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volumes (_volumina notabilia_), also eight psalters, a book of collects,
a book of epistles, a volume containing the gospels for the year, two
copies of the gospels complete, bound in gold and silver, and ornamented
with gems; besides ordinals, constitutions, missals, troapries,
collects, and other books for the use of the library."[390]

Thus blessed, we find the monks of St. Albans for ages after constantly
acquiring fresh treasures, and multiplying their book stores by fruitful
transcripts. There is scarce an abbot, whose portrait garnishes the fair
manuscript before me, that is not represented with some goodly tomes
spread around him, or who is not mentioned as a choice "_amator
librorum_," in these monkish pages. It is a singular circumstance, when
we consider how bookless those ages are supposed to have been, that the
illuminated portraits of the monks are most frequently depicted with some
ponderous volume before them, as if the idea of a monk and the study of a
book were quite inseparable. During my search among the old manuscripts
quoted in this work, this fact has been so repeatedly forced upon my
attention that I am tempted to regard it as an important hint, and one
which speaks favorably for the love of books and learning among the
cowled devotees of the monasteries.

Passing Richard de Albani, who gave them a copy of the gospels, a missal
written in letters of gold, an other precious volumes whose titles are
unrecorded,[391] we come to Geoffry, a native of Gorham, who was elected
abbot in the year 1119. He had been invited over to England (before he
became a priest) by his predecessor, to superintend the school of St.
Albans; but he delayed the voyage so long, that on his arrival he found
the appointment already filled; on this he went to Dunstable, where he
read lectures, and obtained some pupils. It was during his stay there
that he wrote the piece which has obtained for him so much reputation.
_Ubi quendam ludum de Sancta Katarinæ quem miracula vulgariter appellamus
fecit_, says the Cotton manuscripts, on the vellum page of which he is
portrayed in the act of writing it.[392] Geoffry, from this passage, is
supposed to be the first author of dramatic literature in England;
although the title seems somewhat equivocal, from the casual manner in
which his famous play of St. Catherine is thus mentioned by Matthew
Paris. Of its merits we are still less able to form an opinion; for
nothing more than the name of that much talked of miracle play has been
preserved. We may conclude, however, that it was performed with all the
paraphernalia of scenery and characteristic costume; for he borrowed of
the sacrist of St. Albans some copes for this purpose. On the night
following the representation the house in which he resided was burnt;
and, says the historian, all his books, and the copes he had borrowed
were destroyed. Rendered poor indeed by this calamity, and somewhat
reflecting upon himself for the event, he assumed in sorrow and despair
the religious habit, and entered the monastery of St. Albans; where by
his deep study, his learning and his piety, he so gained the hearts of
his fraternity, that he ultimately became their abbot. He is said to have
been very industrious in the transcription of books; and he "made a
missal bound in gold, _auro ridimitum_, and another in two volumes; both
incomparably illuminated in gold, and written in a clear and legible
hand; also a precious Psalter similarly illuminated; a book containing
the Benedictions and the Sacraments; a book of Exorcisms, and a

Geoffry was succeeded by Ralph de Gobium in the year 1143: he was a monk
remarkable for his learning and his bibliomanical pursuits. He formerly
remained some time in the services of Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, and
gained the esteem of that prelate. His book-loving passion arose from
hearing one "Master Wodon, of Italy, expound the doctrines of the Holy
Scriptures." He from that time became a most enthusiastic _amator
librorum_; and collected, with great diligence, an abundant multitude of

The matters in which he was concerned, his donations to the monastery,
and the anecdotes of his life, are all unconnected with my subject; so
that I am obliged to pass from this interesting monk, an undoubted
bibliophile, from sheer want of information. I cannot but regret that the
historian does not inform us more fully of his book collecting pursuits;
but he is especially barren on that subject, although he highly esteems
him for prosecuting that pleasing avocation. He died in the year 1151, in
the fourteenth of King Stephen, and was followed by Robert de Gorham, who
is also commemorated as a bibliophile in the pages of the Cotton
manuscripts; and to judge from his portrait, and the intensity with which
he pores over his volume, he was a hard and devoted student. He ordered
the scribes to make a great many books; indeed, adds Paris the historian,
who was himself somewhat of an _amator librorum_, "more by far than can
be mentioned."[395] From another source we learn that these books were
most sumptuously bound.[396]

