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confide the government of their abbey. Their choice fell upon John
Stokes, who presided over them for many years; but at his death the love
and respect which the brothers entertained for Whethamstede, was
manifested by unanimously electing him again, an honor which he in return
could not find the heart to decline. But during all this time, and after
his restoration, he was constantly attending to the acquisition of books,
and numerous were the transcripts made under his direction by the scribes
and enriched by his munificence, for some of the most costly copies
produced in that century were the fruits of their labor; during his time
there were more volumes transcribed than in that of any other abbot since
the foundation of the abbey, says the manuscript from whence I am
gleaning these details, and adds that the number of them exceeded
eighty-seven. He commenced the transcription of the great commentary of
Nicholas de Lyra upon the whole Bible, which had then been published some
few years. "Det Deus, ut in nostris felicem habere valeat
consummacionem,"[416] exclaims the monk, nor will the reader be surprised
at the expression, if he for one moment contemplates the magnitude of the

But not only was Whethamstede remarkable as a bibliomaniac - he claims
considerable respect as an author. Some of his productions were more
esteemed in his own time than now; being compilations and commentaries
more adapted as a substitute for other books, than valuable as original
works. Under this class I am inclined to place his Granarium, a large
work in five volumes; full of miscellaneous extracts, etc., and somewhat
partaking of the encyclopediac form; his Propinarium, in two volumes,
also treating of general matters; his Pabularium and Palearium Poetarium,
and his Proverbiarium, or book of Proverbs; to which may be added the
many pieces relating to the affairs of the monastery. But far different
must we regard many of his other productions, which are more important in
a literary point of view, as calling for the exercise of a refined and
cultivated mind, and no small share of critical acumen. Among these I
must not forget to include his Chronicle,[417] which spreading over a
space of twenty years, forms a valuable historical document. The rest are
poetical narratives, embracing an account of Jack Cade's
insurrection - the battles of Ferrybridge, Wakefield, and St. Albans.[418]

A Cottonian manuscript contained a catalogue of the books which this
worthy abbot compiled, or which were transcribed under his direction:
unfortunately it was burnt, with many others forming part of that
inestimable collection.[419] From another source we learn the names of
some of them, and the cost incurred in their transcription.[420] Twenty
marks were paid for copying his Granarium, in four volumes; forty
shillings for his Palearium; the same for a Polycraticon of John of
Salisbury; five pounds for a Boethius, with a gloss; upwards of six
pounds for "a book of Cato," enriched with a gloss and table; and four
pounds for Gorham upon Luke. Whethamstede ordered a Grael to be written
so beautifully illuminated, and so superbly bound, as to be valued at the
enormous sum of twenty pounds: but let it be remembered that my Lord
Abbot was a very epicure in books, and thought a great deal of choice
bindings, tall copies, immaculate parchment, and brilliant illuminations,
and the high prices which he freely gave for these book treasures evince
how sensible he was to the joys of bibliomania; nor am I inclined to
regard the works thus attained as "mere monastic trash."[421]

The finest illumination in the Cotton manuscript is a portrait of Abbot
Whethamstede, which for artistic talent is far superior to any in the
volume. Eight folios are occupied with an enumeration of the "good
works" of this liberal monk: among the items we find the sum of forty
pounds having been expended on a reading desk, and four pounds for
writing four Antiphoners.[422] He displayed also great liberality of
spirit in his benefactions to Gloucester College, at Oxford, besides
great pecuniary aid. He built a library there, and gave many valuable
books for the use of the students, in which he wrote these verses:

Fratribus Oxonioe datur in minus liber iste,
Per patrem pecorem prothomartyris Angligenorum:
Quem si quis rapiat ad partem sive reponat,
Vel Judæ loqueum, vel furcas sentiat; Amen.

