Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dunstan (924-988)
DUNSTAN, Saint (924–988), archbishop of Canterbury, the son of Heorstan, a West-Saxon noble, whose estate lay near Glastonbury, and his wife Cynethryth, both persons of holy life, was born in the first year of the reign of Æthelstan, 924–5, and was sent in his childhood to the abbey of Glastonbury for education. At Glastonbury, as at most of the ancient monasteries of England, the monastic life had become extinct, and secular clerks had taken the place of monks. The church of St. Peter and the ‘old church’ dedicated to the Virgin, which was believed to have been the work of no earthly hands, still stood upon the island; it was a famous place of pilgrimage, and among those who resorted thither were many pilgrims from Ireland, for it was held to be the resting-place of a crowd of Celtic saints, and above all of St. Patrick the younger. Some Irish scholars seem to have taken up their abode there; they were probably officers of the community and kept a school. From them and from their Irish books Dunstan had his earliest education (Vita B. 10). While quite a child he received the tonsure and served in the church of St. Mary. His childhood, however, was not wholly passed at Glastonbury. As a member of a noble house, the nephew probably of Athelm [q. v.], who had been archbishop of Canterbury, and related to Ælfheah or Elphege the Bald, bishop of Winchester, to Æthelgar, bishop of Crediton, and the lady Æthelflæd, and so connected with the royal line, he was much at the court of Æthelstan [q. v.]; for it was the custom that youths of high birth should spend some years in the household of the king or of some great man. Æthelstan showed him favour, and his companions, and especially his young relations, at the court were jealous of him. He seems to have been a delicate lad, with highly strung nerves and of morbid constitution; he was much given to dreams, and in some of them he believed that he saw supernatural visions; he had suffered from a severe fever at Glastonbury, and had walked on the roof of the church in his sleep; he was fond of reading and other sedentary occupations that were distasteful to the young nobles, and was evidently unpopular among them. They accused him before the king of studying incantations and other heathen arts, and procured his banishment from the court. As he left they set upon him, bound his hands and feet, threw him into a marshy place, and pushed him well into the mud with their feet. After his expulsion from the court he stayed for a time with his kinsman Bishop Ælfheah at Winchester. Ælfheah tried to persuade him to become a monk, but he was unwilling to pledge himself to celibacy, though there is no reason to believe that he was in love with any young lady in particular (Vita B. 13; Robertson, Essays, 191). A severe illness led him to change his mind, and he made his profession to Ælfheah. He seems to have again dwelt at Glastonbury, though his profession as a monk, while it bound him to live unmarried, did not oblige him to adopt a mode of life such as that enjoined by the Benedictine rule. He studied the scriptures diligently, and was well skilled in the arts of transcription, painting, and music, playing much upon the harp, which was his constant companion. To this period is, perhaps, to be referred the beginning of his anchorite life; he built himself a cell 5 feet long by 2½ feet broad, which was still shown in the eleventh century (Osbern, 83); there he prayed, saw visions, which became the subjects of legends, and wrestled with temptation, and, as he believed, with the Tempter himself in bodily form; and there too he worked in metals, using his cell as his forge as well as his oratory and dwelling-place, and in this industry, for which the English were specially famed, he became very skilful, making organs, bells, and other articles of church furniture, some of which were long preserved (Gesta Pontiff. 407). Neither his anchorite life nor these pursuits of his must, however, be limited to this period. Craftsman's work was always dear to him, and he probably used his cell at Glastonbury at least for prayer, meditation, and labour, whenever he was there. At this time he was much with his kinswoman Æthelflæd, a widow of great wealth, who built herself a house at Glastonbury, and at a somewhat later date he attended her on her deathbed, and was made her heir.
