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The Benedictine order being now, from its real merits, so popular in Europe, Dunstan introduced it into his monastery (1), and made himself its most active patron.

The new abbot gained so rapidly upon the prejudices of his age, that his youth was no impediment to his aggrandisement. If the year of his birth is truly stated (2), he could only be twenty-two at the accession of Edred, and thirty-one at his demise; yet before Edred's coronation he was made abbot of Glastonbury, and he was afterwards chosen by Edred for his confidential friend and counsellor. To him, this king sent all his choicest treasures, and those amassed by the preceding sovereigns, to be kept in his monastery under his inspection (3).

From the next incident the policy of Dunstan seems to have been foreseeing and refined. The see of Winchester was offered to him by the king; but he refused it, on the pretence of unfitness. The king entreated his mother to invite him to dinner, and to add her persuasions; but Dunstan declared he could not leave the king, and would not, in his days, even accept the metropolitan honour (4).

He went home. In the morning he told the king he had seen a vision, in which Saint Peter struck him, and said, "This is your punishment for your refusal, and a token to you not to decline hereafter the primacy of England." The king saw not the art of his friend, but interpreting the vision to his wishes, declared that it foretold he was to be the archbishop of Canterbury (5).

From an impartial consideration of all these circumstances, will it be injustice to the memory of Dunstan to infer, that, as by his refusal of the dignity of Winchester, by the communication of this vision, and from its result, he acquired the credit of humility, of a divine communication, and a royal prediction of the highest grandeur to which he could attain, he had these objects in previous contemplation? If not, the coincidence and complexion of the incidents are unlike the usual course of accidental things. It need only be added, that Odo, who then governed the see of Canterbury, was very old.

Edred, who had been ailing all his reign, felt an alarming crisis to be approaching, and desired his treasures to be collected, that he might dispose of them before he died. Dunstan went to bring those entrusted to him. Edred expired before he returned; and

(1) MS. Cleop. MS. Nero; and Osberne. Ingulf says, that Dunstan went to Fleury, to be initiated, p. 29. Dunstan's expositio of the rule of Benedict, with his portrait, is in the British Museum. MSS. Bib. Reg. 10. A. 13.

(2) That he was born in the year of Athelstan's accession, is declared by Sax. Chron. 111.; Flor. 348.; Hoveden, 422.; Osb. 90.

(3) MS. Cleop. B. 13.

(4) MS. Cleop. B. 13.; Adelard; Nero, C. 7. (5) Osberne, 103. Adelard.

the monk was either credulous or bold enough to assert, and the Anglo-Saxons were weak enough to believe, that on the road an ethereal voice had in thunder announced to him the royal demise (1).

The immature age of Edwin was tempting to a man of ambitious politics A minor's reign is a favourable opportunity, which has never been neglected by those who covet power. The royal temper once subdued into obedience to any one, the government of England would be in that person's hands. We cannot penetrate into the motives of Dunstan's heart; but if the ordinary spirit of the aspiring statesman prevailed in his breast above the purer objects of the saint, it is not improbable that projects of this sort had impressed his imagination, or why should he have attempted to coerce the king, so early as the day of his coronation?


On this day, Edwin, after the ceremony, quitted the festive table at which the chief nobles and clergy were regaling (2), and retired to his apartments. Odo, who saw that the company were displeased, ordered some persons to go and bring back the king to partake of their conviviality (3). The persons addressed excused themselves; but at last they chose two who were known to be the most intrepid-Dunstan, and his relation Cynesius, a bishop--who were to bring back the king, either willingly or otherwise, to his deserted seat (4).

Dunstan and his friend, careless of the consequences, penetrated to the king's private apartments. He found him in com pany with Ethelgiva, or Elgiva, his wife; but who being within the prohibited degrees of affinity, is ranked, by the monastic writers, as his mistress (5). The mother of the lady was

(1) MS. Cleop.; Adelard; Nero.


(2) The earliest account of this incident is first entitled to notice; it is in the life of Dunstan, Cleop. B. 13. Pot regale sacræ institutionis unguentum repente prosiluit lascivus linquens læta convivia." Malmsbury wishes to intimate that affairs of business were debating when the king retired, p. 55. But the other authorities agree in stating, that they were at table. Matt. West. says, Læta relinquit convivia, p. 369. Osberne has jam pransus; and Wallingford declares that they were at their cups, quibus Angli nimis sunt assueti, p. 542.

(3) Et cum vidisset summus pontificum Odo regis petulantiam maxime in consecrationis suæ die omni per gyrum considenti senatui displicere, ait coepiscopis suis et cæteris principibus, "Eant quæso quilibet ex vobis ad reducendum regem quo sit, ut conducet in hoc regali convivio suorum satellitum jocundus conce: sor." MSS. Cleop.

