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PREFACE. - Saint Bede, The Complete Works of Venerable Bede, 8 vols. 
The Complete Works of Venerable Bede, in the original Latin, collated with the Manuscripts, and various printed editions, and accompanied by a new English translation of the Historical Works, and a Life of the Author. By the Rev. J.A. Giles (London: Whittaker and Co., 1843). * 8 vols.
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OPERA QUÆ SUPERSUNT OMNIA,
NUNC PRIMUM IN ANGLIA,
OPE CODICUM MANUSCRIPTORUM,
EDIDIT J. A. GILES, LL.D.,
ECCLESIÆ ANGLICANÆ PRESBYTER,
et coll. corp. chr. oxon. olim socius.
LIBRI I, II, III.
VENEUNT APUD WHITTAKER ET SOCIOS.
IN THE ORIGINAL LATIN,
COLLATED WITH THE MANUSCRIPTS, AND
VARIOUS PRINTED EDITIONS,
A NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION
OF THE HISTORICAL WORKS,
A LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
BY THE REV. J. A. GILES, D.C.L.
late fellow of c.c.c., oxford.
BOOKS I. II. III.
WHITTAKER AND CO., AVE MARIA LANE.
LONDON: william stevens, printer, bell yard, temple bar.
A complete edition of the works of Venerable Bede has long been a desideratum in English literature. That want is now likely to be supplied, and the publication of this volume, containing the First Part of the Ecclesiastical History, announces that the whole works of England’s first and most valuable writer will, ere long, be laid before the public. Another volume, containing the last part of the same important historical record, will speedily appear: after which, a series of volumes will be published, which, when finished, will comprise all that is known to have proceeded from Bede’s pen; and the first volume of the series will contain a Memoir of the Author and his Works, wherein will be collected together all that we know of the life and character of this remarkable man.
The Ecclesiastical History was first published on the Continent: the following is a list of the editions which were there printed:—
1. Una cum Petri Trecensis (alias Comestoris) Historia Scholastica, et Eusebii Historia Ecclesiastica, [Editor: illegible word] Rufinum et cum additione Rufini, Argentinensi, 500.
2. Ead. ed. repet. Hagenau, 1506.
3. Antverpiæ, 1550.
4. Lovanii, 1566.
5. In “Britannicarum rerum Scriptores, Heidelbergæ, fol. 1587.”
6. Lugduni, 1587.
7. Coloniæ, 1601.
8. In “Bedæ Opera, &c. Parisiis, per Jametium, 1544.”
9. Ead. ed. repet. 1554.
10. In “Bedæ Opera, &c. Basil., per Joannem Hervagium, 8 tom. fol. 1563.”
11. Ead. ed. repet. Coloniæ, 1612.
12. Ead. ed. repet. 1688.
It was first published in England by Wheloc, fol. Cantab. 1643-4, with an Appendix containing the Anglo-Saxon translation by King Alfred the Great, under the following title, “Historiam Ecclesiasticam gentis Anglorum, una cum adnotatione et analectis, e publicis veteris ecclesiæ Anglicanæ homiliis aliisque MSS. Saxonicis excerptis, nec antea Latine editis; ut et Saxonicam Chronologiam, seriem hujus imprimis historicam complectentem, e Bibl. publica Cantab.; accedunt Anglo-Saxonicæ leges, et ultimo leges Henrici I., edidit A Whelocus. Cantab. 1644.
The next critical edition was that of Chifflet, together with Fredegarius Scholasticus, under this title:—Bedæ Presbyteri et Fredegarii Scholastica Concordia ad senioris Dagoberti definiendam monarchiæ periodum, atque ad primæ totius Regum Francorum stirpis Chronologiam stabiliendam, in duas partes divisa, quarum prior continet Historiam Ecclesiasticam Gentis Anglorum, cum notis et Dissertatione de auctore hujus Historiæ, posterior Dissertatio de annis Dagoberti Francorum Regis, eo nomine primi. Auctore P. F. Chiffletio, Soc. Jesu Presbyt. Parisiis, 1681.
To this succeeded the edition of Smith, which superseded all the preceding. It is thus entitled:—Bedæ Venerabilis Hist. Eccl. gentis Anglorum, una cum reliquis ejus Operibus Historicis in unum volumen collectis, cura Johannis Smith S. T. P. et Eccl. Dunelmensis non ita quidem Canonici. Cantabrigiæ, 1722. The basis of this edition was a MS. formerly belonging to More, Bishop of Ely, and now deposited in the public library at Cambridge. [Kk, 5, 16.] At the end of the volume, which is written in Anglo-Saxon letters, are the following notes in a somewhat later handwriting.
