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have produced it are alike acute and suggestive, nor have they shrunk from putting their finger on the weak spots and saying to a generation only too prone to applaud itself and rest content with things as they are, ' Thou ailest here and here'; and if the remedies which they suggest seem to us sometimes too heroic and too far beyond the resources which as yet we possess to be carried out successfully in their entirety, yet no one can deny their thoroughness, their coherence, and their completeness. Everywhere they seem to point to a distant goal to be aimed at; in many directions they indicate lines which legislative action may profitably follow; and over and above this there are to be met with throughout the Report suggestions for administrative reforms which, if carried out in the spirit in which the Commissioners would have them undertaken, would go far to redress most of the evils from which our Poor Law system is now suffering. For, if we cannot say that 'whate'er is best administered is best,' it remains true that a bad or indifferent system well administered is superior to a better system administered ill. This principle is not without application to the more far-reaching and revolutionary proposals of the Report of the Minority, which may, perhaps, be considered in a later article.



CENTURY: OSBERT OF CLARE 1. Epistolae Herberti de Losinga, Osberti de Clare, et Elmeri

prioris Cantuariensis. Edited by ROBERT ANSTRUTHER. (Brussels. 1846. Also for the Caxton Society, London.

1846.) 2. On the Origins of the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed

Virgin Mary.) By EDMUND BISHOP. (London: Burns

and Oates. 1904.) 3. Eadmeri monachi Cantuariensis Tractatus de Conceptione Sanctae Mariae. Edited by H. THURSTON, S.J.,

, and T. SLATER, S.J. (Freiburg : Herder. 1904.) 4. The History of Westminster Abbey by John Flete. Edited

by J. ARMITAGE ROBINSON, D.D., Dean of Westminster.

(Cambridge : at the University Press. 1909.) The Norman had come and conquered, and he plainly meant to stay. The massive churches rising everywhere proved that, as surely as the castles. Westminster, indeed, had been in front of the time. Its new church was a prophecy; built by the Normanized king, and after the fashion of Jumièges, which had given its abbot Robert to be bishop of London, chief adviser of Edward, and presently archbishop. When the Conqueror arrived the choir of Westminster was ready for his coronation, and the English abbot, winning his favour on that occasion, held his own when others were displaced. The first Norman abbot, who succeeded Edwin in 1071, 'walked not in the ways of his fathers,' and was soon sent back to his old abbey of Jumièges. The next, Vitalis, was a good man from Bernay, a cell of the reformed Fécamp. Then from the abbey of Bec came a favourite pupil of Lanfranc and Anselm, Gilbert Crispin, a high-born Norman, learned and devout, the biographer of Bec's founder, Abbot Herluin. In December 1117, after ruling for thirty-two years, Gilbert was laid in the south walk of the cloister of his building; and there in the new cloister of the fourteenth century his time-worn effigy can still be seen. King Henry was abroad, and the abbey remained

vacant. Next year the good Queen Maud, as the chroniclers constantly call her, was buried near King Edward's grave before the high altar. But still the king had not returned. When at last he crossed in November 1120, the White Ship sank with all his hopes. In January 1121 Herbert the almoner was appointed abbot, the first monk of the house to be chosen for more than seventy years.

Of Herbert we know little. The monastic historian Flete tells us that he was a Norman. Perhaps he followed Gilbert from Bec, for one of Gilbert's earliest charters is attested by Herbert the monk. If so, he was past middle age when he became abbot.

The prior, a younger man, full of zeal and energy, had been passed over. This was Osbert, a native of Clare in Suffolk, who is by far the most conspicuous representative of Westminster for the next thirty or forty years, notwithstanding his enforced retirement from his monastic home during most of that period. Osbert's history has yet to be written. A few facts are to be gleaned from the Westminster muniments, but the main story must be gathered from his extant letters, which have hitherto been only incompletely edited. We first catch sight of Osbert in the early years of Abbot Herbert's rule. We have a letter of his written to Hugh, the prior of St. Pancras at Lewes, before he was transferred in 1123 to King Henry's new monastery at Reading. Osbert, who writes from Ely, is already in trouble, and speaks of himself as proscriptus.' After discoursing largely on friendship, he recalls a visit which, in company with two of his brethren, Gregory and Godefrid, he had paid to Hugh in days gone by. He describes the warmth of his reception and the eternal friendship which at once sprang up between them. Then, after an elaborate exposition of a passage of Zechariah, he turns to speak of his present situation and uses language which ought to help us to understand his career. Unfortunately, like much else of his writing, it is capable of more than one interpretation.

