Prefaces and Introduction

THE ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF ENGLAND AND NORMANDY. BY ORDERICUS VITALIS. TRANSLATED, WITH NOTES, AND THE INTRODUCTION OF GUIZOT, BY THOMAS FORESTER, M.A. -VOL. I. LONDON: HENRY G. BOHN, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN. MDCCCLIII.

J. HADDON AND SOS, PRINTERS, CASTLE STREET, FINSBURY.

EDITOR'S PREFACE.

ORDERICUS VITALIS, in his personal and literary history, as well as in the annals which compose the most valuable part of his voluminous work, forms a connecting link between the English and Norman writers of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Born in England, and having received the first rudiments of learning at Shrewsbury, he was removed at an early age to a monastery in Normandy, in which he completed his education, and passed the rest of his life in the duties of his monastic profession and in literary labours. These, as M. Guizot has remarked were "especially devoted to the glory of Normandy"; [1] and, doubtless, that was the field on which all his immediate associations led him to dwell with the greatest freedom, and to cultivate in its minutest details.

But Ordericus did not forget his native country; he so gloried in the name of "Englishman" that it is added to his Norman designation of "monk of St. Evroult" in his autograph manuscript; and the accounts he gives of English affairs generally, during the reigns of the three first Norman kings, interspersed with local and personal matters of considerable interest, exhibit the same careful research, if they are not so diffuse, as the portion of his work devoted to


[1] Notice sur Orderic Vital, prefixed to the French translation of our author's History.

iv EDITOR'S PREFACE.

Normandy. He undertook a journey to England for the express purpose of collecting materials, and his connection with the family of the great Earl of Shrewsbury, who had possessions in both countries, would give him access to precise information on English affairs. In point of fact, he alternately transports his readers from Normandy to England, and from England to Normandy, two states which may be considered to have formed in his time almost an united kingdom, and he treats the affairs of both with nearly equal precision.

There is a peculiar advantage in studying English history from such a point of view, during a period when many of its most eminent characters were playing a distinguished part in both countries. England was surrendering to the invaders her broad acres and free institutions, and the churches and monasteries were being filled and remodelled by Norman ecclesiastics, while she was adopting the feudal tenures, the rules of chivalry, and the habits and manners of the conquerors, and their magnificent architecture was employed in raising stately cathedrals, abbeys, and castles in all quarters. On these subjects, and others connected with the changes then taking place in the social and dynastic system of England, Ordericus was better qualified to throw strong light than any English historian of the time. The advanced stages of his education, and almost all the associations of his maturer life were foreign. His family ties had been somewhat rudely severed, and he was torn from his native country at an age when it would hardly fail to leave some impression on so intelligent a mind; and it appears from several passages in his work that he fondly cherished recollections of it in the land of the stranger. What thus remained of English feeling probably contributed, in combination with his natural honesty and simplicity of character, to the general impartiality of his narrative of English

EDITOR'S PREFACE. v

affairs, and the sympathy he betrays for the sufferings of his countrymen and their patriotic struggles against Norman usurpation.

While such are our author's claims to the consideration of the students of history his works have hitherto received in England a share of attention very disproportionate to that which they have obtained in France. The History of Ordericus Vitalis has never yet been published in England, and private enterprise is now employed in carrying into effect, in a popular shape, what both a royal commission and a literary association have alike failed in accomplishing. In France, the original text of Ordericus was printed, as early as the year 1619, in Duchesne's Collection of the Norman Historians, published at Paris, but it was never reprinted in this country; and besides its being suited only to readers of erudition, the work has now become somewhat scarce. Within the last thirty years, however, no less than two distinct editions of Ordericus have been published at Paris under the auspices of the Historical Society of France. The first, which commenced in 1826, is a French version, accompanied by a few notes explaining localities, by M. Louis du Bois. It is prefixed by a Notice from the pen of M. Guizot, who was then Professor of Modern History in the Academy of Paris, giving particulars of the several manuscripts of Ordericus now extant, a short account of the author's life, and an estimate of his character, which it has been thought desirable to translate and print as an introduction to the present work.