When Eadmund [see Edmund] succeeded his brother Æthelstan, he called Dunstan to his court and gave him a place among his chief lords and councillors. Jealous of the favour he enjoyed, some of the king's thegns brought accusations against him while the court was at Cheddar, not far from Glastonbury. The king believed them, and in great wrath deprived him of his offices and bade him leave his court and seek a new lord. Now it happened that there were there abiding with the king certain ‘venerable men, messengers from the Eastern kingdom;’ to them Dunstan went, and prayed them that they would not leave him, now that the king had turned from him, but would take him with them on their return. They were moved with compassion towards him, and promised that he should go back with them and enjoy prosperity in their kingdom (Vita B. 23). The story is told by the earliest of Dunstan's biographers, the anonymous priest ‘B.’ from the old Saxon land, who knew him personally. What he meant by the ‘Eastern kingdom,’ a term which he also uses on another occasion, it is impossible to say with certainty: it has been held to mean the part of England sometimes so styled (Oriens regnum), which in the ninth century took in Kent, Essex, Surrey, and Sussex, though the signification of the term was scarcely fixed (cf. Thorpe, Diplomatarium, 66, 78, Asser, sub a. 856). The ‘Oriens regnum’ seems to have formed a distinct government for the eldest son of the king, though it is very doubtful whether the term ever marked a permanent political distinction. It may perhaps be taken to signify East Anglia, which was now governed by the senior ealdorman Æthelstan, called the ‘Half-king,’ and it is used with this meaning by the biographer of St. Oswald (Vita, Historians of York, i. 428). This interpretation gathers force from the friendship that afterwards existed between Dunstan and the ealdorman and his house, though in this case the story of the messengers must be taken as an afterthought. Dr. Stubbs, however, thinks it ‘almost necessary to refer it to the German kingdom, the native land of the writer,’ then under Otto I, and this evidently was the opinion of William of Malmesbury (Memorials of St. Dunstan, Introd. xvii. 269). Dunstan was not driven to go into exile. One day when the king was hunting a stag on the Mendip hills, and had outstripped all his followers, the hunted beast fell over Cheddar cliffs, and the dogs fell over with it. The king's horse was going at full speed and was beyond control. Eadmund uttered a prayer and confessed that he had done Dunstan wrong, for death seemed close upon him. The horse brought himself up on the very edge of the precipice. When the king came home he sent for Dunstan, and as soon as he appeared bade him ride with him, for he would go somewhither. The abbacy of Glastonbury was vacant, and it was to the monastery that the king and the monk rode together. They entered the church and prayed, and then the king took Dunstan by the hand, kissed him in token both of peace and honour, led him to the abbot's seat and there installed him, promising that whatever he needed for the better performance of divine worship or for the conduct of the house, he would give him of his royal bounty. Dunstan's appointment to the abbacy was not later than 945, when he was about twenty-one. The next year it is said that he received a warning of the death of Eadmund, and that he foretold the defection of the nobles that took place on the death of Eadred, a story the real importance of which lies in the fact that the abbot is said to have uttered the prophecy while riding with Æthelstan of East Anglia; for his alliance with the East-Anglian house helps to explain some of the leading events of his life. When Eadmund was slain, Dunstan conveyed his body to Glastonbury and buried it there.
As abbot, Dunstan at once began a reform of his house, following a movement that had probably been set on foot by his kinsman, Bishop Ælfheah (Vita St. Æthelwoldi, Chron. Monast. de Abingdon, ii. 257). He laid the foundation of a new church to take the place of the old St. Peter's, leaving the ancient church of the Virgin untouched as a building too sacred to be meddled with, and he is said to have also raised claustral buildings, so that the monks might live together and not in the world. He certainly brought about a state of things that was wholly different from that which existed before he became abbot. At the same time the reforms he introduced at this period, though they had a tendency towards Benedictinism, were not founded on the Benedictine rule, which was as yet unknown in England; and though his convent was now probably chiefly peopled with monks of some kind, secular clerks seem also to have formed part of the congregation, for when Æthelwold [see Ethelwold] left Glastonbury on his appointment to the abbacy of Abingdon, he took with him certain clerks from his old house. Nothing indeed that Dunstan did at this time is to be confused with the later introduction of pure Benedictinism into England. Whatever the exact nature of the change was that he was now engaged in working out at Glastonbury, it is evident that it was largely concerned with education. Under him the abbey became a famous school. The work of teaching was no longer left to strangers, for the abbot himself loved to teach others, and the inmates of his house are more often spoken of as scholars or disciples than as monks (Stubbs). Shortly after his appointment to the abbacy, Dunstan entered on his career as a statesman. Eadred [see Edred], who was about the same age as the abbot, and had probably been one of his young companions at Æthelstan's court, made him his treasurer and his chief adviser. The largest part of the royal ‘hoard,’ the king's treasure, was kept at Glastonbury, and as we are told that very many charters or deeds concerning the royal estates were also placed in Dunstan's keeping, it is probable that he performed duties similar to those which were afterwards discharged by the chancellors of our early kings. Eadred was sickly, and the government seems to have been wholly in the hands of the queen-mother Eadgifu and Dunstan. They were evidently supported by the East Anglian party, headed by the chief ealdorman, Æthelstan, and later events show that the West-Saxon nobles, who had been in power during the reigns of Æthelstan and Eadmund, must to some extent have been opposed to their government. This opposition may perhaps explain the statement that Dunstan's expulsion in boyhood from the court of Æthelstan was largely the work of his own kinsmen. A strong attachment existed between him and the king. On the death of Æthelgar, bishop of Crediton, in 953, Eadred pressed Dunstan to accept the see. He refused, declaring that he was not as yet fit for the episcopal office; he had not indeed attained the canonical age. At the king's request Eadgifu urged him to yield, and he then plainly said that as long as the king lived he would not leave him. The following night in a vision he dreamed that he was on a pilgrimage to Rome and had reached the brow of Monte Mario (Mons Gaudii), from which pilgrims ‘saw the city of their solemnities lie spread before them’ (Bryce, Holy Roman Empire, p. 313). There the three apostles Peter, Paul, and Andrew met him and talked with him of his future life. When they had finished their discourse, Andrew gave him a sharp blow with the rod he carried in his hand, saying, ‘Take this as thy reward for having tried to refuse part in our apostleship.’ When Dunstan told this vision to the king, Eadred declared that it meant that he should hereafter be archbishop of Canterbury (B.; Adelard; Osbern); he filled the see in accordance with Dunstan's wishes. Indeed, the ecclesiastical appointments of the reign were probably decided by the wishes of the queen-mother and the minister. Both were earnest in the work of church reform, which was at that time to be effected chiefly by introducing a higher standard of monastic life. Their wishes in this matter are illustrated by the appointment of Æthelwold to the abbacy of Abingdon. During a large part of Eadred's reign the Danes of Northumbria were in revolt, and headed by Wulfstan, archbishop of York, chose kings for themselves. The vigorous policy adopted by the English king must, to some extent at least, be set down to the credit of his chief minister. In 952 Wulfstan was taken prisoner and shut up at Jedburgh, and though he was released about two years later, and received the see of Dorchester, he was not allowed to return to his own province, and this mode of dealing with an archbishop shows how little truth there is in the idea that Dunstan sought to exalt the power of the priesthood at the expense of the crown. While much at court he did not neglect his duties at Glastonbury, where he continued his buildings and his work of reformation. As he had now become the heir of the widow Æthelflæd, as well probably as of his father, he had great wealth. He made his brother Wulfric his steward, and put all his possessions under his management. When Wulfric died he was brought to Glastonbury for burial, and on this occasion a heavy stone was thrown at the abbot, which knocked his hat from off his head, though it did him no harm. This assault, which was put down to supernatural agency, shows that he had some bitter enemies. In 955, Eadred, who was then at Frome, felt that his end was near and ordered that Dunstan and the other keepers of his treasures should bring him what they had in charge. When Dunstan reached Frome he found the king already dead, and his body lying neglected. He and his monks carried him to Winchester and buried him in the Old Minster with great honour (A.-S. Chron.)
The death of Eadred rendered Dunstan's position insecure; the nobles generally turned against the queen-mother's administration, the West-Saxon party came into power. Eadwig or Edwy [q. v.], the elder son of Eadmund, was chosen king and Eadgifu was despoiled of all her property. Before long, Dunstan incurred the ill-will of a powerful enemy. When Eadwig left his coronation feast for the company of Æthelgifu, a lady of the highest rank, and of her daughter Ælfgifu [q. v.], whom she planned to marry to the young king, Archbishop Oda took notice of his absence, and as none of the bishops or ealdormen cared to take upon themselves the risk of fetching him back, the assembled nobles chose Dunstan and his kinsman Cynesige, bishop of Lichfield, as men of dauntless spirit, to perform the ungrateful task. The two churchmen delivered their message, and Dunstan added some words of bitter reproach, for the marriage between Eadwig and Ælfgifu would have been uncanonical, and his eagerness for moral purity caused him to wax very wroth when he saw them together. He pulled the young king from the arms of the ladies, and led him forcibly back to the banqueting hall. Æthelgifu determined to be revenged on the abbot, and declared that he had shown an overhaughty spirit in thus intruding on the king's privacy. As Dunstan attests charters in 956 (Codex Dipl., cccli, ccccxli) he must have been able for a while to withstand her machinations, and his party must probably have still had some weight at the court, where Eadgar, the king's younger brother, remained until the following year (ib. cccclxv). Æthelgifu seems to have been supported by the heads of the West-Saxon party, which had been in power in the time of Eadmund, and had now regained its old position. And she also found willing instruments even among the abbot's own scholars, some of whom probably were connected with that party by ties of family, while others may have disliked the greater strictness and higher tone their master had introduced at Glastonbury. Thus supported she obtained the king's consent to her designs, and all Dunstan's property was placed at her disposal. On his downfall, probably early in 956, he sought shelter with some of his friends, but they fell into disgrace with the king for receiving him; he was outlawed and forced to leave the kingdom. He landed in Flanders, where the language and ritual were alike almost wholly strange to him (Vita B. 34). There, however, he found a powerful protector. Ælfthryth [q. v.] or Eltrudis, the second daughter of King Alfred, had married Count Baldwin II, the Bald, and had taken a prominent part in the revival of monasticism in Flanders. This revival was carried out by her son Arnulf I (918–965), who rebuilt the monasteries of St. Bertin, St. Vedast, and St. Peter at Blandinium or Ghent, and founded others. In these houses the Benedictine rule, which was imperfectly known in England, was strictly observed. Considerable intercourse was maintained between Flanders and this country, and the count must have known something of the minister of his cousin Eadred. He received Dunstan kindly, and sent him to dwell at St. Peter's at Ghent, which he had restored twelve years before (Adelard, 60). This place of refuge must have been pleasing to the abbot, for English churchmen were now looking to the great monasteries of the continent for the means of reviving the high standard of monastic life and learning that had perished during the Danish wars. Archbishop Oda had received the monastic dress from the brotherhood of Fleury, and his nephew Oswald (afterwards archbishop of York) was residing there in order to have the benefit of the strict observance of the Benedictine rule (Vita S. Odonis, Anglia Sacra, ii. 81; Vita S. Oswaldi, Historians of York, i. 412–19). At Ghent then Dunstan must for the first time have seen the Benedictine discipline in all its fulness. His banishment probably involved the defeat of the effort for monastic revival, which, though begun by Ælfheah at Winchester, ‘had been received with most favour in Mercia’ (Stubbs).