ANNO DXLVII Ida regnare cœpit a quo regalis Nordanhymbrorum prosapia originem tenet et XII annos in regno permansit. Post hunc Glappa I annum, Adda VIII, Ædilric IV, Theodric VII, Fridwald VI, Hussa VII, Aldfrid XX, Osred XI, Coinred I, Osric XI, Ceolwulf VIII.
Baptizavit Paulinus ante an. CXI.
Eclipsis ante an. LXXIII.
Penda moritur ante an. LXXIX.
Pugna Ecgfridi ante an. LXIII.
Ælfvini ante an. LVIII.
Monasterium æt Wiræmoda ante an. LXIV.
Cometæ visæ ante an. VIII.
Eodem anno pater Ecgberct transivit ad Christum.
Angli in Brittania ante an. CCXCII.
By calculating these dates it would appear that the volume was copied in the year 737, i. e. two years after Bede’s death, and probably from the author’s original manuscript.
In addition to More’s MS., Smith collated two others from the Cottonian Library [Tib. C, II and A, XIV], and one in the King’s Library, besides referring to a large number of others. His text, however, appears to be almost a fac-simile of More’s MS., and he has given the readings of the other copies, which he collated, at the bottom of the page.
The last edition of this celebrated and valuable work is that of Stevenson, published by the English Historical Society, Lond. 8vo. 1838. The editor professes to have used the same MS. of Bishop More, and to have occasionally collated four others [Cotton. Tib. C, II, Tib. A, XIV., Harl. 4978, and King’s MS. 13 C, V.]. Prefixed to the volume is a copious and valuable notice of the author and his work, from which we take the liberty of making the following long extract, as containing the most judicious account of this our author’s greatest work, and of the aids which he enjoyed in executing it.
“The scope of the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum is sufficiently indicated by its title. After some observations upon the position, inhabitants and natural productions of Britain, the author gives a rapid sketch of its history from the earliest period until the arrival of Augustine in 597, at which æra, in his opinion, the Ecclesiastical History of our nation had its commencement. After that event, he treats, as was to be expected, for a time exclusively of the circumstances which occurred in Kent; but, as Christianity extended itself over the other kingdoms into which England was then divided, he gradually includes their history in his narrative, until he reaches the year 731. Here he concludes his work, which embraces a space of one hundred and thirty-four years, with a general outline of the ecclesiastical state of the island.
“The Introduction, which extends from the commencement of the work to the conversion of the Saxons to Christianity, is gleaned, as Beda himself informs us, from various writers. The chief sources for the description of Britain are Pliny, Solinus, Orosius and Gildas; St. Basil is also cited; and the traditions which were current in Beda’s own day are occasionally introduced. The history of the Romans in Britain is founded chiefly upon Orosius, Eutropius, and Gildas, corrected, however, in some places by the author, apparently from tradition or local information, and augmented by an account of the introduction of Christianity under Lucius, of the martyrdom of St. Alban, copied apparently from some legend, and of the origin of the Pelagian heresy,—all of them circumstances intimately connected with the ecclesiastical history of the island. The mention of Hengist and Horsa, and the allusion to the tomb of the latter at Horstead, render it probable that the account which Beda gives of the arrival of the Teutonic tribes, and their settlement in England, was communicated by Albinus and Nothhelm. It is purely fabulous, being, in fact, not the history, but the tradition, of the Jutish kingdom of Kent, as appears from circumstances mentioned elsewhere in this work, as well as from the authorities there quoted. The two visits of Germanus to England, so important in the history of its religion, are introduced in the very words of Constantius Lugdunensis, and must therefore have been copied from that author. The ante-Augustine portion of the history is terminated by extracts from Gildas, relative to the conflicts between the Saxons and Britons. As the mission of Augustine in 596 is the period at which Beda ceases to speak of himself as a compiler, and assumes the character of an Historian, it becomes incumbent upon us to examine into the sources upon which he has founded this, by far the most interesting portion of his History. The materials which he employed seem to have consisted of (i.) written documents, and (ii.) verbal information. (i.) The written materials may be divided into (1.) Historical information drawn up and communicated by his correspondents for the express purpose of being employed in his work; (2.) documents pre-existing in a narrative form, and (3.) transcripts of official documents.
