The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected. — G. K. Chesterton

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Story of St. Augustine

The Anglo-Saxons had been masters of England for many years, when Ethelbert, the third bretwalda, married a French princess, Bertha, who was a Christian.

In the wars between the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, many captives were taken, and these were often sold as slaves. Besides this, many poor men were compelled by their hunger to sell themselves and their wives and children into slavery.

We are told that some English boys were brought to Rome by the slave merchants, and exposed there for sale on the market place. A monk named Gregory, who was passing by, stopped to look at them. Struck by the blue eyes, golden hair, and fair complexion of these children, he asked the merchant who they were. The man answered that they were Angles and heathens.

"Oh," cried the monk, "they would be indeed not Angl (Angles), but angeli (angels), if they were only Christians!"

This monk was so pleased, either by his own pun or by the good looks of the young slaves, that he wanted to go to Britain without delay; but his friends would not let him. He did not forget the Angles, however; and when he became pope, soon after, he sent Augustine and forty other monks to preach the gospel to the Angles, or English.

Augustine travelled through Gaul, where he got some men who could act as interpreters, and then landed on the island of Thanet, on the coast of England. From here, he sent a message to Ethelbert, begging for an interview, and asking permission to preach to the people. As Bertha was a Christian, she coaxed her husband to receive Augustine; but the pagan king was so afraid the monk would try to influence him by magic, that he would not receive him indoors, and sat under an oak, fancying that so holy a tree would protect him from all evil spells.

Augustine now advanced with his forty monks, and showed Ethelbert a picture of Christ. Then he preached to the king to such good purpose that he consented to be baptized. Of course all his court followed his example, and we are told that on Pentecost day ten thousand Anglo-Saxons were converted, and that the Christian religion soon took the place of the worship of Woden all through England.

Churches were built in different parts of the country, the greatest being the Cathedral of Canterbury, of which Augustine was the first bishop. There is nothing left of this old building, but the famous Cathedral of Canterbury stands on the very spot that it once occupied. Churches were also built, at this time, in Lon-don, on the sites of Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral; and when we enter these buildings, we like to think that Christians have worshipped on these spots nearly thirteen hundred years.

Canterbury Cathedral

In a very short time, the monks Gregory had sent visited all the different parts of England, and founded churches and monasteries, where many students came to learn all that the monks could teach them. Most of the monks' books were written in Latin, so all the students learned to read and write in that language, rather than in their own. As it had not seemed best to the priests that prayers should be translated into English, the church services were also held in Latin, a language which the common people did not understand.


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee