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Thomas has been for the most part recently written. If we want to read or write it as it should be read or written, we must forget every thing of the kind. We have before us two of the foremost men of the twelfth century; it is only by the customs, the principles, the light and knowledge of the twelfth century that we can ever fairly judge them.
Cautions of this kind are more necessary with regard to the dispute between Henry and Thomas than with regard to almost any other portion of history. With regard to many other controversies of past times, it is almost impossible to avoid looking at them with the eyes of our own day. In many cases, within proper limits, it is even right that we should do so. The controversies of remote ages and countries may be closely analogous to controversies of our own day. The controversies of our own country in past times may be but the beginning of controversies still going on among ourselves. In such cases the side taken in present politics will always decide the general estimate of past politics. We only ask for the men and measures of the past, what we should ask for the men and measures of the present, that opposition and criticism be fair and honest, that particular men and particular actions be not misrepresented, and that it be never forgotten that, both then and now, wise and good men may be found on both sides. But the twelfth century stands in a peculiar position. It was a highly important period, fruitful in great men and great events; but its work was a silent one, and its controversies have, less than those of most ages, either before or after, any direct bearing upon present affairs. The events of the age which came before, and those of the age
which followed it, speak at once to our hearts. The spectacle of a nation, and that the English nation, overcome by foreign enemies, made bondmen and strangers in their own land, is one which requires no explanation. The struggle of Englishman and Norman is one which awakens sympathies common to all times and all places :
είς οιωνός άριστος, αμύνεσθαι περί πάτρης, is a sentiment which speaks equally to the heart, whether it be put into the mouth of Hector, of Hereward, or of Garibaldi. The thirteenth century, again, has for every Englishman an interest of another kind. We have now entered on the Eng- . land of our own time; the great struggle has begun which still continues; we have begun to walk among that goodly company of statesmen, heroes, and patriots, which leads us from Langton and Grosseteste and Winchelsea, from Fitzwalter and De Montfort and Roger Bigod, on to the Peel, the Russell, and the Gladstone of our own day. Compared with the eleventh century
and with the thirteenth, the age of Henry and Thomas seems like something with which we have nothing to do, and which we can hardly understand. The political position of England was like nothing before it or after it
. In the eleventh century and in the thirteenth, there was an English king and an English people; but in the twelfth such objects are hardly discernible. There is, indeed, a king of England, the mightiest and richest prince of Europe; but he is a mere foreigner, a Frenchman living in France, devoting his energies to French objects, and holding England almost as a province of Anjou. And as with the position of the island, so with its internal controversies. We imagine that no Roman Catholic or High Churchman would claim for the clergy a freedom from secular jurisdiction in criminal cases, or would think the exclusive right of the Archbishop of Canterbury to crown the King of England a matter for which it was worth while to resist even unto death. In the twelfth century the case was much less clear. Thomas and Henry, in short, were two very remarkable men in a very remarkable age, who engaged in a controversy about which there could not be two opinions now, but about which opposite sides were then taken by the best and wisest men of the age. If a man will study the materials before him fully and fairly, he will probably rise up with very considerable respect for both disputants on the whole, mingled with strong condemnation of particular actions of both. Thomas often disgraced a good cause by violence and obstinacy; Henry disgraced a cause equally good by mean cruelty and petty personal persecution, and sometimes, which Thomas never did, he allowed momentary passion to hurry him into practically giving up his cause altogether.
On the modern writers on the subject we do not intend to enlarge at length. Though the history has been touched on incidentally by some very distinguished men, it has never been made the subject of any separate work of first-rate merit. We will therefore touch briefly on the most important modern writers on the subject, and then proceed to give our own estimate of Thomas himself and his contemporary biographers.
Lord Lyttelton and Mr. Berington were probably the first, among the modern "amici” and “inimici Thomæ,"* who could give any reason for their friendship or enmity.
or enmity. Their histories of Henry II. were both of them highly creditable to their authors at a time when historical learning was at its lowest ebb. In an age of second-hand knowledge, they had really read the contemporary writers. Each maintains his own position well, and each may be still turned to with profit, even after the accumulation
Among the Letters is one (Giles, iv. 256) headed " Alexandro Papæ et om nibus Cardinalibus Inimici Thomæ Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi.”
of so much recent literature on the subject. Mr. Berington, we may add, though an apologist of Thomas, is by no means a blind admirer; he is not a Herbert of Bosham, but claims the higher character of a John of Salisbury.
Among more general historians, in whose pages Thomas and Henry necessarily play a considerable part, Dr. Lingard at once occurs as a Roman Catholic writer of much the same school as Mr. Berington. Both of them have the wisdom to write, not as Roman Catholies, but as ordinary men; they at all events affect impartiality, and of course are much more likely to influence Protestant judgments than if they checked them at the beginning by any ostentatious display of their peculiar dogmas. On the other hand, Southey's agreeable, but very superficial
, Book of the Church contains one of the very best of what we may call the incidental biographies of Thomas. It is full, vivid, and sympathising. It is clear that the heroic grandeur of the Catholic saint appealed irresistibly to the heart of the poet, even while invested with the character of a Protestant controversialist.
Thomas also figures very prominently in Thierry’s wellknown History of the Norman Conquest, where he is pressed into the service of that writer's peculiar theories. He is made to figure as an English patriot contending against Norman oppres
Of this utterly untenable notion, and of the small nucleus of truth around which M. Thierry has gathered a mass of very attractive romance, we shall have again to speak.