In 1838, the French Historical Society undertook an edition of the original text of Ordericus, which was confided to the editorial care of M. Auguste Le Prevost. Four volumes octavo have been already published at Paris, containing twelve books of the History, and the thirteenth is announced to be in the press. This work does great credit

vi EDITOR'S PREFACE.

to all concerned in it, being edited and printed with extreme accuracy, after a laborious collation of the best manuscripts and illustrated by a vast number of valuable notes. The translation now presented to the English reader is based upon this edition of the author's text, compared, from time to time, with that of Duchesne, in which, as elsewhere observed, there are numerous errors. Free use has been made of the notes appended to the last Paris edition, and some are added, having in general more especial reference to English affairs.

August 20, 1853. T.F.

M. GUIZOT'S INTRODUCTION TO THE FRENCH TRANSLATION OF ORDERICUS VITALIS.

OF all the works published in our collection, [1] that of Ordericus Vitalis is the most extensive, a sure proof of the claims it possesses to more than ordinary attention. The annals of that age are generally characterised by the brevity of their details, and the dryness of their style. It would seem that the genius of the author was so dull and barren that it satisfied itself with simply accepting the facts presented to his notice, without being alive to any necessity of accounting for them, of connecting them with other circumstances, or of adding the reflections required to give them further consistency than the mere order of dates. In those times of darkness and isolation, the life of man was so confined, and his views so circumscribed, that even curiosity seemed to have lost its influence, and an elevated position, or a stirring career, supplied the only situations in which the intellectual horizon was extended, and an earnest desire for information excited; but those who found themselves by birth or accident in such unusual circumstances devoted all their time and efforts to action, and were too much occupied in playing their part in the history of the times to give themselves any trouble about writing it. Among the men of rank who flourished in the age of which we are collecting memorials, two bishops, Gregory of Tours, and William of Tyre, are the only persons who found leisure to bequeath to posterity any lengthened account of events, the character of which their situation led them to penetrate; their histories therefore, the most extensive we have yet published, are also, regard being had to the difference of the times, the most interesting, the most useful, and the most rich in valuable details. Ordericus Vitalis


[1] Collection des Memoires relatifs a l'Histoire de France, published by the Historical Society of France, from 1834 to 1852.

viii ORDERICUS VITALIS.

exhibits, if not in the same degree, at least the same kind of superiority over the writers of his own age; which is the more remarkable in his case, because no extenaal circumstances, no advantages of position, contributed to rouse or sustain the activity of his mind. A simple monk, buried in the depths of the most secluded forests of Normandy, his own genius, his instinctive ardour for acquiring information, the patience with which he pursued his researches, supplied the incentives and the opportunities for collecting materials for his vast undertaking.

Ordericus was born in England on the fifteenth of February, 1075, at Attingham, [1] on the banks of the Severn, the residence of his father Odelirius, a native of Orleans, who, at the time of the Norman conquest, was a follower of Roger de Montgomery, afterwards created Earl of Shrewsbury, to whose household he continued to be attached in the character of one of his council. Ordericus received the name of his godfather, a Saxon priest and curate of the parish, who both baptized him and undertook the office of sponsor. At the age of five years, Ordericus was sent to school at Shrewsbury, where he learnt reading, grammar, and the chants used in the church, under a master whose name was Siegward. [2] It would appear that his own father was a man of some learning, a clerk, and a priest, for at that time, particularly in England, priests were not absolutely forbidden to marry. But a more perfect state of life was known, and Odelirius, who was now become a widower, thought it his duty not only to renounce himself all worldly attachments, but to withdraw from them his eldest son Ordericus, then ten years old. He therefore devoted him as well as himself to the religious life, and retired to a monastery in Great Britain. [3] Shortly afterwards, however, his mind became disturbed by the obstacles which family ties were


[1] Atcham, a village near Shrewsbury, where the Teme falls into the Severn. Our author tells us, book v. c. 1, that he was born on the 14th of the calends of March, which answers to the sixteenth of February. He was baptized on the Saturday of Easter, the 9th of April following.

