat round
it, boiled their porridge, and mixed their small beer, sour and thick
as we are told it was, with water to make it go further, and each
contributed some word of edification to the general stock, brought
forward some homely illustration which might serve to brighten the next
sermon when it should be preached, or told a pleasant tale, thought out
during the day--a story with a moral. Of the five left behind at
Canterbury it is to be observed that no one of them was qualified as
yet to preach in the vernacular. William of Esseby was too young for
the pulpit, though he became a very effective preacher in a few years.
He was, however, doing good service as interpreter, and doubtless as
teacher of English to the rest.

Before long the cheerfulness, self-denial, and devout bearing of the
little company at Canterbury gained for them the warm support and
friendship of all classes. They had a very hard time of it. Sometimes a
kind soul would bring them actually a dish of meat, sometimes even a
bottle of wine, but as a rule their fare was bread--made up into
_twists_, we hear, when it was specially excellent--wheat-bread,
wholesome and palatable; but, alas, sometimes barley-bread, washed down
with beer too sour to drink undiluted with water. Alexander, the master
of the Priest's House at Canterbury, soon after gave them a piece of
ground and built them a temporary chapel, but when he was for
presenting them with the building, he was told that they might not
possess houses and lands, and the property was thereupon made over to
the corporation of Canterbury to hold in honourable trust for their
use, the friars _borrowing_ it of the town. Simon Langton too,
Archdeacon of Canterbury, the primate's brother, stood their friend,
and one or two people of influence among the laity, as Sir Henry de
Sandwich, a wealthy Kentish gentleman, and a lady whom Eccleston calls
a "noble countess," one Inclusa de Baginton, warmly supported them and
liberally supplied their necessities. It is worthy of notice that at
Canterbury their first friends were among the wealthy, _i.e._, those
among whom a command of English was not necessary.

While Agnellus and his brethren were waiting patiently at Canterbury,
Ingworth and young Richard of Devon with the two Italians had made
their way to London and had been received with enthusiasm. Their first
entertainers were the Dominican friars who, though they had been only
two years before them, yet had already got for themselves a house, in
which they were able to entertain the new-comers for a fortnight. At
the end of that time they hired a plot of ground in Cornhill of John
Travers, the Sheriff of London, and there they built for themselves a
house, such as it was. Their cells were constructed like sheep-cotes,
mere wattels with mouldy hay or straw between them. Their fare was of
the meanest, but they gained in estimation every day. In their humble
quarters at Cornhill they remained preaching, visiting, nursing,
begging their bread, but always gay and busy, till the summer of 1225,
when a certain John Iwyn--again a name suspiciously like the phonetic
representative of the common Norfolk name of _Ewing_--a mercer and
citizen, offered them a more spacious and comfortable dwelling in the
parish of St. Nicholas. As their brethren at Canterbury had done, so
did they; they refused all houses and lands, and the house was made
over to the corporation of London for their use. Not long after the
worthy citizen assumed the Franciscan habit and renounced the world, to
embrace poverty.

In the autumn of 1225 Ingworth and the younger Richard left London,
Agnellus taking their place. He had not been idle at Canterbury, and
his success in making converts had been remarkable. At Canterbury and
London the Minorites had secured for themselves a firm footing. The
Universities were next invaded. The two Richards reached Oxford about
October, 1225, and as before were received with great cordiality by the
Dominicans, and hospitably entertained for eight days. Before a week
was out they had got the loan of a house or hall in the parish of St.
Ebbs, and had started lectures and secured a large following. Here
young Esseby joined them, sent on it seems by Agnellus from London to
assist in the work; a year or so older than when he first landed, and
having shown in that time unmistakable signs of great capacity and
entire devotion to the work. Esseby was quite able to stand alone.

Once more the two Richards moved on to Northampton, where an "opening
from the Lord" seemed to have presented itself. By this time the whole
country was on the tip-toe of expectation and crowds of all classes had
given in their adhesion to the new missionaries. No! it was _not_
grandeur or riches or honour or learning that were wanted above all
things--not these, but Goodness, Meekness, Simplicity, and Truth. The
love of money was the root of all evil. The Minorites were right. When
men with a divine fervour proclaim a truth, or even half a truth, which
the world has forgotten, there is never any lack of enthusiasm in its
acceptance. In five years from their first arrival the Friars had
established themselves in almost every considerable town in England,
and where one order settled the other came soon after, the two orders
in their first beginning co-operating cordially. It was only when their
faith and zeal began to wax cold that jealousy broke forth into bitter

In no part of England were the Franciscans received with more
enthusiasm than in Norfolk. They appear to have established themselves
at Lynn, Yarmouth, and Norwich in 1226. Clergy and laity, rich and
poor, united in offering to them a ready homage. To this day a certain
grudging provincialism is observable in the East Anglian character. A
Norfolk man distrusts the settler from "the Shires," who comes in with
new-fangled reforms. To this day the home of wisdom is supposed to be
in the East. When it was understood that the virtual leader of this
astonishing religious revival was a Norfolk man, the joy and pride of
Norfolk knew no bounds. Nothing was too much to do for their own hero.
But when it became known that Ingworth had been welcomed with open arms
by Robert Grosseteste, the foremost scholar in Oxford--he a Suffolk
man--and that Grosseteste's friend, Roger de Weseham, was their warm
supporter, son of a Norfolk yeoman, whose brethren were to be seen any
day in Lynn market--the ovation that the Franciscans met with was
unparalleled. There was a general rush by some of the best men of the
county into the order.

Already St. Francis had found it necessary to include in the fraternity
a class of recognized associates who may be described as the
_unattached_. These were the _Tertiaries_--laymen who were not prepared
to embrace the vows of poverty and to surrender their all--but
well-wishers pledged to support the Minorites, and to co-operate with
them when called upon, showing their good-will sometimes in visiting
the sick and needy, sometimes in engaging in the work of teaching, or
accompanying the preachers when advisable, and bound by their
engagement to set an example of sobriety and seriousness in their dress
and manners.

Up to this time the word _religious_ had been applied only to such as
were inmates of a cloister. Now the truth dawned upon men that it was
possible to live the higher life even while pursuing one's ordinary
vocation in the busy world. The tone of social morality must have
gained enormously by the dissemination of this new doctrine, and its
acceptance among high and low. It became the fashion in the upper
classes to enrol oneself among the Tertiaries, and every new enrolment
was an important accession to the stability, and, indeed, to the
material resources of the Minorites; and when, apparently within a few
days of one another--no less than five gentlemen of knightly rank, of
whom at least one, Sir Giles de Merc, had only recently been employed
as an envoy by the king to his brother Richard in Gascony, and another,
Sir Henry de Walpole, was amongst the most considerable and wealthy men
in the eastern counties, Henry the Third spoke out his mind and showed
that he was not too well-pleased. Really these friars were going on too
fast--turning men's heads! At Lynn the Franciscans were specially
fortunate in their warden, whose austerity of life, gentle manners, and
profoundly sympathetic temperament obtained for him unbounded
influence. Among others Alexander de Bassingbourne [Footnote: The name
is again changed into _Bissing_burne by Eccleston, who writes it as he
heard it from Norfolk people.]--seneschal of Lynn for Pandulph, Bishop
of Norwich, and, as such, a personage of importance, became his convert
and joined the new order; but the number of Norfolk clergy and scholars
who actually became friars must have been very large indeed; they were
quite the picked men among the Franciscans in England. Of the first
eighteen masters of Franciscan schools at Cambridge, at least ten were
Norfolk men, while of the first five Divinity readers at Oxford whose
names have been recorded, after those of Grosseteste and Roger de
Weseham, four were unmistakably East Anglians. No one familiar with
Norfolk topography could fail to be struck by this fact, and the queer
spellings of some places, which puzzled even Mr. Brewer, are themselves
suggestive. [Footnote: _E.g._, Turnham represents the Norfolk
pronunciation of _Thornham_. Heddele is _Hadleigh_, in Suffolk spelt
phonetically; Ravingham is _Raveningham_, Assewelle is _Ashwell_ [cf.
p. 93, Esseby for Ashby], Sloler is _Sloley_, Leveringfot is

St. Francis died at Assisi on October 4, 1226. With his death troubles
began. Brother Elias, who was chosen to succeed him as Minister General
of the Order, had little of the great founder's spirit, and none of his
genius. There was unseemly strife and rivalry, and on the Continent it
would appear that the Minorites made but little way. Not so was it in
England; there the supply of brethren animated by genuine enthusiasm
and burning zeal for the cause they had espoused was unexampled.
Perhaps there more than anywhere else such labourers were needed,
perhaps too they had a fairer field. Certainly there they were truer to
their first principles than elsewhere.

Outside the city walls at Lynn and York and Bristol; in a filthy swamp
at Norwich, through which the drainage of the city sluggishly trickled
into the river, never a foot lower than its banks; in a mere barn-like
structure, with walls of mud, at Shrewsbury, in the "Stinking Alley" in
London, the Minorites took up their abode, and there they lived on
charity, doing for the lowest the most menial offices, speaking to the
poorest the words of hope, preaching to learned and simple such
sermons--short, homely, fervent, and emotional--as the world had not
heard for many a day. How could such evangelists fail to win their way?
Before Henry III.'s reign was half over the predominance of the
Franciscans over Oxford was almost supreme. At Cambridge their
influence was less dominant only because at Cambridge there was no
commanding genius like Robert Grosseteste to favour and support them.

St. Francis's hatred of book-learning was the one sentiment that he
never was able to inspire among his followers. Almost from the first
scholars, students, and men of learning were attracted by the
irresistible charm of his wonderful moral persuasiveness; they gave in
their adherence to him in a vague hope that by contact with his
surpassing holiness virtue would go out of him, and that somehow the
divine goodness which he magnified as the one thing needful would be
communicated to them and supply that which was lacking in themselves;
but they could not bring themselves to believe that culture and
holiness were incompatible or that nearness to God was possible only to
those who were ignorant and uninstructed. We should have expected
learning among the Dominicans, but very soon the English Franciscans
became the most learned body in Europe, and that character they never
lost till the suppression of the monasteries swept them out of the
land. Before Edward I. came to the throne, in less than fifty years
after Richard Ingworth and his little band landed at Dover, Robert
Kilwarby, a Franciscan friar, had been chosen Archbishop of Canterbury,
and Bonaventura, the General of the Order, had refused the
Archbishopric of York. In 1281 Jerome of Ascoli, Bonaventura's
successor as General, was elected Pope, assuming the name of Nicholas

Meanwhile such giants as Alexander Hales and Roger Bacon and Duns
Scotus among the Minorites--all Englishmen be it remembered--and Thomas
Aquinas and Albertus Magnus among the Dominicans, had given to
intellectual life that amazing lift into a higher region of thought,
speculation, and inquiry which prepared the way for greater things
by-and-by. It was at Assisi that Cimabue and Giotto received their most
sublime inspiration and did their very best, breathing the air that St.
Francis himself had breathed and listening day by day to traditions and
memories of the saint, told peradventure by one or another who had seen
him alive or even touched his garments in their childhood. It may even
be that there Dante watched Giotto at his work while the painter got
the poet's face by heart.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

To write the history of the Mendicant Orders in England would be a task
beyond my capacity, but no man can hope to understand the successes or
the failures of any great party in Church or State until he has arrived
at some comprehension, not only of the objects which it set itself to
achieve, but of its _modus operandi_ at the outset of its career.

The Friars were a great party in the Church, organized with a definite
object, and pledged to carry out that object in simple reliance upon
what we now call the _Voluntary Principle_. St. Francis saw, and saw
much more clearly than even we of the nineteenth century see it, that
the Parochial system is admirable, is a perfect system for the village,
that it is unsuited for the town, that in the towns the attempt to work
it had ended in a miserable and scandalous failure. The Friars came as
helpers of the poor town clergy, just when those clergy had begun to
give up their task as hopeless. They came as missionaries to those whom
the town clergy had got to regard as mere _pariahs_. They came to
strengthen the weak hands, and to labour in a new field. _St. Francis
was the John Wesley of the thirteenth century, whom the Church did not
cast out_.

Rome has never been afraid of fanaticism. She has always known how to
utilise her enthusiasts fired by a new idea. The Church of England has
never known how to deal with a man of genius. From Wicklif to Frederick
Robertson, from Bishop Peacock to Dr. Rowland Williams, the clergyman
who has been in danger of impressing his personality upon Anglicanism,
where he has not been the object of relentless persecution, has at
least been regarded with timid suspicion, has been shunned by the
prudent men of low degree, and by those of high degree has
been--forgotten. In the Church of England there has never been a time
when the enthusiast has not been treated as a very _unsafe_ man. Rome
has found a place for the dreamiest mystic or the noisiest
ranter--found a place and found a sphere of useful labour. We, with our
insular prejudices, have been sticklers for the narrowest uniformity,
and yet we have accepted, as a useful addition to the Creed of
Christendom, one article which we have only not formulated because,
perhaps, it came to us from a Roman Bishop, the great sage
Talleyrand--_Surtout pas trop de zèle!_

The Minorites were the Low Churchmen of the thirteenth century, the
Dominicans the severely orthodox, among whom spiritual things were
believed to be attainable only through the medium of significant form.
Rome knew how to yoke the two together, Xanthos and Balios champing at
the bit yet always held well in hand. At the outset the two orders were
so deeply impressed by the magnitude of the evils they were to combat
that they hardly knew there was anything in which they were at
variance. Gradually--yes, and somewhat rapidly--each borrowed something
from the other. The Minorites found they could not do without culture;
the Dominicans renounced endowments; by-and-by they drew apart into
separate camps, and discord proved that the old singleness of purpose
and loyalty to a great cause had passed away. Imitators arose.
Reformers they all professed to be, improvers of the original idea,
Augustinian Friars, Carmelites, Bethlehemites, Bonhommes, and the rest.
Friars they all called themselves--all pledged to the Voluntary
Principle, all renouncing endowments, all professing to live on alms.

I have called St. Francis the John Wesley of the thirteenth century.
The parallels might be drawn out into curious detail, if we compared
the later history of the great movements originated by one or the other
reformer. The new orders of Friars were to the old ones what the
Separatists among the Wesleyan body are to the Old Connexion. They had
their grievances, real or imagined, they loudly protested against
corruption and abuses, they professed themselves anxious only to go
back to first principles. Rome absorbed them all; they became the
Church's great army of volunteers, perfectly disciplined, admirably
handled; their very jealousies and rivalries turned to good account.
When John Wesley offered to the Church of England precisely their
successors, we would have no commerce with them; we did our best to
turn them into a hostile and invading force.

The Friars were the Evangelizers of the towns in England for 300 years.
When the spoliation of the religious houses was decided upon, the
Friars were the first upon whom the blow fell--the first and the last.
[Footnote: The king began with the Franciscan convent of Christ Church,
London, in 1532; he bestowed the Dominican convent at Norwich upon the
corporation of that city on the 25th of June, 1540.] But when their
property came to be looked into, there was nothing to rob but the
churches in which they worshipped, the libraries in which they studied,
and the houses in which they passed their lives. Rob the county
hospitals to-morrow through the length and breadth of the land, or make
a general scramble for the possessions of the Wesleyan body, and how
many broad acres would go to the hammer?

Voluntaryism leaves little for the spoiler.

As with the later history of the Friars in England, so with the
corruptions of the Mendicant orders--though they were as great as
malice or ignorance may have represented them--I am not concerned. That
the Minorites of the fourteenth century were very unlike the Minorites
of the thirteenth I know; that the other Mendicant orders declined, I
cannot doubt--

     What keeps a spirit wholly true
     To that ideal which he bears?
     What record? Not the sinless years
     That breathed beneath the Syrian blue.

The Rule of St. Francis was a glorious ideal; when it came to be
carried into practice by creatures of flesh and blood, it proved to be
something to dream of, not to live. And yet, even as it was, its
effects upon the Church, nay, upon the whole civilized world, were
enormous. If, one after another, the Mendicant orders declined, if
their zeal grew cold, their simplicity of life faded, and their
discipline relaxed; if they became corrupted by that very world which
they promised to purify and deliver from the dominion of Mammon--this
is only what has happened again and again, what must happen as long as
men are men. In every age the prophet has always asked for the
unattainable, always pointed to a higher level than human nature could
breathe in, always insisted on a measure of self-renunciation which
saints in their prayers send forth the soul's lame hands to clutch-in
their ecstasy of aspiration hope that they may some day arrive at. But,
alas! they reach it--never. And yet the saint and the prophet do not
live in vain. They send a thrill of noble emotion through the heart of
their generation, and the divine tremor does not soon subside; they
gather round them the pure and generous--the lofty souls which are not
all of the earth earthy. In such, at any rate, a fire is kindled by the
spark that has fallen from the altar. By-and-by it is the fuel that
fails; then the old fire, after smouldering for a while, goes out, and
by no stirring of the dead embers can you make them flame again. You
may cry as loudly as you will, "Pull down the chimney that will not
draw, and set up another in its place!" That you may do if you please;
another fire you may have, but the new will not be as the old.



     "The rude forefathers of the hamlet..."

[In the autumn of 1878, while on a visit at Rougham Hall, Norfolk, the
seat of Mr. Charles North, my kind host drew my attention to some large
boxes of manuscripts, which he told me nobody knew anything about, but
which I was at liberty to ransack to my heart's content. I at once
dived into one of the boxes, and then spent half the night in examining
some of its treasures. The chest is one of many, constituting in their
entirety a complete apparatus for the history of the parish of Rougham
from the time of Henry the Third to the present day--so complete that
it would be difficult to find in England a collection of documents to
compare with it.

The whole parish contains no more than 2,627 acres, of which about
thirty acres were not included in the estate slowly piled up by the
Yelvertons, and purchased by Roger North in 1690.

Yet the charters and evidences of various kinds which were handed over
with this small property, and which date _before_ the sixteenth
century, count by thousands. The smaller strips of parchment or
vellum--for the most part conveyances of land, and having seals
attached--have been roughly bound together in volumes, each containing
about one hundred documents, and arranged with some regard to
chronology, the undated ones being collected into a volume by
themselves. I think it almost certain that the arranging of the early
charters in their rude covers was carried out before 1500 A.D., and I
have a suspicion that they were grouped together by Sir William
Yelverton, "the cursed Norfolk Justice" of the Paston Letters, who
inherited the estate from his mother in the first half of the fifteenth

When Roger North purchased the property the ancient evidences were
handed over to him as a matter of course; and there are many notes in
his handwriting showing that he found the collection in its present
condition, and that he had bestowed much attention upon it. Blomefield
seems to have been aware of the existence of the Rougham muniments, but
I think he never saw them; and for one hundred and fifty years, at
least, they had lain forgotten until they came under my notice. Of this
large mass of documents I had copied or abstracted scarcely more than
five hundred, and I had not yet got beyond the year 1355. The court
rolls, bailiffs' accounts, and early leases, I had hardly looked at
when this lecture was delivered.

The following address gives some of the results of my examination of
the first series of the Rougham charters. It was delivered in the
Public Reading-room of the village of Tittleshall, a parish adjoining
Rougham, and was listened to with apparent interest and great attention
by an audience of farmers, village tradesmen, mechanics, and labourers.
I was careful to avoid naming any place which my audience were not
likely to know well; and there is hardly a parish mentioned which is
five miles from the lecture-room.

When speaking of "six hundred years," I gave myself roughly a limit of
thirty years before and after 1282, and I have rarely gone beyond that
limit on one side or the other.

They who are acquainted with Mr. Rogers' "History of Prices" will
observe that I have ventured to put forward views, on more points than
one, very different from those which he advocates.

Of the value of Mr. Rogers' compilation, and of the statistics which he
has tabulated, there can be but one opinion. It is when we come to draw
our inferences from such returns as these, and bring to bear upon them
the sidelights which further evidence affords, that differences of
opinion arise among inquirers. I really know nothing about the Midlands
in the Middle Ages; I am disgracefully ignorant of the social condition
of the South and West; but the early history of East Anglia, and
especially of Norfolk, has for long possessed a fascination for me; and
though I am slow to arrive at conclusions, and have a deep distrust of
those historians who, for every pair of facts, construct a Trinity of
Theories, I feel sure of my ground on some matters, because I have done
my best to use all such evidence as has come my way.]

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Few things have struck me more forcibly since I have cast in my lot
among country people, than the strange ignorance which they exhibit of
the _history of themselves_. I do not allude to those unpleasant
secrets which we should be very sorry indeed for our next-door
neighbours to be acquainted with, nor to any such matters as our
experience or memories of actual facts could bring to our minds; I mean
something very much more than that. Men and women are not only the
beings they appear to be at any one moment of their lives, they are not
single separate atoms like grains of sand. Rather they are like
branches or leaves of some great tree, from which they have sprung and
on which they have grown, whose life in the past has come at last to
them in the present, and without whose deep anchorage in the soil, and
its ages of vigour and vitality, not a bud or a spray that is so fresh
and healthful now would have had any existence.

Consider for a moment--Who are we, and what do we mean by _Ourselves_?
When I meet a ragged, shuffling tramp on the road (and I meet a good
many of them in my lonely walks) I often find myself asking the
question, "How did that shambling vagabond come to his present
condition? Did his father turn him out of doors? Did his mother drink?
Did he learn nothing but lying and swearing and thieving when he was a
child? Was his grandfather hanged for some crime, or was his
great-grandfather a ruffian killed in a fight?" And I say to myself,
"Though I do not know the truth, yet I am sure that man was helped
towards his vagabondism, helped to become an outcast as he is, by the
neglect or the wickedness, the crimes or the bad example of his fathers
and forefathers on one side or the other; for if he had come of decent
people on both sides, people who had been honestly and soberly brought
up themselves, as they tried to bring up their children, yonder dirty
tramp would not and could not have sunk to his present self, for we and
ourselves are what we come to, partly by our own sins and vices, but
partly (and much more than some like to believe) by the sins,
negligences, and ignorances of those whose blood is in our veins.

My friends, it surely must be worth our while to know much more than
most of us do know about _Ourselves_.

Being convinced of this, and believing, moreover, that to most of us
nothing on earth is so interesting as that which most concerns
ourselves at any period of our existence, I resolved, when I was asked
to address you here this evening, that I would try to give you some
notion of the kind of life which your fathers led in this parish a
long, long time ago, and so help you to understand through what strange
changes we have all passed, and what strange stories the walls of our
houses, if they could speak, would have to tell, and on what wonderful
struggles, and hardships, and dangers, and sorrows yonder church tower
of yours has looked down, since, centuries ago, it first rose up, the
joy and pride of those whose hands laid stone on stone.

When I came to think over the matter, however, I found that I could not
tell you very much that I was sure of about your own parish of
Tittleshall, but that it so happened I could tell you something that is
new to you about a parish that joins your own; and because what was
going on among your close neighbours at any one time would be in the
main pretty much what would be going on among your forefathers, in
bringing before you the kind of life which people led in the adjoining
parish of Rougham six hundred years ago, I should be describing
precisely the life which people were leading here in this parish where
we are now--people, remember, whose blood is throbbing in the veins of
some of you present; for from that dust that lies in your churchyard
yonder I make no doubt that some of you have sprung--you whom I am
speaking to now.

Six hundred years ago! Yes, it is a long time. Not a man of you can
throw his thoughts back to so great a lapse of time. I do not expect it
of you; but nevertheless I am going to try to give you a picture of a
Norfolk village, and that a village which you all know better than I
do, such as it was six hundred years ago.

In those days an ancestor of our gracious Queen, who now wears the
crown of England, was king; and the Prince of Wales, whom many of you
must have seen in Norfolk, was named _Edward_ after this same king. In
those days there were the churches standing generally where they stand
now. In those days, too, the main roads ran pretty much where they now
run; and there was the same sun overhead, and there were clouds, and
winds, and floods, and storms, and sunshine; but if you, any of you,
could be taken up and dropped down in Tittleshall or Rougham such as
they were at the time I speak of, you would feel almost as strange as
if you had been suddenly transported to the other end of the world.

The only object that you would at all recognize would be the parish
church. That stands where it did, and where it has stood, perhaps, for
a thousand years or more; but, at the time we are now concerned with,
it looked somewhat different from what it looks now. It had a tower,
but that tower was plainer and lower than the present one. The windows,
too, were very different; they were smaller and narrower; I think it
probable that in some of them there was stained glass, and it is almost
certain that the walls were covered with paintings representing scenes
from the Bible, and possibly some stories from the lives of the saints,
which everybody in those days was familiar with. There was no pulpit
and no reading desk. When the parson preached, he preached from the
steps of the altar. The altar itself was much more ornamented than now
it is. Upon the altar there were always some large wax tapers which
were lit on great occasions, and over the altar there hung a small lamp
which was kept alight night and day. It was the parson's first duty to
look to it in the morning, and his last to trim it at night.

The parish church was too small for the population of Rougham, and the
consequence was that it had been found necessary to erect what we
should now call a chapel of ease--served, I suppose, by an assistant
priest, who would be called a chaplain. I cannot tell you where this
chapel stood, but it had a burial-ground of its own. [Footnote: Compare
the remarkable regulations of Bishop Woodloke of Winchester (A.D.
1308), illustrative of this. Wilkins' "Conc.," vol. ii. p. 296. By
these constitutions every chapel, two miles from the mother church, was
bound to have its own burying-ground]

There was, I think, only one road deserving the name, which passed
through Rougham. It ran almost directly north and south from Coxford
Abbey to Castle Acre Priory. But do not suppose that a road in those
days meant what it does now. To begin with, people in the country never
drove about in carriages. In such a place as Rougham, men and women
might live all their lives without ever seeing a travelling carriage,
whether on four wheels or two. [Footnote: It is, however, not
improbable that when the Queen came into Norfolk, the eyes of the
awe-struck rustics may have been dazzled by even such an astonishing
equipage as is figured in Mr. Parker's "Hist. Domestic Architecture,"
vol. ii. p. 141.] The road was quite unfit for driving on. There were
no highway rates. Now and then a roadway got so absolutely impassable,
or a bridge over a stream became so dangerous, that people grumbled;
and then an order came down from the king to the high sheriff of the
county, bidding him see to his road, and the sheriff thereupon taxed
the dwellers in the hundred and forced them to put things straight. The
village of Rougham in those days was in its general plan not very
unlike the present village--that is to say, the church standing where
it does, next to the churchyard was the parsonage with a croft
attached; and next to that a row of houses inhabited by the principal
people of the place, whose names I could give you, and the order of
their dwellings, if it were worth while. Each of these houses had some
outbuildings--cowsheds, barns, &c., and a small croft fenced round.
Opposite these houses was another row facing west, as the others faced
east; but these latter houses were apparently occupied by the poorer
inhabitants--the smith, the carpenter, and the general shopkeeper, who
called himself, and was called by others, the _merchant_. There was one
house which appears to have stood apart from the rest and near Wesenham
Heath. It probably was encircled by a moat, and approached by a
drawbridge, the bridge being drawn up at sunset. It was called the Lyng
House, and had been probably built two or three generations back, and
now was occupied by a person of some consideration--viz., Thomas
Middleton, Archdeacon of Suffolk, and brother of William Middleton,
then Bishop of Norwich. This house was on the east side of the road,
and the road leading up to it had a name, and was called the Hutgong.
In front of the house was something like a small park of 5-½ acres
inclosed; and next that again, to the south, 4 acres of ploughed land;
and behind that again--that is, between it and the village--there was
the open heath. Altogether, this property consisted of a house and 26
acres. Archdeacon Middleton bought it on October 6, 1283, and he bought
it in conjunction with his brother Elias, who was soon after made
seneschal or steward of Lynn for his other brother, the bishop. The two
brothers probably used this as their country house, for both of them
had their chief occupation elsewhere; but when the bishop died, in
1288, and they became not quite the important people they had been
before, they sold the Lyng House to another important person, of whom
we shall hear more by-and-by.

The Lyng House, however, was not the great house of Rougham. I am
inclined to think _that_ stood not far from the spot where Rougham Hall
now stands. It was in those days called the Manor House, or the Manor.

And this brings me to a point where I must needs enter into some
explanations. Six hundred years ago all the land in England was
supposed to belong to the king in the first instance. The king had in
former times parcelled it out into tracts of country, some large and
some small, and made over these tracts to his great lords, or barons,
as they were called. The barons were supposed to hold these tracts,
called fiefs, as _tenants_ of the king, and in return they were
expected to make an acknowledgment to the king in the shape of some
_service_, which, though it was not originally a money payment, yet
became so eventually, and was always a substantial charge upon the
land. These fiefs were often made up of estates in many different
shires; and, because it was impossible for the barons to cultivate all
their estates themselves, they let them out to _subtenants_, who in
their turn were bound to render services to the lord of the fief. These
sub-tenants were the great men in the several parishes, and became the
actual lords of the manors, residing upon the manors, and having each,
on their several manors, very large powers for good or evil over the
tillers of the soil.

A manor six hundred years ago meant something very different from a
manor now. The lord was a petty king, having his subjects very much
under his thumb. But his subjects differed greatly in rank and status.
In the first place, there were those who were called the free tenants.
The free tenants were they who lived in houses of their own and
cultivated land of their own, and who made only an annual money payment
to the lord of the manor as an acknowledgment of his lordship. The
payment was trifling, amounting to some few pence an acre at the most,
and a shilling or so, as the case might be, for the house. This was
called the _rent_, but it is a very great mistake indeed to represent
this as the same thing which we mean by rent now-a-days. It really was
almost identical with what we now call in the case of house property,
"ground rent," and bore no proportion to the value of the produce that
might be raised from the soil which the tenant held. The free tenant
was neither a yearly tenant, nor a leaseholder. His holding was, to all
intents and purposes, his own--subject, of course, to the payment of
the ground rent. But if he wanted to sell out of his holding, the lord
of the manor exacted a payment for the privilege. If he died, his heir
had to pay for being admitted to his inheritance, and if he died
without heirs, the property went back to the lord of the manor, who
then, but only then, could raise the ground rent if he pleased, though
he rarely did so. So much for the free tenants.

Besides these were the _villeins_ or _villani_, or _natives_, as they
were called. The villeins were tillers of the soil, who held land under
the lord, and who, besides paying a small money ground rent, were
obliged to perform certain arduous services to the lord, such as to
plough the lord's land for so many days in the year, to carry his corn
in the harvest, to provide a cart on occasion, &c. Of course these
burdens pressed very heavily at times, and the services of the villeins
were vexatious and irritating under a hard and unscrupulous lord. But
there were other serious inconveniences about the condition of the
villein or native. Once a villein, always a villein. A man or woman
born in villeinage could never shake it off. Nay, they might not even
go away from the manor to which they were born, and they might not
marry without the lord's license, and for that license they always had
to pay. Let a villein be ever so shrewd or enterprising or thrifty,
there was no hope for him to change his state, except by the special
grace of the lord of the manor. [Footnote: I do not take account of
those who ran away to the corporate towns. I suspect that there were
many more cases of this than some writers allow. It was sometimes a
serious inconvenience to the lords of manors near such towns as Norwich
or Lynn. A notable example may be found in the "Abbrev, Placit.," p.
316 (6°. E. ii. Easter term). It seems that no less than eighteen
villeins of the Manor of Cossey were named in a mandate to the Sheriff
of Norfolk and Suffolk, who were to be taken and reduced to villeinage,
and their goods seized. Six of them pleaded that they were citizens of
Norwich--the city being about four miles from Cossey.] Yes, there was
one means whereby he could be set free, and that was if he could get a
bishop to ordain him. The fact of a man being ordained at once made him
a free man, and a knowledge of this fact must have served as a very
strong inducement to young people to avail themselves of all the helps
in their power to obtain something like an education, and so to qualify
themselves for admission to the clerical order and to the rank of

At Rougham there was a certain Ralph Red, who was one of these villeins
under the lord of the manor, a certain William le Butler. Ralph Red had
a son Ralph, who I suppose was an intelligent youth, and made the most
of his brains. He managed to get ordained about six hundred years ago,
and he became a chaplain, perhaps to that very chapel of ease I
mentioned before. His father, however, was still a villein, liable to
all the villein services, and _belonging_ to the manor and the lord, he
and all his offspring. Young Ralph did not like it, and at last,
getting the money together somehow, he bought his father's freedom,
and, observe, with his freedom the freedom of all his father's children
too, and the price he paid was twenty marks. [Footnote: N.B.--A man
could not buy his own freedom, Merewether's "Boroughs," i. 350. Compare
too Littleton on "Tenures," p 65, 66.] That sounds a ridiculously small
sum, but I feel pretty sure that six hundred years ago twenty marks
would be almost as difficult for a penniless young chaplain to get
together as L500 for a penniless young curate to amass now. Of the
younger Ralph, who bought his father's freedom, I know little more;
but, less than one hundred and fifty years after the elder man received
his liberty, a lineal descendant of his became lord of the manor of
Rougham, and, though he had no son to carry on his name, he had a
daughter who married a learned judge, Sir William Yelverton, Knight of
the Bath, whose monument you may still see at Rougham Church, and from
whom were descended the Yelvertons, Earls of Sussex, and the present
Lord Avonmore, who is a scion of the same stock.

When Ralph Red bought his father's freedom of William le Butler,
William gave him an acknowledgment for the money, and a written
certificate of the transaction, but he did not sign his name. In those
days nobody signed their names, not because they could not write, for I
suspect that just as large a proportion of people in England could
write well six hundred years ago, as could have done so forty years
ago, but because it was not the fashion to sign one's name. Instead of
doing that, everybody who was a free man, and a man of substance, in
executing any legal instrument, affixed to it his _seal_, and that
stood for his signature. People always carried their seals about with
them in a purse or small bag, and it was no uncommon thing for a
pickpocket to cut off this bag and run away with the seal, and thus put
the owner to very serious inconvenience. This was what actually did
happen once to William le Butler's father-in-law. He was a certain Sir
Richard Bellhouse, and he lived at North Tuddenham, near Dereham. Sir
Richard was High Sheriff for the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk in
1291, and his duties brought him into court on January 25th of that
year, before one of the Judges at Westminster. I suppose the court was
crowded, and in the crowd some rogue cut off Sir Richard's purse, and
made off with his seal. I never heard that he got it back again.
[Footnote: Abbreviatio Placit. 284, b.]

And now I must return to the point from which I wandered when I began
to speak of the free tenants and the "villeins." William le Butler, who
sold old Ralph Red to his own son, the young Ralph, was himself sprung
from a family who had held the Manor of Rougham for about a century.
His father was Sir Richard le Butler, who died about 1280, leaving
behind him one son, our friend William, and three daughters.
Unfortunately, William le Butler survived his father only a very short
time, and he left no child to succeed him. The result was that the
inheritance of the old knight was divided among his daughters, and what
had been hitherto a single lordship became three lordships, each of the
parceners looking very jealously after his own interest, and striving
to make the most of his powers _and rights_.

Though each of the husbands of Sir Richard le Butler's daughters was a
man of substance and influence--yet, when the manor was divided, no one
of them was anything like so great a person as the old Sir Richard. In
those days, as in our own, there were much richer men in the country
than the country gentlemen, and in Rougham at this time there were two
very prosperous men who were competing with one another as to which
should buy up most land in the parish, and be the great man of the
place. The one of these was a gentleman called Peter the Roman, and the
other was called Thomas the Lucky. They were both the sons of Rougham
people, and it will be necessary to pursue the history of each of them
to make you understand how things went in those "good old times."

First let me deal with Peter the Roman. He was the son of a Rougham
lady named Isabella, by an Italian gentleman named lacomo de Ferentino,
or if you like to translate it into English, James of Ferentinum.

How James of Ferentinum got to Rougham and captured one of the Rougham
heiresses we shall never know for certain. But we do know that in the
days of King Henry, who was the father of King Edward, there was a very
large incursion of Italian clergy into England, and that the Pope of
Rome got preferment of all kinds for them. In fact, in King Henry's
days the Pope had immense power in England, and it looked for a while
as if every valuable piece of preferment in the kingdom would be
bestowed upon Italians who did not know a word of English, and who
often never came near their livings at all. One of these Italian
gentlemen, whose name was _John_ de Ferentino, was very near being made
Bishop of Norwich; [Footnote: At the death of Thomas de Blunville in
1236. John de Ferentino must have been almost supreme in the diocese.
The see was practically vacant for three years.] he _was_ Archdeacon of
Norwich, but though the Pope tried to make him bishop, he happily did
not succeed in forcing him into the see that time, and John of
Ferentinum had to content himself with his archdeaconry and one or two
other preferments.

Our friend at Rougham may have been, and probably was, some kinsman of
the archdeacon, and it is just possible that Archdeacon Middleton, who,
you remember, bought the Lyng House, may have had, as his predecessor
in it, another archdeacon, this John de Ferentino, whose nephew or
brother, James, married Miss Isabella de Rucham, and settled down among
his wife's kindred. Be that as it may, John de Ferentino had two sons,
Peter and Richard, and it appears that their father, not content with
such education as Oxford or Cambridge could afford--though at this time
Oxford was one of the most renowned universities in Europe--sent his
sons to Rome, having an eye to their future advancement; for in King
Henry's days a young man that had friends at Rome was much more likely
to get on in the world than he who had only friends in the King's
Court, and he who wished to push his interests in the Church must look
to the Pope, and not to the King of England, as his main support.

When young Peter came back to Rougham, I dare say he brought back with
him some new airs and graces from Italy, and I dare say the new
fashions made his neighbours open their eyes. They gave the young
fellow the name he is known by in the charters, and to the day of his
death people called him Peter Romayn, or Peter the Roman. But Peter
came back a changed man in more ways than one. He came back a cleric.
We in England now recognize only three orders of clergy--bishops,
priests, and deacons. But six hundred years ago it was very different.
In those days a man might be two or three degrees below a deacon, and
yet be counted a cleric and belonging to the clergy; and, though Peter
Romayn was not priest or deacon, he was a privileged person in many
ways, but a very unprivileged person in one way--he might never marry.

It was a hard case for a young man who had taken to the clerical
profession without taking to the clerical life, and all the harder
because there were old men living whose fathers or grandfathers had
known the days when even a Bishop of Norwich was married, and who could
tell of many an old country clergyman who had had his wife and children
in the parsonage. But now--just six hundred years ago--if a young
fellow had once been admitted a member of the clerical body, he was no
longer under the protection of the laws of the realm, nor bound by
them, but he was under the dominion of another law, commonly known as
the Canon Law, which the Pope of Rome had succeeded in imposing upon
the clergy; and in accordance with that law, if he took to himself a
wife, he was, to all intents and purposes, a ruined man.

But when laws are pitted against human nature, they may be forced upon
people by the strong hand of power, but they are sure to be evaded
where they are not broken literally; and this law of forbidding
clergymen to marry _was_ evaded in many ways. Clergymen took to
themselves wives, and had families. Again and again their consciences
justified them in their course, whatever the Canon Law might forbid or
denounce. They married on the sly--if that may be called marriage which
neither the Church nor the State recognized as a binding contract, and
which was ratified by no formality or ceremony civil or religious: but
public opinion was lenient; and where a clergyman was living otherwise
a blameless life, his people did not think the worse of him for having
a wife and children, however much the Canon Law and certain bigoted
people might give the wife a bad name. And so it came to pass that
Peter Romayn of Rougham, cleric though he were, lost his heart one fine
day to a young lady at Rougham, and marry he would. The young lady's
name was Matilda. Her father, though born at Rougham, appears to have
gone away from there when very young, and made money somehow at
Leicester. He had married a Norfolk lady, one Agatha of Cringleford;
and he seems to have died, leaving his widow and daughter fairly
provided for; and they lived in a house at Rougham, which I dare say
Richard of Leicester had bought. I have no doubt that young Peter
Romayn was a young gentleman of means, and it is clear that Matilda was
a very desirable bride. But then Peter _couldn't_ marry! How was it to
be managed? I think it almost certain that no religious ceremony was
performed, but I have no doubt that the two plighted their troth either
to each, and that somehow they did become man and wife, if not in the
eyes of Canon Law, yet by the sanction of a higher law to which the
consciences of honourable men and women appeal against the immoral
enactments of human legislation.

