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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).>br>Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

V. Latin Writings in England to the Time of Alfred

§ 4. The Roman Mission to Kent and its results

Within a generation after the death of Gildas the Roman mission came to Kent, and the learning of the Latins, secular as well as sacred, was brought within reach of the English. The seventh century saw them making copious use of this enormous gift, and Latin literature flourished in its new and fertile soil.

Probably the coming of archbishop Theodore and abbot Hadrian to Canterbury in the year 668 was the event which contributed more than any other to the progress of education in England. The personalities of these two men, both versed in Greek as well as in Latin learning, determined, at least at first, the quality and complexion of the literary output of the country. But theirs was not the only strong influence at work. In the first place, the fashion of resorting to Ireland for instruction was very prevalent among English students; in the second place, the intercourse between England and Rome was incessant. Especially was this the case in the monasteries of the north. To take a single famous instance: five times did Benedict Biscop, abbot of Wearmouth, journey from Britain to Rome, and, on each occasion, he returned laden with books and artistic treasures. A less familiar example may also be cited. Cuthwin, bishop of the east Angles about 750, brought with him from Rome a life of St. Paul full of pictures; and an illustrated copy of Sedulius, now at Antwerp (in the Plantin Museum), has been shown to have belonged to the same owner.

Four books which have been preserved to our times may be cited as tangible monuments of the various influences which were being exercised upon the English in the seventh century. The “Gregorian Gospels” at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (MS. 286), written in the seventh century and illustrated with pictures which, if not painted in Italy, go back to Italian originals, represent the influence of Augustine. The Graeco-Latin copy of the Acts of the Apostles at Oxford (Laud. Gr. 35) may well have been brought to this country by Theodore or Hadrian. The Lindisfarne Gospels show the blend of Celtic with Anglian art, and contain indications of a Neapolitan archetype. The Codex Amiatinus of the Latin Bible, now at Florence, written at Wearmouth or Jarrow and destined as a present for the Pope, shows England acknowledging her debt to Rome.