During the days of this learned abbot a devout and humble clerk asked
admission at the abbey gate. Aspiring to a holy life, he ardently hoped,
by thus spending his days in monastic seclusion, to render his heart more
acceptable to God. Hearing his prayer, the monks conducted him into the
presence of my Lord Abbot, who received him with compassionate
tenderness, and kindly questioned him as to his qualifications for the
duties and sacred responsibilities of the monkish priesthood; for even in
those dark ages they looked a little into the learning of the applicant
before he was admitted into their fraternity. But alas! the poor clerk
was found wofully deficient in this respect, and was incapable of
replying to the questions of my Lord Abbot, who thereupon gently
answered, "My son, tarry awhile, and still exercise thyself in study, and
so become more perfect for the holy office."

Abashed and disappointed, he retired with a kindling blush of shame; and
deeming this temporary repulse a positive refusal he left his fatherland,
and started on a pilgrimage to France.[397] And who was this poor,
humble, unlettered clerk? Who this simple layman, whose ignorance
rendered him an unfit _socius_ for the plodding monks of old St. Albans
Abbey? No less than the English born Nicholas Brekespere, afterwards his
Holiness Adrian IV., Pope of Rome, Vicar-apostolic and successor of St.

Yes; still bearing in mind the kind yet keen reproof of the English
abbot, on his arrival in a foreign land he studied with all the depth and
intensity of despair, and soon surpassed his companions in the pursuit of
knowledge; and became so renowned for learning, and for his prudence,
that he was made Canon of St. Rufus. His sagacity, moreover, caused him
to be chosen, on three separate occasions, to undertake some important
embassies to the apostolic see; and at length he was elected a cardinal.
So step by step he finally became elevated to the high dignity of the
popedom. The first and last of England's sons who held the keys of Peter.

These shadows of the past - these shreds of a forgotten age - these echoes
of five hundred years, are full of interest and instruction. For where
shall we find a finer example - a more cheering instance of what
perseverance will accomplish - or a more satisfactory result of the
pursuit of knowledge under difficulties? Not only may these curious facts
cheer the dull student now, and inspire him with that energy so
essential to success, but these whisperings of old may serve as lessons
for ages yet to come. For if _we_ look back upon those dark days with
such feelings of superiority, may not the wiser generations of the future
regard _us_ with a still more contemptuous, yet curious eye? And when
they look back at our Franklins, and our Johnsons, in astonishment at
such fine instances of what perseverance could do, and what energy and
plodding industry could accomplish, even when surrounded with the
difficulties of _our_ ignorance; how much more will they praise this
bright example, in the dark background of the historical tableaux, who,
without even our means of obtaining knowledge - our libraries or our
talent - rose by patient, hard and devoted study, from Brekespere the
humble clerk - the rejected of St. Albans - to the proud title of
Vicar-apostolic of Christ and Pope of Rome!

Simon, an Englishman, a clerk and a "man of letters and good morals," was
elected abbot in the year 1167. All my authorities concur in bestowing
upon him the honor and praise appertaining to a bibliomaniac. He was,
says one, an especial lover of books, _librorum amator speciales_: and
another in panegyric terms still further dubs him an _amator
scripturarum_. All this he proved, and well earned the distinction, by
the great encouragement he gave to the collecting and transcribing of
books. The monkish pens he found moving too slow, and yielding less fruit
than formerly. He soon, however, set them hard at work again; and to
facilitate their labors, he added materially to the comforts of the
Scriptorium by repairing and enlarging it; "and always," says the monk
from whom I learn this, "kept two or three most choice scribes in the
Camera (Scriptorium,) who sustained its reputation, and from whence an
abundant supply of the most excellent books were continually
produced.[398] He framed some efficient laws for its management, and
ordered that, in subsequent times, every abbot should keep and support
one able scribe at least. Among the 'many choice books and authentic
volumes,' _volumina authentica_, which he by this care and industry added
to the abbey library, was included a splendid copy of the Old and New
Testament, transcribed with great accuracy and beautifully
written - indeed, says the manuscript history of that monastery, so noble
a copy was nowhere else to be seen.[399] But besides this, Abbot Simon
gave them all those precious books which he had been for a 'long time'
collecting himself at great cost and patient labor, and having bound them
in a sumptuous and marvellous manner,[400] he made a library for their
reception near the tomb of Roger the Hermit.[401] He also bestowed many
rich ornaments and much costly plate on the monastery; and by a long
catalogue of good deeds, too ample to be inserted here, he gained the
affections and gratitude of his fraternity, who loudly praised his
virtues and lamented his loss when they laid him in his costly tomb.
There is a curious illumination of this monkish bibliophile in the Cotton
manuscript. He is represented deeply engaged with his studies amidst a
number of massy volumes, and a huge trunk is there before him crammed
with rough old fashioned large clasped tomes, quite enticing to look

