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BEDE


385


BEDE


answered, 'it is finished. Take my head in thy hands for it much delights me to sit opposite any holy place where I used to pray, that so sitting I may call upon my Father. ' And thus upon the floor of his cell singing, 'Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost' and the rest, he peace- fully breathed his last breath."

The title Venerabilis seems to have been associated with the name of Bede within two generations after his death. There is of course no early authority for the legend repeated by Fuller of the "dunce monk" who in composing an epitaph on Bede was at a loss to complete the line: Hoc sunt in fossA Bedte .... ossa and who next morning found that the angels had filled the gap with the word venerabilis. The title is used by Alcuin, Amalarius, and seemingly Paul the Deacon, and the important Council o'f Aachen in 835 describes him as venerabilis et modernis temporihus doctor admirabilis Beda. This decree was specially referred to in the petition which Cardinal Wiseman and the English bishops addressed to the Holy See in 18.59 prajing that Bede might be declared a Doctor of the Church. The question had already been debated even before the time of Bene- dict XIV, but it was only on 13 November, 1899, that Leo XIH decreed that the feast of Venerable Bede with the title of Doctor EcclesicB should be celebrated throughout the Church each year on 27 May. A local cultus of St. Bede had been main- tained at York and in the North of England through- out the Middle Ages, but his feast was not so generally observed in the South, where the Sarum Rite was followed.

Bede's influence both upon English and foreign scholarship was very great, and it would probably have been greater still but for the devastation in- flicted upon the nortliern monasteries by the inroads of the Danes less than a century after his death. In numberless ways, but especially in his moderation, gentleness, and breadth of view, Bede stands out from his contemporaries. In point of scholarship he was undoubtedly the most learned man of his time. A very remarkable trait, noticed by Plummer (I, p. xxiii), is his sense of literary property, an extraor- dinary thing in that age. He himself scrupulously noted in his writings the passages he had borrowed from others and he even begs the copj-ists of his works to preserve the references, a recommendation to which they, alas, have paid but httle attention. High, however, as was the general level of Bede's culture, he repeatedly makes it clear that all his studies were subordinated to the interpretation of Scripture. In his "De Schematibus" he says in so many words: "Holy Scripture is above all other books not only by its authority because it is Divine, or by its utility because it leads to eternal life, but also by its antiquity and by its literary form" (po- sitione dicendi). It is perhaps the highest tribute to Bede's genius that with so uncompromising and evi- dently sincere a con\'iction of the inferiority of human learning, he should have acquired so much real cul- ture. Though Latin was to him a still living tongue, and though he does not seem to have consciously looked back to the Augustan Age of Roman Lit- erature as preserving purer models of style than the time of Fortunatus or St. Augustine, still ^vhether through native genius or through contact with the classics, he is remarkable for the relative purity of his language, as also for his lucidity and his sobriety, more especially in matters of historical critic.sm. In all the.se respects he presents a marked contrast to St. Aldhelm who approaches more nearly to the Celtic type.

Writings and Editions. — No adequate edition founded upon a careful collation of manuscripts has ever been published of Bede's works as a whole. The text printed by Giles in 1844 and reproduced in


Migne (XC-XCIV) shows little if any advance on the Basle edition of 1563 or the Cologne edition of 1688. It is of course as an historian that Bede is chiefly remembered. His great work, the "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum", giving an account of Christianity in England from the beginning until his own day, is the foimdation of all our knowledge of early British history and a masterpiece eulogized by the scholars of every age. Of this work, together with the " Historia Abbatum ' ', and the " Letter to Eg- bert", Plummer has produced an edition which mav fairly be called final (2 vols., 0.xford, 1896). Bede's remarkable industry in collecting materials and his critical use of them have l^een admirably illustrated in Plummer's Introduction (pp. xliii-xlvii). The "History of the Abbots" (of the twin monasteries of Wcarmouth and Jarrow), the "Letter to Egbert", the metrical and prose lives of St. Cuthbert, and the other smaller pieces are also of great value for the light they shed upon the state of Christianity in Northumbria in Bede's owii day. The " Ecclesiastical History " was translated into Anglo-Saxon at the in- stance of King .\lfred. It h.as often been translated since, notably by T. Stapleton who printed it (1565) at Antwerp as a controversial weapon against the Reformation di\-ines in the reign of Elizabeth. The Latin text first appeared in Germany in 1475; it is noteworthy that no edition even of the Latin was printed in England before 1643. Smith's more accurate text saw the light in 1742.

Bede's chronological treatises "De temporibus liber" and "De temporum ratione" also contain summaries of the general history of the world from the Creation to 725 and 703, respectively. These historical portions have been satisfactorily edited by Mommsen in the "Monumenta Germanise his- torica" (4to series, 1898). They may be counted among the earliest specimens of this type of general chronicle and were largely copied and imitated. The topographical work "De locis Sanctis" is a descrip- tion of Jerusalem and the holy places based upon Adamnan and Arculfus. Bede's work was edited in 1898 by Geyer in the "Itinera Hierosolymitana" for the Vienna "Corpus Scriptorum". That Bede compiled a Martyrologium we know from his own statement. But the work attributed to him in extant manuscripts has been .so much interpolated and supplemented that his share in it is quite uncertain.

Bede's exegetical wTitings both in his own idea and in that of his contemporaries stood supreme in importance amongst his works, but the list is long and cannot be fully given here. They included a commentary upon the Pentateuch as a whole as well as on selected portions, and there are also commen- taries on the Books of Kings, Esdras, Tobias, the Canticles, etc. In the New Testament he has cer- tainly interpreted St. Mark, St. Luke, the Acts, the Canonical Epistles, and tlie Apocalypse. But the authenticity of the commentary on St. Matthew printed under his name is more than doubtful. (Plaine in "Revue Anglo-Romaine, 1896, III, 61.) The homilies of Bede take the form of commentaries upon the Gospel. The collection of fifty, divided into two books, which are attributed to him by Giles (and in Migne) are for the most part authentic, but the gen- uineness of a few is open to suspicion. (Morin in "Revue Bdnedictine", IX, 1892, 316.)

Various didactic works are mentioned by Bede in the list which he has left us of his own writings. Most of these are still preserved and there is no reason to doubt that the te.xts we possess are authentic. The grammatical treatises "De arte metrica" and "De orthographia" have been adequately edited in modern times by Kcil in his "Grammatici Latini" (Leipzig, 1880), VII, and the "De Schematibus et Tropis by Halm in his "Rhetores Latini minores " (Leipzig, 1863). But the larger works "De natiu-6.