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The Progress of the Nation page 5


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Such was the disorder of the two universities at this time, the violent quarrels, not only betwixt the students and the townspeople, but also betwixt each other, that many of the members of both universities retired to Northampton, and, with the permission of Henry III., commenced a new university there; but the people of Oxford and Cambridge found means to obtain its dissolution from the king. About thirty years afterwards they tried the same experiment at Stamford, but were stopped in the same manner.

London at this time so abounded with schools, that it was called the third university. Edward III. built the college of St. Stephen at Westminster for a college of divinity, which was dissolved by Henry VIII. Archbishop Bradwardine founded a theological lecture in St. Paul's Church, and John of Gaunt founded a college for divines in St. Paul's churchyard. There were various schools besides these, but the most remarkable were the great schools of law, which arose out of the provisions of the Great Charter, which fixed the chief courts of justice at Westminster. Sir John Fortescue, who studied in one of these inns of court, describes them as a great school or university of law, consisting of several colleges. "The situation," he says, "where the students read and study is between Westminster and the City of London. There belong to it ten lesser inns, and sometimes more, which are called the inns of Chancery, in each of which there are a hundred students at least, and in some of them a far greater number not constantly residing." In these the young nobility and gentry of England began to receive some part of their education, so that with all these colleges of learning and of law, the laity as well as the clergy began to reap the benefits of education.

MEN OF LEARNING AND SCIENCE.

Amongst the theologians of this period, none surpass for extent of learning, talent, and eloquence, Robert Grosteste, or Greathead, Bishop of Lincoln. He was originally a very poor lad; but the Mayor of Lincoln, noticing his quickness of faculty, took him into his house and put him to school. He studied at Oxford, Cambridge, and Paris, his splendid talents acquiring him many patrons. Bacon, who knew him well, gives this testimony of him: - "Robert Greathead, Bishop of Lincoln, and his friend, Prior Adam de Marisco, are the two most learned men in the world, and excel all the rest of mankind both in divine and human knowledge."

Greathead was one of the very few real Greek scholars of the age, and was equally versed in Hebrew, French, and Latin. But, beyond his learning, which he has embodied in many voluminous works, his noble and independent character stands pre-eminent in those times. We have mentioned his opposition to the Pope inducting mere infants into church livings; and the caution which the cardinals are reported, by Matthew Paris, to have given the Pope when he threatened to take vengeance on him, is remarkable, as indicating their knowledge of the tendency of the age. "Let us not raise a tumult in the Church without necessity, and precipitate that revolt and separation from us which we know must one day take place."

But the man of that time in philosophy was Roger Bacon, as Chaucer was in literature. Bacon was born near Ilchester, and educated at Oxford, and afterwards at Paris. On his return to England, at the age of twenty-six, he again settled at Oxford, and entered the order of Franciscan friars of that city, that he might study at leisure. He soon abandoned the beaten track, and struck out a course of inquiry and experiment for himself. He was not content to study Aristotle alone at second hand, but he made himself master of Greek, and went to the fountain head of ancient knowledge.

