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dignity of their true position is sacrificed. The national feeling is lost—a sectional feeling comes into its place; and the assailant secures a position for his attack, which cannot be ceded to any rejoinder, however reasonable or just. To an honourable mind, the last consideration alone should be enough to preclude all controversial matter, as far as possible, from such publications. The editors of the works published of late years from our national archives, and we may mention especially the learned editors of Wycliffe's Bible, have been religiously observant of these considerations, and have not disgraced themselves or their country when so employed by sinking the Englishman in the bigot. The Master of the Rolls and the Lords of the Treasury seem to have been alike aware that the manifestation of any such feeling by the editors to be employed by them would be most unseemly, and no doubt flattered themselves that they had guarded effectually against it. The judgment of the Master of the Rolls was
"That each chronicle or document to be edited should be treated in the same way as if the editor were engaged on an Editio Princeps ; and for this purpose the most correct text should be formed from an accurate collation of the best MSS.
"To render the work more generally useful, the Master of the Rolls suggested that the editor should give an account of the MSS. employed by him, of their age and their peculiarities; that he should add to the work a brief account of the life and times of the author, and any remarks necessary to explain the chronology; but no other note or comment was to be allowed, except what might be necessary to establish the correctness of the text.
The Lords of the Treasury
---expressed their approbation of the proposal that each chronicle and historical document should be edited in such a manner as to present with all possible correctness the text of each writer, derived from a collation of the best MSS., and that no notes should be added, except such as were illustrative of the various readings. They suggested, however, that the preface to each work should contain, in addition to the particulars proposed by the Master of the Rolls, a biographical account of the author, as far as authentic materials existed for that purpose, and an estimate of his historical credibility and value.'
Of course, if so much care was taken to secure that the text should not be used as an occasion on which to hang things irrelevant, unnecessary, or controversial, the same principle would apply to anything in the shape of a memoir to precede it. Indeed, Mr. Shirley himself seems to have been in a measure aware of the propriety of this course, inasmuch as in one instance le avowedly passes by a topic which lay in his path, on the ground
Fasciculi Zizaniorum—Mr. Shirley's Editorial Offences. 365 that it would involve a controversy, which in these pages would be misplaced.'-(' Introduction,' lx.) Had Mr. Shirley been duly mindful of this principle, he would have felt that in his sketch of the Life of Wycliffe it became him to tell his own story as he best could, and not to go out of his way to place himself, and that by the help of sneers and misrepresentations, in an attitude of antagonism to men who have travelled the same ground before him. Of course it is open to Mr. Shirley to indulge in this kind of authorship to any extent that may be agreenble to him, on his own responsibility; but it is not open to him to write in this manner in publications of the description to which his name is in this instance attached.
Mr. Shirley begins his narrative in the Niebuhr manner, by doubting what most people have believed. There is a fashion in such things, as in much beside. In the case of Mr. Shirley this sceptical tendency follows naturally from his proneness to depreciate the labours of his predecessors. Nearly everything he touches is somehow found to be a matter on which the right thing has not been done. Hallam, Sismondi, Thierry, Guizot, and others, have done their best to make themselves familiar with the mind of the Middle Age. But after all, the literary history of that age, it seems, has yet to be written. Of all the periods in Eng. lish history before the accession of Henry VIII., perhaps the age of Edward III. is the most interesting to Englishmen, and the best understood by them. But even that history, we are assured, is an untold tale. Much has been done of late years to assist inquirers in the study of the scholastic philosophy. But according to Mr. Shirley, the historian of the scholastic philosophy is still to come. Nothing is easier than to write in this manner. It is to take very high ground at very little cost. For many persons are thus led to think, with one of Mr. Shirley's friendly critics, that the man, in such cases, “who most keenly feels the want, is in all probability the best qualified to supply it."* We do not mean to say that Mr. Shirley may not be the man to give us the literary history of the Middle Age, the history of the reign of Edward III., or the account of the old schoolman philosophy, which the world still wants. We only venture to say that it is not often safe to cede reputation on the supposition of what a man may do. What has he done? We should further observe that Mr. Shirley, in several instances, expresses surprise that the biographers of Wycliffe should not have seen certain things which he points out as overlooked, though noteworthy, while in fact those things have been seen by
Quarterly Rerier, No. 207, p. 151.
others before, quite as clearly as by Mr. Shirley now, and it is not the fault of Wycliffe's biographers if they are not well known. But more of this presently.
