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After further Scriptural allusions he goes on to plead for a dispassionate judgement.

'This, my father, you have not given me. The bad advice of certain persons whose envy makes them mad against me has prevented you from doing justice. A public prejudice has been formed against me, whereas I have always offered to submit to judgement and justice. All reconciliation has been refused me. the sentence of Catholic truth has been denied to me. I do not put this to your account, reverend father ; it is due to the instigation of others. Charges utterly false have been trumped up against me.'

Then Gregory and Augustine are quoted, and a new plea from Scripture is adduced. Then he proceeds :

' It seems to have been determined of me, as of the blind man in the Gospel: because he wished truly to confess Christ, therefore he was put out of the synagogue. And because I wished that the senate of the church should be unimpaired and ecclesiastical laws be in all things enforced, I was condemned as a criminal of the deepest dye, stamped as a base traitor, and rendered infamous by you throughout the world. But that treachery could be proved by no argument, save that in face of the dilapidation of the church, the starving of the servants, the ruin of the monastic buildings, roofs out of repair, meals of the seniors cut down, the resources of the treasury diminished, walls and battlements broken and ruined, all that the brethren needed indiscreetly wasted by alien hands without your knowledge in face of all this I could not hold my peace; and this I disclosed at your bidding to those who made inquiry; and you yourself are evidence enough, since what I in mere words simply related is now plain to be seen in works of reparation in each case. Thanks be to God and to you, you have already repaired, and are still repairing, restoring and making anew, old breaches and new gates in the walls--and would that the moral kept pace with the mural repairs.'1

After this somewhat unruly eloquence, he reminds the abbot that we all are mortal, and that he will ere long have to render his account for Osbert's loss to the flock, which has come from no straying on his part, but from violent

i Restauras et innovas veteres et novas scissuras et portas murorum : utinam et morum.

ejection. Then he pleads the Good Shepherd's love, and promises that he will ever both openly and in secret be faithful to his abbot:

'I am still ready with obedience and humility to honour you as a father, support you as a mother, to shew you friendship pure and true, and without loss of my own self-respect to receive your paternal discipline. . . . You may have me as a second self, in trouble and in prosperity an eager helper and a faithful friend.'


This letter gives us a tantalizing glimpse of the contemporary state of the abbey. It is strange to be told that Edward's church was in a ruinous state after fifty years ; but we must allow for a little exaggeration in the reformer's report. When he speaks of the privileges of the whole body and of ecclesiastical rights, he may be touching on the freedom of election, for which he would doubtless have stood ; or he may refer, partly at least, to matters of internal economy. He plainly accuses the abbot of negligence, and others of waste and worse. It looks as if the king had been invoked, and a formal inquiry held ; and in the issue the abbot had undertaken to set his house in order, if Osbert could be provided for elsewhere. Osbert therefore was sent on some mission to Ely, and the king may have half-promised to do something for him.

The language of Ep. xix. has so many points of contact with that of Ep. xii. that it seems likely that they were written about the same time. Osbert writes to a certain Henry, a presbyter, a relation of his, who had been a close friend, but whom he now accuses of having in return for many favours basely contrived his expulsion, proscription and exile. Banished from one church he has come to another. Instead of expulsion, he has found a thousand embraces, welcomes and solaces from friends. Exile has

. been turned into home. This accords with the early days of his reception at Ely.

He then goes on to allude to Ahitophel and David, to Doeg and Ahimelech. His crime has been the defending of the sacred place and the faithful guarding of the brethren. To have wished that the rights of the church should be unimpaired; to have succoured the needs of the household of faith; to have shewn hospitality to Christ's brethren ; to have fed the people of the Lord with the shewbread in a daily meal this is his shame and disgrace.

No wonder, he continues, that he has been betrayed by the followers of Judas, who betrayed the Master whose disciple he professes himself to be. His passion began in his Lord's passion, at the same sacred season, in the very same days.

After this he has much to say on friendship, true and false, quoting Seneca, Horace and St. Paul. Then he applies to Henry a passage from one of St. Jerome's letters,” modifying and adapting its language at the close. Where St. Jerome says that for three years he had borne with his detractors, Osbert says : For more than two years I passed my life with them in the cares of office. Yet in such a manner was I set over them, that I hesitated not to be under them, after the fashion of Him who came not to be ministered unto. Earlier in the letter he has spoken of himself as having been 'prior ecclesiae'; so that it is important to fix the period to which this letter belongs.

