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the dross from the silver ; and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness." Alas, that it was not so !
The slothful is like ere long to become the wicked servant, and this was certainly the case in very many of the monasteries, abbeys, and priories. But we must bear in mind that when the King's determination was known, the harpies of the court were ready to gulp down gnats and camels indiscriminately. We have all the worst cases painted in glowing colours, such as for example, the case of the Abbot of Langden, whose door Dr. Leighton, Burnet tells us, beset and broke open of a sudden .
That was unquestionably a glaring case. You are not likely to have forgotten that our friend the Archbishop had a name there.
“ They were of the order of Premonstré, and their house was dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin, and St. Thomas Becket.” They are the words of Burnet.
Burnet, and good old John Strype *, (as he is well called,) have left us painful details; but, after all, such confessions as that of the Prior and Benedictines of St. Andrew's in Northampton, are to be received cum grano salis. No doubt they were bad enough, but I cannot help thinking that they were looking to the number of marks they were to be pensioned off with when they declared “the pit of hell was ready to swallow them up." The rest, I dare say, is true enough. They confessed that they had neglected the worship of God, lived in idleness, gluttony, and sensuality: with many other woeful expressions to that purpose. But, whatever may have been the state of religious houses in general, their utter dissolution was an unquestionable evil, and as such regretted by good and honest men.
2 Prov. xxv. 4, 5.
3 See “ History of the Reformation,” vol. i. p. 384. Ed. Clar. 8vo. 1829. See the other case, p. 475.
They are the words of Southey, and spoken from the heart : “Good old John Strype, one of those humble and happy-minded men, who, by diligent labouring in the fields of literature, find while they live, an enjoyment from which time takes away nothing of its relish, and secure for themselves an honourable and lasting remembrance in the gratitude of posterity.”Vindiciæ Eocles. Angl., p. 360.
Such as Maister Hugh Latimer, whose name shall endure ! When in Oxford, Alethes, I used to make an annual visit to some of the dearest and kindest relatives at Malvern, and I never gazed upon the reverend pile there, without thinking of that holy man departed. I was early familiar with his history, and loved his character. His drollery was nowise inconsistent with his true-heartedness. I much pity those who can call either him or old Fuller buffoon. You recollect the question of Penneboy, junior, in the “ Staple of News;" I would ask of such,
“What are your present clerk's habilities ?
At the solicitation of the honest prior there, “ in my diocese, but not of my diocese," as he says, he wrote to the Lord Cromwell, with the intent, if possible, to save the dissolution of the house. In his own words, “ for the upstanding of his foresaid house, of the continuance of the same to many good purposes : not in monkery, he meaneth : not so, God forbid: but any other way, as should be thought and seem good to the King's Majesty. As to maintain, touching preaching, study with praying, and (to the which he is much given) good house-keeping. For to the virtue of hospitality he hath been greatly inclined from his beginning, and is very much commended in these parties for the same." To which he presently adds: “The man is old; a good housekeeper ; feedeth many, and that daily. For the country is poor and full of penury. And, alas ! my good Lord, shall we not see two or three in every shire changed to such remedyo?"
5 Strype's Memorials Eccl., under King Henry VIII., vol. i. part i. p. 400.
Just like the honest, but expressively simple, earnestness of the constant martyr of Christ! There were, we know, very many who thought with him, and would have sacrificed much to have retained some remnant of the schools and the hospitality of the religious. I have heard of more instances than one, (during the formation of the Railway to Winchester,) where the dole of bread and beer, reduced as it is almost to a name, was most beneficially imparted at the door of the Holy Cross hard by. Would that such a foundation were in hands that might restore the noble edifice, now so miserably bedaubed with whitewash within and without, to somewhat like its ancient intent ! I could wish no better preferment, were I a minister of the Gospel ! The dole should not be indiscriminate, but it should be “a place of alms ” stillo. I could wish no more beautiful Posy than that from Herrick's “ Thanksgiving to God, for his house ;” and, as my short means will allow, I think on't to do the like. “ Low is my porch, as is my fate ;
Both void of state;
Is worn by the poore ;
Good words or meat ?.".