In others he wrote -

Discior ut docti fieret nova regia plebi
Culta magisque deæ datur hic liber ara Minerva,
Hic qui diis dictis libant holocausta ministrias.
Et cirre bibulam sitiunt præ nectare lympham,
Estque librique loci, idem datur, actor et unus.[423]

If we estimate worth by comparison, we must award a large proportion to
this learned abbot. Living in the most corrupt age of the monastic
system, when the evils attendant on luxurious ease began to be too
obvious in the cloister, and when complaints were heard at first in a
whispering murmur, but anon in a stern loud voice of wroth and indignant
remonstrance - when in fact the progressive, inquiring spirit of the
reformation was taking root in what had hitherto been regarded as a hard,
dry, stony soil. This coming tempest, only heard as yet like the lulling
of a whisper, was nevertheless sufficiently loud to spread terror and
dismay among the cowled habitants of the monasteries. That quietude and
mental ease so indispensable to study - so requisite for the growth of
thought and intellectuality, was disturbed by these distant sounds, or
dissipated by their own indolence. And yet in the midst of all this,
rendered still more anxious and perplexing by domestic troubles and signs
of discontent and insubordination among the monks. Whethamstede found
time, and what was better the spirit, for literary and bibliomanical
pursuits. Honor to the man, monk though he be, who oppressed with these
vicissitudes and cares could effect so much, and could appreciate both
literature and art.

Contemporary with him we are not surprised that he gained the patronage
and friendship of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, to whom he dedicated many
of his own performances, and greatly aided in collecting those treasures
which the duke regarded with such esteem. It is said that noble collector
frequently paid a friendly visit to the abbey to inspect the work of the
monkish scribes, and perhaps to negociate for some of those choice vellum
tomes for which the monks of that monastery were so renowned.

But we must not pass the "good duke" without some slight notice of his
"ryghte valiant deedes," his domestic troubles and his dark mysterious
end. Old Foxe thus speaks of him in his Actes and Monuments: "Of manners
he seemed meeke and gentle, louing the commonwealth, a supporter of the
poore commons, of wit and wisdom, discrete and studious, well affected to
religion and a friend to verity, and no lesse enemy to pride and
ambition, especially in haughtie prelates, which was his undoing in this
present evil world. And, which is seldom and rare in such princes of that
calling, he was both learned himselfe and no lesse given to studie, and
also a singular favourer and patron to those who were studious and
learned."[424] To which I cannot refrain from adding the testimony of
Hollingshed, who tells us that "The ornaments of his mind were both rare
and admirable; the feats of chiualrie by him commensed and atchiued
valiant and fortunate; his grauitie in counsell and soundnesse of policie
profound and singular; all which with a traine of other excellent
properties linked together, require a man of manifold gifts to aduance
them according to their dignitie. I refer the readers unto Maister Foxe's
booke of Actes and Monuments. Onelie this I ad, that in respect of his
noble indowments and his demeanor full of decencie, which he dailie used,
it seemeth he might wel haue giuen this prettie poesie:"

"Virtute duce non sanguine nitor."[425]

