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short view of the state of learning in Europe, from the dark period of Gothicism down to the sixteenth century. But let me at the same time acknowledge, that this account will be only a rude and imperfect sketch; consisting of a few detached particulars, without much order or method.
Although the great era of ignorance has been fixed, justly enough, to those times when the northern nations, like a mighty inundation, overspread the face of Europe ; yet it is no less certain that barbarism and corruption were entered into arts and sciences ere the savages had made any impression on the Roman empire. Under them indeed, that darkness which had been long growing on the world, and gradually extinguishing every light of knowledge, soon became total, and threatened to be perpetual. 'In the eighth century, we find that the highest ambition of the clergy was to vie with one another in chanting the public service, which yet they hardly understood. This important emulation run so high
between the Latin and French priesthood, that CharAn. 787. lemagne, who was then at Rome, found it necessary
to interpose, and decide the controversy in person. Joannis The monk, who relates this affair with a most cirLaunoii
cumstantial exactness, adds, that the emperor inOp. t. iv.
treated pope Adrian to procure him certain persons, who might teach his subjects the first principles of grammar and arithmetic; arts that were then utterly unknown in his dominions. - This warlike monarch, though his own education had been so far neglected that he had never learned to write, discovered, by his natural good sense, the value of knowledge, and set himself to be its promoter and patron. He even allowed a public school to be opened in the imperial palace, under the direction of our famous countryman Alcuin; on whom he chiefly relied for introducing into France some tincture of that philosophy which was still remaining in Britain. But how slow and ineffectual the progress of any learning must have been, we may guess from an edict of the council of Challons, in the next century; which earnestly
exhorts all monasteries to be careful in having their manuals of devotion correctly transcribed: lest, while Launoii, they piously mean to ask of God one thing, some P. 3. inaccurate manuscript may betray them into praying for the quite contrary.
As to Britain, if learning had still some footing Hist. et there in the eighth century, it was so totally exter- univer. minated from thence in the ninth; that, throughout Oxon. the whole kingdom of the West-Saxons, no man p. 18. could be found who was scholar enough to instruct our king Alfred, then a child, even in the first elements of reading : so that he was in his twelfth year before he could name the letters of the alphabet. When that renowned prince ascended the throne, he made it his study to draw his people out of the sloth and stupidity in which they lay: and became, as much by his own example, as by the encouragement he gave to learned men, the great restorer of arts in his dominions. And here we are called upon to observe, that as France had been formerly obliged to England in the person of Alcuin, who planted the sciences there under Charlemagne ; our island now received the same friendly assistance from thence by Grimbald, whom king Alfred had invited hither, and made chancellor of Oxford. Such events as these are too considerable, in the literary history of the ninth age, to be passed over unobserved. The rise of a noted grammarian, the voyage of an applauded doctor, are recorded, by the chroniclers of that century, with the same reverence that an'ancient writer would mention the appearance of a Lycurgus, or a Timoleon ; of a lawgiver who new-models a state, or a hero who rescues a whole people from slavery.
But these fair appearances were of short duration. A night of thicker darkness quickly overspread the intellectual world : and in the moral, followed a revolution still more deplorable. To common sense and piety, succeeded dreams and fables, visionary legends and ridiculous penances.
The clergy, now utter strangers to all good learning, instead of guiding
a rude and vicious laity by the precepts of the gospel, which they no longer read, amused them with forged miracles, or overawed them by the ghostly terrors of demons, spectres and chimeras. This was more easy, and more profitable too, than the painful example of a virtuous life. The profound depravity that was spread through all conditions of men, ecclesiastic and secular, appears in nothing more plain than in the reasons assigned for calling several councils about this time, In one, new canons were to be made, forbidding adultery, incest, and the practice of pagan
superstitions : as if these things had not till then been Giannone, accounted criminal. In another, it was found necesIstor. di Napoli,
sary to declare, that a number of angels worshipped universally under certain names were altogether unknown: and that the Church could not warrant the particular invocation of more than three. A third, which the empress Irene had summoned for the reformation of discipline, ordained, that no prelate should thenceforth convert his episcopal palace into a common inn; nor in consideration only of any sum of money given him by one man, curse and excommunicate another. A fourth and fifth censure the indecency of avowed concubinage : and enjoin that friers and nuns should no longer converse or live promiscuously in the same convent.
The see of Rome, which should have been a pattern to the rest, was of all Christian Churches the most licentious *; and the pontifical chair often filled with
* The book intitled, The Tax of the Roman Chancery, published first at Romc, in the year 1514, furnishes us with a flagrant instance of this in the following passage, which I choose not to translate. “ Absolutio a lapsu carnis super quocunque actu libidinoso com“misso per Clericum, etiam cum monialibus, intra et extra septa “ monasterii; aut cum consanguincis vel affinibus, aut filia spiritu“ ali, aut quibusdam aliis, sive ab unoquoque de per se, sive simul “ ab omnibus absolutio petatur, cum dispensatione ad ordines et be“ neficia, cum inhibitione, tur. 36, duc. 3. Si vero cum illis petatur “ absolutio etiam a crimine commisso contra naturam, vel cum “ brutis, cum dispensatione, ut supra, et cum inhibitione, tur. 90, “ duc. 12, carl. 16. Si vero petatur tantum absolutio a crimine contra
naturam, vel cum brutis, cum dispensatione et inhibitiove, turon. “36, duc.9. Absolutio pro Moniali,quae se permisitpluries cognosci men, who, instead of adorning their sacred character, made human nature itself detestable: a truth by many catholic writers acknowledged and lamented. Several popes were by their successors excommunicated, their acts abrogated, and the sacraments administered by them pronounced invalid. No less Idem, l. 7. than six were expelled by others who usurped their seat; two were assassinated : and the infamous Theodora, infamous even in that age, by her credit in the holy city obtained the triple crown for the most avowed of her gallants, who assumed the name of John the tenth. Another of the same name was John XI. called to govern the Christian world at the age of twenty one; a bastard son of Pope Sergius who died eighteen years before. If such were the men who arrogated to themselves titles and attributes peculiar to the Deity, can we wonder at the greatest enormities among lay-men? Their stupidity kept pace with the dissolution of their manners, which was extreme; they still preserved, for the very clergy we have been speaking of, a reverence they no longer had for their God. The most abandoned among them, miscreants, familiar with crimes that humanity startles at, would yet, at the hazard of their lives, defend the immunities of a church, a consecrated utensil, or a donation made to a convent. In such times as those, it were in vain to look for useful learning and philosophy. Not only the light of science, but of reason, seems to have been well-nigh extinguished.
It was not till lato, after the sack of Constantinople An. 1453. by the Turks, that the writings of Aristotle began to be universally known and studied. They were then, by certain fugitive Greeks, who had escaped the fury of the Ottoman arms, brought away and dispersed through the Western parts of Europe. Some particular treatises of his, it is true, had been long
“intra et extra septa monasterii,cum rehabilitate ad dignitates illius " ordinis, etiam abbatialem, turon. 36, duc. 9.” In the edition of Bois-le-duc, there is"&bsolutiopro eo,quiinterficit patrem, matrem, "sororem, uxorem. ...8.5, vel 7:" Vide Bayle,'art. BANCK.
made public; but chiefly in translations from the Arabic, done by men who, far from rendering faithfully the author's sense, hardly understood his language. These however gave birth to the scholastic philosophy; that motley offspring of error and ingenuity: and to speak freely, the features of both parents were all along equally blended in the complexion of the daughter. To trace at length the rise, progress, and variations of this philosophy, would be an undertaking not only curious but instructive, as it would unfold to us all the mazes in which the force, the subtlety, the extravagance of human wit can lose themselves : till not only profane learning but divinity itself was at last, by the refined frenzy of those who taught both, subtilized into mere notion and air.
Their philosophy was neither that of Aristotle entirely, nor altogether differing from his. Whatever opinions the first founders of it had been able to draw, from Boëtius his Latin commentator, or from the wretched translations above-mentioned, these they methodized and illustrated, each according to his several talent, and the genius of the age he lived in. But this, instead of producing one regular and consistent body of science, even from wrong prin. ciples, ended in a monster, made up of parts every where mishapen and dissimilar. Add to this, that they left natural knowledge wholly uncultivated; to hunt after occult qualities, abstract notions, and questions of impertinent curiosity, by which they rendered the very logic their labours chiefly turned upon intricate, useless, unintelligible.
Alstedius, in his chronology of the schoolmen, has
divided their history into three principal periods or An. 1050. successions: the first beginning with Lanfranc, arch
bishop of Canterbury, who flourished about the middle
of the eleventh century; and ending with Albert the An. 1320. Great two ages later : the second, that commences
from him, determining in Durand; as the third and Tom. II. ' last ended in Luther, at the reformation. Morhoff, p. 73, etc. however, strenuously contends, that Rucelinus, an