Henrik Ibsen.

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Copyright, 1900,


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IT is now more than three-quarters of a century since the
first edition of Hallam's " Middle Ages " appeared. The
author's volume of supplemental notes was published
thirty years later; but this is already more than fifty years
ago. During these two generations vast advances have been
made in the study of almost every aspect of the mediaeval
period. Whole sciences, concerning themselves largely with
it — as, for example, the science of Romance Philology — have
been born. New methods of studying history and institutions
have been elaborated. Immense numbers of documents, lit-
erary and historical, that were practically buried in uncatalogued
archives and libraries, have been brought to the light of day,
and made accessible to all scholars. Multitudes of obscuri-
ties that made the middle ages literally a period of dark-
ness have been cleared up, and the modern student may ascer-
tain almost as much about the political, social, and literary
conditions of the time, as about those of any portion of human
history, except the most recent. Perhaps most important of all,
the general attitude of men's minds towards the subject of
mediaeval studies has profoundly changed. The passion for
romantic glamor that found its clearest expression in the
poetry of the German Tieck and his followers, but that to some
extent affected all men's minds, has given way to the curiosity
of science and the intellectual passion for exact knowledge.
Much has been gained ; something, too, has been lost. But
it is now impossible for anyone to approach the matter in quite
the same spirit as did the men of the first years of the century.

In view of all this, it is a natural question why it should be
worth while to issue again a book which from the nature of the
case can give no account of the results obtained by so long
a period of systematic study. In the case of most books there
could be but one answer to this question — it would not be
worth while to republish them. But with regard to the pres-



ent work this is very far, indeed, from being true. And the
explanation in a word is that the book is a classic, and that as
such it has qualities that make it hardly less valuable than when
it first appeared.

No one has yet hit upon a receipt for the composition of a
classic, or has been able to give a really adequate explanation
of the phenomenon when a classic has actually been com-
posed. It would be useless then to try to show all the causes
that have combined to give to Hallam's work this notable
quality. It is, however, possible to indicate some of the reasons
why it is still worth while for the general reader and, indeed,
for the technical student to use the book. Undoubtedly, the
most fundamental reason of all is that Hallam, despite the
relative insufficiency of the material at his disposal, was yet
able to discern the permanent sources of interest in that ma-
terial, and to set these forth with enough illustration to im-
press them upon the mind as truly essential. His cool and
sober intelligence was not misled by the romantic hue and cry
about him ; the very lack of imagination that has sometimes
been made a reproach to him kept him from following poetic
will-o'-the-wisps ; and he was too sane to suppose himself to
be the prophet of a new gospel, whether in literature, society,
or religion. He wished his book " to exhibit a comprehensive
survey of the chief circumstances that can interest a philo-
sophical inquirer during the period usually denominated the
middle ages." The phrase is significant, particularly in view
of the time when it was written. And the best of it is that the
verdict of seventy-five years must be that he succeeded in do-
ing what he undertook to do.

To make this clear must be the purpose of this brief intro-
duction. And first of all, we may remark that one fundamental
truth, only now fairly established for the world at large, seems
to have been perfectly clear to Hallam from the start. This
truth is that in the middle ages we should not see a kind of gap
in nature, a period of barbarism and intellectual decay, thrust
in between the civilization of the ancients and that of the
moderns. This was the view of the men of the Renaissance,
and has been that of all the children of the Renaissance down
to our own day. But an idea more full of untruth was surely
never promulgated. The real fact is that in the middle ages
we are to see the beginnings of ourselves. We are the per-


fectly legitimate descendants of mediaeval men, and we have no
ideas, no institutions, no manners that are not shot through and
through with thread of mediaeval spinning. To study the
middle ages then is not to spend our time upon what is re-
mote, and for that reason an object of purely intellectual curi-
osity, like the culture of the ancient Egyptians or of the As-
syrians. Rather it is to ascertain the sources and history of
innumerable practices and habits of mind that are still very
much alive and concern us in our daily walks of life. This
all-important fact Hallam seems clearly to have discerned ; and
that he did so is one of the chief causes of the permanent value
of his book.

