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fically tells us that he had been " brought up from boyhood
and educated among the clerks (eruditus in clerd) of Bosa,
Bishop of York," who succeeded Wilfrid as bishop in 678.
Bede's particularity in referring to the clerks of Bosa, who had
himself been educated not by clerks but in Hilda's double
monastery at Streoneshalch, founded in 657, shows that Bishop
Bosa lived, not as a monk, but a clerk, and that his staff,
the York Cathedral Chapter, canons, as they were later called,
were not monks but seculars. So too, Bishop John, better
known from the name given him in the tenth century, of St.
John of Beverley, who had been also educated under Hilda, and
became Bishop of Hexham in 687 and of York in 705, kept a
school not only of clerks but of lay boys about him. Heribald,
afterwards Abbot of Tynemouth, himself told Bede a story of his
own schooldays. " During my early youth, while I was living
among the bishop's clerks, having been sent to the grammar
and song schools (legendi quidem canendique studiis tradttus),
one day, when we were riding on a great plain, the youths who
were with him, especially the lay boys, began to ask the bishop
to let them race their horses against each other." At first the
bishop refused, but as they all kept on asking him, he gave
them leave to race, except Heribald. Heribald, however,
who had a very good horse given him by the bishop himself,
could not keep his horse quiet, and against his orders soon
joined them, with the result that he was pitched off his horse on
to his head, and came into collision with a stone, miraculously
the only stone there was in the whole plain. He remained
unconscious till next morning when, thanks to the bishop's
prayers, aided by a doctor who bound up his broken head, he
recovered. While he was still half-unconscious, the bishop
asked him who baptized him, and when he heard the name of
the priest who had done it, said he had not been properly
baptized, because the priest could never manage to learn
the offices of catechism and baptism, and so had been in-
hibited from duty. The precise point of the anecdote is some-
what obscure. But it is interesting for the historian of
education to find the bishop thus going for a ride with his
tribe of schoolboys just as Dr. Burton at Winchester took his



48 THE SCHOOLS OF MEDIEVAL ENGLAND

tribe of ten young noblemen-commoners out hunting on Saints'
days in 1731. It is interesting too as showing that the English
priesthood of the day was a learned priesthood, and that a
priest who could not manage to learn the Latin services was
sequestered from office.

Meanwhile, another strain of learning had been imported
into Northumberland, not from Rome but from Ireland.
King Oswald, who recovered the North from the Welsh in 634,
had been in exile among the Scots, i.e. Irish, of Hii or lona,
and had there become a Christian, and, like Sigberct of
East Anglia, when he became king, re-introduced Christianity
under a bishop and other missionaries from the place of his
conversion, lona. The see was placed at Lindisfarne or
Holy Island, which, more Scottorum, was more of a hermitage
than a cathedral town. But Bede tells us that churches were
built all over the place (per toco) and monasteries endowed by
the King, "while little English boys were taught by Scottish
teachers the observance of regular discipline together with
higher learning (cum majoribus studiis], as they were mostly
monks who came ". The learning of the Irish was wholly in
psalm-singing and theology, not in the classics, and the majora
studio, meant the Scriptures, not philosophy or literature. At
Lindisfarne itself, the school perished with the cathedral in
the Danish invasion.

At Hexham, on the other hand, the school exists to-day.
It was made a bishop's see in 678 under Eata, who had been
brought up at Lindisfarne (Bede, III, 26), "one of the twelve
English boys whom Aidan had taken at the beginning of his
bishopric to be educated as a Christian ". The school was no
doubt then founded. When Acca succeeded Wilfrid as bishop
there in 709, Bede tells us (V, 20) he built a very large and
noble library. He also sent for a celebrated singer -named
Maban, who had been thoroughly taught the tones of
chants by the successors of the pupils of the blessed Pope
Gregory in Kent, to teach him and his clerks, and kept him
there for twelve years. Acca himself was also " a very skil-
ful singer as well as very learned in sound literature," and
had been at Rome with Wilfrid

Ripon was founded by Eata as a monastery shortly before
66 1, when it was taken from him and his Scottish monks and



THE SCHOOLS OF NORTHUMBRIA 49

given to Wilfrid, who built a great church, of which the crypt
still remains, in 67 1. Alcuin tells us that Wilbrord or Clement,
the English "apostle of the Netherlands," born in 658, was
educated there from babyhood till he was twenty years old.
The monastery was probably destroyed by the Danes, as it
disappears from history after 791, and only reappears, circa
925, as a new foundation of King Athelstan's, when he estab-
lished the supremacy of the English in the North over the
Danes. It was then a church of secular canons, with whom a
grammar school was a matter of course. This school, which
still flourishes, we shall meet later.

