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PREFACE BY THE EDITOR.
THE credit to be attached to an historical writer depends so much on his individual character, and his opportunities of acquiring information, that the student must naturally wish to know something of the personal history of an author to whose works his attention is invited. Such memoirs are frequently compiled from scanty materials, but it may be reasonably expected that their details, however defective, be at least correct as far as they extend. The author, one of our earliest national historians, the most valuable of whose works is now presented for the first time to the English reader, happily supplies the means of satisfying a natural curiosity, in the incidental references of personal nature which may be collected from them. It is, therefore, somewhat singular, that most of the writers who have supplied biographical notices of one so well known as Henry of Huntingdon, should be at variance with each other, while they have been led into some inaccuracies. A careful examination, however, of his own works will serve to place the few facts of his personal and literary history, to be gleaned from them, on a correct footing.
There appears little doubt that our author was a native of Lincoln, or of some part of that formerly very extensive and important diocese; and that he was born towards the close of the eleventh century, probably between the years 1080 and 1090. His father's name was Nicholas, and that he was an ecclesiastic of some distinction in the church of Lincoln, we learn from an affectionate tribute to his
memory in the eighth Book of his History. It would appear from this avowal of his parentage, that the circumstance of his being the son of a priest was considered no blemish on Henry's origin; the struggles of the papal court to enforce the celibacy of the secular clergy not having at that time been successful in England. Still, however, our historian seems to betray some personal feeling in his remarks on the act of the synod held at London A.D. 1102, which prohibited the clergy from living with wives, “ a thing,” he observes, “not before forbidden," while he cautiously adds, that some saw danger in a strictness which, requiring a continence above their strength, might lead them to disgrace their Christian profession.' This feeling further appears in the evident satisfaction with which, “ despite of any Roman, though he be a prelate," he tells the story of the incontinence of the cardinal who inveighed so bitterly against the married clergy in that synod.
Some passages in our author's “ Letter to Walter,” translated in the present volume, have led to a conjecture that his father Nicholas held the archdeaconry of Huntingdon, to which Henry was afterwards preferred; for in enumerating the dignitaries of the church of Lincoln, he mentions Nicholasas the Archdeacon of Huntingdon to whom he himself succeeded; though he does not call him his father, probably because he was writing to a friend familiar with his family history. The terms * Star of the church,” &c., which he applies to his father in the poetical epitaph composed on his death", seem to imply that he held a high ecclesiastical position; and he again takes occasion to pay a tribute of filial duty in the “ Letter to Walter,” in which he speaks of the deceased archdeacon as “distinguished no less by the graces of his person than by those of his mind.” He then proceeds to give an account of his own appointment, relating that “about the time of the death of Nicholas, who was Archdeacon of Cambridge, as well as of Huntingdon and Hertford, when Cambridgeshire was detached from the see of Lincoln and attached to a new bishopric, he himself succeeded to the archdeaconry of the two reHistory, pp. 241. 252.
2 Letter to Walter, p. 305. 3 History, p. 244.
maining counties." Ely was the new bishopric, created, as Matthew Paris relates, by Henry I. in the year 1109; and as our author informs us that his father died A.D. 1110, there seems to be a significance in the phrase that, “about the time” of the death of Nicholas, he himself succeeded to the archdeaconry of two of the counties. The appointment may have been made in the lifetime, and on the resignation of the former incumbent; but, however this may be, the account furnishes almost conclusive evidence that Nicholas, the father of our historian, preceded him as Archdeacon of Huntingdon, and that Hertfordshire was attached to that archdeaconry. While yet
a mere child,” Henry was admitted into the family of Robert Bloet, a prelate of great talents and influence, who held the see of London from A.D. 1093 to 1123, taking a distinguished part in the civil, as well as the ecclesiastical, affairs of the time. Our author gives a lively account in his “Letter to Walter”l of the sumptuous magnificence of the bishop's household, in which he had opportunities of associating with noble, and even royal?, youths, who, according to the custom of the age, were nurtured in such establishments. Here he pursued his studies under the tuition of Albinus of Anjou, a canon of Lincoln, and subsequently Abbot of Ramsey, of whom he speaks in terms befitting his learning and worth.
