Baker, Geoffrey (DNB00)

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BAKER, GEOFFREY (fl. 1350), chronicler, whose name has been given less correctly as Walter of Swinbroke, or, according to Camden, of Swinborn, was, to quote his own description of himself, by profession a clerk, and drew up his shorter and earlier chronicle at Osney, near Oxford, by the request of Thomas de la More, knight. Swinbroke, Oxfordshire, seems to have been his native place. Camden, but apparently without authority, calls him a canon of the Augustinian foundation at Osney, and in this statement has been followed by both Pits and Tanner. The same authorities declare that this Walter or Geoffrey Baker only translated into Latin an account of Edward II's reign, which Sir Thomas de la More had previously drawn up in French (‘Gallice scripsit’). As a matter of fact, however, there appear to be two chronicles due to the pen of Geoffrey Baker. Of these the earlier and shorter extends from the first day of creation to the year 1326. This very scanty work has a double method of marking the dates, namely, by the common method of the christian era, and by the distance of each event from 1347. A note tells us that it was completed on Friday, St. Margaret's day (13 July), 1347. The second and by far the more important of Geoffrey's two compilations is a longer chronicle extending from 1303 to 1356. This chronicle is, at all events for its earliest years, based upon that of Adam of Murimuth, or both writers have borrowed largely from a common source (cf. Chron. of Adam of Murimuth, p. 88, with that of Geoffrey Baker, p. 134). But, to use Dr. Stubbs's words, ‘Geoffrey adds very largely to Murimuth, and more largely as he approaches his own time of writing.’ This second chronicle purports, according to its heading, to have been drawn up by Geoffrey le Baker of Swinbroke, clerk, at the request of Thomas de la More. This knight is mentioned by name in one passage relating to the resignation of Edward II as the French chronicler whose interpreter, in some degree, the present compiler, Geoffrey Baker, is (‘cujus ego sum talis qualis interpres’). Hence it would appear that Sir Thomas de la More had drawn up a French account of at least the reign of Edward II, of which Geoffrey Baker availed himself in his longer chronicle. Sir Thomas's original work has wholly disappeared. In the early years of Queen Elizabeth manuscript copies of what purported to be a Latin translation of Sir Thomas's ‘Life and Death of Edward II’ were in circulation, and Camden printed a version of that work in the ‘Vita et Mors Edwardi II,’ published in his ‘Anglica Scripta’ (1603). But both the manuscript translation and Camden's publication seem to be merely abbreviated extracts from Baker's longer chronicle (cf. introduction to Stubbs's Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and II). Dr. Stubbs has pointed out, as perhaps a partial explanation of the connection of Geoffrey Baker's work with that of Adam of Murimuth, and with that attributed to Sir Thomas de la More, that Swinbroke, the home of Geoffrey, Northmoor, from which Sir Thomas in all probability drew his name, and 'Fifield, the lordship of the house of Murimuth, all lay within the hundred of Chadlington,' on the borders of Oxfordshire. The only other event that can be considered as fairly certain in the life of Geoffrey Baker is, that some time after the great pestilence of 1349 he had, as he himself tells us, seen and spoken with William Bisschop, the comrade of Gurney and Maltravers, Edward II's murderers, and from his lips had gathered many of the tragic details of that king's last days.

[Stubbs's Chronicles of Ed. I and II (R.S.) ii. Introduction, lvii-lxxv; Giles's Chronica Galfridi le Baker (Caxton Society), pp. 43, 46, 85, 90, 91; Hardy's Catalogue, iii. 389-91; Pits, 846; Fabric. Biblioth. Lat. iii. 112; Tanner (under Walter and Geoffrey Baker), who distinguishes the writer of the shorter from the writer of the longer chronicle; Camden's Anglica, Authorum Vita, and 593-603. Manuscript copies of the Vita et Mors are in the British Museum: Cotton MSS. Vitell. E. 5; Harley MSS. 310. Geoffrey Baker's two chronicles are to be found in the Bodleian Library (MS. Bodley, 761), and are possibly in the author's own handwriting.]

T. A. A.