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ceremony, and the sainted archbishop appears under a very different aspect from that which he has usually worn in history, and from that which a less partial survey and an ampler detail would have compelled Mr. Lingard to exhibit. It is scarcely credible, that, after so complete a specification, supported in all points by quotations and references, as that which occurs in Lord Lyttleton's life of the second Henry, a writer of the present day should venture on the very questionable experiment of varnishing the character of Becket. But the story is left half told, while the form and features of its hero are traced in lines shadowy and indistinct. By these means, the necessity of a more direct investigation is advantageously eluded. With shrewder judgement than his precursor, Mr. Berington, Mr. L. has avoided such a decided commitment of himself as that reverend gentleman hazarded when he exultingly exclaimed: Give me the greatest heroes, whom ancient times did deify, or such as a more temperate posterity has registered on the lists ' of fame, and I will say that Becket, when he closed his life, was 'full as great as they. All his native energy then collected at the heart; and seeing the heavens, as he thought, opened to him, he fell as blessed martyrs had done!' The present Historian has trusted to the less venturous expedient of imperfect narrative. We have no disposition to vindicate the violence and artifice which marked some parts of the conduct of Henry; yet, we have not the least hesitation in maintaining, that when he resisted the iniquitous claim set up by Becket, and opposed the scandalous abuses of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, he struggled not only for the honour of his crown, but for the wellbeing of his people. We cannot pass from this subject without referring to Mr. Turner's admirable narrative of the transactions of this important period. He has held the balance with the most scrupulous impartiality; and a recurrence to his statements would furnish the most impressive illustrations of the imperfection of Mr. Lingard's details. He is, indeed, accused, in common with Lord Lyttleton, by the present Writer, of having laid undue stress upon a letter written by Gilbert Foliott, bishop of London, severely reprehending the conduct of Becket; and we are referred to Mr. Berington's Appendix for the proof that the composition in question is a forgery. Mr. B.'s arguments may possibly be satisfactory to Mr. L.; but, notwithstanding the triumphant self-gratulations of their Author, they have by no means flashed conviction upon our minds. A copy of the letter exists among the Cotton MSS. in the British Museum; and its title is inserted in the index to a volume of MSS. in the Vatican library, though the epistle itself is wanting at the page referred to. Mr. Berington treats this circumstance as a very trivial matter; but it seems to us much easier to account for the
disappearance of the obnoxious document from the collection, than to invent a reason for the indicial reference. And after all, this is but a subordinate point: the main facts of Becket's caréer are on substantial record, and beyond the reach of perversion or misapprehension. His own language manifests, incontrovertibly, his violent and ambitious character; and his actions were in perfect harmony with his words.
Mr. Lingard does not, however, put himself forward as the defender of the Pope's temporal authority. Though, as we firmly believe, that claim is only in abeyance, it is not likely, under present circumstances, to find open advocates among the enlightened partisans of the Holy See; and Mr. L. is too skilful a writer to entangle himself in unprofitable controversies. His language on this head is distinct and sagacious, though qualified by the intimation, that the limits between the spiritual and the temporal power are questionable.' In the notorious case of the excommunication and deposition of King John, he remarks:
The reader has seen that Innocent grounded his temporal pretensions on the right which he possessed of judging of sin, and of the obligations of oaths. This doctrine, hostile as it might be to the independence of sovereigns, was often supported by the sovereigns themselves. Thus, when Richard I. was held in captivity by the emperor, his mother Eleanor repeatedly solicited the pontiff to procure his liberation by the exercise of that authority which he possessed over all temporal princes. Rym. i. 72-78. Thus also John himself had, as we have seen, invoked the aid of the same authority to recover Normandy from the king of France. At first, indeed, the popes contented themselves with spiritual censures: but in an age, when all notions of justice were modelled after the feudal jurisprudence, it was soon admitted that princes by their disobedience became traitors to God; that as traitors they ought to forfeit their kingdoms, the fees which they held of God: and that to pronounce such sentence belonged to the pontiff, the vicegerent of Christ upon earth. By these means the servant of the servants of God became the sovereign of the sovereigns, and assumed the right of judging them in his court, and of transferring their crowns as he thought proper.' Vol. II. p. 231.
