missionary, in 630 or 633, and there was no church or bishop there till the time of Wilfrid, c. 700, it cannot claim to be older than his day. Whoever may be the originator of York school, it is at all events earlier than Archbishop Egbert (Ecgberht), to whom it has been credited by many writers (cf. Dict. Christian Biog.). But their authority is a life of Alcuin by a French monk, in a MS. said to have existed at Reims in 1617, but never seen since, a mere piece of hagiology, and certainly not contemporary. It makes a mystic monastic chain of Greek learning from Theodore to Bede, Bede to Egbert, Egbert to Alcuin, Alcuin to Hrabanus Maurus, the monks of St Gall and so on. It is flattering to insular pride, as it makes England the mother of all continental schools. But the chain breaks at the second link. Egbert was neither a pupil of Bede's, nor Alcuin's master. Nor was Egbert ever a monk, and Alcuin only became one late in life. Had Bede been Egbert's master, he could not have failed to mention it in the well-known letter he wrote to him on becoming archbishop, in which he addresses him, not as a master might have written to a pupil, but as a rather humble but lecturing friend. Moreover, Alcuin himself, in the poem on the bishops and saints of the church of York (Hist. Ch. York., Rolls ser. i. 390), written when schoolmaster at York, only says of Egbert that he was of royal blood, an illustrious ruler of the church and an admirable teacher (egregius doctor). He finds no space for more about him, because his “muse hastens to the end of his song and the doings of his own master, who, after Egbert, received the insignia of the venerable see, Albert, called the wise.” On Albert's merits, Alcuin descants in many verses. Nearly related to Egbert, Albert “was sent to the Minster to school in his boyish years and became a priest quite young, and by Egbert was made advocate of the clergy and preferred as master in the city of York.” This phrase exactly describes the duties of the later chancellor of the Minster, who was the chief lawyer of the college of canons and also head of the school; while it shows that the school was the school, not only of the church, but of the city, of the laity as well as of the clergy. Albert taught grammar, rhetoric, law, singing, playing on the flute and lyre, natural history and the church calendar: above all, theology. There were boarders. For “whatever youths he saw of eminent intelligence, these he joined to himself, taught, fed and loved, and so he had many pupils, advanced in various arts.” Albert travelled abroad, went to Rome and was received “as the prince of doctors, and kings and princes invited him to irrigate their lands with learning.” But he preferred to return home. Even when he became archbishop, he still continued to teach. Two years before his death he retired, and, of his two chief pupils, Eanbald succeeded him in the archbishopric. But “he gave the dearer treasures of his books to the other son, who was always close to his father's side, thirsting to drink the floods of learning.” To the one the rule of the church, its treasures and lands; to the other the school (studium), the chair, the books.” This other son was Alcuin himself. A catalogue of the books is given. Besides the “Fathers,” including Boethius and Cassiodorus, Popes Leo and Gregory, there were Aldhelm of Sherborne and Bede the wise. There were Pliny and Pompeius Trogus, Aristotle and Cicero (De oratore). Among poets, there were Virgil, Statius and Lucan. But of four lines full of the names of poets, these are the only ones whom the ordinary classical scholar has heard of. The rest were Christian poets, who versified various parts of the Bible; Juvencus (c. 330), Paulinus (353-431), Prosper of Aquitaine (379-431), Sedulius (c. 460), Venantius Fortunatus (535-600), Arator (c. 550). Among grammarians were Valerius Probus, Donatus, Priscian, Servius (the great Virgilian commentator). Phocas (who wrote a life of Virgil in verse), Comminianus (probably Commodianus), of the 5th century. There were “many other masters eminent in the schools, in art, in oratory, who have written many a volume of sound sense, but whose names it seemed too long to write in verse.” Alcuin himself wrote dialogues on grammar, rhetoric and dialectic. In the first, the speakers were an English boy of 15 and a Frank boy of 14; in the latter, Charlemagne and Alcuin himself. For Alcuin yielded to the temptation which his master, Albert, had resisted, and meeting Charlemagne, on a visit to Rome, accepted the headship of an itinerant school attached to his court, the so-called Palace School. Except for a short visit in 792-793, Alcuin deserted England for Frankland. But he continued to take an interest in the school of York, and in one of his poems expresses the hope that the youth of York will handle Virgil's bow and fill the Frisian ships with poems. When Eanbald II. was appointed archbishop of York in 796 Alcuin wrote to congratulate him, and recommended him to divide the school and have different masters for grammar, for song and for writing; and also to establish hospitals, which he calls by their Greek name (xenodochia), one of the many proofs that he had a tincture of Greek learning. The advice seems to have been taken, as in later times we find here, as elsewhere, the song school under the preceptor quite separate from the grammar school under the chancellor, and St Peter's hospital just outside the cathedral precinct, which was endowed by King Athelstan, and afterwards known as St Leonard's hospital. In another letter Alcuin sends one of his pupils to King Offa of Mercia to act as master in the school Offa was establishing, and expresses his pleasure at Offa's intention to study and make the light of wisdom, which was extinct in so many places, shine in his kingdom. Whether this refers to the establishment of a school at Lichfield, or elsewhere,
does not appear. It is to be noticed that Alcuin, all the time he was master at York and master of the so-called palace school of Charlemagne, was not a monk but a secular clerk. He always describes himself as Alcuin the levite, or deacon, until in his old age he retired to an abbacy by way of retiring pension. So too Augustine himself, though a monk, when he became a bishop and set up a school, had been advised by Pope Gregory to abandon the monastic seclusion and live with his clergy like an ordinary bishop.