It is, however, the monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow,
or rather monastery (for they were intended to be one house
under one abbot), which have been commonly represented as
the first northern schools, or school, with Bede as the master
of it. These monasteries were due to direct intercourse with
Rome and not in any way to the Irish tradition. For they were
founded by Biscop Baducing, i.e. son of Badoc, better known
as Benedict Biscop (the latter name not meaning that he was a
bishop). He was one of the thanes of Oswi, King of Bernicia, or
Northumberland, until at the age of twenty-five he gave up
secular life, and went to Rome with Wilfrid, where he became
a priest, and then returned to preach the charms of ecclesias-
tical life in Northumberland. On a second visit to Rome he
became a monk. Some years after he returned to England
with Archbishop Theodore. In 674 he founded and endowed
the monastery at Wearmouth which was built by masons from
Gaul, in the Roman style, with glass windows, then unknown
in England. A fifth visit to Rome resulted in the importa-
tion of many books and a large collection of relics and pictures,
and also of John, the Precentor (archicantor) of St. Peter's
itself, and Abbot of St. Martin's, who taught, not only the
brethren at Wearmouth but the other monasteries and the
whole country round, " the Roman order " of singing and
reading throughout the whole year, and wrote a treatise on it,
which Bede had seen. In 682 Biscop founded Jarrow. Bede
who was born in what was afterwards the monastery's property
at Sunderland was, " at seven years old " (i.e. in 680), " by the
care of his friends given to be brought up (educandus] by Abbot
Benedict and afterwards by Ceolfrid," who became Abbot of

4



50 THE SCHOOLS OF MEDIEVAL ENGLAND

Jarrow in 682 and of Wearmouth as well in 688 or 689. Bede
says (c. V. 24) : " I passed the whole of my life living in that
monastery, and gave my whole work to the study of the Scrip-
tures ; and in the intervals of the observance of the regular dis-
cipline and daily singing service in church, I have always held it
a pleasure to learn or teach or write ". Besides Ceolfrid, " one
of those who instructed me in the Scriptures, and had been
brought up under Chad in his monastery (viz. Lindisfarne) and
under his mastership," named Trumbercht, is incidentally men-
tioned. Others were brought up with Bede in the monastery,
notably Hwcetbert, Ceolfrid's successor as abbot in 716, who
had been " from his earliest boyhood educated in the same
monastery, not only in the observance of the regular discipline
but also exercised with no little industry in writing, singing,
reading, and teaching". Among the "almost 600 "monks
whom Ceolfrid left when he retired from the abbacy, there
must have been material for a considerable school, very dif-
ferent in size from the monastic schools of later days, when
the largest monasteries had only sixty monks all told, and
those ' ' in school " were never more than ten in number, more
generally two or three, and not seldom, none. On the other
hand, it is certain that the majority of the inhabitants of the
early monasteries came to them grown-up, like Biscop him-
self, and Eastorwine, the next abbot, a relation of Benedict's,
who was a king's thane, and only became a monk at the age of
nineteen, or like St. Guthlac of Croydon, who became a monk
at forty. Moreover, by no means all monks were educated,
indeed the majority were not. Thus, in the Ecclesiastical His-
tory, we hear of one, Ouuin, an East Anglian, who came to
Northumberland as chief thane and major-domo to Queen
Ethilthrith, and then became a monk at Lastingham under
Chad, and " not > being good at the Scriptures " worked the
harder with his hands. Bede, as Mr. Plummer points out, is
always warning the learned monks not to despise their
unlearned brethren, and prophesies how at the Day of
Judgment many learned will be found among the unlearned,
while those who were ignorant of the very elements will re-
ceive the reward of goodness among papal doctors.

