« VorigeDoorgaan »
will agree with us that nothing further need be advanced upon the subject of the racking of Ann Askewe.
(4) The animus of Mr. Blunt will be yet more apparent in the passage which we next adduce. “Whether Anne Askew was really guilty of the treason alleged against her, it is impossible to say certainly. By dragging in her religious opinions, which were Anabaptist, she diverted in some degree the charge of treason, and acquired a claim to the veneration of those who then and afterwards craned up all the misbelievers of this period to the dignity of witnesses for the truth.” (p. 540.) In the majority of cases, a sneer and an insinuation are alike incapable of an answer. The present instance, however, appears to be an exception to the general rule. We might, indeed, allege the absence of all credible evidence of the truth of Mr. Blunt's allegation, that the charge of treason was, even by her enemies, preferred against Ann Askewe; or we might appeal to the fact, that the King's pardon was offered to her just before the flames were kindled, if only she would recant.* It so happens, however, that we are under no necessity of vindicating the innocence of Ann Askewe.t We have evidence on our side to which Mr. Blunt himself will be unable to demur. In the very next page to that in which the quotation we have just made occurs, Mr. Blunt, with express reference to those very persons, "the so-called martyrs," as a class, of whom John Lambert and Ann Askewe are adduced as specimens, thus effectually disposes of his own imputation :-" All that can be said in their favour is that they were among the best of their party, and that wrong-headed as they were, nothing which we should now call criminal was alleged against them.” It follows, then, either that treason has, in Mr. Blunt's estimation, ceased to be a crime, or that no such charge was alleged against Ann Askewe.
(5) One more misrepresentation remains to be exposed. Mr. Blunt, in the passage last quoted, asserts as an undoubted fact,
* Ann Askewe's reply to this offer does not sound like that of a traitor. "I came not hither," said the martyr, “to deny my Lord and Master." (An. derson's Annals, p. 394.) Mr. Blunt's attempt to brand with infamy as a traitor one whom he has failed to convict as a heretic, reminds us of the policy of his chosen hero Wolsey, who, when unable, on the ground of heresy, to effect the destruction of Harman, the merchant who imported Tyndale's New Testaments into England, ob. tained letters from Henry VIII. to apprehend him as a traitor.
Vol. 68.-No. 378.
+ It is worthy of observation, that the Jesuit Parsons again fails Mr. Blunt in his hour of need. His words are as follows:-"And the truth is, that the principall occasion against her (Queen Catherine Parr) was for here. ticall books found in her closett, brought or sent her in by Anne Askue, ... and by that occasion was the said Anne Askue putt to the racke, for the discovery of the truth.”-(Examen, quoted by Mr. Nichols, p. 308.)
410 History of the Reformation in England. [JUNE that the religious opinions of Ann Askewe were those of the Anabaptists. We must here do Mr. Blunt the justice to acknowledge, that for the origin of this charge he is no longer indebted to the malice of Ann Askewe's personal accusers, to the slanderous inventions of the Jesuit Parsons, or to the fertility of his own imagination. No less an authority than Dean Hook has hazarded the surmise, which Mr. Blunt has converted into a positive assertion, that Ann Askewe was an Anabaptist. But unless Mr. Blunt bas some other foundation on which to support his statement, he has exercised, in our opinion, more than his ordinary share of discretion, in withholding the authority on which he advanced it. The process by which Dean Hook arrives at the conclusion announced in the words, “ she was probably an Anabaptist,"* appears to us to be as follows. Ann Askewe, he tells us, in the course of his narrative, “considered herself divorced.” He then in a note informs his readers, on the authority of Melancthon, that the Anabaptists held that marriage ceased to be valid, if the husband or wife of the person holding Anabaptist views refused to conform to the creed of the other. On this scanty foundation, regarded in connection with the fact that Ann Askewe and her husband did hold different views on the subject of religion, Dean Hook seems to have arrived at the somewhat hasty conclusion we have already mentioned. If we might be permitted to indulge in a surmise on this subject, it would be, that the only ground upon which the Dean's statement rests, that Ann Askewe “considered herself divorced,” is the fact to which allusion has already been made, and to which the Dean refers in immediate connection with his statement, viz., that "she assumed her maiden, which has become her historical, name.”+ If this surmise be correct, we shall not, we believe, misrepresent the chain of reasoning by which Mr. Blunt's conclusion was attained, and on the strength of which it depends, that Ann Askewe's “religious opinions were Anabaptist,” if we represent it thus : Ann Kyme, alias Askewe, discarded her married name, and resumed her maiden name : therefore Ann Askewe considered herself divorced. But the Anabaptists deemed themselves divorced, when husband and wife held different religious opinions : therefore Ann Askewe was an Anabaptist. In the absence of any direct evidence upon this subject, we think that we may fairly regard this last statement of Mr. Blunt's as entitled to no higher consideration than those of which we have already disposed.