While such is the general tone of Mr. Shirley's writing about Wycliffe and his times, it will not be supposed that so severe a censor has allowed the professed biographers of the Reformer to go free. Mr. Lewis, the first in this series, is much favoured ; but even his work, according to Mr. Shirley, does no credit to the University press, and as a literary performance it is pronounced 'very poor. It is saved, apparently, on the ground of the documents which make up its appendix. But the labours of Dr. Vaughan in this field seem to be very unwelcome. It is clear that Mr. Shirley would extrude that gentleman from this ground altogether-were it possible. There are two notes in Mr. Shirley's 'Introduction' (pp. xvi., xxxiv.) in which references are made to Dr. Vaughan, concerning which we have a word to say. In the first of these notes—and we speak advisedly-Mr. Shirley asserts as true, what he could not know to be true, and what is untrue. In reply to the second note, it is sufficient to say that Dr. Vaughan is not in complete ignorance of the Oxford MS., De Veritate Scripture, the note to which Mr. Shirley himself refers being proof to the contrary; and that he has not affected a knowledge of that MS. which he does not possess, but has taken care in that same note to guard his readers against mistake on that point.* In the language of these two notes Mr. Shirley has conveyed three ideas in reference to Dr. Vaughan, all three of which are false, all three of which are meant to be damaging—as damaging as possible. What is more, to do the amiable in this manner Mr. Shirley has gone quite out of his way. There was no more need that what is said should have been said at all, than that it should have been said with a sneer. The notes are such as we do not expect from a scholar--there is insult in them both. But such, it seems, is the taste of the tutor of Wadham' in things of this nature +
After this it is hardly surprising that Mr. Shirley should speak of Mr. Lewis's book, "very poor' though it be, as being still our best Life of Wycliffe ; and of Mr. Baber's catalogue of the Re
* John de Wycliffe, D.D. A Monograph. Pp. 536, 537: † Dr. Todd, the librarian of Trinity College, Dublin, expressing his regret that so little is known of the work by Wycliffe intitled De Veritate Scripturæ, thus describes the copy of it in that collection. This ignorance, I must candidly confess, it is not in my power to remove ; for although the volume which is the subject of it, is now actually open before me, yet it is written in a hand so fearfully abbreviated, that it would deter a more skilful diplomatist than myself from attempting its perusal, unless he had much more time for the task than I can command.
I had intended quoting the whole of the summary of one or two chapters, in order to give the reader some idea of the work, but I find some words so abbre
Fasciculi Zizaniorum-Mr. Shirley's Editorial Offences. 367 former's works, as being still our best guide on that subject. These assertions are the expressions of mere opinion, and arə worthy of notice simply from the amount of prejudice which they betray-prejudice which would be merely ridiculous but for the graver element which underlies it.
