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FLORENCE OF WORCESTER.
The earliest of our English chroniclers or annalists, properly so called, who wrote after the Norman Conquest, is commonly held to be the monk Florence of Worcester, whose work, entitled 'Chronicon ex Chronicis'was printed, in 4to., at London, in 1592, under the care of Lord William Howard,* and reprinted in folio at Francfort in 1601. It extends from the Creation to the year 1119, in which the author died; and there is printed along with it a continuation by another writer to the year 1141. It is, for the greater part, a transcript from the notices of English affiurs contained in the General History or Chronology which bears the name of Marianus Scotus, intermixed with a nearly complete transcript of the life of King Alfred by Bishop Asser, and enlarged in the times not treated of
* This was Lord William Howard, Warden of the Western Marches, the "Belted Will Howard" of border tradition, whose castle of Naworth, in Cumberland, where his bedroom and library were preserved, with the books and furniture, in the same state as when he tenanted the apartments more than two centuries ago, was unhappily consumed the other day by an accidental fire, with all its interesting contents. Such an event is truly a public calamity, a personal loss to the humblest individual in the country ; and it is not easy to pardon the carelessness which could have allowed it to take place. At the rate at which the mischief has been allowed to proceed for some time past, the overheating and faulty construction of flues bid fair to leave us in another half century neither ancient building nor ancient record in the land, nor any relic or remnant of the past more than if we were a people of yesterday, or a nation of savages. The universal licence that seems to be given in this matter to every incompetent bricklayer and reckless kitchen-maid amounts almost to wanton or wilful destruction. in Asser's work by ample translations from the Saxon Chronicle. The Chronicle of Scotus (said to have been of English birth and descended from a relation of Bede) was a favourite book in our monasteries in the middle ages; "there was hardly one in the kingdom," says Bishop Nicolson, "that wanted a copy of it, and some had several." Besides the numerous transcripts, which vary greatly, it has been more than once printed, but never, we believe, in a complete form. Speaking of Florence of Worcester's compilation, the writer of the article in the Quarterly Review, to which we have more than once referred, observes; "Some notices are extracted from Bede. The facts of which the original sources cannot be ascertained are very few, but important, and occur principally in the early part of this history. They are generally of that class which we may suppose to have been derived from the Saxon genealogies Though the great mass of information afforded by Florence is extant in the Saxon Chronicle, still his work is extremely valuable. He understood the ancient Saxon language well—better, perhaps, than any of his contemporaries; and he has furnished us with an accurate translation from a text which seems to" have been the best of its kind." The principal value of Florence's performance in fact consists in its serving as a key to the Saxon Chronicle.
MATTHEW OP WESTMINSTER.
The Quarterly Reviewer, however, is inclined to think that Florence was preceded by another writer, the author of the compilation entitled ' Flores Historiarum,' usually ascribed to Matthew of Westminster, who appears to oe a fictitious personage. His English History, which has been brought down by other unknown writers to the year 1307 (or to the end of the reign of Edward I.), is based upon another general chronicle similar to that of Marianus Scotus, with the addition of much matter derived apparently from Anglo-Saxon sources, some of which are now unknown. The writer in the Quarterly Review, who prefers giving the author the name of Florilegus, thinks it probable that his work supplied Florence with certain passages which are not found in the Saxon Chronicle. "Florilegus," he observes, "has retained and quoted a sufficient number of Anglo-Saxonisms, and of Anglo-Saxon phrases, to show that he was in possession of Saxon materials, which he consulted to the best of his ability. He has not used them with the fidelity of Florence of Worcester, for his knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon language was imperfect, but still he is not guilty of any intentional falsification, and, therefore, when he relates probable facts, it is fair to conclude that he is equally veracious, although the Saxon original of his Chronicle be not extant." * The work, under the title of 'Matthaei Westmonasteriensis Flores Historiarum, preecipue de Rebus Britannicis, ab exordio mundi usque ad A.d. 1307,' was first published by Archbishop Parker, in folio, at London in 1567, and again in 1570; and was reprinted, in folio, at Francfort in 1601, along with Florence of Worcester.
WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY.
The first, in point of merit and eminence, of our Latin historians of this period is William of Malmesbury, so designated as having been a monk of that great monastery, although his proper surname is said to have been Somerset. He was probably born about the time of the Norman Conquest; and, though of English birth, he intimates that he was of Norman descent by one parent, putting in a claim on that ground to be accounted an impartial witness or judge between the two races. Malmesbury's English History consists of two parts, or rather distinct works; the first entitled 'Gesta Regum Anglorum,' in five books, extending from the arrival of the Saxons to the year 1120; the second entitled ' Historia Novella,' in three books, bringing the narrative down to 1142. It has been commonly supposed that the author died in that or the following year; but there is no evidence that he did not live to a later date. A portion of the Gesta was printed, as the work of an unknown author, in Commeline's volume of British writers, in 1587; both the Gesta and the Historia Novella are in Savile's Collection, 1596 and 1601; and a new and much more correct edition of the two, by Mr. Thomas Duffus Hardy, in two vols. 8vo., Lon. 1840, forms one of the publications of the Historical Society. There is a very good English translation of William of Malmesbury by the Rev. John Sharpe, 4to., Lon. 1815. Malmesbury, although there is an interval of nearly five hundred years between them, stands next in the order of time after Bede in the series of our historical writers properly so called, as distinguished from mere compilers and diarists. His histories are throughout original works, and in their degree, artistic compositions. He has evidently taken great pains with the manner as well as with the matter of them. But he also evinces throughout a love of truth as the first quality of historical writing, and far more of critical faculty in separating the probable from the improbable than any other of his monkish brethren of that age who have set up for historians, notwithstanding his fondness for prodigies and ecclesiastical miracles, in which of course he had the ready and all-digestive belief which was universal in his time. Of course, too, he had his partialities in the politics of his own day; and his account of the contest between Matilda and Stephen may be compared with that of the author of the ' Gesta Stephani' by those who would study both sides of the question. Both his histories are inscribed in very encomiastic dedications to Robert Earl of Gloucester, Matilda's famous champion. Savile's Collection also contains another work of Malmesbury's, his Lives of the Bishops of England, ' De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum,' in four books; and a Life of St. Aldhelm (Bishop of Sherborn), assumed to be a fifth book of this work, was afterwards published by Gale in his ' Scriptores XV.' Oxon. 1691, and the same year by Henry Wharton, in the second volume of his 'Anglia Sacra,' fol., Lon. Gale's volume contains, besides, a History of the Monastery of Glastonbury by Malmesbury—' De Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesioe;'— and Wharton's contains his Life of St. Wulstan: others of his treatises still remain in manuscript.