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Questions and Answers.
LABOR.-Is this the best way of spelling this word: and is it so far established as to be safely taught: and in this case would you advise me to make the spelling of it as labour a fault to be corrected ? J. MARSDEN.
Answer.--We think labor a decided improvement and would extend the expulsion of the intruder u from all similar Latin words. It is no reason that they should be mis-spelled because they are Anglicised. We should, however, encourage the adoption of the short spelling without treating those who persist in the old mode as wrong doers. [Ed. J. E.]
SPELLING.-El. v. IE.--Is there any better rule than this : viz. that all words derived from capio, as “deceived,” &c. have the e first and vice versâ ? X. Y. Z.
Answer. We know of no such rule. What does our correspondent say to ceiling, reign, vein ; are they derived from capio? [Ed. J. E.]
FRENCH AND ENGLISH DICTIONARY.—Which is the best modern one at a reasonable price?
Auswer.—Contanseau's, published by Messrs. Longman this year. [Ed. J.E.]
MENTAL ARITHMETIC.—Is there any cheap Manual of easy elementary questions ? A BAD HAND AT IT.
Answer..-.-" The Teacher's Friend,” No. 7, by the Bishop of St. Asaph, published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. It is cheap, good, and short. [Ed. J. E.]
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Na previous article on this subject we endeavoured to sketch the Ek various stages through which the literature of a country must
almost necessarily pass: those stages bearing a strong resemblance in
character to the childhood, youth, and mature age of an individual By man. We then turned to the literary history of our own country, 76 marking its first steps in the labors of Bede and Alfred the Great.
We should not however be doing justice to this part of our subject did we pass over altogether unnoticed, the efforts of one, who though serving a foreign prince, was yet our countryman, and an honor to the people from whom he sprang—the Anglo-Saxon Alcuin, called by Charlemagne his Master.
This prince like our Alfred was anxious for his own and his people's improvement, and the encouragement of literary pursuits. For this purpose he collected round his court those who were most distinguished by their learning and talent, lived with them in habits of domestic intimacy, and employed them in educating the princes of the blood and the children of the nobility. At the head of this society was Alcuin who boasted that if his own and his scholar's wishes could be accomplished, a christian Athens would soon be seen to rise, and the Muses would fix their abode in the academic groves of France. In the prosecution of this noble design, not only encouragement was offered, but commands were issued, though unhappily the success was very transient. For this failure various causes may be assigned, such as the previous absence of the very rudiments of education, reading, and writing, amongst the higher orders of society; the habitual devotion to martial exercises; the inaptitude of the teachers who knew not how to excite their pupils interest, but above all to the manner in which the so called seven liberal arts, grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy were taught: nothing but their dry and emaciated skeleton being offered to the weary eye of the student.
The result of such a method, in the barbaric ignorance of the times succeeding that of Charlemagne, should be a warning to all teachers that education, to be efficient in manhood, should be made interesting in youth. In the decline of life Alcuin retired from court to the monastery of St. Martin in Tours, and a letter of his to Charlemagne giving an account of his occupations is so curiously quaint and descriptive of the state of literature at that period, that we cannot forbear giving the following extract. “As you advised me, and as my own inclinations lead me, I am sedulously employed within these walls in imparting some instruction from the pot of the holy scriptures; while I labor to inebriate others with the old wine of the ancient schools, feed others with the apples of grammatical subtilty, and illumine others with arrangements of the stars placed as in the painted ceiling of some great edifice." This method of giving encouragement to his scholars was also somewhat original, as it was his practice when he had VOL. XI. NO. 132, N.S.
a student whose talents he admired to give him the appellation of some ancient worthy, distinguished by his literary acquirements or moral qualities. Thus he gave to the poet Angelbert the title of Homer, to Charlemagne that of David, to his celebrated scholar Rabanus, of whom it was said “that Italy ḥad not seen the like, nor Germany produced his equal,” that of Inaurus, a man of dignity in the Benedictine order. Alcuin's favorite studies were of an ecclesiastical character, but nothing in the then circle of human knowledge appears to have escaped him, and William of Malmesbury gives us a long list of his works on various subjects.
