« VorigeDoorgaan »
ture, and its subsequent adoption by Stowe gives it no greater authority.
The notices of Iobin Ilood by Dr. Fuller are not a whit more satisfactory. Speaking of the outlaw's birthplace he says, as if in doubt, “Robert IIood, (if not by birth,) by his chief abode, was this country-man (Nottinghamshire)."* “ Iis principal residence was in Sherwood Forest, in this county, though he had another haunt (he is no fox that hath but one hole) near the sea in the North Riding of Yorkshire, where Robin Hood's bay still retaineth his name; not that he was any pirate, but a land thief, who retreated to these unsuspected parts for his security.”+ The doctor adds that Robin played his pranks in the reign of Richard I., or about the year 1200, but upon what authority this statement is made does not appear.
Dr. Stutely, Ritson, Grafton, Leland, the "Sloane MS.," and the “Harleian MS.” attempt to fix the true epoch of Robin Hood by means of a pedigree (of which more will be said presently) which brings him down to the time of Richard I. The “Sloane MS.” asserts that he was born about the
Charlton says that he was living in the days of the abbot, Richard, and Peter, his successor; that is between the years 1176 and 1211.6 Warner refers his “existence to better daies, first Richard's daies;"'S and the great legal luminary, Sir Edward Coke, says authoritatively, that Robin Hood lived in the reign of King Richard I.| In the “IIistory of George-a-Green, pindar of the town of Wakefield,” published anonymously in London in 1706, the date of the hero's exploits is laid in the reign of Richard I. Mr. Ritson, following the foregoing authorities, has come to the same conclusion as regards Robin Hood, asserting that he was born in the reign of King Henry II., and about the year of Christ 1160, and that he died on the 18th of November, 1247, being the thirty-first year of King Henry III., and (if the date assigned to his birth be correct) about the eightyseventh of his age.' There is a great show of circumstan
* Worthies of England, p. 320. † Nid, 1 listory of Whitby, York, 1779. 4to. $ Albion's England, p. 132.
| Institutes, p. 197. Abridgement of the Life of Robin Hood, passim.
tiality about this which is thus controverted by Mr. Wright, who, however, appears inclined to doubt altogether the existence of Robin Ilood.
Mr. Wright thinks that the compiler of the legend of the “Lytell Geste” obtained his materials for each fytte from the ballads previously in existence. He then proceeds to dispose of the mention of King Edward I. in the ballad, by suggesting that it is the first instance of the name of a king occurring in these ballads, and that it was nothing more than what was customary, viz., to insert in the ballad, when sung at the Robin Hood festivals, the name of the king who was reigning at the time. He doubts the authenticity of the passages quoted from the Scotichronicon, and he concludes thus : “We have now given an abstract of all the remains of the cycle of Robin Hood in its older form. We have seen that it consisted of the common, popular stories of outlaw warfare in the green woods, as they were sung at the festivals and rejoicings of the peasantry, with whom, at the time the songs were made, such tales would naturally have been favorites. As far as we can judge, the different incidents of the cycle were not numerous, and it is probable that the compiler of the “Geste” introduced into it all he knew. This poem, indeed, seems, at the period of its publication, to have been the grand representative of the cycle, and to have contained, at least, most of that which was commonly sung about the roads and streets. The foregoing slight review of the material of the cycle, and of the nature of the stories which formed it, brings us at once to conclude that the character and popular history of Robin Hood was formed upon the ballads, and not the ballads upon the person. There arises, however, thereupon, an interesting question-who was the person that in these ballads bears the name or title of Robin Hood ?-a question, at the same time, which certainly does not admit of a very easy solution.*”
The solution, in our opinion, is not so difficult as Mr. Wright thinks. We have already given our reasons for believing that Robin Hood is a real personage, and need not
*Essay on the Literature, Superstitions, and Iristory of England in the Middle
recapitulate them. We shall confine ourselves to the question of the era in which he lived, and, having noticed the principal authorities for the theory that he was cotemporary with Richard I., we shall pass in review those who favor the Edwardian theory.