Before he had passed two full years in exile Dunstan was recalled to England. During his stay at Ghent the Mercians and Northumbrians, probably supported by the monastic party, had revolted from Eadwig. Ælfgifu, who had been married to the king, had been separated from him by Archbishop Oda, and either she or her mother had, it is said, been slain by the insurgents at Gloucester. The northern people had made Eadgar king over the country north of the Thames, and Eadwig only retained the obedience of the people to the south of that river. As soon as Eadgar [see Edgar] became king, probably before the end of 957 (Flor. Wig. sub ann.), he went to invite Dunstan to return, and received him with great honour. As Glastonbury lay in Eadwig's kingdom he could not return thither, and at a meeting of the ‘witan’ of the northern kingdom it was determined that he should be raised to the episcopate. He was perhaps consecrated by Oda, though at the time no see appears to have been vacant. Before the end of the year, however, the bishop of Worcester died, and he was appointed to succeed him. In 959 he received the bishopric of London, and held it, together with Worcester, until 961. On Eadwig's death in 959 the kingdom was reunited under Eadgar. The see of Canterbury was then held by Brithelm, who had probably been appointed by Eadwig, but had not as yet had time to go to Rome for the papal confirmation. As one of the late king's party Brithelm was of course looked on with disfavour by Eadgar; his appointment was annulled on the ground that he had shown himself incompetent to enforce discipline, and Dunstan was elected to Canterbury in his stead. The next year the new archbishop went to Rome for his pall. On his journey thither he gave so freely to all that one day his steward angrily told him that he had left nothing for that evening's meal. In answer he declared his belief that Christ would not let those who trusted in Him lack anything, and before he had finished singing vespers he received an invitation from an abbot to tarry at his monastery (Vita B. 39). On his return he resumed his place of chief adviser of the king, and though his political work has been obscured by hagiology, and by all that has been recorded, and in some cases falsely recorded, of his ecclesiastical administration, there can be no doubt that the glories of Eadgar's reign were largely due to his abilities and industry (Stubbs, Introduction to Memorials, civ; Freeman, Norman Conquest, i. 65; Robertson, Essays, 195–9; Green, Conquest of England, 318–22). His influence with the king was unbounded (Adelard, 61), and accordingly we may safely trace his hand in the civil order and external peace that marked the reign, and in the wise policy which conciliated the Danes and secured their acknowledgment of Eadgar's supremacy. In common with the king Dunstan owed much to the northern settlers, and must have approved and forwarded the promotion of Danes to civil and ecclesiastical offices and the other means by which Eadgar sought to make them take their place as a portion of the people of England. The Danes did not overlook or forget what he did for them. When Cnut [see Canute] in 1017 ‘set the laws civil and ecclesiastical upon the ancient and national footing, he ordered the solemn and universal observance of St. Dunstan's mass-day’ (Stubbs). Union between the different peoples of England under one king was the object of both Eadgar and his great minister, and they did not labour for it in vain. On Whitsunday 973 Dunstan and Oswald, archbishop of York, with all the bishops of England assisting, crowned Eadgar at Bath, an act which was evidently held to be of peculiar significance, for it forms the subject of one of our early national ballads and is noticed by all the chroniclers. It was the formal declaration of the unity of the kingdom; the days in which the Danes chose kings for themselves were over, and the archbishop of York, whose predecessors had so often appeared almost as leaders of a separate people, joined with the primate in proclaiming the sovereignty, it may almost be said the imperial dignity, of Eadgar ‘of Angles king.’ This act is connected by Osbern, writing in the latter part of the eleventh century, with a story of a sin of incontinence committed by Eadgar and a seven years' penance imposed by the archbishop. As this matter must be discussed in the life of Eadgar, it is enough to say here that though there is reason to believe that ‘a veiled lady’ of Wilton bore Eadgar a child in 961 or 962, and that though Dunstan, ever fearless and ever the upholder of purity, may well have inflicted a penance on the young king for his sin, it is highly unlikely that such penance was, as Osbern would have us believe, that he should lay aside his crown, for he does not appear to have been crowned before 973, and the story utterly fails, because the sin with the Wilton lady must have been committed not seven but twelve years before the coronation. (On the whole question see Robertson, Essays, 176, 203–15.). At the same time it is probable that Eadgar's subsequent marriage was illegal, and that Dunstan refused to bless it and perhaps inflicted some penance on the king, and that though this penance was not the laying aside of a crown he had never received, yet it may have come to an end at the coronation, which took place just seven years after the marriage [see under Edgar]. Under Dunstan the archbishop of Canterbury grew in temporal greatness, for in his time the ealdorman of Kent disappears, and so an important step was made towards the union of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex in one ealdordom held by the archbishop of the king (Robertson).
