19 AUGUST 1865, Page 17


CHRONICLES AND MEMORIALS OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND DURING THE MIDDLE AGES.* Ir is not easy for the critic to keep pace with the diligent editors who work for the Master of the Rolls, or to form any but a most general estimate of their special qualifications and merits. But the service which their labours are rendering to the study of English history is sufficiently obvious, and demands a very hearty recognition. Though the great majority of readers must always be content to take' their facts at second hand, there are not a few who will be most thankful for the clearing away of the mechanical difficulties which have hindered their access to original authorities. The student, in proportion as he appreciates the help which he derives from the historian, will value the facilities which may be afforded him of consulting the annalist. The contemporary

* I. Chronka Nonasterii S Albani. Wt7klmi Rishonger d Quoremdam Anony- morum Chroaka ci Anstales, 1259-1807. Edited by Henry Thomas Riley, M.A., of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and of the Inner Temple, Barrister at-Law. Loudon: Lungmans. 1865.

2. Anodes Moncutiei, VoL II. /soaks Monasterit Sc Wu:Ionia, d. D. 519-1217. donates Homan* Sc Wavaleist, 4.1). 1-1291. Edited by Henry Richards Ltuird, M.A., Fellow and Assistant-Tutor of Trinity College, Registrary of the Unirersity of Cambridge. London: Longmans. 1865.

8. Historia et Cartularban Monasterii Sandi Petri Glottaarise. Edited by William Henry Hunt, of the Public Record Office. London: LongmiML US&

chronicler has always something to teach him which he cannot find - in the most brilliant or philosophical of writers. The perpetual changes in human thought bring different sets of facts into pro- minence, and that which seems trivial to one generation becomes. full of significance to another. Nor can there be a better cor- rective to the partial generalizations to which we are prone than occasionally to revert to records composed entirely without refer- ence to modern theories of ethics, politics, or religion.

The first volume on our list may be generally described as a continuation of the Chronicle of Matthew Paris. It contains. seven works, or fragments of works, all of which have been. generally attributed to the authorship of William Rishanger. Mr. Riley, however, who has carefully examined this question, and whose conclusions appear to be most trustworthy, attributes only two of them to this writer, though he supposes him to have made use of others. Of Rishanger himself nothing is known except that he was a monk of St. Alban's, that he was sixty-two years of age in 1312, and that he was buried within the precincts of his monastery. Later writers have asserted that he succeeded Matthew Paris as Historiographer to Henry III. and his suc- cessors. As Matthew Paris died in 1259, within a few months of the time to which he had brought down his annals, this statement is obviously incorrect. It is doubtful indeed whether Rishanger ever held any such office. Matthew Paris was himself a monk of St. Alban's, and his fame, one of the few literary reputations of the thirteenth century, was sufficient to ensure that his labours should be continued by an inmate of the same monastery.

