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THE history of the Bishoprick of the province of Somerset, the seat of which was originally at Wells, transferred from thence to Bath, where for a short time it remained, and then carried back to Wells, from the time of Bishop Godwin, downwards, has been chiefly derived from three original sources.

First, in dignity, and certainly in antiquity, may be placed the section De Episcopis Wellensibus in the De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum of William of Malmesbury,* who wrote early in the twelfth century. Next in age is to be placed a short account printed by Wharton in the Anglia Sacra,† supposed to be the work of a canon of Wells. This is continued to the time of Bishop Harewell, who died in 1386. The third is a much larger account, printed in the same collection, in which the history is continued to the year 1423, when Nicholas Bubwith was Bishop. These may be called the Historia Minor and Historia Major. Wharton printed from a modern transcript in the Cottonian Library, made by Francis Thynne from copies by Laurence Nowell, which he found at the house of Lambarde the Kentish antiquary but he also used another copy, which is in a register of the the church of Wells.§

There was in the fifteenth century a Chancellor of Wells who has left several tracts; some of which are historical; and who may have

Fol. 1691. Vol. i. p. 553.

* Scriptores post Bedam, fol. 1601, p. 153, 154.

Vol. i. p. 554-571.

§ See his Preface, p. xxxviii. Thynne's transcript is in Cott. Vitellius, E. v.

This was

been the author of the Historia Major of Wharton. Thomas Chandler, who was also Warden of Winchester College. He was contemporary with Bishop Beckington, to whom he inscribes his treatise entitled, De laudibus duarum civitatum et sedium Bathon. et Wellen. A contemporary manuscript containing this and other treatises by him is in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge.*

I have had the good fortune to discover a fourth original and independent authority. It has not, as far as I know, ever been noticed, and yet it contains some facts which are peculiar to itself, to some transactions it gives a different colouring, and, on the whole, it may be said to come with equal if not superior authority to any of the three on whose authority hitherto the writers on this subject have proceeded. No doubt, the whole which it contains respecting the succession of Ina, and his marriage with Queen Ethelburga, is legendary and romantic; but when the history approaches the time of the Conquest, it assumes a very authentic character; it is minute and particular; and so continues in respect of the topics selected by the writer, to the reign of King Henry the Second, in which it was composed. But what gives it its chief value is, that the unknown author has introduced a long quotation from a treatise written by Bishop Gyso himself, who was nominated to this Bishoprick by Edward the Confessor, and who continued in the see an able and zealous prelate to near the end of the reign of the Conqueror; a foretaste, as he calls it, of a larger treatise which he intended to compile on the endowments made on his church by various benefactors, and the distribution of the profits of its possessions between the Bishop and the Canons. What is here quoted, is a condensed account of the same affairs, but relating more especially to himself and to what was done in his own time. In respect of the precise period when it was written by Gyso, it may be observed that the deposition of Stigand,

No. 265 of the Manuscripts.

the Archbishop of Canterbury, is an event mentioned in it, the date of that transaction being A. D. 1069. I see no reason to suspect the genuineness of this little piece of early auto-biography. We shall find that its statements are curiously supported by the testimony of Domesday Book in some instances, and of charters in others. Gyso must hereafter take his place in the slender catalogue of Saxon authors.

That the treatise in which this valuable fragment of Bishop Gyso is incorporated was written as early as the reign of King Henry the Second, may be regarded as a sufficiently probable inference from these considerations. There is a coincidence in its statements with the opinions which are known to have prevailed at that time among the religious of Somerset concerning Ina and Ethelburga; the narrative ends with the consecration of Bishop Reginald in 1175; and traces may be perceived of a preference of King Stephen to his Andegavine successor. It almost amounts to partizanship. The author writes as if the embers were not quite cooled of the animosity between Godfrey the Bishop, and King Henry the First,* and as if he had entered into the feeling of Bishop Robert, the predecessor of Reginald, who had been one of the most active partizans of Stephen, and who had suffered personally great inconvenience in consequence of his adherence to him.

The object of the writer was two-fold. First, to give the best account he could collect of the origin of the see. This, he tells us in the prologue, was his principal intention. But it is manifest that

In my Dissertation on the period to which the earliest Roll in the series of the Pipe is to be referred, I have inadvertently stated that the name of every Bishop of the time occurs in it, except that of the Bishop of Carlisle. But I now find that there is no notice of the Bishop of Bath and Wells; and the dispute between him and King Henry the First, which is, I believe, first brought to light in this narrative, may account for the absence of his name. The fact that there was this jealousy between the Bishop and the King, may, perhaps, be taken as some additional proof of the point which it is the aim of that Dissertation to establish.

he had his eye constantly fixed upon the revenues of the Church, and that he was intent on producing a work to which reference might be made, should questions arise, as such questions were perpetually arising, respecting the portions which were set aside for the support of the canons and those which remained to the Bishop. In the account of the see under the later Bishops noticed by him, we have very little, except what relates to the temporal possessions and disputes concerning them.

The author was, in all probability, a canon of Wells. In one phrase we have a verbal conformity with the Historia Minor, which seems to show that this treatise was known to the author of that meagre performance, or that both used in that part of their narrative a common original.

This little piece of history has been preserved in a Register of the Priory of Bath, which is now in the library of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, who very obligingly allowed the Camden Society to make the transcript, from which they have printed. By what means the Society obtained possession of this Register, which is one of more than ordinary curiosity and value, is unknown; but there is no reason to suppose, as some have done, that it formed part of the munificent benefaction of Sir Matthew Hale to that library, when we find that it is not mentioned with his other manuscripts in the will of the learned Judge, and that it is absent also from the catalogue of the manuscripts in the Lincoln's Inn library, made in 1697.* The Register contains the record of the transactions of the house from about A. D. 1200 to A. D. 1360, with a few things interspersed, of which this piece of history is one. The character in which it is written is that of the beginning of the fourteenth century.

The Camden Society are obliged to Mr. E. A. Bond, of the British Museum, for the accuracy with which the transcript was made by him.

* See Catal. MSS. Angliæ et Hiberniæ, fol. 1697. ii. 179.

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