In considering the character of Dunstan's ecclesiastical work during the reign of Eadgar, it will be well to look with suspicion on the statements of biographers who lived long after his death, and at a time when men naturally ascribed any changes they approved of in church matters to the greatest churchman of the period. On his return from Rome Dunstan resigned the bishoprics of London and Worcester, nor did he retain the abbacy of Glastonbury; for, though he continued to take the liveliest interest in all that concerned the house, did all in his power to promote its interests, and when he visited it put off all state and lived as though it was his home, others ruled it during his lifetime. He continued active in building, restoring, and endowing churches; his life was without reproach; he befriended the good, reproved the evil, and in all things acted as ‘a true shepherd’ (Vita B. 40). His accession to Canterbury proclaimed the triumph of the party that represented ecclesiastically the monastic, and politically the northern interests, the party that may be called progressive both in church and state, as contrasted with the narrow conservatism of Wessex. This gives special significance to the first sermon he preached in his cathedral church, in which he is said to have given his predecessor Oda the title of ‘the good;’ for Oda's memory was cherished by the now triumphant party, and had been insulted by one of its chief opponents. The connection between England and the great monasteries of the continent was now about to bear fruit in a new monastic movement, the introduction of pure Benedictinism. This movement began with the consecration of Dunstan's old friend Æthelwold to the diocese of Winchester in 963. Æthelwold carried out his reforms with harshness, expelling the seculars from the monasteries, and putting monks in their place. Oswald, who was consecrated to the see of Worcester, worked for the same end, but with far greater moderation. The king connected himself with the family of Æthelwine [q. v.] of East Anglia, the most prominent patron of the monks, and joined with all his heart in the movement. On the other hand, Dunstan, who is represented by later writers as the chief opponent of the seculars, appears in reality to have taken a far less conspicuous part in it than the king or the bishops of Winchester or Worcester. While he certainly approved of the changes effected by the two bishops, and therefore is not unfairly spoken of as a fellow-worker with Æthelwold (Vita S. Æthelwoldi, p. 262), he did little himself to forward the triumph of the monks. He found secular clerks in his cathedral churches at Worcester and Canterbury, and in both alike he left them undisturbed, and throughout the whole period of his archiepiscopate he did not found a single Benedictine house in Kent. A reference to the lives of Æthelwold and Oswald will show how little cause there is to regard him as the prime mover on behalf of the monks. And in judging of the movement in favour of Benedictinism, with which he certainly sympathised, however little part he took in its progress, and though he probably only partly sympathised in the extent to which it was pushed, it should be remembered that the extreme laxity of morals which then prevailed in England demanded extraordinary remedies, and that, if under any circumstances it is well that men and women should set an example of separation from all sexual relations, it was well that they should do so at a time when even marriage was degraded by abuses. Moreover the new rule, which naturally seemed to men of that period the more excellent way, brought with it a revival of learning and larger opportunities for education, and thus in a special manner must have recommended itself to Dunstan's goodwill. His comparatively small participation in the work that was being carried out so vigorously by his friends was doubtless due to his conciliatory temper, as well as to the fact that during Eadgar's reign his energies must have been fully employed in affairs of state. Although the secular clergy who were expelled from the cathedral churches and other monasteries were as a class married men, it is wholly untrue that Dunstan, or indeed any one else, persecuted the married clergy as such. It was uncanonical for a priest to have a wife, and if he was married before he became a priest he was bound to put away his wife. Dunstan, however, made no effort to compel the clergy to celibacy. The canons for which he is responsible merely direct that ‘a priest should not desert his church, but hold her as his lawful wife’ (canon 8), and the only penalty that he decided should follow clerical marriage was that the married priest should lose his privilege, he ceased to be of thegn-right worthy, and had no higher legal status than that which belonged to a layman of equal birth. A clause in the Penitential that is called Dunstan's directs that any mass priest, monk, or deacon who, after having put away his wife before he was ordained, again returned to her, should ‘fast as for murder;’ but this, as Dr. Stubbs has pointed out, is ‘an extract from Penitentials of much earlier date,’ and moreover it cannot be proved that the compilation in which it stands belongs to the pontificate of Dunstan (Introduction to Memorials, cvii).