“(1.) That Beda’s correspondents drew up and communicated to him information which he used when writing this History, is certain from what he states in its Prologue; and it is highly probable that to them we are indebted for many particulars connected with the history of kingdoms situated to the south of the river Humber, with which a monk of Jarrow, from his local position, was probably unacquainted. Traces of the assistance which he derived from Canterbury are perceptible in the minute acquaintance which he exhibits not only with the topography of Kent, but with its condition at the time when he wrote; and the same remark is applicable, although in a more limited degree, to most of the other southern kingdoms.
“(2.) Documents pre-existing in an historical form are seldom quoted: amongst those of which use has been made may be numbered the Life of Gregory the Great, written by Paulus Diaconus; the miracles of Ethelburg, abbess of Barking; the Life of Sebbi, king of East Saxony; the Legend of Fursey; and that of Cuthberht of Lindisfarn, formerly written by Beda, but now augmented by himself, with additional facts. These, together with some extracts from the Treatise of Arcuulf De locis sanctis, are all the written documents to which the author refers.
“That other narratives, however, were in Beda’s possession, of which he has made liberal use, is certain from his express words, and may also be inferred from internal evidence. Albinus and Nothhelm appear to have furnished him with Chronicles, in which he found accurate and full information upon the pedigrees, accessions, marriages, exploits, descendants, deaths, and burials of the kings of Kent. From the same source he derived his valuable account of the archbishops of Canterbury, both before and after ordination, the place and date of consecration, even though it took place abroad, the days on which they severally took possession of that see, the duration of their episcopate, their deaths, burial-places, and the intervals which elapsed before the election of a successor. It is evident that the minuteness and accuracy of this information could have been preserved only by means of contemporary written memoranda. That such records existed in the time of the Saxons cannot be doubted, for Beda introduces a story, by which it appears that the Abbey of Selsey possessed a volume in which were entered the obits of eminent individuals; and the same custom probably prevailed throughout the other monastic establishments of England.
“The history of the diocese of Rochester was communicated by Albinus and Nothhelm. It is exceedingly barren of particulars; and probably would have been even more so, had it not been connected with the life of Paulinus of York, concerning whom Beda appears to have obtained information from other quarters.
“The early annals of East Anglia are equally scanty, as we have little more than a short pedigree of its kings, an account of its conversion to Christianity, the history of Sigiberct and Anna, and a few particulars regarding its bishops, Felix, Thomas, Berctgils, and Bisi, which details were communicated in part by Albinus and Nothhelm.
“The history of the West Saxons was derived partly from the same authorities, and partly from the information of Daniel, bishop of Winchester. It relates to their conversion by Birinus, the reigns of Caedualla and of Ini, and the pontificate of Vine, Aldhelm and Daniel. To this last named bishop we are indebted for a portion of the little of what is known as to the early history of the South Saxons and the Isle of Wight, the last of the Saxon kingdoms which embraced the Christian faith. It relates to the conversion of those districts by the agency of Wilfrith. A few unimportant additions are afterwards made in a hurried and incidental manner, evidently showing that Beda’s information upon this head was neither copious nor definite.
“The monks of Læstingaeu furnished materials relative to the ministry of Cedd and Ceadda, by whose preaching the Mercians were induced to renounce Paganism. The history of this kingdom is obscure, and consists of an account of its conversion, the succession of its sovereigns, and its bishops. The neighbouring state of Middle Anglia, which, if ever independent of Mercia, soon merged in it, is similarly circumstanced, and we are perhaps indebted to its connexion with the princes and bishops of Northumbria for what is known of its early history.
“Lindissi, part of Lincolnshire, although situated so near to the kingdom of Northumbria, was both politically and ecclesiastically independent of it, and Beda was as ignorant of the transactions of that province as of those which were much more remote from Jarrow. He received some materials from bishop Cyniberct, but they appear to have been scanty, for the circumstances which relate to Lincolnshire are generally derived from the information of other witnesses.
“The history of East Saxony is more copious, and is derived partly from the communications of Albinus and Nothhelm, and partly from the monks of Læstingaeu. To the first of these two sources we must probably refer the account of the pontificate of Mellitus, and the apostasy of the sons of Saeberct; circumstances too intimately connected with the see of Canterbury to be omitted in its annals. To the latter we are indebted for the history of the reconversion of East Saxony; an event in which the monks of Læstingaeu were interested, as it was accomplished by their founder Cedd. From them Beda also received an account of the ministry of Ceadda. Some further details respecting its civil and ecclesiastical affairs, the life of Erconuuald, bishop of London, and the journey of Offa to Rome, conclude the information which we have respecting this kingdom.