(4) Ad extremum vero elegerunt ex omnibus duos quos animo constantissimos noverant, Dunstanum scilicet abbatum, et Cynesium episcopum ejus consanguineum, et omnium jussui obtemperantes, regem volentem vel nolentem reducerent ad relictam sedem. MSS. Cleop. On contrasting this account with the chroniclers, some variations of the circumstances occur, which is a very common accident to a popular story, narrated in a distant age. It seems safest to prefer the earliest account, when it carries the marks of internal probability.

(5) Malmsbury, 55.; Hist. Rames. 390.; and Wallingford, 543.; speak of her as married to Edwin, but as his relation. A charter in the Ilist. Abbend. MSS. Claud.

also present (1). That in a visit to the beloved of his heart, the king should have laid aside the pomp of majesty, or have caressed her, are circumstances so natural, that we cannot but wonder at the temper which so emphatically described, that the royal crown was on the ground (2), or that the king was toying with her when Dunstan entered. He exhorted the king not to disdain to be present among his nobles at the festivities of the day (3).

Whether Edwin disliked the drunkenness of an Anglo-Saxon festival, or whether he preferred the society of his Elgiva, it must be admitted that his retirement was indecorous according to the customs of the age. That Dunstan, as the ambassador of the nobles, should solicit the king's return, was not improper, though it seems rather a forward and disrespectful action to have forced himself into his private apartments. But with the delivery of their message, his commission must have terminated; and, on the king's refusal, it was his duty to have retired. As an ecclesiastic, he should not have compelled him to a scene of inebriety; as a subject, it was treasonable to offer violence to his prince.

But Dunstan chose to forget both Edwin's rights as a man, and his dignity as a sovereign. As if he had embraced the opportunity of breaking the royal spirit of independence, by a violent insult, he poured out his invectives against the ladies; and because the king would not leave his seat, he pulled him from it; he forced the diadem on his head, and indecently dragged him to the riotous hall (4). To the most private individual this insolence would have

c. ix. states the same fact. "Testes autem fuerunt hujus commutationis Ælfgiva regis uxor et Æthelgifa mater ejus," p. 112. Had this charter been even forged, the monks would have taken care that the names appended were correct. The author of the MSS. Cleop. obviously intimates the marriage, though he affixes a doubt whether the wife was the mother or the daughter. His words are, “quo sese vel etiam natam suam sub conjugali titulo illi innectendo sociaret." MS. The sentence on the divorce of Edwin in the MS. Chronicle, quoted in p. 160. note 3., implies also the fact of the marriage. It seems to me to be sufficiently clear, that when the monkish annalists called the lady his mistress, they do not mean to deny her actual, but her legitimate marriage. Deeming the marriage unlawful from their relationship, they considered her only as his mistress.

(1) MSS. Cleop. B. 13.; Matt. West. 369.; and Osberne, 105., state this important fact. Their indecent additions of Edwin's behaviour to both mother and daughter in each other's presence are incredible, and, if true, could not at all contribute to the justification of Dunstan's and Odo's conduct. Nor can I believe, with Mr. Litigard, that "moderate readers will feel inclined to applaud the promptitude with which he taught his pupil to respect the laws of decorum," by invading his sovereign's privacy and insulting Elgiva.

(2) By this contemporary author of the MS. Cleop., the crown is thus described : Quæ miro metallo auri vel argenti gemmarumque vario nitore conserta splendebat. (3) Et ne spernas optimatum tuorum lætis interesse conviviis. MSS. Cleop.

(4) At Dunstanus primum increpitans mulierum ineptias, manu sua dum nollet exsurgere, extraxit eum de mochali genearum occubitu, impositoque diademate, duxit eum secum licet vi a mulieribus raptum ad regale consortium. MS. Cleop.; Malmsbury, 55.; Osberne, 105.; Wallingford, 542.; and Matt. West. 370.; state the violence strongly.

been unauthorised. To his sovereign, just consecrated, it was unpardonable. Elgiva reproached the monk for intruding so daringly on the king's retirement (1); and Dunstan, after the festival, thought proper to return to his abbey.

Dunstan had acted impetuously, but not with judgment. The king was not a sickly Edred. He displayed a spirit of independence and generous feeling, on which Dunstan had not calculated. Wounded in every sentiment of becoming pride and kingly honour, Edwin was alive only to his resentment. He deprived Dunstan of his honours and wealth, and condemned him to banishment.

Dunstan fled before the increasing storm; and so severe was the royal indignation, that the monk was scarcely three miles from the shore, on his voyage to Flanders, when messengers reached it, who, it was said, would have deprived him of sight, if he had been found in the country (2).