As the passage has not yet been printed, it may be given here. Towards the close of his letter, which, as he says, VOL. LXVIII.-NO. CXXXVI.


has run to an inordinate length, he returns to his startingpoint, the subject of friendship :

Scriptum namque est : Si habes amicum, in templatione posside illum. In temptatione itaque mea ad te recurro, quem fidelem et pium invenire non diffido. Quod si mea olim coram rege praevaluisset electio, in tribulationibus meis ad te mea fuisset conversio. Sed quia rex me blanditiis et precibus delinivit ut aliquamdiu ecclesiae nostrae cederem et Eliensem ecclesiam ad quam missus sum visitarem, acquievi voluntati ejus et satisfeci imperio. Nunc ibi positus multociens per gratiam dei sentio amicos quos aliquamdiu familiares pertuli inimicos : qui me amplius infestaverant, modo revocarent si possent.'

Now this may simply mean that when he was sent away from Westminster his preference would have brought him to Lewes as a retreat from his enemies : * If my choice had at that time prevailed with the king, then in my troubles it is to you that I should have turned : but the king with smooth entreaties urged me to leave our church for a while and visit Ely, to which I was sent: I acquiesced, and have found old enemies turning to friends and desirous if they could to have me back.' It is, however, hard to see why the king should trouble himself about a Westminster monk; unless, indeed, there was a strong party who were anxious to make him abbot, and perhaps had even gone so far as to get him elected.

Let us look at the passage in this light. Let us suppose that the monks claimed to exercise their canonical right of free election. St. Albans had done so in 1119, and had gained the king's consent to the election of Geoffrey, learned monk of that abbey. With this example before them, and with Osbert as their leader, who strongly insisted on ecclesiastical rights, the monks of Westminster were not very likely to remain three years without attempting to elect some one in the hope of obtaining the royal approval. Osbert's learning, ability and zeal might make him seem a not unworthy successor to Abbot Gilbert. But there may have been a party which preferred Herbert, especially if he

a had come with Gilbert from Bec. The king waits for his return to England, and then chooses Herbert. If my

election,' says Osbert, 'had prevailed with the king 'so far all is plain, and the words receive their most natural meaning. But a difficulty arises in what follows : 'in my troubles I should have turned to you. What would his troubles have been if his hope had been fulfilled ? Possibly he knew that his seat would not be an easy one. It is certain that he was an eager ecclesiastical politician, belonging to the rising school which carried on the Anselm tradition; and he had enemies within the monastery and outside who represented him to the king as a dangerous man. We cannot then exclude the possibility of a frustrated election, even if we cannot find sufficient grounds to confirm the supposition. We must leave the matter in uncertainty, satisfied to have learned this much at least, that in those early years Osbert was of sufficient importance to have called for the king's interference with his plans.

Ep. xii., which is written to Abbot Herbert, throws some light on the immediate cause of Osbert's banishment. We must suppose that internal troubles in the monastery had called for the king's interference, for clearly Osbert was too strong for Herbert. This letter is written in self-justification and as a plea for restoration. But it is throughout the letter of an equal, though the writer protests a readiness for any obedience consistent with his self-respect. He begins by suggesting that the abbot has made sufficient use of the pointed end of his pastoral staff, and should now rescue his lost sheep with the crook. He has had wine enough in his wounds, and is ready for a little oil :

'If I have done anything, whether unwise or wise, that has displeased you, it was not of envy or malice, but of simplicity; and the simplicity which provoked you to anger daily washes my face with floods of tears. Not that my conscience accuses me of having purposely sought your harm, but because I dread a father's curse, however incurred. My race is not sprung of the race of Ham, who mocked to behold his father's nakedness. Let Joshua come and convict me of Achan's sacrilege, or Phineas of Midianitish adultery. Do you, the avenger of crimes, draw Solomon's true sword, and delay not to restore the son to his own mother.'

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