First of all, there is the “ Lytell Geste” itself, one of the most ancient of English ballads. It mentions Edward by name; and that it was Edward I. who was meant, is evident from the circumstance that Robin Hood is alluded to in the old Latin poem before quotel, bearing date A. D. 1304. Edward I. died in 1307. Then there is the evidence of Fordun and Bower, before commented on. Further, there is the “Statute of Winchester," enacted in the year 1285, providing for the suppression of robbers and vagrants, called promiscuously Roberds-men in the statute ; which term is thus explained by Lord Coke: “He (Robin Hood) lived by robbery, burning of houses, felony, waste and spoil, and principally by and with vagabonds, idle wanderers, nightwalkers, and drawlatches, and, albeit, he lived in Yorkshire; yet men of his quality took their denomination of him, and were called Roberdsmen throughout all England.” The statute of 5 Edw. III., c. 14 (passed in 1332), recites the “Statute of Winchester,” and provides for the arrest of these same Roberdsmen. These acts of Parliament were further confirmed and amended by the act 7 Richard II., c.5 (A. D. 1382), in which the term Roberdsmen is used. Why is it, if Robin Hood lived A. D. 1190, no statute against his followers and imitators was enacted until the year 1285 ? Why was it enacted then? For the following reasons, very ably set forth by Thierry, Mr. Spencer T. Hall, and Mr. Gutch :
Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, had been the leader of a great national movement in favor of the emancipation of the middle and lower classes from the tyranny and rapacity of the king and his Norman nobility. He had gained a decisive victory at Lewes, on the 14th May, 1264, wherein Henry III., his sons, Edward and Richard, and his grandson Henry, were made prisoners. The result of this battle was the convocation of a parliament to which knights of the
shires, citizens and burgesses were summoned, and there the foundation of representative government was laid in England. But seven months after the meeting of this great assembly, Prince Edward (afterwards Edward I.) made his escape, through the treachery of the earl of Gloucester, and, hastily collecting the royal forces, fell upon Leicester, by surprise, with greatly superior numbers, and annihilated the hopes of the nation for a time, by exterminating De Montfort and his supporters at the remorselessly sanguinary battle of Evesham, on the 6th August, 1265. Henry III., a feeble-minded, unmanly and vindictive man, gratified his vengeance on the people. We continue the narrative in the eloquent language of Thierry :
“On the death of De Montfort the old patristic superstitition of the English was awakened in his favor. Being an enemy to the foreigners and, as a contemporary writer expresses it, a defender of the rights of lawful property, he was honored with the same title as the popular gratitude had conferred upon those who, in the time of the Norman invasion, had devoted themselves in defence of the country. Simon, like them, reccived the appellation of defender of the natives. To call him traitor and rebel was declared to be a falsehood; and he was proclaimed a saint and martyr as much as Thomas à Becket himself.'*
If, since the fatal field of Hastings, no day had ever been so disastrous to English freedom as that of Evesham,-if the great cause of constitutional establishment had its Harold in De Montfort, it had also its Hereward—yet more persevering and invincible than him of old-in Robin Hood, one of the disinherited and banished of that melancholy period. Bower (before quoted) tells us that in the year after that in which the battle of Evesham was fought, “Robin Hode wandered among the woody clumps and thickets." The yeomanry, with their bows, in those days, formed the main strength of the combatants on foot in an army, and they had cordially joined De Montfort. Robin Hood, no doubt, had drawn his formidable weapon with good effect at Lewes and at Evesham. On the defeat and death of their great leader, the insurgents fled to the mountains, forests, and morasses, and carried on predatory warfare against the
* li toire de la Conquête de l' Angleterre par le: Normands, vol. iji, pp. 234-250.
barons. It took Prince Edward two years to suppress these insurrections. Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey were ravaged by banditti under the command of Adam Gordon, the most athletic man of the age. They were surprised in a wood near Alton. The prince engaged Gordon in single combat, wounded and unhorsed him; and then, in reward of his valor, granted him his pardon. But the stronghold of these outlaws was in the country north of the Trent, where there was vast tracts of forest, abounding in deer and other animals which afforded nourishment as well as sport. And here flourished such popular heroes as Robin Hood and Little John, Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudesly, who lived there in defiance of the barbarous forest laws of their Norman oppressors. Familiar with every thicket, copse, and woodland way, they easily eluded pursuit, and, moreover, found staunch friends in the poor, whom they invariably befriended, and who gave them timely notice of the approach of an enemy, or of a wealthy traveller whom they might plunder. No wonder, then, that when Prince Edward went in pursuit of them, he roamed the forest for months without finding them.
"Half a yere dwelled our comly kynge
In Notyngham, and well more,
In what countre that he were ;
By halke and eke by hyll,
And welt them at hys wyll." Mr. Jabez Allies, a Worcestershire antiquary,* claims Loxley in Staffordshire, or Loxley in Warwickshire, as the birthplace of Robin Hood, and the forest of Feckenham, in Worcestershire, as the scene of his early exploits ; and thinks that it was not until after the battle of Evesham that he removed to Sherwood forest, in Nottinghamshire, and to Barnesdale forest, in Yorkshire. He is also of opinion that Robin Hood was at the battle of Evesham, and that he is the same personage as “The Devil's Huntsman,” or “Harry
* Author of a tract On the Jovial Hunter of Bronosgrove, Herne the Ilunter and Robin Hood. London, 1845.