[2] Siward, "a noble priest", as our author calls him. He was of Anglo-Danish extraction, connected with the blood-royal of the Saxon kings, and also, it would appear, in some way with the Earl of Shrewsbury, the patron of Odelirius. Siward had built a small wooden church in the suburbs of that town, which becoming the property of Odelirius, was given by him for the site of the stately Benedictine abbey founded there by the earl.

[3] Odelirius assumed the monastic habit, after the death of his patron, in the abbey he had lately assisted in founding at Shrewsbury, where he also entered his youngest son, Benedict, to be brought up as a monk. He further endowed the abbey with one half of all the estates which the earl had conferred upon him, reserving the other moiety to his remaining son Everard, our author's second brother, to be held as a fief under the abbey.

M. GUIZOT'S INTRODUCTION. ix

calculated to offer to his salvation, and he thought that neither his own nor his son's would be secure if they remained in the same monastery. In order, therefore, to render their separation more entire and more irrevocable, [1] he made him cross the sea; sending him to Normandy under the care of a monk named Ragnold, where Ordericus, making an endowment of thirty silver marks, entered the abbey of Ouche, belonging to the rule of St. Benedict, and founded by St. Evroult, an Orleanais saint, for whom Odelirius, as his countryman, felt especial veneration. This abbey, which at a later period took its founder's name, stood in that part of the diocese of Lisieux which is now included in the department of the Orne. Buried in the bosom of forests, enriched since the eleventh century with a considerable library, and inhabited by monks who were the friends of learning, the abbey of Ouche was a retreat well calculated to foster the studious turn of mind which, it is said, was already remarked in the young novice. John, the sub-prior of the abbey, had the charge of his education, and formed a strong attachment for him; he also gained the goodwill of the rest of the monks, and among others that of Mainier, then abbot of St. Evroult. Ordericus entered the monastery in the year 1085. The year following, on the 22nd of September, the feast of St. Maurice, he received the tonsure, changing at the same time his English name of Ordericus for that of Vitalis, [2] one of the companions of the saint whose memory was that day observed. On the 15th of March, 1091, Gilbert Maminot, bishop of Lisieux, admitted him to the order of sub-deacon at the request of Serlo d'Orgeres, the then abbot of St. Evroult; and two years afterwards, on the 26th of March, 1093, Serlo himself, having then become bishop of Lisieux, ordained him deacon. Ordericus was then eighteen years of age. All the records of those ancient times concur in informing us with what holy fear truly pious men then regarded the duties of the priesthood, how they shrunk from undertaking them, and often only consented to accept the office upon the express command of their superiors. It was not till fifteen years afterwards, the 21st of December, 1107, that


[1] Our author pays an affectionate tribute to his father's memory in book v. c. 14 of the following History, where he says that he never saw him again after this early separation. See also book v. c. 1.

[2] The name Ordericus, is also variously written Odericus, Udalricus, etc. The last seems to point to the priest from whom our author derived his name of baptism, being, as well as his schoolmaster, of Scandinavian extraction. He tells us that it was changed to Vitalis, because his former name appeared barbarous to the Normans. There seems an impropriety in the common practice of combining his name of baptism with that of his profession, as the latter superseded the former. He always calls himself simply Vitalis, but there is authority for using both names in the oldest MSS. of his works.

x ORDERICUS VITALIS.