But since comparisons are to be made, let them be made. For reasons which will be understood by some of our readers, Dr. Vaughan's Monograph has never been reviewed in these pages, and his labours generally in relation to this subject have been left, so far as the British Quarterly Review is concerned, to the independent estimation of the public. If we now undertake to show what the state of our literature really was in regard to
viated as to require more time than I can at present conveniently spare for deciphering them.'- British Magazine, June, 1835. Dr. Vaughan has spoken of the Oxford copy of this work, which in these respects is the counterpart of that in Dublin, as difficult to decypher, and almost unreadable, and this has exposed him to another sneer from Mr. Shirley. ("Introduction' xxxiv.) Dr. Todd further says of the MS. in Dublin,-' It is not a complete work in itself, as has hitherto been supposed, but a part, and as I would say, about a third part of a great system of scholastic divinity, written in all the barbarity of language, and with all the formidable array of distinctions and divisions which are now regarded as the opprobrium of the schoolmen.' Dr. James, the librarian of the Bodleian in the time of James I., published a small work intitled An Apologie for John Wicliffe in which he printed passages from the MS. De Veritate Scriptură, and he left in MS. in the same library considerable extracts from that work, extending to nearly & hundred small quarto pages, made with his own hand. Dr. Vaughan con fesses (Monograph, p. 537) in common with Dr. Todd, to his difficulty in attempting to read this work, and states distinctly that his acquaintance with it does not extend beyond a general inspection of it, and an endeavour to transcribe and translate certain parts of it. He spoke of it, as he says, more from Dr. James's extracts than from his own examination ; and if he spoke of it quite as favourably as those extracts would warrant, it was in the hope that before now some scholar, with the position and leisure requisite to such an undertaking, might have been disposed to do something towards making it better known. The man who should pretend to have read everything it is desirable to read in relation to Wycliffe, without having given no small part of a life to it, would only betray his insincerity or his weakness. Mr. Shirley is a resident in Oxford, and has been largely_ aided in his labours by the learned sub-librarian of the Bodleian, the Rev. F. 0. Cox, a gentleman, it seems, to whom he is indebted for whatever knowledge he possesses of mediæval manuscripts.' In such circumstances Mr. Shirley ought to be able to give a good account of the contents of the De Veritate Scripture-and it would be something to be the first man that has so done, It is strange that Dr. Vaughan should be described as affecting to have read a work which he is accused of describing as "unreadable !' Truth is consistent. Mr. Lewis describes the MS. in Oxford as beginning with the words 'Restat parumper discutere errores' (p. 190 ;) but these words do not occur at the beginning of the Oxford MS., nor do they occur as initial words in any subsequent part of the work.
Mr. Shirley is careful to refer his readers to Dr. Todd's attacks on Dr. Vaughan; why is he silent about the reply to those attacks? He knew of both, and surely it would be as easy for the student to turn to the Eclectic Review, (January, 1843,) as to the defunct British Magazine. One of Dr. Todd's assertions was, that all the Wycliffe MSS. in Dublin had their place in a printed catalogue before Dr. Vaughan called attention to them. On examination it was found that the all' in this case consisted of eight out of sixty! So recklessly can some learned gentlemen write when their object is to damage Dr. Vaughan.
Wycliffe when Dr. Vaughan took up the subject, and what his contribution to it has been, it will, we trust, be seen that this is a course to which we have been constrained. We have not chosen it.
Every student of English history will be aware that even before the decease of Wycliffe, the political feeling, and the state of political parties in this country, which had been for a time so favourable to the purposes of the Reformer, were greatly changed. One effect of this coming change we see in his retirement from Oxford to his rectory at Lutterworth ; and he there employed himself in preaching, in translating the Bible into English, in multiplying his English tracts and treatises, and in encouraging the labours of the itinerant preachers—such as Purvey and Ashton-often mentioned by him under the name of poor priests.' If his voice was no longer to be heard in Oxford, he knew how to make himself felt more than ever among the people, from one end of the country to the other. From this time it was among the people, and for the most part among the humbler classes of them, that his doctrines were to vegetate. On the accession of the house of Lancaster, the hierarchy regained much of its power. The men at the head of the state were not men disposed towards innovation in religious matters. Learning, religion, morals, social liberty, all continued to deteriorate, until the turbulent interval extending from the reign of Henry IV. to that of Henry VIII. had passed away. The peasant and the yeoman, the burgher and the merchant, retained some memory of Wycliffe, and secreted and read his books. But when the Reformation came, it was a reformation springing from new circumstances and new passions, and was founded on principles widely different from those which Wycliffe had promulgated. The bleeding remnant of his followers which still survived, did much to help forward that change, but the reforming statesmen who flourished under the Tudors had no motive that could dispose them to recall the name of Wyclifferather the contrary. The first protest against Romanism was soon followed by the struggle between the high church Anglicans and the Puritans, which issued at length in the memorable strife between Parliamentarians and Royalists. In none of these changes, nor in those which followed on the Restoration, was there anything to make the contending parties at all curious about the opinions of Wycliffe. Enough was known to make all parties aware that lie was not with any of them more than in part; and in those times of strong party demarcations, this cir. cumstance alone was enough to lead to what happened. No party could use the name of Wycliffe as a watchword, and accordingly, as by tacit consent, all were prepared to pass him by.
Such has been the fate of Wycliffe's memory in our history.