Among the charters at Rougham I find eighteen or twenty which were
executed by Peter Romayn and Matilda. In no one of them is she called
his wife; in all of them it is stipulated that the property shall
descend to whomsoever they shall leave it, and in only one instance,
and there I believe by a mistake of the scribe, is there any mention of
their _lawful_ heirs. They buy land and sell it, sometimes separately,
more often conjointly, but in all cases the interests of both are kept
in view; the charters are witnessed by the principal people in the
place, including Sir Richard Butler himself, more than once; and in one
of the later charters Peter Romayn, as if to provide against the
contingency of his own death, makes over all his property in Rougham
without reserve to Matilda, and constitutes her the mistress of it all.
[Footnote: By the constitutions of Bishop Woodloke, any _legacies_ left
by a clergyman to his "concubine" were to be handed over to the
bishop's official, and distributed to the poor.--Wilkins' "Cone." vol.
ii. p. 296 b.]

Some year or two after this, Matilda executes her last conveyance, and
executes it alone. She sells her whole interest in Rougham--the house
in which she lives and all that it contains--lands and ground rents,
and everything else, for money down, and we hear of her no more. Did
she retire from the world, and find refuge in a nunnery? Did she go
away to some other home? Who knows? And what of Peter the Roman? I know
little of him, but I suspect the pressure put upon the poor man was too
strong for him, and I suspect that somehow, and, let us hope, with much
anguish and bitterness of heart--but yet somehow, he was compelled to
repudiate the poor woman to whom there is evidence to show he was true
and staunch as long as it was possible--and when it was no longer
possible I _think_ he too turned his back upon the Rougham home, and
was presented by the Prior of Westacre Monastery to the Rectory of
Bodney at the other end of the county, where, let us hope, he died in

It is a curious fact that Peter Romayn was not the only clergyman in
Rougham whom we know to have been married. As for Peter Romayn, I
believe he was an honourable man according to his light, and as far as
any men were honourable in those rough days. But for the other. I do
not feel so sure about him.

I said that the two prosperous men in Rougham six hundred years ago
were Peter Romayn and Thomas the Lucky, or, as his name appears in the
Latin Charters, Thomas Felix. When Archdeacon Middleton gave up living
at Rougham, Thomas Felix bought his estate, called the Lyng House; and
shortly after he bought another estate, which, in fact, was a manor of
its own, and comprehended thirteen free tenants and five villeins; and,
as though this were not enough, on September 24, 1292, he took a lease
of another manor in Rougham for six years, of one of the daughters of
Sir Richard le Butler, whose husband, I suppose, wanted to go
elsewhere. Before the lease expired he died, leaving behind him a widow
named Sara and three little daughters, the eldest of whom cannot have
been more than eight or nine years old. This was in the year 1294.
Sara, the widow, was for the time a rich woman, and she made up her
mind never to marry again, and she kept her resolve.

When her eldest daughter Alice came to the mature age of fifteen or
sixteen, a young man named John of Thrysford wooed and won her.
Mistress Alice was by no means a portionless damsel, and Mr. John seems
himself to have been a man of substance. How long they were married I
know not; but it could not have been more than a year or two, for less
than five years after Mr. Felix's death a great event happened, which
produced very momentous effects upon Rougham and its inhabitants in
more ways than one.

Up to this time there had been a rector at Rougham, and apparently a
good rectory-house and some acres of glebe land--how many I cannot say.
But the canons of Westacre Priory cast their eyes upon the rectory of
Rougham, and they made up their minds they would have it. I dare not
stop to explain how the job was managed--that would lead me a great
deal too far--but it _was_ managed, and accordingly, a year or two
after the marriage of little Alice, they got possession of all the
tithes and the glebe, and the good rectory-house at Rougham, and they
left the parson of the parish with a smaller house on the other side of
the road, and _not_ contiguous to the church, an allowance of two
quarters of wheat and two quarters of barley a year, and certain small
dues which might suffice to keep body and soul together but little
more. [Footnote: This appears from the following charter, which it
seems worth while to quote: "Pateat universis... quod nos Robertas de
Feletone, Miles, et Hawigia uxor mea concessimus ... Alicie filie Thome
de Rucham... Totum ius nostrum... in terris... dicte Alicie... in
Rucham, que ... habuimus de dono et dimissione Johannis filii Roberti
de Thyrsforde in Rucham _ante diuorstium_ (sic) _inter eundem Johannem
et dictam_ Aliciam factum... Omnia munimenta et scripta que de dicto
tenemento habuimus eidem Alicie quiete reddidimus... Datum apud Lucham
die Dom: prox: post Annunc: B Mar: Virg: Anno R. R. Edw: fit. Reg.
Henr: tricessimotertio" (28 March, 1305).--_Rougham Charter_, No. 157.]

John of Thyrsfordhad not been married more than a year or two when he
had had enough of it. Whether at the time of his marriage he was
already a _cleric_, I cannot tell, but I know that on October 10, 1301,
he was a priest, and that on that day he was instituted to the vicarage
of Rougham, having been already divorced from poor little Alice. As for
Alice--if I understand the case, she never could marry, however much
she may have wished it; she had no children to comfort her; she became
by-and-by the great lady of Rougham, and there she lived on for nearly
fifty years. Her husband, the vicar, lived on too--on what terms of
intimacy I am unable to say. The vicar died some ten years before the
lady. When old age was creeping on her she made over all her houses and
lands in Rougham to feoffees, and I have a suspicion that she went into
a nunnery and there died.

In dealing with the two cases of Peter Romayn and John of Thyrsford I
have used the term _cleric_ more than once. These two men were, at the
end of their career at any rate, what we now understand by clergyman;
but there were hosts of men six hundred years ago in Norfolk who were
_clerics,_ and yet who were by no means what we now understand by
clergymen. The _clerics_ of six hundred years ago comprehended all
those whom we now call the professional classes; all, _i.e._, who lived
by their brains, as distinct from those who lived by trade or the
labour of their hands.

Six hundred years ago it may be said that there were two kinds of law
in England, the one was the law of the land, the other was the law of
the Church. The law of the land was hideously cruel and merciless, and
the gallows and the pillory, never far from any man's door, were seldom
allowed to remain long out of use. The ghastly frequency of the
punishment by death tended to make people savage and bloodthirsty.
[Footnote: In 1293 a case is recorded of three men, one of them a
goldsmith, who had their right hands chopped off in the middle of the
street in London.-"Chron. of Edward I. and Edward II.," vol. i.
p.--102. Ed. Stubbs. Rolls Series.] It tended, too, to make men
absolutely reckless of consequences when once their passions were
roused. "As well be hung for a sheep as a lamb" was a saying that had a
grim truth in it. When a violent ruffian knew that if he robbed his
host in the night he would be sure to be hung for it, and if he killed
him he could be no more than hung, he had nothing to gain by letting
him live, and nothing to lose if he cut his throat. Where another knew
that by tampering with the coin of the realm he was sure to go to the
gallows for it, he might as well make a good fight before he was taken,
and murder any one who stood in the way of his escape. Hanging went on
at a pace which we cannot conceive, for in those days the criminal law
of the land was not, as it is now, a strangely devised machinery for
protecting the wrongdoer, but it was an awful and tremendous power for
slaying all who were dangerous to the persons or the property of the

The law of the Church, on the other hand, was much more lenient. To
hurry a man to death with his sins and crimes fresh upon him, to
slaughter men wholesale for acts that could not be regarded as
enormously wicked, shocked those who had learnt that the Gospel taught
such virtues as mercy and longsuffering, and gave men hopes of
forgiveness on repentance. The Church set itself against the atrocious
mangling, and branding, and hanging that was being dealt out blindly,
hastily, and indiscriminately, to every kind of transgressor; and
inasmuch as the Church law and the law of the land six hundred years
ago were often in conflict, the Church law acted to a great extent as a
check upon the shocking ferocity of the criminal code. And this is how
the check was exercised.

A man who was a _cleric_ was only half amenable to the law of the land.
He was a citizen of the realm, and a subject of the king, but he was
_more_; he owed allegiance to the Church, and claimed the Church's
protection also. Accordingly, whenever a _cleric_ got into trouble, and
there was only too good cause to believe that if he were brought to his
trial he would have a short shrift and no favour, scant justice and the
inevitable gallows within twenty-four hours at the longest, he
proclaimed himself a _cleric_, and demanded the protection of the
Church, and was forthwith handed over to the custody of the ordinary or
bishop. The process was a clumsy one, and led, of course, to great
abuses, but it had a good side. As a natural and inevitable consequence
of such a privilege accorded to a class, there was a very strong
inducement to become a member of that class; and as the Church made it
easy for any fairly educated man to be admitted at any rate to the
lower orders of the ministry, any one who preferred a professional
career, or desired to give himself up to a life of study, enrolled
himself among the _clerics_, and was henceforth reckoned as belonging
to the clergy.

The country swarmed with these _clerics_. Only a small proportion of
them ever became ministers of religion; they were lawyers, or even
lawyers' clerks; they were secretaries; some few were quacks with
nostrums; and these all were just as much _clerics_ as the chaplains,
who occupied pretty much the same position as our curates do
now--clergymen, strictly so called, who were on the look out for
employment, and who earned a very precarious livelihood--or the rectors
and vicars who were the beneficed clergy, and who were the parsons of
parishes occupying almost exactly the same position that they do at
this moment, and who were almost exactly in the same social position as
they are now. Six hundred years ago there were at least seven of these
_clerics_ in Rougham, all living in the place at the same time besides
John of Thyrsford, the vicar. Five of them were chaplains, two were
merely _clerics_. If there were seven of these clerical gentlemen whom
I happen to have met with in my examination of the Rougham Charters,
there must have been others who were not people of sufficient note to
witness the execution of important legal instruments, nor with the
means to buy land or houses in the parish. It can hardly be putting the
number too high if we allow that there must have been at least ten or a
dozen _clerics_ of one sort or another in Rougham six hundred years ago.

How did they all get a livelihood? is a question not easy to answer;
but there were many ways of picking up a livelihood by these gentlemen.
To begin with, they could take an engagement as tutor in a gentleman's
family; or they could keep a small school; or earn a trifle by drawing
up conveyances, or by keeping the accounts of the lord of the manor. In
some cases they acted as private chaplains, getting their victuals for
their remuneration, and sometimes they were merely loafing about, and
living upon their friends, and taking the place of the country parson
if he were sick or past work. Then, too, the smaller monasteries had
one or more chaplains, and I suspect that the canons at Castle Acre
always would keep two or three chaplains in their pay, and it is not
unlikely that as long as Archdeacon Middleton kept on his big house at
Rougham he would have a chaplain, who would be attached to the place,
and bound to perform the service in the great man's chapel.

But besides the clerics and the chaplains and the rector or vicar,
there was another class, the members of which just at this time were
playing a very important part indeed in the religious life of the
people, and not in the religious life alone; these were the Friars. If
the monks looked down upon the parsons, and stole their endowments from
them whenever they could, and if in return the parsons hated the monks
and regarded them with profound suspicion and jealousy, both parsons
and monks were united in their common dislike of the Friars.

Six hundred years ago the Friars had been established in England about
sixty years, and they were now by far the most influential Religionists
in the country. The Friars, though always stationed in the towns, and
by this time occupying large establishments which were built for them
in Lynn, Yarmouth, Norwich, and elsewhere, were always acting the part
of itinerant preachers, and travelled their circuits on foot, supported
by alms. Sometimes the parson lent them the church, sometimes they held
a camp meeting in spite of him, and just as often as not they left
behind them a feeling of great soreness, irritation, and discontent;
but six hundred years ago the preaching of the Friars was an immense
and incalculable blessing to the country, and if it had not been for
the wonderful reformation wrought by their activity and burning
enthusiasm, it is difficult to see what we should have come to or what
corruption might have prevailed in Church and State.

When the Friars came into a village, and it was known that they were
going to preach, you may be sure that the whole population would turn
out to listen. Sermons in those days in the country were very rarely
delivered. As I have said, there were no pulpits in the churches then.
A parson might hold a benefice for fifty years, and never once have
written or composed a sermon. A preaching parson, one who regularly
exhorted his people or expounded to them the Scriptures, would have
been a wonder indeed, and thus the coming of the Friars and the revival
of pulpit oratory was all the more welcome because the people had not
become wearied by the too frequent iteration of truths which may be
repeated so frequently as to lose their vital force. A sermon was an
event in those days, and a preacher with any real gifts of oratory was
looked upon as a prophet sent by God. Never was there a time when the
people needed more to be taught the very rudiments of morality. Never
had there been a time when people cared less whether their acts and
words were right or wrong, true or false. It had almost come to this,
that what a man thought would be to his profit, that was good; what
would entail upon him a loss, that was evil.

And this brings me to another point, viz., the lawlessness and crime in
country villages six hundred years ago. But before I can speak on that
subject it is necessary that I should first try to give you some idea
of the every-day life of your forefathers. What did they eat and drink?
what did they wear? what did they do from day to day? Were they happy?
content? prosperous? or was their lot a hard and bitter one? For
according to the answer we get to questions such as these, so shall we
be the better prepared to expect the people to have been peaceable
citizens, or sullen, miserable, and dangerous ruffians, goaded to
frequent outbursts of ferocious savagedom by hunger, oppression,
hatred, and despair.

Six hundred years ago no parish in Norfolk had more than a part of its
land under tillage. As a rule, the town or village, with its houses,
great and small, consisted of a long street, the church and parsonage
being situated about the middle of the parish. Not far off stood the
manor house, with its hall where the manor courts were held, and its
farm-buildings, dovecote, and usually its mill for grinding the corn of
the tenants. No tenant of the manor might take his corn to be ground
anywhere except at the lord's mill; and it is easy to see what a
grievance this would be felt to be at times, and how the lord of the
manor, if he were needy, unscrupulous, or extortionate, might grind the
faces of the poor while he ground their corn. Behind most of the houses
in the village might be seen a croft or paddock, an orchard or a small
garden. But the contents of the gardens were very different from the
vegetables we see now; there were, perhaps, a few cabbages, onions,
parsnips, or carrots, and apparently some kind of beet or turnip. The
potato had never been heard of.

As for the houses themselves, they were squalid enough for the most
part. The manor house was often built of stone, when stone was to be
had, or where, as in Norfolk, no stone was to be had, then of flint, as
in so many of our church towers. Usually, however, the manor house was
built in great part of timber. The poorer houses were dirty hovels, run
up "anyhow," sometimes covered with turf, sometimes with thatch. None
of them had chimneys. Six hundred years ago houses with chimneys were
at least as rare as houses heated by hot-water pipes are now. Moreover,
there were no brick houses. It is a curious fact that the art of making
bricks seems to have been lost in England for some hundreds of years.
The labourer's dwelling had no windows; the hole in the roof which let
out the smoke rendered windows unnecessary, and, even in the houses of
the well-to-do, glass windows were rare. In many cases oiled linen
cloth served to admit a feeble semblance of light, and to keep out the
rain. The labourer's fire was in the middle of his house; he and his
wife and children huddled round it, sometimes grovelling in the ashes;
and going to bed meant flinging themselves down upon the straw which
served them as mattress and feather bed, exactly as it does to the
present day in the gipsy's tent in our byways. The labourer's only
light by night was the smouldering fire. Why should he burn a rushlight
when there was nothing to look at? and reading was an accomplishment
which few labouring men were masters of.

As to the food of the majority, it was of the coarsest. The fathers of
many a man and woman in every village in Norfolk can remember the time
when the labourer looked upon wheat-bread as a rare delicacy; and those
legacies which were left by kindly people a century or two ago,
providing for the weekly distribution of so many _white_ loaves to the
poor, tell us of a time when the poor man's loaf was as dark as mud,
and as tough as his shoe-leather. In the winter-time things went very
hard indeed with all classes. There was no lack of fuel, for the brakes
and waste afforded turf which all might cut, and kindling which all had
a right to carry away; but the poor horses and sheep and cattle were
half starved for at least four months in the year, and one and all were
much smaller than they are now. I doubt whether people ever fatted
their hogs as we do. When the corn was reaped, the swine were turned
into the stubble and roamed about the underwood; and when they had
increased their weight by the feast of roots and mast and acorns, they
were slaughtered and salted for the winter fare, only so many being
kept alive as might not prove burdensome to the scanty resources of the
people. Salting down the animals for the winter consumption was a very
serious expense. All the salt used was produced by evaporation in
_pans_ near the seaside, and a couple of bushels of salt often cost as
much as a sheep. This must have compelled the people to spare the salt
as much as possible, and it must have been only too common to find the
bacon more than rancid, and the ham alive again with maggots. If the
salt was dear and scarce, sugar was unknown except to the very rich.
The poor man had little to sweeten his lot. The bees gave him honey;
and long after the time I am dealing with people left not only their
hives to their children by will, but actually bequeathed a summer
flight of bees to their friends; while the hive was claimed by one, the
next swarm might become the property of another.

As for the drink, it was almost exclusively water, beer, and cider.
[Footnote: On a court roll of the manor of Whissonsete, of the date
July 22, 1355, I find William Wate fined "iiij botell cideri quia fecit
dampnum in bladis domini."] Any one who pleased might brew beer without
tax or license, and everybody who was at all before the world did brew
his own beer according to his own taste. But in those days the beer was
very different stuff from that which you are familiar with. To begin
with, people did not use hops. Hops were not put into beer till long
after the time we are concerned with. I dare say they flavoured their
beer with horehound and other herbs, but they did not understand those
tricks which brewers are said to practise now-a-days for making the
beer "heady" and sticky and poisonous. I am not prepared to say the
beer was better, or that you would have liked it; but I am pretty sure
that in those days it was easier to get pure beer in a country village
than it is now, and if a man chose to drink bad beer he had only
himself to thank for it. There was no such monopoly as there is now. I
am inclined to think that there were a very great many more people who
sold beer in the country parishes than sell it now, and I am sorry to
say that the beer-sellers in those days had the reputation of being
rather a bad lot. [Footnote: The presentments of the beer-sellers seem
to point to the existence of something like a licensing system among
the lords of manors. I know not how otherwise to explain the frequency
of the fines laid upon the whole class. Thus in a court-leet of the
manor of Hockham, held the 20th of October, 1377, no less than fourteen
women were fined in the aggregate 30s. 8d., who being _brassatores
vendidere servisiam_ (sic) _contra assisam_, one of these brewsters was
fined as much as four shillings.

The earliest attempt to introduce uniformity in the measures of ale,
&c., is the assize of Richard I., bearing date the 20th of November,
1197. It is to be found in "Walter of Coventry," vol. ii. p. 114 (Rolls
Series). On the importance of this document see Stubbs' "Const. Hist.,"
vol. i. pp. 509, 573. On the _tasters_ of bread and ale cf. "Dep.
Keeper's 43rd Report," p. 207.] It is quite certain that they were very
often in trouble, and of all the offences punished by fine at the manor
courts none is more common than that of selling beer in false measures.

The method of cheating their customers by the beer-sellers was, we are
told, exactly the contrary plan followed by our modern publicans. Now,
when a man gets into a warm corner at the pot-house, they tell me that
John Barleycorn is apt to serve out more drink than is good for him;
but six hundred years ago the beer-seller made his profit, or tried to
make it, by giving his customer less than he asked for. Tobacco was
quite unknown; it was first brought into England about three hundred
years after the days we are dealing with. When a man once sat himself
down with his pot he had nothing to do but drink. He had no pipe to
take off his attention from his liquor. If such a portentous sight
could have been seen in those days as that of a man vomiting forth
clouds of smoke from his mouth and nostrils, the beholders would have
undoubtedly taken to their heels and run for their lives, protesting
that the devil himself had appeared to them, breathing forth fire and
flames. Tea and coffee, too, were absolutely unknown, unheard of; and
wine was the rich man's beverage, as it is now. The fire-waters of our
own time--the gin and the rum, which have wrought us all such
incalculable mischief--were not discovered then. Some little ardent
spirits, known under the name of _cordials_, were to be found in the
better appointed establishments, and were kept by the lady of the house
among her simples, and on special occasions dealt out in thimblefuls;
but the vile grog, that maddens people now, our forefathers of six
hundred years ago had never even tasted.

The absence of vegetable food for the greater part of the year, the
personal dirt of the people, the sleeping at night in the clothes worn
in the day, and other causes, made skin diseases frightfully common. At
the outskirts of every town in England of any size there were crawling
about emaciated creatures covered with loathsome sores, living heaven
knows how. They were called by the common name of lepers, and probably
the leprosy strictly so called was awfully common. But the children
must have swarmed with vermin; and the itch, and the scurvy, and the
ringworm, with other hideous eruptions, must have played fearful havoc
with the weak and sickly.

As for the dress of the working classes, it was hardly dress at all. I
doubt whether the great mass of the labourers in Norfolk had more than
a single garment--a kind of tunic leaving the arms and legs bare, with
a girdle of rope or leather round the waist, in which a man's knife was
stuck, to use sometimes for hacking his bread, sometimes for stabbing
an enemy in a quarrel. As for any cotton goods, such as are familiar to
you all, they had never been dreamt of, and I suspect that no more
people in Norfolk wore linen habitually than now wear silk.

Money was almost inconceivably scarce. The labourer's wages were paid
partly in rations of food, partly in other allowances, and only partly
in money; he had to take what he could get. Even the quit-rent, or what
I have called the ground rent, was frequently compounded for by the
tenant being required to find a pair of gloves, or a pound of cummin,
or some other acknowledgment in lieu of a money payment; and one
instance occurs among the Rougham charters of a man buying as much as
11-1/2 acres, and paying for them partly in money and partly in barley.
[Footnote: In the year 1276 halfpence and farthings were coined for the
first time. This must have been a great boon to the poorer classes, and
it evidently was felt to be a matter of great importance, insomuch that
it was said to be the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy by the great
seer Merlin, who had once foretold in mysterious language, that "there
shall be half of the round." In the next century it appears that the
want of small change had again made itself felt: for in the 2nd Richard
II. we find the Commons setting forth in a petition to the King, that
"_...les ditz coes n'on petit monoye pur paier pur les petites_ mesures
a grant damage des dites coes," and they beg "Le plese a dit Sr. le Roi
et a son sage conseil de faire ordeiner Mayles et farthinges pur paier
pur les petites mesures... et en eovre de charitée...."--Rolls of
Parl., vol. iii. p. 65.] Nothing shows more plainly the scarcity of
money than the enormous interest that was paid for a loan. The only
bankers were the Jews; [Footnote: I am speaking of Norfolk and Suffolk,
where the Jews, as far as I have seen, had it all their own way.] and
when a man was once in their hands he was never likely to get out of
their clutches again. But six hundred years ago the Jews had almost
come to the end of their tether; and in the year 1290 they were driven
out of the country, men, women, and children, with unutterable
barbarity, only to be replaced by other bloodsuckers who were not a
whit less mercenary, perhaps, but only less pushing and successful in
their usury.

It is often said that the monasteries were the great supporters of the
poor, and fed them in times of scarcity. It may be so, but I should
like to see the evidence for the statement. At present I doubt the
fact, at any rate as far as Norfolk goes. [Footnote: The returns of the
number of poor people supported by the monasteries, which are to be
found in the "Valor Ecclesiasticus," are somewhat startling. Certainly
the monasteries did not return _less_ than they expended in alms. Note,
too, the complaint of the St. Alban's men to Wat Tyler, who are said to
have slandered the abbey "de retentione stipendiorum pauperum."
Walsingham, i. 469.] On the contrary, I am strongly impressed with the
belief that six hundred years ago the poor had no friends. The parsons
were needy themselves. In too many cases one clergyman held two or
three livings, took his tithes and spent them in the town, and left a
chaplain with a bare subsistence to fill his place in the country.
There was no parson's wife to drop in and speak a kind word--no
clergyman's daughter to give a friendly nod, or teach the little ones
at Sunday school--no softening influences, no sympathy, no kindliness.
What could you expect of people with such dreary surroundings?--what
but that which we know actually was the condition of affairs? The
records of crime and outrage in Norfolk six hundred years ago are still
preserved, and may be read by any one who knows how to decipher them. I
had intended to examine carefully the entries of crime for this
neighbourhood for the year 1286, and to give you the result this
evening, but I have not had an opportunity of doing so. The work has
been done for the hundred of North Erpingham by my friend Mr. Rye, and
what is true for one part of Norfolk during any single year is not
likely to be very different from what was going on in another.

The picture we get of the utter lawlessness of the whole county,
however, at the beginning of King Edward's reign is quite dreadful
enough. Nobody seems to have resorted to the law to maintain a right or
redress a wrong, till every other method had been tried. Starting with
the squires, if I may use the term, and those well-to-do people who
ought to have been among the most law-abiding members of the
community--we find them setting an example of violence and rapacity,
bad to read of. One of the most common causes of offence was when the
lord of the manor attempted to invade the rights of the tenants of the
manor by setting up a fold on the heath, or _Bruary_ as it was called.
What the lord was inclined to do, that the tenants would try to do
also, as when in 1272 John de Swanton set up a fold in the common
fields at Billingford; whereupon the other tenants pulled it down, and
there was a serious disturbance, and the matter dragged on in the law
courts for four years and more. Or as when the Prior of Wymondham
impleads William de Calthorp for interfering with his foldage at
Burnham; Calthorp replying that the Prior had no right to foldage, and
that he (Calthorp) had the right to pull the fold down. In these cases,
of course, there would be a general gathering and a riot, for every
one's interest was at stake; but it was not only when some general
grievance was felt that people in those days were ready for a row.

It really looks as if nothing was more easy than to collect a band of
people who could be let loose anywhere to work any mischief. One man
had a claim upon another for a debt, or a piece of land, or a right
which was denied--had the claim, or fancied he had--and he seems to
have had no difficulty in getting together a score or two of roughs to
back him in taking the law into his own hands. As when John de la Wade
in 1270 persuaded a band of men to help him in invading the manor of
Hamon de Clere, in this very parish of Tittleshall, seizing the corn
and threshing it, and, more wonderful still, cutting down timber, and
_carrying it off_. There are actually two other cases of a precisely
similar kind recorded this same year, one where a gang of fellows in
broad day seems to have looted the manors of Dunton and Mileham; the
other case was where a mob, under the leadership of three men, who are
named, entered by force into the manor of Dunham, laid hands on a
quantity of timber fit for building purposes, and took it away bodily!
A much more serious case, however, occurred some years after this when
two gentlemen of position in Norfolk, with twenty-five followers, who
appear to have been their regular retainers, and a great multitude on
foot and horse, came to Little Barningham, where in the Hall there
lived an old lady, Petronilla de Gros; they set fire to the house in
five places, dragged out the old lady, treated her with the most brutal
violence, and so worked upon her fears that they compelled her to tell
them where her money and jewels were, and, having seized them, I
conclude that they left her to warm herself at the smouldering ruins of
her mansion.

On another occasion there was a fierce riot at Rainham. There the manor
had become divided into three portions, as we have seen was the case at
Rougham. One Thomas de Hauville had one portion, and Thomas de
Ingoldesthorp and Robert de Scales held the other two portions. Thomas
de Hauville, peradventure, felt aggrieved because some rogue had not
been whipped or tortured cruelly enough to suit his notions of salutary
justice, whereupon he went to the expense of erecting a brand new
pillory, and apparently a gallows too, to strike terror into the minds
of the disorderly. The other parceners of the manor were indignant at
the act, and collecting nearly sixty of the people of Rainham, they
pulled down the new pillory and utterly destroyed the same. When the
case came before the judges, the defendants pleaded in effect that if
Thomas de Hauville had put up his pillory on his own domain they would
have had no objection, but that he had invaded their rights in setting
up his gallows without their permission.

If the gentry, and they who ought to have known better, set such an
example, and gave their sanction to outrage and savagery, it was only
natural that the lower orders should be quick to take their pattern by
their superiors, and should be only too ready to break and defy the
law. And so it is clear enough that they were. In a single year, the
year 1285, in the hundred of North Erpingham, containing thirty-two
parishes, the catalogue of crime is so ghastly as positively to stagger
one. Without taking any account of what in those days must have been
looked upon as quite minor offences--such as simple theft,
sheep-stealing, fraud, extortion, or harbouring felons--there were
eleven men and five women put upon their trial for burglary, eight men
and four women were murdered; there were five fatal fights, three men
and two women being killed in the frays; and, saddest of all, there
were five cases of suicide, among them two women, one of whom hanged
herself, the other cut her throat with a razor. We have in the roll
recording these horrors very minute particulars of the several cases,
and we know too that, not many months before the roll was drawn up, at
least eleven desperate wretches had been hanged for various offences,
and one had been torn to pieces by horses for the crime of debasing the
king's coin. It is impossible for us to realize the hideous ferocity of
such a state of society as this; the women were as bad as the men,
furious beldames, dangerous as wild beasts, without pity, without
shame, without remorse; and finding life so cheerless, so hopeless, so
very very dark and miserable, that when there was nothing to be gained
by killing any one else they killed themselves.

     Anywhere, anywhere out of the world!

Sentimental people who plaintively sigh for the good old times will do
well to ponder upon these facts. Think, twelve poor creatures butchered
in cold blood in a single year within a circuit of ten miles from your
own door! Two of these unhappy victims were a couple of lonely women,
apparently living together in their poverty, gashed and battered in the
dead of the night, and left in their blood, stripped of their little
all. The motive, too, for all this horrible housebreaking and
bloodshed, being a lump of cheese or a side of bacon, and the
shuddering creatures cowering in the corner of a hovel, being too
paralyzed with terror to utter a cry, and never dreaming of making
resistance to the wild-eyed assassins, who came to slay rather than to

Let us turn from these scenes, which are too painful to dwell on; and,
before I close, let me try and point to some bright spots in the
village life of six hundred years ago. If the hovels of the labourer
were squalid, and dirty, and dark, yet there was not--no, there was
not--as much difference between them and the dwelling of the former
class, the employers of labour. Every man who had any house at all had
some direct interest in the land; he always had some rood or two that
he could call his own; his allotment was not large, but then there were
no large farmers. I cannot make out that there was any one in Rougham
who farmed as much as two hundred acres all told. What we now
understand by tenant farmers were a class that had not yet come into
existence. Where a landlord was non-resident he farmed his estate by a
bailiff, and if any one wanted to give up an occupation for a time he
let it with all that it contained. Thus, when Alice the divorced made
up her mind in 1318 to go away from Rougham--perhaps on a
pilgrimage--perhaps to Rome--who knows?--she let her house and land,
and all that was upon it, live and dead stock, to her sister Juliana
for three years. The inventory included not only the sheep and cattle,
but the very hoes and pitchforks, and sacks; and everything, to the
minutest particular, was to be returned without damage at the end of
the term, or replaced by an equivalent. But this lady, a lady of birth
and some position, certainly did not have two hundred acres under her
hands, and would have been a very small personage indeed, side by side
with a dozen of our West Norfolk farmers today. The difference between
the labourer and the farmer was, I think, less six hundred years ago
than it is now. Men climbed up the ladder by steps that were more
gently graduated; there was no great gulf fixed between the employer
and the employed.

I can tell you nothing of the amusements of the people in those days. I
doubt whether they had any more amusement than the swine or the cows
had. Looking after the fowls or the geese, hunting for the hen's nest
in the furze brake, and digging out a fox or a badger, gave them an
hour's excitement or interest now and again. Now and then a wandering
minstrel came by, playing upon his rude instrument, and now and then
somebody would come out from Lynn, or Yarmouth, or Norwich, with some
new batch of songs for the most part scurrilous and coarse, and
listened to much less for the sake of the music than for the words. Nor
were books so rare as has been asserted. There were even story-books in
some houses, as where John Senekworth, bailiff for Merton College, at
Gamlingay in Cambridgeshire, possessed, when he died in 1314, three
books of romance; but then he was a thriving yeoman with carpets in his
house, or hangings for the walls. [Footnote: Rogers' "Hist, of Prices"
vol. i. p. 124.]

There was a great deal more coming and going in the country villages
than there is now, a great deal more to talk about, a great deal more
doing. The courts of the manor were held periodically, and the free
tenants were bound to attend and carry on a large amount of petty
business. Then there were the periodical visitations by the Archdeacon
and the Rural Dean, and now and then more august personages might be
seen with a host of mounted followers riding along the roads. The
Bishop of Norwich was always on the move when he was in his diocese;
his most favourite places of residence were North Elmham and Gaywood;
at both of these places he had a palace and a park; that meant that
there were deer there and hunting, and all the good and evil that seems
to be inseparable from haunches of vension. Nay, at intervals, even the
Archbishop of Canterbury himself, the second man in the kingdom, came
down to hold a visitation in Norfolk, and, exactly 602 years ago the
great Archbishop Peckham spent some time in the county, and though I do
not think he came near Rougham or Tittleshall, I think it not
improbable that his coming may have had some influence in bringing
about the separation between Peter Romayn and Matilda de Cringleford,
and the divorce of poor Alice from John of Thyrsford.

That year, 1280, or just 602 years ago, when Archbishop Peckham paid
his visit to Norfolk, was a very disastrous year for the farmers. It
was the beginning of a succession of bad seasons and floods even worse
than any that we have known. The rain began on the 1st of August, and
we are told that it continued to fall for twenty-four hours, and then
came a mighty wind such as men had never known the like of; the waters
were out, and there was a great flood, and houses and windmills and
bridges were swept away. Nay, we hear of a sad loss of life, and many
poor people were drowned, and many lost their all; flocks, and herds,
and corn and hay being whelmed in the deluge. In November there was a
frightful tempest, the lightning doing extensive damage; and just at
Christmas-time the frost set in with such severity as no man had known
before. The river Thames was frozen over above London Bridge, so that
men crossed it with horses and carts, and when the frost broke up on
the 2nd of February there was such an enormous accumulation of ice and
snow that five of the arches of London Bridge blew up, and all over the
country the same destruction of bridges was heard of.

Next year and the year after that, things went very badly with your
forefathers, and one of the saddest stories that we get from a Norfolk
chronicler who was alive at the time is one in which he tells us that,
owing to the continuous rain during these three years, there was an
utter failure in garden produce, as well as of the people's hope of
harvest. The bad seasons seem to have gone on for six or seven years;
but by far the worst calamity which Norfolk ever knew was the awful
flood of 1287, when by an incursion of the sea a large district was
laid under water, and hundreds of unfortunate creatures were drowned in
the dead of the night, without warning. Here, on the higher level,
people were comparatively out of harm's way, but it is impossible to
imagine the distress and agony that there must have been in other parts
of the county not twenty miles from where we are this evening.

After that dreadful year I think there was a change for the better, but
it must have been a long time before the county recovered from the
"agricultural distress;" and I strongly suspect that the cruel and
wicked persecution of the Jews, and the cancelling of all debts due to
them by the landlords and the farmers, was in some measure owing to the
general bankruptcy which the succession of bad seasons had brought
about. Men found themselves hopelessly insolvent, and there was no
other way of cancelling their obligations than by getting rid of their
creditors. So when the king announced that all the Jews should be
transported out of the realm, you may be sure that there were very few
Christians who were sorry for them. There had been a time when the
children of Israel had spoiled the Egyptians--was it not fitting that
another time should have come when the children of Israel should
themselves be spoiled?

The year of the great flood was the frequent talk, of course, of all
your forefathers who overlived it, and here in this neighbourhood it
must have acquired an additional interest from the fact that Bishop
Middleton died the year after it, and his brothers then parted with
their Rougham property.

Nor was this all, for Bishop Middleton's successor in the see of
Norwich came from this immediate neighbourhood also. This was Ralph
Walpole, son of the lord of the manor of Houghton, in which parish the
bishop himself had inherited a few acres of land. In less than forty
years no less than three bishops had been born within five miles of
where we are this evening: Roger de Wesenham, [Footnote: The names of
several members of the bishop's family occur in the Rougham Charters as
attesting witnesses, and a Roger de Wesenham is found among them more
than once.] who became Bishop of Lichfield in 1245; William Middleton,
who had just died; and Ralph Walpole, who succeeded him. There must
have been much stir in these parts when the news was known. The old
people would tell how they had seen "young master Ralph" many a time
when he was a boy scampering over Massingham Heath, or coming to pay
his respects to the Archdeacon at the Lyng House, or talking of foreign
parts with old James de Ferentino or Peter Romayn. Now he had grown to
be a very big man indeed, and there were many eyes watching him on both
sides of the water. He had a very difficult game to play during the
eleven years he was Bishop of Norwich, for the king was dreadfully in
need of money, and, being desperate, he resorted to outrageous methods
of squeezing it from those whom he could frighten and force, and the
time came at last when the bishops and the clergy had to put a bold
face on and to resist the tyranny and lawless rapacity of the sovereign.

And this reminds me that though archdeacons, and bishops, and even an
archbishop, in those days might be and were very important and very
powerful personages, they were all very small and insignificant in
comparison with the great King Edward, the king who at this time was
looked upon as one of the most mighty and magnificent kings in all the
world. He, too, paid many a visit to Norfolk six hundred years ago. He
kept his Christmas at Burgh in 1280, and in 1284 he came down with the
good Queen Eleanor and spent the whole of Lent in the county; and next
year, again, they were in your immediate neighbourhood, making a
pilgrimage to Walsingham. A few years after this he seems to have spent
a week or two within five miles of where we are; he came to Castle
Acre, and there he stayed at the great priory whose ruins you all know
well. There a very stirring interview took place between the king and
Bishop Walpole, and a number of other bishops, and great persons who
had come down as a deputation to expostulate with the king, and
respectfully to protest against the way in which he was robbing his
subjects, and especially the clergy, whom he had been for years
plundering in the most outrageous manner. The king gave the deputation
no smooth words to carry away, but he sent them off with threatening
frowns and insults and in hot anger. Some days after this he was at
Massingham, and one of his letters has been preserved, dated from
Massingham, 30th of January, 1296, so that it is almost certain the
great king passed one night there at least. It is a little difficult to
understand what the king was doing at Massingham, for there was no
great man living there, and no great mansion. Sometimes I have thought
that the king rode out from Castle Acre to see what state the Walpoles
of those times were keeping up at Houghton. Had not that audacious
Bishop Walpole dared to speak plainly to his Grace the week before? But
the more probable explanation is that the king went to Massingham to
visit a small religious house or monastery which had been recently
founded there. I suspect it had already got into debt and was in
difficulties, and it is possible that the king's visit was made in the
interest of the foundation. At any rate, there the king stayed; but
though he was in Norfolk more than once after this, he never was so
near you again, and that visit was one which your forefathers were sure
to talk about to the end of their lives.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

And these were the days of old. But now that we have looked back upon
them as they appear through the mists of centuries, the distance
distorting some things, obscuring others, but leaving upon us, on the
whole, an impression that, after all, these men and women of the past,
whose circumstances were so different from our own, were perhaps not so
very unlike what we should be if our surroundings were as theirs. Now
that we have come to that conclusion, if indeed we have come to it, let
me ask you all a question or two. Should we like to change with those
forefathers of ours, whose lives were passed in this parish in the way
I have attempted to describe, six hundred years ago? Were the former
times better than these? Has the world grown worse as it has grown
older? Has there been no progress, but only decline?