Looking at the subject from this point of view, it is obvious
that what the student of the middle ages needs first to know
about is the larger political movements of the time. And here
one all-important phenomenon must attract the attention of an
inquirer who desires to be " philosophical." The key-note to
mediaeval history is the fact that only after the decline and fall
of the Roman Empire did one — and perhaps we may say, two
— of the great European races find an opportunity to partici-
pate in the work of civilization. During the classical time the
Greeks and Romans held what may be called a monopoly of
culture. Yet in point of numbers, and in some other important
respects, they were entirely over-matched by the two great
races that lay to the north of them — the Celts and the Germans.
These " barbarians," to use the Greek and Roman term, had
also in due time their contribution to make to the progress of
mankind, if only they could find the chance. And in the middle
ages we have the truly magnificent spectacle of their success.
The Germans, to be sure, far outweigh the Celts in the im-
portance of their accomplishment. Modern Europe, as we
know it, is, in the main, the ancient world Germanized. But,
here and there, we can see traces of the Celt ; and he would
be a careless observer who failed to give heed to these. Still,
in the main, what the student needs to have firmly fixed in
his mind is that the evolution of mediaeval society, in all its
various aspects, can best be comprehended as the fusion of
ancient with Germanic culture. And the countries in which
this process can be most fully observed are the most important
for the student to know about. Undoubtedly these are France
and England — France even more than England, but both to


a striking degree. It is in these countries that the most sig-
nificant and far-reaching political, social, and intellectual
achievements of the middle ages were accomplished. These
are the countries, too, which throughout modern history have
occupied a position of scarcely interrupted ascendancy in de-
termining the course of modern culture. Italy, Spain, Ger-
many proper, have all had their moments of political or intel-
lectual authority ; but in the long run it is France and England
that assert the permanent right of larger control over the
culture of modern men.

To France and England, then, Hallam very rightly gave
much the largest amount of attention in his survey of the mid-
dle ages. He desired his readers to follow in the first of these
countries the development of those notions of social organiza-
tion which, in dealing with the mediaeval period, we com-
monly call feudal, but which are essentially the basis of modern
social relations as a whole, despite the effort of our own cen-
tury to rehabilitate the ancient conception of human equality.
In the other country, England, he drew the picture of the be-
ginnings and earlier evolution of that new conception of the
function of government, and of the rights and obligations of
the subject with regard to his government, which has resulted
in the English constitution of to-day, and in the method of
English government wherever the English race exists. As a
setting for these larger movements, he gave, indeed, what was
essential concerning the growth and decay of dynasties, the
territorial changes, the internal and external wars, the com-
plicated political relations, that attended the course of both
these great nations. But the attentive reader will easily see
that to Hallam these are but the circumstance, not the ultimate
reality, of the history of the two peoples.

The history of France and England, however, cannot be
properly understood without some reference to the other coun-
tries of Europe. Moreover, these countries, quite apart from
their relations to France and England, have much in their his-
tory that is significant and enlightening. So we find in Hal-
lam's book the main lines of their development. Naturally,
detail is here much less abundant, and the complexities of events
are more rapidly and summarily treated. Italy, as she ought,
gets the largest space, both because her influence on mediaeval
and modern culture has been greatest, and because such phe-


nomena as the growth of her free cities, living by commerce,
have immediate interest for the modern reader. But Germany,
Spain, and even Greece are not neglected ; and the one non-
European power than has materially affected the modern world,
that of the Saracens, is sufficiently sketched to serve the pur-
pose of those who would know the really important forces that
have determined the course of European history.

Finally, no account of the middle ages or of the origins of the
modern world would be complete without a survey of the ac-
tivities of the one great non-national, and for that reason most
steadily unifying and civilizing, institution of the period, the
Church. Here we have to seek the explanation, not merely
of the religious development of Europe, but also of many of the
most important political, social, and intellectual tendencies
of modern men. It would be hard to find a fundamental and
essential element in our culture that has not been intimately
affected at some time in its evolution by the powerful influ-
ence of the sentiment, the doctrine, or the ecclesiastical polity
of the most venerable form of organized Christianity. Hal-
lam, then, was in duty bound to describe the significant feat-
ures of this great institution, as he found it in the middle ages,
its period of most complete ascendancy over the human mind.
He did this, on the whole, calmly, and without partisan zeal
or prejudice. He writes, of course, as a Protestant, having
slight sympathy for Ultramontane tendencies, and not inclined
to spare what he regards as ecclesiastical abuses. But perhaps
it is not on these grounds that a sincere Catholic would have
most reason to complain. Hallam's most serious deficiencies
arise not from his lack of sympathy for the Church, but from
his indifference to theology and, indeed, to philosophy (in the
technical sense) in all their forms. Obviously, a writer to
whom the efforts of the human spirit to give an account of
itself, and of its relations to the universe and God, appear com-
paratively meaningless, must always seem to those who care
for the deeper significance of Christian history to have missed
the real point. Against this criticism Hallam can hardly be
defended. On the other hand, it can truly be said that he rec-
ognized the intimate connection between the polity of the
Church and the political and social institutions of all the coun-
tries he was describing.

