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was particularly interested, and would probably exert himself to procure the most copious and authentic information regarding it. Although he gives no intimation of having had access to previous historical documents, when speaking of his sources of information, yet there seems reason to believe that he has made use of such materials. We may infer from what he says of the mode in which Oswald's reign was generally calculated, that in this king's time there existed Annals, or Chronological Tables, in which events were inserted as they occurred, the regnal year of the monarch who then filled the throne being at the same time specified. These annals appear to have extended beyond the period of the conversion of Northumbria to Christianity, although it is difficult to imagine how any chronological calculation or record of events could be preserved before the use of letters had become known. But the history of Eadwine, with its interesting details, shows that Beda must have had access to highly valuable materials which reached back to the very earliest æra of authentic history ; and we need not be surprised at finding information of a similar character throughout the remainder of his history of Northumbria. Accordingly we have minute accounts of the pedigrees of its kings, their accession, exploits, anecdotes of them and sketches of their character, their deaths, and the duration of their reigns; details too minute in themselves, and too accurately defined by Beda, to have been derived by him from tradition. Similar proofs might, if necessary, be drawn from the history of its bishops.
“(3.) The Historia Ecclesiastica contains various
transcripts of important official documents. These are of two classes : either such as were sent from the Papal Court to the princes and ecclesiastics of England, or were the production of native writers. The first were transcribed from the Papal Regesta by Noth helm of London, during a residence at Rome, and were sent to Beda by the advice of his friend Albinus of Canterbury. They relate to the history of the kingdoms of Kent and Northumbria. The letters of archbishops Laurentius and Honorius, concerning the proper time for celebrating Easter, were probably furnished by the same individual. The proceedings of the Councils of Herutford and Haethfeld, may have been derived from the archives of Beda's own monastery; since it was customary in the early ages of the Church for each ecclesiastical establishment to have a "tabularium' in which were deposited the synodal decrees by which its members were governed.
“(11.) A considerable portion of the Historia Ecclesiastica, especially that part of it which relates to the kingdom of Northumberland, is founded upon local information which its author derived from various individuals. On almost every occasion, Beda gives the name and designation of his informant; being anxious, apparently, to show that nothing is inserted for which he had not the testimony of some respectable witness. Some of these persons are credible from having been present at the event which they related ; others, from the high rank which they held in the Church, such as Aecci, bishop of Hexham, Guthfrith, abbot of Lindisfarn, Bercthun, abbot of Beverley, and Pecthelm, bishop of Whithern. The author received secondary evidence with caution, for he distinguishes between the statements which he received from eyewitnesses, and those which reached him through a succession of informants. In the last of these instances, the channel of information is always pointed out with scrupulous exactness, whatever opinion we may entertain, as in the case of some visions and miracles, of the credibility of the facts themselves.”
After so many previous editions, the editor acknowledges that under ordinary circumstances he would not have hesitated to reprint the Ecclesiastical History from the latest and most valuable existing edition, trusting that a work so often revised would have been already in a fit state to lay before the reader; and thus he would hope to be enabled to devote more time (and with greater benefit to the reader) to the other works of Bede which have been less fortunate than the Ecclesiastical History. But on coming to examine the text of the edition recently published by the English Historical Society, he discovered a considerable augmentation of his labours. It has been previously observed, and seems hitherto not to have been generally known, that Smith's text is accurately copied from the MS. of More, and that every thing, but the most manifest blunders of the copyist, is therein preserved. Indeed, Smith the younger, who edited the volume which his father had prepared, acknowledges that he has not suffered himself to depart from the readings of a volume so ancient, even in the minutest particular. His words are these : “ Patri religio fuit de codicis tam admi. randæ vetustatis fide, nisi ubi librarium falso scripsisse aperte deprehenditur, vel aliquantulum decedere." This is the reason why More's Manuscript, in general so superior to every other, has been followed by its editor, even where the reading is, owing to want of care or fatigue on the part of the copyist, manifestly corrupt. To guard, however, against mistake, Smith has in every case subjoined as foot-notes the corrections with which other MSS. or existing editions supplied him. And for following this plan there is good reason: it was an object of interest to every scholar to see a fac-simile of a MS. written so near the time of the author, and some editors have not scrupled to represent even the forms of the letters in which such a volume was written. But after Smith's edition had been so long familiar to the world, it would be highly inexpedient for a future editor to follow the same plan. It would appear rather incumbent on him to collect the best text from every MS. or printed edition that had preceded, and in every instance to substitute such good readings in the place of those which might appear inferior in the text of Smith; nor can it be alleged that there would be no room for the adoption of such plan, on the ground of More's MS. being perfect, or at least free from gross errors. For, however valuable it may be for antiquity and general excellence, it nevertheless abounds with most glaring errors of all descriptions. It, in several instances, omits altogether words necessary to the sense; it not unfrequently adopts the worst of two readings; it occasionally presents gross errors in grammar; and, indeed, is not free from any of those defects, to which every volume, written by the hand, and admitting no revision or correction, as in the case of printed books, is liable.
It is hardly necessary to say that Mr. Stevenson's volume, being almost a verbatim reprint of Smith's, is exposed to this objection, and to a somewhat greater degree still, from the omission of the footnotes containing the corrections of the corrupt passages. The two following instances will more fully explain this. In Chap. XIX., towards the beginning, More’s MS. reads ad eum habitaculum, and Smith, following the MS., subjoins as a correction, illud habitaculum. In the reprint, however, we find eum habitaculum retained without the note. Again, in Chap. III., where Claudius is mentioned, More's MS. reads cupiens monstrare. Smith so reprints it, but adds in a note, cupiens se monstrare, which no doubt is the true reading. Here, also, in the recent edition, we read cupiens monstrare, and with no note subjoined. Finding that this system had been acted upon throughout, the present editor saw the necessity of a new and entire revision of the text, and accordingly he turned his attention to the Heidelberg edition, found in Scriptores Britannicarum Rerum, published by Commelin, and apparently, as far as Bede is concerned, unknown to previous editors. Of this volume he had before formed a very high opinion, and was glad to find its character fully sustained in the present instance. The learning and taste displayed by Commelin, the editor, are beyond commendation: as regards the text of Bede, it is superior in every respect to any other edition, and appears to have been very little, if at all, examined by preceding editors. The present edition will be found to contain all that could be gathered by a diligent and complete collation of the editions of Heidelberg, Smith and