But that did not satisfy him. He sought to make himself acquainted with Nature, the great fountain of all our human knowledge. He declared that if you would know the truth you must seek it by actual inquiry and experiment. In this system of philosophising he preceded Francis Bacon nearly three centuries and a half; but he was before his time, and, therefore, the benefit of his teaching was, to a great degree, lost. His great work, the "Opus Majus," contains the result of his researches; and he states in that work that he had expended 2,000 in twenty years on apparatus and experiments - a sum equal to 30,000 of our money at present. This he had done through the generosity of his friends and patrons, having made a greater amount of discoveries in geometry, astronomy, physics, optics, mechanics, and chemistry, than ever were accomplished by any one man in an equal space of time. In his treatise on optics, "De Scientia Perspectiva," he gives you the mode of constructing spectacles and microscopic lenses. In mechanics, he talks of having ascertained by experiments wonders that we have not yet reached by steam; of a mode of propelling ships so that they should require only one man to guide them, and with a velocity greater than if they were full of sailors. "Chariots," he says, "may be constructed that will move with incredible rapidity, without the help of animals." He speculated and believed in the capability of raising the most wonderful weights by mechanical contrivance, and of walking on the bottom of the sea. But, unfortunately, he has not left us the explicit exposition of these marvels. His system of chemical analysis has, however, been greatly praised by some modern chemists, and it is evident that he was well acquainted with gunpowder. "A little matter," he says, "about the bigness of a man's thumb, makes a horrible noise, and produces a dreadful corruscation; and by this a city or an army may be destroyed several ways." He then explains that sulphur, saltpetre, and powdered charcoal are the ingredients of this wonderful explosive substance. Whether Bacon discovered this mixture, or whether he learnt it in his Asiatic reading, has been a query. At all events, he knew the fact, and in the reign of Edward III. gunpowder came into use in war.

Bacon was the martyr of science. Instead of benefiting by his discoveries, the ignorant monks of his order accused him of necromancy and dealing with the devil. He was kept in close confinement for years, and he was not allowed to send his "Opus Majus" to any one except the Pope. After receiving a copy of it, Clement IV. procured him his liberty, but he was very soon imprisoned again by Jerome de Esculo, general of the Franciscan order. He continued in confinement this time eleven or twelve years, and, on coming out, old and broken down by his cruel suffering, he still continued his labours with undiminished ardour till his death in 1292.

A kindred spirit to Bacon was Michael Scott, who was born about the beginning of the thirteenth century at his family seat in Scotland. By his study of astrology and alchemy, in common with Bacon and the great inquirers of the time, he obtained the reputation of a magician, which has mixed up his name with the wildest popular legends and superstitions of Scotland. So strong were the convictions of his countrymen that he was a magician, that Dempster assures us many people in Scotland in his time dared not so much as touch his works. Bishop Tanner says, "He was one of the greatest philosophers, physicians, and linguists of his age; and, though his fondness for astrology, alchemy, physiognomy, and chiromancy made people think him a magician, none speaks or writes more respectfully of God and religion than he does."

He was deeply read in the Greek and Arabic languages, and, while residing at the court of the Emperor Frederick II., he translated for that prince the works of Aristotle into Latin, to which Bacon attributes the high admiration which those works obtained afterwards in Europe.

Duns Scotus, though supposed to be of Scotch origin, was educated at Oxford, from which seat of learning he went to Paris, to maintain before the university of that city his favourite doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin. He had profoundly studied moral philosophy, mathematics, civil and canon law, and school divinity. No man of his age was so admired and applauded, but his works now sleep, covered with the dust of ages.

William of Ockham was a very learned and eloquent theologian, who maintained the temporal independence of kings, and was supported, against all the efforts of three successive Popes to crush him, by his patron the Emperor Ludwig of Germany; but, on the death of that prince, he was compelled to recant. He did not long survive this humiliation, having for many years borne the title of the Singular and Invincible Doctor. During his life appeared Wycliffe, who, under happier auspices, proclaimed the freedom of religion.

The historians of this period, from whom, and from the parliamentary writs and statutes, our history is derived, are chiefly these: -