But with all these high qualities, our notions of propriety are somewhat
shocked at the open manner in which he kept his mistress Eleanor Cobham;
but we can scarcely agree in the condemnation of the generality of
historians for his marrying her afterwards, but regard it rather as the
action of an honorable man, desirous of making every reparation in his
power.[426] But the "pride of birth" was sorely wounded by the espousals;
and the enmity of the aristocracy already roused, now became deeply
rooted. Eleanor's disposition is represented as passionate and
unreasonable, and her mind sordid and oppressive. Be this how it may, we
must remember that it is from her enemies we learn it; and if so,
unrelenting persecution and inveterate malice were proceedings ill
calculated to soothe a temper prone to violence, or to elevate a mind
undoubtedly weak. But the vindictive and haughty cardinal Beaufort was
the open and secret enemy of the good duke Humphrey; for not only did he
thwart every public measure proposed by his rival, but employed spies to
insinuate themselves into his domestic circle, and to note and inform him
of every little circumstance which malice could distort into crime, or
party rage into treason. This detestable espionage met with a too speedy
success. The duke, who was especially fond of the society of learned men,
retained in his family many priests and clerks, and among them one Roger
Bolingbroke, "a famous necromancer and astronomer." This was a sufficient
ground for the enmity of the cardinal to feed upon, and he determined to
annihilate at one blow the domestic happiness of his rival. He arrested
the Duchess, Bolingbroke, and a witch called Margery Gourdimain, or
Jourdayn, on the charge of witchcraft and treason. He accused the priest
and Margery of making, and the duchess for having in her possession, a
waxen figure, which, as she melted it before a slow fire, so would the
body of the king waste and decay, and his marrow wither in his bones. Her
enemies tried her, and of course found her and her companions guilty,
though without a shred of evidence to the purpose. The duchess was
sentenced to do penance in St. Paul's and two other churches on three
separate days, and to be afterwards imprisoned in the Isle of Man for
life. Bolingbroke, who protested his innocence to the last, was hung and
quartered at Tyburn; and Margery, the witch of Eye, as she was called,
was burnt at Smithfield. But the black enmity of the cardinal was sorely
disappointed at the effect produced by this persecution. He reasonably
judged that no accusation was so likely to arouse a popular prejudice
against duke Humphrey as appealing to the superstition of the people who
in that age were ever prone to receive the most incredulous fabrications;
but far different was the impression made in the present case. The people
with more than their usual sagacity saw through the flimsy designs of the
cardinal and his faction; and while they pitied the victims of party
malice, loved and esteemed the good duke Humphrey more than ever.

But the intriguing heart of Beaufort soon resolved upon the most
desperate measures, and shrunk not from staining his priestly hands with
innocent and honorable blood. A parliament was summoned to meet at St.
Edmunds Bury, in Suffolk, on the 10th of February, 1447, at which all the
nobility were ordered to assemble. On the arrival of Duke Humphrey, the
cardinal arrested him on a groundless charge of high treason, and a few
days after he was found dead in his bed, his enemies gave out that he had
died of the palsy; but although his body was eagerly shown to the
sorrowing multitude, the people believed that their friend and favorite
had been foully murdered, and feared not to raise their voice in loud
accusations at the Suffolk party; "sum sayed that he was smouldered
betwixt two fetherbeddes,"[427] and others declared that he had suffered
a still more barbarous death. Deep was the murmuring and the grief of the
people, for the good duke had won the love and esteem of their hearts;
and we can fully believe a contemporary who writes -

"Compleyne al Yngland thys goode Lorde's deth."[428]

Perhaps none suffered more by his death than the author and the scholar;
for Duke Humphrey was a munificent patron of letters, and loved to
correspond with learned men, many of whom dedicated their works to him,
and received ample encouragement in return.[429] Lydgate, who knew him
well, composed some of his pieces at the duke's instigation. In his
Tragedies of Ihon Bochas he thus speaks of him:

"Duke of Glocester men this prynce call,
And not withstandyng his estate and dignitie,
His courage neuer dothe appall
To study in bokes of antiquitie;
Therein he hath so great felicitie,
Virtuously him selfe to occupye,
Of vycious slouthe, he hath the maistry.

And for these causes as in his entent
To shewe the untrust of all worldly thinge,
He gave to me in commandment
As him seemed it was ryghte well fittynge
That I shoulde, after my small cunning,
This boke translate, him to do pleasaunce,
To shew the chaung of worldly variaunce.

And with support of his magnificence
Under the wynges of his correction,
Though that I lacke of eloquence
I shall proceede in this translation.
Fro me auoydyng all presumption,
Louyly submittying every houre and space,
My rude language to my lorde's grace.

Anone after I of eutencion,
With penne in hande fast gan me spede,
As I coulde in my translation,
In this labour further to procede,
My Lorde came forth by and gan to take hede;
This mighty prince right manly and right wise
Gaue me charge in his prudent auyle.

That I should in euery tragedy,
After the processe made mencion,
At the ende set a remedy,
With a Lenuoy, conveyed by reason;
And after that, with humble affection,
To noble princes lowly it dyrect,
By others fallying them selues to correct.