“In the history of Northumbria, Beda, as a native, was particularly interested, and would probably exert himself to procure the most copious and authentic information regarding it. Although he gives no intimation of having had access to previous historical documents, when speaking of his sources of information, yet there seems reason to believe that he has made use of such materials. We may infer from what he says of the mode in which Oswald’s reign was generally calculated, that in this king’s time there existed Annals, or Chronological Tables, in which events were inserted as they occurred, the regnal year of the monarch who then filled the throne being at the same time specified. These annals appear to have extended beyond the period of the conversion of Northumbria to Christianity, although it is difficult to imagine how any chronological calculation or record of events could be preserved before the use of letters had become known. But the history of Eadwine, with its interesting details, shows that Beda must have had access to highly valuable materials which reached back to the very earliest æra of authentic history; and we need not be surprised at finding information of a similar character throughout the remainder of his history of Northumbria. Accordingly we have minute accounts of the pedigrees of its kings, their accession, exploits, anecdotes of them and sketches of their character, their deaths, and the duration of their reigns; details too minute in themselves, and too accurately defined by Beda, to have been derived by him from tradition. Similar proofs might, if necessary, be drawn from the history of its bishops.
“(3.) The Historia Ecclesiastica contains various transcripts of important official documents. These are of two classes: either such as were sent from the Papal Court to the princes and ecclesiastics of England, or were the production of native writers. The first were transcribed from the Papal Regesta by Nothhelm of London, during a residence at Rome, and were sent to Beda by the advice of his friend Albinus of Canterbury. They relate to the history of the kingdoms of Kent and Northumbria. The letters of archbishops Laurentius and Honorius, concerning the proper time for celebrating Easter, were probably furnished by the same individual. The proceedings of the Councils of Herutford and Haethfeld, may have been derived from the archives of Beda’s own monastery; since it was customary in the early ages of the Church for each ecclesiastical establishment to have a ‘tabularium’ in which were deposited the synodal decrees by which its members were governed.
“(ii.) A considerable portion of the Historia Ecclesiastica, especially that part of it which relates to the kingdom of Northumberland, is founded upon local information which its author derived from various individuals. On almost every occasion, Beda gives the name and designation of his informant; being anxious, apparently, to show that nothing is inserted for which he had not the testimony of some respectable witness. Some of these persons are credible from having been present at the event which they related; others, from the high rank which they held in the Church, such as Aecci, bishop of Hexham, Guthfrith, abbot of Lindisfarn, Bercthun, abbot of Beverley, and Pecthelm, bishop of Whithern. The author received secondary evidence with caution, for he distinguishes between the statements which he received from eyewitnesses, and those which reached him through a succession of informants. In the last of these instances, the channel of information is always pointed out with scrupulous exactness, whatever opinion we may entertain, as in the case of some visions and miracles, of the credibility of the facts themselves.”
After so many previous editions, the editor acknowledges that under ordinary circumstances he would not have hesitated to reprint the Ecclesiastical History from the latest and most valuable existing edition, trusting that a work so often revised would have been already in a fit state to lay before the reader; and thus he would hope to be enabled to devote more time (and with greater benefit to the reader) to the other works of Bede which have been less fortunate than the Ecclesiastical History. But on coming to examine the text of the edition recently published by the English Historical Society, he discovered a considerable augmentation of his labours. It has been previously observed, and seems hitherto not to have been generally known, that Smith’s text is accurately copied from the MS. of More, and that every thing, but the most manifest blunders of the copyist, is therein preserved. Indeed, Smith the younger, who edited the volume which his father had prepared, acknowledges that he has not suffered himself to depart from the readings of a volume so ancient, even in the minutest particular. His words are these: “Patri religio fuit de codicis tam admirandæ vetustatis fide, nisi ubi librarium falso scripsisse aperte deprehenditur, vel aliquantulum decedere.” This is the reason why More’s Manuscript, in general so superior to every other, has been followed by its editor, even where the reading is, owing to want of care or fatigue on the part of the copyist, manifestly corrupt. To guard, however, against mistake, Smith has in every case subjoined as foot-notes the corrections with which other MSS. or existing editions supplied him. And for following this plan there is good reason: it was an object of interest to every scholar to see a fac-simile of a MS. written so near the time of the author, and some editors have not scrupled to represent even the forms of the letters in which such a volume was written. But after Smith’s edition had been so long familiar to the world, it would be highly inexpedient for a future editor to follow the same plan. It would appear rather incumbent on him to collect the best text from every MS. or printed edition that had preceded, and in every instance to substitute such good readings in the place of those which might appear inferior in the text of Smith; nor can it be alleged that there would be no room for the adoption of such plan, on the ground of More’s MS. being perfect, or at least free from gross errors. For, however valuable it may be for antiquity and general excellence, it nevertheless abounds with most glaring errors of all descriptions. It, in several instances, omits altogether words necessary to the sense; it not unfrequently adopts the worst of two readings; it occasionally presents gross errors in grammar; and, indeed, is not free from any of those defects, to which every volume, written by the hand, and admitting no revision or correction, as in the case of printed books, is liable.
