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archbishop (himself in exile) in order belief under the sway of one ecclesiasto break his resolution by the sight of tical law. We should then have heard their miseries. And heartrending their nothing of the “wonderful transformiseries were ; for by the same decree mation ” in the archbishop that exerby which they were exiled their prop- cised Lord Campbell and
so many erty was confiscated to the crown, and, others; and contemptuous allusions to thus deprived of the means of subsist-hair-shirt and discipline would have ence, many died of cold and hunger. been deemed as irrational, as mockery And the king did not stop here. In of those qui in stadio currunt. Neither, addition to this, he appropriated to whilst disclaiming “mere vulgar ambihimself all the archbishop's posses- tion” for Becket when he followed the sions, including the property of his usual course in like circumstances and see, which he committed to the charge resigned the chancellorship, would of St. Thomas's bitterest enemy, Ranulf there have been any temptation for a de Broc. Further, as Henry the Eighth historian of weight to sympathize with by royal proclamation proscribed 'all Henry because, forsooth, knowing his prayers to St. Thomas the Martyr, chancellor too well to believe that the Henry the Second, by public edict, pro- resignation proceeded from real huhibited prayers for Thomas Becket the mility and dislike' of temporal power," Confessor. 1
his fears were aroused at such an indiLord Campbell, like other modern cation of the higher and more dangerwriters, has nothing but praise for ous ambition of a competitor striving Becket up to the time of his primacy ; to exalt the mitre above the crown." the handsomest and the most accom- Alas, for the manifold might of prejuplished inan in the kingdom” captivated dice! Just as though there would not bim as much as he captivated Henry, have been a far wider field for a man until his principles thwarted the king's of Becket's attainments, had he been will. His splendor, his valor, his vig- an ambitious man, in the combined exorous and impartial justice are without ercise of both the highest ecclesiastical a flaw. But then comes the primacy, and secular authority in the kingdom and with the primacy historic truth than in that of the ecclesiastical alone, vanishes. Lord Campbell avows the especially under such a sovereign as difficulty of analyzing the feelings of Henry the Second, the Rex TransmaBecket on the announcement of the rinus 8 of his English subjects. Henry king's choice ; but immediately after, was even thought by contemporaries to under the shelter of “probably,” he aim at the establishment of a viceroybegins the legend of the ambitious prel- alty when he obtained the primacy for ate and his duplicity. He knows all Becket,4 the first Englishman since the about the glow of pleasure that Becket Conquest elected to that exalted post. felt at the bare prospect of greatness, But I am digressing. though he was so far his own dupe as Lord Campbell's final estimate of the to persuade himself that he was unwill- great archbishop is singularly instrucing to have it thrust upon him.
tive. The martyr for liberty was to Were there more imagination in our him the man who of all the English English character, men would not, even chancellors since the foundation of the in these latter days of conflicting creeds monarchy was of the loftiest ambition, and religious division and contention, of the greatest firmness of purpose, and go so far astray in judging a man who the most capable of making every sacwas dominated by an unwavering faith rifice to a sense of duty or for the acquiin the great principles and dogmas of sition of renown. the one Church that in the twelfth cen- Dean Milman takes quite another tury united all Christendom in one
3 Materials, iii, 121, 123, 127, 132. i Materials, i. 47 ; ii. 313, 314, 404 ; iii, 359, 360 ;
4 Ibid., iv. 94. ? Lives of the Lord Chancellors of England.
0 History of Latin Christianity.
5 The italics are mine.
view than that of the popular chancel- | cast into prison 1 - a fit acco
ccompaniment lor theory, exemplified in Southey and of such other cruelties as the exile of Lord Campbell ; but, notwithstanding Becket's kindred and friends under that he is ungrudging in his admissions every species of aggravation of their of Becket's sacrifice “ of the unbounded wretchedness. power and influence which he might Nor is this all, nor nearly all ; but have retained had lie still condescended one short passage more, without critito be the favorite of the king, of his cism or comment of mine, will be accomplishments, transcendent capac- enough, if not more than enough, of ity —I use Milman's own words of Dean Milman : his extraordinary abilities, his preco
If the king would have consented to allow cious, his unrivalled abilities, of his
Churchmen to despise all law — if he had lofty and devoted churchmanship, his not insisted on hanging priests guilty of consummate abilities for business, of homicide as freely as laymen — he might the promptitude, diligence, and pru- have gone on unreproved in his career of dence of a practised statesman shown ambition ; he might unrebuked have seby him, of the conclusive testimonies duced or ravished the wives and daughters of his unimpeached morals, of his in- of his nobles ; extorted without remontrepid character, his quiet intrepidity strance of the clergy any revenue from his and dauntlessness, notwithstanding subjects, if he had kept his hands from the that he allows him to have been the
treasure of the Church,
Henry's real most distinguished Churchman in Chris- tyranny was not the object of the Churchtendom, the champion of the sacerdotal man's censure, oppugnancy, or resistance.