The reign of John is, like all the rest of the work, ably written, and, though we miss those minor details and comments which throw so much light on the spirit of the times, and demonstrate the injurious influence of sacerdotal ascendancy, we are, on the whole, satisfied with the narrative of the leading events of that remarkable period. On the memorable transaction which transferred the allegiance of the monarch, and the supreme lordship of his realm, to the Roman pontiff, Mr. Lingard's remarks are at once temperate and forcible.
This transaction has heaped eternal infamy on the memory of John. Every epithet of reproach has been expended by writers and readers against the pusillanimity of a prince, who could lay the crown
of England at the foot of a foreign priest, and receive it from him again as his vassal and tributary. It was certainly a disgraceful act but there are some considerations, which, if they do not remove, will at least extenuate his offence. Though the principles of morality are unchangeable, our ideas of honour and infamy perpetually vary with the ever-varying state of society. To judge impartially of our ances tors, we are not to measure their actions by the standard of our present manners and notions: we should transport ourselves back to the age in which they lived, and take into the account their political institutions, their principles of legislation and government. 1°. Now in the thirteenth century there was nothing so very degrading in the state of vassalage. It was the condition of most of the princes of christendom. Even the king of Scotland was the vassal of the king of England, and the king of England the vassal of the king of France; the one for the lands, whatever they were, which he held of the English crown, the other for his transmarine territories: and both were frequently seen in public on their knees, swearing fealty, and doing homage to their feudal superiors. John himself had been present when William the Lion subjected the Scottish crown to the Eng lish and it was but nine years since Peter, the king of Arragon, had voluntarily become the vassal of Innocent, and bound himself and his successors to the yearly payment of two hundred and fifty ounces of gold to the holy see. Nor were similar precedents wanting in his own family. He knew that his father Henry, powerful as he was, had become the feudatory of pope Alexander III.: and that his brother, the lion-hearted Richard, had resigned his crown to the emperor of Germany, and consented to hold it of him by the payment of a yearly rent. John in his distress followed these examples: and the result seems to have recommended his conduct to the imitation of the Scottish patriots, who, to defeat the claim of his grandson Edward I., acknowledged the pope for their superior lord, and maintained that Scotland had been always a fief of the church of Rome. 2°. Neither is the blame of this transaction to be confined to the king. It must be shared with him by the great council of the barons, his constitutional advisers, the very men, who two years later extorted from him the grant of their liberties in the plain of Runnymead. The cession was made by their advice and with their consent: whence it may be fairly presumed that there was something in the existing circumstances, which would justify the king, as far as he was concerned. Some writers have imagined that their motive was the hope of averting the threatened invasion, or if it could not be averted, of at least preserving John on the throne by the intervention of the same power, which had so nearly precipitated him from it. There is, however, some reason to believe that it originated with the barons themselves, who eagerly grasped at the opportunity of humbling the pride, and checking the violence, of the despot, whom they abhorred. From that moment they began to demand the grant of their liberties. On his refusal they appealed by their agents to the gratitude of the pope, now become his and their sovereign, reminding him that "it was not "to the good-will of the king, but to them, and the compulsion which they had employed, that he was indebted for his superiority over
"the English crown." Innocent, however, supported the cause of his vassal: and the barons transferred their allegiance to Louis, the son of Philip. The men, who could thus place on the throne the heir of the French monarchy, were certainly capable of subjecting it to the feudal control of the head of their church.'
