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Unformatted text preview: e, in some degree, unavoidable in the ancient establishments, he had already spread over the southern countries of Europe the severe laws of the monastic life, and began to form attempts towards a like innovation in England. The favourable opportunity offered itself (and it was greedily seized) arising from the weak superstition of Edred, and the violent impetuous character of Dunstan. Dunstan was born of noble parents in the west of England; and being educated under his uncle, Aldhelm, then Archbishop of Canterbury, had betaken himself to the ecclesiastical life, and had acquired some character in the court of Edmund. He was, however, represented to that prince as a man of licentious manners;f and finding his fortune blasted by these suspicions, his ardent ambition prompted him to repair his indiscretions, by running into an opposite extreme. He secluded himself entirely from the world; he framed a cell so small that he could neither stand erect in it, nor stretch out his limbs during his repose; and he here employed himself perpetually either in devotion or in manual labour.g It is probable, that his brain became gradually crazed by these solitary occupations, and that his head was filled with chimeras, which, being believed by himself and his stupid votaries, procured him the general character of sanctity among the people. He fancied, that the devil, among the frequent visits, which he paid him, was one day more earnest than usual in his temptation; till Dunstan, provoked at his importunity, seized him by the nose with a pair of red hot pincers, as he put his head into the cell; and he held him there, till that malignant spirit made the whole neighbourhood resound with his bellowings. This notable exploit was seriously credited and extolled by the public; it is transmitted to posterity by one who, PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 77 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 considering the age in which he lived, may pass for a writer of some elegance;h and it insured to Dunstan, a reputation, which no real piety, much less virtue, could, even in the most enlightened period, have ever procured him with the people. Supported by the character obtained in his retreat, Dunstan appeared again in the world; and gained such an ascendant over Edred, who had succeeded to the crown, as made him, not only the director of that prince’s conscience, but his counsellor in the most momentous affairs of government. He was placed at the head of the treasury,i and being thus possessed both of power at court, and of credit with the populace, he was enabled to attempt with success the most arduous enterprizes. Finding, that his advancement had been owing to the opinion of his austerity, he professed himself a partizan of the rigid monastic rules; and after introducing that reformation into the convents of Glastenbury and Abingdon, he endeavoured to render it universal in the kingdom. The minds of men were already well prepared for this innovation. The praises of an inviolable chastity had been carried to the highest extravagance by some of...
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This note was uploaded on 02/12/2011 for the course CHIN 101 taught by Professor Dr.yu during the Spring '08 term at University Of Southern Mississippi .
- Spring '08