After Simon came Garinus, who was soon succeeded by one John. Our
attention is arrested by the learned renown of this abbot, who had
studied in his youth at Paris, and obtained the unanimous praise of his
masters for his assiduous attention and studious industry. He returned
with these high honors, and was esteemed in grammar a Priscian, in poetry
an Ovid, and in physic equal to Galen.[403] With such literary
qualifications, it was to be expected the Scriptorium would flourish
under his government, and the library increase under his fostering care.
Our expectations are not disappointed; for many valuable additions were
made during his abbacy, and the monks over whom he presided gave many
manifestations of refinement and artistic talent, which incline us to
regard the ingenuity of the cloisters in a more favorable light. Raymond,
his prior, was a great help in all these undertakings. His industry seems
to have been unceasing in beautifying the church, and looking after the
transcription of books. With the assistance of Roger de Parco, the
cellarer, he made a large table very handsome, and partly fabricated of
metal. He wrote two copies of the Gospels, and bound them in silver and
gold adorned with various figures. Brother Walter of Colchester, with
Randulph, Gubium and others, produced some very handsome paintings
comprising the evangelists and many holy saints, and hung them up in the
church. "As we have before mentioned, by the care and industry of the
lord Raymond, many noble and useful books were transcribed and given to
the monastery. The most remarkable of these was a Historia Scholastica,
with allegorics, a most elegant book - _liber elegantissimus_ exclaims my
monkish authority."[404] This leads me to say something more of my lord
prior, for the troubles which the conscientious conduct of old Raymond
brought upon himself -

"Implores the passing tribute of a sigh."

Be it known then that William de Trompington succeeded to the abbacy on
the death of John; but he was a very different man, without much esteem
for learning; and thinking I am afraid far more of the world and heaven
or the _Domus Dei_. Alas! memoirs of bad monks and worldly abbots are
sometimes found blotting the holy pages of the monkish annals. _Domus Dei
est porta coeli_, said the monks; and when they closed the convent
gates they did not look back on the world again, but entered on that dull
and gloomy path with a full conviction that they were leaving all and
following Christ, and so acting in accordance with his admonitions; but
those who sought the convent to forget in its solitude their worldly
cares and worldly disappointments, too often found how futile and how
ineffectual was that dismal life to eradicate the grief of an
overburdened heart, or to subdue the violence of misguided temper. The
austerity of the monastic rules might tend to conquer passion or moderate
despair, but there was little within those walls to drive painful
recollections of the outward world away; for at every interval between
their holy meditations and their monkish duties, images of the earth
would crowd back upon their minds, and wring from their ascetic hearts
tributes of anguish and despair; and so we find the writings and letters
of the old monks full of vain regrets and misanthropic thoughts, but
sometimes overflowing with the most touching pathos of human misery. Yet
the monk knew full well what his duty was, and knew how sinful it was to
repine or rebel against the will of God. If he vowed obedience to his
abbot, he did not forget that obedience was doubly due to Him; and strove
with all the strength that weak humanity could muster, to forget the
darkness of the past by looking forward with a pious hope and a lively
faith to the brightness and glory of the future. By constant prayer the
monk thought more of his God, and gained help to strengthen the faith
within him; and by assiduous and devoted study he disciplined his heart
of flesh - tore from it what lingering affection for the world remained,
and deserting all love of earth and all love of kin, purged and purified
it for his holy calling, and closed its portals to render it inaccessible
to all sympathy of blood. If a thought of those shut out from him by the
monastic walls stole across his soul and mingled with his prayer, he
started and trembled as if he had offered up an unholy desire in the
supplication. To him it was a proof that his nature was not yet subdued;
and a day of study and meditation, with a fast unbroken till the rays of
the morrow's sun cast their light around his little cell, absolved the
sin, and broke the tie that bound him to the world without.