William Bonne-Ame, archbishop of Rouen laid on Ordericus, as he tells us himself, "the burden of the priesthood". [1]

Such are the simple facts which the writings of this excellent monk supply concerning his own life. Taking no part in worldly affairs, and equally a stranger to the high places of his own profession, we find him never quitting his retirement but, on one occasion, to attend a general chapter of the order of St. Benedict convoked by the abbot of Cluni, and for two journeys, one to Worcester, [2] the other to Cambray, both, as it would appear, undertaken for the purpose of procuring information necessary in the prosecution of his literary works. These formed the sole employment of his life, and he does not appear to have pushed his labours to extreme old age, for he tells us, at the close of his history, that he had reached his sixty-seventh year, and the thirty-fourth of his ministry in the priesthood, when he felt himself compelled by age and infirmities to bring his work to a close; and it is scarcely probable that, after a career so occupied, release from labour very long preceded that from life. We ought then, if I am not mistaken, to place the death of Ordericus Vitalis in the year 1141, or at the latest in 1142. The authors of the Histoire Litteraire de la France have fixed the year 1143 as the period at which his work concluded; but they are evidently under a mistake, for at the end of his last book Ordericus speaks of Stephen king of England as being at that time in confinement, but that prince, who was made prisoner at the battle of Lincoln on the 20th of February, 1141, was exchanged in the month of November of the same year. Again, be mentions the death of John, bishop of Lisieux, as having occurred so recently that his successor was not yet appointed; and the bishop died on the 21st of May, 1141. Besides which, he reckons eleven years from the election of Pope Innocent II., which took place in the month of February, 1130. Everything therefore concurs in pointing out the year 1141 as the period at which Ordericus found himself under the necessity of terminating the labours to which his life was consecrated.

His work, devoted in an especial manner to the glory of Normandy, comprised originally but the seven last books, in which Norman history, in point of fact, holds the first place. At a later period he added four books, the present third, fourth, fifth, and sixth, to enable himself to give fuller particulars of some events,


[1] He was ordained priest on the feast of St. Thomas, 1107, in company with one hundred and twenty others, being then, as he tells us, thirty-three years of age. Book xi. c. 30, and book xiii. at the end.

[2] During this journey to England our author also spent some weeks at Croyland Abbey, where, as he tells us, he collected the materials for several chapters of his fourth book, and, at the request of the monks, composed the epitaph on Earl Waltheof. See book iv. c. 15-17.

M. GUIZOT'S INTRODUCTION. xi

as well as to connect the glory of Normandy with that of the abbey of Ouche, on the foundation and progress of which the new books enter into minute details. Furthermore, having a due regard to his own character, and ambitious of the honour of bequeathing to posterity a complete universal history, from the birth of Jesus Christ to his own day, he composed the first and second books, containing long extracts from the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, and legends which give an account of the establishment of Christianity in Asia and Africa, as well as in Europe, concluding the whole with short chronicles, or rather tables of the emperors and popes. Then, at last, Ordericus considered his work complete, and gave it the title of an Ecclesiastical History, a title which singularly exhibits, as we have elsewhere observed, how far the church had then become the centre of society.

It is plain enough that the way in which his work was put together has contributed in no small degree to the confusion which reigns throughout the writings of the monk of St. Evroult: his whole object having been to make collections from all quarters of facts, traditions, adventures, acts, and letters, his work repeatedly changed its form and its object while under his hands, and he gave himself but little trouble, except to find a place in it, no matter in what order, for all the stores of information he had gathered. Accordingly, on more than one occasion his materials seem thrown together pellmell, as chance or opportunity brought them into the author's power; sometimes he interrupts the course of his narrative by dividing the account of a particular event into distinct portions, separated by long intervals; and, at others he repeats the same story in different parts of his work; so that the reader is continually surprised by the strange manner in which times, and places, and subjects, the most distant and the most incongruous, are brought together. No sort of art or method appears to have been used in combining this prodigious mass of facts, and when the work is considered as a whole, from a single point of view, one cannot fail, on a first impression, of being most sensible of this striking confusion. But this irregular surface covers a mine of real wealth. No book contains so much and such valuable information on the history of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, on the political state, both civil and religious, of society in the west of Europe, and on the manners of the times, whether feudal, monastic, or popular. In his genuine honesty and native frankness, Ordericus makes no attempt to argue anything, to conceal anything: he tells his story, and gives his opinion; he blames or approves, without any other idea but that of publishing what he knows and what he thinks. Simple, credulous, and having no pretensions to be considered a sagacious observer, or a

xii ORDERICUS VITALIS.