From this digression we must turn once more to the period of Alfred, and trace the first commencement of a change which in the following century had produced a considerable effect, both of a favourable and unfavourable character. The change to which we refer was in sacred literature, and was occasioned by the labors of one of our countrymen, John Erigena.
The fame of Erigena's learning and talents having reached the ears of Charles the Bald, grandson of Charlemagne, he was invited by that prince to come over to his court, and appointed to the superintendence of the schools. Acute in intellect and subtle in disputation, he engaged in the Predestinarian controversy against Gotteschale, and afterwards, by the King's request, translated from the Greek the mystical works of the pseudo Dionysius. By this means the chaotic 'obscurities of the Alexandrian school, rendered still more impenetrable by his translation, became an object of devout attention and disputatious interest. Nothing like it had before been presented to the ears of western scholars; and as it was pretended to be derived from the deep recesses of the ancient school, we can hardly be surprised that it was received by many with awful admiration; but as even evil is overruled by the all-wise Ruler of the earth, and turned into good, so from these unhappy controversies, which caused so much discord and contention, some good effects were produced by forcing the human mind to action and exercising its power. Erigena subsequently returned to Britain where he received from Alfred a reception as flattering as that which he had met with from Charles; but here let us mark the different characters of his two royal patrons. In Charles's court he had been involved in all the mysticism of the Alexandrian theology, in Alfred's we find him engaged in the recital of Saxon poems.
We now come to the tenth century which is thus characterized by Baronius; as “a period which for its sterility of every excellence, may be denominated iron; for its luxuriant growth of vice, leaden; for its dearth of writers, dark.” This pleasing picture however applies more especially to the continent, as in England the successors of Alfred evinced a laudable desire to support the institutions he had formed in which, while ignorance reigned all around, learned men still flourished, and able masters continued to teach. Amongst the foremost of these we are told was the celebrated Archbishop Dunstan, who was educated at the monastery of Glastonbury. Dunstan's biographer Osbernus gives us a curiously unintelligible account of the studies he there pursued, namely, “the knowledge of those things which are, and which may be in another manner; such as magnitudes, of which some are fixed and without motion, while others are ever subject to change, and at no time are at rest; and such as multitudes, of which some are so, per se, alia in ratione posita.” We trust that Dunstan had some key explaining to him the meaning of these studies : for ourselves we confess our utter inability to comprehend them; at all events the study of
" magnitudes” and “multitudes" appears to have been successful in his case, for we are told that “such were his powers of expression, that nothing could be more profound than his invention; nothing more embellished than his diction, nor more sweet than his utterance."*
He was undoubtedly a man of genius and talents, and was an excellent musician, painter, and statuary. His superior knowledge of music was numbered amongst his crimes; for being accused of magic to the king, it was urged against him that he had, by the Devil's help, constructed a harp “ that not only moved of itself, but played without any human assistance." This suspicion of necromancy appears to have been a prevailing feature of the age, for we are told that if a genius of more than common powers happened at this period to advance beyond his contemporaries, he was suspected of a secret intercourse with the world of spirits, and his acquirements were registered with the theories of the black art. Dunstan, however, had freely exposed himself to this charge by the wild fables he appears not only to have taught the people, but himself credited, with regard to his intercourse with unearthly beings, one of which is well known to historical readers. He had retired to a cell so small that he could neither stand erect or lie down at full length. In this pleasant residence the Devil, he fancied, paid him frequent visits: till one day, being provoked by the unusual earnestness of his temptations, he seized him by the nose with a pair of red hot pincers as he put his head into the cell, and held him till the whole neighbourhood resounded with his screams. That such a tale could have received a moment's credence any where, except in the distempered brain of the originator, shows to how low a pitch of darkness and ignorance this century had fallen. What remains of literature still existed were found within the walls of the convent, where there were some men of application, several of whom devoted their talents to the composition of annals and histories, which partook largely, says Berington, of the characteristic rudeness of the times, but which are still valuable for their air of candour and of truth.” Those monks who were esteemed best qualified were engaged in the task of education; but though the doors of their schools were open to all, they had seldom any other pupils than the young men who were destined for the monastic life.