In a famous letter to Archbishop Egbert, Bede insists that
the archbishop ought to make every one learn the Creed and



THE SCHOOLS OF NORTHUMBRIA 51

the Lord's Prayer by heart. " As to those who know Latin,
there is no difficulty ". As to the illiterate (idiotas\ that is those
who know none but their own language, they should be made
to "learn them in their own language and sedulously sing
them ". " This," continues Bede, " ought to be done not only
with the laity but also with clerks, and with monks, who do
not know Latin," and for this reason he had himself issued
a translation of both of them into English " for the many
ignorant priests there are". Bede himself was, according to
Alcuin's poetical history (/. 1304) "because of his proficiency
rightly made master," when quite a youth (juvenis), of the
monastic school, and he often speaks of him as Beda magister,
the schoolmaster.

Two of his books are perhaps school-books, the Ortho-
graphy and Prosody (de metrica arte\ to which is appended a
treatise on Figures of Speech, not however of figures generally
but of those found in the Scriptures. The dedication of the latter
to a co-Levite, i.e. deacon, shows that it was written before
he became a priest. This he did at the age of thirty, and it
appears from his own statement that from this time till he
was fifty-eight years old he devoted himself to commentaries on
scripture, that is, he ceased to teach and became a writer. Alcuin
distinguishes between his teaching as magister and his editing
books as doctor. Most of the other books are commentaries on
various books in the Bible and hagiographies. Even his great
historical work, the Ecclesiastical History of the English, though
it is the only sane and sensible history produced in Europe for
nearly 300 years, is in inception only a collection of saints'
lives. It must have taken many years to prepare, and was
written in the last decade of his life. The account of his death,
purporting to be given by Cuthbert, a fellow-pupil, to Cuthwin
his fellow-lector, represents Bede as a schoolmaster even in his
latest years. During his last illness he continued " to give
lessons daily to us his pupils," though breathing with difficulty,
and "was translating into our language St. John's Gospel and
Isidore's Book of Notes," and singing in English, " for he was
learned in our poems," some very obscure verses about the Day
of Judgment. On his last day, when all the rest of his pupils
had to go out in procession with the relics of the saints, as it
was Wednesday in Rogation week, one boy named Wilbert re-



52 THE SCHOOLS OF MEDIEVAL ENGLAND

mained, who began to take down from Bede's dictation the last
chapter of St. John. In the evening when the boy said, "There
is still one sentence not finished," he said, " Well, write it," and a
little while afterwards the boy said, " Now it is finished," and he
said, "Yes, you have spoken truly. It is finished," and so died
singing the Gloria. It may seem unkind to throw doubt on
this story over which much sentimental rhetoric has been ex-
pended. But there are several suspicious features about it.
Imprimis, as regards external authority, it is derived only
from a St. Gall manuscript of the ninth century. Secondly, as
regards internal evidence, is it only a strange coincidence that
Bede's Prosody is dedicated " ad Wigbertum levitam" and at
the end contains an inscription by Bede to Cuthbert, his
co-Levite? It looks as if some hagiographer had written
up the story, casting it in the names of persons who really
belonged to the beginning and not to the end of Bede's life.
The tale of the translation of St. John down to chapter vi.,
verse 9, may well have been suggested by the mention of his
translations into English in the letter to Archbishop Egbert.
But it is strange that while nearly all Bede's other works, of
which he gives a list in the Ecclesiastical History, are extant,
no trace or other mention of this his last work, and therefore
one would suppose peculiarly sacred, is to be found. Further,
why Bede should have been so anxious to complete it down
to a verse, which occurs in the beginning of the miracle of
the loaves and fishes, remains unexplained. The equal anxiety
to complete extracts from Isidore is inexplicable from Bede's
point of view, but is explicable from the hagiographers know-
ledge of Bede's Orthography ', which does consist of such
extracts.

The inference to be drawn from Bede's own writings is that
he taught the monastic school only when he was a young man,
a deacon, which he became at nineteen years old. When he
became an author he was so far from having a tribe of pupils
ready to do the writing for him, that in the preface to his com-
mentaries on St. Luke he says he was his own dictator, notary,
and bookmaker, i.e. he wrote the whole with his own hand.
The truth is that a very small proportion of the monks in these
early monasteries was literate. The majority were engaged in
manual labour, tilling the fields, milking the cows, baking



THE SCHOOLS OF NORTHUMBRIA 53

Ceolfrid, the abbot, when at St. Botulph's Monastery, acted as
baker and performing domestic offices, such as cooking and
washing. The school was a small and select affair. The
notion of one of these great monasteries as simply a home of
learning is a delusion. It neither professed to be, nor was in-
tended to be, nor was in fact, a university college. It was
much more like a voluntary workhouse or a penitentiary.