And I obeyed his biddyng and pleasaunce
Under support of his magnificence,
As I coulde, I gan my penne aduaunce,
All be I was barrayne of eloquence,
Folowing mine auctor in substance and sétence,
For it sufficeth playnly unto me,
So that my lorde my makyng take in gre."[430]

Lydgate often received money whilst translating this work, from the good
duke Humphrey, and there is a manuscript letter in the British Museum in
which he writes -

"Righte myghty prynce, and it be youre wille,
Condescende leyser for to take,
To se the contents of thys litel bille,
Whiche whan I wrote my hand felt qquake."[431]

Duke Humphrey gave a noble instance of his great love of learning in the
year 1439, when he presented to the University of Oxford one hundred and
twenty-nine treatises, and shortly after, one hundred and twenty-six
_admirandi apparatus_; and in the same year, nine more. In 1443, he made
another important donation of one hundred and thirty volumes, to which he
added one hundred and thirty-five more,[432] making in all, a collection
of five hundred and thirty-eight volumes. These treasures, too, had been
collected with all the nice acumen of a bibliomaniac, and the utmost
attention was paid to their outward condition and internal purity. Never,
perhaps, were so many costly copies seen before, dazzling with the
splendor of their illuminations, and rendered inestimable by the many
faithful miniatures with which they were enriched. A superb copy of
Valerius Maximus is the only relic of that costly and noble gift, a
solitary but illustrious example of the membraneous treasures of that
ducal library.[433] But alas! those very indications of art, those
exquisite illuminations, were the fatal cause of their unfortunate end;
the portraits of kings and eminent men, with which the historical works
were adorned; the diagrams which pervaded the scientific treatises, were
viewed by the zealous reformers of Henry's reign, as damning evidence of
their Popish origin and use; and released from the chains with which they
were secured, they were hastily committed to the greedy flames. Thus
perished the library of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester! and posterity have
to mourn the loss of many an early gem of English literature.[434]

But in the fourteenth century many other honorable examples occur of lay
collectors. The magnificent volumes, nine hundred in number, collected
by Charles V. of France, a passionate bibliomaniac, were afterwards
brought by the duke of Bedford into England. The library then contained
eight hundred and fifty-three volumes, so sumptuously bound and
gorgeously illuminated as to be valued at 2,223 livres![435] This choice
importation diffused an eager spirit of inquiry among the more wealthy
laymen. Humphrey, the "good duke," received some of these volumes as
presents, and among others, a rich copy of Livy, in French.[436] Guy
Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, also collected some choice tomes, and
possessed an unusually interesting library of early romances. He left the
whole of them to the monks of Bordesley Abbey in Worcestershire, about
the year 1359.[437] As a specimen of a private library in the fourteenth
century, I am tempted to extract it.

