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The mass of mediæval literature which is actually lost, disappeared, in one way or other, during the ages which produced it: much will have been destroyed, since the sixteenth century, by unavoidable accidents, as well as by the inattention or ignorance of those who had the care of it: But we believe that the real loss sustained at the Reformation was far less than is generally supposed. There were, no doubt, as must always happen under similar circumstances, individual examples of wanton destruction, such as those mentioned by Bale; which, however, he probably exaggerated.*
We have seen how, towards the end of the sixteenth century, the attention of English antiquaries was more and more directed to the legal and constitutional antiquities of their country. This was one of the forebodings of a political change in society. The great religious revolution was past. But a civil revolution was approaching—of scarcely less importance—hastened on and inflamed by provocations from an imprudent dynasty. Early in the reign of James I.—apparently soon after the year 1604– antiquaries became objects of suspicion. So far from their receiving encouragement from the court, the innocent society. founded by Parker, and approved of by Elizabeth, was virtually suppressed, lest it might assume the character of a revolutionary club. This was the same spirit which, a little later, deprived Sir Robert Cotton of the use of his library; in order to hinder him from furnishing constitutional precedents to the House of Commons. When a branch of learning, lately so insignificant, was made an object of persecution, it rose at once to a dignified
* The great destroyers of manuscripts in all ages, as well as in that which followed the Reformation, we believe to have been the bookbinders; who used the vellum leaves of books which had become obso. lete or unpopular, to line with them the sides and backs of the books which they preferred. All our old libraries are full of books bound in this manner; And an examination of them will show that the manuscripts allowed to be sacrificed in this way, were only the common run of heavy theology and ecclesiastical jurisprudence, which formed so large a portion of monastic libraries, and which is now utterly valueless. Several hundred volumes, containing such linings, which we have had occasion to examine, hardly presented two fragments of manuscripts, the loss of which we could regret; and those two were of no great importance. Our early collectors appear to have exercised a wise discretion in their selections. In the Royal Library at Paris, where, at the Revolution, the libraries of some of the French monasteries were deposited en masse, a few manuscripts of value have been often overlooked, on account of the enormous mass of rubbish with which they are surrounded.
position. And among the antiquaries of the seventeenth century
-the Cottons, the Seldens, the D’Eweses, the Twysdens-will be found not only some of the first scholars of the age, but some of the boldest champions of English liberty. In the latter part of this reign, steps were taken towards establishing a new society, under the immediate patronage of the crown, and upon a far wider basis. It was to have comprehended among its members almost every man of letters of any eminence- Ben Jonson and Drayton, as well as Sir Henry Wotton and Sir Edward Coke. According to facts recently brought forward in the Archæologia, the plan was started by Edmund Bolton, a Roman Catholic, an antiquary of some learning; and its chief advocate was Villiers Duke of Buckingham. If the former society had done little for the advancement of science, this, to judge by its details, was calculated to do less. Its general design, indeed, seems to have been to carry into literature those frivolous distinctions which at that time rather disfigured than adorned society. The design died, perhaps fortunately, with the weak monarch, whose learned vanity it was probably principally intended to flatter. After what we have said concerning his jealousy of the study of antiquities, it is clear that he never can have meant to assign to it its proper place, or to countenance its being cultivated to any useful purpose. · Meantime, this very jealousy was a title not only to respect, but popularity. Antiquarian science assumed a bolder and more healthy character. The Anglo-Saxon language was studied with greater assiduity than ever. The religious reformers, we have seen, had originally given it a prominent place, under the belief that the monuments written in it contained the theological doctrines for which they contended ; And now the civil reformers adopted a similar opinion. They persuaded themselves, that they discovered there the historical foundations of the political rights, to which they were beginning to feel that they might have even a still older and more unalienable title ; while all scholars justly regarded the language itself as the basis of the tongue which they still spoke, and therefore deserving of their especial attention. During this century, accordingly, Anglo-Saxon publications followed each other in quick succession; commencing with the laws published by Sir Henry Spelman in 1639, and with the Saxon version of the Psalter, published in the following year by his son. A new edition of Lambarde's Anglo-Saxon laws, and an edition (by Wheloc) of Alfred's translation of Bede, appeared in 1643. The first Anglo-Saxon dictionary was given to the world by Somner in 1659; Junius had already published the poetry of Cædmon in
icles, which warm ore important the monu
1655, (which probably gave a hint to Milton for the Paradise Lost), and was now engaged on a new edition of the Gospels, which was printed a few years afterwards. The Saxon Chronicle was first edited by Gibson in 1692. While Hickes, who had put forth an attempt at an Anglo-Saxon grammar in 1689, meritoriously closed the labours of the seventeenth century in this department of philology, in 1705, with his great Thesaurus ; a work which, in spite of all its defects both in system and detail, must be considered as one of the most extraordinary efforts of that industrious and stirring age.
