Page:Henry VIII and the English Monasteries.djvu/28

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xxii
Introduction

we still possess, very little information can be gleaned about the interior and domestic life of the inmates. The reason for this is obvious. To the chronicler, as he wrote his volume in the cloister of his monastery, the daily course of the monastic life was so even, uneventful and well known, that it must have appeared useless and unnecessary to enter any description of it in his pages. The saying, "Happy is the nation that has no history," applies to monasteries. Troubles, difficulties, quarrels and even scandals find a place on the parchment record of an abbey or convent, while the days and years of peaceful unobtrusive labour would pass unnoticed by the monastic scribe.




In one of his suggestive lectures Mr. Ruskin bids his hearers note well the dates A.D. 421 and A.D. 481, for they are the years of the beginning of Venetian power and of the crowning of Clovis: "Not for dark Rialto's dukedom nor for fair France's kingdom only," he adds, "are these two years to be remembered of all others in the wild fifth century, but because they are also the birth years of a great lady, and a greater lord of all future Christendom, St. Genevieve and St. Benedict."[1] If St. Benedict could claim any country as his own it is England. There is no need to dwell here on the evangelisation of our land, on the messengers he sent hence to Germany and to the North to preach the gospel, on the schools in which he gathered his disciples, and whence issued the revival of letters in the darkest days of the Middle Ages, on the slow patient labour by which his sons reclaimed the soil, nor on the men through whom our very polity and law seem to have gained their temper and moderation from his spirit of discretion. All this is acknowledged though so easily forgotten. All was done so quietly, so orderly, so naturally, that a world which has entered on the fruits of

  1. Our fathers have told us, ii. p. 42.