critic, still he was independent and sincere- rare merits among the monkish chroniclers of his own age, who, besides, are quite as deficient as himself in those qualities wherein he failed.

The History of Ordericus has not hitherto been translated; the version which we now present to the public is the work of M. Louis du Bois, of Lisieux, a man of letters, whose modesty is equal to his diligence, and who, having devoted himself to all that is interesting in connection with Normandy, his native country, is already well known by some useful works on the antiquities and statistics of that fine province. The principal difficulties which lie in the way of the readers of Ordericus Vitalis arise from the vast variety of minute circumstances, of distant allusions, and of geographical references, connected with Normandy. It was, therefore, of importance that the translation should be made on the very spot, among the recollections to which it would give rise, and by a person capable of explaining the local obscurities, so to speak, of the text, in short but frequent notes. M. Du Bois, having kindly undertaken this minute task, will best be able to give an account of his proceedings, and we therefore propose to close this notice by subjoining an exact copy of the report with which he has favoured us, respecting the manuscripts of the historians of St. Evroult, the labours of which they were the object, and the researches to which he has devoted himself. [1]

"In the earliest manuscripts of Ordericus Vitalis, his work takes the title of Orderici Vitalis Angli Monachi Uticensis Historia Ecclesiastica. It is thus entitled in a manuscript which came from the abbey of St. Evroult itself, and, as we are inclined to believe, in the author's own hand-writing, of which we shall presently speak more in detail. Duchesne was unaware of the existence of this autograph, and printed his edition from more recent manuscripts, under the title of Orderici Vitalis Angligenae Coenobii Uticensis Monachi, libri xiii.

"The autograph manuscript of the abbey of St. Evroult served in former times for the original of the different copies which were dispersed of this important history.

"In the beginning of the sixteenth centuary, a monk of St.


[1] M. Du Bois was the author of an able article on the life of Ordericus Vitalis, published in 1822 in the Bibliographic Universelle, which has supplied the materials for the present notice. It would appear from some expressions at the close of the article, that he then contemplated using the result of his researches in publishing a corrected edition of the text of Ordericus, lamenting, however, that, at that time, the publication of works of erudition, particularly in Latin, was a difficult enterprise for an individual. He seems to have changed his intention, and four years afterwards began to publish his translation.

M. GUIZOT'S INTRODUCTION. xiii

Evroult (probably Vallin), made a copy of this manuscript, which was then composed of four volumes, and in a perfect state. The copy formed also four volumes, in a handwriting which, though not very close, was almost illegible. According to Charles du Jardin, prior of the abbey of St. Evroult in 1717, the two first volumes of this copy were then at the abbey of St. Ouen, at Rouen, and the two others at that of Glanfeuil-sur-Loire. I have reason to think that the prior Du Jardin was mistaken; the two volumes now in the library at Rouen, which were brought from St. Ouen, are the two last of the work, containing the seven last books.

"The royal library possesses the following MSS. of Ordericus: No. 5122, MS. de Bigot; the one which Duchesne used. No. 5123, MS. de Colbert, two volumes. No. 5124, MS. de Baluz, two volumes, containing only the five first books.

[These MSS. are in folio, written on paper, and all of the sixteenth century.]

No. 5506, MS. de Colbert, as No. 5123. 2 volumes on vellum, containing only the six first books.

