0 yonge Hugh of Lincoln, sleyn also
With cursed Iewes, as it is notable,
For it nis but a litel whyle ago ;
Pray eek for vs, we sinful folk vnstable
That of his mercy G-od so merciable
On vs his grete mercy multiplye,
For reuerence of his mooder Marye.
Thus sings and prays Chaucer at the end of his " Prioresse's Tale," which is supposed to deal with the " cause celebre " of Hugh of Lincoln. This is not the fact, since he locates his tale " in Asie in the gret citee." But the invocation to the little Hugh at the end, marked as it is with signs of the most earnest and naive piety is even more significant of the general and thorough-going belief in the martyrdom of the little lad of Lincoln. And indeed we know from the widespread and popular ballads devoted to this subject that the case must have made a profound sensation in England, and remained as a standing example in the folk-mind of Jewish cruelty and fanaticism. Such a case as this therefore well deserves the attention of the Jewish Historical Society of England. We may be tolerably confident at the start of our inquiry that we shall not be so easily convinced of any specific Jewish cruelty and fanaticism in the case. On the other hand, as Englishmen, we shall not be too ready to accuse the Englishmen of the thirteenth century of any deliberate falsifica? tion of evidence, or malversation of justice. They were thinking and
1 The boy martyr is called Little St. Hugh to distinguish him from great St. Hugh of Lincoln, the Bishop of that See, who died in 1200, and was curiously enough a friend of the Jews (see Jacobs' Jews of Angevin England, p. 207).
acting under the prejudices of their time, and it will be part of our inquiry to consider the rise of the said prejudice. Mathematicians are accustomed to speak of " pretty problems " requiring special ingenuity or peculiarly elegant methods for their solution. The history and legend of Hugh of Lincoln presents in this sense to the historian and folk-lorist a specially " pretty problem." It might indeed be easily made into an object-lesson of the modern methods of research in History, Archaeology, and Legend.
I. Let us take the facts of the case first; and here we are especially fortunate in having them stated for us as they presented themselves to the mind of the time by Matthew Paris, the greatest historian of medieval England. We cannot start our inquiry better than by giving in English the contents of the Monk Matthew's by no means inelegant Latinity.1
Of the Boy Hugh of Lincoln.
This year, about the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul [July 27], the Jews of Lincoln stole a boy called Hugh, who was about 8 years old. After shutting him up in a secret chamber where they