The recognition of this fact is vital to an understanding of the history of schools in England and other modern countries. The history of medieval and modern schools has, thanks to the superior industry and research of the French and Germans, started with Charlemagne and Alcuin. Though the schools of France came straight from the Roman grammar and rhetoric schools, and the English schools, by new importation, direct from Italy, it has always been assumed that their origin was monastic and that monks were the chief educators. This is because Charlemagne, largely it would seem under Alcuin's influence, did make a distinct effort to convert the monasteries practically into colleges and public schools. How far he succeeded in this is very doubtful, but if the monasteries ever did become the seats of public schools, or if the monks did anything for general education, it was only during his reign. Save for that short period, alike in England and on the continent general education and public schools were the exclusive duty and privilege of the secular clergy from the days of Augustine to the days of Laud. The monks from first to last were never public schoolmasters or educators, they never acted as teachers, and the monasteries never kept schools, except for their own novices, and they never, except incidentally as lords of manors or trustees, or transferees of the spiritual rights of secular colleges, even controlled schools.
The early monasteries and monks, as may be seen by the example of even Jerome, not only did not cultivate learning other than that of the scriptures, but even repudiated it as heathenish. It was not till Cassiodorus, about 550, composed his Institutions for the two monasteries he founded in Calabria, that the copying of MSS. and reading came to be regarded as a monkish duty. The original Benedictine rule a few years earlier set apart only two hours a day for reading, except in Lent. Then, lack of food making the monks less able to labour with their hands, they had three hours' reading in the morning, and had to read one book through in the course of the 40 days. Even this rule was not absolute, special provision being made for work for those who were too lazy to read. There is not a word in the rule to suggest that education was one of the duties of monks or of the objects of a monastery. The only reference to boys is apropos of the reception of new brethren, boy novices “offered” (oblati) at the altar. The Celtic monasteries, according to Dr Skene (Celtic Scotland, ii. 75), became “great educational seminaries, in which the youth of the tribe were sent, not only to be trained to monastic life, but also for the purpose of receiving secular education.” But the quotations given from the ancient laws of Ireland and the life of St Brendan in support of this statement by no means bear it out. It may be questioned whether even in Ireland, or its daughter settlement in Wales, at Iona in Scotland and at Lindisfarne in England, anyone other than sucking monks imbibed the milk of learning in the nurseries of the monasteries. Where, however, as in these communities, the church and secular clergy were practically swallowed up in the monastery and monks, where even the bishops became kept officials under an abbot, it is perhaps not possible to draw a distinction between the regular and the secular clergy. The mission of St Columban in 590 took the Celtic monastery to the borders of Alsace, while indirectly through Lindisfarne it may have been known to Alcuin, as it certainly was at Fulda (Skene, 43).
Charlemagne was perhaps consciously acting under Celtic influence when in the council of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle), on the 23rd of March 789-790, he entreated the congregations of monks as well as those of the secular canons “not only to get together children of slaves but also the sons of freemen, and take them into their societies,” and directed that “schools of reading boys should be established in every monastery and cathedral, where psalms, music (notas), arithmetic and grammar, and the writing of good editions of books should be taught; not allowing the boys, however, to corrupt the gospels, psalters or mass books by reading or writing, but employing men of full age for that purpose.” It must have been in pursuance of this design of turning the monasteries to account as schools, that the extant plan of the monastery of St Gall (see Abbey) was prepared. This plan shows an “inner” school of the novices, and an “outer” school for the young gentlemen. The novices' school is shown as a replica on a smaller scale of the monastery, complete in itself with chapel, dormitory, refectory and infirmary. On the plan of it is written, “In this cloister the oblates are associated with the postulants,” i.e. the boys offered to God, set apart for the monastic life from infancy, were brought up with the ordinary novices of riper years seeking for admission. This school was at the east end of the church, next to the infirmary of the monks. But the other school, the public school, stood on the north side of the church, as far as possible from the monks' quarters, which, at St Gall, as elsewhere when topography permitted, were on the south. This school was close to the guest hall for gentlemen, near the public entrance to the church from the street. It shows provision for about 150