Jocelyn de Brakelond

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Jocelyn de Brakelond (died 1211) was an English monk and the author of a chronicle narrating the fortunes of the monastery of Bury St. Edmunds Abbey between 1173 and 1202. He is only known through his own work.

He was a native of Bury St. Edmunds; he served his novitiate under Samson of Tottington, who was at that time master of the novices, but afterwards sub-sacrist, and, from 1182, abbot of the house. Jocelyn took the habit of religion in 1173, during the time of Abbot Hugo (1157–1180), through whose improvidence and laxity the abbey had become impoverished and the monks had lost discipline.

The fortunes of the abbey changed for the better with the election of Samson as Hugo's successor. Jocelyn, who became the abbot's chaplain within four months of the election, describes the administration of Samson at considerable length. He tells us that he was with Samson night and day for six years; the picture which he gives of his master, although coloured by enthusiastic admiration, is singularly frank and intimate. It is all the more convincing since Jocelyn is no stylist. His Latin is familiar and easy, but the reverse of classical. He thinks and writes as one whose interests are wrapped up in his house; and the unique interest of his work lies in the minuteness with which it describes the policy of a monastic administrator who was in his own day considered as a model.

Jocelyn has also been credited with an extant but unprinted tract on the election of Abbot Hugo (Harleian manuscript 1005, fol. 165); from internal evidence this appears to be an error. He mentions a (non-extant) work which he wrote, before the Cronica, on the miracles of Saint Robert of Bury, a boy found murdered in 1181 whose death during a period of rising anti-Semitism was blamed on the local Jews.

See the editions of the Cronica Jocelini de Brakelonda by Thomas Arnold(in Memorials of St Edmund's Abbey, vol. I. Rolls series, 1890), and prepared by J. G. Rokewood, Chronica Jocelini de Brakelonda de Rebus Gestis Samsonis Abbatis Monasterii Sancti Edmundi (Camden Society, 1840); also Carlyle's Past and Present, book II. A translation and notes are given in TE Tomlin's Monastic and Social Life in the Twelfth Century in the Chronicle of Jocelyn de Brakelond (1844). There is also a translation of Jocelyn by Sir E Clarke (1907). A far more recent translation with a substantial introduction is: Jocelin of Brakelond, Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds, trans. Diana Greenway and Jane Sayers (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989).

In Modern Life[edit]

An upper school in the town, County Upper School, has one of its year halves named after Jocelyn. The other being called Edmund, after the martyred king, Saint Edmund who was buried at the abbey.

References[edit]