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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

§ 7. Bede’s Letter to Egbert of York

The letter to Egbert of York, perhaps the latest document we possess from Bede’s pen, deserves a special and separate mention. It is, in brief, a pastoral epistle; and it gives (what we could only gather indirectly from his other works) the clearest evidence of Bede’s lively interest in the religious life of the people at large, and his wise and noble conception of the duties of a Christian minister. His advice to Egbert is prompted by “a real and unassuming spirit of humility and affection,” and it is thoroughly practical in its statement, alike of the abuses which need reform, and of the means of reforming them. The suggestions offered by Bede are those of a man at once spiritually minded and versed in the affairs of his time; they are, moreover, based on an intimate knowledge of the history of the church with which he is dealing. Rarely as he may have trodden the regions outside the walls of his monastery, it is plain from this letter alone that Bede may be reckoned as one of the most effective contributors, by his advice and influence, to the spreading of Christianity in northern England.

No enumeration of works, no accumulation of epithets will give the picture of a man’s mind. And it is the personality of Bede which we come to regard with affection, when we have read the book into which he has infused most of his own character. That book is the History, and from the study of it few will rise without the feeling that Bede was one of the best of men.