In other respects also, besides the question of his policy in the struggle of seculars and regulars, the character of Dunstan's ecclesiastical administration may best be gathered from the canons of Eadgar's reign. The long wars with the Danes had thrown the people back into ignorance, and their ignorance made them superstitious, and led them to hanker after the paganism of their forefathers. It was needful, therefore, to repeat the old injunction that all heathen practices should be put away (16). Dunstan, however, went to the root of the evil; he saw that if his fellow-countrymen were to be saved from barbarism, they could only find salvation in intellectual improvement. He desired to make the church the educator of the people; her ministers were to be teachers. If, however, they were to be successful teachers, it was needful that they should work in harmony and order. No priest, therefore, was to take another's scholar without his leave (10). And it was not only intellectual instruction the people needed. The energies of the nation had too long been wasted in war. In common with his king, Eadgar ‘the Peaceful,’ Dunstan laboured for peace, and, excellent craftsman that he was, he longed to see the people learn the arts of peace. Accordingly every priest was to learn a handicraft with diligence, that he might be able to teach it to others for the increase of knowledge (11). The importance of spiritual instruction was not forgotten; a sermon was to be preached every Sunday (52). The special evil of the age was to be forsaken: all concubinage was forbidden, and lawful marriage alone was to be practised (21). In this the church under Dunstan's guidance was following in the path marked out by Oda. That priests were to be examples of continence we have already seen. As regards other matters also it was needful to bid them live a higher life than the life around them; they were not to hunt, hawk, or play dice (61), and they were to keep from drunkenness and rebuke it in others (57). In order to put a stop to the drinking bouts that largely prevailed among the English, Dunstan is said to have ordered pegs to be placed in all drinking cups, so that a man might see how much he had drunk, and so be warned against excess (Gesta Regum, c. 149). As he desired to raise the character of the priesthood, so also he would have its dignity maintained. No priest was to clear himself by oath in a matter with a thegn without the thegn's ‘fore-oath’ (63), and quarrels between priests were not to be taken before a civil judge, but before the bishop (7). With Dunstan's desire for the exaltation of the priesthood must be connected the stringent rules as to vestments and other matters that were to be observed in the eucharistic celebration (30–45). If we are to accept the penitential canons already referred to as his work, they bear witness to a mind not only eminently practical, but of wide and tender sympathies. The rich offender might redeem his penance by building and endowing or repairing churches, by making roads, bridges, and causeways, by helping the poor, the widow and the fatherless, by freeing his own slaves, or by buying slaves and setting them free. Penance was not to consist merely in bodily mortification: the great man was bidden to forgive his enemy, to comfort the sorrowful, and bury the dead (13–16). Nor did the archbishop shrink from enforcing discipline at any possible cost to himself. One of the great men of the kingdom contracted an unlawful marriage. Dunstan rebuked him often, and when he found that he continued in sin excommunicated him. The noble journeyed to Rome and obtained a papal mandate, bidding the archbishop absolve him. This, however, Dunstan flatly refused to do, declaring that he would rather be slain than be unfaithful to his Lord (Adelard, 67; it is curious to mark the development of this incident in Eadmer, 200–1).
In 975 Eadgar died, and was buried at Glastonbury. His death was followed by a movement against the monks. The dispute between the regulars and seculars was taken up by the rival houses of Mercia and East Anglia. Ælfhere, the ealdorman of Mercia, turned the monks out of all the churches in his province, and re-established the married clerks in their old quarters. He threatened to carry the work still further. On the other hand, the cause of the monks was upheld by Æthelwine of East Anglia, who was supported by Brithnoth, the ealdorman of the East-Saxons. The ecclesiastical quarrel was made the occasion of a struggle for power. Civil war, if it did not actually break out, was evidently near at hand (Flor. Wig. 144; Historia Ramesiensis, 71; Vita S. Oswaldi, 443). The danger was increased by the vacancy of the throne and a dispute as to the succession. The right of Eadward [see Edward the Martyr], the elder son of Eadgar, seems to have been upheld by Ælfhere, while Ælfthryth, the queen-mother, intrigued for her son Æthelred [see Ethelred the Unready], and was supported by her brother Ordulf, the ealdorman of the western shires. If Dunstan's policy had been directed merely by a desire to further the monastic cause, he would certainly have thrown all his weight against the party of Ælfhere. The late king had, however, pointed out Eadward as his successor, and a designation of this kind then constituted a good claim to election. Besides, the succession of Eadward avoided the evils of a long minority, during which probably the West-Saxon party, always opposed to the progressive policy of the reign of Eadgar, would have had the chief power in the kingdom. Accordingly, in conjunction with the archbishop of York, Dunstan declared for Eadward at a meeting of the witan held probably at Winchester; the two archbishops carried the election, and crowned him king (Historia Rames. 73). It was perhaps at this meeting that the ecclesiastical quarrel was hotly debated. The monastic party was outnumbered, and their opponents loudly demanded that Dunstan should decree the expulsion of the monks and the restoration of the clerks. While the archbishop hesitated as to the answer he should give them, a voice was heard, which was believed to come from the figure of the crucified Lord hanging in the upper part of the hall, saying, ‘Let it not be so; let it not be so.’ When the opponents of the monks heard this voice, they were confounded, and the monastic party was for the time victorious (Osbern, 113; Will. Malm. Gesta Regum, c. 161). The strife still went on, and in April 977 the matter was again debated at a gemot held at Kyrtlington in Oxfordshire, and the next year at Calne in Wiltshire, where the floor of the hall (‘solarium’) in which the council was held gave way, and all the nobles fell down into the undercroft below, some losing their lives, and others sustaining serious hurts. Dunstan alone escaped from falling, for his seat rested on a beam. There is not the slightest historical ground for asserting either that the voice heard at Winchester or the fall of the floor at Calne was a trick devised by the archbishop to defeat the opponents of the monks. Although his sympathy was of course with the monastic party, he appears throughout this period rather as a moderator than as a partisan. There were many present at Winchester who were far more immediately concerned in the struggle than he was; and at Calne, according to the earliest and most trustworthy accounts, both parties alike appear to have suffered from what was simply an accident, while Dunstan was preserved by a purely fortuitous circumstance; it is not till we come to Osbern's life, written far on in the next century, that we find this event represented as a declaration of God's wrath against the enemies of the monks (A.-S. Chron. sub ann. 978; Flor. Wig. sub ann. 977; Osbern, 114). Another meeting was held the same year at Amesbury, also in Wiltshire.
