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ART. IV.-1. The Life, Letters, and Sermons of Bishop Herbert de Losinga. By E. M. Goulburn, D.D., Dean of Norwich, and H. Symonds, M.A., Rector of Tivetshall, and late Precentor of Norwich. 2 vols. Oxford, 1878.
2. The Ancient Sculptures of the Roof of Norwich Cathedral: described and illustrated by E. M. Goulburn, D.D., Dean of Norwich, and H. Symonds, M.A., Rector of Tivetshall. To which is added a History of the See of Norwich, by Dean Goulburn and E. Hailstone, Esq., jun. London and Norwich, 1876.
E know something about the great ecclesiastics of the Middle Ages; we do not know much of the average We know a good deal about Lanfranc and Anselm, about St. Bernard and Becket: naturally enough, we do not know much of the crowd of bishops and abbots who took part with them in the administration of affairs, who supported or opposed them, and whose names appear in councils and at the end of charters. We are a long way from the Middle Ages, and with all our efforts it is not easy to throw ourselves into their assumptions and feelings, to see things from their point of view, to take the true measure of what they valued and aimed at. What men say depends so much on what they do not say, and very likely cannot say, the unspoken judgments, the unrealized premisses, which lie tangled and confused in the depths of their minds,that, even with their words before us, we are mainly conscious of the immense and strange gulf which separates their principles of action and their modes of argument from ours. So that, though with the help of letters and lives and records and treatises, we make out, more or less to our satisfaction, what manner of men they were, still the feeling remains that we only half understand them.
Think how much remains to us about Anselm or Becket; how much they showed of themselves in speech and writing and action; in how many various positions and emergencies they were tested, and their characters disclosed; how public and memorable a part they played, before enemies and friends, in the business of their time. And yet not only is that public part open to conflicting interpretations, and the principles which actuated them, the objects which they had in view, the sincerity of their professions, matter of dispute and controversy, but of the men themselves the most opposite estimates are formed. Features and qualities are dim or invisible to one set of observers, which are clear and strong to another. These
These characteristics group themselves into an image of clearsighted and high-souled unselfishness in this picture, or into one of crooked disloyalty and mean turbulence in that: we see the brave and generous zeal of saints for great ideas and a great cause, or we see the hypocritical ambition and intolerable pride of insolent priests. But if, with all our abundant information about them, Anselm and Becket are so dim and intangible, -shadows which change their shape as this or that historian arranges the light which falls on them,-how faint to our apprehension are all those names which surround them; how feeble our conception of what the ordinary men were like, who, however marked by high-sounding titles or historic memories, ate and drank and maintained the state or the world' in those long-past days; how baffling the attempt to penetrate into the real life of the society of that time, with so much that is like our own and continuous with it, and so much that is incomprehensibly different. Accidents only enable us, in any degree, to obtain glimpses of the familiar and the commonplace side of past times. Some odd original takes into his head to keep a diary of what no one else thinks it worth while to record. A family have the fancy of keeping all their bundles of old letters, including those of schoolboys and lovers; or they preserve their bills and account books, what they paid their tailors, and what they used to have for dinner. Or some admirer copies out a lot of old sermons, which say what has been said a hundred times before, only perhaps with some special adaptation, which links them with a particular state of things. And these matters of mere rubbish escape destruction, while other things of more apparent interest perish. They become the materials of a picture which could not be formed from far more important documents. They give us, like the actual ground of a battle-field which governed movements and events, the conditions, slight perhaps and obscure in themselves, but from circumstances serious, under which the great actors strove or suffered. They supply just that link of the homely, the usual, the everyday routine which forms the greater part of the life of all men, and which makes one generation feel of kin to another. They give form and body to generalities; they correct or they confound easy-going and pretentious rhetoric. What may be done by a judicious use of such materials may be seen in the contrast between the picture of the Dark Ages' drawn by Dr. Robertson, and that put by its side by Dr. Maitland. It is something to have the feeling that we are reading about real people, and not about fancy figures who think and purpose and speak as seems good to their historian in his easy chair, centuries after their
death. And this is what fragments of the past, like Jocelyn de Brakelond and the Paston letters, help us to do.
The volumes which Dean Goulburn, with his coadjutor Mr. Symonds, has edited and arranged with so much care, and with such indefatigable interest in his subject, have just this value. They give us a partial glimpse of average ecclesiastical life and feeling, at a period when great things were going on upon the stage of church history in England; when principles of great importance and deep origin were coming to issue in dangerous practical questions, and were dividing men into opposite camps; and when ecclesiastical life, in its more prominent representatives, was rising to a very high-strung and heroic spirit. Among the Norman or Normanized prelates, with whom the subtle policy of the new dynasty filled the English sees, was the subject of these volumes, the writer of the letters and sermons which Dean Goulburn has translated,-Herbert, whose surname was Losinga, the first bishop of Norwich, the founder and builder of Dean Goulburn's cathedral. He was a person of consequence, not only in his great East-Anglian province, but in the courts of William the Red and Henry, and in those assemblies of high ecclesiastical dignitaries who with the lay barons formed the great council of the king and of the realm. Appointed by William the Red, he lived half through the reign of Henry. But though he made himself a name, and though he appeared more than once on the scene in the keen and fierce debates which agitated the Court and all connected with it during these two reigns, the part which he took in the conflict was not a marked or prominent one. He belongs to the large class of those who can gain for themselves a general reputation, but not a particular one, and whom with the utmost respect we catalogue without discriminating them, fortemque Gyan fortemque Cloanthum. But though we might not care to know much about such a distinguished personage of our own days, or even of a hundred years ago, the case is different when we go back to the days of the Conquest, and the great contests of that time between the Church and the Crown. Then, to know something about the ordinary bishop of the time is almost as interesting and instructive as to know about Anselm and the Red King themselves: for we are thus helped to understand the kind of people before whom the greater actors carried on their struggles, and who looked on at these struggles; whose opinions influenced them; whose ideas, traditions, customs, prepossessions, desires, formed the atmosphere in which these struggles arose and produced their results. And in Herbert, first bishop of Norwich, we have just such a typical example of men who were bishops
in the generation just after the Conquest, distinguished bishops but nothing more.
