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candid historian will always regret when the nature of the incidents compels him to infer bad motives. But some facts justify the imputation; and the following events, unless extreme charity can believe them to have been accidental, or credulity can suppose them to have been miraculous, announce premeditated plans which deserve the harshest epithets. A council of the nobles was summoned at Calne. The king was absent, on account of his age. While the senators of England were conversing violently on the question then agitated, and were reproaching Dunstan, he gave a short reply, which ended with these remarkable words: "I confess that I am unwilling that you should conquer. I commit the cause of the church to the decision of Christ."
As these words, which lead the mind to the most unfavourable inferences, were uttered, the floor and its beams and rafters gave way, and precipitated the company with the ruins to the earth below. The seat of Dunstan only was unmoved. Many of the nobles were killed upon the spot; the others were grievously hurt by wounds which kept them long confined (1). If no other achievement had revealed Dunstan's character, would not this be sufficient to startle the unprejudiced reader into a doubt of its sanctity? It was followed by another circumstance, which leaves us no alternative between the supposition of a purposed falsehood or an unworthy miracle.
On the death of his friend and pupil Athelwold, the see of Winchester became vacant. As from the avowed dissatisfaction of the nobles, Dunstan's power was insecure, it became expedient that he should guard it by filling every high office with his friends. He fixed upon Elphegus as the successor, and, to abolish all opposition, he boldly declared, that Saint Andrew had appeared to him, and commanded him to consecrate Elphegus to the vacant see (2).
Such proceedings at last taught others to fight him with the weapons of crime. The subjection of Edward to his will gave a perpetuity to his power; but there was a person existing as ambitious as himself, and indifferent to the means of gratifying that ambition. This was Elfrida. I know not whether we can credit all the wickedness attributed to her. It is stated in the records of the abbey of Ely, that its first abbot, Brithonod, was seen by Elfrida in the New Forest. He went to the royal court on the business of his church, and at his departure took leave also of her. She desired a private conversation with him on affairs of conscience, and in the interview she acted the wife of Potiphar. The abbot emulated the virtue of Joseph; and the disappointed Elfrida procured his assassination. The power of the queen-dowager compelled his monas
(1) See note at the end of the chapter.
(2) Osberne, 114. The history of Dunstan is remarkably certain; from the facts against him being stated and proved by his friends and encomiasts.
tery to indulge their suspicions in silence; but in her days of penitence she acknowledged the crime (1).
It is also declared of Elfrida, that Edward gave her all Dorsetshire as a dower, with a royal dignity annexed to it (2).
The state of the kingdom gave power to her malice. However the proceedings at Calne may have affected the credulous people, the surviving sufferers and their friends could hardly have been deceived; and if they believed the catastrophe to have been the effect of design, we may assume that they meditated to avenge it on Dunstan. But he was protected by the favour of his sovereign; Edward therefore became the first object of attack. A combination against him was formed; and with no scruples as to the means. It is stated, that Elfrida and some princes conspired together to dethrone Edward in favour of Ethelred, and that the death of the king was the crime devised for the accomplishment of their purpose. The unsuspecting king facilitated the execution of the guilty plot. He was hunting in Dorsetshire, near Wareham, a few miles from which stood Corfe Castle, the residence of Elfrida and her son. His companions were dispersed in pursuit of the game, and, in the course of the sport, Edward beheld the conspicuous walls of the castle (3). He rode thither to visit Ethelred and his mother. On the tidings of his arrival, she hastily settled her plan. She went out and received him with hypocritical kindness, and invited him in. The king declined to alight; but desired some refreshment, and requested to see his brother. A cup of drink was brought to him; but while he was raising it to his lips, a wretch, stealing behind, stabbed him in the back. Feeling the wound, he spurred his horse to escape the assassin, but the blow had been too successful he fell from his seat; his feet hung in the stirrups, and the frighted steed dragged his expiring lord over the rugged way. His friends traced him by his blood, and found at last his disfigured corpse. It was burnt, and its ashes buried at Wareham (4).
(1) This incident has escaped the notice of our historians. It is in the Historia Eliensis. 3 Gale, 491, 492.
(2) Wallingford, 545.
(3) The interesting ruins of Corfe Castle still remain.
(4) Malmsb. 61. Ingulf, 54. Mailros, 151. The Chroniclers say he was buried; but Lupus, in his sermon, says, Occisus est et postea combustus. Hickes's
ADDITIONAL NOTE ON DUNSTAN.
As the conduct of Dunstan in the incident at Calne has become lately a subject of public discussion, and it has been suggested, that as a more atrocious crime than the charge against him cannot be imagined, "such a suggestion should not be brought without a strong evidence;" and, "that the slightest evidence neither has been nor can be produced for its support. Butler's Cath. Church, p. 67. The impartial reader may desire to know what the authentic evidence really amounts to.
There are no contemporary histories now existing of the reigns of Edgar and
Review of the State and History of Denmark and Norway at the Accession of Ethelred, and of the last Stage of the Northern Piracy.
