Imatges de pÓgina
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LETTER VI.

ST. DUNSTAN.

WHAT You say in this letter only calls upon me to notice the terms in which You mention my account of the disastrous event which happened at the assembly convened at Calne. I transcribe your words, (p. 58.) "When you perused the story of the falling in of the floor at the Council "of Calne, did you suddenly cease to read, before

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you came to that part which excites the suspicion "of a trick, and which, as an honest historian, you "would undoubtedly have mentioned, namely, that "the beams and rafters did not give way, till the "nobles, who refused to yield, reproached Dunstan, who thereupon cried out, I confess I am " unwilling to be overcome; I commit the cause "of the Church to the decision of Christ.""

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What can you mean?-The whole of this passage You will find inserted, almost verbatim, in the very letter upon which You are now commenting. I there relate from Dr. Southey, that " the speech of "Biornhelm, a Scottish bishop, produced a great

effect, and Dunstan did not attempt to answer "it he had laid aside, says his biographer, all "his means, but prayer; you endeavour," says he, to overcome me, who am now growing old "and disposed to silence rather than contention

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"I confess I am unwilling to be overcome, and "I commit the cause of the Church to Christ him"self, as judge."-No sooner had these words been spoken than the beams and rafters gave way.

I do not again mention the circumstances of the archbishop's speech, when I wind up the whole of the transactions in the last lines of my letter, not quite seven lines from the passage I have transcribed.

There, I thus express myself:-" That a council "was held at Calne; that, during its sitting, the "floor fell in; that the ecclesiastics, the nobles and "the other members, who attended it, were cast "into the ruin; that several lost their lives or "were materially injured, and that Dunstan re"mained unhurt by standing on a beam, are the only circumstances which history has transmitted to us."

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But "history" has not transmitted to us the archbishop's speech.

It is perhaps to my omitting to mention St. Dunstan's speech in this place, that You sneer at me, and impute "historic dishonesty" to me :-hear my reasons for the omission:

1. The speech is not mentioned by the contemporary historians: they are wholly silent upon the synod at Calne.

2.-Ten historians,--Malmsbury*, Huntingdont, Hovedent, Simon Dunelmensis §, Matthew * De Pont, p. 34.

+ p. 245.

+ p. 205.

§ p. 159.

Westminster*, Florence of Worcestert, Brompton, Gervase§, Rudborne, and the Saxon Chronicle ¶, mention the synod, and the disaster, but do not mention the archbishop's speech."This year," says the Saxon Chronicle, a faithful register of the times, "the principal nobility of "England fell at Calne from an upper floor, except "the holy Archbishop Dunstan, who stood upon a beam; and some were grievously hurt, and some did not escape with their lives."

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3. Both the disaster and the speech are mentioned by Osbern.

Putting then in one scale Osbern's mention of the speech, with his acknowledged ridiculous proneness to the marvellous**, and on the other, the absolute silence of the ten historians upon the speech, can it be said with truth, that the speech is recorded by history?

If You really believe the charge against St. Dunstan, allow me to say, that never was foul crime believed upon less evidence.

I have said too much upon the charge You have brought against me in this place; but such is the consequence of controversy; a line of sneer or misrepresentation often requires hours of research, and pages of explanation or defence.

p. 103. † p. 697. + p. 870. Ang. Sax. Vol. I. p. 225. ** It is to him we owe the story of St. Dunstan's pinching the Devil's nose.

§ p. 1647.

¶p. 124.

LETTERS VII. & VIIJ.

I. INVESTITURES AND IMMUNITIES :

II. ST. THOMAS À BECKETT:

III. TEMPORAL POWER OF THE POPE.

IN the beginning of your first letter, You give the monks some praise: As to your charge against them of “erasing manuscripts ;”—I do not think it unlikely, that sometimes they were guilty, as You say they were, of “ erasing a Greek

tragedy, to write on the parchment an inferior composition;" but that “

they erased from “ parchment any portion of the Scripture for “ such a purpose," appears to me so highly improbable, that proof of it must be produced before I believe it.

I.

Investitures and Immunities.

The account of Investitures, inserted in my letters to Doctor Southey, is an abridgement of the account given of them in my History of the Germanic Empire *.” Both were written with care; and nothing in the letters, which You have done me the honour to address to me, leads me to suspect any error in them. I do not think

* Part III. Emperors of the House of Suabia, I. II. III.

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that sovereigns are entitled by divine right, to appoint to the sees of bishops: You seem to ascribe this right to them: You know that it is rejected by all the Presbyterian churches; and with what bitter words of indignation, Calvin expressed himself of Elizabeth's assumption of the spiritual

supremacy.

Of Immunities, I shall only confidently repeat, that no Roman Catholic imagines that ecclesiastics are, or ever were, entitled by divine right, to the immunities for which Becket contended, in the first stage, as I have termed it, of his controversy with his sovereign.

II.

Thomas à Becket.

The account given of this controversy in my letters to Doctor Southey, was abridged from the account which I had several years before given of it in my "Historical Memoirs of the English, "Irish, and Scottish Catholics.". This was written after an attentive and dispassionate perusal both of the ancient and modern historians of this period of our history. I beg leave to insert as succinctly as possible, the conclusions to which I then arrived, after much reading and much meditating upon the subject.

1. That the point in dispute respected the punishment of clerks for felony: the king con

* Vol. II. chap. IV.

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