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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 cha racter, to the general impartiality of his narrative of English
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
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.
INTRODUCTION TO THE FRENCH TRANSLATION OF
Or all the works published in our collection,' 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 Mémoires relatifs à l'Histoire de France, published by the Historical Society of France, from 1834 to 1852.
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 external 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,' 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. 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. Shortly afterwards, however, his mind became disturbed by the obstacles which family ties were
1 Atcham, a village near Shrewsbury, where the Terne 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 4th of April following.
2 Siward, a noble priest," as our author calls him. He was of AngloDanish 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 yougest 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.