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BEDE, BEDA, or B

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Originally appearing in Volume V03, Page 616 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BEDE, BEDA, or B,EDA (672 or 673-735), English historian and theologian. Of Bmda, commonly called " the Venerable Bede," almost all that we know is contained in the short auto-biographical notice which he has appended to his Ecclesiastical History:—" Thus much concerning the ecclesiastical history of Britain, and especially of the race of the English, I, Breda, a servant of Christ and priest of the monastery of the blessed apostles St Peter and St Paul, which is at Wearmouth and at Jarrow, have with the Lord's help composed, so far as I could gather it, either from ancient documents, or from the tradition of the elders, or from my own knowledge. I was born in the territory of the said monastery, and at the age of seven I was, by the care of my relations, given to the reverend Abbot Benedict (Biscop), and afterwards to Ceolfrid, to be educated. From that time I have spent the whole of my life within that monastery devoting all my pains to the study of the scriptures; and amid the observance of monastic discipline, and the daily charge of singing in the church, it has ever been my delight to learn or teach or write. In my nineteenth year I was admitted to the diaconate, in my thirtieth to the priesthood, both by the hands of the most reverend Bishop John (of Hexham), and at the bidding of Abbot Ceolfrid. From the time of my admission to the priesthood to my (present) fifty-ninth year, I have en deavoured, for my own use and that of my brethren, to make brief notes upon the Holy Scripture, either out of the works of the venerable fathers, or in conformity with their meaning and interpretation." Then follows a list of his works, so far as, at that date, they had been composed. As the Ecclesiastical History was written in 731, we obtain the following dates for the principal events in Bede's uneventful life:—birth, 672-673; entrance into the monastery, 679-68o; ordination as deacon, 691-692; as priest, 702-703. The monastery of Wearmouth was founded by Benedict Biscop in 674, and that of Jarrow in 681-682. Though some 5 or 6 m. apart, they were intended to form a single monastery under a single abbot, and so Bede speaks of them in the passage given above. It is with Jarrow that Bede is chiefly associated, though no doubt from the close connexion of the two localities he would often be at Wearmouth. The preface to the prose life of Cuthbert proves that he had stayed at Lindisfarne prior to 721, while the Epistle to Egbert shows that he had visited him at York in 733. The tradition that he went to Rome in obedience to a summons from Pope Sergius is contradicted by his own words above, and by his total silence as to any such visit. In the passage cited above, " monastic discipline, the daily charge of singing in the church, learning, teaching, writing," in other words devotion and study make up the even tenor of Bede's tranquil life. Anecdotes have been preserved which illustrate his piety both in615 early and in later years; of his studies the best monument is to be found in his writings. As a little boy he would take his place among the pupils of the monastic school, though he would soon pass to the ranks of the teachers, and the fact that he was ordained deacon at nineteen, below the canonical age, shows that he was regarded as remarkable both for learning and goodness. For the rest, it is in his works that we must chiefly seek to know him. They fall into three main classes: (1) scientific; (2) historical; (3) theological. The first class comprises works on grammar, one on natural phenomena, and two on chronology and the calendar. These last were inspired largely by the Paschal Question, which was the subject of such bitter controversy between the Roman and Celtic Churches in the 7th century. They form a natural transition to the second class. In this the chief place is held by the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. By this Bede has justly earned the title of the Father of English History. By this almost exclusively he is known to others than professed students. It is indeed one of the most valuable and one of the most beautiful of historical works. Bede has the artist's instinct of proportion, the artist's sense for the picturesque and the pathetic. His style too, modelled largely, in the present writer's opinion, on that of Gregory in the Dialogues, is limpid and unaffected. And though it would be wrong to call Bede a critical historian in the modern sense of the words, he shows a very unusual conscientiousness in collecting his information from the best available sources, and in distinguishing between what he believed to be fact, and what he regarded only as rumour or tradition. Other historical works of Bede are the History of the Abbots (of Wearmouth and Jarrow), and the lives of Cuthbert in verse and prose. The History of the Abbots and the prose life of Cuthbert were based on earlier works which still survive. In the case of the latter it cannot honestly be said that Bede has improved on his original. In the History of the Abbots he was much nearer to the facts, and could make additions out of his own personal knowledge. The Epistle to Egbert, though not historical in form, may be mentioned here, because of the valuable information which it contains as to the state of the Northumbrian Church, on which the disorders and revolutions of the Northumbrian kingdom had told with disastrous effect. It is probably the latest of Bede's extant works, as it was written in November 734, only six months before his death. The third or theological class of writings consists mainly of commentaries, or of works which, if not commentaries in name, are so in fact. They are based largely on the works of the four great Latin Fathers, SS. Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose and Gregory; though Bede's reading is very far from being limited to these. His method is largely allegorical. For the text of scripture he uses both the Latin versions, the Itala and the Vulgate, often comparing them together. But he certainly knew Greek, and possibly some Hebrew. Indeed it may be said that his works, scientific, historical and theological, practically sum up all the learning of western Europe in his time, which he thus made available for his countrymen, And not for them only; for in the school of York, founded by his pupil Archbishop Ecgberht, was trained Alcuin (Ealhwine) the initiator under Charles the Great of the Frankish schools, which did so much for learning on the continent. And though Bede makes no pretensions to originality, least of all in his theological works, freely taking what he needed, and (what is very rare in medieval writers) acknowledging what he took, " out of the works of the venerable Fathers," still everything he wrote is informed and impressed with his own special character and temper. His earnest yet sober piety, his humility, his gentleness, appear in almost every line. " In history and in science, as well as in theology, he is before all things the Christian thinker and student." (Plummer's Bede, i. 2.) Yet it should not be forgotten that Bede could hardly have done what he did without the noble library of books collected by Benedict Biscop. Several quaint and beautiful legends have been handed down as to the origin of the epithet of " venerable " generally attached to his name. Probably it is a mere survival of a title commonly given to priests in his day. It has given rise to a false idea that he lived to a great age; some medieval authorities making him he resigned his see. In 1641, when the Protestants were being ninety when he died. But he was not born before 672 (see above) ; massacred, Bedell's house was not only left untouched, but be-and though the date of his death has been disputed, the tradi- came the place of refuge for many fugitives. In the end, however, tional year, 735, is most probably correct. This would make the rebels insisted upon the dismissal of all who had taken him at most sixty-three. Of his death a most touching and shelter in his house, and on the bishop's refusal he was seized beautiful account has been preserved in a contemporary letter. and imprisoned with some others in the ruined castle of Lough-His last hours were spent, like the rest of his life, in devotion and boughter. Here he was detained for several weeks, and when teaching, his latest work being to dictate, amid ever-increasing released, rapidly sank from the effects of exposure, and died bodily weakness, a translation into the vernacular of the Gospel on the 7th of February 1642. of St John, a work which unhappily has not survived. It was a His life was written by Bishop Gilbert Burnet in 1685, and also by fitting close to such a life as his. his elder son (ed. T. W. Jones, for the Camden Society, 1872). writer's essay on Bede's Life and Works, prefixed to his edition of Bede's O. Eng. biddan, to pray; literally " a man of prayer "), generally Historia Ecclesiastica, &c. (2 vols., Clarendon Press, 1896). Beda der Ehrwurdige and seine Zeit, by Dr Karl Werner (Vienna, 1875), is a pensioner or almsman whose duty it was to pray for his bene- excellent. Gehle, Disputatio . . . de Bedae vita et Scriptis (Leiden, factor. In Scotland there were public almsmen supported by 1838), is still useful.. Dr William Bright's Chapters of Early English the king and expected in return to pray for his welfare and that Church History (3rd ed., Clarendon Press, 1897) is indispensable. of the state. These men wore long blue gowns with a pewter See also Ker, Dark Ages, pp. 141 if. Of the collected works of Bede the most convenient edition is that by Dr Giles in twelve volumes badge on the right arm, and were nicknamed Blue Gowns. (8vo., 1843-1844), which includes translations of the Historical Works. Their number corresponded to the king's years, an extra one being The Continental folio editions (Basel, 1563; Cologne, 1612 and 1688) added each royal birthday. They were privileged to ask alms contain many works which cannot by any possibility be Bede's. throughout Scotland. On the king's birthday each bedesman The edition of Migne, Patrologia Latina (1862 ff.) is based on a com- parison of the Cologne edition with Giles and Smith (see below), and received a new blue gown, a loaf, a bottle of ale, and a leathern is open to the same criticism. On the chronology and genuineness of purse containing a penny for every year of the king's life. On the works commonly ascribed to Bede, see Plummer's ed., i., cxly-clix. the pewter badge which they wore were their name and the On the MSS. early editions and translations of the Historia words " pass and repass," which authorized them to ask alms. Ecclesiastica, see Plummer, u.s., i., lxxx-cxxxii. The edition of Whelock (Cambridge, fol. 1648–1644) is noteworthy as the first In 1833 the appointment of bedesmen was stopped. In 1863 English edition of the Latin text, and as the editio princeps of the the last payment was paid to a bedesman. In consequence of Anglo-Saxon version ascribed to King Alfred (see ALFRED THE its use in this general sense of pensioner, "bedesman" was long GREAT). Smith's edition (Cambridge, fol. 1722) contained not only used in English as equivalent to "servant." The word had a these, but also the other historical works of Bede, with notes and appendices. k is a monument of learning and scholarship. The special sense as the name for those almsmen attached to cathedral most recent edition is that with notes and introduction by the and other churches, whose duty it was to pray for the souls of present writer, u.s. It includes also the History of the Abbots, and deceased benefactors. A relic of pre-Reformation times, these the Epistle to Egbert. Of books iii. and iv. only, there is a learned old men still figure in the accounts of English cathedrals. edition by Professors Mayor and Lumby of Cambridge (3rd ed., 1881). A cheap and handy edition of the text alone is that by A. Holder BEDFORD, EARLS AND DUKES OF. The present English (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1882, &c.). The best-known modern English title of duke of Bedford comes from a line of earls and dukes translation is that by the Rev. L. Gidley (187o). Of the minor in the Russell family. In January 1550 John, Baron Russell, historical works a good edition was edited by Rev. J. Stevenson for was created earl of Bedford, and in May 1694 his descendant, the Eng. Hist. Soc. in 1841; and a translation by the same hand William, the 5th earl, became duke of Bedford. The Russell was included in Church Historians of England, vol. i., part ii. (1853). 5 See also Plummer's edition, pp. cxxxii-cxlii. (C. PL.) line is dealt with in the later part of this article. The title of
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