Bede Criticism - Essay

Rev. G. F. Browne (essay date 1887)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: G. F. Browne, "The Homilies of Bede," in The Venerable Bede, E. & J. B. Young & Co., 1887, pp. 127-47.

[In the following excerpt, Browne examines the homilies of Bede, finding them devoid of rhetorical devices, helpful on problematic Latin translations of biblical passages, but characterized by "far-fetched figurative interpretation."]

The Homilies of Bede which have been preserved are in one sense disappointing; they throw little or no light upon the state of society in his time. There is no approach to anything at all resembling the personal interest of which the sermons of Chrysostom are so full. There is no rebuking of notorious...

(The entire section is 5802 words.)

Bertram Colgrave (essay date 1932)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Bertram Colgrave, "Bede's Miracle Stories," in Bede: His Life, Times, and Writings, edited by A. Hamilton Thompson, 1935. Reprint by Russell & Russell, 1966, pp. 201-29.

[In the following excerpt, Colgrave summarizes many of Bede's miracle stories, contending that Bede did not write of miracles as a strict historian, but to satisfy the demand of popular taste, to venerate saints, to inspire, and to tell a vivid story.]

It probably comes as a shock to the reader unacquainted with medieval literature who approaches Bede's Ecclesiastical History for the first time, to find that a miracle occurs on almost every page. What reliance can be...

(The entire section is 12957 words.)

R. W. Chambers (lecture date 1936)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: R. W. Chambers, "Bede," in Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. XXII, 1936, pp. 129-56.

[In the following lecture, Chambers presents Bede in historical context and asserts that, in the Ecclesiastical History, Bede captures two traditions: loyalty to Christ and loyalty to the chief.]

Ours is an age in which those who delight in such things delight to take a 'master mind' and to throw him down from his pedestal. My friend and predecessor in this series, Tenney Frank, speaking of Cicero as a master mind, had to vindicate against cavillers his hero's claim to that title. Indeed, said Professor Frank, 'the first poet of Greece is perhaps the only human...

(The entire section is 9805 words.)

F. M. Stenton (essay date 1943)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: F. M. Stenton, "Learning and Literature in Early England," in Anglo-Saxon England, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1943, pp. 177-200.

[In the following excerpt, Stenton asserts that Bede's greatest talent was his ability to coordinate fragments of information from assorted sources.]

Among the men who brought Northumbrian learning out of isolation, Benedict Biscop, the founder of Wearmouth and Jarrow, deserves to be regarded as the leader. In the history of his time he is overshadowed by his younger contemporary Wilfrid. But Wilfrid's contribution to the enlightenment of the north was made in the spheres of ecclesiastical observance and regulation; he was too...

(The entire section is 1398 words.)

Charles W. Jones (essay date 1946)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Charles W. Jones, "Bede as Early Medieval Historian," in Bede, the Schools and the Computus, edited by Wesley M. Stevens, Variorum, 1994, pp. 2636.

[In the following excerpt originally published in 1946, Jones provides background and argues that Bede's historiography, which links chronography with hagiography, was typical of historians of his time.]

Although many believe, considering his archetypal position in English thought and letters, that Bede's contributions to medieval and modern thought have been unduly neglected, his historiography has been scrutinized by two outstanding scholars, Charles Plummer1 and Wilhelm Levison.2 I shall not...

(The entire section is 5753 words.)

Eleanor Shipley Duckett (essay date 1947)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Eleanor Shipley Duckett, "Bede of Jarrow," in Anglo-Saxon Saints and Scholars, The Macmillan Company, 1947, pp. 217-338.

[In the following excerpt, Duckett examines several textbooks written by Bede on grammar, writing, and chronology, and asserts they were composed before he was a mature writer.]

The bishop who ordained Bede deacon was that John of Beverley who was just then causing Wilfrid anguish of spirit in holding the see of Hexham; the same John advanced him to the priesthood in his thirtieth year.1

Shortly after he entered the diaconate we may imagine him as not only teaching in Jarrow but also as writing manuals that would aid...

(The entire section is 3452 words.)

R. W. Southern (essay date 1964)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: R. W. Southern, "Bede, the Monk of Jarrow," in The Listener, Vol. 71, No. 1820, February 13, 1964, pp. 267-69.

[In the following excerpt, Southern examines the significance and impact of Jarrow, the site of Bede's monastery, on Bede 's works.]

One of the first things to recognize about the Middle Ages is that, far from being a period of substantial uniformity in which men thought and fought, prayed and expressed their beliefs in much the same way from beginning to end, the diversity of experience is immense.

All cats are grey in the dark and it was the darkness of the Middle Ages, now largely dispelled, which encouraged the belief that all men...

(The entire section is 2915 words.)

J. Campbell (essay date 1966)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: J. Campbell, "Bede," in Latin Historians, edited by T. A. Dorey, Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, 1966, pp. 159-90.

[In the following excerpt, Campbell emphasizes that Bede's main intention was to promote Christianity through his writings. He also considers Bede's sources and his occasional discrepancies on dates.]

Bede was not only, or even primarily, a historian. He finished the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum only three or four years before his death in 735. He may have known that it would be the last of his major works, for he ended it with an almost elegiac sketch of his own life and a list of his writings. These were numerous....

(The entire section is 10615 words.)

Leo Sherley-Price (essay date 1968)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Leo Sherley-Price, in an introduction to Bede: A History of the English Church and People, translated by Leo Sherley-Price, revised edition, Penguin Books, 1968, pp. 15-32.

[In the following excerpt, Sherley-Price explores the background of Bede's historical writings and describes his chief merits as a historian.]