Herbert Losinga-why does Dean Goulburn adopt the form 'de Losinga,' never found in the early accounts of him, and first used in the sixteenth century?-had the misfortune to bear a name which easily lent itself to those mischievous plays on words, which were as irresistible to the chroniclers of his time as nicknames are to schoolboys. It was no fault of his that he bore the name Losinga or Losengia, for it seems to have been his father's name also; and we find another person of importance in those times bearing it,-Robert Losing, the Lotharingian bishop of Hereford. Various conjectures as to its meaning are given in Dean Goulburn's book: one makes it a patronymic and connects it with some Suffolk local names, on the assumption that he was an Englishman born; another distorts it into an indication that he was, as were doubtless several of the churchmen of the time, a man from Lothringen, a Lorrainer. These guesses seem idle, and even the last one, ingeniously supported in a paper of Mr. Beloe in these volumes, is a precarious one; it goes on the supposition that in etymological processes, because some letters may be changed or dropped out, all may, and that Lotharingen may pass through Lothing into Losing. Such transitions require to be made probable by carefully-tested analogies. But whatever the origin of the name, it suggested a meaning, which the quick-witted people of the day were not slow to catch. In all the languages of the South a word has originated, probably from the Latin laus, to denote the ways or wiles of the wheedler and the flatterer-Lauzenga in the Provençal; Lisonja in Spanish; Lusinga in Italian; Losenge in old French; Lausengua even in Basque and the Norman dialect still keeps the word aloser for boastful praise.* The name with this idea fitted what was apparently a popular conception of Bishop Herbert's character and failings. Rightly or wrongly, he was supposed to have had, at one time of his life at least, a smooth tongue and supple conscience, and to have used without scruple for his own advantage his power over the ear of the great; and it would have been wonderful if the critical observers of the time had been insensible to the suitableness of the name to the man. William of Malmesbury was not likely to pass over so tempting a coincidence. Herebertus,' he writes, qui cognominabatur Losinga, quod ei ars adulationis impegerat ;' and the interpretation, as is natural, has remained.
* Diez, Etym. Wörterbuch; Orderic. Vital. vol. iv. 11, ed. Le Prevost. † W. Malms. de Gest. Pontif. ii. p. 151, ed. Hamilton. In the C.C.C. MS. of Florence of Worcester, referred to by Dean Goulburn (i, 358), the same passage is
East Anglians not unnaturally wish to claim the founder of the noble cathedral of East Anglia for an East Anglian, or at least an Englishman; and Dean Goulburn is half inclined to accept the claim. The supposition is antecedently improbable in the case of an ecclesiastic who held important posts under the Norman kings: these rulers did not usually promote Englishmen. Still he might have been, like Orderic, a born Englishman transferred in early youth to Normandy, and educated under Norman influences. But there can be little doubt that the whole notion of his English origin rests on mere ignorance and blundering on the part of late writers like Bale, Pits, and Godwin-informants of no real authority-who represent not research or even tradition, but simply the loose and careless fashion of compilation of their time. The earliest and apparently only trustworthy statement on the subject is that of Bartholomew Cotton, a monk of the Cathedral monastery of Norwich, who wrote in the thirteenth century. It is as follows:
'Herbertus Willelmo successit, tempore Willelmi junioris, cognomento Losinga. Hic prius fuit prior Fiscanni, postea abbas Ramesseye: et pater suus Robertus abbas Wintoniæ. Hic Herbertus in pago Oxymensi natus, Fiscanni monachus, post ejusdem loci prioratum strenue administratum, translatus in Angliam a Rege Willelmo, qui secundus ex Normannis obtinuit imperium, Ramesseye abbatiæ jure prælatus est.'
As far as appears, this is the sole ancient authority on the subject. If this statement about a prior of Fécamp who was born in pago Oxymensi' had been dealt with by anyone unconnected with Herbert, a bishop of Norwich, he would have had no difficulty, if he knew anything of mediæval Normandy, in identifying the district meant. The pagus Oxymensis' is familiar to writers on Norman matters, like Orderic. It became in French the district called 'L'Hiemois,' with its town Oximum, or Eximum, the modern Exmes, in the diocese of Séez, between Argentan and L'Aigle. It was a region peopled by men who were Normans of the Normans; close by was the famous monastery of St. Evroul, and it formed part of the vast possessions of the house of Bellême. Cotton's statement is evidently the source of Bale's, and of all that follow. But Bale's geography in the sixteenth century was not equal to this. He was a Suffolk man, and, as the East Anglian antiquaries suggest, he knew of a Suffolk town or hundred called 'Hoxne,' in which, found; but it is written over an erasure. 'The erased paragraph [in Florence] for which the above was substituted was probably that given in the first printed edition, 1592, in which inferior MSS. are followed. It is obvious that the substitution is an interpolation of the passage from Malmesbury into the text of Florence.