When Eadward was slain in March 978, Dunstan and Oswald crowned Æthelred king at Kingston on 14 April. At the coronation Dunstan caused the young king to read a solemn pledge to govern well, using the same form as at the coronation of Eadgar [for Eadgar's coronation rite see under Edgar], and with this pledge delivered him a short exhortation on the duties of a christian king (Memorials, 355, 356). He is said to have foretold to the king the calamities that would fall on his house and nation as a punishment for the murder of Eadward (Osbern; Flor. Wig. sub ann. 1016). In 980 the archbishop joined with Ælfhere of Mercia in removing the body of the late king from Wareham, where it had been dishonourably buried in unhallowed ground, and translating it with great honour to Shaftesbury. With this act ends all that we know of Dunstan's public life. He probably had little influence over the young king. When in 986 Æthelred laid siege to Rochester to enforce a claim he made against the bishop, and being unable to take the city ravaged the lands of the bishopric, Dunstan is said to have failed to persuade him to desist until he procured his acquiescence by a large bribe (A.-S. Chron. and Flor. Wig. sub ann. 986; Cod. Dipl. dcc.; Osbern, 116, is the earliest authority for the intervention of Dunstan). Æthelred, however, is said to have given the bishopric of Winchester to Ælfheah [q. v.] at the archbishop's request (Adelard, 62). The occupations of Dunstan's last years are recorded by the Saxon priest B., who knew him well. He was constant in prayer by night as well as by day; he loved to read the scriptures, to join in psalmody, and take part in the services of the church. The handicrafts of his earlier days were resumed, and he spent much time in correcting books. The churches of those parts of the continent that were near England held him in reverence, and he corresponded with Fleury and the great monasteries of Flanders. Although he was no longer engaged in affairs of state, he had much business to transact. As a judge he was quick to discern the truth; he loved to compose quarrels and to befriend the weak and needy, and he ever continued to uphold the laws of marriage and to strengthen the church. As a teacher he was unwearied, so that the whole of England is said to have been filled with his light. He was loving, gentle, and easily moved to tears. He used to tell the boys of his household stories of his own life, and from some of these boys, as well as from personal intercourse with Dunstan, B., the anonymous author of the earliest life of the archbishop, derived the information he has handed down to us. The remembrance of his gentleness was long cherished at Canterbury, and Osbern, who was a Canterbury scholar, tells us how, when he and his companions were about to be whipped, Godric, the dean of Christ Church, forbade it and chid the masters; for he said their kind father Dunstan had the day before shown them a pattern of gentleness by working a miracle at his tomb. Again, Osbern records that when on another occasion the masters had determined, apparently from a mere love of cruelty, to whip their scholars, the poor lads, with many tears, cried to their ‘sweetest father’ to have pity on them, and the good Dunstan heard the children's prayer and delivered them. With his guests he would talk of things he had heard in his youth from men of an older generation, as when Abbo of Fleury heard him tell the bishop of Rochester and others the story of the martyrdom of St. Edmund, which he had learnt from the king's armour-bearer. The account we have of his death was written by Adelard about twenty years afterwards. His strength began to fail on Ascension day, 17 May 988. On that day he preached three times and celebrated the Eucharist; then he supped with his household. After supper all saw that his end was near (Vita B.) On the following Saturday, after the matin hymns had been sung, he bade the congregation of the brethren come to him. He commended his spirit to them, and then received the ‘viaticum’ of the sacrament that had been celebrated before him. For this he began to give thanks to God, and sang, ‘The merciful and gracious Lord hath so done his marvellous works that they ought to be had in remembrance. He hath given meat unto them that fear him,’ and with these words he passed away (Adelard, 66). He was buried near the altar of his church, in a tomb that he had made for himself. His day is 19 May. In 1508 the monks of Glastonbury claimed that the bones of the saint rested in their church, alleging that they had been removed thither in the