Imágenes de páginas

peculiarities of title, or character, or of the special attributes of value or interest attaching to the latter. As affording material of illustration in this connection, it

may not be out of place to cite the interesting details which are practically given us as to the mediæval practice of ironworking in the Furness district, preserved for us in the Orgrave charters, and also in those connected with Elliscales and Merton; or those other details again, all hinging on to the historical question of the early settlement of the district, and whether by this race or that, stored up in the Charters dealing with the names of the lands given, as well as with the donors and the lands themselves so given; and yet again the further details afforded as to the mediæval country gentleman's surroundings and manner of life, met with in more than one of the Pennington documents :--all this, it should be observed, affords us a means of some sort for an estimate of what is lost through the mutilation to which the Coucher Volume has been exposed; and not only that, but also of the enhanced difficulty of giving a satisfactory descriptive and illustrative notice of the general contents and character of the Volume itself.

There is also another topic, some notice of which must be taken in any contemplated or attempted sketch of what is actually found within the pages of the Coucher Book : I mean, not simply the incorrectness with which the book is written throughout, and which is forcibly adverted to in the “ Prefatory Notice,” but the strange inconsistencies and even contradictions, in historical or genealogical statements, which are met with only too often in the MSS. in

question. In reference to the discordant and contradictory genealogical accounts touching the Family of Couci, to which attention is drawn in more than one note, and especially in the long note on pp 399, 400, it may be possible to allege that some of the opposing statements are met with in law-pleadings, and that the scribe, copying merely what was before him, can in no way be held responsible for the mis-statements made, whether intentionally or mistakenly, by other parties in the prosecution of their own ends. And, besides, it might be further advanced that it is possible some correction of the non-historic statements may have found a place in that part, unhappily the greater part, of the document referred to which has disappeared. But no palliation or excuse of this nature can be thought of or advanced in such a case as that of the conflicting statements affecting the family of Le Fleming. The discrepancy between them, as they stand in the pages of the Coucher, is perfectly hopeless, and as startling as hopeless. Thus at p. 89, only three generations are alleged, Alina, the wife of John de Cancefield, sister of the last male heir, whom she succeeds in the possession of the Le Fleming lands and hereditaments, being described as the grand-daughter of the original Michael le Fleming, and sister of the second of that name. On p. 463, however, five generations are specified, the said Alina being identified as the sister of Michael le Fleming, otherwise de Furness, the third of the name, and of the fifth generation. It is not the difficulty of correcting the mis-statement that is the matter to be noted

[ocr errors]

neither indeed is the difficulty at all a serious one—but it is that the copyist should have written down, and with, it would seem, a feebly amiable rather than unquestioning indifference, such inconsistent and self-destructive statements without thought or consideration. The credit that would otherwise attach to the book is thus seriously affected, and the enquiring reader becomes inclined to raise a question as to the authenticity of other allegations similarly advanced.

As to the correction of the one of these two statements which is non-historic, the difficulty, as just noted, is not great; a fact perhaps which only renders the scribe's carelessness or wilfulness the more inexcusable. There can be no doubt that the latter account, or that which assumes the five generations of the Le Flemings, is the correct one. For, in the document which stands as No. ccxc, the Michael (Fleming) de Furness who held of Robert de Denton, Abbot of Furness, is described as “proavus” of John de Cancefield, son of the aforesaid Alina. Now, Robert de Denton was certainly Abbot in the interval between 1217 and 1235, and the Michael (le Fleming) de Furness holding of him can, by no possibility, be identified with the Michael le Fleming who was living in 11 27, and earlier still, and whose son William was still alive in 1 201, and who is also continually spoken of in the Coucher as having "enfeoffed” Ewanus the first Abbot. The Michael (le Fleming ) de Furness, then, who was the great-grandfather of John de Cancefield, Alina's son, and

, held of Abbot Robert, must have been the second of that

name, and grandfather of the Michael, the third of the name, who was accidentally drowned in the stream called the Leven. Of course it might be advanced by a captious critic that, as in the somewhat parallel case of the De Couci genealogy, just now adverted to, there might have been some object subserved by an intentional misstatement of the facts; but there surely seems to be little enough to be gained by such a proceeding in the present instance. In all probability, utter carelessness or heedlessness on the part of the scribe by whom the whole (and apparently in unbroken continuity) was written, is a quite sufficient explanation of this, and many another mistake, with which the folios of the Coucher are unhappily disfigured.

There is also occasion for the expression of regret in reference to some of the matters, mention of which, whether more or less detailed, has happily been preserved for our notice and consideration. I refer especially to the notices which occur of the manufacture of iron and salt.

As regards the former, it is true we have details, and those of remarkable interest; but at the same time they are not simply far from being exhaustive, they are, on the contrary, in several respects, meagre and disappointing. For instance, we have no information whatever, either of a direct or an inferential character, such as to enable us to arrive at any conclusion as to the extent to which the iron-stone was worked by the Convent, or as to the fuel used, or the source or sources from which the said fuel was obtained. In other like cases this is not so: we meet with statements,


definite and precise, as to the nature and quality of the fuel to be employed in the process of reducing the iron, and as to the quantities made available, and so, in the way of inference, to something connecting itself with a sort of estimate of the quantity produced. Thus from the Gisburn (Guisborough) Chartulary we learn that there was no limit placed by the Grantor of the privilege of digging and reducing the iron-ore over a very considerable area, , to the appropriation and employment by the grantees of whatever timber or available wood could be found growing within the aforesaid area ; and a calculation founded on the various sites of the specified Iron-works, with the evidence afforded by the still extant residua from the working of these divers mines and furnaces, and with a further calculation of the amount of charcoal requisite for the production of, say, a ton of iron, and of the actual quantity of wood available for the purpose of being converted into charcoal within a given cycle of time, enable us to arrive at an estimate, not altogether unsatisfactory of the probable production of iron annually by the various fabricæ which are kmown to have been in blast-if the use of such a phrase may be permitted—between circa u 80 and 1450, or, it may be, considerably later still. And again, much the same is true with respect to the ancient iron-working carried on by the monks of Rievaulx, only with this difference, that the donors of iron privileges, inclusive of both the mineral and the wood for making the charcoal necessary for reducing it, were much more chary in regard of the wood given than were the Grantors to Gisburne.

« AnteriorContinuar »