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STUDIES FROM COURT AND CLOISTER BEING ESSAYS, HISTORICAL AND LITERARY, DEALING MAINLY WITH SUBJECTS RELATING TO THE XVITH AND XVIITH CENTURIES
BY J. M. STONE
AUTHOR OF "MARY THE FIRST, QUEEN OF ENGLAND," "REFORMATION AND RENAISSANCE," ETC.
LONDON AND EDINBURGH SANDS AND COMPANY ST LOUIS, MO. B. HERDER, 17 SOUTH BROADWAY 1908
These studies on various crucial points connected with the history of religion in Europe at the close of the Middle Ages, its decline, revival, and the causes which led to both, have already appeared in print as regards their general outline, although they have for the most part been rewritten, added to, and in each case subjected to a careful revision.
Three of them were originally published in the Dublin Review, four in the Scottish Review, two in Blackwood's Magazine, and three in the Month. One was a contribution to the American Catholic Quarterly Review. By the courtesy of the respective editors of these publications I am enabled to gather them together in this volume.
It will be seen at a glance that a certain cohesion, historical and chronological, exists in their present arrangement, especially with reference to Part I.
The two first studies concern Henry VIII. and his sister the Queen of Scots, the significance of their matrimonial affairs, and the relations which their policy created between England, Scotland, France, and the Empire. The third study has for its subject the distinguished and much-maligned Lieutenant of the Tower of London, who contributed so largely to the accession of the rightful sovereign, and who was appointed to be governor of the Princess Elizabeth during her captivity at Woodstock. His subsequent persecution for the sake of religion was the consequence of Henry VIIIth's rupture with Rome, and Elizabeth's repudiation of England's Catholic past. And as we can only gain an intelligible view of any historical movement by studying its context, its broad outlines, and its connection with foreign nations, the fourth essay describes the condition to which the religious revolution had reduced Germany in the sixteenth century, and the reconversion of a great part of that country, as well as of Austria and Switzerland, to the Catholic faith. This was the work of the Jesuit, Peter Canisius, and we are thus led to a consideration of the newly-founded Society of Jesus and its methods. Its members soon became noted for sanctity and learning, and emperors, kings, and royal princes clamoured for Jesuits as confessors. The manner in which these acquitted themselves of the difficult and unwelcome task imposed on them, is unconsciously revealed by themselves, in the private correspondence of members of the old Society, which has now been given to the world by one of their Order. Selections from this correspondence are contained in the fifth study. As a further result of the revolution that had been effected in the casting off of old beliefs and traditions, we note the revival of Pantheism, an ancient, atheistic philosophy, whose modern apostle was the celebrated Giordano Bruno. His otherwise fruitless visit to England left a deep impression on certain minds, learned and ignorant, and we begin for the first time to hear of examinations and prosecutions for atheism in this country. And this forms the subject of the sixth essay. The recoil that invariably takes place after any great political, social, or religious upheaval was not wanting to the Reformation in England, and in the reign of Charles I. High-Churchism, under Archbishop Laud, was thought to indicate a desire on the part of the royalists for a return to Catholic unity. A Papal agent was dispatched to England to negotiate between the Catholic Queen, Henrietta Maria and Cardinal Barberini, with a view to the conversion of her husband, which would, it was hoped, ultimately issue in the corporate reunion of the country with Rome.
Thus, Part I. deals with some of the persons who had "their exits and their entrances", who made history during this interesting period. Part II. treats more especially the books and manuscripts connected with it. The theme is therefore the same.
