Imatges de pàgina

historical dignity has rendered his work too uniform, and of course, dry and uninteresting to the general reader. The want of variation in the colours of style, which, in hiftory, as in other departments, should be modulated to the tenor of the events, limple, beautiful, elegant, majestic, sublime, is indeed one chief cause of the failure of many histories; for the reader, fatigued with uniform dignity and ceremony, leaves the author to stalk about upon his stilts, and searches elsewhere for instruction blended with amusement. Dion Cassius sleeps on the shelf, while Plutarch is translated into all languages, and is in the hands of all. But this defect should not have discouraged Dr. Coote from the use of lord Lyttelton's work; to which a respect for his industry and abilities should have induced frequent reference. In the transactions between England and Scotland, sir David Dalrymple’s Annals, a work ever to be regarded as a model of historical information and accuracy, might also have saved some mistakes.

The endeavours of Henry II. to reclaim the dependence of the clergy on the civil power, form, perhaps, the most interesting part of his reign: and Dr. Coote enters upon it with due fpirit. · An interesting scene now opens on the reader's view. A vio. lent contest is approaching between the crown and the mitre, between the king and the primate of his realm. A monarch of strong talents and great firmness, extremely tenacious of the prerogatives of his anceitors, and eager to retain his subjects of every class, in due Tubjection to the power allowed him by the conítitution, will be seen contending for fuperiority with a bold and pertinacious churchman, who, enlifting under the banners of the bithiop of Rome againt the rights of his natural sovereign, zealously laboured to detach the clergy from all dependence on the temporal power, qualifying his allegiance to the king with the disloyal reservation of the pretended immunities of the ecclesiastical body, and the preposterous obedience which he thought proper to give to a foreign prelate, who, encouraged by the darkness and fuperftition of the times, had gradually usurped an authority over this and cther churches of the Christian world.

• As the primate who entered the lists against Henry acquired, in his own time, an extraordinary degree of fame, which he still retains in the annals of ecclefiaftical history, and in the calendar of the Romish church, a biographical sketch of so eminent a personage will be a proper prelude to the narration of the memorable conteft in which he was engaged. Thomas Becket was the fon of a citizen of London, of Anglo-Saxon defcent. After a beginning of education at Merion-abbey in Surry, he continued his studies at Oxford, and made fome additions to his learning at the university of Paris.

can acute canto Englande pro

On his return to his native city, he was recommended by a clerical friend of his father to archbishop Theobald, who, finding him a youth of talent and address, took him into his family, and presented him, when only a deacon, to two parochial livings and two prebends. With the consent of his patron, he repaired to Bologna, with a view of studying the civil and canon laws. When he had resided a year in this celebrated school of legal knowledge, he prosecuted the same pursuits at Auxerre. Returning into England with the reputation of an able civilian and an acute canonist, he firmly established himself in the favour of the archbishop, who employed him as his agent in several negotiations at the court of Rome, which were conducted by Becket with such dexterity and success, that Theobald rewarded him with the additional preferments of provost of Beverley and dean of Hastings. In the year of Stephen's death, he was promoted by his liberal patron to the lucrative and important office of archdeacon of Canterbury. The next station to which he was elevated, was that of chancellor of the realm, which he procured by the earnest recommendation of the primate ; and he seems to have been the first person of English origin who, since the days of the Conqueror, had been permitted, by the cessation of Norman jealousy, to rise to a height of dignity either in the church or the Itate.