Matthew Paris has been greatly quoted as a high authority from the earliest times to the year 1273, or to the end of the reign of Henry III. Matthew Paris, however, on inspection, divides himself into three persons, all monks of St. Alban's, namely, Roger Wendover, Matthew Paris, and William Rishanger. Matthew Paris's own share comprehends only the period from 1235 to 1259, about twenty-five years. He continues Wendover, and Rishanger continues him. The work of Matthew Paris is the "Historia Major." Besides this he wrote the lives of Offa I. and II., and of twenty-three abbots of St, Alban's. Wendover's chronicle, "Flores Historiarum," reaches from the Creation to the year 1238, and is divided at the birth of Christ into two halves. Matthew Paris, in copying Wendover, has taken care to infuse here and there his own spirit, which was one of great freedom of remark on kings, priests, popes, and, what is singular, on the usurpations of the Court of Borne itself. Matthew had seen the world and courts, and had picked up a great quantity of amusing anecdotes and curious characteristics of great men. He went as ambassador of Louis IX. to Hacon of Norway, and, at the Pope's instance, made a visitation of the monastery of Holm, in that kingdom, He was employed in writing history by Henry III., and even assisted by him in it. He says, "He wrote this almost constantly with the king in his palace, at his table, and in his closet; and that prince guided his pen in writing in the most diligent and condescending manner." No historian who has written of his own times has shown more boldness and independence than Matthew Paris. Though a monk, he did not hesitate to paint the corruptions of a monastic life in the most plain colours, nor to denounce the corruptions of the Church and hierarchy at large with equal honesty. For this he has been assailed, and charged even with interpolating falsehoods by those whom his honest freedom had offended. But Matthew Paris was not only a most accomplished man for that age, but one of the most incorruptible of those who ever associated with kings and pontiffs. He is declared at the, same time to have been "famous for the purity, integrity, innocence, and simplicity of his manners."

Matthew Westminster copied Matthew Paris's "Flowers of History," which had not then been printed.

Thomas Wykes wrote a chronicle extending from the Conquest to 1304. He was a canon in the Abbey of Osney. The latter years of his chronicle, from 1293, are supposed to be by another hand.

Walter Hemmingford, a monk of the Abbey of Gisborne, in Yorkshire, wrote a chronicle of about the same period with Wykes, ending 1347. John de Trokelowe and Henry de Blandford, who are supposed to have been monks of St. Alban's, wrote histories of Edward II., as did also the anonymous monk of Malmsbury.

Bartholomew Cotton, whose work still remains un-printed in the Cotton MS., has copied other chronicles in his earlier pages; but the reign of Edward I. to the year 1298 is a very valuable contribution to our history.

Robert Avesbury, who was registrar of the court of the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote the history of Edward III. to the year 1356. His account is most valuable, He gives us many particulars that appear nowhere else, which, as he had access to the best sources, are undoubtedly correct. They serve us to test the accounts of Froissart, who is apt to merge into the romantic. In this work of Avesbury's abound original letters of Edward regarding the attack on Cambray in J1336; the expedition into Brittany in 1342; relations of the circumstances which led to the battle of Crecy by officers and eye-witnesses, and despatches from the camps of the Earl of Derby and the Black Prince; with similar most interesting and invaluable documents.

Adam de Murimath wrote the history of Edward II. and the earlier part of that of Edward III. He was engaged much in public affairs as ambassador, both from the clergy to the Pope at Avignon, and from the king to the Court of Borne, as well as afterwards to the King of Sicily on account of Edward's claims in Provence. He saw much, and, as professor of civil law, was much engaged in affairs of the Government, but his account is somewhat meagre and dry.

Besides these we may name Nicholas Trivet, who wrote "Annals," from 1130 to 1307. Ralph Higdon, whose "Polychronicon" ends in 1357, and has been translated into English by John de Trevisa. Robert de Brunne, or Manning, a canon of Brunne, in Lincolnshire, wrote a rhymed chronicle, including versions or appropriations of Ware's old French poem of Brut, and Peter Langtoft's French "Rhymed Cronicall." The latter part, from King Ina to the death of Edward I., has some historic merit. Henry Knyghton, a canon of Leicester, is the author of a history from the time of King Edgar to 1395, and of an account of the deposition of Richard II. His work is of great authority in the latter of these reigns. Thomas de la Moor wrote a life of Edward II., and asserts that he had the account of the battle of Bannockburn and Edward's last days from eye-witnesses. In Scottish history of this period, we have the "Scalacronica," of Sir Thomas Gray of Heton, who was a native of the north of England, being taken prisoner by the Scots. He has left us in his "Cronicall" many particulars of the times of Wallace. Andrew Wyntown, the author of the "Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland," was living in the long reign of David II., and his rhymed chronicle reaches from the beginning of the world, in the fashion of those times, to the year 1424. He was canon of the priory of St. Andrew. The portion of his chronicle from the beginning of the reign of David II. to the end of Robert II. is supposed to be by another hand. John Fordun's "Scotichronicon" is a regular chronicle of Scotland to the year 1385. This work was continued by Walter Bower, abbot of St. Columkil, in the fifteenth century.