My friends, the people who lived in this village six hundred years ago
were living a life hugely below the level of yours. They were more
wretched in their poverty, they were incomparably less prosperous in
their prosperity, they were worse clad, worse fed, worse housed, worse
taught, worse tended, worse governed; they were sufferers from
loathsome diseases which you knew nothing of; the very beasts of the
field were dwarfed and stunted in their growth, and I do not believe
there were any giants in the earth in those days. The death-rate among
the children must have been tremendous. The disregard of human life was
so callous that we can hardly conceive it. There was everything to
harden, nothing to soften; everywhere oppression, greed, and
fierceness. Judged by our modern standards, the people of our county
village were beyond all doubt coarser, more brutal, and more wicked,
than they are. Progress is slow, but there has been progress. The days
that are, are not what they should be; we still want reforms, we need
much reforming ourselves; but the former days were not better than
these, whatever these may be; and if the next six hundred years exhibit
as decided an advance as the last six centuries have brought about, and
if your children's children of the coming time rise as much above your
level in sentiment, material comfort, knowledge, intelligence, and
refinement, as you have risen above the level which your ancestors
attained to, though even then they will not cease to desire better
things, they will nevertheless have cause for thankfulness such as you
may well feel to-night as you look back upon what you have escaped
from, and reflect upon what you are.



          "Now I think on't,
     They should be good men; their affairs as righteous:
     But all hoods make not monks."

[The commemoration of the birth of Martin Luther, which people would
have called his quater-centenary if they had not been deterred by the
terrific appearance of so huge a word, was the occasion of many
preachments and much lecturing, besides a great deal of heroic talk in
public and private. With so much to encourage cynicism and persiflage
among us it was comforting to find that the instinct of hero-worship is
not quite dead, and that the story of a great man's life still stirs
the heart. It was inevitable that, among the many utterances with which
we were treated in the year 1883, many should be very foolish, and not
a few mischievous and erroneous. Itinerant Windbags are rarely
scrupulous about their facts, and the allusive style flavoured with
stinging invective is far more telling than any historical narrative,
however picturesque and eloquent it may be. Luther the Monk will always
be a more attractive subject in the lecture hall than Luther the
Theologian, and an audience prepared to be harrowed and shocked will
greedily listen to broad hints about _abominations_-the word is a very
favourite one--which the author could disclose, but mercifully
withholds in pity for the shuddering hearts of a too sensitive
assembly. The consequence was that an altogether disproportionate
amount of declamation was wasted up and down the country by gentlemen
on the stump, in girding at monks and nuns, their vices and crimes,
till some men's minds were not a little exercised, and some, horrified
by what they were told, asked in their perplexity, "Can these things
be?" The present writer knows nothing of the condition of the German
Religious Houses in the fifteenth or the sixteenth century, and not as
much as he would wish to learn of the condition of the English houses
during the same period, but he has been painfully convinced that the
peripatetic orators are about as qualified to lecture upon the subject
as he is to lecture on astronomy.

It was while musing in my solitude upon the harm done by ignorant
pretenders in sowing error broadcast in the waste places of the world
that I received a call from one of the class, who came to beg my
countenance for a lecture upon Luther the Monk and Monkery. He was a
vociferous personage and prodigal of his words. He added to all his
sins this one, that he did not know when to go. He had no tact, only
talk. Irritated at last beyond endurance, my normal suavity forsook me,
and I spoke with brutal plainness. Of course he was wroth, and pressed
for an explanation. In a weak moment I yielded. "To begin with," said
I, "Luther, strictly speaking, was not a monk at all!" [Footnote: He
belonged to the order of Friars Eremite under the Augustinian Rule.] It
was a foolish speech: first, because it made my friend an offender for
a word; and, secondly, because there was more truth in it than the man
was capable of understanding or was prepared to receive; but it had the
effect of ridding me of a bore. As he took his leave he shot at me this
Parthian shaft--"If you are above learning, sir," he said, "perhaps
teaching might not be beneath you. Could you not, for instance, let the
world know something about monks and monasteries some day? Even I,
ignorant as you pronounce me, have heard of your lecturing on a
thirteenth-century village. Why not try a thirteenth-century monastery
next?" I politely thanked him for his valuable suggestion, and promised
to give it my respectful attention. The following sketch is the outcome
of our interview. "Facit indignatio versus."]

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

It may be assumed as a fact which scarcely requires to be more than
stated that there are few subjects which the great mass of Englishmen
are so curiously ignorant of as the History of Monasticism, of the
constitution of the various Orders, of the fortunes of any single
religious house, or the discipline to which its members were, in theory
at least, compelled to submit. The assumption being granted, it may
naturally be asked, How is such ignorance to be accounted for? It is
due to more causes than one, but chiefly and primarily to the vastness
of the subject itself.

When the monasteries were suppressed by Henry VIII. there was an utter
obliteration of an order of things which had existed in our island for
certainly more than a thousand years, and how much longer it is
impossible to say. The names of religious houses which are known to
have existed before the Norman Conquest count by hundreds; the names of
men and women who presided over such houses during the centuries
preceding that event count by thousands. Some of these religious houses
had passed through the strangest vicissitudes; they had been pillaged
again and again; they had been burnt by Danish marauders; their inmates
driven out into the wilderness or ruthlessly put to the sword; their
lands given over to the spoiler or gone out of cultivation; their very
existence in some cases almost forgotten; yet they had revived again
and again from their ashes. When William the Conqueror came among us,
and that stern rule of his began, there was scarcely a county in
England and Wales in which one or more religious houses were not to be
found, and during his reign of twenty-one years about thirty new
monasteries of one sort or another were added to those already existing.

To begin with, the very word monastery is a misnomer: the word is a
Greek word, and means the dwelling-place of a solitary person, living
in seclusion. But, misnomer though it be, the employment of the word in
a sense so widely different from that which it first bore, until it got
to designate the dwelling-place of a corporate body, among whom no
solitude was allowed and privacy was almost impossible, is of itself
very significant as indicating the stages through which the original
idea of monasticism passed.

It was natural enough, when society was in a condition of profound
disorganization, and sensuality and violence were in the ascendant,
that men and women of gentle nature should become convinced that the
higher life could only be lived in lonely retirement, far from the
sound of human voices and the contact of human creatures, whose very
nearness almost implies sin. But what a vast step from this to that
other conviction which the developed form of monasticism expresses,
when experience has convinced the devout searcher after God that no
great work can be done in improving the world, or raising the tone of
society, or in battling with our own weaknesses and vices, except by
earnest, resolute, and disciplined co-operation. It is when we draw
together that we are strong, and strongest when we are labouring
shoulder to shoulder for some common object, and that no mean and
sordid one; it is then that we best find deliverance from our
self-deception and most inveterate delusions, whilst living in the
light of other's eyes, and subjected to the influence and control of a
healthy and well-instructed public opinion.

In the thirteenth century (and I shall as much as possible confine
myself to the limits of that period), a monastery meant what we now
understand it to mean--viz., the abode of a society of men or women who
lived together in common--who were supposed to partake of common meals;
to sleep together in one common dormitory; to attend certain services
together in their common church; to transact certain business or pursue
certain employments in the sight and hearing of each other in the
common cloister; and, when the end came, to be laid side by side in the
common graveyard, where in theory none but members of the order could
find a resting-place for their bones. When I say "societies of men and
women" I am again reminded that the other term, "convent," has somehow
got to be used commonly in a mistaken sense. People use the word as if
it signified a religious house tenanted exclusively by women. The truth
is that a convent is nothing more than a Latin name for an association
of _persons_ who have _come together_ with a view to live for a common
object and to submit to certain rules in the ordering of their daily
lives. The monastery was the common dwelling-place: the convent was the
society of persons inhabiting it; and the ordinary formula used when a
body of monks or nuns execute any corporate act--such as buying or
selling land--by any legal instrument is, "The Prior and Convent of the
Monastery of the Holy Trinity at Norwich;" "the Abbot and Convent of
the Monastery of St. Peter's, Westminster;" "the Abbess and Convent of
the Monastery of St. Mary and St. Bernard at Lacock," and so on.

Bearing in mind, then, that the term convent has to do with a
corporation of men or women united into an organized society, and that
the term monastery can strictly be applied only to the buildings--the
_domus_, in which that society has its home--it will be well at
starting that we should endeavour to gain some notion of the general
plan of these buildings first, and when we have done that that we
should proceed to deal next with the constitution of the society itself
and the daily routine of conventual life.

A monastery in theory then was, as it was called, a Religious House. It
was supposed to be the home of people whose lives were passed in the
worship of God, and in taking care of their own souls, and making
themselves fit for a better world than this hereafter. As for this
world, it was lying in wickedness; if men remained in this wicked world
they would most certainly become contaminated by all its pollutions;
the only chance of ever attaining to holiness lay in a man or woman's
turning his back upon the world and running away from it. It was no
part of a monk's duty to reform the world; all he had to do was to look
after himself, and to save himself from the wrath to come. It is hardly
overstating the case if I say that a monastery was not intended to be a
benevolent institution; and if a great religious house became, as it
almost inevitably did become, the centre of civilization and
refinement, from which radiated light and warmth and incalculable
blessings far and wide, these results flowed naturally from that growth
and development which the original founders had never looked forward to
or could have foreseen, but it was never contemplated as an end to be
aimed at in the beginning. Being a home for religious men, whose main
business was to spend their days and nights in worshipping God, the
first requisite, the first and foremost, the _sine qua non_ was, that
there should be a church.

On the church of a monastery, as a rule, no amount of money spent, no
amount of lavish ornament or splendour of decoration, was grudged.
Sculpture and painting, jewels and gold, gorgeous hangings, and
stained-glass that the moderns vainly attempt to imitate, the purple
and fine linen of the priestly vestments, embroidery that to this hour
remains unapproachable in its delicacy of finish and in the perfect
harmony of colours--all these were to be found in almost incredible
profusion in our monastic churches. You hear some people work
themselves into a frenzy against the idolatrous worship of our
forefathers; but to a monk of a great monastery his church was his one
idol--to possess a church that should surpass all others in
magnificence, and which could boast of some special unique glory--that
seemed to a monk something worth living for. The holy rood at Bromholm,
the holy thorn at Glastonbury, were possessions that brought world-wide
renown to the monasteries in which they were found, and gave a lustre
to the churches in which they were deposited; and the intense _esprit
de corps_, the passionate loyalty, of a monk to his monastery is a
sentiment which we in our time find it so extremely difficult to
understand that we can hardly bring ourselves to believe that it could
exist without some subtle intermixture of crafty selfishness as its
ruling force and motive.

The church of a monastery was the heart of the place. It was not that
the church was built for the monastery, but the monastery existed for
the church; there were hundreds and thousands of churches without
monasteries, but there could be no monastery without a church. The
monks were always at work on the church, always spending money upon it,
always adding to it, always "restoring" it; it was always needing
repair. We are in the habit of saying, "Those old monks knew how to
build; look at their work--see how it stands!" But we are very much
mistaken if we suppose that in the twelfth or the thirteenth or the
fourteenth century there was no bad building. On the contrary, nothing
is more common in the monastic annals than the notices of how this and
that tower fell down, and how this and that choir was falling into
ruins, and how this or that abbot got into debt by his mania for
building. There was an everlasting tinkering going on at the church;
and the surest token that a monastery was in a bad way was that its
church was in a shabby condition.

The church was, almost invariably, built in the form of a cross, facing
east and west, the long limb of the cross being called the nave, the
cross limbs being called the transepts, and the shorter limb, or head
of the cross, being called the choir. The choir, as a rule, was
occupied exclusively by the monks or nuns of the monastery. The
servants, workpeople, and casual visitors who came to worship were not
admitted into the choir; _they_ were supposed to be present only on
sufferance. The church was built for the use of the monks; it was
_their_ private place of worship.

Almost as essential to the idea of a monastery as the church was the
cloister or great quadrangle, inclosed on all sides by the high walls
of the monastic buildings. Its usual position was on the south of the
church, to gain as much of the sun's rays as possible, and to insure
protection from the northerly and easterly winds in the bitter season.
All round this quadrangle ran a covered arcade, whose roof, leaning
against the high walls, was supported on the inner side by an open
trellis work in stone--often exhibiting great beauty of design and
workmanship--through which light and air was admitted into the arcade.
[Footnote: In other words the thirteenth-century monk passed far the
greater portion of his time in the open air, except that there was a
roof over his head. As time went on, and monks became more
self-indulgent, they did not by any means like the draughts and
exposure in the cloister, and the old-fashioned open arcades were
glazed, and the old open walks were turned into splendid lounges,
comfortable and luxurious, such as the cloisters of Gloucester could be
made into at a small outlay at the present day.] The open space not
roofed in was called the _garth_, and was sometimes a plain grass plat
and sometimes was planted with shrubs, a fountain of running water
being often found in the centre, which afforded a pleasant object for
the eye to rest on. The cloister was really the living-place of the
monks. Here they pursued their daily avocations, here they taught their
school, they transacted their business, they spent their time and
pursued their studies, always in society, co-operating and consulting,
and, as a rule, knowing no privacy.

"But surely a monk always lived in a cell, didn't he?"

The sooner we get rid of that delusion the better.

Be it understood that until Henry II. founded the Carthusian Abbey of
Witham, in 1178, there was no such thing known in England as a monk's
_cell_, as we understand the term. It was a peculiarity of the
Carthusian order, and when it was first introduced it was regarded as a
startling novelty for any privacy or anything approaching solitude to
be tolerated in a monastery. The Carthusian system never found much
favour in England. The Carthusians never had more than nine houses, all
told; the discipline was too rigid, the rule too severe, the loneliness
too dreadful for our tastes and for our climate. In the thirteenth
century, if I mistake not, there were only two monasteries in England
in which monks or nuns could boast of having any privacy, any little
corner of their own to turn into, any place where they could enjoy the
luxury of retirement, any private study such as every boy nowadays, in
a school of any pretension, expects to have provided for himself, and
without which we assume that nobody can read and write for an hour.

The cloister arcade was said to have four _walks_. The south walk ran
along the south wall of the nave, the north walk was bounded by the
refectory or great dining hall, the east walk extended along the south
transept, and where the transept ended there usually came a narrow
passage called _slype_, passing between the end of the transept and the
chapter-house, which may be described as the council-chamber of the
convent. Beyond the chapter-house, and abutting partly upon the east
wall of the cloister, but extending far beyond it till, in some cases,
it made with the refectory a block of buildings in the form of a T, ran
the dormitory or common sleeping-place for the fraternity. The
dormitory was always approached by steps, for it was invariably
constructed over a range of vaulted chambers, which served for various
purposes; one of these chambers was set apart for the reception of
those monks who had been subjected to the monthly bleedings which all
were supposed to require, and which all were compelled to submit to,
that so by a mechanical process, if in no other way, the flesh might be
subdued. The beds of the monks were arranged along the walls of the
dormitory, at regular intervals; and in some monasteries a wainscot
partition separated the sleepers from each other, thus making for each
a little cubicle, with a low door leading into it. The broad passage,
running from end to end, between the sleeping-places in the dormitory
was strewn with rushes; and at the end opposite to the flight of stairs
were the latrines or washing-places, which were open to the air, and
under which was always a sewer that could be flushed by a water-course
hard by.

In the dormitory and the latrines lights were kept burning through the
night; a provision necessary, if for no other reason, because the
services in the church at night-time had to be kept up and attended by
the whole house. They who went from the dormitory to the church always
passed under cover--sometimes by going through the cloister, sometimes
by passing straight into the transept.

We have been round three sides of the cloister: on the north the
church; on the east the chapterhouse and dormitory; on the south the
refectory. There remain the buildings abutting on the west wall. In the
arrangement of these no strict rule was observed. But generally the
western buildings were dedicated to the cellarer's hall with cellars
under it, the pitanciar's and kitchener's offices or _chequers_ as they
were called, and a guest-chamber for the reception of distinguished
strangers and for the duties of hospitality, to which great importance
was attached.

These were the main buildings, the essential buildings of a monastery
great or small. Where a monastery was rich enough to indulge in
luxuries of "modern improvements and all the best appliances," there
was hardly any limit to the architectural freaks that might be indulged
in. There were the infirmary and the hospital; the calefactory or
warming apparatus, the recreation hall and the winter hall, the
locutorium and the common hall, and I know not what besides. You
observe I have as yet said nothing about the library. I must remind you
that in the thirteenth century the number of books in the world was, to
say the least, small. A library of five hundred volumes would, in those
days, have been considered an important collection, and, after making
all due allowances for ridiculous exaggeration which have been made by
ill-informed writers on the subject, it may safely be said that nobody
in the thirteenth century--at any rate in England--would have erected a
large and lofty building as a receptacle for books, simply because
nobody could have contemplated the possibility of filling it. Here and
there amongst the larger and more important monasteries there were
undoubtedly collections of books, the custody of which was intrusted to
an accredited officer; but the time had not yet come for making
libraries well stored with such priceless treasures as Leland, the
antiquary, saw at Glastonbury, just before that magnificent foundation
was given as a prey to the spoilers. A library, in any such sense as we
now understand the term, was not only no essential part of a monastery
in those days, but it may be said to have been a rarity.

But if the thirteenth century monastery possessed necessarily no great
Reading-Room, the Scriptorium, or Writing-Room, was almost an essential
adjunct. In the absence of the printing-press, the demand for skilled
writers and copyists throughout the country was enormous. In the
Scriptorium all the business, now transacted by half a dozen agents and
their clerks, was carried on. The land of the country in those days was
subdivided to an extent that it is now almost impossible for us to
realize, and the tenure under which the small patches of arable or
meadow-land were held was sometimes very complex and intricate. The
small patches were perpetually changing hands, being bought or sold,
settled upon trustees, or let out for a term of years, and every
transaction would be registered in the books of the monastery
interested, while the number of conveyances, leases, and enfeofments
made out in the course of the year was incalculable. In such an abbey
as that of Bury St. Edmunds a small army of writers must have been
constantly employed in the business department of the Scriptorium
alone. Obviously it became a great writing-school, where the copyists
consciously or unconsciously wrote according to the prevailing fashion
of the place; and there have been, and there are, experts who could
tell you whether this or that document was or was not written in this
or that monastic Scriptorium. Paper was very little used, and the
vellum and parchment required constituted a heavy item of expense. Add
to this the production of school-books and all materials used for
carrying on the education work, the constant replacement of _church_
service books which the perpetual thumbing and fingering would subject
to immense wear and tear, the great demand for music which, however
simple, required to be written out large and conspicuous in order to be
read with ease, and you get a rather serious list of the charges upon
the stationery department of a great abbey.

But though by far the greater portion of work done in the Scriptorium
was mere office work, the educational department, if I may so term it,
being subsidiary, it must not be forgotten that the literary and the
historical department also was represented in the Scriptorium of every
great monastery. In the thirteenth century men never kept diaries or
journals of their own daily lives, but monasteries did. In theory,
every religious house recorded its own annals, or kept a chronicle of
great events that were happening in Church and State. Where a monastery
had kept its chronicle going for a long time, it got to be regarded
almost as a sacred book, and was treated with great veneration: it lay
in a conspicuous place in the Scriptorium, and was under the care of an
officer who alone was permitted to make entries in it. When any great
piece of news was brought to the monastery that seemed worth putting on
record, the person giving the information wrote out his version of the
story on a loose piece of parchment, and slipped his communication into
the book of annals for the authorized compiler to make use of in any
way that seemed best to him, after due examination of evidence. This
was the rule in all monastic houses. Unfortunately, however, as it is
with the journals or diaries of men and women of the nineteenth
century, so it was with the journals and diaries of monks of the
thirteenth, they evidently were kept by fits and starts; and before the
fourteenth century was half out, the practice of keeping up these
diaries in all but the larger monasteries had come to an end.

Before passing on from the Library and Scriptorium, on which a great
deal more might easily be said, it is necessary that one caution should
be given; I know not how that notion originated or how it has taken
such hold of the minds of ninety-nine men out of a hundred, that the
monks as a class were students or scholars or men of learning; as far
as the English monasteries of the thirteenth century are concerned, I
am sure that the notion is altogether erroneous. If we except some few
of the larger and nobler monasteries, which from first to last seem
always to have been centres of culture, enlightenment, and progress,
the monks were no more learned than the nuns. As a class, students,
scholars, and teachers they were not. When King John died, in 1216, a
little learning went a long way, and whatever the Norman Conquest did
for England (and it did a great deal), it certainly was not an event
calculated to increase the love of study, or likely to make men bookish

I should only confuse my readers if I dwelt more at length upon the
buildings of a monastery. It is enough for the present that we should
understand clearly that the essential buildings were (1) the church,
(2) the cloister, (3) the dormitory, (4) the refectory, (5) the
chapter-house. In these five buildings the life of the convent was
carried on. Having said thus much we will pass on to the corporation
itself--that which strictly was called the convent; and for convenience
and distinctness it will be as well if we use that word _convent_ in
the more accurate sense and employ it only as signifying the corporate
body of persons occupying those buildings of which I have been
speaking, and which in their aggregate were called a _monastery_.

Once more I think it necessary to start with a caution. Not only do I
propose to take no account here of that large class of conventuals
which comprehended the mendicant order or friars as they are called,
but I must needs pass by with little or no notice the various orders of
regular canons-_i.e._, canons living under a rule. The friars came into
England first in 1220. During the thirteenth century they were, so to
speak, upon their trial; and from the first the monks and the friars
were essentially opposed in the ideal of their daily lives. So with the
very numerous houses of canons regular up and down the land. They and
the monks did not love one another, and when I speak of monks and their
houses it will be advisable to exclude from our consideration the
friars on the one hand and the canons on the other, and, in fact, to
limit ourselves to that view of conventual life which the great English
monasteries under the rule of St. Benedict afford.

At the time of the Norman Conquest it may be said that all English
monks were professedly under one and the same Rule--the famous
Benedictine Rule. The Rule of a monastery was the constitution or code
of laws, which regulated the discipline of the house, and the Rule of
St. Benedict dates back as far as the sixth century, though it was not
introduced into England for more than a hundred years after it had been
adopted elsewhere. Four hundred years is a very long time for any
constitution or code of law to last unchanged, and though the English
monasteries professedly were living according to the Benedictine Rule
during all the Saxon and the Danish times, yet there is too much reason
to believe that if St. Benedict could have risen from the dead in the
days of Edward the Confessor and made a visitation of many an English
house, he would have been rather astonished to be told that the monks
were living according to his Rule.

About one hundred and fifty years before the Conquest, a great
reformation had been attempted of the French monasteries, which it was
said had fallen into a state of great decay as far as discipline and
fervour were concerned, and a revision of the old rule had been found
necessary, the reformers breaking away from the old Benedictines and
subjecting themselves to a new and improved Rule. These first reformers
were called _Cluniac_ monks, from the great Abbey of Clugni, in
Burgundy, in which the new order of things had begun. The first English
house of reformed or Cluniac monks was founded at Lewes, in Sussex,
eleven years after the Conquest, by Gundrada, a step-daughter of
William the Conqueror, and her husband, William, Earl of Warrene and
Surrey. The Cluniacs were at first famous for the simplicity of their
lives and the strictness of their discipline, but as time went on they
became too rich and so too luxurious, and at last they too needed
reforming, and a new reformer arose. In this case the real moving
spirit of reformation was an Englishman, one Stephen Harding, probably
a Dorsetshire man, who was brought up at the Benedictine monastery of
Sherborne, and in the course of events chosen Abbot of the monastery of
Citeaux, where St. Bernard became his ardent disciple, and where the
two enthusiasts, working cordially together, brought about that second
reform of the Benedictines which resulted in the founding of the great
Cistercian order.

Thus, without looking too minutely into the matter, we find that when
the thirteenth century opens, or if you will, when Henry III. came to
the throne in 1216, there were three great orders of monks in
England--the old Benedictines, who had held houses and lands for
centuries; the Cluniacs, who were the reformed Benedictines; and the
Cistercians, who may be styled the reformed Cluniacs. But inasmuch as
the architectural and other reforms among the Cistercians were many and
peculiar, it will again be advisable to pass by these peculiarities
without remark.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

The constitution of every convent, great or small, was monarchical. The
head of the house was almost an absolute sovereign, and was called the
Abbot. His dominions often extended, even in England, over a very wide
tract of country, and sometimes over several minor monasteries which
were called Cells. Thus the Abbot of St. Alban's had under himself the
cell of Tynemouth in Northumberland and two others in Norfolk-_viz._,
Binham and Wymondham, the latter of which eventually became an
independent abbey--and the heads of these cells or subject houses were
called Priors. An _abbey_ was a monastery which was independent. A
priory was a monastery which in theory or in fact was subject to an
abbey. All the Cluniac monasteries in England were thus said to be
alien priories, because they were mere cells of the great Abbey of
Clugni in France, to which each priory paid heavy tribute; while the
priors were almost always foreigners, and always appointed by the Abbot
of Clugni, and responsible to him much in the same way as a Pacha is to
his suzerain the Sultan. On the other hand, the Cistercian houses were
all abbeys, and their abbots sovereigns in alliance or confederation
with one another, and exercising over their several convents supreme
jurisdiction, though recognizing the Abbot of Citeaux as their
over-lord. The abbot not only had a separate residence within the
monastery and lived apart from his monks, but he had his separate
estate for the maintenance of his dignity, and to bear the very heavy
expenses which that dignity necessitated, and he had the patronage of
every office in the convent. These officers were numerous. The first of
them was the prior, who was the abbot's prime minister and head of the
executive and the abbot's representative in his absence. Under him was
the sub-prior, sometimes a third prior, and then a number of
functionaries, to whom, as in the case of the abbot, separate estates
were assigned out of which they were bound to provide for certain
charges which they were called upon to meet as best they could, while a
complicated system of finance provided for the surplus of one office
being applied when necessary for the deficiency of another.

In the great Abbey of Evesham a very elaborate constitution was drawn
up and agreed to in the year 1214, after a long dispute between the
abbot and convent which had lasted for several years, and this scheme
has come down to us.

From it we find that certain officers (obedientiaries was their
technical name) were charged with providing certain articles out of the
revenue of the office. The prior, to whom no mean share of the revenues
was assigned, had to provide the parchment that might be required for
business purposes or for legal instruments and all other materials for
the scriptorium, except ink. The manciple was to pro-vide all wine and
mead, the keeping up the stock of earthenware cups, jugs, basins, and
other vessels, together with the lamps and oil. The precentor had to
find all the ink used, and all colour required for illumination, the
materials for book-binding, and the keeping the organ in repair. To the
chamberlain were assigned certain revenues for providing all the
clothing of the monks, it being stipulated that the abbot's dress was
not to be paid for out of the fund. In the same way certain small
tithes are apportioned for buying basins, jugs, and towels for the
guests' chamber; while all rents levied from the various tenants paid
not in money, but in kind--as, _e.g_., capons, eggs, salmon, eels,
herrings, &c.--were to be passed to the account of the kitchener. Every
monk bearing office was bound to present his accounts for audit at
regular intervals, and the rolls on which these accounts were inscribed
exist in very large numbers, and may still be consulted by those who
are able to read them.

It looks as if it were the policy of the Benedictines to give as many
monks as possible some special duty and responsibility--to give each,
in fact, a personal interest in the prosperity of the house to which he
belonged--and the vacancies occurring from time to time in the various
offices gave everybody something to look forward to. There was room for
ambition, and, I am bound to add, room for a good deal of petty
scheming, on the one hand, and truckling to the abbot, on the other;
but it all went towards relieving the monotony of the life in the
cloister--a monotony which has been very much over-stated by those who
have never studied the subject. To begin with, it does not follow that
what would be very dull to us would be dull and insipid to the men of
the thirteenth century. Before a man offered himself for admission to a
monastery, he must have had a taste for a quiet life, and in many
instances he had grown tired of the bustle, the struggle, and all the
anxious wear of the work-day world. He wanted to be rid of _bothers_,
in fact; he was pretty sure to have had a fair education, and he was
presumably a religious man, with a taste for religious exercises;
sometimes, and not unfrequently, he was a disappointed man, who had
been left wifeless and childless; sometimes, too, he was one whose
career had been cut short suddenly by some accident which incapacitated
him for active exertion and made him long only for repose and
obscurity. Moreover, in those distant times the instinct of devotion
was incomparably stronger than it is now, and people found a real and
intense delight in the services of the sanctuary, to say nothing of
their entire belief in the spiritual advantages to be derived from
taking part in those services. Add to this that a monk had to pass
through rather a long training before he was regularly admitted to full
membership. He had to submit to a term of probation, during which he
was subject to a somewhat rigorous ordeal.

A novice had the pride taken out of him in a very effectual way during
his novitiate--he was pretty much in the position of a _fag_ at a great
school nowadays, and by the time that he had passed through his
novitiate he was usually very well broken in, and in harmony with the
spirit of the place in which he found himself. It was something to have
a higher place assigned him at last in the church and the dormitory, to
have some petty office given him, and to have a chance of being
promoted by and by. There was Brother So-and-so, who was getting
infirm, and he could not do the pitanciar's work much longer; the
precentor was getting as hoarse as a raven, and the sacrist was gouty,
or the cellarer was showing signs of breaking up. Nay, the prior's
cough gave unmistakable signs of his lungs being wrong, and if he
_were_ to drop off, which we should of course all of us deplore--there
would be a general move up, it might be; unless, indeed, Father Abbot
should promote his chaplain over the heads of all of us--for such
things have been!

But, when we come to look a little closer, we find that the monotony of
monastic life was almost confined to the frequent services in the
church. There were six services every day, of one kind or another, at
which the whole convent was supposed to be present, and one service at
midnight. [Footnote: Peckham's Register, ii, Preface, p. lxviii, et
seq.] The lay brethren among the Cistercians, and the servants engaged
in field labour, were excused attendance at the nocturnal service, and
those officials of the convent whose business required them to be
absent from the precincts were also excused. Indeed, it would have been
simply impossible for the whole brotherhood to assemble at all these
services; there would have been a dead-lock in twenty-four hours if the
attempt had ever been made in any of the large monasteries, where the
inmates sometimes counted by hundreds, who all expected their meals
punctually, and for whom even the simplest cookery necessitated that
fires should be kept up, the porridge boiled, the beer drawn, and the
bread baked. Hence, they whose hands were full and their engagements
many really had no time to put in an appearance at church seven times
in twenty-four hours. While, on the other hand, the monk out of office,
with nothing particular to do, was all the better for having his time
broken up; going to church kept him out of mischief, and singing of
psalms saved him from idle talk, and if it did him no good certainly
did him very little harm.

The ordinary life of the monastery began at six o'clock in the morning,
and when the small bell, called the skilla, rang, all rose, washed
themselves at the latrines, put on their day habit, and then presented
themselves at the matin Mass. _Mixtum_ or breakfast, followed, and that
over the convent assembled in chapter for consultation. After chapter
the officials dispersed; the kitchener to arrange for the meals, and
not unfrequently to provide hospitality for distinguished guests and
their retinue; the precentor to drill his choir boys, to tune the
organ, to look after the music, or to arrange for some procession in
the church, or some extraordinary function; the infirmarer to take his
rounds in the hospital; the cellarer to inspect the brewhouse and
bakeries; and each or all of these officers might find it necessary to
go far a-field in looking after some bailiff or tenant who could not
safely be left alone. At Evesham the sacristan, the chamberlain, and
the infirmarer were allowed forage and the keep of one horse. Meanwhile
in the cloister all was stir and movement without noise. In the west
alley the schoolmaster was teaching his little pupils the rudiments of
Latin, or it might be the elements of singing; in the south alley,
where the light was best, a monk with a taste for art was trying his
hand at illuminating a MS. or rubricating the initial letters; while on
the other side, in the north alley, some were painfully getting by
heart the psalms, or practising meditation--alone in a crowd.

Within the retirement of that cloister, fenced all round, as I have
said, with the high walls and the great buildings, there the monks were
working, there the real conventual life was going on; but outside the
cloister, though yet within the precincts, it is difficult for us now
to realize what a vast hive of industry a great monastery in some of
the lonely and thinly-populated parts of England was. Everything that
was eaten or drunk or worn, almost everything that was made or used in
a monastery, was produced upon the spot. The grain grew on their own
land; the corn was ground in their own mill; their clothes were made
from the wool of their own sheep; they had their own tailors and
shoemakers, and carpenters and blacksmiths, almost within call; they
kept their own bees; they grew their own garden-stuff and their own
fruit; I suspect they knew more of fish-culture than, until very
lately, we moderns could boast of knowing. Nay, they had their own
vineyards and made their own wine.

The commissariat of a large abbey must have required administrative
ability of a very high order, and the cost of hospitality was enormous.
No traveller, whatever his degree, was refused food and shelter, and
every monastery was a vast hotel, where nobody need pay more than he
chose for his board and lodging. The mere keeping the accounts must
have employed no small number of clerks, for the minuteness with which
every transaction was recorded, almost passes belief. Those rolls I
spoke of--the sacrist's, cellarer's, and so on--were, it must be
remembered, periodical balance-sheets handed in at audit day. They
deal, not only with pence and half-pence, but with farthings and
half-farthings, and were compiled from the tablets or small
account-books posted up from day to day and hour to hour. They give the
price of every nail hammered into a wall, and rarely omit the cost of
the parchment on which the roll itself is written. The men must have
been very busy, or, if you prefer it, very fussy--certainly they could
not have been idle to have kept their accounts in this painfully minute
manner, even to the fraction of a farthing.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

In the natural course of events, as a monastery grew in wealth and
importance, there was one element of interest which added great zest to
the conventual life, in the _quarrels_ that were sure to arise.

First and foremost, the most desirable person to quarrel with was a
Bishop. In its original idea, a monastery was not necessarily an
ecclesiastical institution. It was not necessary that an abbot should
be an ecclesiastic, and not essentially necessary that any one of his
monks should be in holy orders. Long before the thirteenth century,
however, a monk was almost invariably ordained, and being an ordained
person, and having his local habitation in a bishop's diocese, it was
only natural that the bishop should claim jurisdiction over him and
over the church in which he and the fraternity ministered; but to allow
a power of visitation to any one outside the close corporation of the
convent was fraught with infinite peril to the community. Confessing
their faults one to another, and asking pardon of the Lord Abbot or his
representative, the prior, was one thing; but to have a querulous or
inquisitive or even hostile bishop coming and intruding into their
secrets, blurting them out to the world and actually pronouncing
sentence upon them--that seemed to the monks an absolutely intolerable
and shocking condition of affairs. Hence it seemed supremely desirable
to a convent to get for itself, by fair means or foul--and I am afraid
the means were not always fair means, as we should consider them--the
exemption of their house from episcopal visitation or control. I
believe that the earliest instance of such an exemption being granted
in England was that of the Conqueror's Abbey of Battle. The precedent
was a bad one, and led to all sorts of attempts by other houses to
procure for themselves the like privilege. Such attempts were stoutly
resisted by the bishops, who foresaw the evils that would inevitably
follow, and which in fact did follow; and, of course, bishop and abbey
went to law. Going to law in this case meant usually, first, a certain
amount of preliminary litigation before the Archbishop of Canterbury;
but sooner or later it was sure to end in an appeal to the Pope's
court, or, as the phrase was, an appeal to Rome.

Without wishing for a moment to defend or excuse a state of things
which was always vexatious, and at last became intolerable, it is
impossible to deny that a great deal of nonsense has been talked and
written about these appeals. Almost exactly the same state of things
exists in the present day both in civil and ecclesiastical matters.
Parsee merchants fall to loggerheads in Bombay or Calcutta, and bring
their disputes before the courts in India; one side feels aggrieved by
the sentence, and straightway he removes the case to a court of appeal
in London. Or some heretical person in Asia or Africa or somewhere else
gets into hot water with an orthodox society for the promotion of
religious persecution, and sooner or later the archbishop is appealed
to, and the ecclesiastical lawyers have a most delightful time of it.
It all costs a great deal of money nowadays, and leading advocates on
this side or that are actually so extortionate and exorbitant that they
will not do anything for nothing, and insist on receiving the most
exorbitant fees. So it was in the old days. The final court of appeal
in all matters ecclesiastical was before the Pope at Rome or Avignon,
and the proctors and doctors, and all the canonists and officials,
actually required to be paid for their work.

When a monastery was in for a great fight with a bishop, it was a
serious matter for both parties. But it was much more serious for the
bishop than for the convent. The bishop had always his state to keep up
and his many houses to maintain, and his establishment was enormously
costly. His margin for law expenses was small; and I suspect that a
bishop in England during the thirteenth century who had no private
fortune outside his mere episcopal revenues would have been likely
sooner or later to find himself in serious difficulties. On the other
hand, in a great monastery all sorts of expedients could be resorted to
in order to effect a salutary retrenchment--as when the monks of St.
Alban's agreed to give up the use of wine for fifteen years, and
actually did so, that they might be able to rebuild their refectory and
dormitory in the days of John the twenty-first abbot. Moreover,
inasmuch as a corporation never dies, the convent could raise very
heavy sums on the security of its estates, and take its own time to
repay the loans. A bishop could not pledge his episcopal estates beyond
his own lifetime, and the result was that, in the days when life
assurance was unknown, a bishop who had to raise money for a costly
lawsuit would have to pay a rate of interest which would make our blood
run cold if we had to pay it, or our hearts leap for joy if we could
get it in these days of two and three per cent. The bishop was always
at a disadvantage in these appeal cases; he stood to lose everything,
and he stood to win nothing at all except the satisfaction of his
conscience that he was struggling for principle and right. And thus it
came to pass that the monks enjoyed this kind of warfare, and rarely
shrank from engaging in it. Indeed, an appeal to Rome meant sending a
deputation from the convent to watch the case as it was going on, and
there was all the delight of a foreign tour an a sight of the world--a
trip, in fact, to the Continent at the expense of the establishment.

But when there was no appeal case going on--and an appeal was too
expensive an amusement to be indulged in often--there was always a good
deal of exciting litigation to keep up the interest of the convent, and
to give them something to think about and gossip about nearer home. We
have the best authority--the authority of the great Pope Innocent
III.--for believing that Englishmen in the thirteenth century were
extremely fond of beer; but there was something else that they were
even fonder of, and that was law. Monastic history is almost made up of
the stories of this everlasting litigation; nothing was too trifling to
be made into an occasion for a lawsuit. Some neighbouring landowner had
committed a trespass or withheld a tithe pig. Some audacious townsman
had claimed the right of catching eels in a pond. Some brawling knight
pretended he was in some sense _patron_ of a cell, and demanded a
trumpery allowance of bread and ale, or an equivalent. As we read about
these things we exclaim, "Why in the world did they make such a fuss
about a trifle?" Not so thought the monks. They knew well enough what
the thin end of the wedge meant, and, being in a far better position
than we are to judge of the significance and importance of many a
_casus belli_ which now seems but trivial, they never dreamed of giving
an inch for the other side to take an ell. So they went to law, and
enjoyed it amazingly! Sometimes however, there were disputes which were
not to be settled peaceably; and then came what University men in the
old days used to know as a "Town and Gown row."