If this violence was experienced in subduing the tenderest of human
sympathy; how much more severe was the conflict of dark passions only
half subdued, or malignant depravity only partially reformed. These dark
lines of human nature were sometimes prominent, even when the monk was
clothed in sackcloth and ashes; and are markedly visible in the life of
William de Trompington. But let not the reader think that he was
appointed with the hearty suffrages of the fraternity, he was elected at
the recommendation of the "king," a very significant term in those days
of despotic rule, at which choice became a mere farce. "Out of the
fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh;" and the monks soon began to
perceive with regret and trembling the worldly ways of the new abbot,
which he could not hide even under his abbatical robes. In a place
dedicated to holy deeds and heavenly thoughts, worldly conduct or
unbridled passion strikes the mind as doubly criminal, and loads the
heart with dismay and suffering; at least so my lord Prior regarded it,
whose righteous indignation could no longer endure these manifestations
of a worldly mind. So he gently remonstrated with his superior, and
hinted at the impropriety of such conduct. This was received not in
Christian fellowship, but with haughty and passionate displeasure; and
from that day the fate of poor Raymond was irrevocably sealed. The abbot
thinking to suppress the dissatisfaction which was now becoming general
and particularly inconvenient, sent him a long distance off to the cell
of Tynmouth in Northumberland, where all were strangers to him. Nor could
the tears of the old man turn the heart of his cruel lord, nor the
rebellious murmurings of the brothers avail. Thank God such cases are not
very frequent; and the reader of monkish annals will not find many
instances of such cold and unfeeling cruelty to distress his studies or
to arouse his indignation. But obedience was a matter of course in the
monastery; it was one of the most imperative duties of the monk, and if
not cheerfully he was compelled to manifest alacrity in fulfilling even
the most unpleasant mandate. But I would have forgiven this transaction
on the score of _expediency_ perhaps, had not the abbot heaped additional
insults and cruelties upon the aged offender; but his books which he had
transcribed with great diligence and care, he forcibly deprived him of,
_violenter spoliatum_, and so robbed him, as his historian says, of all
those things which would have been a comfort and solace to his old

The books which the abbot thus became dishonestly possessed of - for I
cannot regard it in any other light - we are told he gave to the library
of the monastery; and he also presented some books to more than one
neighboring church.[406] But he was not bookworm himself, and dwelt I
suspect with greater fondness over his wealthy rent roll than on the
pages of the fine volumes in the monastic library. The monks, however,
amidst all these troubles retained their love of books; indeed it was
about this time that John de Basingstoke, who had studied at Athens,
brought a valuable collection of Greek books into England, and greatly
aided in diffusing a knowledge of that language into this country. He was
deacon of Saint Albans, and taught many of the monks Greek; Nicholas, a
chaplain there, became so proficient in it, that he was capable of
greatly assisting bishop Grostete in translating his Testament of the
twelve patriarchs into Latin.[407]

Roger de Northone, the twenty-fourth abbot of Saint Albans, gave "many
valuable and choice books to the monastery," and among them the
commentaries of Raymond, Godfrey, and Bernard, and a book containing the
works and discourses of Seneca. His bibliomaniacal propensities, and his
industry in transcribing books, is indicated by an illumination
representing this worthy abbot deeply engrossed with his ponderous