Besides these the monastic registers of Mailros, ending in 1270; of Margan, ending 1232; of Burton, ending 1262; and Waverley, ending 1291, afford evidence of the history of Scotland and England, and of the literary talent of the two countries at this time.

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Pictures for The Progress of the Nation page 5

A Scandinavian God
A Scandinavian God >>>>
Shipping of the Year 1269
Shipping of the Year 1269 >>>>
Prior of Southwick's Chair
Prior of Southwick's Chair >>>>
Parliament assembled for the Deposition of Richard II
Parliament assembled for the Deposition of Richard II >>>>
Siege of a town in the Fourteen Century
Siege of a town in the Fourteen Century >>>>
King and Armour-bearer
King and Armour-bearer >>>>
Ciborium
Ciborium >>>>
Crozier
Crozier >>>>
Costume of a Bishop
Costume of a Bishop >>>>
Effigy of Jocelyn, Bishop of Salisbury
Effigy of Jocelyn, Bishop of Salisbury >>>>
Part of the First Chapter of St. John's Gospel
Part of the First Chapter of St. John's Gospel >>>>
Author, and Copyist writing
Author, and Copyist writing >>>>
Roger Bacon
Roger Bacon >>>>
Matthew Paris
Matthew Paris >>>>
Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer >>>>
The Queen's Cross, Northampton
The Queen's Cross, Northampton >>>>
Building of St. Alban's Abbey
Building of St. Alban's Abbey >>>>
Window, from Meopham
Window, from Meopham >>>>
Window, from St. Mary's, Beverley
Window, from St. Mary's, Beverley >>>>
Decorated Capital, from Selby
Decorated Capital, from Selby >>>>
Ball-flower, with Boll Moulding and Hollow
Ball-flower, with Boll Moulding and Hollow >>>>
Four-leaved Flower
Four-leaved Flower >>>>
Ruins of Croyland Abbey
Ruins of Croyland Abbey >>>>
Edward II. and the Minstrel
Edward II. and the Minstrel >>>>
Dance of Fools
Dance of Fools >>>>
Dancing Bears and Monkey
Dancing Bears and Monkey >>>>
Woman Churning, and Blind Beggar
Woman Churning, and Blind Beggar >>>>
Blacksmith of the Fourteenth Century
Blacksmith of the Fourteenth Century >>>>
Penny of Edward I
Penny of Edward I >>>>
Penny (supposed) of Edward II
Penny (supposed) of Edward II >>>>
Groat of Edward III
Groat of Edward III >>>>
English Merrymaking
English Merrymaking >>>>
Bed of the Thirteenth Century
Bed of the Thirteenth Century >>>>
Effigy at Dunmow
Effigy at Dunmow >>>>
Abbot's Chair
Abbot's Chair >>>>
Pilgrim
Pilgrim >>>>
Saddle of the Time of Edward II
Saddle of the Time of Edward II >>>>
Stocks
Stocks >>>>
King at Table
King at Table >>>>
Shoes of the Time of Edward II
Shoes of the Time of Edward II >>>>
Tilting Helmet
Tilting Helmet >>>>
Mourning Costumes
Mourning Costumes >>>>
Head-dresses of the Time of Henry III
Head-dresses of the Time of Henry III >>>>
Stool-ball. Fourteenth Century
Stool-ball. Fourteenth Century >>>>
Horsemen Tilting
Horsemen Tilting >>>>
Card-playing
Card-playing >>>>

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