Let it be remembered that a Benedictine monastery, in the early times,
was invariably set down in a lonely wilderness. As time went on, and
the monks brought the swamp into cultivation, and wealth flowed in, and
the monastery became a centre of culture, there would be sure to gather
round the walls a number of hangers-on, who gradually grew into a
community, the tendency of which was to assert itself, and to become
less and less dependent upon the abbey for support. These _towns_ (for
they became such) were, as a rule, built on the abbey land, and paid
dues to the monastery. Of course, on the one side, there was an
inclination to raise the dues; on the other, a desire to repudiate them
altogether. Hence bad blood was sure to arise between the monks and the
townsmen, and sooner or later serious conflicts between the servants of
the monasteries and the people outside. Thus, in 1223, there was a
serious collision between the Londoners and the Westminster monks; the
mob rushed into the monastery, and the abbot escaped their violence
with difficulty by slipping out at a back door and getting into a boat
on the Thames. On another occasion there was a very serious fray
between the citizens of Norwich and the priory there, in 1272, when the
prior slew one man with his own hands, and many lives were lost. At a
later time there was a similar disturbance at Bury St. Edmunds, and in
the year 1314 the great abbey of St. Alban's was kept in a state of
siege for more than ten days by the townsmen, who were driven to frenzy
by not being allowed to grind their own corn in their own handmills,
but compelled to get it ground by the abbey millers, and, of course,
pay the fee.

Thirty years later, again, that man of sin, Sir Philip de Lymbury,
lifted up his heel against the Abbey of St. Alban's, and actually laid
hands upon Brother John Moot, the cellarer; and on Monday, being market
day at Luton in Beds, did actually clap the said cellarer in the
pillory and kept him there, exposed to the jeers and contempt of the
rude populace, who, we may be sure, were in ecstasies at this precursor
of Mr. Pickwick in the pound. But the holy martyr St. Alban was not
likely to let such an outrage pass; and when the rollicking knight came
to the abbey to make it up, and was for presenting a peace-offering at
the shrine, lo, the knightly nose began to bleed profusely, and, to the
consternation of the beholders, the offering could not be made, and Sir
Philip had to retire, holding his nose, and shortly after he died--and,
adds the chronicler, was speedily forgotten, he and his.

Such ruffling of the peace and quiet of conventual life was, there is
reason to believe, not uncommon. But inside the cloister itself there
was not always a holy calm. When the abbot died there came all the
canvassing and excitement of a contested election, and sometimes a
convent might be turned for years into a house divided against itself,
the two parties among the monks fighting like cat and dog. Nor did it
at all follow that because the convent had elected their abbot or prior
unanimously that therefore the election was allowed by the king, to
whom the elect was presented. [Footnote: See a notable instance in
Carlyle's "Past and Present."] King John kept monasteries without any
abbot for years, sequestrating the estates in the meantime, and leaving
the monks to make the best of it. Sometimes an abbot was forced upon a
monastery in spite of the convent, as in the case of Abbot Roger
Norreys at Evesham, in 1191--a man whom the monks not only detested
because of his gross mismanagement, but whom they denounced as actually
immoral. Sometimes, too, the misconduct of a prior was so abominable
that it could not be borne, and then came the very difficult and very
delicate business of getting him deposed: a process which was by no
means easily managed, as appeared in the instance of Simon Pumice,
Prior of Worcester, in 1219, and in many another case.

Such hopes and fears and provocations as these all contributed to
relieve the monotony which it has been too readily assumed was the
characteristic of the cloister life. The monks had a world of their own
within the precincts, but they were not so shut in but that their
relations with the greater world outside were very real. Moreover, that
confinement to the monastery itself, which was necessarily very greatly
relaxed in the case of the officers or obedientaries of the convent,
was almost as easily relaxed if one of the brethren could manage to get
the right side of the abbot or prior. When Archbishop Peckham was
holding his visitations in 1282 he more than once remarks with asperity
upon a monk _farming_ a manor of his convent, and declares that the
practice must stop. The outlying manors must have somebody to look
after them, it was assumed, and if one of the brethren was willing to
undertake the management for the convent, why should he not?

Nor, again, must we suppose that the monks were debarred all
amusements. On August 29, 1283, there was a great wrestling match at
Hockliffe, in Beds, and a huge concourse of people of all sorts were
there to see the fun. The roughs and the "fancy" were present in great
force, and somehow it came to pass that a free fight ensued. I am sorry
to say that the canons of Dunstable were largely represented upon the
occasion. We are left to infer that the representatives were chiefly
the servants of the canons, but I am afraid that some at least of their
masters were there too. In the fight one Simon Mustard, who appears to
have been something like a professional prize-fighter, "a bully
exceeding fierce," says the annalist, got killed; but thereon ensued
much inquiry and much litigation, and Dunstable and its "religious" had
to suffer vexations not a few. In fairness it should be remembered that
these Dunstable people were not monks but canons--regular or
irregular--and those canons, we all know, would do anything. We protest
against being confounded with canons!

The amusements of monks were more innocent. The garden was always a
great place of resort, and gardening a favourite pastime. We may be
sure there was much lamentation and grumbling at St. Alban's when Abbot
John de Maryns forbade any monk, who from infirmity could only be
carried on a litter, from entering the garden at all. Poor old fellows!
had their bearers been disorderly and trodden upon the flower-beds?
Bowls was the favourite and a very common diversion among them; but in
the opinion of Archbishop Peckham, as appears by his letters, there
were other diversions of a far more reprehensible character. Actually
at the small Priory of Coxford, in Norfolk, the prior and his canons
were wholly given over to chess-playing. It was dreadful! In other
monasteries the monks positively hunted; not only the abbots, but the
common domestic monks! Nay, such things were to be found as monks
keeping dogs, or even birds, in the cloister, Peckham denounces these
breaches of decorum as grave offences, which were not to be passed over
and not to be allowed. What! a black monk stalking along with a
bull-pup at his heels, and a jackdaw, worse than the Jackdaw of Rheims,
using bad words in the garth, and showing an evil example to the
chorister boys, with his head on one side!

But, after all, it must be confessed that the greatest of all delights
to the thirteenth-century monks was eating and drinking. "Sir, I like
my dinner!" said Dr. Johnson, and I don't think any one thought the
worse of him for his honest outspokenness. The dinner in a great abbey
was clearly a very important event in the day--I will not say it was
_the_ important event, but it was a _very_ important one. It must
strike any one who knows much of the literature of this age that the
weak point in the monastic life of the thirteenth century was the
gormandizing. It was exactly as, I am told, it is on board ship on a
long voyage, where people have little or nothing to do, they are always
looking forward to the next meal, and the sound of the dinner-bell is
the most exciting sound that greets the ear in the twenty-four hours.
And so with the monks in a great monastery which had grown rich, and in
point of fact had more money than it knew what to do with: the dinner
was the event of the day. It is not that we hear much of drunkenness,
for we really hear very little of it, and where it is spoken of it is
always with reprobation. Nor is it that we hear of anything like the
loathsome and disgusting gluttony of the Romans of the empire, but
eating and drinking, and especially eating, are always cropping up; one
is perpetually being reminded of them in one way or another, and it is
significant that when the Cistercian revival began, one of the chief
reforms aimed at was the rigorous simplification of the meals and the
curtailing the luxury of the refectory.

But the monks were not the only people in those times who had a high
appreciation of good cheer. When a man of high degree took up his
quarters in a monastery he by no means wished to be put off with
salt-fish-and-toast-and-water cheer. Richard de Marisco, one of King
John's profligate councillors, who was eventually foisted into the see
of Durham, gave the Abbey of St. Alban's the tithes of Eglingham, in
Northumberland, to help them to make their ale better--"taking
compassion upon the weakness of the convent's drink," as the chronicler
tells us. The small beer of St. Alban's, it seems, was not so much
improved as was to be desired, notwithstanding this appropriation of
Church property, for twice after this the abbey had the same delicate
hint given to it that its brewing was not up to the mark, when the
rectory of Norton, in Hertfordshire, and two-thirds of the tithes of
Hartburn, in Northumberland, were given to the monastery that no excuse
might remain for the bad quality of the malt liquor.

And here let me remark in passing that another wide-spread delusion
needs to be removed from the popular mind with regard to the relations
between the monks and the clergy. We have again and again heard people
say, "Wonderfully devoted men, those monks! Look at the churches all
over the land! If it had not been for the monks how could all the
village churches have been built? The monks built them all!" Monks
build parish churches! Why, the monks were always robbing the country
parsons, and the town parsons, too, for that matter. Every vicarage in
England represents a spoliation of the church, whose rectorial tithes
had been appropriated by a religious house, the parson being left with
the vicarial tithes, and often not even with them, but thrown for his
daily bread upon the voluntary offerings of his parishioners. The monks
build churches! I could not from my own knowledge bring forward a
single instance in all the history of England of a monastery
contributing a shilling of money or a load of stone for the repair, let
alone the erection, of any parish church in the land. So far from it,
they pulled down the churches when they had a chance, and they were
always on the look-out to steal the rectory houses and substitute for
them any cheap-and-nasty vicarage unless the bishop kept a sharp
look-out upon them and came to the help of his clergy. Of all the sins
that the monks had to answer for, this greedy grasping at Church
property, this shameless robbery of the seculars, was beyond compare
the most inexcusable and the most mischievous. To the credit of the
Cistercians it must be told that they _at first_ set themselves against
the wholesale pillage of the parochial clergy. I am not prepared to say
they were true to their first principles--no corporate society ever
was, and least of all a religious corporation--but at starting the
Cistercians were decidedly opposed to the alienating of tithes and
appropriating them to the endowment of their abbeys, and this was
probably one among other causes why the Cistercians prospered so
wonderfully as they did during the first hundred years or so after
their first coming here; people believed that the new order was not
going to live by robbing parsons, as the older orders had done without
remorse. The swindler always thinks his victim a fool, and the victim
never forgives the smarter man who has taken him in. Accordingly the
monks always pretended to think scorn of the clergy, and when the
monasteries fell the clergy were the very last people to lament their

And this brings us to the question of the moral condition of the
monasteries. Bishop Stubbs has called the thirteenth century "the
golden age of English Churchmanship." Subject to correction from the
greatest of England's great historians--and subject to correction, too,
from others, who, standing in a rank below his unapproachable eminence,
are yet very much my superiors in their knowledge of this subject--I
venture to express my belief that the thirteenth century was also the
golden age of English Monachism. Certainly we know much more about the
monasteries and their inner life during this period than at any other
time. The materials ready to our hand are very voluminous, and the
evidence accessible to the inquirer is very various. I do not believe
that any man of common fairness and candour who should give some years
to the careful study of those materials and that evidence could rise
from his examination with any other impression than that, as a body,
the monks of the thirteenth century were better than their age. Vicious
and profligate, drunken and unchaste, as a class, they certainly were
not. Of course there were scandalous brethren. Here and there--but
rarely, very rarely--there was a wicked abbot or prior. Of course there
were instances of abominations on which one cannot dwell; of course
there are stories which are bad to read; stories which find their way
into the chronicles because they were strange or startling; but these
stories are always told with horror, and commented upon with severity
and scorn. Excuse for wickedness or any palliation of it, you simply
never find.

On the other hand, the intense _esprit de corps_ of a convent of monks
went beyond anything that we can now realize, and led to grave sins
against truth and honesty. The forgeries of charters, bulls, and legal
instruments of all kinds for the glorification of a monastery by its
members was at least condoned only too frequently. It can hardly be
doubted that the scriptorium of many a religious house must have been
turned to very discreditable uses by unscrupulous and clever scribes,
with the connivance if not with the actual knowledge of the convent,
for such things were not done in a corner. If the forgeries
succeeded--and that they often did succeed we know--the monastery got
all the advantage of the rascality; no inquiry was made, and it was
tacitly assumed that where so much was gained, and the pride of "our
house" was gratified, the end justified the means.

There remains one question which may suggest itself to our minds as it
has often suggested itself to others. From what class or classes in
society were the monks for the most part taken? This is one of the most
difficult questions to answer. The late Dr. Maitland, who perhaps knew
more, and had read more, about monks and monasteries than any
Englishman of his time, professed himself unable to answer it; and my
friend Dr. Luard--whose labours in this field of research have gained
for him a European reputation, and whose wonderful industry,
carefulness, and profound knowledge, qualify him to speak with
authority on such a point, if any one might pronounce upon
it--hesitates to give a decided opinion. The impression that is left
upon my own mind is, that the thirteenth-century monk, as a rule, was
drawn from the gentry class, as distinguished from the aristocracy on
the one hand, or the artisans on the other. In fact, _mutatis
mutandis_, that the representatives of the monks of the thirteenth
century were the Fellows of Colleges of the nineteenth before the
recent alteration of University and College statutes came into force.
An ignorant monk was certainly a rarity, an absolutely unlettered or
uneducated one was an impossibility, and an abbot or prior who could
not talk and write Latin with facility, who could not preach with
tolerable fluency on occasion, and hold his own as a debater and man of
business, would have found himself sooner or later in a very ridiculous
and very uncomfortable position, from which he might be glad to escape
by resignation.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Three centuries after the time we have been considering, the religious
houses were suppressed--to use that euphonious term which has become
universally accepted--only after they had existed in these islands in
one form or another for at least a thousand years. Century after
century monasteries continued to spring up, and there never was much
difficulty in finding devout people who were ready to befriend a new
order, to endow it with lands, and to give it a fair start. In other
words, there was always a _demand_ for new monasteries, and the first
sure sign that that demand had been met, and more than met, was when
the supply of monks began to fall short, and when, as was the case
before the end of the fifteenth century, the religious houses could not
fill up their full complement of brethren. Is it conceivable that this
constant demand could have gone on, unless the common sense of the
nation had been profoundly convinced, and continuously convinced, that
the religious orders gave back some great equivalent for all the
immense surrenders of wealth which generation after generation of
Englishmen had made--some equivalent for all the vast stream of
benefactions which flowed on from age to age so strongly that kings and
statesmen had to interfere and check, if it might be, the dangerous
prodigality of lavish benefactors? What that equivalent was, what the
real work of the monasteries was, what great functions they discharged
in the body politic, what the nation at large gained by their
continuance and lost by their fall--these are questions which on this
occasion I am not concerned with, and with which I scrupulously forbear
from dealing. But there are moments when a great horror comes upon some
men's minds, and a vision of a lonely and childless old age rises
before them in the gloom of a dreary twilight, or when the mists of
autumn hide the sunbeams, and they think, "If desolation were to come
upon our homes, where could we hide the stricken head and broken
heart?" To that question--a morbid question if you will--I have never
found an answer. The answer was possible once, but it was in an age
which has passed away.

Yes, that age has passed away for ever. History repeats itself, it is
true, but history will not bear mimicry. In every melody that wakes the
echoes there is repetition of this note and that, the same single sound
is heard again and again; but the glorious intertwinings of the several
parts, the subtle fugues and merry peals of laughter that "flash along
the chords and go," the wail of the minor, as if crying for the theme
that has vanished and yet will reappear--"like armies whispering where
great echoes be"--these things are not mere repetition; they are
messages from the Eternal Father to the sons of men, reminding them
that the world moves on. Merely to ape the past, and to attempt to
reproduce in the nineteenth century the tree that had taken a
millennium to grow into its maturity in the thirteenth and was rudely
cut down root and branch in the sixteenth, is about as wise as it would
be to try and make us sing the Hallelujah Chorus in unison! Let the
dead bury their dead.

Meanwhile the successors of the thirteenth-century monasteries are
rising up around us each after his kind; Pall Mall swarms with them,
hardly less splendid than their progenitors, certainly not less
luxurious. Our modern monks look out at the windows of the Carlton and
the Athenæum with no suspicion that they are at all like the monks of
old. Nor are they. They lack the old faith, the old loyalty to their
order, and with the old picturesqueness something else that we can less
afford to miss--the old enthusiasm. We look back upon the men of the
thirteenth century with much complacency. A supercilious glance at the
past seems to give the moderns an excellent opinion of themselves. But
suppose the men of the thirteenth century could turn the tables upon
us, and, from their point of view, pass their judgment upon the daily
life of the conventuals of St. James's, who are, after all, only
survivals, but just conceivably not quite survivals of the fittest;
would the monks of old find all things quite up to the highest ideal,
or would they hide their heads in shame and confusion of face compelled
to acknowledge that the new is in all things so much better than the



     "So they died! The dead were slaying the dying,
       And a famine of strivers silenced strife:
         There were none to love and none to wed,
         And pity and joy and hope had fled,
     And grief had spent her passion in sighing;
       And where was the Spirit of Life?"

From across the Channel during the last few months [Footnote: February,
1884.] there have come to us tidings of a visitation of pestilence
which have seemed to some men very disquieting, and to some heavy with
menace. From Italy, the land beyond the Alps; from Spain, the land
beyond the Pyrenees; from seaports in France and cities of the plain,
we hear that the cholera has been striking down its victims. The
Phantom with the deadly breath has shown strange caprice in his coming
and going; but when he has been suspected to be nigh at hand, wild-eyed
Panic has shown herself as of old. It is sad and discouraging to find
that, spite of all our boasted progress--all that science has taught
us, and all that we are supposed to have learnt--the attitude of the
multitude when certain dangers threaten, appears to be as it was, and
that we still hear of shuddering wretches trying to fight a dreaded
enemy by letting off old muskets and drenching portmanteaus with
Condy's fluid.

Such things have been before. Must they recur again? Philosophers
comfort us with the assurance that our brains are larger than those of
our forefathers. Nay, that the convolutions of the said brains are more
complex. How about the _moral fibre?_ Are we never to have stouter
hearts or more "bowels and mercies?" In the face of the same
circumstances, will men for ever show themselves the same? Or is it
that all these stories of mad stampedes and of chaotic anarchy breaking
loose here and there--anarchy gibbering, blind, profligate and
senselessly cruel--are true only of exceptional communities, as yet
unaffected by the great lift which optimists confidently believe in,
and which they unhesitatingly assure us is steadily going on?

The cholera has abated, we are told; as we were told it would. Thus far
we in England have escaped its ravages. Experts--and experts are the
people whose vocation it is to speak without doubt or hesitation
whenever they speak--experts assure us that London was never more free
from cholera than during this present summer. Other experts--they too
speaking with authority--confidently affirm that our time is coming,
that a severe visitation is impending; that all we have heard of
hitherto of the ravages of the epidemic elsewhere, will prove but
child's play in comparison with that which we shall hear of by and by.
"And then, sir, you'll see!" That is a comforting assurance--at any
rate, _some_ of us will survive.

But what do we know of the march of any mysterious form of death that
has ever appeared in bygone ages, suddenly starting up and striding
over the earth--"the land as a garden of Eden before him, and behind
him a desolate wilderness?" We have most of us read of such frightful
visitations in Thucydides, in Ovid, in Virgil, in Lucretius, not to
mention the moderns; but if any of us were to write down the sum and
substance of his knowledge, and attempt to discover from any
trustworthy evidence the nature, the course, and the intensity of any
great plague that has ever proved a real scourge upon any large section
of the human race, what would his summing-up amount to? How long would
it take to write; or rather, when it was written, how long would it
take to read?

This island of Great Britain has more than once been visited by
pestilence. De Foe has left us an inimitable romance, which he calls
"The History of the Plague in London in 1665." How much or how little
of sober fact there may be in those thrilling incidents, worked up so
marvellously by the great novelist, it is impossible to say. That there
is at least as much of fiction as of fact in the book none can doubt.
The author was a child when the plague was raging--a child of two
years' old, toddling about the butcher's shop. The plague of 1665 did
not travel far; out of London its incidence was comparatively trifling.
The cholera has visited us again and again, but never on a scale to
demoralize the people at large. Only once in our history has the
destroyer passed over England, leaving probably no shire unvisited by
his awful presence, and no parish in which there was not one dead. It
is never fair to draw inferences from the silence of historians; but it
is at least significant that among all contemporary writers who have
made mention of the Black Death--as it has been agreed to call it--the
Black Death in the reign of Edward III.--there is little mention of any
panic, few ugly tales of desertion of the dying, no flagrant instances
of miserable creatures crying that the wells were poisoned. On the
contrary, we have proof that as a rule men died at their posts during
all that trying time, that those in authority never lost their heads,
and that though there must, of course, have been isolated cases of
abject fear, expressing itself in the maddest extravagances of despair,
yet we have to look long and look far and wide to find such cases--and
after all our search may be fruitless.

As yet the history of the Black Death can hardly be said to have been
investigated at all; and until specialists can be prevailed upon to
examine the evidence ready at hand, we shall continue to be put off
with mere generalities when we ask for more light upon a calamity which
was the most stupendous that ever befell this island.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

We have all heard of Boccaccio's _Decameron_--only naughty people have
_read it_--and how it was written when the plague was raging at
Florence, the great plague that carried off Petrarch's Laura, and those
other thousands of whom the world knew nothing then and knows nothing
now. Some, too, have heard that the plague swept over
Europe--desolating, devastating--the spectre with the swinging scythe
mowing down broad swathes of men. Some, when they hear of it, picture
to themselves Pope Clement VI. at Avignon, sitting in that vast palace
that overlooks the Rhone, the stench of corpses mastered for him by the
fragrant smoke of aromatic logs burning in huge pyres round about him
night and day. Some have heard of Giovanne Villani, the historian of
Florence, who wrote feebly about that same pestilence in his native
city, and who doubtless would have written more, and more plainly and
more strongly, but that in the midst of his writing Azrael touched him
too, and his pen fell from his hand. [Footnote: Muratori, "Rerum
Italicarum Scriptores," vol. xiii. pp, 1-771.] Some few, again, have a
faint recollection of that Emperor of the West, John Cantacuzene, who
ruled at Constantinople when the plague was, and who wrote about it.
[Footnote: His four books of Histories are to be found in the "Corpus
Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae."] Didn't he? Nay! Hadn't he a son,
Andronicus, who died of it? How did it come to pass that Gibbon did not
so much as allude to it? Some, peradventure, think of Rome and of
Rienzi, and how it was about that time that he was potent, or was he in
hiding there among the Fraticelli? And isn't there something too about
the plague visiting Greenland, and putting back the clock that was
moving on steadily, but which suddenly stopped? How vague we are!

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

What was this plague? How did it strike men down?

"It showed itself," says Boccaccio, "in a sad and wonderful manner; and
_different from what it had been in the East_, where bleeding from the
nose is the fatal prognostic, here [at Florence] there appeared certain
tumours in the groin or under the armpits, some as big as an apple,
others as big as an egg; and afterwards purple spots in most parts of
the body: in some cases large and but few in number, in others less and
more numerous, both kinds the usual messengers of death... They
generally died," he adds, "the third day from the first appearance of
the symptoms, without a fever or other bad circumstance attending."

"It took men generally in the head and stomach, appearing first in the
groin," says Villani, "or under the armpits, by little knobs or
swellings called kernels, boils, blains, blisters, pimples, or
plague-sores; being generally attended with devouring fever, with
occasional spitting and vomiting of blood, whence, for the most part,
they died presently or in half a day, or within a day or two at the

Less precise and minute is the description of the great surgeon, Guido
de Chauliac, who nobly stayed at Avignon for the six months during
which the visitation was at its worst; but he too mentions the
carbuncular swellings in the axillae and the groin, the purple spots,
and the violent inflammation of the lungs, attended by fatal
expectoration of blood.

As for the Emperor John Cantacuzene, his description is so flagrantly a
mere adaptation of the history of the plague at Athens by Thucydides
that it must be received with caution. It is only in what it omits and
in what it adds to the older narrative that it possesses any great
historic value. It agrees with the accounts quoted above in making
mention of the swellings, the blood-spitting, and the awful rapidity
with which the disease ran its course. It omits all mention of the
eruption on the surface of the skin, the flushed eyes, and, above all,
the swollen and inflamed condition of the larynx, the cough, the
sneezing, and the hiccough, which Dr. Collier found so significant.

Comparing, then, the several accounts which have come down to us,
meagre though they are, it ought to be possible to arrive at some
conclusions regarding the nature of the plague of the fourteenth
century which, for the pathologist, would amount to certainties. The
wonder is that such men as Dr. Hecker and his learned translator should
have shown so much reserve--not to say timidity--in pronouncing
judgment upon the question.

A layman runs a risk of incurring withering scorn at his presumption,
and ridicule at his ignorance who ventures to express an opinion--or to
have one--on any subject which the medical profession claims as within
its own domain; and I should not dare to speak otherwise than as a very
humble inquirer when the learned are silent. There are, however, some
conclusions which may be accepted without hesitation and which will be
admitted by all.

I. The Black Death was _not_ scarlatina maligna, as the plague at
Athens undoubtedly was. [Footnote: "The History of the Plague of
Athens," translated from Thucydides by C. Collier, M.D., London, 1857.]

II. It was _not_ small-pox.

III. It was _not_ cholera.

IV. It probably _was_ a variety of the Oriental plague, which has
reappeared in Europe in more modern times, and regarding which they who
wish to know more must seek their information where it is to be found.

The next question usually asked is, Where did the new plague come from?
And here the answer is even more uncertain than that to the other
question--What the great plague was.

In fact, a careful comparison of such testimony as comes to hand leaves
the inquirer in a very perplexed condition, and inclines him rather to
accept than reject the old-fashioned theory of a "general corruption of
the atmosphere" as the only working hypothesis whereby to account for
the startling spontaneity of the outbreak and its appearance at so many
and such distant points at the same time.

The Imperial author, who appears to have done his best to gather
information, evidently found himself quite baffled in his attempt to
follow the march of the plague. It had originated among the Hyperborean
Scythians; it had passed through Pontus, and Libya, and Syria, and the
furthest East, and "in a manner all the world round about." Other
writers are just as much in the dark as Cantacuzene, and it seems mere
waste of time to endeavour to arrive at any conclusion from data so
defective and statements so void of historical basis as have come down
to us. This only seems established, that during the year 1347 there was
great atmospheric disturbance extending over a large area of Southern
Europe, and resulting in extensive failure of the harvest, and
consequent distress and famine; and that in January, 1348, one of the
most violent earthquakes in history wrought immense havoc in Italy, the
shocks being felt in the islands of the Mediterranean, and even north
of the Alps.

It is at least curious that the date of the earthquake coincides very
closely with the date which has been given by Guido de Chauliac for the
first appearance of the plague at Avignon. He tells us expressly that
it broke out in that city in January, 1348, and I think it would be
difficult to produce trustworthy evidence of any earlier outbreak than
this, at any rate, in Europe. [Footnote: One of our monastic
chroniclers states expressly that it began about St. James's Day in
1347. I _feel_ certain that the date is wrong, and that it could be
proved to be wrong without much difficulty by reference to documentary
evidence which might be consulted.] "It appeared at Florence," says
Villani, "at the beginning of April, and at Cesena, on the other side
of the Apennines, on the 1st of June." It is asserted that it reached
England at the beginning of August, is said to have lingered for some
months in the west, and to have devastated Bristol with awful severity.

There can be no doubt that in the towns of Italy and France there was a
dreadful mortality; but when we are told that 100,000 died in Venice,
and 60,000 in Florence, and 70,000 in Siena, it is impossible to accept
such round numbers as anything better than ignorant guesses. Whether
the great cities of the Low Countries were visited by the pestilence
with any severity, or how far the towns of Germany were affected, I am
unable to say, nor am I much concerned at present with such an inquiry;
that I leave to others to throw light upon. But as to the progress, the
incidence, and the effect of the Black Death in England--when it came
and where it showed itself, how long it lasted, and what effects
followed--on these questions the time has come for pointing out that we
have a body of evidence such as perhaps exists in no other
country--evidence, too, which hitherto has hardly received any
attention, its very existence entirely overlooked, forgotten, nay! not
even suspected.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Let us understand where we are, and look about us for a little while.

When King Edward III. entered London in triumph on the 14th of October,
1347, he was the foremost man in Europe, and England had reached a
height of power and glory such as she had never attained before. At the
battle of Creçi France had received a crushing blow, and by the loss of
Calais, after an eleven months' siege, she had been reduced well-nigh
to the lowest point of humiliation. David II., King of Scotland, was
now lying a prisoner in the Tower of London. Louis of Bavaria had just
been killed by a fall from his horse, the Imperial throne was vacant,
and the electors in eager haste proclaimed that they had chosen the
King of England to succeed. To their discomfiture the King of England
declined the proffered crown. He "had other views." Intoxicated by the
splendour of their sovereign and his martial renown, and the Success
which seemed to attend him wherever he showed himself, the English
people had gone mad with exultation--all except the merchant princes,
the monied men, who are not often given to lose their heads. They took
a much more sober view of the outlook than the populace did--they had
an eye to their own interests and the interests of the trade and
commerce in which they were engaged. They were very much in earnest in
asserting their rights and protesting against their wrongs, and they
presented their petitions to the King after the fashion of the
time--petitions which must have seemed rather startling protests in the
fourteenth century, betraying, as they did, some advanced opinions for
which the world at large was hardly then prepared.

Students of the manual, compendium, and popular handbook style of
literature may possibly be hardly aware that the war of protection
_versus_ free trade, and the other war concerned with the incidence of
taxation upon property, real and personal, had already begun. Even my
distinguished friend, Mr. Cadaverous, who never made a mistake in his
life, and whose memory for facts is portentous--even Mr. Cadaverous
assures me that he has never met with any mention of the above fact in
all his study of history.

History! What is history but the science which teaches us to see the
throbbing life of the present in the throbbing life of the past?

Note that these "gentlemen of the House of Commons," who made
themselves somewhat disagreeable in the Parliament of 1348, were not
the warriors who had gone out to fight the King's battles, but the
burghers who stayed at home, heaped up money, and grumbled. It was
otherwise with the roistering swash-bucklers who came back in that
glorious autumn. They are said to have returned laden with the spoils
of France, the plunder of Calais, and so on and so on. Calais must have
been rather a queer little place to afford much _plunder_ after all
that it had gone through. The swash-bucklers doubtless brought
prize-money home, but it did not all come from France--that is pretty
certain. Villani, our Florentine friend, tells us of an unexampled
commercial crisis at Florence about this time--brought about, observe,
by the English conqueror of France not paying his debts. So the Bardi
and the Peruzzi actually stopped payment; for the King owed them a
million and a half of gold florins, and there was lamentation and
distress of mind, and the level of the Arno rose by reason of the flood
of tears that fell "from tired eyelids upon tired eyes." All that made
no difference to the swash-bucklers, and up and down England there was
wild extravagance, and money seemed to burn in people's pockets.
Feasting and merriment, and all that appertains thereto, were the order
of the day, and all went merry as a marriage bell.

The King got all he could get out of the Parliament, but he did not
get, he could not get, all he wished. What was to be done next? The
Pope said, "Make peace!" and his Holiness did his little best to bring
about the desired end. The summer of 1348 had come, and it seems that
at Avignon the plague had by this time spent itself, people were no
longer afraid to go there now, and the Pope would peradventure come out
of his seclusion and receive an embassy. So on the 28th of July Edward
III. wrote a letter to Pope Clement, and announced his intention of
sending his ambassadors to Avignon to treat about terms. The
negotiations fell through, and on the 8th of October the King announced
by proclamation that he was once more going to make an inroad upon
France with an armed force. He did not keep his word. In November a
truce was patched up somehow; and on the first of the next month we
find the King once more at Westminster, and there he seems to have
remained over Christmas. If the dates are correctly given, the news
from the west of England about this time was not likely to have
provoked much merriment.

Are the dates correct? Gentlemen of an antiquarian turn of mind, out in
the west there, might do worse than spend some weeks in looking into
this matter.

Meanwhile, it is at this point that we get our first direct,
unquestionable proof, that the plague had reached our shores. On the
1st of January, 1349, the King wrote to the Bishop of Winchester,
informing him that although the Parliament had been summoned to meet on
the 19th of the month, yet because a _sudden visitation of deadly
pestilence had broken out at Westminster and the neighbourhood,_ which
was increasing daily, and occasioning much apprehension for the safety
of any great concourse of people, should it assemble in that place at
the time appointed; therefore it had been determined to prorogue the
Parliament to Monday, the 27th of April.

I gather from the wording of this document that the Government did not
look upon the outbreak with any very grave apprehension, that they did
not regard it as anything more than an epidemic which would be confined
to narrow limits, and one likely to pass off after a little time as the
spring advanced; and that they can hardly as yet have received any very
disturbing intelligence of its ravages, such as must have soon come in
from all points of the compass. Two months passed, and the situation
had seriously changed. On the 10th of March the King issued another
letter, in which, after referring to the previous proclamation, he
further prorogued the meeting of Parliament _sine die._ The reason for
this step is explained to be "because the deadly pestilence in
Westminster, _and in the City of London,_ and in other places
thereabouts, was increasing with extraordinary severity" _(gravius
solito invalescit)._

It is to be observed that, in the first notice of prorogation, no
mention is made of the City of London, only of Westminster and its
neighbourhood. In the second, we hear that the plague had already
extended over a wider area, and was showing no signs of abating. Nay,
by this time the King and his advisers had taken alarm--there was no
knowing where the mortality would stop.

Two days after this (12th of March, 1349) William Bateman, Bishop of
Norwich, received his letters of protection as ambassador for the King
in France. His safe conduct--for himself and his suite--was to extend
till Whitsuntide next ensuing (31st of May, 1349). The suite consisted
of eight persons, all Norfolk men; two were wealthy laymen, two were
distinguished ecclesiastics, three were country parsons, of one I know
nothing. I believe they all got back safely, but the three country
parsons returned to their several cures only to be smitten by the
plague. The Bishop had not shown himself again in his diocese many
weeks before they were all three dead. In making this last statement, I
am a little anticipating the course of events, but only a little. The
Angel of Death moves at no laggard pace when once he begins his march
with his sword drawn in his hand.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Thus far I have been quoting from, or referring to, authorities which
are accessible to any one with an adequate command of books at his
elbow--the chroniclers and the historians named, the Foedera, the Rolls
of Parliament, and such authorities as whoever chooses may consult for
himself. These printed authorities, which have all been consulted and
looked into again and again, have told us very little, but they have
given us certain notes of time--furnished us, in fact, with a _terminus
a quo_. We have learnt this, at any rate, that about Christmas, 1348,
the plague appeared at Westminster and its vicinity, and that it had
increased alarmingly in London and elsewhere by the beginning of March,

We have next to deal with that other evidence to which I have
alluded--the unprinted documentary evidence ready to our hands--I mean
the Institution Books in the various Diocesan Registries and the Rolls
of the Manor Courts, which still exist in very great abundance, though
they are rapidly disappearing from the face of the earth. It is
necessary that I should trespass upon my reader's attention while I
endeavour to explain the nature and the value of these two classes of
documents before proceeding to deal with their testimony.

I. Students of English history know that few aggressions of the Pope of
Rome during the thirteenth century caused more deep discontent among
the laity than those which threatened interference with their right of
patronage to ecclesiastical benefices, and actually did interfere with
those rights. The disgraceful recklessness with which Italians,
ignorant of our language, were forced into English livings, and the
best preferment was claimed for Papal nominees, produced an amount of
irritation and revolt against Roman interference which had never been
known before. The feeling of the laity became more and more outspoken,
and at last Innocent IV. gave way, and the rights of private patronage
were assured to the great lords--assured, at any rate, in word--though
the Papal rescript "paltered with them in a double sense" and the
quibbles and reservations, which could always be resorted to under
colour of the _non obstante_ clause, constantly afforded excuse for
fresh encroachments and evasions when the opportunity occurred. The
jealousy of Roman interference continued to increase, and the
legislation of the first half of the fourteenth century was largely
taken up with enactments to guard the rights of English patrons, from
the King downwards. But there was always a feeling of insecurity on the
part of those who had any benefices in their gift, and a corresponding
feeling on the part of those who were candidates for preferment. This
led to a vicious system, whereby appointments were made with almost
indecent haste to every vacant cure; institution was granted to an
applicant for a benefice with the least possible delay after a vacancy
had once been made known; the patron was willing to exercise his right
in favour of any one, rather than not exercise it at all; the candidate
for the living knew that it was a case of now or never; the Bishop had
nothing to gain, and something to fear, from asking too many questions;
and there is some reason to think that the parishioners had more voice
in the matter than they have now. That followed which was likely to
follow, namely, that the institutions to vacant benefices were made as
a rule within a very few weeks, or even days, after the death of an
incumbent. A man who had got his nomination lost no time in presenting
himself to the Bishop. There was no widow or family of his predecessor
to consider; and for every reason, the sooner the new man got into the
parsonage the better for all parties concerned. Moreover, to guard
against all chances of a disputed claim, the Bishops' Registers of
Institution were kept with the most scrupulous care, and while enormous
masses of ecclesiastical records in every diocese in England have
perished, the Institution Books have been preserved with extraordinary
fidelity, have survived all the troubles and wars and spoliation that
have gone on, and, speaking within certain limits, have been preserved
for five hundred years from one end of England to the other. It is no
exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of parishes in England of
whose incumbents for centuries not only a complete list may be made
out, but the very day and place be set down where those incumbents
received institution into the benefice either at the hands of the
Diocesan or his official. This is certainly the case in the great East
Anglian diocese of Norwich, which comprehended, in the fourteenth
century, the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk and a portion of
Cambridgeshire. We may safely say that we are able to tell
approximately--within a few weeks or days--when any living fell vacant
during the period under review, who succeeded, and who the patron was
who presented to the cure. Nor is this true only of the secular or
parochial clergy. Jealous as the religious houses were of their rights
and privileges, the heads of monasteries, as a rule, were compelled to
receive institution too at the hands of the Bishops of the see in which
they were situated. They too presented themselves to their Diocesan
that their elections might be formally recognized; and thus the
Institution Books contain not only the records of the various changes
in the incumbency of the secular clergy, but also of such as were
occasioned by the death of all abbots, or priors or abbesses as
presided over that large number of religious houses as were not exempt
from Episcopal jurisdiction. It is obvious that these Records
constitute an invaluable body of evidence, from which important
information may be drawn regarding our parochial and ecclesiastical
history. The Institution Books, as might be expected, contain a great
deal of curious matter besides the mere records of admission to
benefices, but with this I am at present not concerned.

II. I come now to the Court Rolls, which throw much more light upon our
parochial history than any other documents that have come down to us;
their information is concerned exclusively with the civil, domestic,
sometimes with the political life of our forefathers; about their
religious life, or their contentions with ecclesiastics, they have
rarely a word to say.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

All who have at any time owned or purchased what is known as copyhold
land might be supposed to know something of the nature of the title on
which such land is held. If they do not it is not for want of being
reminded from time to time, in a very vexatious way, that they are in
theory and in fact not so much owners of their several holdings as
_tenants_ of the Lord of the Manor to which such holdings appertain.
But inasmuch as a great deal of ignorance prevails as to the nature of
this tenure, and as it is impossible to estimate the value and
importance of the evidence which the Rolls of the Manor Courts supply
in the inquiry on which we are engaged, I feel it necessary to
introduce at this point a few paragraphs introductory to and
explanatory of what follows.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

In the thirteenth century it may be said that _in theory_ the land of
England belonged to the sovereign. The sovereign had indeed assigned
large tracts of territory to A or B or C; but under certain
circumstances, of no very unfrequent occurrence, these tracts of
territory came back into the hands of the sovereign, and were
re-granted by him at his will to whom he chose. In return for such
grants, A or B or C were bound to perform certain _services_ in
recognition of the fact that they were _tenants_ of the king; and by
virtue of such _services_-the equivalents of what we now understand by
_rent_-they were called _tenants in chief_, or tenants _in capite_.

The tracts of territory held by A or B or C were in almost every case
made up of lands scattered about over all parts of the kingdom. The
tenant in chief had his castle or capital mansion, [Footnote: Experts
will object to the use of this term and other terms as strictly
inaccurate. I am not writing for experts.]which was supposed to be his
abode; but as far as the larger portion--immensely the larger
portion--of his possessions, he was necessarily a non-resident
landlord, getting what he could out of them either by farming them
through the agency of a bailiff, or letting out his estates to be held
under himself in precisely the same way as he held his _fief_, or
original grant, from the King.