"There is also in the same library, No. 4861, a MS. on vellum in folio, mixed with others which came from Bigot, and containing a fragment entitled: Fragmentum ex Orderici Vitalis histori libro tertio de novis monachorum Cistercentium, et aliorum illius saeculi institutis. This copy is the more curious because it is of the thirteenth century.

"Independently of these different copies, which are more or less faulty, and even incomplete, there is in the library of St. Germain-des-Pres, a copy of the three first books, bequeathed to it by Coaslin de Cambout, and made in the sixteenth century, at the time when the autograph was still perfect, by Vallin, a monk of St Evroult, who dedicated it to his abbot Felix de Brie.

The most valuable manuscript of Ordericus Vitalis was preserved in the abbey in which he wrote his history. We have now indeed only the fragments of this autograph, but even the fragments are precious. I had the pleasure of saving them from imminent danger of destruction at L'Aigle in 1799, just after I was nominated by the assembly librarian of the central school of the Orme, and I hastened to deposit them in the establishment committed to my care. The manuscript forms a quarto volume, written on parchment, which the monks of St. Evroult, in their negligence, during the seventeenth century, took no care to have fresh bound until they had suffered great part to decay and be lost. We know that it was perfect at the commencement of the preceding century, because a copy of it was then made, which, though unfortunately marked by blanks and omissions, is still of great value. What remains of this autograph is as follows: book vii., four leaves;

xiv ORDERICUS VITALIS.

books ix., x., xi., xii., and xiii., are complete, except the four or five last leaves.

"I feel certain that this valuable manuscript is really an autogragh, as the monks of St. Evoult believed it to be from the circumstance of its having been inserted in a catalogue taken shortly after the death of Ordericus Vitalis. Among many reasons that might be offered in justification of this opinion, I shall confine myself to these: the manuscript is not illustrated; it is written on common parchment, in small sheets; it is in general very clear, but there are places in which it has been corrected; and since the twelfth century, that is a few years only after the death of the author, it passed for having been written with his own hand a short time before. I insist the more on these points, because at the period when this manuscript saw the light the abbey possessed very skilful copyists who have left magnificent copies of some of the Fathers of the church, and several other works, all transcribed with great beauty on the finest vellum, and in a folio shape. Assuredly therefore, if they had made a transcript of Ordericus, it would have had all the embellishments which the historian of their own community of St. Evroult, and the achievements of the Normans, so justly merited.

"M. La Croix du Maine is the first of our bibliographers who called attention to Ordericus Vitalis. He remarks, with justice, that good manuscripts of this historian have been always scarce; that even John Bale does not mention him in his list of English authors, nor do other compilers of biography and literary history. It appears from what La Croix du Maine says further, that he had in his possession a fine manuscript of Ordericus, which he intended to publish; but this intention was never carried into effect.

"It was not till the year 1619 that the learned Andrew Duchesne published his Ordericus Vitalis in the collection to which he gave the title of, Historiae Normannorum scriptores antiqui. The thirteen books of the Ecclesiastical History are the most important work contained in this valuable collection, now become scarce and dear: they fill 606 pages of the volume. Duchesne printed his edition from the manuscript of J. Bigot: unfortunately he omitted to collate it with the other manuscripts to which he might have had access, and more especially with the autograph in the library of St. Evroult. He even increased the confusion by taking no pains with the marginal dates he affixed, so that events quite different in point of time and character are often marked with the same date.

"These deficiencies, which were generally acknowledged, induced Bessin, the Benedictine, to whom we are indebted for the Concilia Rotomagensis Provinciae, fol. 1717, to undertake a new and bettor edition of Duchesne's Ordericus. With this view, he

M. GUIZOT'S INTRODUCTION. xv

had made a great number of corrections on a copy of the edition of 1619 by collating it with a manuscript then the property of M. Mareste, advocate-general to the chamber of accounts of Normandy. He had besides, in 1722, the valuable assistance of Charles du Jardin, prior of the abbey of St. Evroult, who had made great proficiency in calligraphical studies. All was ready for the press, and the bookseller, Behourt, was on the point of undertaking the work, when the death of Bessin, which happened in 1726, put an end to this useful publication, and the project was no further thought of. I have had the advantage of the labours of Bessin and Du Jardin, and the volume they prepared for publication has been of essential service; but still I found that even after the care it had received from these learned and indefatigable Benedictins, there was much to reap, and I trust I have been able to do so with some profit.

