« AnteriorContinuar »
is to epitomise the new History of the Britons, which every body was so eager to read, and of which he had himself for some time in vain sought to procure a copy; a fact which is strangely suppressed both by Hearne and by Dr. Campbell in the Biographia Britannica, in their attempts to show that Alured did not copy Geoffrey, but Geoffrey him. Geoffrey's very expressions are sometimes adopted by Alured. What the latter has added in the continuation of the history down to his own time contains scarcely anything not to be found elsewhere. The period from the Norman Conquest, extending over sixty-two years, which may probably have been about that of his own life, is all comprised in the last book, filling 27 pages.
Giraldus Cambrensis, another learned Welshman, who makes a principal figure among our historical writers of the twelfth century, is of somewhat later date than his countryman Geoffrey of Monmouth:—Geoffrey died in 1154; Giraldus, whose proper Welsh name was Gerald Barry, appears to have been born about 1146. His Itinerary and Description of Wales (the first book)— 'Itinerarium Cambriae' and ' Descriptio Cambriae'—were published, with learned annotations, by Dr. David Powell, in a 12mo. volume, at London, in 1585; both are included in Camden's Anglica, Normannica, &c. together with his Topography and Conquest of Ireland—' Topographia Hiberniae' and ' Expugnatio Hiberniae'—there published for the first time; and a second book of the Description of Wales, various biographies of English bishops, an account of his own life, entitled 'De Rebus a se Gestis,' in three books, together with two separate catalogues of his works drawn up by himself, a treatise concerning the Church of St. Asaph (De Jure et Statu Menevensis Ecclesiae Distinctiones vii), and two or three other short pieces, are in the second volume of Wharton's Anglia Sacra. An English translation of the Itinerary and of both parts of the Description of Wales, profusely illuminated with engravings as well as with annotations and commentary, was published by Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Bart., in two vols. 4to., Lon. 1806, under the title of ' The Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales, A.d. 1187, by Giraldus de Barri,' and forms one of the most magnificent productions of the modern English press.* Many other writings, however, both in prose and verse, are attributed to him, which are either lost (if they ever existed), or remain in manuscript, with the exception of a treatise, called by himself ' Gemma Ecclesiastica,' which is said to have been printed at Mentz without his name in 1549, under the title of 'Gemma Animae.' Giraldus, though his style abounds in the conceits and false ornaments which constitute the eloquence of his time, is a very lively writer, and he shows a genius both for narrative and description to which nothing is wanting except the influences of a happier age. In literary ardour and industry, at least, he has not often been surpassed. He "deserves particular regard," says Warton, "for the universality of his works, many of which are written with some degree of elegance. He abounds with quotations of the best Latin poets. He
* In his Preface Sir Richard seems to state that he had also reprinted the Itinerary and Description of Wales in the original Latin, but we have never seen the book.
was an historian, an antiquary, a topographer, a divine, a philosopher, and a poet. His love of science was so great that he refused two bishoprics; and from the midst of public business, with which his political talents gave him a considerable connexion in the court of Richard the First, he retired to Lincoln for seven years with a design of pursuing theological studies.* The fancy of Giraldus, however, it must be confessed, was more vigorous than either his judgment or his veracity; and much of the matter in his historical works would have suited poetry better than history.
HENRY OF HUNTINGDON.
Malmesbury's two histories are followed in Savile's collection by the Eight Books of that of Henry, Archdeacon of Huntingdon, extending from the invasion of Julius Caesar to the accession of Henry II. (a.d. 1154). The work has not been elsewhere printed. Henry of Huntingdon first distinguished himself as a poet, and is said by Leland to have in the earlier part of his life written eight books of Latin epigrams, eight more of love verses, besides a long didactic poem on herbs, another on spices, and a third on precious stones. His history, which he composed in his more advanced years, is interspersed with a good deal of verse, most of it professing to be quoted, but some of it confessedly his own. Savile describes him as, in respect of historical merit, although separated by a long interval from Malmesbury, yet making as near an approach to him as any other writer of the time, and as deserving to be placed in the first rank of the most diligent explorers and most truthful expounders * Dissertation of Introd. of Learning, p. clviii.
of the times preceding their own. He is indeed more of an antiquarian than an historian. His work, in so far as it is a history of his own time, is of little importance. The writer in the Quarterly Review, however, remarks that it is a more ambitious attempt than had been made by such mere annalists as the Saxon chroniclers on the one hand, or such compilers as Florence of Worcester and Simeon of Durham on the other. "Abandoning the simple plan of his predecessors, he divided his history into books, treating distinctly upon each of the kingdoms of the Heptarchy, until their union under Edgar. Huntingdon states that, taking Bede as his basis, he added much from other sources, and borrowed from the chronicles which he found in ancient libraries. His descriptions of battles are often more diffuse than in the AngloSaxon chronicles. It has been supposed that, because these scenes and pictures are not warranted by the existing texts, they are mere historical amplifications; but we find no difficulty in believing that the researches of a writer who was considered as a most learned antiquarian should have enabled him to discover a chronicle lost to us, and which contained more fragments of poetry or poetical prose than the chronicles which have been preserved."* The second volume of Wharton's Anglia Sacra contains a long letter from Henry of Huntingdon to his friend Walter, Abbot of Ramsay (De Episcopis sui temporis), which is full of interesting notices and anecdotes of the kings, prelates, and other distinguished personages of his time.
* Quarterly Review, xxxiv., 283.
ROGER DE HOVEDEN.
The next work printed in Savile's Collection (and his edition is again our only one) is the copious Chronicle of Roger de Hoveden (probably so designated from having been a native of Hoveden, or Howden, in Yorkshire). It fills 430 pages, or not much less than half the volume. Hoveden takes up the narrative at the year 732, where the History of Bede (a north-countryman like himself) ends, and brings it down to 1202. His account is particularly full throughout the reigns of Henry II. and Richard I., and the commencement of that of John, making together what may be called his own half century. The greater portion, indeed, of the 340 pages of which this second or latter part of his annals—' Annalium Pars Posterior '—consists, is occupied by letters of kings, popes, and prelates, and other public documents; but it contains also an extraordinary number of minute historical details. Hoveden is of all our old chroniclers the most of a matter-of-fact man; he indulges occasionally in an epithet, rarely or never in a reflection; his one notion of writing history seems to be to pack as many particulars as possible into a given space, giving one the notion in perusing his close array of dates and items that he had felt continually pressed by the necessity of economising his paper or parchment. It is true that he has no notion of the higher economy of discrimination and selection; but among the multitude of facts of all kinds that crowd his pages are many that are really curious and illustrative.