Some writers, beginning with Alcuin's biographer, have
had visions of a long chain of monastic schoolmasters, from
Hadrian to Bede, Bede to Egbert, Egbert to Alcuin, Alcuin to
Rabanus Maurus, and so on. But the first three links of the
chain are purely imaginary. As we have seen, there is no
evidence whatever of Bede's being a pupil of Hadrian's. There
is also no evidence whatever of Archbishop Egbert being a
pupil of Bede's, any more than there is of Egbert's founding
the school of York, though, unfortunately, following Bishop
Stubbs, Mr. Plummer, in his generally careful and critical
edition of Bede, stated both as proved facts. The argument
from silence is not always conclusive. But it is conclusive
in a writer like Bede, who was careful to give the names of
eminent men's teachers. Bede never suggests such a relation-
ship, though it is difficult to see how he could have avoided
referring to it in the letter of advice to Egbert, already men-
tioned. In it Bede regrets that he had not been able to accept
Egbert's invitation to stay with him at the Minster, as he had
done the year before, to indulge their common taste for reading,
as then he could have said viva voce what he writes, for the some-
what superior tone of which he now apologizes. Had Bede
ever been Egbert's master, surely a reference to this fact would
have been a much more effective apology. Bede speaks too
of his "brotherly" devotion to Egbert in sending the letter,
an expression which surely no master would use to his quon-
dam pupil.

Equally significant is Alcuin's silence on the point. He
gives' a long account of Egbert, and speaks of him as an
illustrious teacher (doctor), which may only refer to his
theology and preaching, and what he specially records of him
is his ordination of ministers for the various altars and his
improving the singing of the psalms. His account of Bede
follows immediately on that of Egbert, and begins with, the re-



54 THE SCHOOLS OF MEDIEVAL ENGLAND

mark that Bede died in the early days of Egbert's archbishopric.
Though he says Bede was master in his monastery, he never
suggests that Egbert was Bede's pupil there or elsewhere,
which was almost a necessary observation if it had been the
case. It is intrinsically improbable that the very secular Eg-
bert, a near relation of King Ceolwulf, in whose time he was
made bishop, and brother of King Eadred, Ceolwulfs successor,
and almost joint ruler with him of Northumbria, their legends
being found on the obverse and reverse of the same coins, was
brought up in the distant monastery of Jarrow. The church
of York itself was, as we have seen, not monastic, and Egbert
was no doubt brought up among the clerks of Bishop Wilfrid
II. Alcuin is equally silent as to Egbert's being his own mas-
ter. It is clear he was not. The Bede-Egbert-Alcuin succes-
sion, adopted in the Dictionaries of Christian Biography and
National Biography, and thence by Stubbs and Plummer, is de-
rived from an anonymous life of Alcuin, printed by Mabillon
from a "very ancient MS. at Rheims," which has never been
seen since 1617, and is said by Mabillon to have been written
some twenty years after Alcuin's death. This life professes to
be derived from information supplied by Sigulf, one of Alcuin's
pupils. But the date assigned is quite problematical. The life
is highly superstitious and so clearly a piece of hagiography,
written for reading in church or 'refectory, being full of miracles
interspersed with pious reflections, as usual in the lessons for
saints' days, that it cannot be accepted as a good historical autho-
rity. However, the French legend-writer tells how Hechbert
followed in Bede's steps as a teacher. " For from dawn, if
there was no obstacle and it was not a saint's day, to the sixth
or very often till the ninth hour, sitting on his bed, he opened
the secrets of Scripture to his pupils as was appropriate to each.
Then he got up and said his prayers and Mass. And then
again towards Vespers, when, except in Lent, he took a spare
but well-cooked meal with his pupils, he did not spare the
tongue of the reader, so that he might be refreshed with bread
in both kinds. Afterwards you might see the boys in the
father's presence, piercing each other with their sharpened
weapons, discussing in private what afterwards they would in
serried ranks fight in public."