It is hardly necessary to say that Mr. Stevenson’s volume, being almost a verbatim reprint of Smith’s, is exposed to this objection, and to a somewhat greater degree still, from the omission of the footnotes containing the corrections of the corrupt passages. The two following instances will more fully explain this. In Chap. XIX., towards the beginning, More’s MS. reads ad eum habitaculum, and Smith, following the MS., subjoins as a correction, illud habitaculum. In the reprint, however, we find eum habitaculum retained without the note. Again, in Chap. III., where Claudius is mentioned, More’s MS. reads cupiens monstrare. Smith so reprints it, but adds in a note, cupiens se monstrare, which no doubt is the true reading. Here, also, in the recent edition, we read cupiens monstrare, and with no note subjoined. Finding that this system had been acted upon throughout, the present editor saw the necessity of a new and entire revision of the text, and accordingly he turned his attention to the Heidelberg edition, found in Scriptores Britannicarum Rerum, published by Commelin, and apparently, as far as Bede is concerned, unknown to previous editors. Of this volume he had before formed a very high opinion, and was glad to find its character fully sustained in the present instance. The learning and taste displayed by Commelin, the editor, are beyond commendation: as regards the text of Bede, it is superior in every respect to any other edition, and appears to have been very little, if at all, examined by preceding editors. The present edition will be found to contain all that could be gathered by a diligent and complete collation of the editions of Heidelberg, Smith and Stevenson. The best reading has in every instance been adopted, and the result of the collation will be given in a chapter of various readings, at the end of the next volume. In addition to this, different Manuscripts have been referred to whenever the text appeared corrupt or unintelligible; but, it is right to add, with very little benefit. It is hoped, therefore, that in this volume will be found the best text of the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation that has yet been published.
Of the value of this work we can have no better evidence than the fact of its having been so often translated into the vernacular tongue. King Alfred thought it not beneath his dignity to render it familiar to his Anglo-Saxon subjects, by translating it into their tongue.
The first version in modern English was that of Stapleton, bearing the following title, “The History of the Church of Englande, compiled by Venerable Bede, Englishman, translated out of Latin into English by Thomas Stapleton, Student in Divinity. Antw. by John Laet, 1565.” The object of the translator was to recal the affections of the people to the Theological forms and doctrines which in his time were being exploded. In the dedication to Queen Elizabeth occurs the following passage:—“In this History Your Highnes shall see in how many and weighty pointes the pretended reformers of the Church in Your Graces dominions have departed from the patern of that sounde and catholike faith planted first among Englishemen by holy s. augustin our Apostle, and his virtuous company, described truly and sincerely by Venerablebede, so called in all Christendom for his passing vertues and rare learning, the Author of this History. And to thentent Your Highnes intention bent to weightier considerations and affaires may spende no longe time in espying oute the particulars, I have gathered out of the whole History a number of diversities betwene the pretended religion of Protestants, and the primitive faith of the English Church.”
The work was again translated into English by John Stevens, Lond. 8vo. 1723; and a third time (with some omissions) by W. Hurst, Lond. 8vo. 1814, and apparently with the same object which influenced Stevenson. The translation, attached to the text in this volume, is that of Stevens, but corrected without scruple, wherever it was necessary. It was first published separately, Lond. 8vo. 1840, forming the first volume of a series of the Monkish Historians of Great Britain, and has since been again carefully revised throughout, and in some passages altogether retranslated; so that it is hoped the English reader will find it to convey a tolerably accurate notion of the style and sense of the original.
J. A. G.