We have had occasion, in a former article, to advert to Mr. Lingard's contemptuous estimate of the labours and character of Wycliffe. He has evidently found it difficult on this subject to preserve his usual moderation, and to keep his language. from running into invective. In representing him as entering, in the year 1360, into a fierce but ridiculous controversy' with the mendicant friars, he studiously conceals the fact, that he was advocating the cause of the University against men who were constantly infringing on its statutes and privileges, and inveigling the younger students from the college to the convent. He omits also to state, that, as a reward for his zealous services, he was, in the following year, elevated to the dignity of master of Baliol college, and in 1372, to the divinity chair. In 1365,' says Mr. Lingard, by means with which we are not acquainted, Wycliffe superseded Woodhall the warden (of Canterbury hall), and, with the approbation of the Founder, ' expelled both him and his monks.' How the expulsion of his predecessor could be the act of Wycliffe, Mr. L. does not explain; but he himself supplies the contradiction to his statement. Woodhall was ejected by Archbishop Islip, the founder of the college, and the monks were replaced by seculars, in consequence of the intrigues and broils by which they were defeating the design of the new foundation. After mentioning the preferment subsequently conferred on Wycliffe, Mr. Lingard adds:
To accept of preferment was so contrary to the principles which he afterwards taught, that it is probable he had not yet determined to embrace the profession of a reformer. He continued however to lecture at Oxford, and imitated in his manner of life the austerity of the men whom he so warmly opposed. He always went barefoot, and was clad in a gown of the coarsest russet. By degrees he diverted his invectives from the friars to the whole body of the clergy. The pope, the bishops, the rectors and curates, smarted successively under the lash.........To disseminate his'principles, he collected a body of fanatics, whom he distinguished by the name of" poor priests." They were clad like himself, professed their determination never to accept of any benefice, and undertook to exercise the calling of itinerant preachers without the license, and even in opposition to the authority of the bishops. The coarseness of Wycliffe's invectives, and the refractory conduct of his poor priests, soon became subjects of astonish
• Eclectic Review for June, p. 515.
ment and complaint..........The insurrection of the commons had created a strong prejudice against the new doctrines of the Reformer. It may be that the itinerant preachers had improved on the lessons of their master: but, if we can believe the assertions of the contemporary writers, we must admit that their sermons were calculated to awaken in the people a spirit of discontent and insubordination, and to bring into contempt the established authorities, both in church and state.........Exemplary in his morals, he (Wycliffe) declaimed against vice with the freedom and severity of an apostle; but, whether it were policy or prejudice, he directed his bitterest invectives almost exclusively against the clergy. In proof of his doctrines he appealed to the scriptures, and thus made his disciples judges between him and the bishops. Several versions of the sacred writings were even then extant: but they were confined to libraries, or only in the hands of persons who aspired to superior sanctity. Wycliffe made a new translation, multiplied the copies with the aid of transcribers, and by his poor priests recommended it to the perusal of their hearers. In their hands it became an engine of wonderful power. Men were flattered by the appeal to their private judgement: the new doctrines insensibly acquired partisans and protectors in the higher classes, who alone were acquainted with the use of letters; a spirit of inquiry was generated; and the seeds were sown of that religious revolution which, in little more than a century, astonished and convulsed the nations of Europe.' Vol. III. pp. 160-198.
To unravel this adroitly woven tissue of truth and falsehood, it would be requisite to go more into detail than our limits will admit of. The insinuation that Wycliffe was instrumental in fomenting the rebellion under Wat Tyler, is worthy of the contemporary writers' to whom Mr. Lingard refers, that is to say, the monkish historians, the virulent enemies of the Reformer; but an enlightened and impartial writer would not have permitted himself to set down the calumny as an historical fact on so suspicious testimony. That this is an aspersion invented by the enemies of the Protestant cause to sully its doctrines,' remarks one of Wycliffe's biographers, is abundantly apparent from hence; that, had it been in the power of the persecutors of the Reformer, to have fastened upon him so foul an accusation, they most cheerfully would have availed themselves of this sure method of crushing the man whose ruin they were 'contriving by any and every means they could devise. Among those who most suffered either in their property or persons, 'were many who were notorious for their adherence to the cause of reformation; a circumstance which would not have 'happened, had the disciples of Wycliffe favoured these turbulent proceedings.'* Mr. Lingard's statement of Wycliffe's
• Life of Wicklif, by the Rev. H. H. Baber, prefixed to the edition of his New Testament. 4to. London. 1810. p. xxii. In this