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date and reference: “22 Julii, 1304. 32 E. I., Regist. prem. fol. 59 a." This manuscript is now in the British Museum. It proves that Robin Hood was celebrated as a popular hero so far back as the year 1304, the twenty-third of the reign of Edward I. Next we have the continuation and completion, as well as revision of the Scotichronicon of Fordun by his pupil, Bemer, abbot of St. Columb, who, in speaking of the events of the year 1266, says: “Isto etiam anuo grassati sunt acrius Angliæ, barones exheredati et regales; inter quos Rogerus de Martusmari marchias Walliæ, Johannes Daynillis insulam de Heli occupatant. Robertus Hode nunc inter fruteta et dumeta sylvestria exulabat.”*
Here he is treated as a well-known historical character. The “Rimes of Roben Hod” are mentioned by the writer who calls himself "Piers Ploughman," who lived in the reign of Edward III., or about the year 1360, and is generally supposed to have been Robert Langland. He says:
"I cannot parfitli mi paternoster, as the priest it singetli,
But I can ryms of Roben Hode and Randolf, erl of Chester,
But of our lorde or our ladye I lerne notlıyng at all." The last quotation we shall make is from a song on woman, found in a manuscript in the Lambeth Palace Library, which was written in the fifteenth century. It runs thus:
" He that made this songe full good
Came of the northe and of the southern blode,
Yit all we be nat soo.''! We might easily fill pages with extracts from subsequent writers, wherein mention is made of Robin Hood, but, beyond showing that the subject was very popular, they would prove nothing more than these we have made from writers in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries can do, which amounts to this : that some time previous to the year 1300 a person named Robin Hood was very popular and much talked about, and that he was an outlaw and robber, of singularly generous and humane disposition, who despoiled none but the rich and tyrannical, selfish, and dishonest, and
* Scotichronicon, ed. Goodall, vol. ii., p. 104.
† No. 306, fol. 135.
who protected the helpless, fed the poor, and relieved the distressed; that he never was uncourteous to a woman, &c.
In 1852 the Rev. Joseph Hunter, an English clergyman, published a tract in which he traced out the history of Robin Hood, and attempted to prove that he lived in the reign of Edward II. (1307-27); also that he was an adherent of the earl of Lancaster at the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322. But the discovery of the MSS. above mentioned, dated 1304, wherein Wallace is styled the Scottish Robin Hood, is sufficient to disprove Mr. Hunter's theory. He thinks that the “ Lytell Geste ” was written by Richard Rolle, the poet of Barnesdale in the reign of Richard the Third, (1483-5).
Having thus, as we think, established the fact that Robin Hood was a real personage, and performed the kind of exploits recorded of him ; and that the scenes of these exploits were the forests of Sherwood, in Nottinghamshire, and Barnesdale, in Yorkshire, we proceed to discuss the question as to the time in which he lived. The evidence on this point is very conflicting, and the unravelling of the difficulties has been rendered more unwelcome as a task since fiction has thrown its charms over the subject, and the brilliant pages of Scott and the graphic pen of James have so interwoven the
memory of the bold outlaw with that of the model champion of England, Richard Coeur de Lion, that it seems an almost sacrilegious task to dispel the fascinations of “ Ivanhoe” and “Forest Days." Yet this must be done, if we are honestly in search of the truth. As already stated, there are three theories as to the era of Robin Hood. The first is, that he lived in the time of Richard I. (1189-99); the second, that he lived in the reigns of Henry III. and Edward I. (1260-90); the third, that he lived in the reign of Edward II. (1307-27). The last-mentioned theory has been disposed of, and there remain the other two.
It must be confessed that a formidable array of authorities can be brought forward in support of what we may call the Ricardian theory. There is, first of all, an old manuscript Life of Robin Hood, being No. 715 of the “Sloan Manuscripts” in the British Museum, and printed by Thoms
in his " Prose Romances." It is of unknown date and parentage; some of it is illegible, but what is legible appears to be little more than a prose version of the "Lytell Geste,” with two or three others of the Robin ballads incorporated with it. The commencement of this “Life” is at variance with the concluding portion of the “Lytell Geste.” The “Life” begins thus: “Robin Hood was borne at Locksley, in Yorkshire, or, after others, in Nottinghamshire, in the dayes of Henry the Second, about the yere 1160; but lyued tyll the latter end of Richard the Fyrst.” It will be remembered that the “Lytell Geste” introduces King Edward, on his return from the Holy Land, and speaks of him by name; but in the “Life” he is merely described as “the king.' The manuscript, however, is not older than 1522, for it refers to Major's commendation of Robin as “the prince of all thieves and robbers,” and Major, or Mayer, published his book in 1521.