The cruel and ambitious and rapacious order — notwithstanding that he allows
king would doubtless have lived unexcomand admits all this, he, too, falls into municated, and died with plenary absoluendless misrepresentations, and guilty of precisely the same kinds of contradiction and assumption as the
These three authors — Southey, Camppreceding writers, but more marked bell, and Milman — are, I think, fair and stronger.
samples of what the animus born of He cannot view the archbishop from Henry the Eighth's policy has effected
in cultivated and learned men free the standpoint of the twelfth century, when one faith governed all, and the from every charge of intentional unfairappeal to Rome, the centre of it, was
fairness and misrepresentation ; and the sole safety of the millions of Chris- through them we can judge of the tendom from the rapacity and, worse, spirit that has permeated more or less the unbridled passions of tyrants. In the mind of the nation. Milman's hands the
Of still later writers it would be imchurchmanship and quiet intrepidity, possible to say that, with even increased who freely and willingly sacrificed un- facilities for knowing the truth, they bounded power and influence, becomes have succeeded in divesting themselves likewise a man of ambitious and inflex- of the old spirit of prejudice. ible heart, given to tergiversation, the
I will say nothing of Canon Robertapprover of haughty counsels, revenge- son. IIis great and painstaking labors ful, and guilty of a fury of haughtiness in editing the “ Materials ” of the Rolls equalling the fury of resentment in the Series till death stayed his hand may, king; of a king, be it remembered, I think, be taken to have cancelled all who in his insane, brutal rage caused a
that was unw thy in his earlier work.?
But of another historian, one of messenger of the archbishop's to be put to the horrid torture of having fin- whom every Englishman is proud, I gers thrust into his eyes as if to gouge
cannot be silent. Professor Stubbs them out, till the blood flowed, then
1 Materials, vi, 76. ordered scalding water to be forced
3 Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury: a Biogdown his throat, and finally had him raphy.
now Bishop of Oxford — in dealing with | was interpreted, in a way prejudicial to his St. Thomas 1 has shown himself some- reputation for sincerity. thing very different from an impartial Who so interpreted his behavior ? julge, to say nothing of a sympathetic And why is there no word of the king's or generous one. He esteems St. insincerity in withholding the kiss of Thomas an extraordinary man, and he peace, in withholding the money promacknowledges that at all times, what-ised for the archbishop's return to Enerer he did he did it with all his might; gland, and of all the rest of Henry's but that is the best he can say of him. faithlessness? These may seem slight Even for the great chancellor, “ who points ; but they are of cumulative has left his mark on the law and force, and reveal the bias of an influenconstitution of England for all later tial writer. time," 2 he has no higher tribute than At the Northampton Council the fear that he was “an indefatigable letter that the king intended violence to the writer, an efficient judge, a cunning archbishop was so general that some of tinancier,” and that is all. For the the courtiers who remained faithful to archbishop he has barely a good word. Becket warned him of it; the recreant He becomes
bishops urged it as a ground for his The high ecclesiastic pure and simple, immediate resignation ; and, to crown coreting the papal legation, hand and glove all, immediately St. Thomas entered the with the pope. . . . An unflinching and castle the gates were closed behind him mreasoning supporter of all clerical claims,' and locked. Nevertheless, we read in right or wrong, wholesome or unwholesome, the 66
Early Plantagenets that the consistent or inconsistent with his previous archbishop carried his own cross on the life and opinions.