It was unfortunate for Edwin, that he suffered his angry passions to be his counsellors. When Dunstan presumed to dictate insultingly to his sovereign, he was not the mere abbot of a distant monastery; he was not an insulated individual, whom the arm of justice could safely reach; he was enshrined in the prejudices of the people; he had the friendship of Turketul, the venerable chancellor, whose fame had become more sacred by his retreat to Croyland; and he was supported by Odo, the primate of England. It was also probable, that most of the clergy and nobles, who had feasted on the coronation, conceived themselves bound to protect him, as his punishment arose from executing, however offensively, their commission.

The detail of the conspiracy against Edwin is not stated, but some of the operations of Odo, whose fierce temper made him among the most prominent in avenging his friend, have been noticed. He divorced the king from his wife, on the plea of their kinship (3). So powerful was his party, that soldiers were sent to the palace to seize the queen : she was taken violently from it; her face was branded with red hot iron, and she was banished to Ireland (4). What duty of an archbishop could dictate this conduct?

(1) MSS. Cleop. This author, and Adelard, Nero, C. 7., politely attach to the lady's name such epithets, as impudens virago, Jezebel, etc. Osberne uses the delicate phrase of nefandæ meretricis, and sagaciously informs us, that the devil was her tutor, "Mulieris animum instigat Diabolus," p. 105.

(2) MS. Cleop. Edwin drove the Benedictine monks, introduced by Dunstan, from the two monasteries of Glastonbury and Abingdon. The loose language of Osberne implies, that many monasteries were put down; but Wharton, on the authority of John of Tinmouth and Wolstan, judiciously reduces the many to these two.


(3) The MS. Saxon Chronicle, Tib. B. 4., has a paragraph on Edwin's divorce, which is not in the printed one : 958, on thyssum geare Oda arcebiscor totwæmde Eadwi cyning and Ælgyfe for them the hi waron to gesybbe."

(4) Missis militibus, a curia regis in qua mansitabat, violenter adduxit et eam in facie deturpatam ac candenti ferro denotatam perpetua in Hiberniam exilii relegatione detrusit. Osberne, 84.

It is not denied by the old chroniclers, that Odo was active in those measures; why else is the passage added immediately after the murder, stating his being the inflexible enemy of all vice? Elgiva found no charms in her exile, and, nature healing her wounds, she returned to Gloucester in all her beauty (1). She was pursued and seized, and the nerves and muscles of her legs were divided, that she might wander from the vengeance of her enemies no more (2) ! But extreme cruelty cannot long retain its victim. Her sufferings at last terminated. Death released her from her murderers, whom no beauty could interest, no sympathy assuage.

To reflect that men have connected piety with these horrors; and that their authors or abettors perpetrated them under his sacred name, whose creation displays goodness ever flowing, and whose religion enjoins philanthropy the most benign, is to feel human nature in all its depravity and madness. They may have been imitated. Marats and Robespierres may have even exceeded them in atrocity; but the agents of cruelty, under whatever garb, whatever system, or whatever pretexts, are the enemies of mankind, and ought not to be remembered, unless to be abhorred.

The remainder of Edwin's reign is not distinctly narrated. But the main results are clear. The Mercians and Northumbrians rebelled against him, drove him beyond the Thames, and appointed Edgar, his brother, a boy but thirteen years of age, to govern them in his stead. Dunstan was immediately afterwards recalled with honour.

It is probable that the popularity of the Benedictine reformation, of which Dunstan had made himself both the champion and the martyr, was the great engine by which Edwin was oppressed. At length the kingdom was divided between him and Edgar: the Thames was made the bounding line. Edwin retained only the southern provinces of England, and but for a short interval. Three years after the rebellion of his subjects, his death occurred. One author even states, that he was killed in Gloucestershire (3). If from

(1) Quæ tamen cum nonnullum temporis intervallum, jam obducta in cicatricem corporis forma, sed adhuc hiante impudicæ mentis deformitate, relicta Hibernia, Angliam rediit et Glocestram cæcati cordis obscuritate imbuta pervenit. Osberne, 84.

(2) Ubi ab hominibus servis Dei comprehensa, et ne meretricio more ulterius vaga discurreret, subnervata, post dies aliquot mala morte præsenti vitæ sublata est. Osberne, 84.

(3) 1 derive the knowledge of this new and probable fact from the express assertion of an old MS. Chronicle in the Cotton Library, the author of which was no friend to the king. Yet he says, Rex West-Saxonum Edwinus, in pago Gloucestrensi interfectus fuit. Nero, A. 6. p. 9. I never met with any other authority which so explicitly affirmed the fact. But yet the expressions of the MS. Cleop. B. 13. rather countenance it. This says, "Interca germanus ejusdem Eadgari qui justa Dei sui judicia deviando dereliquit novissimum flatum misera morte exspiravit." Osberne comes near this :-" Edwyo, inquam, rege regno pro suis criminibus eliminato et misera morte damnato," p. 84. The Hist. Rames. implies a violent death: "Fatali sorte sublato," p. 393.

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