The larger constituent elements of mediaeval history and


culture thus have all a place in Hallam's pages. Yet even here
the merits of his book do not end. The competent scholar is
struck, as he reads it, with the clearness of the author's per-
ception of the importance of matters that do not belong to
what may be called the picturesque side of history — that is,
of history as it is too generally conceived. Thus he had al-
ways a keen eye for economic conditions ; and in this respect (
was almost two generations in advance of most of his contem-
poraries. In our own time, we have seen a vast development
of the study of the economic history of Europe ; most of our
universities now have professors who devote themselves to
nothing else, and of books on the subject there is no end
But this was not so at all when Hallam wrote. Few men thens
would have felt this to be an essential matter in the historical
treatment of a period. Hallam did, and it is greatly to his
credit. So, too, he saw that social life and manners are more
than the mere background of history. In a sense, they are his-
tory itself; and political events do but illustrate them. The
chapters in Hallam's book dealing with these matters might
now be greatly enlarged in the light of documents, particularly
literary, that are available to us, yet Hallam said little on the
subject that was not judicious or that needs complete restate-

It may, then, fairly be said that the attentive reader can
still obtain from this work a general view of those essential
features of the middle ages that must be borne in mind by all
who desire really to know the period. Details without num-
ber are available, to be later fitted into the scheme thus ob-
tained. But all of us have reason to be grateful to the man
who, in any field of studies, can show us the lines of permanent
and profitable interest. Such men are all too few, and their
work does not easily become outworn.

Arthur Richmond Marsh.


HENRY HALLAM was born at Windsor, on July 9,
1777. He was the only son of Dr. John Hallam,
Canon of Windsor from 1775 to 18 12, and Dean of
Bristol from 1781 to 1800, a man of high character, and well
read in literature. The Hallams had long been settled at Bos-
ton, in Lincolnshire, and one member of the family was Robert
Hallam, Bishop of Salisbury. Hallam's mother, a sister of
Dr. Roberts, Provost of Eton, was a woman of much intelli-
gence and delicacy of feeling.

Hallam was a precocious child. He is said to have read
many books when four years old, and is credited with having
composed sonnets at ten. He was at Eton from 1790 to 1794,
and some of his verses were published in the " Musae Etoni-
enses " in 1795. Afterward he was at Christ Church, Oxford,
and was graduated B.A. in 1799. He was called to the bar, and
practised law for some years on the Oxford circuit. His
father died in 1812, leaving him estates in Lincolnshire. He
was early appointed to a commissionership of stamps, a post
with a good salary and light duties. In 1807 he married Julia,
daughter of Sir Abraham Elton, of Clevedon Court, Somerset.
His independent means enabled him to withdraw from legal
practice and devote himself to the study of history. After ten
years of assiduous labor he produced, in 1818, his first great
work, " A View of the State of Europe During the Middle
Ages," which immediately established his reputation. A sup-
plementary volume of " Notes " was published in 1848. " The
Constitutional History of England from the Accession of
Henry VII. to the Death of George II.," followed in 1827. Be-
fore the completion of his next work he was deeply affected by
the death of his eldest son, Arthur Henry Hallam, in 1833.
His other son, Henry Fitzmaurice Hallam, died in 1850. " I
have," he wrote, " warnings to gather my sheaves while I can."



He fulfilled his purpose by finishing " The Introduction to
the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seven-
teenth Centuries," published during 1837 and 1838.

During the preparation of these works he lived a studious
life, interrupted only by occasional travels. He was familiar
with the best literary society of the time, well known to the
Whig magnates, and a frequent visitor to Holland House and
Bowood. His name is often mentioned in memoirs and
diaries of the time, and always respectfully, although he never
rivalled the conversational supremacy of his contemporaries,
Sydney Smith and Macaulay. He took no part in active po-
litical life. As a commissioner of stamps he was excluded from
Parliament, and after his resignation did not attempt to procure
a seat. After the death of his son Henry, he gave up the pen-
sion of £500 (granted, according to custom, upon his resigna-
tion), despite remonstrances upon the unusual nature of the

Hallam's later years were clouded by the loss of his sons.
His domestic affections were unusually warm, and he was a
man of singular generosity in money matters. Considering
his high position in literature and his wide acquaintance with
distinguished persons, the records of his life are comparatively
few. He was warmly loved by all who knew him, but his
dignified reticence and absorption in exacting researches pre-
vented him from coming often under public notice. He died
peacefully, after many years of retirement, on January 21, 1859.