occasion, partly as a safeguard against In speaking of the archbishop's ac- violence which he had no reason to aption in enforcing the feudal rights of prehend, partly in an awful, miserable his see, Professor Stubbs says that “he parody of the Great Day of Calvary.” showed himself somewhat grasping, or And so Professor Stubbs's picture at all events made himself enemies at a moment when his experience should riance with the picture of contemporary
grows more and more grievously at vabave taught him to be more politic" records : a style of writing surely unworthy of a
All the rest of his career is the same - a great historian, and one peculiarly mis
morbid craving after the honors of martyrleading : i.l., to make a positive charge, dom, or confessorship at the least, a crafty and then immediately afterwards, when
policy for embroiling Henry with his many the first impression has been given, to enemies, combined with a plausible allegasupplement it with an alternative one tion that it is all for his good and that of of quite a different kind. Anything of the Church. There is in him some greata grasping character was foreign to St. ness of character still, some sincerity, we Thomas's nature, judged by contempo- will hope, but no self-renunciation, no selfrary history ; but he certainly did not restraint, no earnest striving for peace ; stop to consider the mere policy of little, very little care of the flock over which an action where the maintenance of a he was overseer, and which was left shep
herdless. creat principle was at stake. And this i: not the only place where Professor And then at last we are told in concluStubbs makes this kind of alternative sion that charge :
it is only by considering the horrible sufferThree months, however, intervened beings of his death that we can pardon him fore Becket starte l for home, and during for the conduct that brought the pains of the time he had several meetings with the death upon him. king, in which he behaved, or his behavior Surely there is something even worse
1 Epochs of Modern History – The Early Plan- than damning with faint praise ! togenets ; Constitutional History of England. : Freeman, Contemporary Review, 1878.
8 Materials, i. 33.
Whilst such sad blots were once more the progress of the vindication that has defacing history, it is pleasant to re- been slowly worked out in this century. member that, as R. H. Froude and It is matter for profound regret, howGiles and Father Morris were modify-ever, that, though Mr. J. A. Froude: ing the influence of the Southeys and was not utterly regardless of Mr. FreeCampbells and Milmans of earlier years, man's remonstrances, he nevertheless. a distinguished poet devoted himself to republished his four articles,8 with many the like difficult task of counteracting, of their base and baseless charges and if not of removing, prejudice and effac- unjust imputations, in all the fulness of ing untruth. The reception that Mr. the picturesque force and daring that Aubrey de Vere's “ St. Thomas of Can- make his utterances so singularly seducterbury received marked a growing tive to the unwary. But even these fairness in the public temper. What will not now be easily misled by his chance of fixing attention or winning graver misstatements; and all the althe least general recognition would lurements of alliteration and picturesque even so beautiful a poem as this have imagination can scarcely at this time of had a few years previously? As little day reconcile people to a historian who, probably as Mr. R. A. Thompson's in his lightest manner, could covertly biography 1 would have had now. asperse the fair fame of the great arch
Mr. De Vere's Becket is the Becket bishop, and fasten the character of a of history ; but whilst some prefer the “profligate scoundrel ” on one of the meditative strength of his poem, the most distinguished men of any race that popular mind will be most impressed this island has ever produced,” whose with the rapid action and more vivid unspotted life at all times, in
every cirpicture of Lord Tennyson. Mr. De cumstance, under every temptation Vere thinks most of the saint ; Lord even the most exceptional after the Tennyson thinks most of the hero. sharp scrutiny of malice and the close Mr. De Vere elaborates; the poet lau- investigation of anxious veneration, was reate condenses ; and hence, whilst the the theme of historians and biographers, former appeals specially to the more and the admiration and envy of a lax thoughtful few, the swift, concentrated court and licentious society.4 strength of the latter will reach far and I now naturally pass on to Mr. Freenear, and win equally popular sym- man's influence. Mr. Freeman did so pathy and cultivated appreciation.
much in the vindication of St. Thomas But I am anticipatiny. I would I of Canterbury,5 especially with regard were not. I should then be spared to that early part of the martyr's career even a passing allusion to an instance when he exercised his splendid adminof the tough vitality of prejudice, of its istrative gifts in the secular service of all-penetrating, all-corroding influence, the king and country, that it is not easy that I would rather not revert to. Hap- at first sight to understand how he could pily, however, I need allude to it only have thrown any weight into the other to pass it by. For the very grave mis- scale. For, alas ! even Mr. Freeman representations of that most brilliant, has not escaped the effects of the unifascinating writer, Mr. J. A. Froude, versal atmosphere of prejudice. have already been met and refuted and deed, he frankly says that he has little condemned, singly and successively, by or no sympathy with Becket as archone whose judgment has been neither bishop ; that his real personal interest reversed nor questioned ; by one who, ends with the chancellorship. This if unconscious bias did in some degree lack of sympathy, however, did not predeprive him of the deeper insight of the vent him from declaring that “above elder Froude, nevertheless wrote nobly 3 Short Studies on Great Subjects, 4th series. of St. Thomas, and assisted immensely 4 Materials, i. 6; ii. 303, 365 ; iii. 21, 166; iv. 14.