As the second year of the reign of Ethelred was distinguished by the re-appearance of those enemies whom the courage and wisdom of Alfred and his successors had subdued or driven from the Eng
Edward the Martyr. But there is a tract on the life of Dunstan, written by Bridforth, a priest, who knew him, and who calls himself, "Vilis Saxonum indigena," which exists in the Cotton MS. Cleop. b. 13., and which has been printed from another MS. of St. Vedast's monastery at Rome, in the Acta Sanctorum for May, vol. iv., p. 346. This gives the fullest account of the earliest incidents of his life that exists, but scarcely mentions his transactions as archbishop. It omits all notice of the synod at Calne, and therefore of what happened there. If this omission had not extended to Dunstan's other transactions as archbishop, it might have raised a doubt if there had been any such a meeting at all. But as the author has also not chosen to mention other important actions of Dunstan's later life, the silence on this peculiar event is no argument against it. On the contrary, it may be alleged that the transaction was omitted because its consequences had excited so much enmity or suspicion against Dunstan that one living at that period did not choose, either for his friend's sake or his own, to revive its recollection. There is also another MS. life of Dunstan addressed by Adelard to Elphegus the archbishop, who was killed in the reign of Ethelred, and this also omits the meeting at Calne, as it does most other details of Dunstan's archiepiscopal conduct. The above remarks apply also to this author's silence. The omission is not peculiar, and is exposed to an unfavourable inference.
But that there was a meeting at Caine of the Saxon Witan, or of the distinguished men, both nobles and clergy, of the nation, and that the floor suddenly gave way, and precipitated all but Dunstan to the earth, maiming some, and killing others, rests satisfactorily on the following historical documents :
The Saxon Chronicle, admitted to be "a faithful register of the times," thus briefly notices it :-978. "Here in this year all the oldest (noblest) Witan of the English nation fell at Calne from an upper floor: but the holy archbishop Dunstan stood alone upon a beam, and some there were very much maimed, and some did not survive." Gibs. Sax. Chr. 124. Ingr. S. C 163. The ancient Latin Chronicles of Florence, p. 361. Sim. Dun. p. 160. Hen. Hunt. 356., and Hoveden, 427., which seem to me to have been all taken from Saxon Annals; the Chron. Peterb. p. 29., Bromton, 870., and Gervase, 1647., mention these events in terms nearly similar to the passage cited from the Saxon Chronicle.
But though the historical fact of the calamity is thus certain, there is so far no direct imputation upon Dunstan for its occurrence. There is only the singularity that he escaped while others suffered, and if no more than this had appeared in our historical remains, we might be satisfied with supposing, that, both the calamity and his preservation were the undesigned and fortuitous effects of the state of the building in which the Saxon Witena-gemot was assembled. But the preceding facts are not the only circumstances which our old historians have transmitted to us upon the subject; and it is on the additions which they have supplied-all writers friendly to their respected saint-that the suspicion and the charge have ultimately been founded.
One of the most valuable and intelligent of our ancient chronographers is William of Malmsbury; and thus he details what he mentions of the incident :-
'Edgar being dead, the clergy formerly expelled from the churches excited re
lish coasts, and who now succeeded in obtaining the English crown, it is expedient that we should turn our eyes upon the Baltic, and
newed battles. From this thing a prejudice, raised into clamour and passion, was directed against Dunstan; the lay nobles joining in the outcry, that the clergy had suffered unjustly. One of them, Elfere, pulled down almost all the monasteries which Ethelwold, the bishop of Winchester, had built in Mercia. The first synod was convened at Winchester, where the dominical image expressly spoke and confounded the clergy and their supporters. But the minds not being yet appeased, a council was appointed at Calne; where, the king being absent from his youth, as the senators were all sitting in the chamber, the matter was agitated with great conflict and controversy; and the darts of many reproaches were thrown on Dunstan, that most firm wall of the church; but could not shake him, persons of every order defending him with all their might. Suddenly all the floor with its fastenings and beams started out and fell down. All were thrown to the earth. Dunstan alone, standing upon a beam that remained, entirely escaped; the rest were either killed or detained in the fetter of perpetual languor. This miracle gave peace to the archbishop." De Gest. Reg. 1. ii. p. 61. Matthew of Westminter's statement of the calamity is to the same purport, and nearly in the same words, p. 377., so is Rudborne's, 1 Angl. Sax. p. 225.
These authorities attach to the event the suspicious circumstances, that it happened in the midst of a violent discussion in the Anglo-Saxon parliament, in which Dunstan's future power and safety were at stake that it followed a preceding parliamentary dispute which had been dogmatically and not willingly decided in his favour, by what must have been either miracle or fraudulent contrivance; and that by the afflicting catastrophe, all future opposition to his measures was silenced. "This miracle gave peace to the archbishop." The historical authorities referred to do not pretend that it was an accident; they declare that it was supernatural.
The evidence thus far will create in many minds an irresistible suspicion against him. But, however justly this may seem to be entertained, we must still recollect that the impeaching deductions of history are not actual evidence, and do not of themselves justify a positive charge of decided guilt. This charge arises from the account of two other authors, who are not the enemies, but the admirers and biographers of Dunstan, and who detail these facts as articles of their warm panegyric.
