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Celtic Saints: Passionate Wanderers

by Margaret Rees, Elizabeth Rees

Buy the book: Margaret Rees. Celtic Saints: Passionate Wanderers

Release Date: June, 2000

Edition: Hardcover

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Buy the book: Margaret Rees. Celtic Saints: Passionate Wanderers


Inadequate, though not as bad as it could be

The study of what is usually called Celtic Christianity is in a parlous state. Except for particular issues such as the life of Patrick - where Dumville?s recent collection of studies has managed to shed as much darkness as light - little of note has happened since E.C.Bowen's questionable but at least scholarly study of the connection between "Saints and seaways" in the sixties, and practically no translation has been published since A.W.Wade-Evans' erratic 1944 collection, which is written in abominable English and leaves the Welsh-language LIVES untranslated; and, before him, we have to go back to the still more erratic Llandovery translations of W.J.Rees, dated 1854, and containing not only mistranscriptions and mistranslations, but actual grammatical mistakes IN ENGLISH!
Not, alas, that this means that the subject is left untouched. Where the real scholars don't bother going, the popular scribblers wander at will. A real cottage industry has sprung up about "Celtic spirituality", and this book, while not belonging to its lunatic fringe, is clearly a part of it. What scholarship there is in it, is dated and unperceptive; assertions, especially as to the periods in which various saints lived, go unsupported; and the whole is bathed in a sentimental air that shows its desire to flatter the reader rather than to lead to any understanding of the subject. Also, while it annexates the Curch of early Northumbria to the Celtic world because of the influence of missionaries such as St. Aidan, it altogether neglects Brittany; could it be because to investigate it would require reading texts in Latin and - heaven preserve us - in FRENCH?
Altogether, I cannot recommend this book either as a general introduction to its subject or as a study. Those who can, would be well advised to read Sabine Baring-Gould and John Fisher's ancient (1904) four-volume account of the Celtic saints, which is sometimes mutton-headed but has at least the virtues of thoroughness and consistency.

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