Thomas Saga, Rolls Series, i. 53, 54. i Thomas Becket, Martyr Patriot.
5 Historical Essays; The Norman Conquest ; 2 The Nineteenth Century, 1877 : “Life and Times Contemporary Review, 1878, “Life and Times of
of Thomas Becket."
all St. Thomas of Canterbury was em- | as much as it at times escaped Mr. phatically a hero ;” or from seeing that Freeman. " the heroic grandeur of the Catholic This, I think, caused an acute critic saint appealed irresistibly to the heart (acute I must say, though in some of the poet.” But in his avowal lies, I points I differ from him) to regret that think, the explanation of the strange Lord Tennyson in his “ common-sense view he takes of Becket's later years, view of Becket's character” had ignored and of the greatest blemish that is to the opportunity of depicting the one be found in his otherwise, for the most psychological problem which might well part, just and judicious estimate of a tempt a dramatist of analytic mood great man.
his transformation from a statesinan to After Becket's elevation to the pri- a Churchman, from a man of the world macy, artificiality, according to Mr. worldly to an ecclesiastic who wore the Freeman, colors and overwhelms and tonsure, not only on his head, but in spoils everything else in Becket's ca- his heart — the contrast of the Becket reer. He does not scorn Becket for it ; of Toulouse and the Becket of Clarhe does not rail at him for it ; he does endon.1 Dot even blame him for it; but it The solution of all these paradoxes. grieves and disappoints him beyond will be found in the perfect continuity measure. He cannot get rid of the of the mind and character of Thomas notion or the word. He harps on them Becket. His circumstances, duties, and incessantly and to weariness. They surroundings changed suddenly and run through his well-known essay “St. greatly ; but he never changed. The Thomas of Canterbury and his Biogra- man was the same throughout. Let us phers ; " they pervade that part of his read him as they read him who lived “Norman Conquest ” that relates to St. with him. Thomas ; and they are echoed again The handsome, gifted son of Gilbert and again in his “Life and Times of Becket and Matilda his wife was in Thomas Becket." A mistaken view boyhood a pupil of Robert prior of like this naturally leads to wrong con- Merton; he continued his studies at clusions ; inconsistency and confusion the London schools and the University are the inevitable result. And, coming of Paris. At the age of twenty-five, from a historian of such high standing after he had gained a practical insight 23 Mr. Freeman, it has doubtless had into the business of life, both in his its share in retarding the vindication father's house and with his kinsman that in other respects he did so much to Osbern Witdeniers, he entered the promote.
household of Archbishop Theobald, and Thanks, however, in no small degree there became a thorough and formed to Mr. Freeman, there is scarcely an ecclesiastic. During this time the archeducated Englishman now that is not bishop took him to Rome with him, and ready to dwell with proud content upon sent him there independently on all one side of the brilliant chancellor days kinds of important ecclesiastical and of Becket, and to acknowledge the great political affairs. Amongst others he things that England owes to his admin- was charged with the delicate negotiaistration as a secular ruler. Nearly all tions relating to the succession to the his countrymen pay ungrudging homage crown, which by his “subtle prudence to Becket's great secular gifts, if I may and cleverness ” 2 he secured to Henry. so call them, and to the use he made It was also during this period that he of them. They even acknowledge his obtained leave of the primate Theobald! piety, and generous charity, and pure to go to Bologna for the study of canon life. But when they come to talk of law. He remained there a year, under the great change that followed his ele- Gratian, and thence went to Auxerre: ration to the primacy, it is manifest
1 Pall Mall Gazette, December 11, 1884. that the real inner life of the man as
2 Gervasii, Op. Hist., Rolls Series. chancellor has escaped many of them 3 Materials, ii. 304.