• With the post of chancellor, Becket retained his ecclesiastical preferments; and the multiplied income of his various promotions, must have been extremely agreeable to a person of his magnificent and oftentatious turn. His mode of living, after his appointment to so dignified an office, was uncommonly splendid and luxurious. His table was accessible to every individual of rank ; his entertainments were sumptuous and profuse; hiş apartments were enriched with the most costly furniture ; his equipage and retinue were esta. blished on a princely scale. His house was a school both of civil and military education; and the fons of the first nobility were inįroduced into his family, that they might receive the most judicious instructions. Whenever he travelled, he was attended by a great number of knightş, esquires, young noblemen, pages, clerks, ånd officers of his household, well armed and mounted. In his embassy to the court of France, his magnificence excited universal admi. ration, and his princely liberality procured him general respect. In the expedition to Toulouse, he appeared with all the pomp of a feudal baron, being fulloved by 700 knights of his own establishment, each of whom had two attendants on horseback. During this campaign, he signalised his valour in the assault and reduction of three castles, which his fovereign, in consideration of their great strength, had left unattempted. He encountered, in Normandy, a French knight of distinguisliqd fill in arms, dismounted him with his lance, and carried aff, in triumph, the courfer of his vanquished antagonist. These martial exploits increased his favour with the king, who, being


himself an illustrious warrior, was naturally pleased with the military merit of his subjects. So high, indeed, was his opinion of the general character of Becket, that he intrusted him with the education of the heir of his crown; and, when the archbishopric of Canter. bury became vacant by the decease of Theobald, he nominated his chancellor to that pre-eminent station,'

After narrating the assassination of Becket, our historian thus proceeds:

• The character of Becket, which has been affailed with much obloquy, and extolled with much panegyric, will be best ascertainea by the unbiassed steadiness of a middle course of delineation. He was, without controversy, a man of strong abilities, great discernment, and some erudition. His manners and deportment were graceful and insinuating, though occasionally tinctured with an air of hauteur. His personal courage, and fortitude of mind, attracted the admiration even of his enemies; but the latter of these qualities degenerated into the most inflexible obstinacy, as soon as he had at. tained the station of primate of the While he held the office of chancellor, he thone as an able minister, and a loyal subject; as a judicious allertor of the rights of his sovereign, and the independence of the realm. But, when he assuined the metro. politan rank, he adopted very different sentiments, and proved a warm and persevering advocate for all the pretenfions of the papal see, however repugnant to reason, decency, or justice. He entered into his new character with the zeal of an enthusiast, the intrepidity of a religious hero, the artful spirit and the evasive morality of an ambitious priest. That such conduct was the fole fruit of hypocrisy, can hardly be affirmed with truth. That superstition of which even the strongest minds cherished some portion in those t mes, had perhaps so mingled itself with the conceptions of this celebrated prelate, that, in supporting the cause of the church against the pro. fanations of temporal interference, he might think he was promoting the purposes of pure religion. Every true patriot, however, must

condemn his efforts for placing the clergy above the reach of crimi, · nal law; an exemption which would naturally encourage, in that order of men, the commission of the most atrocious offences; and for propagating discord and animosity in the state, by the erection of the church into a distinct body, subject to a foreign governor, whose interests and prejudices had long clashed with the civil welfare of those states over which he arrogated a spiritual jurisdiction. In the progress of the contest which he maintained with his prince, he exhibited a violence of ten per, a perverseness of oppotition, and a propensity to revenge, which his panegyrists cannot excute by all the reproaches that they have lavished on the conduâ of his royal antagonist. Of his private demeanor, we are authorised, by the concurrence of historians, to speak in commendation: he was

chalte, .

chaste, temperate, and beneficent. But there virtues were obscured and lost in the mischievous tendency of his public proceedings *.'

Our limits will not permit us to dwell longer on this, the second volume, than in remarking that the Appendix contains Magna Charta, with a translation, specimens of the language and character of Doomsday-book, and of the English speech in the reigns of William I. and Stephen.

The third volume opens with the reign of Henry III. and extends to the death of Richard II, A.D. 1399. We shall pass to the interesting reign of Edward I. and select his temporary conquest of Scotland,

• The penetration and policy of Edward sugycsted to him the pro. bable advantages which might refuit from the union of the whole island of Britain under one head; a measure which would not only abolish the animosities so frequently kindled between different nations enclosed within the fame island, but would render the united monarchy, as it were, a little world within itself, defended against the powers of the continent by insularity of situation, as well as by compactness and concentration of strength. This was long the favourite object of his ambition; and the success which attended his scheme, as far as it regarded Wales, encouraged him to take decisive steps for completing his grand design by the subjugation of Scotland.