There are two lives of this singular man, as ancient as any of the preceding chronicles, and written by persons who in their own days were respectable. These were Osberne, the friend and counsellor of the Archbishop Lanfranc, a great admirer of Dunstan; and Eadmer, a disciple of Anselm, the successor of Lanfranc. Osberne lived about a century after Dunstan, and Eadmer a little later; they detail the following account :
OSBERNE, after mentioning the deciding effect of the speaking crucifix, states that his opponents" taking Beornhelm, a Scottish bishop, as a defender of their iniquity, a man almost unconquerable, both in his ingenuity, and in his loquacity, pressed on Dunstan in the town called Calne, and proposed their scandal with a swelling spirit. Dunstan, broken by age and ecclesiastical labours, had laid aside all things but prayer. Yet, lest the wicked party, defeated before by a divine miracle, should now boast of obtaining a victory, he darted this answer upon his enemies :-'Since you did not in such a lapse of time bring forward your accusation, but now that I am old and cultivating taciturnity, seek to disturb me by these antiquated complaints, I confess that I am unwilling that you should conquer me. I commit the cause of his church to Christ as the judge.' He spoke, and the wrath of the angry Deity corroborated what he said; for the house was immediately shaken; the chamber was loosened under their feet; his enemies were precipitated to the ground, and oppressed by the weight of the crushing timbers. But, where the ́ saint was reclining with his friends, there no ruin occurred." Osb. Angl. Sax. vol. ii. p. 112.
EADMER. His editor, Wharton, remarks that he had never seen Osberne's work;
inquire what nations and what sovereigns possessed at this time the means of such formidable aggressions.
but like him had drawn his facts from some more ancient author. Eadmer, therefore, stands before us not as a copyist of Osberne, but as an independent narrator of what he has recorded. After mentioning Beornhelm's opposition, Eadmer thus states Dunstan's final reply, and its consequences :
"This calumnia which you are agitating has been already settled by the Divine voice; nor do we think it should be again recalled into a new conflict. I, indeed, am aged; and I desire to pass the remainder of my life, which, I am aware, cannot be long, in peace, if it be possible. I have laboured as long as I have been able. Now, unfitted for all toil, I commit to the Lord God the cause of his church, to be defended against the insurgent enemies.' He spoke, and, lo, the floor under the feet of those who had come together against him fell from beneath them, and all were alike precipitated; but where Dunstan stood with his friends no ruin of the house, no accident happened." Vit. Dunst. Anglia Sax. vol. ii. p. 220.
Capgrave gives the words that are so remarkable in Osberne, with this slight change, "I confess that I am unwilling to be conquered." Leg. Nov. fol. 94.
It is this speech of Dunstan, which implies that he expected some extraordinary event to follow it, that would benefit his side of the question, and it is also the alleged preservation of his supporters, as well as of himself, without which it would not have served him, which prevent us from ascribing the calamity to any accident, and which attach to Dunstan the charge of a foreknowledge of what was to ensue. Such a forcknowledge must have been either a miracle or a premeditated villany. That the parts of the floor on which his opponents were placed should only fall, while the station of himself and his upholders remained safe, would justify any one for believing that the destruction was not a natural casualty. But the speech fixes on Dunstan a personal foresight, which warrants an historian for connecting him with the planning and with the perpetration of the crime. The above evidence is all that now remains on this subject; and every reader must determine from it for himself, whether it is most probable that this catastrophe was the result of accident, miracle, or crime. That the chroniclers do not detail this speech like the two biographers is not extraordinary, because they omit all the other speeches which were made on this angry discussion. But Osberne and Eadmer, who have transmitted to us this speech, record it as the accounting cause of what followed, and as indicating the event to have been the Divine answer to his appeal. They insert it for no hostile purpose, nor obtrusively, but as a regular part of the real transaction. There is a particularity in their both mentioning a Scottish prelate as the eloquent adversary whom the saint thus endeavoured to refute, which Norman or Saxon monks were not likely to have invented. My own inference is, that there is no more reason to doubt the authenticity of this speech than of any other of Dunstan's extraordinary actions.
I have looked into the two most ancient lives of him, those of Athelard and Bridferth, to sec if either Osberne or Eadmer have been peculiarly credulous, or more inclined to the marvellous than their predecessors on Dunstan's biography. But I find in ATHELARD an account that Dunstan, one night when he was overcome with sleep at his vigils, was rapt up, as it were, into heaven, and heard the saints hymning the Trinity, and singing Kyrie eleison," or "Lord have mercy upon us!" He also narrates, that as the prelate was one day sitting with his attendants engaged in some manual work, his harp that was hanging on the wall began playing of itself, and, though untouched, performed the whole antiphon of “Gaudent in cœlis" to the very end. BRIDFERTH, who declares that he was personally acquainted with Dunstan, outdoes even these fancies; for he mentions, that as the saint was one night in his cloisters, Satan came to him in the shaggy form of a horrid bear; being driven away, he returned in the figure of a dog; again expelled, he came back as a viper; and being forced out, he burst in once more as a furious wolf. This tale is soon followed by another, that as Dunstan once fell asleep from fatigue before the altar of St. George, the devil came to him like a rugged bear, and, placing