IN MAKING A SHORT CONTRIBUTION TO THE EARLY HISTORY OF GLASTONBURY ABBEY I feel that I need offer no apology, as the old Tor itself, although 20 or 25 miles distant as the crow flies, is visible from my windows, and invites the attempt. More often than not it is draped in the mists that sweep up the Severn Sea from the north-west and lies half hid in the mirage of the moorlands. To write about the birth of Glastonbury is to write about a creation that has sprung from the sea, that has grown up silently in the weird marshes and meres of the “sea-moor-saetas,” and that loves to entangle itself in the magic mists of antiquity. Must we always adhere to the litcra scripta in speaking of Glastonbury? It is the land of legend, romantic figures, and shadowy heroes, and there is sometimes more substance to be found in these, especially when place names, topography, dedications, and the consentanea vox of antiquity confirm them, than in the litera scripta of the monastic scriptorium, where the greatest efforts of the Benedictine pens were directed to invent, to simulate, and to forge, so that the detective genius of a Stubbs can hardly winnow the true record from the false. No, we must ransack many storehouses to know and understand this ancient Somerset monastery, not the least or most unimportant of them being those of memories and magic associations that sway men’s feelings and enlist their eternal sympathies. Unlike any other monastery it has handed down from the earliest times the record of a national faith and the lamp of Christian revelation dimmed at times by errors and obscured by the turmoil of national changes, still enduring, with vitality of its own, through British, Saxon, and Norman times. Occasionally we look through a mist and magnify accordingly, idealising what may have been commonplace, but the spirit of the place invites it. And so let it be!
Chapters on The Early History of Glastonbury