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of the school. By the adoption of these playful pseudonyms this inconvenience was avoided : laying aside for the time the titles of authority on the one hand, and professions of subjection on the other, they met on the common ground of teachers and learners. What more impressive spectacle does history present than that of this stalwart old warrior, this potent monarch, whose fame was spread, and whose power was feared from Arabia to Britain, sitting among his children and grandchildren, with them to listen to the instructions of the wisest and best among his subjects ?
As we have already intimated, the instruction given was for the most part oral. This was necessitated both by the paucity of books, and by the inability of the majority of the scholars to read. The following specimen preserved to us in the writings of Alcuin, is a very curious illustration of the conversational and catechetical nature of the teaching. The interlocutors are Alcuin himself and Pepin, a son of Charlemagne, who was then probably about sixteen years of age :
“ PEPIN.—What is life?
Alcuin.—Happiness for the happy, misery for the miserable, the expectation of death for all.
PEPIN.- What is death?
ALCUIN.-An inevitable event, a doubtful journey, a subject of tears to the living, the thief of inen.
PEPIN.- What is man ?
ALCUIN.—The slave of death, a passing traveller, a guest in his own home,
PEPIN.—What is sleep?
What is friendship ?
ALCUIN.— The assurance of unknown and wonderful things.”
The catechism, or conversation, thus proceeds through more than a hundred questions and answers similar in kind to those selected.
Clearly," says Guizot, as a means of education these conversations are altogether and strangely puerile ; but as an indication and commencement of intellectual movement they merit all attention; they eyince that eager curiosity with which the mind in its crude infancy directs its gaze upon all things, and takes pleasure in every unexpected combination and every ingenious idea ; a tendency manifested equally in the childhood of individuals and the childhood of nations."
Charlemagne's attainments in general knowledge seem to have been very considerable for
a man of that age. Eginhardt says of him : · During his meals, he always listened to some narrative of what had happened, or was read to by the officer appointed for that purpose. His favourite books were histories, and the exploits of the ancients ; he was likewise very partial to the writings of St. Augustine, and especially to his “ City of God.” He was eloquent, and could express with facility everything he wished. He did not confine himself to his own tongue, but knew Latin so well, as to be able to speak it with the utmost ease. He understood Greek better than he could speak it. He carefully studied the liberal arts, and very much respected and richly rewarded those who were skilled in them. In his old age, he learned grammar from Peter of Pisa. He also spent much time and trouble in learning rhetoric, logic, and especially astronomy. In addition to these, he acquired the knowledge of arithmetic, and applied himself with much care to fix the course of the stars." This is, indeed, a very extraordinary list of attainments for a Frank of the eighth century, and when we take into account his military and legislative achievements, it seems almost incredible. If his history had no other value, it would deserve to be studied as an unsurpassed instance of the successful pursuit of knowledge under difficulties.
The example thus set by the monarch could not be without its influence on his subjects. When they saw him whom they had so often followed to battle and to victory, who, on so
many a hard-fought field had proved himself the glory of the Franks, and the terror of their enemies, thus devoting every moment he could win from the cares of state and the toils of war to the acquisition of learning, it was reasonable to anticipate for them, that they would feel, or at least affect, a similar zeal. And though, as the result proved, this educational movement was but superficial and transient, yet it left some permanent results behind it. It did away with that contempt for learning as effeminate and servile, which had characterized the preceding ages, and introduced in its place a respect for it, which in those mediæval times often led the rude and illiterate knights to protect the feeble and helpless scholar, and prompted the foundation and endowment of many of those schools to which the youth of Europe still flock for education.
Whilst Charlemagne lived, he was careful by every means in his power to encourage the new-born desire for learning, and to provide the means by which it might be supplied after his own decease. Of the establishment of schools by his royal decrees in all the monasteries and churches throughout his empire, we have already spoken. We have now only to allude to his personal encouragement and support of them. He seems constantly to have visited the schools which lay in the route of his incessant journeys, that he might acquaint himself with the character of the teachers and scholars, and promote any whom he found deserving. Those
who distinguished themselves by their aptness in teaching or diligence in learning, he would frequently elevate to some post about the court, and admit them the school of the palace. This was the case with Eginhardt, who was, after Alcuin, the most trusted friend and useful servant at the court of Charlemagne. The monk of St. Gall narrates the following curious anecdote of the monarch in connexion with his patronage of learning : “Charlemagne used to bring up
in the school of the palace many youths, whose learning and industry he afterwards employed in his service. One of these pupils, who was in poor circumstances, he made clerk and precentor of his chapel. One day they communicated to the most prudent emperor the fact, that a certain bishop was dead, whereupon he asked whether he, by deeds of charity, had sent any of his property before him into another world ; Only about two pounds of silver, sire,' answered the messenger. The young man I just named, standing by, was unable to repress his vivacity, and cried out in spite of himself, in the king's presence, 'What a light viaticum for so long a journey !' After thinking silently for a moment or two, Charlemagne, the most prudent of men, said to the young priest, 'What say you ? if I were to give you this bishopric, would you take care to make better provision for this great journey?' The other hastening to swallow these words, like grapes ripe before their time falling into his half-open mouth, threw hiinself