The Chronicle commences with the year 1259, and is carried down to Edward I. It contains, however, an allu- sion to the death of Edward II., and the dethronement of that Prince is briefly recorded in one of the other works included in this volume. The fact that the whole of this period falls within the life of the writer gives a special value to his work. Nor is its worth as a contemporary authority destroyed by any manifest defects of partiality or incompetence in the author. He displays indeed the natural prepossessions of his order. We expect and are pleased to find that Simon de Mont- fort is a great hero to him—" a grand man, who expended not only his goods but himself for the delivering of the poor, for the assert- ing of justice and of the rights of the realm." Nor can we blames. zealous Churchman for espousing the cause of the odious Charles of Anjou against Manfred and Coiaradin. But be leaves never- theless on the minds of his readers a general impression of honesty and trustworthiness. He even shows a certain power of judgment. and observation, and an amount of historical insight beyond what is usually found in writers of his class. The chief historical interest of the Chronicle is in the account which it gives of the character and policy of the greatest of our English Kings. The merits of Edward I. as a legislator have long been appreciated by those whose studies have taken this direction, and have earned for him the doubtful honour of being styled the English Justinian. Equal justice has not been done to his general policy and government and to his personal character. It has been left for recent writers to show that he was anything but an unscrupulous and cruel tyrant, and to defend him against the charges of reckless. ambition preferred by the champions of Welsh and Scotch nationalities. Rishanger displays no excessive partiality for Edward, whom he accuses more than once of oppressing in. pecuniary matters the ecclesiastical order, but he fully con- firms the highest estimate which has been formed of the, monarch's character. A man of imperious will, yet not in- capable of yielding ; humane almost beyond example in that age, yet not safe from great bursts of passion ; of quick but for- giving temper, singularly magnanimous and truthful, mindful of justice, even in his ambition, in his private relations blamelem and most affectionate. Such is the picture that we form from the copious details with which the chronicler supplies us. Consider- able space is occupied by accounts of Edward's proceedings with regard to Wales and Scotland. In the "Annals of the Realm of Scotland," a fragment which occupies the second place in the volume, and which Rishanger seems to have consulted, we have set forth at length the pleadings submitted to Edward by the rival claimants for the Scottish Crown, and it is impossible not to be struck by the care which the King seems to have taken to arrive at an equitable decision. The Scotch will not find a favourable account of their national hero. The atrocities which all the chroniclers are unanimous in ascribing to William Waleys are narrated in hideous detail, and his character is thus summed up A man of many crimes, a deceiver, a run- away, a hater of religion, a sacrilegious robber, an incendiary, a murderer more cruel than Nero, more frantic than Herod." The Chronicle abounds with interesting details illustrative of life and manners in the thirteenth century. The monastery of St. Alban's is of course the centre of the world to the writer. He is never forgetful of its fortunes, and he records with pride the special favour shown to it by Edward and his second Queen. The town derives from it a reflected importance. The chronicler turns aside from European politics to describe the punishment of a cattle. stealer from Dunstable, who had the audacity to lift twelve oxen belonging to the neighbouring village of Colne, and he narrates -with evident satisfaction the fate of the Constable of Hertford. The tale is worth transcribing, as a picture of English society at a time which was not by any 'means especially uncivilized or law- less. The fortifications of St. .Alban's had, it seems, excited the jealousy of the Constable, and he swore that he would enter the town with three of his men, and carry back with him to Hertford four of the principal townsmen. "And so, to keep his word, he entered the town, running about everywhere in foolish fashion, and casting his eyes round him as if he were going to do some- thing great. At last he says to his men, See how the wind is.' Whereupon a certain butcher, thinking that he meant to burn the town, said, I will show you how the wind is,' and straightway dealt him a blow so vigorously that he fell on the ground at his feet. So they took him, with his men, and bound them with chains and letters, and the next morning the butchers cut off their heads and fixed them on long poles, and put them at the four corners of the town." The King seems not to have appreciated the humour of the proceedings, and fined the town a hundred marks. We find, on page 4, another tale, which, horrible as it is, has a certain grim jocosity about it. A certain Jew had, it seems, the mis- fortune to fall into a pit of a most unsavoury kind, but it being his sabbath would not suffer himself to be palled out, out of respect to the day, which thing coming to the ears of Richard, Earl of Gloucester, he swore that the Christian sabbath should be equally respected, and commanded that the man should be left where he was. The end of it was that the unfortunate Jew was suffocated. Besides copious notices of English affairs, which include interesting details about the weather, the price of pro- visions, and the like, the chronicler takes occasion to record striking events occurring in other parts of Christendom, and even among the Infidels. He leaves on the whole a 'very favourable impression of his industry and intelligence.

Mr. Riley has performed his duties as editor with an amount of care and ability which will maintain his high reputation. He has added a most copious and useful index. He would, however, we think, have done better to have omitted altogether the very insufficient glossary which he has given us. We do not know why he should have inserted words of undoubtedly classical Latinity, such as nominatus and infortunium, and given no explana- tion of treuga, garcis, haristia, and scores of other mediteval terms which we might mention.

A portion both of the Winchester and of the Waverley annals has long been published, but in so imperfect and careless a way as to leave much to be done by the present editor. The volume which he has brought out is an important contribution to his- torical literature, though it is inferior in interest and value to Rishanger's Chronicle. Both series of annals are, to a great degree, compilations from authorities already familiar to us, though in some instances the Winchester annalist seems to have had access to sources of information which are not now available. The more valuable portion, the contemporary history, occupies in both series but a comparatively small space, and where it touches upon the period embraced by the Chronicle of Rishanger it is generally inferior to that work, both in execution and ful- ness of detail. The influence of Matthew Paris appears to have founded in St. Alban's something of an historical school. We can certainly notice in the Winchester and Waverley annalists an inferior power of observation, a want of perspective, and a narrower and more distinctly ecclesiastical view of affairs. It must not, however, be forgotten that we are under considerable obligations to these habits of thought. The story of the fortunes ,of the two monasteries, of their feuds, both foreign and domestic, is often tedious enough, but we canuot be too thankful for the contributions which the piety of the Winchester annalist has left towards the history of his noble cathedral. Mr. Luard's volume, however, the editing of which it is superfluous to praise, deserves a more detailed examination than our space now permits us to give it. As it is part of a series, we may be able on some future occasion to revert to it. Meanwhile we cannot help doubting the propriety of the arrangement which postpones the index to the conclusion of the series. The want of it ntakes the earlier volumes comparatively useless.

We have seldom been inclined to question the wisdom of the selections sanctioned by the Master of the Rolls, but the third volume on our list seems hardly to possess a value adequate to the cost of producing it. The general interest attaching to the title. deeds of a monastery seems hardly sufficient to warrant their being printed at length, though the compilers of county and parish his- tories may find it useful to have them made so easily accessible. We may at all events console ourselves with the thought that the cost of the volume is probably not a tenth part of what is shot away in a morning at Shoeburyness.