We now proceed to notice some of the rash and groundless assertions, the illogical inferences, and the uncharitable censures which abound in Mr. Blunt's chapter on “Early English
* “Lives of the Archbishops," N. S. ii. p. 63, note.
Bibles," and in those portions of his History of the Reformation which relate to the same subject. When it is his object to extol the learning, the piety, and the enlightenment of the middle ages, translations of Holy Scripture into the vernacular are, by an effort of Mr. Blunt's fertile imagination, marvellously created or multiplied, and the translators are represented as “God's large army of faithful servants." When, on the other hand, the more profound, the more extensive, and more successful labours of men like Wycliffe,* Tyndale, and Coverdale demand the notice of the historian, we are reminded of their “lawless political principles,” of their “false renderings," of the “strong prejudice” which they created “ against vernacular translations of the Scriptures;" and, as a climax to the whole, we are told of one “wilful omission” in Tyndale's version of the New Testament, which was "sufficient justification” for the suppression of the whole edition.t
We will examine in detail a few of Mr. Blunt's statements on this subject. “There still exist,” he writes, “ many vernacular gospels, psalters, and complete Bibles of dates ranging from the ninth to the sixteenth century.” (p. 503.) We venture to assert that not only to the world at large, but even, and in a yet higher degree, “ to those familiar with our manuscript treasures,” “these facts,” which it has been reserved for Mr. Blunt to disclose, will, if established, create an equal amount of interest and surprise. Unless, however, it be Mr. Blunt's good fortune either to possess that “representative portion” of these precious treasures which “ devouring time and fanatic ignorance have spared,” or to be able to indicate the place of its concealment, we fear that the high expectations which he may have excited within the breasts of his readers are doomed to be speedily and fatally disappointed. Let us follow our author, as he advances in his account. “The Venerable Bede,” he tells us, “ made a translation, the extent of which is not recorded.” Mr. Blunt adduces, in proof of this assertion, the well-known fact of Bede's translation of the single Gospel of St. John. “King Alfred,” Mr. Blunt continues, “is said to have translated the whole Bible.” We are aware that Spelman was of opinion that King Alfred translated a considerable
* Our readers will do well to con. trast, with the abuse heaped upon Wycliffe by Mr. J. H. Blunt, the fol. lowing just and discriminating esti. mate of his labours from the pen of the late Margaret Professor :-“The work whereby Wycliffe hastened the Reformation, was his translation of the Scriptures into his own mother tongue.
Apart from this, his labours, valuable as they were, might not be thought of unmixed value. Herein he had the sure promise of God pledged to his success, 'For as the rain cometh down,'" &c. &c. (Sketch of the Reformation, p. 93.)