I have elsewhere related an anecdote of Wallingford, abbot of St. Albans,
and the sale of books effected between him and Richard de Bury. It
appears that rare and munificent collector gave many and various noble
books, _multos et varios libros nobiles_, to the monastery of St. Albans
whilst he was bishop of Durham.[409] Michael de Wentmore succeeded
Wallingford, and proved a very valuable benefactor to the monastery; and
by wise regulations and economy greatly increased the comforts and good
order of the abbey. He gave many books, _plures libros_, to the library,
besides two excellent Bibles,[410] one for the convent and one for the
abbot's study, and to be kept especially for his private reading; an
ordinal, very beautiful to look upon, being sumptuously bound.[411]
Indeed, so _multis voluminibus_ did he bestow, that he expended more than
100_l._ in this way, an immense sum in those old days, when a halfpenny a
day was deemed fair wages for a scribe.[412]

Wentmore was succeeded by Thomas de la Mare, a man of singular learning,
and remarkable as a patron of it in others; it was probably by his
direction that John of Tynmouth wrote his Sanctilogium Britannæ, for that
work was dedicated to him. A copy, presented by Thomas de la Mare to the
church of Redburn, is in the British Museum, much injured by fire, but
retaining at the end the following lines:

"Hunc librum dedet Dominus Thomas de la Mare, Albas monasterii S.
Albani Anglorum Proto martyris Deo et Ecclesiæ B. Amphibali de
Redburn, ut fratris indem in cursu existentus per ejus lecturam
poterint coelestibus instrui, et per Sanctorum exempla
virtutibus insignixi."[413]

But there are few who have obtained so much reputation as John de
Whethamstede, perhaps the most learned abbot of this monastery. He was
formerly monk of the cell at Tynmouth, and afterwards prior of Gloucester
College at Oxford, from whence he was appointed to the government of St.
Albans. Whethamstede was a passionate bibliomaniac, and when surrounded
with his books he cared little, or perhaps from the absence of mind so
often engendered by the delights of study, he too frequently forgot, the
important affairs of his monastery, and the responsible duties of an
abbot; but absorbed as he was with his studies, Whethamstede was not a

..... "Bookful blockhead ignorantly read
With loads of learned lumber in his head."

It is true he was an inveterate reader, amorously inclined towards vellum
tomes and illuminated parchments; but he did not covet them like some
collectors for the mere pride of possessing them, but gloried in feasting
on their intellectual charms and delectable wisdom, and sought in their
attractive pages the means of becoming a better Christian and a wiser
man. But he was so excessively fond of books, and became so deeply
engrossed with his book-collecting pursuits, that it is said some of the
monks showed a little dissatisfaction at his consequent neglect of the
affairs of the monastery; but these are faults I cannot find the heart to
blame him for, but am inclined to consider his conduct fully redeemed by
the valuable encouragement he gave to literature and learning. Generous
to a fault, abundant in good deeds and costly expenditure, he became
involved in pecuniary difficulties, and found that the splendor and
wealth which he had scattered so lavishly around his monastery, and the
treasures with which he had adorned the library shelves, had not only
drained his ample coffers, but left a large balance unsatisfied.
Influenced by this circumstance, and the murmurings of the monks, and
perhaps too, hoping to obtain more time for study and book-collecting, he
determined to resign his abbacy, and again become a simple brother. The
proceedings relative to this affair are curiously related by a
contemporary, John of Amersham.[414] In Whethamstede's address to the
monks on this occasion, he thus explains his reasons for the step he was
about to take. After a touching address, wherein he intimates his
determination, he says,[415] "Ye have known moreover how, from the first
day of my appointment even until this day, assiduously and continually
without any intermission I have shown singular solicitude in four things,
to wit, in the erection of conventual buildings, _in the writing of
books_, in the renewal of vestments, and in the acquisition of property.
And perhaps, by reason of this solicitude of mine, ye conceive that I
have fallen into debt; yet that you may know, learn and understand what
is in this matter the certain and plain truth, and when ye know it ye may
report it unto others, know ye for certain, yea, for most certain, that
for all these things about which, and in which I have expended money, I
am not indebted to any one living more than 10,000 marks; but that I wish
freely to acknowledge this debt, and so to make satisfaction to every
creditor, that no survivor of any one in the world shall have to demand
anything from my successor."

The monks on hearing this declaration were sorely affected, and used
every persuasion to induce my lord abbot to alter his determination, but
without success; so that they were compelled to seek another in whom to

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