"A tus iceux, qe ceste lettre verront, ou orrount, Gwy de Beauchamp,
Comte de Warr. Saluz en Deu. Saluz nous aveir baylé e en la garde le Abbé
e le Covent de Bordesleye, lessé à demorer a touz jours touz les
Romaunces de sonz nomes; ceo est assaveyr, un volum, qe est appelé
Tresor. Un volum, en le quel est le premer livere de Lancelot, e un volum
del Romaunce de Aygnes. Un Sauter de Romaunce. Un volum des Evangelies, e
de Vie des Seins. Un volum, qe p'le des quatre principals Gestes de
Charles, e de dooun, e de Meyace e de Girard de Vienne e de Emery de
Nerbonne. Un volum del Romaunce Emmond de Ageland, e deu Roy Charles
dooun de Nauntoyle. E le Romaunce de Gwyoun de Nauntoyl. E un volum del
Romaunce Titus et Vespasien. E un volum del Romaunce Josep ab Arimathie,
e deu Seint Grael. E un volum, qe p'le coment Adam fust eniesté hors de
paradys, e le Genesie. E un volum en le quel sount contenuz touns des
Romaunces, ceo este assaveir, Vitas patrum au comencement; e pus un Comte
de Auteypt; e la Vision Seint Pol; et pus les Vies des xii. Seins. E le
Romaunce de Willame de Loungespe. E Autorites des Seins humes. E le
Mirour de Alme. Un volum, en le quel sount contenuz la Vie Seint Pére e
Seint Pol, e des autres liv. E un volum qe est appelé l'Apocalips. E un
livere de Phisik, e de Surgie. Un volum del Romaunce de Gwy, e de la
Reygne tut enterement. Un volum del Romaunce de Troies. Un volum del
Romaunce de Willame de Orenges e de Teband de Arabie. Un volum del
Romaunce de Amase e de Idoine. Un volum del Romaunce de Girard de Viene.
Un volum del Romaunce deu Brut, e del Roy Costentine. Un volum de le
enseignemt Aristotle enveiez au Roy Alisaundre. Un volum de la mort ly
Roy Arthur, e de Mordret. Un volum en le quel sount contenuz les
Enfaunces de Nostre Seygneur, coment il fust mené en Egipt. E la Vie
Seint Edwd. E la Visioun Seint Pol. La Vengeaunce n're Seygneur par
Vespasien a Titus, e la Vie Seint Nicolas, qe fust nez en Patras. E la
Vie Seint Eustace. E la Vie Seint Cudlac. E la Passioun n're Seygneur. E
la Meditacioun Seint Bernard de n're Dame Seint Marie, e del Passioun
sour deuz fiz Jesu Creist n're Seignr. E la Vie Seint Eufrasie. E la Vie
Seint Radegounde. E la Vie Seint Juliane. Un volum, en le quel est aprise
de Enfants et lumière à Lays. Un volum del Romaunce d'a Alisaundre, ove
peintures. Un petit rouge livere, en le quel sount contenuz mons diverses
choses. Un volum del Romaunce des Mareschans, e de Ferebras e de
Alisaundre. Les queus livres nous grauntons par nos heyrs e par nos
assignes qil demorront en la dit Abbeye, etc."


[385] See a fine manuscript in the Cotton collection marked Nero D.
vii., and another marked Claudius E. iv., both of which I have

[386] Matthew Paris' Edit. Wats, tom. i. p. 39.

[387] "Asserens ad cantelam, ipsum fuisse beati Amphibali, beate
Albini magistri, caracellam." - Mat. Paris, p. 44.

[388] Abjectis igitur et combustis libris, in quibus commenta
diaboli continabantur.

[389] MS. Cottonian, E. iv. fo. 101; Mat. Paris, Edit. Wat. i. p.

[390] MS. Cottanian Claudius, E. iv. fo. 105 b., and MS. Cott. Nero,
D. vii. fo. 13, b.

[391] He was elected in 1093. - See MS. Cott. Claud. E. iv. fo. 107.

[392] Got. MS. Claud. E. iv. fo. 108.

[393] MS. Cot. Nero, D. vii. fo. 15, a; and MS. Cot. Claud. e. iv.

[394] Cot. MS. Claud. E. iv. fo. 113. "Ex tunc igitur amator
librorum et adquisiter sedulus multio voluminibus habundavit."

[395] Fecit etiam scribi libros plurimos; quos longum esset
enarrare. - _Mat. Paris Edit. Wat._ p. 89.

[396] Cot. MS. Nero D. vii. fo. 16, a.

[397] MS. Claud. E. iv. fo. 114, a.

[398] MS. Cot. Claud. E. iv. fo. 125 b.

[399] _Ibid._

[400] MS. Cot. Nero D. vii. fo. 16 a.

[401] MS. Cot. Claud. iv. fo. 124.

[402] Claud. E. iv. fo. 124.

[403] "In grammatica Priscianus, in metrico Ovidius, in physica
censori potuit Galenus." _MS. Cot. Claud._ E. iv. f. 129, b. _Matt.
Paris' Edit. Wat._ p. 103.