"The learned and judicious authors of that great work, the Collection of the Historians of France, did not omit including in it so important a writer as Ordericus; they have accomplished this successfully by dividing their extracts in the following manner:-

Extracts from books i., v., vi., and vii., in tome ix., pp. 10 to 18; from books i., iii., vii., in tome x., in pp. 234 to 236; from books i., iii., iv., v., vi., and vii., in tome xi., pp. 221 to 248; and from books i. and iv. to xiii., in tome xii, pp. 285 to 770.

"Dom Bouquet made the first of these extracts; those contained in tome xii., which are the longest and the most interesting, are the work af M. Briae, who has not incurred the censures justly applied to his predecessor.

"After these learned labours, there still remained some useful objects to be obtained.

"As I have before remarked, I did not fail to take advantage of what had been accomplished by Bessin and Du Jardin; but besides this, I have made use of some new observations procured from St. Evroult, have made a collation of the different manuscripts with extreme care, which I have since repeated at Rouen, with the assistance of two accomplished Normans, whose learning is only equalled by their obliging disposition, M. Auguste Le Prevost, who is in possession of very valuable collections, relating to the history of Normandy, and M. Theodore Liquet, who has been kind enough to communicate to me the manuscript of the library at Rouen, of which he is the keeper.

"Some important corrections and numerous additions have been the fruits of these labours. Besides, a long study of the antiquities, the history, and the geography of Normandy has placed at my disposal a vast mass of information, which I trust will throw some light on our author's statements. The number of explanatory notes appended at the bottom of the pages form

xvi ORDERICUS VITALIS.

the best proof of the pains I have for twenty years bestowed on this undertaking. Still, however, I dare not flatter myself that I have cleared up all the obscurities, filled up all the gaps, and ascertained exactly all the names of places and proper names. The difficulties have been enormous; but I have used all the means in my power to overcome them.

"However this may be, it may be asserted with truth that, of all our ancient provinces, there is none in comparison with Normandy, which has been the scene of such celebrated events, and given birth to such distinguished men, none which can boast so many and such excellent historians; and that of all these historians, Ordericus Vitalis is the most important, while, though continually quoted, his work has never been translated, nor even correctly published".

F. G.

THE PREFACE OF ORDERICUS VITALIS.

FORMER writers, from early times, carefully remarking the occurrences of the passing age, have noted the good or evil which befell mankind for a warning to others; and while thus continually aiming to benefit posterity, they heaped volume upon volume. We see, for instance, that this was done by Moses, Daniel, and the other sacred writers; and we discover the same object in the works of Dares of Phrygia, [1] Pompeius Trogus, [2] and other gentile historians; of Eusebius, [3] Orosius, who wrote the History


[1] Considering the age in which Ordericus Vitalis lived, we need not be surprised at finding him place Dares of Phrygia at the head of the writers of profane history. A Trojan priest of that name is said to have composed an account of the Trojan War; the history, however, attributed to him is a spurious composition, and its origin may be placed somewhere between the fifth and eighth centuries; but it was so much in vogue in the middle ages, that a translation in French verse was current in the eleventh century.

[2] Pompeius Trogus, a Roman historian, flourished in the time of Augustus. He wrote a history of the Macedonian empire, of which we have only an Epitome by Justin.

[3] Eusebius (Pamphilus) became bishop of Caesarea, A.D. 313, and died about 338. He has left a number of works, displaying great learning and ability, the best known being his "Ecclesiastical History", which has met with three Latin translators, and an English translation from the original Greek is published in the "Ecclesiastical Library", uniformly with the present series.

