Robert of Gloucester (historian)

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Robert of Gloucester (fl. c. 1260 – c. 1300) wrote a chronicle of British, English, and Norman history sometime in the mid- or late-thirteenth century.

Biography[edit]

Little is known about Robert himself; the key reason for attributing the Chronicle to a person of this name is a mention in the continuation of the longer version that 'roberd / þat verst þis boc made' ('Robert / that first this book made', lines 11748-49) personally witnessed an eclipse that accompanied the Battle of Evesham (1265). The appellation 'of Gloucester' was added by early modern antiquarians on the basis of the perspective taken in later sections of the longer version of the chronicle.[1]

Manuscripts and versions[edit]

The chronicle survives in two versions; there are seven manuscripts of each. Up to 1135 (the death of Henry I, line 9137 in Wright's edition of the longer version), the versions are 'broadly identical', 'but they then have wholly different continuations'. The longer version contains almost 3000 more lines, is more detailed, and ends (in the least incomplete manuscript) in 1271. The shorter version only contains a further 592 lines, and ends in the 1280s. However, this shorter version adds about 800 lines earlier in the text, some of them deriving from Laȝamon's Brut.[2] The manuscripts of the longer version are:[3]

  • Cotton Caligula A. xi (s. xiv in.)
  • BL Add. MS. 19677 (s. xiv/xv) (with gaps partly filled by BL Add. 50848)
  • Harley 201 (s. xv1, breaking off at line 9259)
  • BL Add. 18631 (s. xv mid., abbreviated)
  • Glasgow, Hunterian V. 3. 13 (s. xvi mid.)
  • Balliol College, Oxford, 695.h.6: two binding fragments (s. xiv2)
  • College of Arms lviii (completed 1448, with prose and verse insertions)

The manuscripts of the shorter version are:[4]

  • Trinity College, Cambridge R.4.26 (c. 1400)
  • Magdalene College, Cambridge, Pepys Library 2014 (s. xv in., defective)
  • Bodleian Library, Digby 205 (s. xv in.)
  • Huntington Library, HM. 126 (s. xv1)
  • London University Library 278 (s. xv mid.)
  • BL Sloane 2027 (s. xv mid, abbreviated)
  • Cambridge University Library Ee.4.31 (s. xv mid)

Relationship with the South English Legendary[edit]

The chronicle is similar to the South English Legendary (probably first composed c. 1270-85), and between them they comprise 'two huge momuments of later thirteenth-century literary activity' in England:

The South English Legendary [...] and the historical chronicle that goes under the name of Robert of Gloucester, have long been known to be intimately related. They are written in the same septenary couplet metre, and are closely similar in dialect, vocabulary, phrasing, choice of rhyme words, overall narrative technique, and 'outlook': a Christian piety which places them on the side of the oppressed and suffering individual, and in opposition to corrupt and wicked lords of whatever estate. They also have numerous actual lines in common.

It has been argued that Robert, as well as being inspired by the South English Legendary, also revised a version of that text himself.[5]

Historical reliability[edit]

The Chronicle was of considerable interest to contemporaries and antiquarian scholars. Although an early generation of antiquarians including Thomas Hearne found the chronicle interesting, its reputation later faded. Somewhat perversely, it was not until after the text was edited by William Aldis Wright that its neglect - "worthless as history" and "verse without one spark of poetry" according to its editor - became widespread.[6]

Historically, the text is of interest primarily for materials relating to the Second Barons' War, to which the author (or an author of a portion of the text) seems to have been a witness. The first part of the Chronicle translates materials from Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae, narrating fabulous British history. The majority of English/Anglo-Saxon history is compiled from the works of Henry of Huntingdon and William of Malmesbury, and the post-Conquest portions are translated from numerous sources densely interwoven with original text.[7]

Editions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Andrew Galloway, 'Writing History in England', in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. by David Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 255-83 (pp. 268-69).
  2. ^ O. S. Pickering, 'South English Legendary style in Robert of Gloucester's Chronicle', Medium Ævum, 70.1 (2001), 1-18.
  3. ^ Anne Hudson, 'Tradition and Innovation in some Middle English Manuscripts', Review of English Studies, 17 (68) (1966), 359-72 (p. 360 fn 1). doi: 10.1093/res/XVII.68.359.
  4. ^ Anne Hudson, 'Tradition and Innovation in some Middle English Manuscripts', Review of English Studies, 17 (68) (1966), 359-72 (p. 360 fn 2). doi: 10.1093/res/XVII.68.359.
  5. ^ O. S. Pickering, 'South English Legendary style in Robert of Gloucester's Chronicle', Medium Ævum, 70.1 (2001), 1-18 (p. 1).
  6. ^ Edward Donald Kennedy, ‘Gloucester, Robert of (fl. c.1260–c.1300)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 4 Aug 2008; "Robert of Gloucester's Chronicle." Gentleman's Magazine (Nov. 1834): 470-77.
  7. ^ Edward Donald Kennedy, ‘Gloucester, Robert of (fl. c.1260–c.1300)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 4 Aug 2008; "Robert of Gloucester's Chronicle." Gentleman's Magazine (Nov. 1834): 470-77.

External links[edit]