A great throng,' he continues, of monks and clerks, often of virgins and widows, and sometimes of women of the world, often too of citizens, came around me; to whom partly in the church and partly in the chapter-house I oftentimes expounded as I could the law of God, and ministered with Ahimelech the shewbread to the household of David. The pleasure of the word spoken had produced constant attendance, constant attendance familiar acquaintance, and familiar acquaintance confidence. Let them say what they ever found in me which befitted not a Christian. If the whole charge be brought up, for which I am stamped with infamy, it is, as I have said above, that I wished the senate of the church to remain unimpaired.'

After this he quotes Boethius, and presently he returns to his topic and says : 'God knows that I never wished for office, save for the common good of God's people; and when

Another allusion to Ahimelech, 1 Sam. xxii.
Ep. xlv. Ad Asellam (Vallarsi, ed. 1766, i. 195).

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serious and cruel discords began to grow up, with a firm mind I migrated to another place. There he has found great joy and happiness; though indeed he is ready to die for and in Christ, for whom he has ever determined uprightly to live.

He warns Henry that death spares not the royal or the wealthy, or the fat and well-favoured. He bids him therefore repent. At the outset of his letter he had said that he wrote with great unwillingness, being at peace and loth to recall the thought of his enemies; but he was urged to write, however briefly, by some who had come from the place where Henry was. At its close he says : 'I am told that you wish to see and speak with me. If you make any advance at all towards me, I will meet you wherever you may summon me to come.'

Another letter (Ep. xxvii.) may be assigned to this earliest period of Osbert's banishment. It is written to a brother monk at Westminster, who has come to a better mind and regrets the treatment which Osbert has received. The letter opens with a greeting from which the names of sender and of recipient are designedly omitted, and there is an evident desire for secrecy. He begins by extolling the blessings of a good conscience, and encourages his penitent friend to persevere on the better path. Then he enters on an elaborate comparison of his sufferings with those of Joseph, who was sold by his envious brethren:

Though it was not through my merits, but by your common choice, that the care of your souls was in due accordance with rule assigned to me, yet without rule, order or right, proscribed, sold, expelled, banished from home and from the senate of brothers and monks, you thought to send me into Egypt. But by God's grace the Egyptians are already paying me tribute. For God hath increased me with Joseph” in a strange land. Excellent, I say, is that loss, which has already gotten me many gains. For you are dwelling in the land of Canaan, where you have famine of this life and the next, and are in constant turmoil from

" It opens thus: Salus in exordio amico praemittitur, nullius characteris nota signata.'

» He has already explained that Joseph signifies 'augmentum.'

internal strifes. Canaan means emulation, or, as some say, commotion. I exhort and admonish you that you come out of bitter emulation and emulous commotion, and hasten on the right way where conscience calls. Come out, I say, of the emulation that has conceived iniquity against me. For he whom you sold into Egypt is already ministering corn with Joseph; ministering it not under Pharaoh's rule, but under Christ the Lord. His part is to deal out to many the word of God by speech and writing, and with the senators of the land to receive praise and favour in the gates. Return, brothers, return (if indeed ye be brothers) to a right mind; for ye have transgressed as against me the commandment of the Lord. For I am your flesh and your brother. Not for myself do I write thus, but for those who have sinned against me. For their pardon I pray daily on bended knee. I implore God's mercy that He impute not to them the offence which they have committed against me. For if I have endured aught of affliction, it has been at the demand of my sins.

Now therefore, beloved brother, to whom especially I commit this warning, thanks should have been multiplied and brought back to you by my brother, unless I had thought to multiply them more usefully at a more secret place and time. Follow God's inspiration and the truth of your own heart; for whether you do what you have said or whether you refrain, I shall always love you. In this my exile, in the spiritual martyrdom of my conflict, I will say with my Christ and will pray with my Lord, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. For Thou searchest the reins and the heart, Thou art my witness, Thou knowest my conscience, that I desire nought in respect of them save that they turn and repent, that through Thee they may be reconciled for Thy sake, and that they and I together may be able to reconcile ourselves to Thee.

Farewell, brother, yea, may all my friends and brothers fare well ; and may they understand what revenge I ask from God on those who have ministered to my ruin. Let not the interpretation of your name pass from your memory; for if you have been strong-handed to evil (which God forbid), in irony and by antiphrasis you shall be accounted by another word, desirable 1

1 Interpretatio nominis tui ne decidat a memoria tua ; quia, si manu fortis ad malum (quod absit) extiteris, ironice et per antiphrasin alio censeberis vocabulo desiderabilis.

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