This is a picture, not of a public school such as that which



THE SCHOOLS OF NORTHUMBRIA 55

a busy bishop might have held at York, and Alcuin in the
Palace school at Aachen, where grammar and literature and
logic were taught, but of an aged abbot in the retired leisure
of a monastery with a few of the iyounger brethren learning
theology. The picture is inconsistent with a later passage,
seemingly taken from Alcuin's poem, but transferred from
Albert to Egbert, which depicts a real public boarding school.
" He had indeed a crowd of scholars, noblemen's sons, some
of whom were taught and instructed in the rudiments of
the art of grammar, others in the discipline of the liberal
arts, and some in holy Scripture." That Egbert did indeed
teach at York school is not to be doubted, since Alcuin him-
self says so. But neither Alcuin nor Alcuin's biographer
represents Egbert as creating or founding the school, any more
than Bede represents Theodore and Hadrian as founding
Canterbury School.

Of Egbert, Alcuin simply says that " Wilfrid (II) handed
over (in 732) to Egbert the rights of the venerable see when
he caused him to be his successor. He was of royal blood and
was a most illustrious ruler of this Church and an admirable
teacher (egregius doctor) " and ruled for thirty-four years.
This matter-of-fact sort of way of speaking of Egbert's teach-
ing entirely negatives any idea of his > having founded the
school or of Alcuin's being his pupil.

The seventh canon of the Council of Clovesho, held in 747
during Egbert's episcopate, postulates an adequate supply of
schools. It ordered that bishops, abbots, and abbesses should
take care that Scripture reading should be continually practised
in their families, lamenting that there were then very few to
be found who were really ravished by the love of holy learning
or wished to work out anything thoroughly. The canon then
proceeds :. "Moreover let the boys at school be compelled and
exercised in the love of sacred learning, that so they may be
found well learned for all the needs of God's Church, and not
become rectors so greedy for earthly business that the house
of God is depraved for want of spiritual adornment ". What
precisely this means it is difficult to say. But it appears to
be aimed at the tendency already noticeable, which became
more and more pronounced as time went on, for the secular
clerks to be more devoted to law and legal and state business



56 THE SCHOOLS OF MEDIEVAL ENGLAND

than to theology and parochial work of a purely pastoral
character. It is chiefly interesting as showing that there were
sufficient schools to demand legislation, and that they were
not then, any more than later, confined to teaching singing or
the psalms or to other purely ecclesiastical instruction, but gave
a general and liberal education.

It is not, however, till we come to the last half of the
century that we get any detailed information about the
schools and what they taught, and then it is of the school of
York. The claim of this school to be "Our Oldest School,"
dated originally no farther back, and had no more established
foundation than an article by the present writer under that
title in the Fortnightly Review for November, 1892. When
it was first put forward a reservation was made for the superior
claim of Canterbury, if it found its vates sacer and proved its
title to continuity as a public school, and not a mere internal
monastic school. The present writer has himself had to play
the vates, in the absence of any more sacred representative
of that character, and, by investigations at Canterbury and
Lambeth, the results of which have already been given, or will
be given later, in this work, proved, or at all events give good
ground for believing in its continuity as a public school from
the days of Augustine to those of Henry VIII and of George V.

If, however, York School cannot claim the primacy in point
of date, it can assert supremacy over Canterbury in the eighth
century. Its famous master, Alcuin, noised its name abroad
in Europe in his own age, and his description of it has made
it a classic institution in the history of education for all time.
The description is contained in a poem, Of the bishops and saints
of the church of York, written when Alcuin was himself School-
master and Librarian of York Minster. This poem is now only
known from a transcript of the original MS. at Rheims, made
by Mabillon. It was destroyed in the French Revolution,
together with much English history, in manuscripts, which by
exportation had escaped destruction at the English Reforma-
tion. The transcript is now at Trinity College, Cambridge,
from which it has been printed several times, the best and latest
edition being by James Raine, Chancellor of York Minster, in
the Rolls Series. The greater part of the poem is a versification
in very fair Latin hexameters of Bede's Ecclesiastical History.



THE SCHOOLS OF NORTHUMBRIA 57

When after 1350 lines, the poet reaches Archbishop Egbert,
he becomes an original, and almost the sole, authority for what
he relates. The passage referring to Egbert has been already
quoted. Very different from the rather perfunctory way of
speaking of Egbert is Alcuin's enthusiastic and almost adula-
tory expressions about his successor, Ethelbert, or, as he calls
him for the sake of the metre, Albert " My muse forbids
more to be told [of Egbert] hastening to the end of my song



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