Even before England was England, she was the Isle of Saints, and throughout the Middle Ages religion was her chief care, in a manner almost incredible in this secular and materialistic age. She not only covered the land with magnificent churches and cathedrals, to the architecture of which we cannot in these days approach, even by imitation, distantly, but she also built huge monasteries, and these monasteries were the cradles, the homes of vast stores of ever-accumulating knowledge. A system of philosophy, to which the world is even now returning, recognising that there is no better training for the human intellect, is so distinctly mediaeval, that all that savoured even remotely of St. Thomas Aquinas or Duns Scotus in the University was utterly destroyed in a great bonfire made at Oxford in 1549. At the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII., the labour, the learning, the genius of centuries were as nought. Exquisitely written and illuminated Bibles, missals and other choice manuscripts, displaying a wealth of palaeographic art to which we have lost the key, were torn from their jewelled bindings, and were either thrown aside to spoil and rot, or to become the prey of any who needed wrappers for small merchandise. It is a marvel that so many should have escaped destruction, to be collected when men had returned to their sane senses, and formed again into libraries for the delight and instruction of posterity to the end of time. And almost as strange as this circumstance, is the fact that so few among us know of the existence of these treasures which have become our national inheritance. Otherwise, how could the reviewer of one of our foremost literary publications, in his notice of the exhibition of medieval needlework at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, in the spring of 1905, have discovered in it a surprising revelation of the "refinement" of the Middle Ages?
The three last studies in the present volume are, therefore, devoted to a description of some of the precious spoils of mediaeval refinement. Where all is so splendidly beautiful, so deeply erudite, or so tenderly naif, choice is difficult; but at all events, here are a few of the priceless gems with which the Dark Ages have endowed a scornful after-world.
And lest it should be supposed that all this mediaeval piety and devotion sprang up suddenly, with no apparent raison d'etre, I have gone further back, and have shown that with the first dawn of Christianity over these Islands, religion was no other than in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. The Arthurian legends, which Sir Thomas Malory wove into one consecutive whole, had been handed down from generation to generation for many hundreds of years. Sometimes they had been written in the French language, but they lived in the minds of the people, and Sir Lancelot, who died "a holy man," was as vivid and real to them as was Richard, the troubadour king. With the story of his sharp penance, his fasting and prayers for the soul of Guinevere, was also handed down incidentally the tradition of Britain's obedience to the "Apostle Pope".
Some time after the Anglo-Saxon conquest, in the eighth century, was set up a wonderful churchyard Cross at Ruthwell in Scotland, a "folk-book in stone," alluded to in the Act passed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1642, "anent the Idolatrous Monuments in Ruthwell," and already two years previously condemned by that enlightened body to be "taken down, demolished, and destroyed." The story of this ancient Cross, and that of the runes carved upon it, form the subject of the opening study of Part II.
Little need be said here of Foxe, the great calumniator of Queen Mary's bishops. His book, which so long deceived the world, is no more the power it once was, but in it lay the venom which poisoned the wells, as far as the ill-fated reign of Mary was concerned; and the essay which deals with it could scarcely have been omitted.
In the hope that I have been enabled to throw a faint ray of additional light on some vexed but interesting questions, this volume is put forward.
J. M. S.
I. MARGARET TUDOR
II. NOR WIFE NOR WIDOW
III. A NOTABLE ENGLISHMAN
IV. THE CATHOLIC REFORMATION IN GERMANY
V. JESUITS AT COURT
VI. GIORDANO BRUNO IN ENGLAND
VII. CHARLES THE FIRST AND THE POPISH PLOT
I. THE RUNIC CROSSES OF NORTHUMBRIA
II. A MISSING PAGE FROM THE "IDYLLS OF THE KING"
III. FOXES BOOK OF ERRORS
IV. THE SPOILS OF THE MONASTERIES
V. THE ROYAL LIBRARY
VI. THE HARLEIAN COLLECTION OF MANUSCRIPTS
STUDIES FROM COURT AND CLOISTER
I. MARGARET TUDOR
Notwithstanding the spy-system which was brought to so great a perfection under the Tudors, the study of human nature was in their days yet in its infancy. The world had long ceased to be ingenuous, but nations had not yet learned civilised methods of guarding themselves against their enemies. At a time when distrust was general, it was easier, like Machiavelli, to erect deceit and fraud into a science, and to teach the vile utility of lying, than to scrutinise character and weigh motives. It was then generally understood that opponents might
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