[404] MS. Cot. Claud. E. iv. fo. 131. b.

[405] MS. Cot. Claud. E. iv. fol. 135 b.

[406] Ibid. fol. 141.

[407] MS. Reg. Brit. Mus. 4 D. viii. 4. Wood's Hist. Oxon. 1-82, and
Matt. Paris. Turner's Hist. of Eng. vol. iv. p. 180.

[408] MS. Cot. Nero, D. vii. fol. 19 a.

[409] Ibid. fol. 86.

[410] Duos bonas biblias.

[411] MS. Cot. Claud. E. iv. fo. 229 b.

[412] MS. Cot. Nero D. vii. fo. 20 b.

[413] MS. Cot. Tiberius, E. i.

[414] MS. Cot. Claud. D. i. fo. 165, "Acta Johannis Abbatis per
Johannem Agmundishamensem monachum S. Albani."

[415] Gibson's Hist. Monast. Tynmouth, vol. ii. p. 62, whose
translation I use in giving the following extract. If the reader
refers to Mr. Gibson's handsome volumes, he will find much
interesting and curious matter from John of Amersham relative to
this matter.

[416] Otterb. cxvi.; see also MS. Cot. Nero. vii. fo. 32 a.

[417] Otterbourne Hist. a Hearne, _edit._ Oxon, 1732, tom. i. 2.

[418] Gough's Sepulchral Monuments, vol. ii. pt. 11, p. 205. For a
list of his works see Bale; also Pits. p. 630, who enumerates more
than thirty.

[419] Marked Otho, b. iv.

[420] MS. Arundel. Brit. Mus. clxiii. c. A curious Register, "per
magistrum Johannem Whethamstede et dominum Thoman Ramryge," fo. 74,
75. Upwards of fifty volumes are specified, with the cost of each.

[421] Julius Cæsar was among them. - Cot. MS. Claud. d. i. fo. 156.

[422] MS. Cod. Nero, D. vii. fo. 28 a. He "enlarged the abbot's
study," fo. 29, which most monasteries possessed. Whethamstede had a
study also at his manor at Tittinhanger, and had inscribed on it
these lines:

"Ipse Johannis amor Whethamstede ubique proclamor
Ejus et alter honor hic lucis in auge reponer."

See also MS. Cot. Claud. D. i. fo. 157, for an account of his many

[423] Weever's Funerall Monuments, p. 562 to 567. I have forgotten
to mention before that Whethamstede built a new library for the
abbey books, and expended considerably more than £120 upon the

[424] Foxe's Actes and Monuments, folio, Lond. 1576, p. 679.

[425] Holingshed Chronicle, fol. 1587, vol. ii. p. 627.

[426] See Stowe, p. 367.

[427] Leland Collect. vol. i. p. 494.

[428] MS. Harleian, No. 2251, fol. 7 b.

[429] Capgrave's Commentary on Genesis, in Oriel College, Cod. MSS.
32, is dedicated to him. Aretine's Trans. Aristotle's Politics, MS.
Bodl. D. i. 8-10. Pet. de Monte de Virt. de Vit. MS. Norvic. More,
257. Bibl. publi Cantab. Many others are given in Warton's Hist. of
Poetry, 4to. vol. ii. pp. 48-50.

[430] Tragedies of Ihon Bochas. Imp. at London, by John Wayland,
fol. 38 b.

[431] MS. Harleian, No. 2251, fol. 6. Lydgate received one hundred
shillings for translating the Life of St. Alban into English verse
for Whethamstede.

[432] See Wood's Hist. and Antiq. of Oxford, vol. ii. p. 914.

[433] MSS. Bodl. N. E. vii. ii. Warton, vol. ii. p. 45. I find in
the Arundel Register in the British Museum (MSS. Arund. clxiii. c.)
that a fine copy of Valerius, in two volumes, with a gloss, was
transcribed in the time of Whethamstede at St. Albans, at the cost
of £6 13 4, probably the identical copy.

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