The Sussex Coast - online book

A Literary & Historical travel guide to the Sussex Coast

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THE MANHOOD                          67
density of its forests," and like all sensible mission­aries in ancient and modern days, he made strenu­ous efforts to improve this present world instead of wholly confining his attention to talking about a better one. Coming from the most prosperous part of the country, he was able to do much to advance and extend the civilisation of Sussex in addition to his spiritual ministrations. Of this there can be no doubt, but all good Sussexians will hesitate a moment before accepting as literally true Bede's rude remark (Eddius says nothing about it) that their ancestors at that time could fish only for eels. Very strong evidence indeed would be required to establish a fact so very im­probable, and we may suspect that we have here an early instance of the opinion our northern fellow-countrymen not seldom express as to the accomplishments of the sluggish south. At the very least the South Saxons must surely have been able to fish for shrimps, since the late Latin word, pandle, seems possibly to have survived in the Sussex dialect from Imperial days. The district appears peculiarly hospitable to rather tall stories, and one of them is the ridiculous but often repeated remark, started by some unknown romancer, whether wag or fool seems uncertain, that the seaside village of Selsey is on the same level as the top of the cathedral spire!
His associations with the Frisians and the South Saxons form by far the noblest incidents in the life of a great and zealous but bumptious and un­lovable bishop. Eddius's Life is about as balanced as a modern political manifesto, and we instinc­tively ask why Wilfrid had so many enemies. His papal bulls were by no means treated in Northum-bria with the respect for which Wilfrid hoped, and
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