The centuries on which Bede concentrates are a crucial and formative period in our island history, during which the future shape and pattern of the English Church and nation were beginning to emerge. Once the shield of Roman protection was withdrawn, the Celtic peoples of Britain were steadily forced to yield ground before the ever increasing pressure...

(The entire section is 3105 words.)

James Campbell (essay date 1968)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: James Campbell, in an introduction to Bede: The Ecclesiastical History of the English People and Other Selections, edited by James Campbell, Washington Square Press, Inc., 1968, pp. vii-xxxiv.

[In the following excerpt, Campbell provides an overview of Bede's work and concludes that, at least in part, Bede transmuted the past into his own creation which reflected mainly his own values.]

Bede was born about 673 and died in 735. He entered the monastery of Monkwearmouth (Wearmouth), in Northumbria, at the age of seven, and the remainder of his life was spent there and in the sister monastery of Jarrow.1 Today he is famous chiefly as the historian of...

(The entire section is 9783 words.)

Peter Hunter Blair (lecture date 1969)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Peter Hunter Blair, "The Historical Writings of Bede," in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, edited by M. Lapidge and P. Hunter Blair, Variorum Reprints, 1984, pp. 197-221.

[In the following lecture originally presented in 1969, Blair defends Bede's historical writings against some modern-day critics who impugn the accuracy of his chronologies, accuse him of prejudice against the Celtic and Welsh churches, and suggest that he was fooled by forgeries and suppressed evidence.]

Bede was born c. 671, about 260 years after the end of the Roman occupation of Britain, and about 225 years after what came to be regarded as the year in which the English first came to Britain. He...

(The entire section is 7722 words.)

Bertram Colgrave (essay date 1969)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Bertram Colgrave, "Historical Introduction," in Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, edited by Bertram Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors, 1969. Reprint by Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1992, pp. xvii-xxxviii.

[In the following excerpt written in 1969, Colgrave discusses the historical sources for Bede's Ecclesiastical History.]

As Professor Levison has pointed out,1 when Bede was writing his History, saints' Lives were being written everywhere, but other forms of historical writing were in decay. Bede was familiar with two histories, both of which may have served him as models, namely Rufinus' translation and adaptation of...

(The entire section is 3607 words.)

Gerald Bonner (essay date 1973)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Gerald Bonner, "Bede and Medieval Civilization," in Anglo-Saxon England, Vol. 2, 1973, pp. 71-90. [In the following essay, Bonner discusses the limitations of Bede's library and the subsequent ramifications for his writings.]

The mortal remains of the Venerable Bede rest today in the cathedral church of Christ and Blessed Mary the Virgin, Durham. They were brought there in the early eleventh century by one Ælfred Westou, priest and sacrist of Durham and an enthusiastic amateur of that characteristically medieval form of devotion expressed in the acquisition, by fair means or foul, of the relics of the saints to the greater glory of God. The removal of Bede's remains to Durham,...

(The entire section is 10145 words.)

Joel T. Rosenthal (essay date 1975)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Joel T. Rosenthal, "Bede's Use of Miracles in Ecclesiastical History," in Traditio, Vol. XXXI, 1975, pp. 328-35.

[In the following essay, Rosenthal examines Bede's descriptions of miracles … in the Ecclesiastical History, contending that Bede used them carefully and for specific purposes, often to honor particular individuals.]

Bede believed in miracles. They were basic to him, both as a practicing Christian and as a working historian. Without accepting this we can understand him neither as a man of the seventh and eighth centuries nor as the author who carefully constructed the Ecclesiastical History.

One of Bede's...

(The entire section is 4215 words.)

Benedicta Ward (essay date 1976)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Benedicta Ward, "Miracles and History: A Reconsideration of the Miracle Stories Used by Bede," in Famulus Christi: Essays in Commemoration of the Thirteenth Centenary of the Birth of the Venerable Bede, edited by Gerald Bonner, SPCK, 1976, pp. 70-6.

[In the following essay, Ward addresses Bede's miracle stories and argues that, for Bede, the emphasis was on the significance of the miracle, not the miracle itself]

There is still a question mark against that part of the material in Bede's writings that concerns miracles. This has caused them to be either ignored by historians or treated to a cautious defusing so that they become safe to handle; at best they are...

(The entire section is 3138 words.)

J. N. Stephens (essay date 1977)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: J. N. Stephens, "Bede's Ecclesiastical History," in History: The Journal of the Historical Association, n. s. Vol. 62, No. 204, February, 1977, pp. 1-14.

[In the following essay, Stephens explains that Bede differed from other historians in that the proper focus of the Ecclesiastical History is the English people, for it was Bede's intent to provide them with a new and fuller history.]

Bede called his History 'The Ecclesiastical History of the English people' (Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum.) It is usually said to be a history of the church. According to Levison, Bede takes 'the history of the English Church as a united...

(The entire section is 7476 words.)

George Hardin Brown (essay date 1987)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: George Hardin Brown, "Homilies, Hagiography, Poems, Letters," in Bede the Venerable, Twayne Publishers, 1987, pp. 62-80.

[In the following excerpt, Brown examines stylistic differences among the four different genres in which Bede composed: homilies, hagiography, poems, and letters.]

These popular medieval genres, once dismissed as dull or derivative, have peculiar qualities that have elicited a good deal of interest and study in recent years. But, despite Bede's important contributions and fame in each of these categories, his own creations have received little theological, historical, or literary attention. Bede's writing was often praised in his age and is...

(The entire section is 10925 words.)