• The provocations which he had received from his Scottish vas, sal appeared, to the loose conscience of a king who thirfted after power, sufficiently flagrant to authorise the infliction of signal chartisement from the superior lord of the fief. A numerous army have ing affembled at Newcastle, Edward assumed the command of it; and while he waited for an opportunity of commencing the war with advantaçe, Robert de Ross, who had revolted to the enemy, put himself at the head of a party of Scots, and surprised an English detachment, consisting of 1000 men, sent to reinforce the garrison of Werk, few of whom escaped the swords of the assailants. Edward, not displeased that the Scots were the aggressors, advanced

<* An ingenious catholic has lately appeared as a vindicator of archbishop Becket, from the misrepresentations of patriotic and proteftant writers. But, a, he prosesses to fool an enthusiailic admiration for the memory of that prelate, his in partial ty is, prima facie, problematical; for whoever writes under the influence of enthusiasm, will incepibly be incuced to glors over, even in ordinary cafes the fuibles and vices that person who is the object of fich warmth o fcntiment; much more will be be inclined 10 dev ate from the line of dira puthetatc romark, when trening of a violent conti ít between his favourite and a powerful antagonist; for he will thea be Itrongly diffed to exalt the meric of the former on the ruins of the reputation of the latter. How far these objervarions are avpiscal's to that part of Mr. Berington's “ History of the Life and Reign of Henry li. Richard, and ohn," which relates to the conduct of Thomas Becket, the reflecting reader of that work may casily decide,'


towards the Tweed, and encamped at Werk. During his continu. ance in this neighbourhood, the earls of Buchan and Menteith, and others of the Scottish nobility, entered England from Annandale, and ravaged Cumberland with fire and sword; after which they returned to their own country, that they might be ready to check the progress of the English sovereign.

Having passed the Tweed at Coldstream, Edward drew up his forces before Berwick. A squadron of twenty-four fail, entering the harbour in hopes of his giving an immediate assault, sustained a fierce attack from the Scots, who burned several of the vessels. Amidst this confusion, the king suddenly assaulted the town, which was wretchedly fortified; and he forced his way into it with little difficulty.. The Scots were so intimidated by the unexpected fuccess of the Engliflı, that they suffered themselves, almost without resistance, to fall victims to the barbarity of Edward, who ordered all that were found in the place to be put to the sword, amounting to above 7000 persons. The castle was then invested, and taken by capitulation the same day. While Edward remained in this town, he received an epistle from the king of Scotland, expressing his renunciation of his homage and fealty, in consequence of the various injuries which he and his subjects had sustained from a series of arbitrary proceedings. Edward coolly ordered his chancellor to regifter this leiter, and prepared to improve his success. He sent John de Warrenne, earl of Surry, with a great force, to be fiege the castle of Dunbar, which, though it belonged to a nobleman who had embraced the cause of Edward, had been yielded up to the enemy by his wife. It was now garrisoned by many persons of rank; and, when the besieged had folicited relief from their sovereign, the main army of the Scots, much more numerous than that of the earl of Surry, marched to the deliverance of their countrymen. A battle ensued, in which the Scots were totally routed, with the loss of se. veral thousands of their men. Edward joined the victorious carl the next day with the remainder of the English army; and his presence, concurring with the terror of the defeat, produced the surrender of the cattle, in which, besides a number of knights and gentlemen, three earls and six barons were taken prisoners.

• The victory of Dunbar was foon followed by the reduction of the Scottith low-lands. The vanquished retiring beyond the Forth, the costles of Roxburgh, Jedburgh, and others of less importance, surrendered to the English arms. Even the castle of Edinburgh detained the besiegers only a few days; and here Edward received an aniple reinforcement of Welsh infantry, which induced him to dismits an equal nun.ber of his English foldiers. . Advancing towards Stirling, he took position of the castle, which the terrified garrifon had evacuated on his approach. He was liere joined by the earl of Ulfter, with a numerous body of forces from Ireland ; and judging these and the Welsh to be well calculated for purtuing the Scot

« AnteriorContinua »