_In theory_, the tenant in chief could not sell his land; he could
sublet it to a _mesne tenant_, who stood to himself precisely in the
same relation as he--the tenant _in capite_--stood to the sovereign,
the mesne tenant in his turn being bound to render certain _services_
to his over lord, and liable to forfeit his _lease_--for in theory it
was that--if certain contingencies happened. It was inevitable that, as
time went by, the mesne tenant should regard his estate as his own, and
that the same necessities which compelled the tenant _in capite_ to
relax his hold over an outlying landed estate would compel the mesne
tenant to follow his example. The process went on till it was becoming
a serious difficulty to discover how the King was to get his _services_
from the tenant _in capite_, who had practically got rid of two-thirds
of his _fief_, and how he again was to get _his services_ from the
mesne tenant, who had parted with two-thirds of _his_ estate to half a
dozen under tenants. Obviously, when the King's _scutage_ had to be
levied, there was no telling who was liable for it, or how it should be

It was to meet this difficulty, and to check the prevailing
sub-division of land--_sub-infeudation_ men called it then--that the
statute of _Quia Emptores_ was passed in the eighteenth year of King
Edward I. [A.D. 1290]. The result of all the sub-division that been
going on had been that the number of what we now call _landed estates_
had largely increased, each of them administered on the model of the
larger _fiefs_ originally granted to the tenants _in capite_. There was
a capital mansion in which the _lord_ resided, or was supposed to
reside, and sub-tenants holding their land under the lord, and paying
to him periodically certain small money rents and rendering him certain
_services_. The _estate_ comprehended the capital mansion with its
appurtenances and the domain lands in the lord's occupation, the common
lands over which the tenants had certain common rights, and the lands
in the occupation of the tenants, which they farmed with more or less
freedom for their own behoof,--the whole constituting a manor whose
owner was the lord. At certain intervals the tenants were bound to
appear before their lord and give account of themselves; bound, that
is, to show cause why they had not performed their _services_; bound to
pay their quit rents, whether in money or kind; bound to go through a
great deal of queer business; but above all, as far as our present
purpose is concerned, _to do fealty_ to the lord of the manor in every
case where the small patches of land had changed hands, and pay a fine
for entering upon land acquired by the various forms of alienation or
by inheritance. In some manors, if a tenant died the lord laid claim to
some of his live stock as a _heriot_, which was forthwith seized by the
bailiff of the manor; and in all manors, if a man died without heirs,
his land _escheated_ to the lord of the manor; that is, it came back to
the lord who _in theory_ was the owner of the soil.

These periodical meetings at which all this business and a great deal
else was transacted were called the _Courts_ of the Manor, and the
Records of these Courts were kept with exceeding and most jealous
scrupulousness; they were invariably drawn up in Latin, according to a
strictly legal form, and were inscribed on long _rolls_ of parchment,
and are known as Manor Court Rolls. This is not the time to say much
more about the Court Rolls. They are not very easy reading--they
require a somewhat long apprenticeship before they can be readily
deciphered; but when one has once become familiar with them, they
afford the student some very curious and unexpected information from
time to time, though it must be allowed that you have to do a good deal
of digging for every nugget that you find.

Observe, however, this--that it is not far from the truth to say that
in East Anglia--for I will not travel out of my own province--every
tiller of the soil who occupied a plot of land, however small, was sure
to be a tenant under some lord of the manor; when he died _a record of
his death was entered upon the_ _Court Rolls of the Manor_; the name of
his successor was inscribed; the amount of fine set down which his heir
paid for entering upon his inheritance; and if he died _without heirs_
the fact was noticed, the lands which he had held being forfeited, or
_escheating_, as it was called, to the lord.

Thus the Court Rolls of a manor of the fourteenth century--for before
the statute _Quia Emptores_ I suspect that they were kept with much
less regularity and much less care than they were afterwards--are
practically the _registers of the deaths_ of all occupiers of land
within the manor; and, as every householder was an occupier of land,
the death of every householder may be said to be inscribed upon the

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Taken together, then, we have in the Diocesan Institution Books, on the
one hand, and in the Court Rolls, on the other, two sources of
information which--as far as they go--furnish us with a mass of
evidence absolutely irrefragable with regard to the mortality of clergy
and laity at any period during the fourteenth century. I say "as far as
they go," for it might happen that a country benefice--and still more
frequently that a town benefice--had been so cruelly pillaged by a
religious house, that little or nothing remained to support the
wretched parson, and that no one could be found who would accept the
cure. Then the cure would remain vacant for years. Where this happened
the death of the previous incumbent would not appear on the Records for
years after it had occurred, nor would any notice be taken of the long
vacancy when the next parson was instituted. In a period of dreadful
mortality, if the parsons died off in large numbers, it would be
inevitable that the impoverished livings would "go a begging." It might
be difficult to get the most valuable pieces of preferment filled--it
would be impossible to fill such as could not offer a bare maintenance.
Hence the Institution Books can only be accepted as giving a part of
the evidence with regard to the clerical mortality. However startling
the number of deaths of clergy within a certain area during a given
period may appear to be, they certainly will not represent the whole
number--only the number of such incumbents as were forthwith replaced
by their successors; and, taking one year with another, it is fair to
say that within any diocese the _larger the number of institutions_
recorded in a given time, the _more incomplete_ will be the record of
the deaths among the clergy during that time. When there are more men
than places the places are soon filled. When there are more places than
men there must needs be vacancies--square holes and round ones.

So much for the Institution Books. With regard to the Court Rolls,
there the evidence is even much less exhaustive; for here we have the
registers of the deaths of the landholders within the manor, great and
small--_i.e._, of the heads of families; but, except in rare instances,
we have no notice of any other member of the household, or of what
happened to them. A man's whole household may have been swept
off--young and old, babe and suckling, sister and brother, and aged
mother, and wife, and children, and servant, and friend--every soul of
them involved in one hideous, horrible calamity. The steward of the
manor was not concerned with any but the head of the house--the tenant
of the manor. Was he missing? Then, who was his heir? Any sons? Dead of
the plague! Brothers? Dead of the plague! Wife? Dead of the plague!
Children? Kinsfolk? All gone! Their blackening carcases huddled in
sweltering masses of putrefaction in the wretched hovels, while the
pitiless July sun blazed overhead, "Calmer than clock-work, and not

The steward made his entry of one fact only. Thus:--

"The Jurors do present that Simon Must died seized of a Messuage and 4
acres of land in Stradset, and that he has no heir. Therefore it is
fitting that the aforesaid land be taken into the hands of the lord."

Also that Matilda Stile... was she married or single, widow or mother
or maid? What cared the precise man of business on that 24th of July,
1349, as his pen moved over the parchment?...--"Matilda Stile died
seized of one acre and one rood of land held in Villenage. Therefore it
is fitting that the aforesaid land be taken into the hands of the lord
until such time as the heir may appear in court."

He never did appear! Next year her little estate was handed over to
another. She was the last of her line.

Such entries as these swarm in the Court Rolls of this year 1349. They
tell their own tale. But it is obvious that their tale is incomplete,
and that we must form our own conclusions from the number of the deaths
recorded as to the probable number of those whose names have been quite
passed over, sometimes, too, these Rolls are eloquent in their silence.
When country parsons were dying by scores and hundreds, and the tillers
of the soil by thousands and tens of thousands, it could not but be
that the lords of manors and their stewards died also. Yes! they, too,
were struck down. In one instance that I have met with the first half
of the entries of the business carried on at one of these courts in the
summer of this year is written in the ordinary court hand of the time,
and the rest is rudely scrawled by some one whose hand is _not yet
formed;_ it looks like the writing of a lad apprenticed to the
scrivener's business. Was the steward of the manor actually smitten by
the plague as he was holding the court--a subordinate taking his place
and awkwardly finishing the work which his master's glazed eye perhaps
never rested on? Again and again I have found that a series of Court
Rolls of an important Norfolk manor is perfect for the first twenty-two
years of Edward III. and no record remains for the next year or two.
Then they begin once more, and have been preserved with unbroken
regularity. At Raynham, in a parish of 1,400 acres, there were three
small manors. The courts of one of them were held three times in the
year 1348. _Upon the same parchment,_ and immediately following the
records of the previous year, come some scarcely legible notes of a
court held in 1349, the precise day of the month omitted, the entries
scrawled informally by a scribe who not only did not know the forms of
the court, but who was evidently not a professional writer. He bungled
so that he seems actually to have given up his task. The next court of
the manor was not held till three years had gone by. At Hellhoughton, a
manor now belonging to the Marquis of Townshend, where two courts were
held annually, the series of rolls for the first twenty-two years of
Edward III. is complete. Then comes one which scarcely deserves to be
called a Court Roll, so entirely informal is it, and so evidently drawn
up by some one who did not know his business, and who did not pretend
to know it. It is little more than a collection of rough memoranda of
deaths. Twelve of the _suitors_ of the court had died without heirs;
seven others had come to do fealty to the lord as successors to those
whose heirs they presumably were. Nothing else is recorded. At another
manor of Lord Townshend's, Raynham Parva, between the years 1347 and
1350 no court seems to have been held, though the lord of the manor,
Thomas de Ingaldesthorp, had died in the interval. The scourge of the
plague had been so awful in its incidence that when the next court was
held on the 24th July, 1350, fourteen men and four women (holders of
land, be it remembered) are named as having died off, not one of whom
had left a living representative behind them. In all cases their little
holdings had escheated to the lord. Amongst them was one "John Taleour,
clericus." Was he the clerk who, up to this time, had kept the Rolls so
neatly, and who could not be easily replaced after he fell a victim to
the plague?

Indeed, the inquirer who is desirous of pursuing researches in this
field must be prepared for frequent disappointment just at the moment
when he thinks he has made a "find." The Court Rolls for this
particular year are comparatively scarce, and this is true not only for
East Anglia, but for the whole of England, as any one may see who will
only cast his eye down those pages of the Deputy-Keeper's Forty-third
Annual Report, which are concerned with the Records of the Duchy of
Lancaster. These _registers of deaths_ are, as I have before said, only
_complete as far as they go._

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Let us now return to the point at which the King's letter of
prorogation left us on the 10th March, 1349. At that time it is certain
that the pestilence was raging fiercely in London and Westminster, and
almost as certain that it had abated in Avignon and other towns in
France. Two or three days after this date the Bishop of Norwich crossed
the Channel, leaving his diocese in the hands of his officials. Had the
plague broken out with any severity in East Anglia? I think it almost
demonstrable that it had not. A day or two before the Bishop left
London he instituted his friend Stephen de Cressingham to the Deanery
of Cranwich--in the west of Norfolk--which had fallen vacant, but there
is nothing to show that the vacancy was due to anything out of the
common. During the year ending 25th of March, 1349, there were 80
institutions in the diocese of Norwich, as against 92 in the year 1347
and 59 in the year 1346. The average number of institutions for the
five years ending 25th of March, 1349, was 77. Between this date and
the end of the month there were four institutions only--that is, there
was nothing abnormal in the condition of the diocese.

East Anglia had not long to wait. In the valley of the Stour, a mile or
two from Sudbury, where the stream serves as the boundary between
Suffolk and Essex, the ancestors of Lord Walsingham had two manors in
the township of Little Cornard--the one was called Caxtons, the other
was the Manor of Cornard Parva. At this latter manor a court was held
on the 31st of March--the number of tenants of the manor can at no time
have exceeded fifty--yet at this court six women and three men are
registered as having died since the last court was held, two months

This is the earliest instance I have yet met with of the appearance of
the plague among us, and as it is the earliest, so does it appear to
have been one of the most frightful visitations from which any town or
village in Suffolk or Norfolk suffered during the time the pestilence
lasted. On the 1st of May another court was held, fifteen more deaths
are recorded--thirteen men and two women. _Seven of them without
heirs._ On the 3rd of November, apparently when the panic abated, again
the court met. In the six months that had passed thirty-six more deaths
had occurred, and _thirteen more households_ had been left without a
living soul to represent them. In this little community, in six months'
time, twenty-one families had been absolutely obliterated--men, women
and children--and of the rest it is difficult to see how there can have
been a single house in which there was not one dead. Meanwhile, some
time in September, the parson of the parish had fallen a victim to the
scourge, and on the 2nd of October another was instituted in his room.
Who reaped the harvest? The tithe sheaf too--how was it garnered in the
barn? And the poor kine at milking time? Hush! Let us pass on.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Little Cornard lies almost at the extreme south of the county of
Suffolk. At the extreme north of Norfolk, occupying the elbow of the
coast, having the Wash on the west and the German Ocean on the north,
lies the deanery of Heacham, a district in which the Le Stranges have
for at least seven centuries exercised their beneficent influence.
Heacham itself is a large township extending over some 4,900 acres. The
manorial rights appear to have extended over the whole parish. The
series of Court Rolls is almost unbroken for the reign of Edward III.
During the years 1346, 1347, and 1348, ten, six, and nine deaths are
registered respectively. The courts were held every two months. In
December, 1348, there is no death recorded; in February, 1349, again
there is none. On the 28th of April a dispute was set down for hearing
to be adjudicated upon by the steward and a jury of the homage. It was
a dispute between a husband and wife on a question of dower. The man's
name was Reginald Goscelin, his wife's name was Emma. The dispute was
never settled. Before the day of hearing came on, _every one_ of Emma
Goscelin's witnesses was dead, and her husband was dead too. Four other
landowners had died. One of these latter had a son and heir to succeed,
but two months later the boy had gone, and the sole representative of
the family was a little girl, who became straightway the ward of the
lord of the manor.

Contiguous to the township of Heacham lies Hunstanton--not the pleasant
little watering-place which the million will persist in calling by that
name, though scarcely forty years ago the maker and builder of the
modern town, the man who marked out its streets and planned its roads,
and foresaw its future before a brick of the place was laid, gave it
the name of St. Edmunds--Hunstanton, I say, in the fourteenth century
was a parish less than half the size of Heacham, and probably much
further from the sea than it is now. When, on the 20th of March, 1349,
the steward of the manor of Hunstanton held his court there he entered
the name of only one old woman who had died within the last month--that
is, up to the 20th of March the plague had not yet appeared. Five weeks
after this, on the 23rd of April, the next court was held. Five petty
disputes had been entered for hearing. Sixteen men were engaged in them
as principals or witnesses. When the day came eleven of the sixteen
were dead. On the 22nd of May again there was a court, and again three
suits for debt were set down. The defendant in one case, the plaintiff
in a second, both plaintiff and defendant in the third, died before the
court day arrived. In June no court was held--was there a panic? Except
in this month and in September the meetings were carried on as
regularly as if it had all been done by machinery. In September things
got to their worst, and in this month the parson died, and was speedily
succeeded by another. When the court of the 16th of October sat, it was
found that in two months sixty-three men and fifteen women had been
carried off. In thirty-one instances there were only women or children
to succeed; in nine cases there were no heirs, and the little estates
had escheated to the lord. Incredible though it may sound the fact is
demonstrable, that in this one parish of Hunstanton, which a man may
walk round in two or three hours, and the whole population of which
might have assembled in the church then recently built, one hundred and
seventy-two persons, tenants of the manor, died off in eight months;
seventy-four of them left no heirs male, and nineteen others had no
blood relation in the world to claim the inheritance of the dead.

I have no intention of laying before my readers a detailed statement of
the documentary evidence which has passed under my notice. The time has
not come yet for an elaborate report on the case, nor can I pretend to
have done more than break ground upon what must be regarded still as
virgin soil; but this I may safely say, that I have not found one
single roll of any Norfolk manor during this dreadful 23rd year of
Edward, dating after April or May, which did not contain only too
abundant proof of the ravages of the pestilence--evidence which forces
upon me the conviction that hardly a town or village in East Anglia
escaped the scourge; and which in its cumulative force makes it
impossible to doubt that the mortality in Norfolk and Suffolk must have
exceeded the largest estimate which has yet been given by conjecture.

When I find in a stray roll of an insignificant little manor at
Croxton, near Thetford, held on the 24th of July, that seventeen
tenants had died since the last court, eight of them without heirs;
that at another court held the _same day_ at Raynham, at the other end
of the county, eighteen tenements had fallen into the lord's hands,
eight of them certainly escheated, and the rest retained until the
appearance of the heir; that in the manor of Hadeston, a hamlet of
Bunwell, twelve miles from Norwich, which could not possibly have had
four hundred inhabitants, fifty-four men and fourteen women were
carried off by the pestilence in six months, twenty-four of them
without a living soul to inherit their property; that in manor after
manor the lord was carried off as well as the tenants and the steward;
that in a single year _upwards of eight hundred parishes lost their
parsons,_ eighty-three of them twice, and ten of them three times in a
few months; and that it is quite certain these large numbers represent
only a portion of the mortality among the clergy and the religious
orders--when, I say, I consider all this and a great deal more that
might be dwelt on, I see no other conclusion to arrive at but one,
namely, that during the year ending March, 1350, more than half the
population of East Anglia was swept away by the Black Death. If any one
should suggest that _many more_ than half died, I should not be
disposed to quarrel with him.

It must be remembered that nothing has been here said of the mortality
in the towns. I believe we have no means of getting at any evidence on
this part of the subject which can be trusted. In no part of England
did the towns occupy a more important position relatively to the rest
of the population. In no part of England did three such important towns
as Lynn, Yarmouth, and Norwich, lie within so short a distance of one
another, not to mention others which were then rising in the number and
consideration of their inhabitants. But the statements made of the
mortality in the towns will not bear examination--they represent mere
guesses, nothing more. This, however, may be assumed as certain--that
the death-rate in the towns at such a time as this cannot have been
less than the death-rate in the villages, and that the scourge which so
cruelly devastated the huts and cabins of the countrymen was not likely
to fall less heavily upon the filthy dens and hovels of the men of the
streets. Town life in the fourteenth century was a very dreadful life
for the masses.

How did the great bulk of the people comport themselves under the
pressure of this unparalleled calamity? How did their faith stand the
strain that was put upon it? How did their moral instincts support
them? Was there any confusion and despair? What effects--social,
political, economical--followed from a catastrophe so terrible? How did
the clergy behave during the tremendous ordeal through which they had
to pass? What glimpses do we get of the horrors or the sorrows of that
time--of the romantic, of the pathetic side of life?



When Bishop Bateman started on his journey upon the King's business, in
March 1349, he can scarcely have turned his back upon his diocese
without some misgivings as to what might happen during his absence. In
some parts of Norfolk a very grievous murrain had prevailed during the
previous year among the live stock in the farms, and though this had
almost disappeared, there was ample room for anxiety in the outlook. If
the plague had not yet been felt to any extent in East Anglia, it might
burst forth any day. London had been stricken already, and there was no
saying where it would next appear in its most malignant form. It was
hoped that the Bishop's mission would be accomplished in a couple of
months, and during his absence the charge of the diocese was committed
as usual to his officials, to one of whom the palace at Norwich was
assigned as a temporary residence.

The good ship, with the Bishop and his suite, had hardly got out of the
channel, when a storm other than that which sailors care for burst upon
town and village in East Anglia. The Bishop's official found his hands
full of work. In April he was called upon to institute twenty-three
parsons to livings that had fallen vacant. This was bad enough as a
beginning, but it was child's play to what followed. By the end of May
_seventy-four_ more cures had lost their incumbents and been supplied
with successors. That is, in a single month, the number of institutions
throughout the diocese had almost equalled the _annual_ average of the
last five years. All these stricken parishes were country villages, and
the larger number of them lay to the north and east of the county of
Norfolk. We take note of this that we call a fact, and straightway the
temptation presents itself to construct a theory upon it. Who knows not
that in the trying spring-time, the "colic of puff'd Aquilon" makes
life hard for man and beast in Norfolk, and that across our fields the
cruel gusts burst upon us with a bitter petulance, unsparing, pitiless,
hateful, till our vitality seems to be steadily waning? It was in the
month of March that the great plague smote us first:--did it not come
to us on the wings of the wind that swept across the sea the germs of
pestilence, say from Norway, or some neighbour land in which,
peradventure, the Black Death had already spent itself in hideous
havoc? A tempting theory! If I confess that such a view once presented
itself to my own mind I am compelled to acknowledge that I abandoned it
with reluctance. It was hard, but it had to be done. How we all do
hanker after a theory! What! live all your life without a theory? It's
as dreary a prospect as living all your life without a baby, and yet
some few great men have managed to pass through life placidly without
the one or the other, and have not died forgotten or lived forlorn.

The plague had apparently fallen with the greatest virulence upon the
coast and along the watercourses, but already in the spring had reached
the neighbourhood of Norwich, and was showing an unsparing impartiality
in its visitation. At Earlham and Wytton and Horsford, at Taverham and
Bramerton, all of them villages within five miles of the cathedral, the
parsons had already died. Round the great city, then the second city in
England, village was being linked to village closer and closer every
day in one ghastly chain of death. What a ring-fence of horror and
contagion for all comers and goers to overpass!

For two months Thomas de Methwold, the official, stayed where he had
been bidden to stay, in the thick of it all, at the palace. On the 29th
of May he could bear it no longer. Do you ask was he afraid? Not so! We
shall see that he was no craven; but the bravest men are not reckless,
and least of all are they the men who are careless about the lives or
the feelings of others. The great cemetery of the city of Norwich was
at this time actually within the cathedral Close. The whole of the
large space enclosed between the nave of the cathedral on the south and
the bishop's palace on the east, and stretching as far as the Erpingham
gate on the west, was one huge graveyard. When the country parsons came
to present themselves for institution at the palace, they had to pass
straight across this cemetery. The tiny churchyards of the city,
demonstrably very little if at all larger than they are now, were soon
choked, the soil rising higher and higher above the level of the
street, which even to this day is in some cases five or six feet below
the soppy sod piled up within the old enclosures. To the great cemetery
within the Close the people brought their dead, the tumbrels
discharging their load of corpses all day long, tilting them into the
huge pits made ready to receive them; the stench of putrefaction
palpitating through the air, and borne by the gusts of the western
breeze through the windows of the palace, where the Bishop's official
sat, as the candidates knelt before him and received institution with
the usual formalities. It was hard upon him, it was doubly so upon
those who had travelled a long day's journey through the pestilential
villages; and on the 30th of May the official removed from Norwich to
Terlyng, in Essex, where the Bishop had a residence; there he remained
for the next ten days, during which time he instituted thirty-nine more
parsons to their several benefices. By this time other towns in the
diocese had felt the force of the visitation. Ipswich had been smitten,
and Stowmarket, and East Dereham--how many more we cannot tell. Then
the news came that the Bishop had returned; Thomas de Methwold was at
once ordered back to Norwich--come what might, that was his post; there
he should stay, whether to live or die.

The Bishop seems to have landed at Yarmouth about the both of June; he
did not at once push on to report himself to the King; urgent private
affairs detained him in his native county. Seventeen or eighteen miles
to the south-west of Yarmouth lies the village of Gillingham, where the
Bishop's brother, Sir Bartholomew Bateman, a man of great wealth and
consideration, had been the lord of the manor. The parish contains
about 2,000 acres, and at this time had at least three churches, only
one of which now remains. Besides these Sir Bartholomew had a private
chapel in his house. Here he kept up much state, as befitted a
personage who had more than once represented Norfolk and Suffolk in
Parliament. The plague came, and the worthy knight was struck down; the
parson too fell a victim; and the Lady Petronilla, Sir Bartholomew's
widow, presented to the living a certain Hugh Atte Mill, who was
instituted on the 7th of June. The first news that the Bishop heard
when he landed was that his brother was dead. He started off at once to
Gillingham. Death had been busy all around, and the plague had broken
out in the Benedictine Nunnery of Bungay and carried off the prioress
among others. Straightway the few nuns that were left chose another
prioress; on the morning of the 13th she came for institution, and
received it at the Bishop's hands. Hurrying on to Norwich, the Bishop
stayed but a single day, leaving his official at the palace. He himself
had to present himself before the King to give account of his mission;
on the 19th he was in London; on the 4th of July he was back again in
his diocese. During the twenty days that had passed since he had left
Gillingham, exactly _one hundred_ clergymen had been admitted to vacant
cures, all of them crossing the horrible cemetery where the callous
gravediggers were at work night and day, the sultry air charged with
suffocating stench, poisoning the breath of heaven. Yet there the
Bishop's vicar-general had to stay, eat, drink, and sleep--if he
could--and there he did stay till the Bishop came back and relieved him
of the dreadful work.

Meanwhile the gentry too had been dying. It is clear that in the upper
ranks the men died more frequently than the women, explain it how you
will. During June and July no fewer than fifteen patrons of livings
were widows, while in thirteen other benefices the patronage was in the
hands of the executors or trustees of gentlemen who had died. During
the month of July in scarcely a village within five miles of Norwich
had the parson escaped the mortality, yet in Norwich the intrepid
Bishop remained in the very thick of it all, as if he would defy the
angel of death, or at least show an example of the loftiest courage.
Only towards the end of July did he yield, perhaps, to the persuasion
or entreaty of others, and moved away to the southern part of his
diocese, taking up his residence at Hoxne, in Suffolk, where he stayed
till October, when he once more returned to his house at Thorpe by
Norwich. The palace had become at last absolutely uninhabitable.

To Hoxne accordingly the newly-appointed clergy came in troops, and
during the first seven weeks after the Bishop's arrival he admitted no
less than eighty-two parsons, a larger number than had been the average
of a whole year heretofore. Did they all betake themselves to their
several parishes and brave the peril and set themselves to the grim
work before them? They could not help themselves. Where the benefice
was a vicarage an oath to reside upon his cure was in every case
rigorously imposed upon the newly-appointed; and though the law did not
sanction this in the case of rectors, yet not a single instance of a
licence of non-residence occurs; the difficulty of finding substitutes
was becoming daily more and more insuperable, and the penalty of
deserting a parish without licence was a great deal too serious to be
disregarded. In the months of June, July, and August things were at
their worst, as might have been expected. In July alone there were two
hundred and nine institutions. During the year ending March, 1350,
considerably more than two-thirds of the benefices of the diocese had
become vacant.

In the religious houses the plague wrought, if possible, worse havoc
still. There were seven nunneries in Norfolk and Suffolk. Five of them
lost their prioresses. How many poor nuns were taken who can guess? In
the College of St. Mary-in-the-fields, at Norwich, five of the seven
prebendaries died. In September the abbot of St. Benet's Hulm was
carried off. Again we ask and receive no answer--what must have been
the mortality among the monks and the servants of the convent? And yet
sometimes we do get an answer to that question. In the house of
Augustinian Canons at Heveringland prior and canons died to a man. At
Hickling, which a century before had been a flourishing house and been
doing good work, only one canon survived. Neither of these houses ever
recovered from the effects of the visitation; they were eventually
absorbed in other monastic establishments.

It is one of the consequences of the peculiar privileges granted to the
Friars that no notice of them occurs in the episcopal records. They
were free lances with whom the bishops had little to do. It is only by
the accident of every one of the Friars of our Lady who had a house in
Norwich having been carried off, and the fact that their house was left
tenantless, that we know anything of their fate. Wadding, the great
annalist of the Franciscans, while deploring the notorious decadence in
the _morale_ of the mendicant orders during the fourteenth century--a
decadence which he does not attempt to deny--attributes it wholly to
the action of the Black Death, and is glad to find in that calamity a
sufficient cause for accounting for the loss of the old prestige which
in little more than a century after St. Francis's death had set in so
decidedly. "It was from this cause," he writes, "that the monastic
bodies, and especially the mendicant orders, which up to this time had
been flourishing in virtue and learning, began to decline, and
discipline to become slack; as well from the loss of eminent men as
from the relaxation of the rules, in consequence of the pitiable
calamities of the time; and it was vain to look for reform among the
young men and the promiscuous multitude who were received without the
necessary discrimination, for they thought more of filling the empty
houses than of restoring the old strictness that had passed away." How
could it be otherwise? In the two counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, at
least _nineteen_ religious houses were left without prior or abbot. We
may be quite sure that where the chief ruler dropped oft the brethren
of the house and the army of servants and hangers-on did not escape.
What happened at the great Abbey of St. Edmund's we know not yet, and
until we get more light it is idle to conjecture but, as a man stands
in that vast graveyard at Bury, and looks around him, he can hardly
help trying--trying, but failing--to imagine what the place must have
looked like when the plague was raging. What a Valley of Hinnom it must
have been! Those three mighty churches, all within a stone's throw of
one another, and one of them just one hundred feet longer than the
cathedral at Norwich, sumptuous with costly offerings, and miracles of
splendour within--and outside ghastly heaps of corruption, and piles of
corpses waiting their turn to be covered up with an inch or two of
earth. Who can adequately realize the horrors of that awful summer? In
the desolate swamps through which the sluggish Bure crawls reluctantly
to mingle its waters with the Yare; by the banks of the Waveney where
the little Bungay nunnery had been a refuge for the widow, the
forsaken, or the devout for centuries; in the valley of the Nar--the
Norfolk Holy Land--where seven monasteries of one sort or another
clustered, each distant from the other but a few short miles--among the
ooze and sedge and chill loneliness of the Broads, where the tall reeds
wave and whisper, and all else is silent--the glorious buildings with
their sumptuous churches were little better than centres of contagion.
From the stricken towns people fled to the monasteries, lying away
there in their seclusion, safely, favoured of God. If there was hope
anywhere it must be there. As frightened widows and orphans flocked to
these havens of refuge, they carried the Black Death with them, and
when they dropped death-stricken at the doors, they left the contagion
behind them as their only legacy. Guilty wretches with a load of crime
upon their consciences--desperate as far as this world was concerned,
and ready for any act of wickedness should the occasion
arrive--shuddered lest they should go down to burning flame for ever
now that there was none to shrive them or to give the _viaticum_ to any
late penitent in his agony. In the tall towers by the wayside the bells
hung mute; no hands to ring them or none to answer to their call
Meanwhile, across the lonely fields, toiling dismally, and ofttimes
missing the track--for who should guide them or show the path?--parson
and monk and trembling nun made the best of their way to Norwich; their
errand to seek admission to the vacant preferment. Think of them, after
miles of dreary travelling, reaching the city gates at last, and
shudderingly threading the filthy alleys which then served as streets,
stepping back into doorways to give the dead carts passage, and jostled
by lepers and outcasts, the touch of whose garments was itself a
horror. Think of them staggering across the great cemetery and
stumbling over the rotting carcases not yet committed to the earth,
breathing all the while the tainted breath of corruption--sickening,
loathsome! Think of them returning as they came, going over the same
ground as before, and compelled to gaze again at

  Sights that haunt the soul for ever,
  Poisoning life till life is done.

Think of them foot-sore, half-famished, hardly daring to buy bread and
meat for their hunger, or to beg a cup of cold water for Christ's sake,
or entreat shelter for the night in their faintness and weariness, lest
men should cry out at them--"Look! the Black Death has clutched another
of the doomed!"

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

I have said that upwards of 800 of the beneficed clergy perished in
East Anglia during this memorable year. Besides these we must make
allowance for the non-beneficed among the regulars; the _chaplains,_
who were in the position of curates among ourselves; the vicars of
parishes whose endowments were insufficient to maintain a resident
parson under ordinary circumstances, and the members of the monastic
and mendicant orders. Putting all these together, it seems to me that
we cannot estimate the number of deaths among regular and secular
clergy in East Anglia during the year 1349 at less than _two_
_thousand._ [Footnote: In the diocese of Ely, where the mortality was
less severe than in Norfolk and Suffolk, 57 parsons died in the three
months ending the 1st of October, 1349. When an ordination was held by
the Bishop of Ely's suffragan at the priory of Barnwell on the 19th of
September, the newly-ordained were fewer by 35 than those who had died
at their posts since the last ordination.] This may appear an enormous
number at first hearing, but it is no incredible number. Unfortunately
the earliest record of any ordinations in the diocese of Norwich dates
nearly seventy years after the plague year, but there is every reason
for believing that there were at least _as many,_ and probably many
more, candidates at ordinations in the fourteenth century as presented
themselves in the fifteenth. During the year ending January, 1415,
Bishop Courtenay's suffragan ordained 382 persons, and assuming that in
Bishop Bateman's days an equal number were admitted to the clerical
profession, the losses by death in the plague year would have absorbed
all the clergy who had been ordained during the six previous years, but
no more. Even so this constituted a tremendous strain upon the reserve
force of clergy unbeneficed and more or less unemployed, and it was
inevitable that with such a strain, there would be a deterioration in
the character and fitness of the newly-appointed incumbents. Yet
nothing has surprised me more than the exceeding rareness of evidence
damaging to the reputation of the new men. That these men were less
educated than their predecessors we know; but that they were mere
worthless hypocrites there is nothing to show, and much to disprove.
Nay! the strong impression which has been left upon my mind, and which
gathers strength as I study the subject, is that the parochial clergy
of the fourteenth century, before _and after_ the plague, were
decidedly a better set than the clergy of the thirteenth. The friars
had done some of their best work in "provoking to jealousy" the country
clergy and stimulating them to increased faithfulness; they had, in
fact, made them more _respectable_; just as the Wesleyan revival acted
upon the country parsons and others four centuries later. Until the
episcopal _visitations_ of the monasteries during the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries are made public--they exist in far larger numbers
than is usually supposed--it will be impossible to estimate the effect
of the plague upon the religious houses; but I am inclined to think
that the monasteries suffered very greatly indeed from the terrible
visitation, and that the violent disturbance of the old traditions and
the utter breakdown in the old observances acted as disastrously upon
these institutions as the first stroke of paralysis does upon men who
have passed their prime--they never were again what they had been.

It must be remembered that in the great majority of the smaller
monasteries, and indeed in any religious house where there were
chaplains to do the routine work in the church, there was nothing to
prevent an absolutely illiterate man or woman from becoming monk or
nun. It was, however, impossible for a man to discharge the duties of
his calling as a parish priest without some education and without at
least a knowledge of Latin. I will not stop to argue that point; they
who dispute the assumption have much to learn. Moreover it is only what
we should expect, that while some were hardened and brutalized by the
scenes through which they had passed, some were softened and humbled.
The prodigious activity in church building--church _restoration_ is
perhaps the truer term-during the latter part of the fourteenth century
in East Anglia is one of many indications that the religious life of
the people at large had received a mighty stimulus. Here, again, the
evidence near at hand requires to be carefully looked into. In
historical no less than in physical researches, the microscope requires
to be used. As yet it has scarcely been used at all. History is in the
empirical stage. Meanwhile, such hints as that of Knighton's are
significant when he tells us that, as the parsons died, a vast
multitude of laymen whose wives had perished in the pestilence
presented themselves for holy orders. _Many,_ he says--not all--were
illiterate, save that they knew how to read their missals and go
through the services though unintelligently, they hardly understood
what they read. Were they, therefore, the worst of the new parsons? Men
bowed down by a great sorrow, bewildered by a bereavement for which
there is none but a make-shift remedy, men whose "life is read all
backwards and the charm of life undone," are not they whose sorrow
usually makes them void of sympathy for the distressed. Nay! their own
sadness makes them responsive to the cry of the needy, the lonely, and
the fallen. Experience proves to us every day that among such men you
may find, not the worst parish priests, but the best.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

I wonder whether John Bonington, steward of the manor of Waltham, was
one of those whom Knighton alludes to.

Sometime during the year 1343 there had been a disastrous fire in the
house of one Roger Andrew; the dwelling, with all that it contained,
was burnt to the ground. Poor Roger lost all his household stuff and
furniture and much else besides; worse than all, he lost all his title
deeds, the evidences and charters whereby he held his little estate. As
for Roger himself, he either perished in the flames or his heart broke
and he died very shortly afterwards. He left a son behind him, young
Richard Andrew, who must have found himself in sorry plight when he
came to take up his patrimony and enter upon his inheritance. Those
were not the days when the weak man and the beaten man excited much
pity in England. No! they were _not,_ whatever sentimental people may
say who maunder about the ages of faith and refresh themselves with
other such lackadaisical phrases. So, poor Richard being down in his
luck, John Bonington, acting for Henry, Earl of Lancaster, [Footnote:
His son and heir, Henry, Earl of Derby, was created _Duke_ of Lancaster
in 1351.] the lord of the manor, put the screw on, and boldly claimed a
heriot from the young man as the right of the lord. Richard disputed
the right, and protested that his land was not _heriotable._ Bonington
pleaded his _might_ in a very effectual way, and took his heriot--to
wit, the best horse which Richard had in his stable, the best and
probably the only one. Then Richard appealed to the homage. The
homagers were afraid to give a verdict against the steward, and timidly
objected that all Richard's evidences had been burnt in the fire.
Bonington trotted off triumphant, leaving Richard to his bitter wrath.
Six years went by, and the plague came. It fell upon the district round
with terrific fury, and the people died in that dreadful April, 1349,
as the locusts die when the hurricane drives them seaward, and they rot
in piles upon the shore. The Roll of the Manor Court is a horrible
record of the suddenness and the force with which the Black Death smote
the wretched Essex people. When the steward's day's work was done, and
the long, long list of the dead had been written down, he added a note
wherein he gives us the facts which have come down to us; and then he
adds that, inasmuch as he, John Bonington, had come to see that the
aforesaid horse had been unrighteously taken from Richard Andrew six
years before, and that the conviction of his own iniquity had been
brought home to his contrite heart, _as well by the dreadful mortality
and horrible pestilence at that time raging as by the stirring of
religious emotion within his soul,_ therefore the full value of the
horse was to be restored to the injured Richard, and never again was
heriot to be levied on his land. After six years' hard riding and scant
feeding, peradventure Richard Andrew would rather have had the hard
cash than the poor brute, which by this time, probably, had died and
gone to the dogs! A shudder of penitence and remorse had thrilled
through John Bonington when the plague was stalking grimly up and down
the land; and this is what we learn about him--this and no more.

Had John Bonington lost _his_ wife; and was he meditating a life of
usefulness and penitence and prayer?

  Infert se sæptus nebula (mirabile dictu)
  Per medics miscetque viris, neque cernitur ulli,

A shadowy form looming out from the mists that have gathered over the
ages past, we see him for a moment, and he is gone.

Fill up the gaps and tell all the tale, poet with the dreamy eyes, eyes
that can pierce the gloom--poet with the mobile lips, lips that can
speak with rhythmic utterance the revelations of the future or the past.

All the lonely ones, and all the childless ones, did not turn parsons
we may be sure; yet it is good for us to believe that John Bonington's
was not a solitary instance of a man coming out of the furnace of
affliction softened, not hardened; purified, not merely blistered, by
the fire.

Was Thomas Porter at Little Cornard somewhat past his prime when the
plague came? It spared him and his old wife, it seems; but for his sons
and daughters, the hope of his eld and the pride of his manhood, where
were they? He and the good wife, cowering over the turf fire, did they
dare to talk with quivering lips and clouded eyes about the days when
the little ones had clambered up to the strong father's knee, or tiny
arms were held out to the rough yeoman as he reached his home? "Oh! the
desolation and the loneliness. No fault of thine dear wife--nor mine.
It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth Him good!"

Thomas Porter had a neighbour, one John Stone, a man of small
substance: he owned a couple of acres under the lord; poor land it was,
hardly paying for the tillage, and I suppose the cottage upon it was
his own, so far as any man's copyhold dwelling was his own in those
days. The Black Death came to that cottage among the rest, and John
Stone and wife and children, all were swept away. Nay! not all: little
Margery Stone was spared; but she had not a kinsman upon earth. Poor
little maid, she was barely nine years old and absolutely alone! Who
cared? Thomas Porter and his weeping wife cared, and they took little
Margery to their home, and they comforted themselves for all that they
had lost, and the little maid became unto them as a daughter.
Henceforth life was less dreary for the old couple. But five years
passed, and Margery had grown up to be a sturdy damsel and very near
the marriageable age.