2 PREFACE OF

of the World; [1] of Bede the Englishman, Paul of Monte Cassino, [2] and the rest of the ecclesiastical writers. I peruse their accounts with delight, I praise and admire the elegance and usefulness of their works, and recommend the learned of our age to imitate their invaluable remains. But, without presuming to dictate to others, at least I contend against self-indulgence in enervating sloth, and, rousing myself to exertion, desire to undertake some work which may be acceptable to my immediate superiors. [3] In my account of the restoration of the monastery of St. Evroult, [4] written by the command of Abbot Roger, I adhered faithfully to the simple truth, choosing to speak frankly of the great men of this perverse age, whether good or bad, and relying solely on my honesty of purpose, without making any pretensions to a polished style or the gifts of eloquence.

My present object is to treat of what passes under our


[1] Orosius (Paul), a Spanish ecclesiastic, born at Tarragona, who flourished in the fifth century. By the advice of St. Augustine, he undertook his "History of the World", here called the "Ormesta"; an unintelligible word, unless, as some commentators have conjectured, it is a corruption of Hormisdas, an additional name of Orosius.

[2] Better known as Paul the Deacon; he died in the monastery of Monte Cassino, about A.D. 799.

[3] Simplicibus summitatis.-Duchesne. The former word is omitted in the Latin text of the French edition, though the sense of it is expressed in M. Du Bois' translation. Ordericus means his monastic superiors.

[4] The popular name of this abbey, derived from its founder St. Evroult, is adopted in the present translation. Ordericus Vitalis calls it "Uticense caenobium", or "Uticum", that is, the Abbey of the Ouche. It was in the diocese of Lisieux in Normandy, near the limits of the present departments of the Eure and the Orne.

ORDERICUS VITALIS. 3

own observation, or we are called upon to endure. For it is fitting that as new events continually occur they should be carefully committed to writing, to the praise of God; and thus, as the history of the past has been handed down to us by preceding writers, so also a relation of what is going on around us should be transmitted to future generations by the pen of contemporaries. I propose to treat of ecclesiastical affairs with the modesty becoming a humble son of the church; and to the best of my ability, diligently treading in the steps of the ancient fathers, I shall search out and give to the world the modern history of Christendom, venturing to call my unpretending work "An Ecclesiastical History".

Confined to my cloister by the vows which have voluntarily bound me to the strict observance of the monastic rule, I am unable to make researches into the affairs of Alexandria, Greece, or Rome, and others worthy to be related; but I labour, by God's help, to unfold with truth contemporary events for the instruction of posterity,- both such as have passed under my own observation, and those which, occurring in neighbouring countries, have come to my knowledge. I firmly believe, however, from observation of the past, that some one will arise with far more penetration than myself, and more capable of examining the course of worldly affairs, who will perhaps extract from my pages, and from those of others of the same class, what he thinks worthy of being inserted in his chronicle or history for the information of posterity.

I derive confidence from having begun my work by the express command of the venerable Abbot Roger, [1] when he was advanced in years, and from now submitting it to you,


[1] Roger du Sap, elected abbot of Saint Evronit in 1091; was consecrated Aug. 28, 1098; resigned in 1123; died Jan. 13, 1126.

4 PREFACE OF ORDERICUS VITALIS.

father Guerin, [1] his lawful successor according to the order of the church, that its redundancies may be expunged, and its errors rectified, and, being thus corrected, it may be stamped with your judicious authority. I shall treat first of the Source of all things, itself having no beginning, by whose aid I trust to persevere to the end, which, in truth, is endless, and to sing for ever, with the blessed above, devout praises to Him who is the Alpha and Omega.


[1] Guerin des Essarts, or the Little, who probably derived his surname from the commune des Essarts, near St. Evroult, succeeded Roger du Sap in 1123; died June 20, 1137.

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