Contemporaneously with the rapid strides which were thus making in the publication and illustration of the monuments of Anglo-Saxon literature, the more important of the early histories and chronicles, which had been left in manuscript in the preceding century, were now published by Watts, Twysden, Fell, Gale, and Wharton; and historical collections of various kinds were ushered forth from the hands of Dodsworth, Dugdale, Ashmole, and others of their school. A visible improvement may be now also observed in the manner in which historical texts were edited. Although still not without errors, they are printed more correctly than in the previous century. They were accompanied, too, by dissertations and glossaries, as well as by a variety of separate treatises, historical and controversial, from the Seldens, Ushers, and Twysdens of the day: All of which show that the antiquaries of the seventeenth century had studied the ancient monuments much more extensively and carefully, and therefore more profitably, than those of the sixteenth. When these zealous guardians of our historical remains rested from their labours, they were represented to the succeeding generation by Thomas Hearne. The wits accepted Pope's portrait of him, under the name of Wormius:-
* But who is he, in closet closely-pent,
As thou preserv'st the dullness of the past !' Wits will have their laugh; and, that Hearne was a dull and lumbering pedant, must be conceded to them. Nor bad he any high philological conception of his calling. Yet the faithful student of English antiquity will not the less remember, what would have been the state of our historical literature but for Hearne. Among the dullness of the past,' which he is laughed at for preserving for us, are Leland's - Itinerarium' and · Collectanea,' • William of Newbury,' • Robert of Avesbury,' · For
dun,' • Robert of Gloucester,' • Peter Langtoft,' . Benedict Abbas,' • Walter Hemingford,' &c. &c. He wearied the public by encumbering his pages with notes of ridiculous particularity: But he did not frighten them away, by reproducing in his texts the hideous abbreviations of the original manuscripts. This is a folly of more modern editors; and was probably introduced by the publication, in 1783, of Domesday Book in fac-simile types, cast for the purpose, by order of the House of Lords. Since which (for it unfortunately became the fashion), the most elaborate editions, as well of the Record Commission as of the Roxburgh and other ambitious clubs, have studiously retained all the contractions, by which a book can be made useless to the common reader. In that department of antique lore, which Burns and the profane call auld nicknackery,' Hearne, it must be admitted, was by no means wiser than his contemporaries. Being asked for his opinion on one of those common implements of primeval times which are now known by the name of Celts, instead of seeking to compare it with other specimens, and endeavouring to ascertain the exact circumstances under which they had been found, he wanders through thirty pages of small print, dragging in every irrelevant subject within his reach, and finally arrives, we scarcely know how, at the conclusion, that it was a Roman chisel used for cutting inscriptions ! .
This branch of antiquarianism, which has of late been generally distinguished by the title of Archæology, was then indeed in a very low condition. Leland and the earlier antiquaries, satisfied with making out, from the circumstance of their being accompanied with coins, or from other attendant evidence which could not be mistaken, that any remains of antiquity found in particular localities were Roman, merely took notice of the fact : But they paid no attention, or next to none, to the articles themselves, which they regarded only as curiosities. We can place little confidence, therefore, in the statements of any of the older antiquaries concerning the character of such articles, unless they give particular descriptions or figures. Unfortunately the articles themselves were rarely preserved. Coins, indeed, from their being more easily intelligible, became the first exception, and were soon collected and classed; on which account the study of numismatics took the lead of other branches of archæology. For, in all these branches of learning, two conditions are evidently necessary. In the first place, the various materials, on which archæological sagacity has to reason, must be collected into museums before any extensive examination and comparison can be instituted respecting them. In the next place, in order to arrange and classify them in a satisfactory manner, every particular connected with their discovery must be accurately known. We perceive clearly, by the antiquarian writings of the seven. teenth century, that nothing of this sort had yet been done; in fact, it has been done but partially and imperfectly even at the present day. Without this process, no one could ever have anticipated how much light such articles were calculated ultimately to throw upon the condition of times relating to which we have no written documents. Addison's essay on medals, and Pope's beautiful verses on it, first made the polite world acquainted with this unexpected fact. We are now in a state to ask the Boden professor to give us two or three additional verses in honour of Ariana antiqua, and his Bactrian coins. In these cases science has to bide its time. An unreasoning curiosity, and a love of wonders and of hoarding, must provide the means, which, after much random conjecture and many failures, science will one day use. In the seventeenth century, distinguished men disputed whether Stonehenge were a Roman temple or a Danish court of justice! And in the large museums of the same age, such as the well-known collection of the Tradescants, the only apparent distinction made between physical objects and antiquities was signified by a general division into natural curiosities and artificial curiosities. It seems, indeed, to have been under the head of curiosities' that archæology was originally admitted into the discussions of the Royal Society. Under this singular arrangement it was also introduced into county histories : a class of publications which first made its appearance in the latter half of the seventeenth century, and which was itself then generally placed under the title of natural histories. In 1677, Dr Plott published his Natural History of Oxfordshire,' of which the antiquities of the county make an integral part; with some slight notices of Roman roads and stations, and of barrows. His readers will here find him still possessed with the supposition, that what have since been popularly dermed Druidical circles were of Danish origin. Plott's
Natural History of Staffordshire' appeared a few years later, and other similar natural histories of equal taste and learning. Aubrey's Natural History and Antiquities of the county of Surrey' consists almost entirely of sepulchral inscriptions from churches; and the latter are commonly described as having
walls sufficiently wanting the beautifying art of the painter!' The eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth were the grand era of county histories. These ponderous compilations, till very recently, were chiefly occupied with the family history of the landholders, and church-notes. Instead of which, or along with which, they ought to have been the sure deposi
and of the supplicit