Oh, ho! friend Porter, what is it we have heard men tell? That when the
Black Death came upon us, your house was left unto you desolate and
there remained neither chick nor child. Who is this? Then some one told
the steward, or told the lord, and thereupon ensued inquiry. What right
had Thomas Porter to adopt the child? She belonged to the lord, and he
had the right of guardianship. Aye! and the right of disposing of her
in marriage too. Thomas Porter, with a heavy heart, was summoned before
the homage. He pleaded that the marriage of the girl did not belong to
the lord by right, and that on some ground or other, which is not set
down, she was not his property at all. That might have been very true
or it might not, but one thing was certain, Thomas Porter had no right
to her, and so the invariable result followed--he had to pay a fine.
What else ensued we shall never know.

The glimpses we get of the ways and doings of the old stewards of
manors are not pleasing; I am afraid that as a class they were hard as
nails. Perhaps they could not help themselves, but they certainly very
rarely erred on the side of mercy and forbearance. Is not that phrase
"making allowances for," a comparatively modern phrase? At any rate the
_thing_ is not often to be met with in the fourteenth century. Yet in
the plague year every now and then one is pleased to find instances
actually of consideration for the distress and penury of the homagers
at this place and that. Thus at Lessingham, when the worst was over and
a court was held on the 15th of January, 1350, the steward writes down
that only thirty shillings was to be levied from the customary tenants
by way of tallage, "Because the greater part of those tenants who were
wont to render tallage had died in the previous year by reason of the
deadly pestilence."

Here and there, too, we come upon heriots remitted because the heir was
so very poor, and here and there fines and fees are cancelled _causa
miseriæ propter pestilentiam._ Surely it is better to assume that this
kind of thing was done, as our friend Bonington puts it, _mero motu
pietatis suæ_ than because there was no money to be had. Better give a
man the benefit of the doubt, even though he has been dead five hundred
years, than kick him because he will never tell any more tales.

If it happened sometimes that the plague brought out the good in a man,
sometimes changed his life from one of covetous indifference or
grasping selfishness into a life of earnestness and devout
philanthropy, it happened at other times--and I fear it must be
confessed more frequently--that coarse natures, hard and cruel ones,
were made more brutal and callous by the demoralizing influences of
that frightful summer.

I am sure it will be very gratifying to some enlightened and chivalrous
people to learn that I have at least one bad story against a parson.

Here it is!

The rolls of the manor of Waltham show that the plague lingered about
there till late in the spring of 1350. As elsewhere, there must needs
have been much change in the benefices of the neighbourhood. Of course
some of the new parsons were scamps, the laity who survived being,
equally of course, models of all that was lovely and estimable. One of
these clerical impostors had got a cure somewhere in the
neighbourhood--where is not stated, but, inasmuch as his clerical
income had not come up to his expectations or his necessities, or his
own estimate of his deserts, he found it necessary to supplement that
income by somewhat unprofessional conduct. In fact, the Rev.
William--that was his name--seems actually to have thrown up his
clerical avocations and by his flagrant irregularities had got to
himself the notorious sobriquet of William the One-day priest. I should
not be surprised to find out that this worthy was captain of a band of
robbers who infested Epping Forest. In the end of January, 1351.
Matilda, wife of John Clement de Godychester, was quietly riding
homewards when, as she passed by the sheepfold of Plesset, out came the
Rev. William and bade the lady stand and deliver. Her attendants, it is
to be presumed, took to their heels, and the lady, being unable to help
herself, delivered up her purse--the account says the Rev. William cut
it off--and moreover surrendered a ring of some value, after which she
continued her journey. She raised the hue and cry to some purpose, and
the clerical king of the road was taken and... there is no more. No! It
is a story without an end.

But there were then, as there are now, other ways of preying upon our
fellow-creatures and levying blackmail from them, without going to the
length of highway robbery--cold work, and a little risky at times.

Henry Anneys, at Lessingham, could work upon the fears of Alice Bakeman
and extort a douceur from her without resorting to violence. Mrs.
Bakeman had succeeded to the property of some dead kinsman, and Mr.
Anneys heard of it. He called on the lady and informed her that for a
consideration he would save her from paying any heriot to the lord; he
had certain information which he could use either way. Finally, it was
agreed that Alice should give the rogue a cow as hush-money, and with
the cow Mr. Anneys departed. His triumph was brief. When the time for
holding the next court arrived, others came round the poor woman, and
made it quite evident that the lands she had succeeded to were not
heriotable at all, and that Henry Anneys was a swindler. So the case
was brought before the homage as usual, the cow was ordered to be
returned, and a substantial fine imposed upon Anneys.

Almost the first thing that strikes a novice who looks into the village
history of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries is the astounding
frequency of bloody quarrels among the rustics. In the records of the
Courts Leet for Norfolk it is very seldom indeed, that you can find a
court held at which one or more persons, male and female, are not
amerced for "drawing blood" from somebody. Whether it was by punching
their opponents on the nose, or whether they used their knives, I
hesitate to decide; but I suspect, from the frequent mention of knives
and daggers, that sticking one's enemy with cold steel was not so very
un-English a practice as popular prejudice is wont to assume it to be.
One thing is very certain, and that is--that all over East Anglia, five
hundred years ago, there was such an amount of bloodletting in village
frays as would hardly have disgraced the University of Heidelberg. In
Norfolk these sanguinary fights must have been a passion; but one would
have thought that, while the plague was raging and after it had begun
to subside, then, if ever, men and women would have become less savage
and ferocious. So far from it, such records of the years 1349 and 1350
as I have examined are fuller than ever of fights and quarrels At
Lessingham, about Christmas time, 1349, there was a free fight of a
most sanguinary character, men and women joining in it freely. It seems
to have arisen from some one finding a horse wandering about the
deserted fields. As a stray it belonged to the lord--the finder took a
different view, somebody cried "Halves!" and somebody else said, "Til
give information," and somebody else replied, "So will I," whereupon
arose a bloody battle as has been told. About the same time at
Hunstanton, Catherine Busgey, evil-disposed old hag that she was, had
stript a dead man of his leather jerkin. Did she proceed to wear the
manly attire that she might be dagger-proof for the next encounter?
Rash woman! The dead man's friends recognized the well-known coat, it
was forfeited and delivered over to the lord.

It might well be supposed that, while the whole executive machinery of
the country was being subject to a tremendous strain, there would be in
some districts a condition of affairs which differed very little from
downright anarchy. Yet here, again, the existing records are
surprisingly free from any evidence tending to support such an
assumption, England was not governed by the Home Secretary in those
days. Every parish was a living political unit with its own police and
its own local government. However desirable it may appear to some to
bring back such a state of things, the question nevertheless remains
how far it is ever possible to revivify an organization which has long
since died a natural death. That, in the fourteenth century, the
country districts governed themselves there can be no doubt at all;
with what results, as far as the greatest happiness of the greatest
number is concerned, this is not the time or the place to inquire or to
decide. Yet I cannot withhold my conviction that, if any such gigantic
calamity were to fall upon our people now as fell upon them when the
Black Death swept over the face of the land five centuries ago--a
calamity so sweeping, so overwhelming--its consequences upon the whole
social fabric would be incomparably more disastrous than it was in
times when centralization was almost unknown and practically
impossible. Be it as it may, since the days when the Roman Senate
passed a vote of confidence in a beaten general because he had not
despaired of the republic, I know nothing in history that impresses a
student more profoundly with a sense of the magnificent
self-possession, self-control, and self-respect of a suffering nation,
under circumstances of unexampled agony and horror, than the simple
prosaic annals which remain to us of the great plague year in England.

In only one district in Norfolk have I found evidence of any widespread
lawlessness. Even there one hears of it only to hear of vigorous
grappling with the ruffians, who were not allowed to have it all their
own way.

The hundred of Depwade, lying to the south of Norwich, contains
twenty-three parishes; and at the time we are concerned with had very
few resident gentry of any consideration. Then, as now, the country
parsons were the most important people in the district, and the
benefices were above the average in value. In the summer and autumn, at
least fifteen of these clergymen fell victims to the plague; among them
the rector of Bunwell and the vicar of Tibenham, adjoining parishes.
The vicarage was a poor one; it was worth no one's holding; the rectory
had been held by William Banyard, a near relative of Sir Robert
Banyard, lord of the manor; the plague carried him off in July, and his
successor was instituted on the 25th of the month, but does not seem to
have come into residence immediately. There had been a clean sweep of
the old incumbents from all the parishes for miles round; the poor
people, left to themselves, became demoralized; there seems to have
been a general scramble, and for a while no redress anywhere. It is
recorded that the cattle roamed at will over the standing corn with
none to tend them, and that there had been none to make the lord's hay;
that among others who had died there were five substantial men among
the homagers on whose lands heriots of more or less value were due; but
no heriot was recoverable, inasmuch as since the last court certain
persons unknown had plundered all that could be carried off--cattle and
sheep and horses and goods, and there was nothing to distrain upon but
the bare lands and the bare walls.

It may be presumed that where a scoundrel escaped the contagion
altogether, while others were dying all round him, or where another
recovered after being brought to death's door, in such cases the man
would, as a rule, be a person of exceptional strength and vigorous
constitution. Such fellows, when the evil spirit was upon them, would
be ugly customers to deal with. Gilbert Henry, of Tibenham, was a
somewhat audacious thief when he walked into John Smith's house, where
there was none alive to bar the door, and carried off certain bushels
of malt and barley, with other goods not specified; and, not content
therewith, stripped the dead man of his coat and waistcoat. The value
of these articles of apparel was not assessed very highly--only
sixpence each--and Master Gilbert, after paying the price of the
garments, seems to have gone away with them. It is hardly to be
wondered at that neither steward nor lord greatly coveted that coat and
waistcoat. At the same court, too, William Hessland was amerced for
appropriating the few trumpery chattels of Walter Cokstone, a _villein_
belonging to the lord. Another wretched pair--a man and his wife--had
deliberately cleared a crop of oats off an acre and a half of land, and
stacked it in their own barn. Their view was that it belonged to no
one; the steward took a different view, and reminded them that what
grew on no man's land was the property of some one other than the smart
man who ventured to lift it.

It was at Bunwell, too, that William Sigge was by way of becoming a
terror to his neighbours. It was laid to his charge, generally, that he
had from time to time during the pestilence carried off and
appropriated various articles of property _(diversa catalla)_ too
numerous to specify. They must have been a very miscellaneous lot, for
they included several hurdles and the lead stripped off a dead man's
roof, not to mention such trifles as garments and pots and pans. Sigge
was a very successful plunderer, and, his success rather turned his
head. When the autumn of 1350 came, he refused to do his autumn
service, protested that there was none to do, and was fined
accordingly; not only so, but he was found to have stubbed up a hedge
which had been the boundary of the land of Robert Attebrigge, who had
died with no one to represent him. The women were as bad as the men;
they had their rights in those days. One of these beldames was caught
walking away with a couple of handmills from a plague-struck dwelling,
and another had looted a tenement where John Rucock's corpse lay; she
too had stripped the dead!

It is not a little curious to notice how that love of going to law
which old Fuller two hundred years ago remarked upon as a
characteristic of Norfolk men comes out again when the confusion had
begun to subside. The plague is no sooner at an end than the local
courts are resorted to for the hearing of every kind of odd question
which the complications arising from the abnormal mortality had

When Edward Burt died at Lessingham, he left his widow Egidia all he
had; but he owed Margery Brown the sum of thirty shillings. Egidia at
once provided herself with a second husband, and surrendered herself
and her belongings to Edward Bunting. Mrs. Brown applied for her little
bill. Egidia, now no longer a widow, but lawful wife of Mr. Bunting,
repudiated the debt; she was widow no longer, she had become the
property of another man; the debt, she pleaded, was buried in her first
husband's grave. That little quibble was soon overruled. But there were
often cases which were by no means so easily disposed of. Robert
Bokenham was lord of the manor of Tibenham, and Robert Tate was one of
his tenants. Tate died; then Bokenham died. Bokenham's son was only
nine years old, and no guardian had been appointed when Tate's son
died. Then followed a dispute as to who was guardian of young Bokenham,
and of whom Tate's land was held, and who was the true heir. A pleasant
little brief there for a rising barrister to hold.

A complication of much the same kind arose at Croxton. William Galion,
a man of some consideration, died in July, leaving his wife Beatrix
with two sons; but he died intestate..Beatrix had just time to pay a
heavy fine to the lord for the privilege of being her eldest son's
guardian when the plague took her. Before she died she left the
guardianship of her first-born son John to her husband's brother Adam;
a few days afterwards the boy John died, and his brother Robert alone
remained; the guardianship of the boy John is of course at an end, and
uncle Adam applies for the guardianship of the surviving nephew; but by
this time he is unable to find the money; whereupon the child's estate
is taken into the hands of the lord till such time as the uncle can pay
the fees demanded.

Walter Wyninge had a wise woman for his wife, and her name was Matilda.
The Black Death left her & widow, but she speedily married without any
license from the lord to William Oberward. The second husband had a
very brief enjoyment of his married life; in a few days he too died,
and Matilda married a third husband, one Peter the carpenter. At this
point Matilda's turn came and she died. All this had happened in the
interval of two months since the last manor court was held. The steward
of the manor claimed a heriot from Wyninge's land and another from
Oberward's. But the astute Peter was equal to the occasion: he pleaded
that, according to the custom of the manor, no heriot could be levied
from a widow till she had survived her husband a year and a day, and he
demanded that the court rolls should be searched to confirm or correct
his assertion. I suspect he knew his business, and no heriot came to
that grasping steward. Who pities him?

Ladies and gentlemen of the romantic order of mind will be shocked at
the indelicacy of Mistress Matilda--she of the many names. I suspect
that they would be shocked by a great many things in the domestic life
of England five centuries ago. Marrying for love has a sweet sound
about it, but the thing did not exist in the old days. When did it
exist? History is very hard upon romance; History, disdaining courtesy,
lifts one veil after another, opens closed doors, reveals long-buried
secrets, turns her bull's-eye upon the dark corners, and breaks the old
seals. She is very cynical, and will by no means side with this
appellant or with that. Beautiful theories crumble into dust when they
stand before her judgment-seat, and old dreams, offspring of brains
that were wrestling with slumber in the darkness, pass away as the dawn
comes, bringing with it, too often, such revelations as are not
altogether lovely to dwell on. In the fourteenth century an unmarried
woman was a chattel, and belonged to somebody who had the right to sell
her or to give her away. That is the naked truth. You may make a man an
offender for a word if you will, and object that "sell" is an incorrect
term; but the fact remains, however much some may--

     leave the sense their learning to display,
  And some explain the meaning quite away.

Hence, when a wretched woman was mourning alone over the husband who
had just been hustled into his grave, the men were after her like
wolves, every one of her neighbours knowing exactly what she was worth
even to the fraction of a rood of land, or the last lamb that had been
dropped, or the litter of pigs that were rootling up the beech-nuts in
the woods. They gave her short time to make up her mind. Sentiment? We
in the East--the land of the wise men since time was young--we know
nothing of sentiment. We can hate with a sullen tenacity of resentment
which knows no forgiveness; but love--nay we leave that for the
"intense" of other climes. And women in the good old times--positively
women--love one man more than another? What _they?_

  "Whose love knows no distinction but of gender,
   And ridicules the very name of choice!"

Why, where were you born?

The records of the marriages on the court rolls of the plague year are
hardly more startling than the deaths. Whether men and women paid less
to the lord for a license than they were compelled to pay if they
married without license I cannot tell; but that hundreds of widows must
have married only a few weeks or a few days after their husbands'
deaths is clear. Matilda's case was not a rare one. Alice Foghal, at
Lessingham, was another of those ladies who in a couple of months had
been the property successively of three husbands--the last was actually
a stranger. Where he came from is not stated, but he sate himself down
by the widow's hearth, claimed it as his own, and paid a double fee for
his successful gallantry. How he managed the matter remains
unexplained, but young brides were plentiful in the parish just about
that time; and at the same court where Alice's matrimonial alliances
were compounded for, no less than fifteen other young women paid their
fees for marrying without license from the lord. I have only noticed
one instance of anything like remission of _marriage fees_, though I
hope it was less uncommon than appears on the rolls. The lady in this
case was a butcher's widow, and it was too much to expect that she
could wait till the next court, wherefore the steward graciously
knocked off seventy-five per cent. of his due; and, in lieu of two
shillings, charged her only sixpence--_ratione temporis et in
misericordia_, as he sententiously observes. Magnanimous steward!

I have met with no evidence leading to the belief that anywhere in the
country villages there was anything approaching to a panic. Only a
novice would be led astray by what he might read occurred at
Coltishall. Five brothers named Gritlof and two other brothers named
Primrose, being _nativi_, i.e., _villeins born_, and so the property of
the lord, had decamped whither none could tell; the court solemnly
adjudicated upon the case, and decreed that the seven runaways should
be attached _per corpora_, whatever that may mean. But Coltishall is
barely five miles from Norwich, and from the villages round the great
city the _villeins_ were always running away in the hopes of getting
their freedom if they could keep in hiding within the city walls for a
year and a day. Oh, ye seven, had the yellow primrose less charm for
you, and the barley loaves that were sure for you in breezy
Coltishall--gritty though they might be--less charm than the garbage
that might be picked up in Norwich, in its noisome alleys reeking with
corruption, and all that flesh and blood revolts from? Ah! but to be
free--to be free! How that thought made their poor hearts throb!

That there was panic--mad, unreasoning, insensate panic--elsewhere than
in the country villages there is abundant evidence to prove, but it was
among the well-to-do classes--the traders and the moneyed men,
_bourgeoisie_ of the towns--that a stampede prevailed. Any one who
chooses may satisfy himself of this by looking into Rymer's _Faedera,_
to go no further.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Enough has been told in the foregoing pages to illustrate the
overwhelming violence with which the Great Plague ran its career in
East Anglia. Only a small part of the evidence still ready to our hands
has been examined; but if no more were scrutinized, the impression left
upon us of the severity of the visitation would be quite sufficiently
appalling. It is, however, when an attempt to estimate the immediate
effects and the remoter consequencs that followed that our difficulties

Before a man is qualified to dogmatize upon those effects, he must have
gone some way towards making himself familiar with the social and
economic conditions of the country during at least the century before
the plague. Unfortunately the history of economics in England has never
been attempted by any one at all duly qualified for dealing with so
complex and difficult a subject, and the crudest theories have been
substituted for sound conclusions, then only to be accepted when based
upon the solid ground of ascertained fact. In the childhood of every
science dogmatism precedes induction, and in the absence of clear
knowledge, foolish and wild-eyed visionaries have posed as discoverers
again and again. Yet bluster and audacity have their use, if only to
stimulate the timid and the dilatory to quicken their pace and move
forwards. For my part, however, if it be necessary to choose between
the two, I should prefer to err with the slow and cautious rather than
with the rash and over-bold; the former may for a while serve as a drag
upon the chariot wheels of progress, the latter are sure to thrust us
out of the road and land us at last in some quagmire whence it will be
very hard to get back into the right track.

The great teacher who, with his transcendent genius, has done more to
create a school of English history than all who have gone before him,
who, in fact, has made English history, not what it is, but what it
will be, when his influence shall have permeated our literature, has
spoken on this subject of the Black Death with his usual profound
suggestiveness. The Bishop of Chester looks with grave distrust upon
any theory which ascribes to the Great Plague as a cause "nearly all
the social changes which take place in England down to the Reformation:
the depopulation of towns, the relaxation of the bonds of moral and
social law, the solution of the continuity of national development
caused by a sort of disintegration in society generally." [Footnote:
"Constitutional History," vol. ii. chap. xvi. p. 399, Section 259,
edit. 1875.] And yet this appalling visitation must have constituted a
very important factor in the working out of those social and political
problems with which the life of every great nation is concerned. Such
problems, however, are not simple ones; rather they are infinitely
complex; and he who would set himself to analyse the processes by which
the ultimate results are arrived at will blunder hopelessly if he takes
account of only a single unknown quantity.

I. It is obvious that the sudden exhaustion of the large reserve force
of clergy must have made itself felt at once in every parish in
England. In the diocese of Norwich a considerable number of the parsons
who died belonged to the gentry class. Then, as now, there were family
livings to which younger sons might hope to be presented, and were
presented, as vacancies occurred; but, in the face of the sudden and
widely extended mortality, it was inevitable that appointments should
be made with very little reference to a man's social grade or
intellectual proficiency. Patrons had to take whom they could get. This
of itself would tend to a deterioration in the character of the clergy;
but this was not all. The clergy died; but other holders of offices,
civil and ecclesiastical, were not spared. There was a sudden opening
out of careers in every direction for the ambitious and the unemployed:
young men who ten years before would never have dreamt of anything but
"resorting to holy orders," turned their eyes to other walks and
adopted other views; and it is plain that a large number of those who
presented themselves for admission to the clerical profession as we now
understand it, in many instances belonged to a lower class than their
predecessors. Some were devout and earnest, such country parsons as
Chaucer described--he does not turn aside to caricature _them_--but
others were mere adventurers, hirelings whose heart was not in their
work. These clerical scamps gave Archbishop Simon Islip a great deal of
trouble. The smaller livings were forsaken, the curate market rose, the
chaplains would neither take the country vicarages nor engage
themselves as regular helpers to the parish priests. London swarmed
with itinerants who preferred picking up a livelihood by occasional
duty, when they could make their own terms, to binding themselves to a
cure of souls. [Footnote: Compare Chaucer's words--"He sette not his
benefice to hire, And lette his sheep accombred in the mire, _And ran
unto London, into Seint Paules To seken him a chanterie for
Soules_"---with Wilkins' "Concilia," vol. iii. I.] The primate
denounced these greedy ones again and again, but it was all in vain;
the bishops found it impossible to draw the reins of discipline as
tightly as they wished, and found it equally impossible to prevent the
extortionate demands of such curates as could be got. The evil grew to
such a height that the faithful Commons took the matter up and
petitioned the King to interfere, inasmuch as "les chappeleins sont
devenuz si chers" that they actually demanded ten or even twelve marks
a year as their stipend--"a grant grevance & oppression du poeple." The
usual methods were resorted to, and if people could be made good by Act
of Parliament the evils complained of would have disappeared. They did
not disappear, and the evil grew. Unhappily the increased stipends did
not serve to produce a better article, and it is only too plain that
the religious convictions and the religious life of the people suffered
seriously. Ten years after the Black Death the Archbishop expresses his
deep sorrow at the neglect of Sunday, the desertion of the churches and
the decline in religious observances. Yet we must be cautious how we
attribute this break-up in the old habits of the people to the plague
exclusively, or even mainly. Some of the evils complained of had
already begun to be felt before the plague came, and may fairly be
attributed, not to the falling short of the numbers of the clergy, but
exactly the reverse.

Already a strong reaction had set in against the friars, their
influence and their teaching had begun to be regarded as menacing to
the stability of existing creeds and existing institutions. Langland
hated them. Chaucer held them up to scorn. Wickliffe denounced them
with a righteous wrath. Fitz-Ralph, Archbishop of Armagh, carried on
open war against them. All these leaders of the chosen bands that fight
the battles of God had arrived at man's estate when the Black Death
came, and all survived it. They certainly were not the product of the
great visitation; they were the spokesmen and representatives of a
generation that had begun to look at the world with larger, other eyes
than their fathers. That which was coming would have come if there had
been no plague at all, and so far from its being certain that that
calamity was in any great degree the cause of the upheaval that ensued,
it is at least as probable that the sudden decrease in the population
served to retard the action of forces already working mightily in the
direction of revolution--revolution it might be for the better, or it
might be for the worse.

2. Whoever else may have been losers or sufferers by the plague, there
was one class which emerged from that dreadful year very much richer
than before. The lords of the manors, the representatives of what we
now call the country gentry, were great gainers. Not only did the
extraordinary amount paid in heriots and fees make up an aggregate
which in itself constituted a very large percentage upon the capital
embarked in agriculture, but the extent of land which _escheated_ to
the lords was very considerable. Moreover, the manors themselves, or as
we should say, the landed property of the country, came into fewer
hands; the gentry became richer and their estates larger. Knighton
draws attention to the fact that in the towns a large number of houses
became ruinous for want of occupants, but he adds that in the hamlets
and villages the same effects followed, and that everywhere. Here
again, the rolls of Parliament corroborate the assertion and inform us
that not only the dwellings of the homagers but the capital mansions
themselves, were deserted and falling to decay. When, in the next
reign, the manor of Hockham came into the possession of Richard, Earl
of Arundel, in right of his wife, he took the precaution of having a
careful survey made of the condition of the estate as it came into his
hands. The manor-house had not been tenanted for thirty years. It had
been a mansion of considerable pretension and two stories high; on the
ground-floor the doors were all gone; on the upper floor the windows
were open to the air; the chamber "vocata ladyes chambre" was roofless,
the offices were too dilapidated to be worth repair. The enclosing
walls and the moat had been utterly neglected. The offices had formerly
been adapted for a large establishment; there had been extensive farm
buildings, and at least six substantial houses for the bailiff and
other farm servants. Among other buildings there were two _fishouses_
built of timber and _daubur_, in which apparently the keeper of the
fishponds lived, and some elaborate arrangements had existed for
keeping up the supply of fish in the ponds by methods of pisciculture
to us unknown. The windmill had long ceased to be used, its very
grinding stones had disappeared. Worse than all, there was no more any
gallows or pillory, or even stocks, _pro_ _libertate servanda_, as the
jurors quaintly remark. Yet the records show that at Hockham things had
gone on pretty much as before since the big house was deserted. The
courts were held with exemplary regularity, the fees had been exacted
with unwavering rigour, the homagers settled their own affairs in their
own way; but there was this difference, that for a generation the
tenants had been living under an absentee landlord, who so far from
being the poorer because the big house had been tumbling down, was the
richer, inasmuch as he had one mansion the less to keep up out of his
income. What happened at Hockham must have happened in hundreds of
other parishes; there must have been large tracts of country during the
latter half of the reign of Edward the Third where a resident landlord
was the exception to that which aforetime had been the rule.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

3. In the present condition of our knowledge, any estimate of the
actual numbers who perished in the plague must be the merest guesswork.
It may be that two millions were carried off; it may be there were
three. It is undeniable that a very large proportion of the inhabitants
of this island died in a few months--employers and employed. We must,
however, remember that England in the fourteenth century was
incomparably more self-supporting than it is in the nineteenth century;
that there were no great centres of industry then; that the rural
population was largely in excess of the urban population; that we
exported the wool which the Flemings manufactured into cloth; and that
if there were fewer hands to till the soil, there were fewer mouths to
feed. No one can doubt that the labour market must have been seriously
disturbed, but it is very easy to exaggerate this disturbance; and
whether it were less or more than has been asserted, we shall certainly
err by attributing the rise in wages, which undoubtedly took place
after the Black Death, to it, and to it alone--_post hoc ergo propter
hoc_ is not a safe conclusion. Granted, as we must grant, that the
plague accelerated the rise in wages, it is certain the upward movement
had already begun before the population had been seriously lessened.
The number of clergy, to be sure, was largely in excess of the needs of
the country; the clerical profession had become "choked" by the influx
of young men presumably with _some_ private means to fall back upon;
among them there must have been, and there was, serious competition for
every vacant post. When the reserve of supernumeraries became absorbed,
the competition turned the other way, and the surviving clergy could
make their own terms. It was otherwise with the masses, especially with
the peasantry. If there were an insufficient number of labourers to
till the land heretofore in cultivation, the worst land fell out of
cultivation, and no one was much the worse. It was all very well for
some landlords to complain that their rents had fallen off. Yes!
Then--as now, as always--the small proprietors suffered severely, and
needy men are wont to be clamorous. Then--as now, as always--the
sufferers looked about them for a cause of their distress, and found it
in any event that was nearest at hand. But we know that the style of
living after the plague was incomparably more luxurious and extravagant
than it was before. The country was producing less, it may be; but the
people, man for man, were much richer than before.

When we find ourselves confronted with the rhetorical stuff which the
literature of preambles and parliamentary petitions in the fourteenth
century flaunts so liberally before our eyes, we must learn to accept
the statements of draughtsmen _cum grano_, and to read between the
lines. The Commons were quite equal to making the most of any calamity
that occurred. When the Parliament, which had not met since mid Lent,
1348, assembled once more in February, 1350, the plague was not
forgotten. In the petitions presented to the King, the havoc wrought is
dwelt upon and deplored, _not_ with a view to remedy any of the
distress that had ensued, but in the hope that the arrears of taxation
due from the dead might be excused to the survivors who had succeeded
to the others' property. If they complain of the scarcity and dearness
of corn, this is to give point to their protest against the King's
servants taking it for the victualling of his army and the town of
Calais. If, again, they sound a note of alarm at the outrageous
insolence of the labourers who presumed to demand a large increase of
wage, and would not work at the old scale of pay, there is no pretence
that the employers could not afford to accede to the increased demand;
the "grand meschief du poeple" consisted in this, that the tillers of
the soil should have dreamt of asserting themselves in any way
whatever. Moreover, when it came to legislating against the mutinous
labourers, King and Parliament, while sternly setting their faces
against the rise in wages, _do not take the twenty-third year of the
King as the standard year_ by which to settle what the normal rate of
wages should be. They go back to the twentieth year, _ou cynk ou sis
ans devans_. That is to say, the wages had been steadily rising for ten
years before the plague; the labourers had been getting their share of
the increased prosperity of the country; and the Statute of Labourers
was only one of the clumsy attempts to interfere with the action of a
great economical law which had been working silently for the advantage
of the operatives long before the Black Death had come to perplex and
confuse men's minds and disturb their calculations.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Some of us remember when the science of geology was young--and we were
young too--we remember how there was a certain romance and fascination
about those fearless and richly imaginative theories which explained
all the great changes in the crust of the earth by magnificent
cataclysms, upheaving, exploding, overwhelming. The crack of doom meant
something after all! What had been should be again. Old times had
stories to tell of sublime catastrophes, the crash of systems, and the
swallowing up of chains of cloud-capped mountains in the yawning
abysses of a world that might at any moment turn itself inside out.
Alas! the cataclysm theories had to die the death, and we had to
comfort ourselves with a dull prosaic dream of forces acting with
infinite slowness, grinding, and evolving through unnumbered ages, the
great laws working themselves out without haste or any tendency to
those picturesque paroxysms which have a certain charm for us in our
nonage. When Sociology shall have risen to the dignity of a
science--and that day may come--I think she too will be chary of
resorting to the cataclysm theory; she and her handmaid History will
hardly smile approval upon pretenders who are anxious to discover a
single efficient cause for results which a million influences have
combined to bring about, or who assume that every new phenomenon must
disturb the equilibrium of the world. To take up with theories first in
the hope, and sometimes with the determination, that facts shall be
found to support them at last, is the vice--I had almost said the
crime--of too many of those who now are styled historians.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

If at this point I leave to others the further pursuit of a subject
which deserves a more comprehensive treatment than it has yet received,
it is not because I have not much more that I could tell. If it be true
that the proper study of mankind is man, it is at least as true that
the proper study of Englishmen is the history of England; that,
however, means a great deal more than is usually understood by the
words. It means the history of English institutions, of the social, the
intellectual, and the religious life of our forefathers--it means a
great deal more than the life of our sovereigns, their wars, their
virtues or their follies. Unhappily historic studies in England,
notwithstanding the splendid impetus that has been given to them of
late by the brilliant achievements of some philosophic enquirers,
receive but scant encouragement, and for the most part a man's labour
must be his own reward. In our elementary schools History is almost
utterly ignored. A whole people is rapidly breaking with the past from
sheer ignorance that there is any past that is worth knowing. Who shall
estimate the immeasurable harm that must be wrought to a nation that
has lost touch with the past? Let men but believe, to their shame, that

     The glories of our birth and state
     Are shadows, not substantial things,

and what becomes of patriotism? Granted, if you will, that English
history has been made too often a dry and repulsive study by those who
have undertaken to teach it and write it; need it remain so? It must
remain so as long as we keep to the old lines and content ourselves
with the old methods. What is wanted to make any science _interesting_
is that it should push its inquiries into new fields of research. The
means and appliances, and opportunities for pursuing historical
researches open to those whose youth is not all behind them, are such
as we, their seniors, never dreamt of when we were in our early
manhood. There are whole worlds as yet unexplored and waiting to be
won. Do men whimperingly complain that there is no longer a career for
genius? Tush! It is enthusiasm that is wanted. Give us that, and the
career will follow. But the enthusiasm must be of the real sort--not
self-asserting, self-conscious, self-seeking; but earnest, patient,
resolute, and reticent: for science, too, needs heroism no less than

In the domain of Physical Science there has been in our own time no
lack of intelligent co-operation, and volunteers have been many and
earnest, nor have they spared themselves or shrunk from sacrifices. In
the domain of Historical Science the labourers are few and far between;
there research proceeds with lagging steps. No one sneers at a
philosopher who travels to Iceland to investigate the habits of a gnat,
or who counts it the pride of his life to have discovered a new fungus,
but simpletons are pleased to make themselves merry with caricaturing
any student of his country's institutions who is "always poring over
musty old parchments." And yet these minute researches will have to be
made sooner of later, and till we can bring ourselves to study the
structure and the tissues and the comparative anatomy of Institutions,
and to go through all the drudgery which sluggards loathe and fools
deride, the light of truth will be dim for us all; our Ethical, equally
with our political Philosophy must remain in a condition of hopeless
sterility. Nevertheless History too has her mission, though her time
has not yet come. It will not always be that the past will be to us "as
the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is
learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith I cannot, for it
is sealed; and the book is delivered to him that is not learned,
saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned."

No! It will not be always so.



     . . . . "so famous,
     So excellent in art, and still so rising."

Some years ago I found myself in a Northern capital, and committed
myself to the guidance of a native coachman, whose business and pride
it was to drive me from place to place, and indicate to me the
important buildings of his majestic city. He was a patriotic showman,
and I am bound to say he showed us a great deal; but the most memorable
moment of that instructive day was when he stopped before, what seemed
to us, a respectable mansion in a respectable street, and announced to
us that "you" was "the Free Kirk _Univairsity_." It was the first time
in my life that I had heard four stone walls with a roof over them
called a University. It was not long, however, before I discovered that
I myself had been living with my head in a sack and, in more senses
than one, had been of those

     Who sweep the crossings, wet or dry,
       And all the world go by them.

Only so could it have come to pass that this new meaning for an old
word had struck me as strange, not to say ludicrous.

          Licuit semperque licebit
     Signatum praesente nota producere nomen.

_Allowable?_ Yes! and much more than merely allowable; it is inevitable
that as the ages roll we should attach new meanings to old words. And
if this is inevitable, not the less inevitable is it that, when we
desire to trace the history of the thing signified, we should be
compelled to recur to the original meaning of the name by which the
thing is designated.

A word at starting upon the remarkable book [Footnote: "The
Architectural History of the University of Cambridge, and of the
Colleges of Cambridge and Eton." By the late Robert Willis, M.A.,
F.R.S. Edited, with large additions, and brought up to the present
time, by John Willis Clark, M.A., late Fellow of Trin. Coll., Camb. 4
vols. super-royal 8vo Cambridge: The University Press.] which has
suggested the following article. To say of it that it is quite the most
sumptuous work that has ever proceeded from the Cambridge Press, is to
say little. It is hardly too much to say that it is one of the most
important contributions to the social and intellectual history of
England which has ever been made by a Cambridge man. The title of the
work conveys but a very inadequate notion of its wide scope, of the
encyclopaedic learning and originality of treatment which it displays,
and, least of all, of the abundance of _human interest_ which
characterizes it so markedly. It is because of this wealth of human
interest that the book must needs exercise a powerful fascination upon
those who have a craving to get some insight into the life of their
forefathers; and it is because I believe the number of such students of
history is in our times rapidly on the increase, that I am anxious to
draw attention to some few of the many matters treated of so ably in
these magnificent volumes.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

The term _University_, in its original acceptation, was used to
designate any aggregate of _persons_ associated in a political,
religious, or trading corporation, having common interests, common
privileges, and common property. The inhabitants of a town, the members
of a fraternity, the brethren of a guild, the monks or canons of a
religious house, when addressed in formal instruments, were addressed
as a _University_. Nay! when the whole body of the faithful is appealed
to as Christian men, the ordinary phrase made use of by lay or
ecclesiastical potentate, when signifying his wishes or intentions, is
"Noverit _Universitas_ vestra." A University in this sense, regarded as
an aggregate of persons, might be localized or it might not; its
members might be scattered over the whole Christian world, or they
might constitute an inner circle of some larger community, of which
they--though a _Universitas_--formed but a part. A University in its
original signification meant no more than our modern term an
Association. When men associated together for purposes of trade, they
were a trading _Universitas_; when they associated for religious
objects, they were a religious _Universitas_; when they associated for
the promotion of learning, they were a learned _Universitas_. But the
men came first, the bricks and mortar followed long after. The
architectural history, in its merely technical and professional
details, could only start at a point where the University, as an
association of scholars and students, had already acquired power and
influence, had been at work for long, and had got to make itself felt
as a living force in the body politic and in the national life. It was
because the antiquaries of a former age lost sight of this truth that
they indulged in the extravagances they did. Starting from the
assumption that stonewalls make an institution, they professed to tell
when the Universities came into existence and who were their earliest
founders. The authors of this modern _Magnum Opus_ have set themselves
to deal with a far more instructive problem. Their object has been to
trace the growth of the University of to-day in its concrete form, down
from the early times when it existed only in the germ; and to show us
how "the glorious fellowship of living men," which constituted the
_personal_ University of the eleventh or the twelfth century, developed
by slow degrees into the brick-and-mortar Universities of the
nineteenth--such Universities as are springing up all over the world;
their teachers advertised for in _The Times_, and their students
tempted to come and be taught in them by the bait of money rewards.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

As to the exact time when a band of scholars and teachers first made
their home in Cambridge or Oxford, and began to attract to themselves
from the four winds classes of eager youths hungry for intellectual
food and anxious to listen and learn, that we must be content to leave
undetermined. They who like the flavour of the old antiquarianism may
enjoy it in its spiciest form, if they choose to hunt up among certain
forgotten volumes now grown scarce. They may read what John Caius
(pronounced Keys) wrote as the champion of Cambridge, and Thomas Caius
wrote as champion of Oxford; they may rejoice their hearts over the
Battle of the Keys, and come to what conclusion they prefer to arrive
at. For most of us, however, this sort of old-world lore has lost its
charm. A man lives through his taste for some questions. The student of
history nowadays is inclined to say with St. Paul, "So fight I not as
one that beateth the air," and to reject with some impatience the
frivolous questions which help not a jot towards bringing us into
closer relation with the life and personality of our ancestors.