reign of Eadmund Ironside. Their claim was groundless [see under Bere, Richard]. No extant literary work is to be attributed to Dunstan. The writings, ‘Tractatus … de lapide philosophorum,’ printed at Cassel in 1649, the ‘Regularis Concordia’ in Reyner's ‘Apostolatus Benedictinorum’ and Dugdale's ‘Monasticon,’ i. xxvii–xlv, and the ‘Commentary on the Benedictine Rule’ in the British Museum (Reg. MS. 10A, 13) sometimes ascribed to him (Wright) cannot be accepted as his work (Stubbs); and the lists of titles in Bale and Pits may safely be disregarded. Neither the date nor the authorship of the ‘Penitential,’ printed by Wilkins with the ecclesiastical canons of Eadgar's reign, can be determined. A book which almost certainly belonged to Dunstan is preserved in the Bodleian Library (Auct. F. iv. 32). It consists of a large part of the ‘Liber Euticis Grammatici de discernendis Conjugationibus,’ some extracts from the scriptures in Greek and Latin, and other miscellaneous contents, among which are ‘some of the earliest written specimens of Welsh’ (Stubbs). On the first page is a picture of the Saviour, with a monk kneeling before him with a scroll coming from his mouth; on which are written the lines—
Dunstanum memet clemens rogo, Christe, tuere;
Tenarias me non sinas sorbsisse procellas.
A note by a later hand on the same page declares the picture and writing to be Dunstan's work, and Leland (Collectanea, iii. 154), who mentions having seen the book at Glastonbury, accepts it as his (Hickes, Thesaurus, i. 144, where this picture is engraved; Macray, Annals of the Bodleian, p. 20). A manuscript of St. Augustine's ‘Commentary on the Apocalypse,’ also preserved in the Bodleian, has a note that the transcription was made by order of ‘Dunstanus abbas,’ and must, therefore, have been written before Dunstan ‘had reached the rank of either archbishop or saint’ (Stubbs; Macray). Another book containing canons, also in the Bodleian, has the inscription ‘Liber Sancti Dunstani,’ and in one place a boy's head with the words ‘Wulfric Cild,’ which Dr. Stubbs suggests may represent Dunstan's brother, the reeve of Glastonbury, and probably the ‘comes’ or ‘gesith’ mentioned in various charters of Eadmund and Eadred (Memorials, Introduction, lxxvi). Among Dunstan's mechanical works were two great bells that he made for the church of Abingdon (Chron. Monast. de Abingdon, i. 345), and crosses, censers, and various vestments that he made for Glastonbury (Johannes, Glaston. p. 116). A charter which professes to be written by Dunstan's own hand is at Canterbury; a duplicate in the British Museum has been photographed; it is printed by Kemble (Cod. Dipl. cccxxv.); another is said to be at Winchester (Stubbs; Wright). The canticle ‘Kyrie rex splendens’ may, Dr. Stubbs points out, be, as Higden asserts, the Kyrie eleison which, according to Eadmer, was revealed to Dunstan in a dream and dictated by him; it may be that the music to which Higden seems to refer is his rather than the words, but even of that there can be no certainty.[Memorials of St. Dunstan, ed. Stubbs (Rolls Ser.), contains an introduction in which for the first time the life and work of the archbishop have been treated adequately, the ‘Vita auctore B.,’ an anonymous ‘Saxon’ priest, probably from the old Saxon land, who was personally acquainted with Dunstan, and who dedicated his work to Ælfric, archbishop of Canterbury [q. v.], the Life by Adelard, a monk of Ghent, written for Archbishop Ælfheah, between 1006 and 1011, in the form of ‘lectiones’ for the use of the Canterbury monks, and containing a number of legends that had in scarcely twenty years gathered round Dunstan's memory, along with some matters evidently derived from personal information, Lives by Osbern [q. v.], a contemporary of Lanfranc, with a Book of Miracles, by Eadmer [q. v.], also with a Book of Miracles, by William of Malmesbury [q. v.] and Capgrave [q. v.], Letters addressed to Dunstan and others, and Fragmenta Ritualia de Dunstano; Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Rolls Ser.); Florence of Worcester (Eng. Hist. Soc.); William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum (Eng. Hist. Soc.), Gesta Pontificum (Rolls Ser.), De Antiq. Eccl. Glaston., Gale; Chron. Monast. de Abingdon (Rolls Ser.); Historia Ramesiensis (Rolls Ser.); Kemble's Codex Diplomat. (Eng. Hist. Soc.); Wilkins's Concilia; Thorpe's Ancient Laws; Robertson's Historical Essays; Hook's Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, vol. i.; Lingard's Anglo-Saxon Church; Green's Conquest of England; Wright's Biographia Literaria.]