The Danish invasions in this century added not a little to the barbarism of the period; not that the Danes were less cultivated than the Saxons, but because war and devastation are the natural enemies of letters, and the records of the times contain accounts of little else but strife; relieved only by episodes of pilgrimages at home, theological brawls, or legendary tales. The actual advance made by the Danes in intellectual improvement we do not find recorded, but they must at least have been more civilized in their habits than the Saxons, the latter accusing them of effeminate habits, such as combing their hair once a day, bathing once a week, and frequently changing their clothes! What must have been the degradation of those who could sneer at such ordinary acts of decency and civilization ?
Editha, daughter of Earl Godwin and wife of Edward the Confessor, appears to have been a pleasing exception to this general state of ignorance. "She was exquisitely beautiful,” says the Abbot of Croyland, “well versed in letters, peculiarly modest, humble, and differing from the stern manners of her father and brothers; gentle, sincere, honorable, and to no one ever
gave offence.” “When I visited my father, then residing at Court, I often saw her. She would stop me as I came from school, and ask me questions; then turning with singular pleasure from the heavy rules of grammar to some logical levity, in which art she excelled, she would entangle me in some sophisms : but this was sure to produce me some pieces of money with which she directed me to go to the king's buttery and procure some refreshment.” Such characters were like bright stars gleaming through the darkness of intellectual night, a night thus described by William of Malmesbury :-" Before this Norman invasion the pursuits of letters and the practice of piety had long been relinquished. Satisfied with the slightest acquirements, churchmen could barely mutter the words of the service, whilst he who knew anything of grammar was considered as a prodigy.
The dawn of better days, however, was approaching with the advent of the Normans, who bringing with them a greater amount of civilization, introduced also a more ardent and active spirit into the literature of the period. To estimate aright, however, the effects produced by their conquest of England, we should glance first at their early history, as that will enable us better to estimate the value of the new element thus introduced.
Their first appearance was as pirates, infesting the western coast of France, who under their leader Rollo took forcible possession of one of the maritime provinces in 912. Charles the Simple, unable to resist their progress, offered terms to the effect that Rollo should espouse his daughter Gisela, and keep possession of Neustria, on condition that he should do homage for the territory and embrace the Christian faith. To men who were said to be utterly devoid of all religion, there could be no room for hesitation. The conditions were accepted, and the leader and his army were baptized. Such were our Norman ancestors. After their establishment in Normandy, however, a rapid change took place. The comparative superiority of their neighbours in intellectual endowments excited a desire of imitation, and both curiosity and ambition prompted them to procure the means of instruction : while the influence of religion came in opportunely in aid of other motives to generate habits of social order, and cause the attention to be fixed on the cultivation of the mind, thereby producing the erection of numerous schools and convents. Thus Normandy, once the residence of savage pirates, became noted in the civilized world, and the celebrated men of the age did not disdain to visit or take up their residence there. Amongst these was Lanfranc, a native of Pavia, and afterwards archbishop of Canterbury. His motives for leaving Italy are unknown, but he appears to have desired to seclude himself from the world in the monastry of Bea, near Avranches in Normandy. His retreat, however, was soon discovered by the ardent Normans, and so high was his reputation, and so eager their thirst for knowledge, that the attendance of pupils on his lectures almost exceeds belief. Contemporary writers dwell with rapture on the academic exercises of Bea, where latin and the liberal arts were taught. The philosophy of Lanfranc was exactly suited to that age, being the art of subtle disputation, and we hear of his scholars that they everywhere proclaimed their skill, and were prone to engage in controversy. Many eminent scholars issued from his school, amongst whom were the celebrated Anselm, and Pope Alexander II. The latter, after his accession to the Papal chair being visited at Rome by his old master on