Hallam had eleven children, seven of whom died in infancy.
The early demise of his two promising sons, Arthur and Henry,
has been referred to above. His daughter, Ellen, died in 1837,
and Julia married Captain Cator, afterward Sir John Farnaby
Lennard. Hallam had one sister, who died unmarried, and
bequeathed her fortune to him.


IT IS the object of the present work to exhibit, in a series
of historical dissertations, a comprehensive survey of the
chief circumstances that can interest a philosophical in-
quirer during the period usually denominated the Middle Ages.
Such an undertaking must necessarily fall under the class of
historical abridgments : yet there will perhaps be found
enough to distinguish it from such as have already appeared.
Many considerable portions of time, especially before the
twelfth century, may justly be deemed so barren of events
worthy of remembrance, that a single sentence or paragraph
is often sufficient to give the character of entire generations
and of long dynasties of obscure kings.

" Non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa."

And even in the more pleasing and instructive parts of this
middle period it has been my object to avoid the dry compo-
sition of annals, and aiming, with what spirit and freedom I
could, at a just outline rather than a miniature, to suppress all
events that did not appear essentially concatenated with
others, or illustrative of important conclusions. But as the
modes of government and constitutional laws which prevailed
in various countries of Europe, and especially in England,
seemed to have been less fully dwelt upon in former works
of this description than military or civil transactions, while
they were deserving of far more attention, I have taken pains
to give a true representation of them, and in every instance
to point out the sources from which the reader may derive
more complete and original information.

Nothing can be farther from my wishes than that the fol-
lowing pages should be judged according to the critical laws



of historical composition. Tried in such a balance they
would be eminently defective. The limited extent of this
work, compared with the subjects it embraces, as well as its
partaking more of the character of political dissertation than
of narrative, must necessarily preclude that circumstantial
delineation of events and of characters upon which the beauty
as well as usefulness of a regular history so mainly depends.
Nor can I venture to assert that it will be found altogether
perspicuous to those who are destitute of any previous ac-
quaintance with the period to which it relates ; though I have
only presupposed, strictly speaking, a knowledge of the com-
mon facts of English history, and have endeavored to avoid,
in treating of other countries, those allusive references which
imply more information in the reader than the author designs
to communicate. But the arrangement which I have adopted
has sometimes rendered it necessary to anticipate both names
and facts which are to find a more definite place in a subse-
quent part of the work.

This arrangement is probably different from that of any
former historical retrospect. Every chapter of the following
volumes completes its particular subject, and may be con-
sidered in some degree as independent of the rest. The
order consequently in which they are read will not be very
material, though of course I should rather prefer that in which
they are at present disposed. A solicitude to avoid continual
transitions, and to give free scope to the natural association
of connected facts, has dictated this arrangement, to which I
confess myself partial. And I have found its inconveniences
so trifling in composition, that I cannot believe they will oc-
casion much trouble to the reader.

The first chapter comprises the history of France from the
invasion of Clovis to the expedition, exclusively, of Charles
VIII. against Naples. It is not possible to fix accurate
limits to the Middle Ages ; but though the ten centuries from
the fifth to the fifteenth seem, in a general point of view, to
constitute that period, a less arbitrary division was necessary
to render the commencement and conclusion of an historical
narrative satisfactory. The continuous chain of transactions
on the stage of human society is ill divided by mere lines of
chronological demarcation. But as the subversion of the
western empire is manifestly the natural termination of


ancient history, so the establishment of the Franks in Gaul
appears the most convenient epoch for the commencement of
a new period. Less difficulty occurred in finding the other
limit. The invasion of Naples by Charles VIII. was the
event that first engaged the principal states of Europe in re-
lations of alliance or hostility which may be deduced to the
present day, and is the point at which every man who traces
backwards its political history will be obliged to pause. It
furnishes a determinate epoch in the annals of Italy and
France, and nearly coincides with events which naturally
terminate the history of the Middle Ages in other countries.

The feudal system is treated in the second chapter, which
I have subjoined to the history of France, with which it has
a near connection. Inquiries into the antiquities of that juris-
prudence occupied more attention in the last age than the
present, and their dryness may prove repulsive to many
readers. But there is no royal road to the knowledge of
law ; nor can any man render an obscure and intricate disquisi-
tion either perspicuous or entertaining. That the feudal sys-
tem is an important branch of historical knowledge will not
be disputed, when we consider not only its influence upon our
own constitution, but that one of the parties which at present
divide a neighboring kingdom professes to appeal to the origi-
nal principles of its monarchy, as they subsisted before the
subversion of that polity.

The four succeeding chapters contain a sketch, more or

Online LibraryHenrik IbsenWorld's great classics (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 61)