Page:The Dioceses of England.djvu/10

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gradually, with reference to civil divisions which have long ceased to exist, and which in some parts of the country have left no traces. In Wessex the old under-kingdoms still exist in the shape of shires, to some extent in the shape of dioceses In Mercia the shires date only from the tenth century. Wessex started with a single bishopric, that of Dorchester or Winchester; kingdom and diocese were the same. Mercian conquest cut short both to the north; West-Saxon conquest enlarged both to the west. Then the diocese was divided, the new dioceses following the lines of old shires—though would perhaps be the truer name than scír. Several processes of union and of separation have since happened, but on the whole things keep a good deal of their old shape. The diocese of Somerset has hardly changed at all. Devonshire and Cornwall have been united and then separated. Wiltshire and Dorset have been united, separated, united again. They may easily be separated again. Changes of this kind take very little trouble and do little despite to history. It would be equally easy to separate a whole Surrey from Hampshire. But then Surrey has been pulled about already; it has got into the hopeless London mess, which is beyond the understanding of us rustics. Berkshire, too, has been taken bodily into Mercia and joined on to Oxford. But, because it has been taken bodily, it may be more easily got back again. It is more cruel when a piece of Wiltshire has been stuck on to Bristol, to the confusion of all geography.

As the dioceses of Gaul represented the civil divisions of the country at the time when Episcopacy was established, so it was in England. But in England, instead of these cities and their districts, they represented Teutonic kingdoms and principalities. And those kingdoms and principalities have been less lasting than the districts of the Gaulish cities. Hence the ecclesiastical and temporal divisions in England have parted further asunder than they have ever done in France. Also in Gaul the cities themselves were more important than they were in England, and their relative positions have proved more permanent. The Bishop was Bishop of a city, and he remains so. The English Bishop was sometimes Bishop of a city from the beginning, more commonly he was Bishop of a land or rather of a people. His title was Bishop of the South-Saxons or of the Sumorsætan. The place of the bishopstool in Gaul