Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/102

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Bede
Bede
98

Beddome died at Bourton, the scene of his lifelong labours, on 3 Sept. 1795, aged 78 years. His personal character was marked by great urbanity and courtesy. To the sick and the poor he was exceedingly generous and charitable.

[Miller's Singers and Songs of the Church, 2nd ed. 1869; and Memoir prefixed to Sermons, 1835.]

W. B. L.

BEDE, or more accurately BÆDA (673–735), was born in the district which was the next year given for the foundation of the monastery of St. Peter's, at Wearmouth, in what is now the county of Durham. The exact date of his birth has been disputed. It depends on the short account which he gives of himself at the end of the 'Historia Ecclesiastica.' He brings that work down to 731—for the notice of the defeat of the Saracens in the following year is probably an insertion made later, either by himself or by some other hand—and he says that he had then reached his fifty-ninth year. Mabillon (Acta SS. O. B. iii. 505) is therefore probably right in fixing his birth in 673. Some, however (Pagi, Critic. in Ann. Baron. p. 141, followed by Stevenson), place it in 674, and others (Gehle, Disput. Hist. Theol. and Mon. Hist. Brit.) in 672. Besides the short account which Bæda gives of himself, and what we can glean from his writings and from incidental notices of him by others, we have no trustworthy materials for his life until we come to his last hours; for the two anonymous biographies of him (H. E. ed. Smith, App., and Mabillon, sæc. iii. 501) are one of the eleventh and the other of the twelfth century.

Early deprived, as it seems, of his parents, Bæda, when seven years old, was placed by his relations under the charge of Benedict Biscop, the abbot of Wearmouth. Shortly before his birth a great ecclesiastical revival began in England. The marriage of Oswiu of Northumbria to Eanfled led to the triumph of the Roman over the Celtic church in the north, and Wilfrith, the champion of St. Peter, was made bishop. Archbishop Theodore began to reform the episcopate after the Roman model, and in a national synod held at Hertford in 673 put an end to the unsystematic practices of the Celtic church. English bishops were for the future to keep to their own dioceses, and not to wander about wherever they would, like the Celtic missionary bishops. The introduction of the Benedictine rule in place of the primitive monachism of the Celts was a movement of a like nature. In this work Benedict Biscop, the guardian of Bæda, took a leading part. When, in 674, he founded St. Peter's at Wearmouth, he sent for workmen from Gaul, who built his monastery after the Roman style. In 682 he founded the other home of Bæda, the monastery of St. Paul's at Jarrow. Foreign artificers filled the windows of his two great houses with glass. The pictured forms of saints and the scenes of sacred history adorned the walls of his churches. Above all, he provided his monks with a noble collection of books, which he deemed necessary for their instruction (Vit. Abb. 11). He fetched John, the archcantor of St. Peter's, from Rome, who taught them, and indeed all who came to learn, the ritual of the Roman church. And by his constant journeys abroad, Benedict brought his houses into the closest connection with the ecclesiastical life of the continent. At the same time there is evidence that there was no narrow spirit in the brotherhood which he formed, and that its relations with the Celtic church were not unfriendly (H. E. v. c. 21). Such, then, were the influences which were brought to bear on the youth of Bæda. They had a marked effect on his character and work.

When Ceolfrith was appointed to preside over the new foundation at Jarrow, Bæda seems to have gone with him. He can scarcely be said to have changed his home; for the two monasteries were in truth one, so close was the connection between them, and after the death of Benedict, Ceolfrith ruled over both alike (Vit. Abb. 15). We may venture to appropriate to the boyhood of Bæda a story told by one of his contemporaries (Hist. Abb. Gyrv. auct. anon. 14). A pestilence so thinned the brotherhood at Jarrow, that there was not one monk left who could read or answer the responses save Ceolfrith and a little boy whom he had brought up. So the abbot was forced to order that the services should be sung without responses, save at matins and vespers. For one week this went on, until the abbot could no longer bear the dreariness of it. After that he and the child laboured day by day through the whole services, singing each in his turn alone, until others learned to take their part.

In his nineteenth year Bæda was ordained deacon. The early age at which he was allowed to receive ordination implies that he was distinguished by holiness and ability. He entered the priesthood at the canonical age of thirty. In both cases he was presented by his abbot, Ceolfrith, and received his orders from the hands of Bishop John of Beverley (H. E. v. c. 24). A tradition that Bæda visited Rome was current in the time