The more recent literature on the subject begins with the Remains of the late Mr. R. H. Froude. Strangely enough, the first recent apologist of St. Thomas of Canterbury was brother of the apologist of King Henry VIII. The elder Froude, one of the original leaders of the Oxford Tract movement, was a man of ability and independent thought, but, as one might expect, he approached the subject from a wholly false point of view. His case was one of the most conspicuous of misconceiving history, in consequence of seeing it through an atmosphere of modern controversy. The subject attracted him from some fancied analogies between the position of the church in the twelfth century and the nineteenth. The career of Thomas occupies the whole of the third volume of Mr. Froude's Remains, but a large portion of the narrative part is from another hand, no less an one, we believe, than Dr. Newman's. Mr. Froude's own labours were chiefly given to translating and partially arranging the Epistles, a task before which any amount of energy might excusably have broken down.
After Mr. Froude came Dr. Giles. We suppose we must allow the praises of zeal and research to a man who has edited,
translated, and written more books than any other living English scholar. But really we can give him no other praise. The Epistles, as edited in his Sanctus Thomas Cantuariensis, are, as most later writers have complained, a heap of confusion, made far worse confounded by Dr. Giles himself. The principle of arrangement is an elaborate puzzle, which renders it almost hopeless to find any particular letter; the indexes are very meagre, and the mere editing is exceedingly bad.*
Dr. Giles has, indeed, also given us The Life and Letters in two volumes of English, in which there is an attempt to arrange some of the letters in the order of time. But scholars do not want a translation and a very bad translation too of some of the letters, but an intelligible edition of the original text of all. Dr. Giles's attempt at original biography amounts to little more than a filling up of interstices, and is moreover as poor and superficial as may be. Nearly every thing that is good in it is copied from Mr. Froude. The life and death of Thomas have also been taken
up two writers of a widely different stamp from either Mr. Froude or Dr. Giles. Professor Stanley, in his Historical Memorials of Canterbury, has given us a harmonised narrative of the martyrdom, written with such minuteness, life, and truth, that we deeply regret that it extends to the martyrdom alone, and does not take in the whole history. No less admirable is his treat
. ment of what we may call the posthumous history of Thomas in the chapter on the “Shrine of Becket.” The Thomaic controversy, again, occupies a large portion of the third volume of Dean Milman's Latin Christianity. With some drawbacks, this is the best English life of Thomas we know, though the narrative perhaps suffers a little from over-compression, and though we think that the Dean passes on the whole too harsh a judgment on Thomas, it is only fair to add that he sometimes bears rather hard upon Henry also. Still his narrative, allowing for some of those little slips in names and details, in which it is strange to find so really learned a man as Dr. Milman so constantly falling, is the very best history of Thomas we know, far better, considering its scale, than the more special ones which we have now to mention.
1859 produced two rival biographies of our hero; the works of the Roman Catholic Canon of Northampton, and of the Protestant Canon of Canterbury. On these we might be tempted to dilate at some length, as the contrast between them is very curious and amusing. Each of the rival canons has
• We thoroughly agree with Mr. Robertson's wish, that a really good edition of the whole literature on the subject should form part of the series now publishing by authority of the Master of the Rolls.
read his books well and accurately ; each brings local inspiration to the task; each does his best, such as it is, to be fair; but each is disqualified by invincible prejudices, and the work of each alike labours under incurable objections in point of form. Canon Morris writes in a spirit of undiscriminating admiration; Canon Robertson writes in a spirit of carping and fault-finding, with which we have still less sympathy. Canon Morris might have written a purely devotional life of St. Thomas of Canterbury for members of his own communion, and no fair person would have objected; or he might have written a historical life in the same spirit of prudence as Mr. Berington and Dr. Lingard ; but he has confounded the two ideas together, and has produced something far too historical for purely devotional use, while, as a history, it is certain to offend every Protestant reader. Canon Robertson has worked up into a book two old articles from the defunct English Review, written, it would seem, against Mr. Froude and Dr. Giles. The book retains far too palpable traces of its origin in its somewhat poor and heavy attempts at wit, in its constant sarcasms on the writers reviewed, and its occasional allusions to things quite unintelligible to those who have not all the numbers of the English Review by heart. Nothing, for instance, can be truer, but nothing can be more out of place, than the elaborate criticism on Dr. Giles's editing which is thrust into the middle of the biography. For the matter of the book, it is what might be expected from a man who understands his subject without loving it, and whose chief object is to upset Mr. Froude. The narrative is accurate, the references are highly valuable. The author does his best to be fair, and rejects all the more vulgar calumnies against his victim ;-for, unlike most biographies, this of Mr. Robertson has no hero. But Mr. Robertson sees every thing through the coloured glass of the English Review. He is utterly incapable of entering into the position of either a king or an archbishop of the twelfth century. Above all, Thomas of Canterbury, whether saint or not, was emphatically a hero, and a hero is just the sort of person whom Canon Robertson cannot possibly understand.
Of the foreign writers on the subject, we must confess with shame that we know less than we ought. Reuter’s History of Alexander the Third is frequently quoted by Dean Milman and Mr. Robertson; and, as it seems to be highly favourable to that Pontiff, we suppose we ought in fairness to have mastered it, for certainly our own study of the Thomaic correspondence does not lead us to a conclusion at all like what we take M. Reuter’sto be. M.Ozanam's Deux Chanceliers d'Angleterre (Paris, 1836), and M. Buss's Der Heilige Thomas und sein Kampf für die Freiheit der Kirche (Mainz, 1856), we only heard of through