Henry appears to have continued in the Bishop Bloet's family until he arrived at manhood, and probably received from him, as his first preferment, a canonry of Lincoln; which Bale 3 states as a fact, though he does not refer to any authority for it. Our author informs us, that during these early years, he composed several books of epigrams, satires, sacred hymns and amatory poems, which he afterwards published with his more important works. He could not have been much more than thirty years of age at the time of his appointment to the archdeaconry, and he was probably indebted for his early promotion to so important an office, to the estimation in which his talents and his father's character were held by the bishop.
· P. 302. 2 P. 307. 3 « Illustrium Britanniæ Scriptorum.”
On the death of Bishop Bloet, in the year 1123, it appear that Bishop Alexander de Blois, his successor in the set of Lincoln, becoming sensible of Henry of Huntingdon's extended knowledge and aptitude for business, admitted him to the same confidence and familiarity which he enjoyed with his predecessor, and employed him frequently in important affairs. Both Bale and Pitts? state that he accompanied Bishop Alexander to Rome; but they have not informed us on what occasion. The bishop went there twice, in 1125 and 1144, and it is most probable that our author attended him in both his journeys, as, although he does not mention it in express terms, his manner of speaking of his patron's munificence, which gained for him at the Roman court the surname of “ The Magni. ficent," conveys the impression of his having, on both occasions, been an eye-witness of his reception. Pitts also intimates that, after his return, Bishop Alexander preferred Henry to the archdeaconry, on account of his faithful services and his great learning; but it seems clear, that he owed his promotion to the patronage of Bishop Bloet many
The History of England was probably commenced soon after Bishop Alexander's return from his first journey. It was undertaken at his request, and dedicated to him. The first part, comprising seven of the eight Books included in the present volume, and terminating with the reign of Henry I., was given to the world soon after that king's death in 1135. Thirteen years afterwards Huntingdon continued his History to the period of the death of Bishop Alexander, the thirteenth year of Stephen's reign, A.D. 1148. This portion of the work forms the first part of the eighth Book, according to the present arrangement, concluding with an aspiration for the welfare, in “ those evil times," of his patron's successor, the young bishop, Robert de Chaisney. Huntingdon afterwards brought down the course of events to the death of Stephen and the accession of Henry II. in 1154; the latter pages of the seventh Book, and the whole of the eighth Book of the History, in its present form, being occupied with this part of the narrative. It may be inferred from a sentence with
1" Pitsius de illustribus Angliæ Scriptoribus.”
which one of the MSS., apparently revised by the author himself, concludes—" The accession of a new king demands a new Book ;"__that he had formed the intention of adding a further continuation to the History, relating the transactions of the reign of Henry II.
His death probably frustrated this design, for he speaks of himself as an old man in his " Letter to Walter,” published many years before, and it is supposed that he did not long survive the accession of Henry II., being at that time, it may be calculated, seventy years of age or upwards. The precise date of his death is unknown,
nor can anything further be added to the slight notices which have been now given of his personal history.
Henry of Huntingdon's other works—besides the History of England, and the epigrams, satires, hymns and other poems, already mentioned consist of:
1. An Epistle to Henry I. “On the Succession of the Jewish, Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman kings and emperors to his own time;" which is supposed to have been written in the year 1130.
2. An Epistle to Warin, the Briton, containing an account of the ancient British kings, from Brute to Cadwaller. The author accounts for his having commenced the History of England from the invasion of Julius Cæsar by his having been unable at that time to discover any records of an earlier period. He then tells his friend, that while at the abbey of Bec, in Normandy, on his way to Rome, he met Robert Del Mont (called also De Torigny), a monk of that monastery, and a great antiquarian, who, conversing with him on the subject of his History lately published, showed him, to his great surprise, the British History of Geoffrey of Monmouth, recently written, from which he extracted the accounts of the British kings given in his letter. The year 1139 is fixed as the date of this Epistle, on the authority of Pertz', who quotes a passage from it to the effect that it was written in that year during the author's journey to Rome in company with Archbisho Theobald, who was, or had been, Abbot of Bec. The editor of the “Monumenta Britannica,
"2 who does not I “Monumenta Germanica," vol. vi. p. 481. Preface, p. 89.