+ See pages 501, 506, and 514.
portion of the Holy Scriptures into Saxon, but we believe that, beyond the circulation of the Ten Commandments prefixed to his Laws, and of some of the other Injunctions of the Mosaic Law, nothing whatever is positively known on this subject. “It is said,” Mr. Westcott observes, “that shortly before his death (A.D. 901), King Alfred had been engaged in a translation of the Book of Psalms."* The book described by Mr. Blunt as “the magnificent English copy of the Gospels, called the Durham Book,” might, we believe, more accurately be described as a copy of the Latin Gospels, written about the end of the seventh century, containing an interlinear Anglo-Saxon gloss of a later date, probably of the tenth century. Some of the early books of the Old Testament were translated about the same time. To those, however, who are at all acquainted with the history of early translations of the Scriptures, “it is scarcely necessary to add," as Mr. Westcott has observed, “ that Sir T. More's statement” (on which Mr. Blunt appears to rely)," that the Holy Bible was translated [into English] long before Wycliffe's days, is not supported by the least independent evidence.”+
Instead of exposing any further, in detail, the utter futility of Mr. Blunt's attempt to support his assertion respecting the abundance of early vernacular translations of large portions of the Scriptures, and even of “complete Bibles of dates ranging from the ninth to the sixteenth century," we prefer to adduce a passage from the Preface to Forshall and Madden's Edition of the Translation of Wycliffe and his Followers, which, in the absence of other evidence than that which Mr. Blunt has adduced, will, we conceive, be deemed conclusive of the question at issue. “Down to the year 1360, the Psalter appears to be the only book of Scripture which had been entirely rendered into English. Within less than twenty-five years from this date, a prose version of the whole Bible, including as well the Apocryphal as the Canonical books, had been completed, and was in circulation among the people. For this invaluable gift England is indebted to John Wycliffe.” |
Not content, however, with exhibiting the monks of the middle ages as constituting something like a vast and wellorganized Bible Society, “accomplishing by head, hands, and heart, what is now chiefly done by paid workmen and machinery,” Mr. Blunt, in his anxiety to make the contrast more complete between these laborious and learned divines, and the ignorant and fanatic “ Puritans," who arrested the free march of thought and religion, in alınost one and the same breath up
See Westcott's General View of the History of the English Bible, p. 7. + Ibid., p. 19.
I Vol. i. p. 6. 1850.
braids the latter with their ill-directed zeal in the production and circulation of new translations of the Scriptures, and lays to their charge the somewhat novel accusation of destroying those which bad been already produced. (p. 502.)
Had Mr. Blunt advanced this charge upon his own unsupported authority, we are free to confess that we should have been tempted to have done him the injustice of regarding it as one of those many misconceptions in which, as we have had frequent occasion to show, Mr. Blunt's imagination is singularly prolific. Our curiosity, however, was somewhat excited by finding that, in support of so serious an accusation as that of a " vast destruction of manuscripts by the Puritans," Mr. Blunt appeals to the authority of the Church historian Fuller, and in a foot-note supports, and even aggravates, the charge which he has made, by the following quotation from that quaint and sen. tentious author: “Yea many an ancient MS. Bible cut in pieces to cover filthy pamphlets." *
In vain we endeavoured to discover any allusion to the “Puritans," direct or indirect, either in the immediate context, or throughout the whole of the chapter in which these words occur; and we had almost abandoned our search in despair, when, on reconsideration of Fuller's witty illustration in support of his indictment, we were constrained to deplore the dulness of our own perception, and to tender, as we now do, to Mr. Blunt the only reparation in our power for the accusation which we were about to prefer against him. Fuller's words are these :-"Yea, which is worse, many an ancient Manuscript Bible cut in pieces to cover filthy pamphlets! So that a case of diamonds hath been made to keep dirt within it; yea, The Wise Men of Gotham,' bound up in The Wisdom of Solomon.'” Our readers will, doubtless, at once perceive (though we ourselves were so slow of discernment) how completely these words substantiate the charge which Mr. Blunt has preferred against the Puritans. That “the wisdom of Solomon," in whatever light it was regarded by the “Puritans,” might, in Mr. Blunt's estimation, fairly be considered as a part of the canonical Scriptures, we have no right to deny, after the many indications he has given to us of the Tridentine complexion of his theological views; whilst the only link wanting to make the chain of evidence complete, viz, that “The Wise Men of Gotham,” being confessedly“ a filthy pamphlet,” must of necessity have been circulated through the agency of the “Puritans," is one which, to an imagination so fertile as Mr. Blunt's, may be readily believed to have presented no appreciable difficulty.
* Church History, ii. 246, Ed. 1837.