On the Ricardian side appear the formidable names of Augustin Thierry, the great French historian, Sir Walter Scott, G. P. R. James, Sir Edward Coke, Wright, Ritson, Clarke, Major, Stowe, Fuller, Dr. Stukely, Warner, and Grafton. On the Edwardian sicle are the less eminent names of Charles Knight, Spencer T. Hall, Fordun, Bower, Gutch, and allies; but their opinions are fortified by the “ Lytell Geste,” the “Statute of Winchester," and other extrinsic evidence, which shall be noticed in due order. The authority of Sir Walter Scott and James is, in fact, no authority at all. It added greatly to the effect of their romances to introduce Robin Hood and Richard I. together on the scenes, and there was sufficient vagueness and uncertainty about the era of the outlaw to enable them to do so without any very serious charge of anachronism. Sir Walter was rather a sinner in this way, for he has been convicted of several errors in chronology. But he was a novelist, not a historian, and in consideration of his overpowering merits in other respects, he may well be forgiven for his inaccuracies.
With Augustin Thierry, however, it is different. He has rendered great service to the history of England by his graphic and thoughtful account of the conquest of that country by the
Normans; and he is almost the first historian who has profoundly investigated the predatory state of society which existed in England during the two centuries which succeeded the battle of Hastings, and the domestic and civil economy of our ancestors, their public and private sports, pastimes, and amusements. His great work has already become classical, and he is, therefore, an adversary deserving of the greatest respect. It may be observed here, however that an English writer almost simultaneously with him adopted the same line of argument and quoted the same authorities. The first French edition of Mr. Thierry's history was published in 1825, and appeared again in 1826, and Clarke's “ Vestigia Anglicana” was published in 1826. In both of these works there is an able vindication of Robin Hood's character, and on similar grounds. If one did not see the other's book the coincidence is remarkable. M. Thierry says :* "After his victory at Nottingham, King Richard, wishing for recreation, made a journey into the largest forest in England, extending from Nottingham to the centre of the county of York, over a space of several hundred miles, and called by the Saxons, Sirewood, which, in course of time, was changed into Sherwood . . . . About the time that this heroic prince, the pride of the Norman barons, visited the forest of Sherwood, there dwelt under the shade of that celebrated wood, a man who was the hero of the serfs, the poor, and the obscure; or, in one word, of the Anglo Saxon race. Then,' says an old historian, 'arose among the disinherited the famous brigand Robin Hode, whom the common people are so fond of celebrating in their games and stage-plays, and whose exploits, chaunted by strolling ballad-singers, delight them above all things.' This short passage is all that the chronicles positively say of the most celebrated Saxon that had chosen Hareward for his model."
We may here pause a moment to notice the extraordinary inadvertence – to use a mild phrase—of this distinguished historian, in quoting from Fordun. He
Histoire de la Conquíte de l'Angleterre par les Vormands rol it. pp. 234-50.
translates the expression “famosissimus sicarius " by mous brigand," instead of “notorious cut-throat," and he entirely omits the context, “Hoc in tempore,” which is explained by what comes before to mean the time of the civil war of 1265, and not that of Richard I. This omission is the more extraordinary, as Thierry is one of the most painstaking of historians; and it leads us to think, that, in his heart, he wished to favor and sustain the comparatively modern idea of Richard and Robin being contemporary, which had also then recently been made so popular by the romance of “ Ivanhoe."
Thierry's theory, being based upon Fordun, can have no greater authority than the latter, and that is adverse to the Ricardian. The next authority we shall notice is Mair, or Major, who wrote in the time of Henry the Eighth, A. D. 1521, and whose statement has been incorporated by Stowe in his “Annals”* by translation. It runs thus : “ About these times (the reign of Richard I.) as I conjecture, Robert Hood, an Englishman, and Little John, most notorious thieves, concealed themselves in the woods, seizing only the goods of opulent men. They killed no one unless he attacked or resisted them for the protection of his property. Robert maintained by his robberies a hundred archers most admirably adapted for warfare, and four hundred of the bravest men did not dare to attack them. All Britain uses in songs the exploits of this Robert. He permitted no women to be molested, nor took away the property of the poor, but he freely bestowed on them the property taken from abbots. I condemn the rapine of the men, but he was the prince and the most humane of all thieves.”+ This historian (Major) gives no reason why he conjectures that Robin Hood and Richard I. were contemporaries; his statement is mere conjec
| The passage in Latin is : "Circa hæc tempora, ut augurors Robertus Hudus Ano glus et Parous Joannes latrones famatissimi in nemoribus latuerunt, solum epulenterum riserum bona diripientes. Nullum nisi res invadentem vel resistentem pro suarum rerum tuitione occiderunt. Centum sagillarias ad pugnam optissimos Robertus latrociniis aluit, quos 400 viri fortissimi invadere non audebant. Rebus hujus Roberti gestis tota Britannia in cantibus utitur. Foeminam nullam opprimi permisit, nec pauperum bona surripuit, verum eos ex abbatum bonis oblatis opipare pavit. Viri rapinam improbo, sed latronum omnium humanissimus et princeps erat."