EUBULUS. Those are touching lines, Alethes ;-much like to the "touching preaching” in old Latimer's letter, misunderstood, I think, by Burnet. But Holy Cross, my friend, was more lucky than Godstow, for which the gentry of Oxfordshire interceded in vain, unto which house, says one, “the young gentlewomen of the country were sent to be bred.” The Hospital, hard by Winchester (valued at 1841. 4s. 2d.), was exempted from dissolution in Henry's time, though it suffered much during the civil wars.
ALETHES. It remains, true enough, till the present day, but I cannot think the intentions of the founder fulfilled. We had occasion to mention the name of Henry de Blois, Stephen's brother, before. His intent was munificent; and the Hundred-mennes-hall still bespeaks his praise. But, sooth to say, the loaf and the three quarts of ale for the poorest men in the city of Winchester, are now dwindled into nothing. The brethren still remain-doles on certain days are still distributed, together with a horn of ale and a slice of bread each day as it comes—within due limits ;-but the spirit of charity which enlivened the Hospital is departed ! The Master is not on the spot to look to the interests of the holy ground! The corruption, I remember, began early. Henry de Blois, the founder, appointed the Master and Brethren of St. John of Jerusalem to be guardians and administrators of the charity, and they misappropriated the revenues. And misappropriation has gone on, though Richard Toclyve, the successor of de Blois, Bishop Wykeham, and again the Cardinal Beaufort, restored for a time its rights, increased its revenues, reinstated Charity on her seat of alms !
6 The allusion is to the words of Cardinal Beaufort,-Domus Eleemosynaria Nobilis Paupertutis.
7 See Herrick's Noble Numbers, vol. ii. p. 216. Ed. Pick.
There needs much sacrifice of self amongst us still ! Glad should I be to see Holy Cross what it ought to be, whether as regards the Hospital, or its architectural beauty. But it must be by little and little, and the sooner the beginning is made the better. I despise not the old saw,
“ Dimidium facti qui bene coepit habet!"
The time is come ®! But as I said before, I heartily wish that more of such houses adorned our land. Better surely were they than the new unseemly houses which are now built to imprison the poor!
These turn their hearts backwards, and their destruction would be their delight. Far otherwise was it when religious houses were destroyed in the land. They were ready to rise as one man, in their defence, and the insurrection as we know took some trouble to quell. There is a curious old writer who speaks what I think on this point, and I know he is a favourite with you.
Who is that?
& This, it must be recollected, was written many years ago. The question is now (1853) before the Courts.
ALETHES. Democritus Junior, alias old Burton, in his “ Anatomie of Melancholie,” who gave Milton hints for his “ Penseroso." I never knew rightly what to make of that book, but it contains most extraordinary things; Charron may have led the way, but the disciple was as wise as, or wiser than, his master.
That is a point on which literary doctors are contented to disagree. But the book is on that second shelf,—let us refer to
ALETHES. Here it is. 6 Methinks our too zealous innovators were not so well advised on that general subversion of abbies and religious houses, promiscuously to fling down all. They might have taken away those gross abuses crept in amongst them, rectified such inconveniences, and not so far to have rased and raged against those fair buildings, and everlasting monuments of our forefathers' devotion, consecrated to pious uses. Some monasteries and collegiate cells might have been well spared, and their revenues otherwise employed; here and there one in good towns or cities at least, for men and women of all sorts and conditions to live in, to sequester themselves from the cares and tumults of the world, that were not desirous or fit to marry, or otherwise willing to be troubled with common affairs, and know not well where to bestow themselves, to live apart in, for more conveniency, good education, better company sake; to follow their studies (I say) to the perfection of arts and sciences, common good, and, as some truly devoted monks of old had done, freely and truly to serve God; for these men are neither solitary nor idle, as the poet made answer to the husbandman in Æsop, that objected idleness to him, he was never so idle as in his company; or that Scipio Africanus in Tully, nunquam minus solus, quam quum solus ; nunquam minus otiosus, quam quum esset otiosus-never less solitary than when he was alone, never more busie than when he seemed to be most idle.”
9 Part i. sec. 2, mem. 2, subs. 7. Reprint, vol. i. p. 127. 8vo. 1827.