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Medieval Writer: Saint Cuthbert [born 634c] "Pleyde atte balle"

Salience Noteworthy
Tags Famous
City/State/Country: England
Game Xenoball
Immediacy of Report Retrospective
Age of Players Juvenile
Notables Saint Cuthbert

Mulling on whether the ball came to England in Anglo-Saxon days, Joseph Strutt reports "the author of a manuscript in Trinity College, Oxford, written in the fourteenth century and containing the life of Saint Cuthbert, says of him, that when young, 'he pleyde atte balle with the children that his felawes [fellows] were.' On what authority this information is established I cannot tell."



Joseph Strutt, The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England (Chatto and Windus, London, 1898 edition), p. 158.


The claim of this unidentified manuscript seems weak. As Strutt notes, the venerable Bede wrote poetic and prose accounts of the life of Cuthbert around 715-720 A.D., and made no mention of ballplaying. That a scholar would find fresh evidence seven centuries later would be surprising. Warton later cites the poem as from Oxford MSS number Ivii, and he also places its unidentified author in the fourteenth century, but he doesn't support the veracity of the story line. The poem describes an angel sent from heaven to dissuade Cuthbert from playing such an "ydell" [idle] pastime. Warton, Thomas, The History of English Poetry from the Close of the Eleventh Century to the Commencement of the Eighteenth Century (Thomas Tegg, London, 1840, from the 1824 edition), volume 1, page 14.

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