     "I am halt sick of shadows," said
                     The Lady of Shalott;

and we, too, have grown weary of weaving our webs with our backs to the
light. There is no making any way in Cloudland. We ask for firm ground
on which to plant our footsteps, if we would move onwards.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

It would have been very galling to the Oxford antiquaries of Queen
Elizabeth's days to have to acknowledge that there was a Cambridge
before there was an Oxford. Nevertheless the fact is so. Hide your
diminished heads, ye rash ones who would fain have us believe that a
thousand years before our era, King Mempric, the wicked king whom the
wolves ate--as was right and fitting they should--built a noble city,
which as time went on "was called _Oxonia_, or by the Saxons
_Oxenfordia_." Alack! it turns out that we must make an enormous step
along the course of time before we can find trace of any such city or
anything like it. It turns out that "the year 912 saw Oxford made a
fortified town, with a definite duty to perform and a definite district
assigned to it." What! Seven years after the great Alfred had closed
his eyes in death, and left to others the work which he had showed them
how to do? Yes! Even so. It may be very hard to have to confess the
odious crime of youth; but it seems almost capable of demonstration
that Cambridge, as a fortress and a a town existed a thousand years
before Oxford was anything but a desolate swamp, or at most a trumpery
village, where a handful of Britons speared eels, hunted for deer, and
laboriously manufactured earthenware pots. What have we to do with
thee, thou daughter of yesterday? Stand aside while thine elder
sister--ay, old enough to be thy mother--takes her place of honour. She
has waited long for her historian; he has come at last, and he was
worth waiting for.

In times before the Roman legionaries planted their firm feet in
Britain, there was a very formidable fortress at Cambridge. It
contained about sixty acres; it was surmounted by one of those mighty
earthworks which the hand of man in the old days raised by sheer brute
force, or rather by enormous triumph of organized labour. The Romans
drove out the Britons, and settled a garrison in the place. Two of the
great Roman roads intersected at this point, and the conquerors called
it by a new name, as was their wont, retaining some portion of the old
one. In their language it was known as _Caniboritum_. The primeval
fortress stood on the left bank of the river, which some called the
Granta and some called the Cam; and for reasons best known to
themselves, the Romans did not think fit to span that river by a
bridge, but they made their great Via Devana pass sheer through the
river-as some Dutch or German Irrationalist has pretended that the
children of Israel did when they found the Jordan barring their
progress--that is, those Roman creatures constructed a solid pavement
in the bed of the sluggish stream, over which less audacious engineers
would have thrown an arch. Through the water they carried a kind of
causeway, and the name of the place for centuries indicated that it was
situated on the _ford_ of the Cam. But what the Roman did not choose to
do, that the people that came after him found it needful to do. In the
Saxon Chronicle we find that the old fortress which the Romans had held
and strengthened, and then perforce abandoned, had got to be called
Granta-brygge; and this name, or something very like it, it retained
when the great survey was made as the Norman Conqueror's reign was
drawing to its close. By this time the town had moved across to the
right bank of the river, and had become a town surrounded by a ditch
and defended by walls and gates. Already it contained at least four
hundred houses, and on the site of the old mound the Norman raised a
new castle, and in doing that he laid some twenty-nine houses low.

The early history of Oxford is more or less connected with that of the
obscure and insignificant monastery of St. Frideswide, though even at
Oxford it is observable that the town and the University grew up in
almost entire independence of any influence exercised by any of the
older religious houses. At Cambridge this was much more the case. There
were no _monks_ at Cambridge at any time; there never were any nearer
than at the Abbey of Ely, in the old times a long day's journey off,
and accessible in the winter, if accessible at all, only by water. King
Knut, we are told, greatly favoured the Abbey of Ely, visited it, was
entertained there, in fact restored it. But at Cambridge there were no
monks. No _real_ monks; a fact which ought to be a significant hint to
"all educated men," but which, unhappily, is likely to be significant
only to the few who have taken the trouble to learn what a real monk
professed to be. If there were no monks at Cambridge, there was
something else. Outside the walls of the town there rose up, in the
twelfth century, the priory of Barnwell-a priory of Augustinian
_canons_; and, moreover, a nunnery-the Benedictine nunnery of St.
Rhadegunda. Within the walls there was another house of Augustinians,
which was known as St. John's Hospital; that is, a house where the
canons made it part of their duty to provide a spurious kind of
_hospitality_ to travellers, much in the same way that the Hospice of
St. Bernard offers food and shelter now to the wayfarer, and with such
food and shelter something more--to wit, the opportunity of worshipping
the Most High in peace, up there among the eternal snows. At St. John's
Hospital, as at St. Bernard's, the grateful wanderer who had found a
refuge would leave behind him his thankoffering in recognition of the
kindly treatment he had met with, and it might happen that these free
gifts constituted no small portion of the income on which the
canons--for the most part a humble and unpretentious set of men-kept up
their houses.

With the dawn of the thirteenth century came the great revivalists--the
friars. Wherever the friars established themselves they began not only
to preach, but to teach. They were the awakeners of a new intellectual
life; not only the stimulators of an emotional pietism always prone to
run into religious intoxication and extravagance. With the coming of
the friars what may be called the modern history of Cambridge begins.
Not that it can be allowed that there were no schools of repute on the
banks of the Cam till the coming of the friars; it is certain that
learning had her home at Cambridge long before this time.

As early as 1187 Giraldus Cambrensis came to Oxford and read his
_Expugnatio Hiberniae_ in public lectures, and entertained the doctors
of the diverse faculties and the most distinguished scholars.
[Footnote: Bishop Stubbs's "Lectures on Mediaeval and Modern History,"
p. 141, 8vo, 1886.] Oxford was doubtless at that time more renowned,
but Cambridge followed not far behind. If the friars settled at
Cambridge early in their career, it was because there was a suitable
home for them there--an opening as we say--which the flourishing
condition of the University afforded. There were scholars to teach,
there were masters to dispute with, there were doctors to criticize,
oppose, or befriend. Doubtless, too, there were already strained
relations between the townsmen and the gownsmen at Cambridge as at
Oxford. The first great "town and gown row" which we hear of took place
at Oxford in 1209, but when we do hear of it we find the other
University mentioned by the historian in close connection with the
event recorded. The townsmen under great provocation had seized three
of the gownsmen _in hospitio suo_ and threw them into the gaol. King
John came down to make inquiry, and he hung those three, guiltless
though they were, as Matthew Paris assures us. Hereupon there was
intense indignation, and the University dispersed. Three thousand of
the gownsmen migrated elsewhere, some to Cambridge we learn. Oxford for
a while was deserted. This was fifteen years before the Franciscans
settled among us. It was the year in which King John was
excommunicated. There were only three bishops left in England; the king
had worried all the rest away. There was misery and anarchy everywhere.
Yet, strange to say, in the midst of all the bitterness men _would_
have their sons educated, and the Universities did not despair of the
republic. Shadowy and fragmentary as all the evidence is on which we
have to rely for the history of the Universities during the twelfth
century, it is enough to make us certain that the friars settled at
Cambridge because there they found scope for their labours. There was
undoubtedly a University there long before they arrived. Nevertheless,
it is not till the middle of the reign of Henry the Third (A.D.
1216-1272) that we come upon any direct mention of a corporation which
could be regarded as a chartered society of scholars at Cambridge, and
it is difficult to resist the conviction that, whatever may have been
its previous history, and however far back its infancy may date, the
friars were to some extent nursing fathers of the University of

And this brings us again to the point from which we started a page or
two back, and gives me the opportunity of quoting a passage from
Professor Willis's introduction, which will serve at once as a
continuation of and comment upon what has been said, while leading us
on to what still lies before us.

The University of the Middle Ages was a corporation of learned men,
associated for the purposes of teaching, and possessing the privilege
that no one should be allowed to teach within their dominion unless he
had received their sanction, which could only be granted after trial of
his ability. The test applied consisted of examinations and public
disputations; the sanction assumed the form of a public ceremony, and
the name of _a degree_; and the teachers or doctors so elected or
created carried out their office of instruction by lecturing in the
public schools to the students who, desirous of hearing them, took up
their residence in the place wherein the University was located. The
degree was in fact merely a license to teach; the teacher so licensed
became a member of the ruling body.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

We have arrived at this point--we find ourselves at the beginning of
the thirteenth century face to face with a _University_ at Cambridge, a
University which, existing originally in its inchoate condition of an
association vaguely aiming at the improvement of the methods of
education and the encouragement of scholars, had gradually grown into a
recognized and powerful body, with direct influence and control over
its members; a body, too, which had become so identified with the
interests of culture and research that a change had already begun in
the generally received acceptation of its name, and already the word
"university" had begun to be restricted to such a _Universitas_ as was
identified with the life and pursuits of learning and learned men. This
means that, _pari passu_ with its increase in power, the University had
grown too, in the number of its members--the teachers and the taught.
The time had arrived when the demands of professors and students for
adequate accommodation would become pressing. Lecturers with popular
gifts would expect a hall capable of holding their audiences. Public
disputations could not be held in a corner. Receptions of eminent
scholars from a distance, and all those ceremonials which were so dear
to gentle and simple in the middle ages, required space, and were the
more effective the grander the buildings in which they were displayed,
Yet how little the Cantabs of the thirteenth century could have dreamt
of what was coming! What a day of small things it was! Six hundred
years ago the giant was in his cradle.

Meanwhile, another need than that of mere schools and lecture-halls had
begun to be felt. The scholars who came for what they could get from
the teachers--the regents and the doctors--flocked from various
quarters; they were young, they were not all fired with the student's
love of learning; they were sometimes noisy, sometimes frolicsome,
sometimes vicious. As now is the case at Edinburgh and Heidelberg, so
it was then at Cambridge, the bonds of discipline were very slight; the
scholars had to take their chance; they lodged where they could, they
lived anyhow, each according to his means; they were homeless. It was
inevitable that all sorts of grave evils should arise.

The lads--they were mere boys--got into mischief, they got into debt
with the Jews; for there were Jews at Cambridge, not a few; they were
preyed upon by sharpers, were fleeced on the right hand and on the
left; many of them learned more harm than good. The elder men, and they
who had consciences and hearts, shook their heads, and asked what could
be done? For a long time the principle of _laissez faire_ prevailed:
the young fellows were left to the tender mercies of the townsfolk.
There was no grandmotherly legislation in those days. Gradually a kind
of joint-stock arrangement came into vogue. Worthy people seemed to
have hired a house which they called a _hostel_ or hall, and sub-let
the rooms to the young fellows; the arrangement appears to have been
clumsily managed, and led to dissensions between town and gown; the
townsmen soon discovered that the gownsmen were gainers by the new
plan, and they themselves were losers. They grumbled, protested,
quarrelled. But it was a move in the right direction, and a beginning
of some moral discipline was made, and that could not but be well.
These _hostels_ were set up at Cambridge certainly at the beginning of
the thirteenth century, and how long before we cannot tell; but it was
at Oxford that the first _college_, as we understand the term, rose
into being. It was Walter de Merton, Chancellor of England, who was the
father of the collegiate system in England. So far from embarking upon
a new experiment without careful deliberation, he spent twelve years of
his life in working out his ideas and in elaborating the famous _Rule
of Merton_, of which it is not at all too much to say that its
publication constituted an era in the history of education and learning
in England. Merton died in 1277. Hugh de Balsham, Bishop of Ely, who
survived him nine years, appears to have been moved with a desire to do
for Cambridge what Merton had done for Oxford. Balsham is spoken of as
the founder of St. Peter's College, and in one sense he was so. The
bishops of Ely were the patrons of Cambridge. Bishop Balsham asked
himself what could be done, and set himself to deal with the problems
which presented themselves for solution in the condition of his own
University. He was not a great man, that seems clear enough: his
schemes were crude; he bungled. The truth seems to me to be that the
feeling at Cambridge was one of suspicion, and there are indications
that the bishops of Ely in an awkward fashion were opposed to anything
like _secular education_. We hear of money being left to support
_priests_ studying theology, and of an experiment for introducing
scholars as residents in the Hospital of St. John. The canons were to
take in the young scholars as _boarders_ into their house, and look
after their conduct and morals. The plan did not answer. It was an
attempt to put new wine into old bottles. There came an explosion.
Cambridge in the thirteenth century had not the _men_ that Oxford had,
so Oxford kept the lead. Perhaps there was some soreness. Did
ecclesiastics shake their heads as they saw the walls of Balliol
College rise, and learnt that there was just a little too much
importance given to mere scholarship, and no prominence given to
theology in those early statutes of 1282? Did they, without knowing
why, anticipate with anxiety the awakening of a spirit of free thought
and free inquiry among those scholars of the Merton, Rule? Did the
orthodox party resort to prophecy, which is seldom very complimentary
or cheerful in its utterances?

This is certain, that while Balliol College was building there was a
stir among the Benedictines, and an effort made to assert themselves
and take their place among the learned. John Giffard started his great
college for the reception of student monks at Oxford. It became, and
for centuries continued to be, the resort of the Benedictine order, and
was supported by levies from a large number of the old monasteries. The
inference is forced upon us that the English monasteries no longer
stood in the front rank as seats of learning. Students and scholars
would no longer go to the monks; the monks must go to the scholars. But
the establishment of a seminary for the reception of young monks at
Oxford tended to the strengthening of the ecclesiastical influence in
that University. Cambridge lost in the same proportion that Oxford
gained. Even the great Priory of Norwich sent its promising young monks
to Qxford, passing by the nearer and more conveniently situated
University. As early as 1288 we find entries in the Norwich Priory
Rolls of payments for the support of the schools and scholars at
Oxford. It was long after this that Cambridge offered any similar
attraction to the "religious."

Be it noted that until Merton's day people had never heard of what we
now understand by a _college_. It was a novelty in English
institutions. Men and women had lived commonly enough in societies that
were essentially religious in their character. Some of those societies,
and only some, had drifted into becoming the quiet homes of learning as
well as of devotion; but the main business-the _raison d'être_ of monks
and nuns and canons-was the practice of asceticism, the keeping up of
unceasing worship in the church of the monastery--the endeavour to be
holier than men of the world need be, or the endeavour to make the men
of the world holier than they cared to be. The religious orders were
religious or they were nothing. Each new rule for the reformation of
those orders aimed at restoring the primitive idea of self-immolation
at the altar--a severer ritual, harder living, longer praying. Nay! the
new rules, in not a few instances, were actually aimed against learning
and culture. The Merton Rule was a bringer in of new things. Merton
would not call his society of scholars a _convent_, as the old monkish
corporations had been designated. That sounded too much as though the
mere promotion of pietism was his aim; he revived the old classical
word _collegium_. There had been _collegia_ at Rome before the imperial
times; though some of them had been religious bodies, some were
decidedly not so. They were societies which held property, pursued
certain avocations, and acted in a corporate capacity for very mundane
objects. Why should not there be a _collegium_ of scholars? Why should
students and men of learning be expected to be holier than other
people? When Merton started his college at Oxford, he made it plain by
his statutes that he did not intend to found a society after the old
conventual type, but to enter upon a new departure.

The scholars of the new college were to take no vows; they were not to
be worried with everlasting ritual observances. Special chaplains, who
were presumably not expected to be scholars and students, were
appointed for the ministration of the ceremonial in the church. Luxury
was guarded against; poverty was not enjoined. As long as a scholar was
pursuing his studies _bonâ fide_, he might remain a member of the
college; if he was tired of books and bookish people, he might go.

When a man strikes out a new idea, he is not allowed to keep it to
himself very long. The new idea soon gets taken up; sometimes it gets
improved upon; sometimes very much the reverse. For a wise man acts
upon a hint, and it germinates; a fool only half apprehends the meaning
of a hint, and he displays his folly in producing a caricature. Hugh de
Balsham seems to have aimed at improving upon Merton's original idea.
He meant well, doubtless; but his college of Peterhouse, the first
college in Cambridge, was a very poor copy of the Oxford foundation.
Merton was a man of genius, a man of ideas; Balsham was a man of the
cloister. Moreover, he was by no means so rich as his predecessor, and
he did not live to carry out his scheme. The funds were insufficient.
The first college at Cambridge was long in building. Cambridge, in
fact, was very unfortunate. Somehow there was none of the dash and
enthusiasm, none of the passion for progress, which characterized
Oxford. Cambridge had no moral genius like Grosseteste to impress his
strong personality upon the movement which the friars stirred, no
commanding intellect like that of Roger Bacon to attract and dazzle and
lead into quite new regions of thought the ardent and eager spirits who
felt that a new era had begun; no Occam or Duns Scotus or Bradwardine;
no John Wielif to kindle a new flame--say, rather, to take up the torch
which had dropped from Bradwardine's hand, and continue the race which
the others had run so well. What a grand succession of men it was!

Five colleges had been founded at Oxford before a second arose at
Cambridge. After that they followed in rapid succession, and the reign
of Edward the Third had not come to an end when no fewer than seven
colleges had been opened at Cambridge. Five of them have survived to
our own days, and two were eventually absorbed by the larger foundation
which Henry the Seventh was ambitious of raising, and which now stands
forth in its grandeur, the most magnificent educational corporation in
the world.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Where did all the money come from, not only to raise the original
buildings in which the _University_, as a teaching body, pursued its
work, but which also provided the _houses_ in which the _colleges_ of
scholars lived and laboured?

Unhappily, we know very little of the University buildings during this
early period. All the industry of Mr. Clark has not availed to
penetrate the thick obscurity; but this at least is pretty certain,
namely, that the earliest University buildings at Cambridge were very
humble structures clustering round about the area now covered by the
University schools and library, that it was not till the middle of the
fourteenth century that any attempt was made to erect a building of any
pretension, and that the "Schools Quadrangle was not completed till 130
years after the first stone was laid." The University of Cambridge was
for ages a very poor corporation; it had no funds out of which to build
halls or schools or library. The ceremonies at _commencement_ and on
other great occasions took place in the churches, sometimes of the
Augustinian, sometimes of the Franciscan friars. In these early times
the gownsmen dared not contemplate the erection of a senate-house
wherein to hold their meetings. When the fourteenth-century schools
were planned their erection was doubtless regarded as a very bold and
ambitious experiment. The money came in very slowly, the work stopped
more than once, and when it proceeded it was only by public
subscription that the funds were gathered. In 1466, William Wilflete,
Master of Clare Hall and Chancellor of the University, actually made a
journey to London to gather funds from whatever quarters he could, and
he dunned his friends, and those on whom the University had any claim,
so successfully that on June 25 of that year a contract for proceeding
with the work was drawn up and signed, but it was nearly nine years
after this before the schools were finally completed, together with a
new library over them, by the special munificence of Archbishop
Rotherham, who had further enriched the library with numerous volumes
of great value.

The tie which bound the members of the _University_ together was much
weaker than that which united the members of the same _college_. The
colleges were, in almost every case, founded by private munificence,
and in most cases were commenced during the lifetime of the several
founders; but when we come to look into the sources of the college
revenues we find that the actual gifts of money, or indeed of lands,
was less than at first sight appears. A very large proportion of the
endowments of these early colleges came from the _spoliation of the
parochial clergy_. Popular writers in our own time declaim against the
horrible sin of buying and selling church preferment, as if it were a
modern abomination. Let a man only spend half an hour in examining the
_fines_ or records of transfers of property in England during the
fourteenth century and he will be somewhat surprised to discover what a
part the buying and selling of advowsons played in the business
transactions of our forefathers five centuries ago. Advowsons were
always in the market, and always good investments in those days, But
not only so. A pious founder could do a great deal in the way of making
perpetual provision for the mention of his name by posterity at a small
cost if he took care to manipulate ecclesiastical property with
prudence. There was a crafty device whereby the owner of the advowson
could _appropriate_ the tithes of a benefice to the support of any
corporation which might be considered a _religious_ foundation. The old
monasteries had benefited to some extent from this disendowment of the
secular clergy, the Augustinian canons, during the twelfth century,
being the chief gainers by the pillage. When the rage for founding
colleges came in, and the awful ravages of the Black Death had
depopulated whole districts, the fashion of alienating the revenues of
the country parsons and diverting them into the new channel grew to be
quite a rage. The colleges of secular priests living together in
common, or what it is now the fashion to call a clergy house, might be
and were strictly _religious_ foundations; and could the colleges of
scholars, of teachers and learners who presumably were all priests, or
intended for the priesthood, be regarded as less _religious_ than the
others? So it came to pass that the tithes of parish after parish were
diverted into a new channel, and these very colleges at Cambridge which
were professedly meant to raise the standard of education among the
seculars were endowed at the expense of those same secular clergy. In
order that the country parsons might be better educated, it was
arranged that the country parsons should be impoverished!

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Seven new colleges opened in less than thirty years at Cambridge alone!
Think what this must have meant. I suspect that Oxford had attracted
the reading men, and Cambridge possessed charms for the fast ones. How
else are we to explain Archbishop Stratford's stringent order in 1342
for the repression of the dandyism that prevailed among the young
scholars? These young Cantabs of the fourteenth century were exquisites
of the first water. Their fur-trimmed cloaks and their tippets; their
shoes of all the colours of the rainbow; their dainty girdles,
bejewelled and gilt, were a sight to see. And then their hair!
positively curled and powdered, and growing over their shoulders, too;
and when they passed their fingers through the curls, look you, there
were rings on their fingers! Call you these scholars? Chaucer's "Clerk
of Oxenforde" was of a very different type:--

  For all that he might of his frendes hentc
  On books and in learning he it spente.

Nevertheless it can hardly have been but that the foundation of so many
colleges at Cambridge brought in a stricter discipline; the new
collegiate life of the scholars began. Perhaps for the majority of
readers no part of Mr. dark's great work will prove so attractive as
the last four hundred pages, with their delightful essays on "The
Component Parts of a College." Here we have traced out for us in the
most elaborate manner, the gradual development of the collegiate idea,
from the time when it expressed itself in a building that had no
particular plan, down to our own days, when colleges vie with one
another in architectural splendour and in the lavish completeness of
their arrangements.

At the outset the uninitiated must prepare to have some of their
favourite theories rudely shattered. We are in the habit of assuming
that a quadrangle is one of the essential features of a college. It is
almost amazing to learn that the quadrangular arrangement was adopted
very gradually.

Again, we are often assured that the colleges at the two older
universities are the only relics of the monastic system, and are
themselves monastic in their origin. A greater fallacy could hardly be
propounded. It would be nearer the truth to say that the founding of
the colleges was at once a protest against the monasteries and an
attempt to supersede them.

More startling still is the fact that a college did not at first
necessarily imply that there was a chapel attached. So far from this
being the case, it is certain that Peterhouse, the oldest college in
Cambridge, never had a chapel till the present building was consecrated
in 1632. It was with great difficulty that the Countess of Pembroke in
1366 was allowed to build a chapel within the precincts of her new
college; and, so far from these convenient adjuncts to a collegiate
establishment having been considered an essential in early times, no
less than eight of the college chapels at Cambridge and four at Oxford
date from a time after the Reformation. In the fourteenth century and
later the young scholars, as a rule, attended their parish church.
Sometimes the college added on an aisle for the accommodation of its
members; sometimes it obtained a _licence_ to use a room in which
Divine Service might be conducted for a time; once the founder of a
college erected a collegiate quire in the middle of the parish church,
a kind of gigantic _pew,_ for the accommodation of his scholars.
Downing College has never had a chapel to the present hour.

Of all the developments, however, in the college idea, none has been
more remarkable than that of the master's lodge. In the fourteenth
century the master of a college was but _primits inter pares,_ and the
distance between him and his _fellows_ or _scholars_ was less than that
which exists now between the Commanding officer of a regiment in
barracks and his brother officers. The master had no sinecure; the
discipline of the place depended upon him almost entirely, for in those
days the monarchial idea was in the ascendant; the king was a real
king, the bishop a real bishop, the master a real master. Everything
was referred to him, everything originated with him, everything was
controlled by him. But as for the accommodation assigned to him in the
early colleges, it was very inferior indeed to that which every
graduate at Trinity or St. John's expects to find in our time. The
Provost of Oriel in 1329 was permitted by the statutes to dine apart if
he pleased, and to reside outside the precincts of the college if he
chose to provide for himself another residence; but this was clearly an
exceptional case, for the master was at this time the actual founder of
the college, and Adam de Brune might be presumed to know what was good
for his successors in the office for which he himself had made
provision. But for generations the master enjoyed no more than a couple
of _chambers_ at the most, and it was not till the sixteenth century
that an official residence was provided, and then such residence
consisted only of _lodgings_ a little more spacious and convenient than
those of any of the fellows, and in no case separated from the main
buildings of the college. Even when masters of colleges began to marry
(and the earliest instance of this seems to have been Dr. Heynes,
Master of Queens' College, in 1529), it was long before the master's
wife was so far recognized as to be received within the precincts; and
as late as 1576, when the fellows of King's complained of their
provost's wife being seen within the college, Dr. Goad replied that she
had not been twice in the college "Quad" in her life, as far as he
knew. When the great break-up came in the next century, then the
establishment of the master demanded increased accommodation for his
family, and the master's lodge began to grow slowly, until university
architects of the nineteenth century displayed their exalted sense of
what was due to the dignity of a "head of a house" by erecting two such
palaces as the lodges of Pembroke and St. John's Colleges; for the
glorification of the artist, it may be, but whether for the advantage
of the college, the university, or the occupants of the aforesaid
lodges may be reasonably doubted. One master's lodge in Cambridge _is
at this moment let,_ presumably for the benefit of the head of the
house, whose official residence it is; and, if things go on as they are
tending, the day may come--who knows how soon?--when Cambridge shall at
last be able to boast of a really good hotel, "in a central and very
desirable situation, commanding a delightful view of"--what shall we
say?--"fitted up with every convenience, and formerly known as the
Master's Lodge of St. Boniface College."

I am inclined to think that there is such a thing as architecture run
to seed.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

If any one imagines that it would be possible within the limits of a
single essay to follow Mr. Clark through the exhaustive processes of
investigation which he has pursued, or to summarize at all
satisfactorily the results which he has arrived at and set forth in so
masterly a manner, let such an one spend only a single hour in turning
over the leaves of these splendid volumes. The exquisite illustrations
alone (which count by hundreds), and the elaborate maps and
ground-plans, are full of surprises; they speak with an eloquence of
their own to such as have eyes to see and in whom there is a spark of
imagination to enlighten the paths along which their accomplished guide
can lead them. Do you think that such a work as this tells us no more
than how the stone walls rose and the buildings assumed their present
form, and court was added to court, and libraries and museums and
lecture-rooms and all the rest of them were constructed by the
professional gentlemen who drew the plans, and piled up by the masons
and the bricklayers? Then you will do it a grievous injustice.

  Horizons rich with trembling spires
  On violet twilights, lose their fires

if there be no human element to cast a living glow upon them. The
authors of this architectural history knew better than any one else
that they were dealing with the architectural history of a great
national institution. They knew that these walls--some so old and
crumbling, some so new and hard and unlovely--bear upon them the marks
of all the changes and all the progress, the conflicts and the
questionings, the birth-throes of the new childhood, the fading out of
a perplexed senility, the earnest grappling with error, the painful
searching after truth which the spirit of man has gone through in these
homes of intellectual activity during the lapse of six hundred years.
Do you wish to understand the buildings? Then you must study the life;
and the converse is true also. Either explains, and is the
indispensable interpreter of, the obscurities of the other. Mr. Clark
could not have produced this exhaustive history of university and
collegiate fabrics if he had not gained a profound insight into the
student life of Cambridge from the earliest times.

How did they live, these young scholars in the early days? Through what
whimsical vagaries have the fashions changed? As the centuries have
rolled on, have the youth of England become better or wiser than their
sires? Neither better nor wiser seems to be the answer. The outer man
is not as he was; the real moral and intellectual stamina of Englishmen
has at least suffered no deterioration. Our habits are different; our
dress, our language, the look of our homes, are all other than they
were. Our wants have multiplied immensely; the amount of physical
discomfort and downright suffering which our ancestors were called upon
to endure doubtless sent up the death-rate to a figure which to us
would be appalling. We start from a standing-point in moral, social,
and intellectual convictions so far in advance of that of our
forefathers that they could not conceive of such a _terminus ad quern_
as serves us as a _terminus a quo._ In other words, we _begin_ at a
point in the line which they never conceived could be reached. Yet the
more closely we look into the past the more do we see how history in
all essentials is for ever repeating herself--impossible though it may
be to put the clock back for ourselves.

How significant is the fact that through all these centuries of
building and planting, of pulling down and raising up, the makers of
Cambridge--that is, the men who achieved for her her place in the
realms of thought, inquiry, and discovery--never seemed to have thought
that Death could play much havoc among them. In the old monasteries
there was always a cemetery. The canon or the monk who passed into the
cloister came there once for all--to live _and die_ within the walls of
his monastery. The scholar who came to get all the learning he could,
and who settled in some humble hostel or some unpretentious college of
the old type, came to spend some few years there, but no more. He came
to live his life, and when there was no more life in him--no more
youthful force, activity, and enthusiasm-there was no place for him at
Cambridge, There they wanted men of vigour and energy, not past their
work. Die? No! as long as he was verily alive it was well that he
should stay and toil. When he was a dying man, better he should go. No
college at Cambridge had a cemetery. Let the dead bury their dead!

Indeed, it must have been hard for the weak and sickly--the lad of
feeble frame and delicate organization-to stand that rugged old
Cambridge life. "College rooms" in our time suggest something like the
_ne plus ultra_ of aesthetic elegance and luxury. We find it hard to
realize the fact that for centuries a Fellow of a college was expected
to have two or three _chamber fellows_ who shared his bedroom with him;
and that his _study_ was no bigger than a study at the schoolhouse at
Rugby, and very much smaller than a fourth-form boy enjoys at many a
more modern public school. At the hostels, which were of course much
more crowded than the colleges were, a separate bed was the privilege
of the few. What must have been the condition of those semi-licensed
receptacles for the poorer students in the early times, when we find as
late as 1598 that in St. John's College there were no less than seventy
members of the college "accommodated" (!) in twenty-eight chambers.
This was before the second court at St. John's was even begun, and yet
these seventy Johnians were living in luxury when compared with their
predecessors of two hundred years before.

"In the early colleges the windows of the chambers were unglazed and
closed with wooden shutters; their floors were either of clay or tiled;
and their halls and ceilings were unplastered." We have express
testimony that at Corpus Christi College not even the master's lodge
had been glazed and panelled before the beginning of the sixteenth
century. By an inventory which Mr. Clark has printed, dated July 3,
1451, it appears that in the master's lodge at King's College, "the
wealthiest lodge of the university, there was then only one chair; that
the tables were supported on trestles; and that those who used them sat
on forms or stools." As for the chambers and studies, not only were
they destitute of anything in the shape of stoves or fire-places, but
their walls were absolutely bare, while in the upper chambers there
were not even lath and plaster between the tiles and the beams of the
roof. It is to us almost incomprehensible how vitality could have been
kept up in the winter under such conditions. The cold must have been

At four only of five earlier and smaller colleges was there any
fire-place in the hall, and the barbaric braziers in which first
charcoal and afterwards coke was burned, were actually the only heating
apparatus known in the immense halls of Trinity and St. John's till
within the last twenty years! The magnificent hall of Trinity actually
retained till 1866 the brazier _which had been in use for upwards of
160 years!_ The clumsy attempt to fight the bitter cold which was usual
in our mediaeval churches and manor-houses, by strewing the stone floor
with rushes, was carried out too in the college halls, and latterly,
instead of rushes, sawdust was used, at least in Trinity. "It was laid
on the floor at the beginning of winter, and turned over with a rake as
often as the upper surface became dirty. Finally, when warm weather set
in, it was removed, the colour of charcoal!" Well might the late
Professor Sedgwick, in commenting upon this practice, exclaim; "The
dirt was sublime in former years!"

Yet in the earliest times a lavatory was provided in the college halls,
and a towel of eight or nine yards long, which at Trinity, as late as
1612, was hung on a hook--the refinement of hanging a towel on a
_roller_ does not appear to have been thought of. These towels were for
use _before_ dinner; _at_ dinner the fellows of Christ's in 1575 were
provided with table-napkins. If they wiped their fingers on the
table-cloth they were fined a penny. The temptation must have been
strong at times, for _no forks were in use_--not even the iron-pronged
forks which some of us remember in hall in our young days. The oldest
piece of furniture in the college halls were the stocks, set up for the
correction of refractory undergraduates who should have been guilty of
the enormity of bathing in the Cam or other grave offence and scandal.

Of the amusements indulged in by the undergraduates at Cambridge in the
early times we hear but little. The probability seems to be that they
had to manage for themselves as best they could. Gradually the
bowling-green, the butts for archery, and the tennis-courts were
provided by several colleges. Tennis seems to have been the rage at
Cambridge during the sixteenth century, and the tennis-courts became
sources of revenue in the Elizabethan time, It is clear that by this
time the old severity and rigour had become relaxed, the colleges had
become richer, and in another hundred years the combination-rooms had
become comfortable and almost luxurious before the seventeenth century
closed. In Queens' College in 1693 there were actually _flowers_ in the
combination-room, and at Christ's College in 1716 a card-table was
provided "in the fellows' parlour."

It may be said that the immense expansion of the University, as
distinct from a mere aggregate of colleges, dates from the beginning of
the eighteenth century. Up to that time the colleges had for four
hundred years been steadily growing into privileged corporations, whose
wealth and power had been too great for the Commonwealth, of which they
were in idea only members. With the Georgian era the new movement
began. When Bishop Moore's vast library was presented by George II. to
the _University,_ when the first stone of the Senate House was laid in
1722, when the _University_ arranged for the reception of Dr.
Woodward's fossils in 1735--these events marked the beginning of a new
order of things. Whatever confusion may have existed in the minds of
our grandfathers, who had a vague conviction that the University meant
no more than the aggregate of the colleges, and a suspicion that what
the University was the colleges made it--we, in our generation, have
been assured that the colleges owed their existence to the sufferance
of universities; or, if that be putting the case too strongly, that the
colleges exist for the sake of the University. The new view has at any
rate gained the approval of the Legislature; the University is in no
danger of being predominated over by the colleges in the immediate
future; the danger rather is lest the colleges should be starved or at
least impoverished for the glorification of the University, the
college-fellowships being shorn of their dignity and emoluments in
order to ensure that the University officials shall become the
exclusive holders of the richest prizes.

For good or evil we have entered upon a new career. The old Cambridge,
which some of us knew in our youth, with its solemn ecclesiasticism,
its quaint archaisms, its fantastic anomalies, its fascinating
picturesqueness, its dear old barbaric unintelligible odds and ends
that met us at every turn in street and chapel and hall--that old
Cambridge is as dead as the Egypt of the Pharaohs. The new Cambridge,
with its bustling syndics for ever on the move--its bewildering
complexity of examinations--its "sweet girl-graduates with their golden
hair," its delightful "notion of grand and capacious and massive
amusement," its glorious wealth of collections and appliances and
facilities for every kind of study and research, is alive with an
exuberant vitality.

What form will the new life assume in the time that is coming? Will the
Cambridge of six centuries hence be able to produce such a record of
her past as that which she can boast of now? Among her alumni of the
future will there arise again any such loyal and enlightened historians
as these who have raised to themselves and their University so noble a



     "Did you ever hear tell of Lodowick Muggleton?"

     "Not I."

     "That is strange. Know then that he was the founder
     of our poor society, and after him we are frequently,
     though oppro-briously, termed Muggletonians, for we
     are Christians. Here is his book; I will sell it cheap."

Scrupulous veracity was hardly a characteristic of the late George
Borrow. A man of great memory, he was also a man of fertile
imagination, and where the two are found in excess, side by side in the
same intellect, they are apt to twine round one another, so to speak,
and the product is something which the matter-of-fact man abhors. I do
not doubt that Borrow did meet a Muggletonian at Bristol--I think it
was there--some sixty years ago; but I am pretty sure that he knew very
little indeed about the Muggletonians, and that he could have hardly
opened the book which he implies that he purchased, and which I am
almost certain he never read. I have a strong suspicion that he very
much antedated the incident which he narrates, for I myself knew an old
secondhand bookseller in a back street at Bristol, who was a
Muggletonian, with whom I made acquaintance when a lad. He was a
slow-speaking, wary, suspicious, and dirty old man, and as I had not
sufficient funds to be a good customer, I daresay he did not think it
worth his while to be communicative, but he told me one day that he had
been one of the original subscribers to the _Spiritual Epistles_ which
were reprinted in quarto years before I was born; though, as he
confessed, his name does not appear on the list of names printed at the
end of the preface, which list, he assured me, was very incomplete, as
he from his own knowledge could certify. This old man would have been
very old indeed if he had been old when Borrow was a youth; and yet, as
I say, I suspect he was the very man of whom mention is made in the
extract I have given above. He was the only Muggletonian I ever knew,
but he certainly was not the last of his sect, and I should not be at
all surprised to hear that it is a flourishing sect still, and that it
still has its assemblies, its votaries, its literature, and its
propaganda. It is true that the name _Muggletonians_ does not appear in
that astonishing list of religious denominations which the
Registrar-General was enabled to compile for the year 1883; but that
proves little, inasmuch as the closer a religious corporation is, the
more exclusive, the less does it care to register the name of the
building in which it may choose to assemble for worship; and I observe
that the Southcotians are no longer to be found upon that list, though
I happen to know that they are not extinct yet, nor has their faith in
their prophetess and her mission quite died out from the face of the

This is certain, that as late as 1820 an edition of the _Spiritual
Epistles,_ which must have cost at that time two or three hundred
pounds to print, was subscribed for, and that nine years afterwards
appeared _Divine Songs of the Muggletonians_--they were not ashamed of
the name--printed also by subscription, filling 621 pages, and showing
pretty clearly that there had of late been a strange revival of the
sect: an outburst of new fervour having somehow been awakened, and an
irrepressible passion for writing "Songs" having displayed itself,
which had not been without its effect in resuscitating dormant
enthusiasm. The vagaries of the human mind in what, for want of any
better designation, we call "religious belief" have always had for me a
peculiar fascination, as they have for others. Epiphanius, whose name
is and used to be a terror to her Royal Highness in days gone by, when
I insisted upon reading to her about the peculiar people who made it a
matter of faith to eat bread and cheese at the Eucharist--Epiphanius is
to me positively entertaining, and Pagitt's _Heresiography_ is none the
less instructive because it is a vulgar catch-penny little book, made
up, like Peter Pindar's razors, to sell. To me it seems that to dismiss
even the wildest and foolishest opinion _which makes way,_ as if it
were a mere absurdity that does not deserve notice, is to show a
certain flippancy and shallowness. Do not all thoughtful men pass
through certain stages of intellectual growth, and are not the
convictions of our youth held very differently from those which we find
ourselves swayed by in our later years? The beliefs which the multitude
take up with are such as the untrained and the half-trained are always
captivated by, whether individually or in the mass. There are limits to
our powers of assimilation according as our development has been
arrested or is still going on, and he who hopes to understand the
course of human affairs or to make any intelligent forecast of what is
coming can never afford to neglect the study of morbid appetites or
morbid anatomy in the domain of mind.

There is a strong family likeness among all fanatics; and this is
characteristic of them all, that they are profusely communicative and
absolutely honest. Prophets have no secrets, no reserve, no doubts,
they are always true men. John Reeve and Lodowick Muggleton are no
exception to the general rule. We can follow their movements pretty
closely for some years. The book of _The Acts of the Witnesses of the
Spirit_ furnishes us with quite as much as we want to know about the
sayings and doings of the grotesque pair and their early extravagances;
and Muggleton's letters cover a period of forty years, during all which
time he was going in and out among the artisans and small traders of
the city, obstinately asserting himself in season and out of season,
and leaving behind him in his eccentric chronicle such a minute and
faithful picture of London life among the middle--the lower
middle--class during the last half of the seventeenth century as is to
be found nowhere else. The reader must be prepared for the most
startling freaks of language, for very vulgar profanity, the more
amazing because so manifestly unintended. When people break away from
all the traditions of the past and surrender themselves to absolute
anarchy in morals and religion the old terminology ceases to be
employed in the old way, ceases indeed to have any meaning. The prophet
or the philosopher who sets himself to invent a new theory of the
universe or a new creed for his followers to embrace, can hardly avoid
shocking and horrifying those who are content to use words as their
forefathers did and attach to these words the same sort of sacredness
that the Hebrews did to the Divine name. There is no need to do more
than allude to this side of the Muggletonian writing. What we are
concerned with is the story of the prophet's life, which has been told
with the utmost frankness and simplicity; a more unvarnished tale it
would be difficult to find, or one which bears more the stamp of truth
upon its every line.

_The Acts of the Witnesses of the Spirit_ is a posthumous work written
by Muggleton when he was very old, and left behind him in manuscript
with directions that it should be published after his death. It is a
quarto volume of 180 pages and is a book of some rarity. It was
published in 1699, with an epistle dedicatory to all true Christian
people, apparently written by Thomas Tomkinson, one of the chosen seed.
After preparing us for what is coming by dwelling upon the wonderful
stories in the Old Testament and the New, Muggleton plunges into his
subject by giving us a brief account of his own and his brother
prophet's parentage and early biography. Let the reader understand that
here beginneth the third chapter of _The Acts of the Witnesses_ at the
third verse:--

"3. As for John Reeve, he was born in Wiltshire; his father was clerk
to a deputy of Ireland, a gentleman as we call them by his place, but
fell to decay.

"4. So he put John Reeve apprentice here at London to a tailor by
trade. He was out of his apprenticeship before I came acquainted with
him; he was of an honest, just nature, and harmless.

"5. But a man of no great natural wit or wisdom; no subtlety or policy
was in him, nor no great store of religion; he had lost what was
traditional; only of an innocent life.

"7. And I, Lodowick Muggleton, was born in Bishop-gate Street, near the
Earl of Devonshire's house, at the corner house called Walnut-tree Yard.

"8. My father's name was John Muggleton; he was a smith by trade--that
is, a farrier or horse doctor; he was in great respect with the
postmaster in King James's time; he had three children by my mother,
two sons and one daughter, I was the youngest and my mother loved me."

His mother died, his father married again, whereupon the boy was sent
into the country--_boarded out_ as we say--and kept there till his
sixteenth year, when he was brought back to London and apprenticed to-a
tailor--one John Quick--"a quiet, peaceable man, not cruel to servants,
which liked me very well." Muggleton took to his trade and pleased his
master. The journeymen were a loose lot, "bad husbands and given to
drunkenness, but my nature was inclined to be sober." Hitherto the
young man had received no religious training; when he had served his
time, however, "hearing in those days great talk among the vulgar
people and especially amongst youth, boys, and young maids, of a people
called Puritans.... I liked their discourse upon the Scriptures and
pleaded for a holy keeping of the Sabbath day, which my master did not
do, nor I his servant."

This must have been about the year 1630--for Muggleton was born in June
1610--when the Sabbatarian controversy was at its height, and the
feeling of the country was approaching fever heat, and when Charles the
First had resolved to try and govern without a Parliament, and when
Archbishop Abbot was in disgrace, and Laud had begun to exercise his
predominant influence. Muggleton was but little impressed by "the
people called Puritans," and he went on his old way. When he had nearly
served his time, he began to look about him. The tailor's trade did not
seem likely to lead to much, unless it were combined with something
else, and a brilliant opening offered itself, as he was at work for a
pawnbroker in Hounsditch. "The broker's wife had one daughter alive.
The mother, being well persuaded of my good natural temper, and of my
good husbandry, and that I had no poor kindred come after me to be any
charge or burthen to her daughter, ... proposed to me that she would
give me a hundred pounds with her to set up.... So the maid and I were
made sure by promise, and I was resolved to have the maid to wife, and
to keep a broker's shop, and lend money on pawns, and grow rich as
others did." Muggleton had not yet been admitted to the freedom of the
city, and the marriage was arranged to take place after he should have
done so. In the meantime he found himself working side by side with
William Reeve, Prophet John Reeve's brother, at this time a "very
zealous Puritan," with whom he talked of his prospects. "I loved the
maid, and desired to be rich," he tells us; but these Puritan people
were horrified at his deliberately intending to live the life of a
usurer, and they "threatened great judgments, and danger of damnation

It is clear that the frightful eschatology of the time was exercising a
far greater power upon the imagination of the masses than anything
else. People were dwelling upon all that was terrible and gloomy in the
picture of a future life; the one thought with the visionaries was
this--Save yourselves from the wrath to come. "I was extremely fearful
of eternal damnation," says Muggleton, "thinking my soul might go into
hell fire without a body, as all people did at that time."

There was evidently a struggle between conviction and inclination, and
it ended as we should have expected--the marriage was broken off. Then
followed some years of vehement religious conflict; "Neither did I hear
any preach in these days but the Puritan ministers, whose hair was cut
short. _For if a man with long hair had gone_ into the pulpit to
preach, I would have gone out of the Church again, though he might
preach better than the other." All through this time visions of hell
and torment, and devils and damnation troubled him; now and then there
were "elevations in my mind, but these were few and far between; a
while after all was lost again." He soon consoled himself for his
matrimonial disappointment; he married and had three daughters, then
his first wife died. He throve in his calling, "only the spirit of fear
of hell was still upon me, but not so extreme as it was before." He
took a second wife, and the civil war began.

"And generally the Puritans were all for the Parliament, and most of my
society and acquaintance did fall away and declined in love one towards
another. Some of them turned to Presbytery, and some turned
Independents; others fell to be Ranters, and some fell to be mere
Atheists. So that our Puritan people were so divided and scattered in
our religion, that I was altogether at a loss; for all the zeal we
formerly had was quite worn out. For I had seen the utmost perfection
and satisfaction that could be found in that way, except I would do it
for loaves, _but loaves was never my aim."_

The civil war ran its course, but Muggleton cared nothing for the
general course of events. What were kings and bishops and Lords and
Commons to him? he was living in quite another world. As for Laud and
Strafford, and Pym and Hampden, he does not even once name them. He
makes not the slightest allusion to the death of Charles the First,
though he was living within half a mile of Whitehall when the king's
head fell on the block. Prophets of the Muggleton type are so busied
about their own souls and their own spiritual condition, that the
battles, murders, and sudden deaths of other men, great or small, give
them no concern whatever.

A couple of years or so after the execution of the king, "it came to
pass I heard of several prophets and prophetesses that were about the
streets.... Also I heard of two other men that were counted greater
than prophets--to wit, John Tannye and John Robins. John Tannye, he
declared himself to be the Lord's High Priest, therefore he circumcised
himself according to the law. Also he declared that he was to gather
the Jews out of all nations,... with many other strange and wonderful
things. And as for John Robins, he declared himself to be God Almighty.
Also he said that he had raised from the dead several of the prophets,
as Jeremiah and others. Also I saw several others of the prophets that
was said to be raised by him, _for I have had nine or ten of them at my
house at a time, of those that were said to be raised from the dead."_

Is madness contagious? Or is it that, while the sane can exercise but a
very limited power over the insane, there is no limit to the influence
which the insane can gain over one another? Living in a world of their
own, where delusions pass for palpable facts, where the logical faculty
accepts the wildest visions as of equal significance with actual
realities, these dreamers have a calculus of their own which includes
the symbols in use among the sane, but comprehends besides a notation
which these latter attach no meaning to, reject, and deride.

"Would you be so kind as tell me, sir, what's a ohm?" said the worthy
Mr. Stiggins to me the other day. "It's a modern term used in
electricity, which I am too ignorant to explain to you." He looked full
at me for more than five seconds without a word then he said, "I'm
thinking that this man was a fool to talk about ohms when not even you
knew what a ohm means. And he came from Cambridge College too, and he's
got a vote! I reckon when a man can't talk the same as other folks he'd
ought to be shut up." Indignant Stiggins! But are we not all intolerant?

John Robins had acquired an almost unlimited ascendency over his crazy
prophets, and speedily acquired the like ascendency over Muggleton.
What specially fascinated him was that all John Robins's prophets "had
power from him to damn any that did oppose or speak evil of him. So his
prophets gave sentence of damnation upon many, to my knowledge, for
speaking evil of him, they not knowing him whether he was true or
false." Muggleton was profoundly impressed, but according to his own
account he was a silent observer, and waited. One of the prophets often
came to his house and was welcome; he "spake as an angel of God, and I
never let him go without eating and drinking," for Muggleton was a man
of large appetite and demanded large supplies of food, nor did he stint
himself of meat and drink or withhold creature comforts from those he

Just at this time Muggleton "fell into a melancholy." He had arrived at
the prophetic age--he had completed his fortieth year. "Then did two
motives arise in me and speak in me as two lively voices, as if two
spirits had been speaking in me, one answering the other as if they
were not my own spirit." So that our noble laureate was anticipated by
two centuries, unless indeed the "two lively voices" make themselves
heard at times to most men who have ears to hear them. Muggleton's
voices were not very high-toned voices; they were voices that spake of
heaven and hell, nothing more. Love and duty never seem to have formed
the subject of his meditations. "For I did not so much mind to be
saved, as I did to escape being damn'd. For I thought, if I could but
lie still in the earth for ever, it would be as well with me as it
would be if I were in eternal happiness... for I did not care whether I
was happy so I might not be miserable. I cared not for heaven so I
might not go to hell. These things pressed hard upon my soul, even to
the wounding of it."

The battle within him went on fiercely for some time, and it ended as
we should have expected. "I was so well satisfied in my mind as to my
eternal happiness, that I was resolved now to be quiet and to get as
good a living as I could in this world and live as comfortably as I
could here, thinking that this revelation should have been beneficial
to nobody but myself." The "motional voices," and visions, and
questionings, continued from April 1651 to January 1652; and it was
during this time that the intimacy between Muggleton and Reeve became
more closely cemented, for "John Reeve was so taken with my language
that his desires were _extreme earnest_ that he might have the same
revelation as I had. His desires were so great that he was troublesome
unto me, for if I went into one room, into another, he would follow me
to talk to me." His persistence was rewarded, and just when Muggleton's
visions ceased "in the month of January 1652, about the middle of the
month, John Reeve came to me very joyful and said, Cousin Lodowick, now
said he, I know what revelation of Scripture is as well as thee."
Reeve's revelations increased, and never ceased for two weeks. "First
visions, then by voice of words to the hearing of the ear three
mornings together the third, fourth, and fifth days of February, 1652,
and the year of John Reeve's life forty-two, and the year of my life

Two men in this curious ecstatic condition obviously could not stop at
this point. It was a critical moment--would they enter into rivalry or
spiritual partnership? If the latter, then who was to be the leader,
who would make the first move? It was soon settled.

"The first evening God _spake_ to John Reeve he came to my house and
said, Cousin Lodowick, God hath given thee unto me for ever, and the
tears ran down both sides his cheeks amain. So I asked him what was the
matter, for he looked like one that had been risen out of the grave, he
being a fresh-coloured man the day before, but the tears ran down his
cheeks apace." John Reeve was not yet prepared to deliver his
commission with authority; it was coming, but not yet. Meanwhile he
turned to Muggleton's children and pronounced them blessed, "but
especially thy daughter Sarah, she shall be the teacher of all the
women in London." Sarah was hiding on the stairs and was not a little
afraid; she was a girl of fourteen, but she accepted her mission there
and then.

She proved to be a valuable helper, "and several persons came
afterwards to my house more to discourse with her than us, and they
marvelled that one so young should have such knowledge and wisdom."
Next day John Reeve came again, and Muggleton was pronounced to be the
_mouth_ of the new revelation, "as Aaron was given to be Moses' mouth."

The first thing to be done was to depose the other two prophets, Robins
and Tannye, and to hoise them on their own petard. It had to be seen
who could damn hardest. For one moment even Muggleton's stout heart
failed, he would take another with him to be present at the great trial
of strength. He called upon a certain Thomas Turner to accompany him,
"else you must be cursed to all eternity. But his wife was exceeding
wroth and fearful, and she said, if John Reeve came again to her
husband that she would run a spit in his guts, so John Reeve cursed her
to eternity." Whereupon Turner, appalled by the sentence, complied with
the order and went. The three presented themselves before the other
madman, and John Reeve uttered his testimony, denouncing him as a false
prophet and gave him a month to repent of his misdeeds. When the month
had elapsed Reeve wrote the sentence of eternal damnation upon him "and
left it at his lodging, and after a while he and his great matters
perished in the sea. For he made a little boat to carry him to
Jerusalem, and going to Holland to call the Jews there, he and one
Captain James was cast away and drowned, so all his powers came to

The day after the interview with Tannye, the prophets proceeded to deal
with John Robins. He had been thrown into Bridewell by Cromwell, and
there he lay, his worshippers still resorting to him for any one with
money could visit a prisoner in gaol as often as he pleased. When the
prophets appeared at the gate empty handed, the keeper as a matter of
course refused them admittance. Then said John Reeve to the keeper,
"Thou shall never be at peace." By and by they were shown where
Robins's cell was; they summoned him to the window, and a strange
interview took place, which is minutely described. It ended by Reeve
delivering his charge and pronouncing his sentence. Many had been the
crimes of John Robins. He had ruined and deceived men in a multitude of
ways; among others "thou givest them leave to abstain by degrees from
all kinds of food, thou didst feed them with windy things, as apples
and other fruit that was windy, and they drank nothing but water;
therefore look what measure thou hast measured to others we will
measure again to thee."

John Robins was utterly mastered; "he pulled his hands off the grates
and laid them together and said, It is finished; the Lord's will be
done." In two months he had written a letter of recantation, was
released from durance, and is heard of no more.

"Thus the reader may see that these two powers were brought down in
these two days' messages from the Lord."

The world was all before them now. It remained that the new prophets
should have some distinctive dogma, and that the printing press should
be called in as an accessory to spread their fame. Again John Reeve
took the lead, and in 1652 he wrote an account of his divine commission
and published his first work, _A Transcendant Spiritual Treatise_,
which told of his last revelation of the message to Tannye and Robins.

While the book was passing through the press the prophets lived by
their trade, and made no attempt to preach before any assembly. They
_talked_ incessantly, and they cursed liberally. At last the children
in the streets began to follow Reeve and pelt him, crying after him,
"There goes the prophet that damns people!" Muggleton, meanwhile, was
always ready to meet an inquirer, and to eat and drink with him. "On
one occasion an old acquaintance would needs have me drink with him,
that he might have some talk with me, and there followed a neighbour of
his, a gentleman, as we call them; his name was Penson, and he sat down
in our company." Soon Penson began to deride and abuse the prophet;
whereupon Muggleton calmly "did pronounce this Penson cursed to
eternity." Penson did not like being damned under the circumstances.
"Then he rose up, and with both his fists smote upon my head... But it
came to pass that this Penson was sick immediately after, and in a week
or ten days after he died, much troubled in his mind, and tormented
insomuch that his friends and relations sought to apprehend me for a
witch, he being a rich man, but they couldn't tell how to state the
matter, so they let it fall."

It is pretty clear that John Reeve was from the first disposed to go
beyond his brother prophet; and shortly after the incident of Penson's
death Reeve made a grand _coup_, which produced a profound impression.
Muggleton had damned a _gentleman_. Reeve tried his power upon the same
class, and succeeded in actually converting two of them, who were
influential men among the Ranters. The Ranters were startled and
puzzled. "And it came to pass that one of these Ranters kept a
victualling house and sold drink in the Minories, and they would spend
their money there. So John Reeve and myself came there, and many of
them despised our declaration. So John Reeve gave sentence of eternal
damnation upon many of them, and one of them, being more offended than
all the rest, was moved with such wrath and fury that five or six men
could hardly keep him off, his fury was so hot. Then John Reeve said
unto the people standing by, 'Friends,' said he, 'I pray you stand
still on both sides of the room, and let there be a space in the
middle, and I will lay down my head upon the ground and let this
furious man tread upon my head and do what he will unto me....' So John
Reeve pulled off his hat and laid his face flat to the ground, and the
people stood still. So the man came running with great fury, and when
he came near him, lifting up his foot to tread on his neck, the man
started back again and said, 'No, I scorn to tread upon a man that
lieth down to me.' And the people all marvelled at this thing."

Though Muggleton does not make much of this incident, it appears to
have been a very important one in the early history of the sect, for
from this moment the numbers of Muggletonians began to increase, and
they began to absorb a small army of wandering monomaniacs who were
roaming about London and talking about _religion_, and visions, and
revelations, and attaching themselves first to one body and then to
another, according as they could get admission to the meeting-houses
and be allowed to preach and harangue. Astrologers too, came and
conferred with the prophets, and drunken scoffers laid bets that they
would get the prophet's blessing; and on one occasion a company of
"Atheistical Ranters" made a plot to turn the tables upon Muggleton,
and damn him and Reeve. Three of "the most desperatest" agreed to do
it. "So the time appointed came, and there was prepared a good dinner
of pork, and the three came ready prepared to curse us." Part of the
agreement was that the dinner should follow upon the cursing. But
whether it was that the rogues could do nothing until they were
fortified with drink, or that a sudden spasm of conscientiousness came
upon them, or that they were like superstitious people who with
blanched lips loudly protest that they do not believe in ghosts, but
decline on principle to walk through a churchyard after dark, these
three fellows all ran away from their engagements at the eleventh hour.
"So they departed without their dinner of pork."

The prophets were becoming notorious. The Ranters and John Robins had
been vanquished; their first book was published and was selling; they
were advertising themselves widely, and being advertised by friends and
foes; but as yet they had not been persecuted, and as yet they had not
put very prominently forward any distinctive or special theology. They
claimed to be prophets, but their mission, What was it? What were they
charged to proclaim?

It was just about this time that the works of Jacob Boehm had begun to
exercise a very great influence upon the visionaries in England. The
_Mercurius Teutonicus_ was first published in an English translation in
1649, and the _Signatura_ _Rerum_ had appeared in 1651. Muggleton had
certainly read these books, and as certainly turned them to account.
The jargon of the German mystic was exactly what he wanted in his
present state of mind, and there was that in the new philosophy which
commended itself vastly to him. Not that he, as an inspired prophet,
could for one moment admit that he had received any light from man or
was under any obligation to anything but the divine illumination
enlightening him directly and immediately; but the obligation was there
all the same, and to Jacob Boehm's influence we must attribute the
evolution of the distinctive doctrine of the Muggletonians, which just
about this time comes into obtrusive prominence.

It was at the beginning of the year 1653 that the prophets made their
first important convert. Up to this time they had been heard of only in
the back streets of London. But now a New England merchant named
Leader, who had made a fortune in America, and had come back in disgust
at the intolerance and persecution that prevailed among the colonists,
made advances to Muggleton. Leader was in a despondent state of mind,
and on the lookout for a religion with some novelty in it. He too had,
it seems, been a student of Jacob Boehm, and the _Signatura Rerum_ had
opened out a new line of speculation to him. "His first question was
concerning God--whether God, that created all things, could admit of
being any form of Himself?"

Prophets are never at a nonplus, and never surprised by a question; the
more transcendental the problem, the more need for the prophetic gift
to solve it. In fact, the prophet comes in to help when all human
cunning is at fault.

Accordingly Mr. Leader's question led to a discussion which is all set
down at full for those who choose to read it, and as the result of that
discussion comes out into clearness the astounding declaration which
henceforth appears as the main article of the Muggletonian theology.

"God hath a body of His own, as man hath a body of his own; only God's
body is spiritual and heavenly, clear as _christial_, brighter than the
sun, swifter than thought, yet a body."

Hitherto the prophets had been groping after a formula which might be
their strength, but they had not been able to put it into shape. Jacob
Boehm's mysticism, passing through the alembic of such a mind as
Leader's, and subjected to that occult atmosphere which Muggleton lived
in, came forth in the shape of a new theology, transcendental,
unintelligible, but therefore celestial and sublime. The prophets from
this moment made a new departure.

Meanwhile, the unhesitating and authoritative damning of opponents
exercised a strange fascination over the multitude. Reeve and Muggleton
lived among the blackguards at their first start, and they damned the
blackguards pretty freely. In numberless instances the blackguards were
to all intents and purposes damned before Muggleton's sentence was
pronounced. They were fellows given over to drink and debauchery, sots
who had not much life in them, scoundrels who were in hiding, skulking
in the vilest holes of the city, whom the plague or famine would be
likely to rid the world of any day. They died frequently enough after
the sentence was pronounced, and it is quite conceivable that the
sentence may have hastened the end of many a poor wretch who had
nothing to live for. Nay, in more cases than one a timid man, when the
sentence was passed, was so terrified that he took to his bed there and
then, and never rose from it, or became insane, neglected his business,
and so was ruined; and as the number of the damned was always
increasing, the chances of strange accidents and misfortunes would go
on increasing also. People heard of these, and of these only.

What the prophets themselves did, it was only natural that their
followers would try to do also; indeed, it is wonderful that the
damning prerogative was not invaded much oftener than it was. It was
very rarely intruded upon, however. Once, indeed, a misguided and too
venturous believer named Cooper took upon him to usurp authority, and
pronounced the sentence of damnation upon a small batch of fifteen
scoffers who had jeered at him and the prophet's mission. The precedent
was a dangerous one, there was no telling what it would lead to if such
random and promiscuous damning was to go on. Next day Cooper fell
grievously sick, and conscience smote him; he could not be at peace
till he had confessed his fault and been forgiven. He was forgiven
accordingly, but he was admonished to lay to heart the warning, and to
presume no more. "Not but that I do believe," says Muggleton, "they
will all be damned," all the whole fifteen!

The movement was becoming a nuisance by this time, and Reeve got a
hint, and no obscure one, that a warrant would be issued against him,
"either from General Cromwell, or the Council of State, or from the
Parliament." So far from being deterred by the prospect--was there ever
a prophet who was frightened into silence?--he declared that if
Cromwell or the Parliament should despise him and his mission, "I would
pronounce them damned as I do you!" Though no warrant came from the
Council or Cromwell--a matter much to be regretted--yet a warrant was
taken out by five of the opponents, and the prophets were brought
before the Lord Mayor. As usual, a detailed account is given of the
proceedings, which are valuable as illustrating the method pursued in
those days in the examination of an accused person, and the procedure
of the court--so very different from our modern practice. The prophets
were committed for trial; they refused to give bail, and were thrown
into Newgate. It was the 15th of September, 1653, one of the great
festivals among the believers. The hideous picture of prison life in
Newgate deserves to be read even by those who have some acquaintance
with the horrors of our prisons at this time. The prophets were well
supplied with money, and so were spared some of the worst sufferings of
the place; but it was bad enough, in all conscience, and one night the
two narrowly escaped being hanged in their own room, and were only
saved by five condemned men, who came to the rescue. Muggleton says the
highwaymen and _the boys_ were most set against him; one of the
highwaymen, whenever he saw him in the Hall, "would come and deride at
me, and say, 'You rogue, you damn'd folks.' And so it was with the boys
that were prisoners; they would snatch off my hat, and pawn it for
half-a-dozen of drink. So the boys did, and I gave them sixpence every
time they did it, to please them." Highly gratifying to the boys!

While the two were in Newgate John Reeve wrote a letter to the Lord
Mayor and another to the Recorder, mildly damning them both. If we are
to believe Muggleton, the Recorder was somewhat disturbed and alarmed
by the sentence. When the day of trial came, Reeve bade the Lord Mayor
hold his peace and be silent, as became a damned man in the presence of
the prophets, and we are told the Mayor obeyed and said nothing more.
The two were condemned, nevertheless, and thrown into Bridewell for
seven months. Under the horrors of that dreadful imprisonment Reeve's
constitution broke down. He was never the same man again. He languished
on, indeed, for four years more, but he was a dying man, and he spent
his time in writing books, his followers kindly ministering to him in
his broken health and feebleness. The end came to him while visiting
some convents at Maidstone--good women, of course. "The one was Mrs.
Frances, the eldest; the second, Mrs. Roberts; the third, Mrs. Boner.
This Mrs. Frances closed up his eyes, for he said unto her, 'Frances,
close up mine eyes, lest my enemies say I died a staring prophet.'"

While Reeve and Muggleton were lying in Newgate, another mystic--are we
to call him a prophet too?--was lying in Carlisle gaol. George Fox, the
Quaker, had fallen into the hands of Wilfrid Lawson, then High Sheriff
for the county, who had not spared him. Just about the time that the
London prophets were discharged, Fox arrived in London under the
custody of Captain Drury, and had that memorable interview with
Cromwell which readers of Fox's Journal are not likely to forget,
though Carlyle has gone far to spoil the story by slurring it over.

It was a great event to the Quakers to have their leader in London. He
had only once before been in the Metropolis--that was nine years
ago--and then he had been "fearful," had done nothing, was tongue-tied,
and had gladly escaped to itinerate among the _steeple houses_ in the
north. This time he had gained acceptance with the Protector. No man
would meddle with him from henceforth or let them look to it! The
Quakers were, of course, elated; they were going to carry all before
them; they met to organize a grand campaign for proselytizing all
England. The two _commissionated prophets_ were by no means dismayed,
by no means inclined to be outdone by the Quakers; they invited them to
a disputation--a trial of the spirits, in fact. It came off,
accordingly, in Eastcheap, and George Fox was there, and with him two
or three of his "ministers whom the Lord raised up." It is not a little
significant that Fox makes no mention of this meeting in his
Journal-significant because he never omits to speak of his successes,
and never tells us anything of his failures. Nay, he studiously omits
all mention of Muggleton's name throughout the Journal, and in his
books against him indulges in really violent language. Muggleton, on
the other hand, speaks of this discussion at Eastcheap as if it had
been a serious check to the Quakers, and from this time to his death he
never ceased to assail them with a resolute aggressiveness which
indicates no sort of misgiving in his power to deal with his
antagonists. The discussion, however, ended in Fox and his
supporters-five in all-receiving the sentence of damnation from the two
prophets, and from this moment there was internecine war between the
Quakers and the Muggletonians; each denouncing the other fiercely, and
issuing books against the other by the score-works which have happily
been long ago forgotten, to the great advantage of mankind. If,
however, any one, curious in such lore, is desirous of finding out what
cursing and swearing, regarded as one of the Fine Arts, may achieve
when skilfully managed by adepts, let him by all means turn to the
pamphlets of Pennington, Richard Farnsworth, and others of the Quaker
body, while delivering their souls against Muggleton, and the
counterblasts of Muggleton, Claxton, and their friends in reply. One of
the choicest diatribes of these _esprits forts_, as we may well call
them, was hurled at the prophet by William Penn.

Muggleton had some very zealous converts at Cork--for there were
believers everywhere by this time--and as they were people of substance
and much in favour, they were making some way. Of course they came into
collision with the Quakers, and not without success. Penn had early
fallen under the influence of Richard Farnsworth, whom Muggleton had
damned in 1654, and Penn's father had sent him over to manage his Irish
estates, in the hope of getting the new notions out of the young man's
head. The experiment failed, and young Penn, now only twenty-four years
old, had returned to England in 1668 as staunch a Quaker as ever. There
was a leading man among the Quakers, Josiah Cole by name, whom
Muggleton had solemnly damned; he was in failing health, and he died a
few days after the sentence was pronounced. The Muggletonians were
jubilant, and some of the Quakers were disturbed and alarmed. Penn's
heart was moved within him, and with all the fervid indignation of
youth he stepped forward to draw the sword of the Lord. He printed a
letter to Muggleton which should reassure the waverers. It thundered
out defiance. "Boast not," he says, "thou enemy of God, thou son of
perdition and confederate with the unclean croaking spirits reserved
under chains to eternal darkness.... I boldly challenge thee with thy
six-foot God and all the host of Luciferian spirits, with all your
commissions, curses, and sentences, to touch and hurt me. And this
know, O Muggleton: on you I trample, and to the bottomless pit are you
sentenced, from whence you came, and where the endless worm shall gnaw
and torture your imaginary soul."

Muggleton replied with his usual coolness, and pronounced his sentence
upon the young enthusiast. Neither was a man easily to be put down; but
whereas the prophet's followers were wholly unmoved by all the attacks
upon them, the Quakers found the Muggletonians extremely troublesome,
and it is impossible to resist the conviction that large numbers of the
Quakers were won over to join the opposite camp. Nay, it looks as if
Muggleton had really some strange power over the weaker vessels among
the Quakers, and had actually _frightened_ some of them. Writing in
1670, he says: "You are not like the people you were sixteen years ago;
there were few Quakers then, but they had witchcraft fits, but now of
late I do not hear of any Quaker that hath any fits, no, not so much as
to buz and hum before the fit comes. But if you, Fox, doth know of any
of you Quakers that have any of those witchcraft fits as formerly,
bring them to me, and I shall cast out that devil which causeth those
fits." The Quakers could hardly have been as angry as they were, nor
their books have been so many and their writers so voluble during
twenty years and longer, if Muggleton had not been a disputant to be
dreaded, and a prophet with the faculty of drawing others after him.

In the whole course of his career, which extended over nearly half a
century, Muggleton never found any difficulty in maintaining his
authority over his followers. There were indeed two attempts at mutiny,
but they were promptly suppressed, and they collapsed before they had
made any head. The first was in 1660, shortly after the death of John
Reeve. Lawrence Claxton, a "great writer" among the Muggletonians, had
during Reeve's long illness come very much to the fore as an opponent
of the Quakers, and his success had a little turned his head. In one
passage of his writings he had taken rank as Reeve's equal and
representative, and had put himself on a level with "the
Commissionated." It was an awful act of impiety. "For," says Muggleton,
"as John Reeve was like unto Elijah, so am I as Elisha, and his place
was but as Gehazi, and could stand no longer than my will and pleasure
was." Claxton had been formally blessed, therefore he could never be
damned, but excommunicated he could be and was. He at once dropt out
and we hear of him no more.

The second revolt was much more serious. "There were four conspirators
in the rebellion... for which I damned two of them, and the other two I
did excommunicate." This time the fomenter of discord was a busy
Scotchman. Muggleton calls him Walter Bohenan, which appears to be only
a _bhonetic_ representation of Walter _Buchanan_. That so sagacious a
seer as Muggleton should have been betrayed into associating himself
intimately with a canny Scot is truly wonderful, and illustrates the
eternal verity that "we are all of us weak at times," even the
prophets. _Bohenan's_ self-assertion led him on to dizzy heights of
towering presumption, until at last "he acted the highest act of
rebellion that ever was acted." It was all in vain; he was cut off for
ever--perished from the congregation; utterly damned, and thereupon
disappears, swallowed up of darkness and silence.

Muggleton lived twenty-six years after this last revolt, exercising
unquestioned authority; an autocratic prophet to whom something like
worship was offered even to the last. He was far advanced in his
eighty-ninth year when he died. He was far on towards seventy when he
was brought before Jeffreys, then Common Serjeant, and other justices,
on a charge of blasphemy. Jeffreys was as yet a novice in those arts of
which he became the acknowledged master a few years after, but already
he quite equalled his future self in his savage brutality to the poor
monomaniac. "He was a man," says Muggleton, "whose voice was very loud;
but he is one of the worst devils in nature." The jury hesitated to
bring in their verdict, knowing well enough what would follow, but
Jeffrey's look and manner cowed them. The prophet was condemned to pay
a fine of L 500, to stand in the pillory three times for two hours
_without the usual protection to his head_, which those condemned to
such a barbarous punishment were allowed. He was to have his books
burned by the common hangman, and to remain in Newgate till his fine
was paid. Only a man of an iron constitution could have come out of the
ordeal with his life. Muggleton bore it all; remained in Newgate for a
year, compounded for his fine in the sum of L 100, which his friends
advanced, and was a free man on the 19th of July, 1677, a day which the
Muggletonians observed as the prophet's Hegira.

As early as 1666 he had many followers on the Continent, and in that
year the _Transcendant Spiritual Treatise_ was translated into German
by a convert who came over to London to confer with the sage. Except on
very rare occasions he never left London, nor indeed the parish in
which he was born. He pursued the trade of a tailor till late in life,
but his books had sold largely, and he managed to get together a
competence, and was at one time worried by his neighbours and fined for
refusing to serve in some parish offices. There was a fund of sagacity
about the man which appears frequently in his later letters, but an
utter absence of all sentiment and all sympathy. He had no _nerves_.
Staid, stern, and curiously insensible to physical pain, he was
absolutely fearless, with a constitution that could defy any hardships
and bear any strain upon it.

When we come to the _teaching_ of Muggleton, we find ourselves in a
tangled maze of nonsense far too inconsequential to allow of any
intelligible account being given of it. Jacob Boehm's mistiest dreams
are clearness itself compared with the English prophet's utterances.
Others might talk of the divine cause or the divine power or the divine
person, "fumbling exceedingly" and falling back in an intellectual
swoon upon the stony bosom of the Unknowable. Muggleton grimly told you
that there was a personal Trinity in the universe--God, man, and
devil--and each had his body. If you pressed him for further
particulars he poured forth words that might mean anything, a metallic
jargon which you were ordered to receive and ponder. Such as it was,
however, you had to accept or reject it at your peril. Why should an
inspired prophet argue?

Something must be set down to the circumstances in which he found
himself, and to the dreadfully chaotic condition which the moral
sentiments and religious beliefs of the multitude had been reduced to
during the wild anarchy of the seventeenth century. There were two men
in England who were _quite certain_--George Fox was one, Muggleton was
the other. Everybody else was doubting, hesitating, groping for the
light, moaning at the darkness. These two men _knew_, other people were
seeking to know. George Fox went forth to win the world over from
darkness to light. Muggleton stayed at home, he _was_ the light. They
that wanted it must come to him to find it. All through England there
was clamour and hubbub of many voices, men going to and fro, always on
the move, trying experiments of all kinds. Here was one man, "a still
strong man in a blatant land," who was calm, steadfast, unmovable, and
always at home. He did not want you, whoever you were; he was perfectly
indifferent to you and your concerns. Preach? No! he never preached, he
never cared to speak till he was spoken to. If you went to him as an
oracle, then he spake as a god.

Moreover, when the Restoration came and the high pressure that had been
kept up in some states of society was suddenly taken off, there was a
frantic rage for pleasure, which included the wildest debauchery and
the most idiotic attempts at amusement. Then, too, the haste to be rich
agitated the minds of all classes; Westward ho! was the cry not only of
Pilgrim Fathers but of reckless adventurers of all kinds. From across
the sea came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver, and
ivory, and apes, and peacocks, and a thousand tales of El Dorado.
Muggleton the prophet, with that lank brown hair of his and the dreamy
eye and the resolute lips, waited unmoved. Pleasure? If he wondered at
anything it was to know what meaning there could be in the word.
Riches? What purpose could they serve? To him it seemed that the
Decalogue contained one wholly superfluous enactment; why should men
covet? There would have been some reason in limiting the number of the
commandments to nine; nine is the product of three times three. Think
of that! This man in that wicked age must have appeared to many a
standing miracle, if only for this reason, that he was the one man in
London who was content, passing his days in a stubborn rapture, as
little inclined for play or laughter as the sphinx in the desert, which
the sand storms can beat against but never stir.

So far from Muggleton's influence and authority growing less as he grew
older, it went on steadily increasing; there was a mystery and an awe
that gathered round him, and latterly he was regarded rather as an
inspired oracle than as a seer. The voice of prophecy ceased; he had
left his words on record for all future ages, but from day to day his
advice was asked, and people soon found it was worth listening to. In
the latter years of his life his letters dealt with the ordinary
affairs of men. People wrote to inquire about their matrimonial
affairs, their quarrels, their business difficulties, whether they must
conform to this or that enactment of the State, how they might outwit
the persecutors and skulk behind the law. Muggleton replies with
surprising shrewdness and good sense, and now and then exhibits a
familiarity with the quips and quirks of the law that he can only have
acquired by the necessity which suffering had laid upon him. His
language is always rugged, for he had received little or no education;
he is very unsafe in his grammar, but he has a plain, homely
vocabulary, forcible and copious, which, like most mystics, he was
compelled to enrich on occasion, and which he does not scruple to
enrich in his own way. His style certainly improves as he gets older,
and in these letters one meets now and then with passages that are
almost melodious, the sentences following one another in a kind of
plaintive rhythm, and sounding as you read them aloud, like a Gregorian
chant. He died of natural decay, the machine worn out. His last words
were, "Now hath God sent death unto me." They laid him on his bed, and
he slept and woke not. Nearly 250 of the faithful followed him to his
grave. It is clear that the sect had not lost ground as time moved on.

Not the least feature in this curious chapter of religious history is
that the Muggletonians should have survived as a sect to our own days.
As late as 1846 an elaborate index to the Muggletonian writings was
issued, and the _Divine Songs of the Muggletonians_, written
exclusively by believers, show that there has been a strange continuity
of composition among them, and that, too, such composition as ordinary
mortals have never known the like of. Yet Muggleton never broke forth
into verse. Joanna Southcott could not keep down her impulse to pour
forth her soul in metre; Muggleton is never excited, the emotional had
no charm for him. So, too, he never cared for music, he makes no
allusion to it. Nay, he speaks slightingly of worship, of prayer and
praise, especially of congregational worship. It was allowable to the
little men, a concession to the weak which the strong in the faith
might be expected to dispense with sooner or later. For himself,
isolated and self-contained, he could do without the aids to faith
which the multitude ask for and find support in. He held himself aloof;
he had no sympathy to offer, he asked for none; nay, he did not even
need his followers, he could do without them. The question for them
was, Could they do without him? For more than two centuries they have
kept on vehemently answering No!

Of late years a class of specialists has risen up among us who have
treated us to quite a new philosophy--to wit, the philosophy of
religion. To these thinkers I leave the construction of theories on
Muggleton's place in the history of religion or philosophy; to them,
too, I leave the question of what was the secret of his success and
power. Much more interesting to me is the problem how the sect has gone
on retaining its vitality. Perhaps the great secret of that permanence
has been that Muggleton did not give his followers too much to believe
or too much to do. He disdained details, he was never precise and
meddlesome. If the Muggletonians wished to pray, let them; to sing,
there was no objection; to meet together in their conventicles, it was
a harmless diversion. But they must manage these things themselves, and
provide for difficulties as they arose. It was no part of the prophet's
office to make bye-laws which might require to be altered any day. Thus
it came about that the sect was left at Muggleton's death absolutely
unfettered by any petty restraints upon its freedom of development. The
believers must manage their own affairs. There is one God and Muggleton
is His prophet--that was really the sum and substance of their creed.
That followed on a small scale which is observable on a large scale
among the Moslems, the prophet's followers found themselves more and
more thrown back upon their prophet till he became almost an object of
adoration. The creed of Islam without Mahomet would be to millions
almost inconceivable; the Muggletonian God without Muggleton would not
be known.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

Says her Royal Highness, looking over my shoulder, "You have written
quite enough about those crazy, vulgar people. It's all old world talk.
There are no prophets now; there never will be any more."

No more prophets! The _prophetical succession_ never stops, never will
stop. When Muggleton died Emanuel Swedenborg was a boy of ten; twenty
years afterwards the new prophet was walking about London just as the
old one had done, living the same lonely life, conversing with the
angels and writing of heaven and hell and conjugal love, and--well, a
great deal else besides; and, odd coincidence, it was in that same
Eastcheap where Muggleton had damned the Quakers in 1653 that the
Swedenborgians held their first assembly in 1788, just about the same
time that Joanna Southcott came to London, and before Joseph Smith and
Brigham Young were born or thought of. No, no. The prophets are not
improved off the face of the earth. They never will be. They will turn
up again and again. You can no more hope to exterminate them by culture
than you can hope to produce them by machinery. _Propheta nascitur non
fit_. For once her Royal Highness was wrong.

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