Diss, Walter (DNB00)

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DISS or DYSSE, WALTER (d. 1404?), Carmelite, is supposed to have been a native of the town of Diss, twenty-two miles south-west of Norwich, and to have been educated in the Carmelite house of the latter city (Bale, Scriptt. Brit. Cat. vii. 26, pp. 527 f.) He studied at Cambridge, where he proceeded to the degree of doctor of divinity. So much is gathered from his subscription to the condemnation of the twenty-four conclusions of Wycliffe passed by the council held at the Blackfriars, London, 21 May 1382 (Fasciculi Zizaniorum, p. 286, ed. W. W. Shirley). Leland conjectures (Commentarii de Scriptoribus Britannicis, cdl. p. 393) that he was a student also at Paris and Rome. That at least he belonged to Cambridge and was an opponent of Wycliffe appears certain. Nevertheless it has been maintained by Anthony à Wood and by others after him that Diss is the same person with Walter Dasch, who is mentioned as fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, in 1373, and who served as proctor in that university in 1382, this being the very year in which Diss is described in the proceedings of the Blackfriars council as ‘Cantabrigiæ’ (Wood thinks he only went to Cambridge at a later time), and in which Dasch took up an attitude of distinct friendliness to the Wycliffite party in Oxford; for at a later session of the same council, 12 June 1382, ‘inventus est suspectus cancellarius (Thomas Bryghtwell) de favore et credentia hæeresum et errorum, et præcipue Philippi (Repyndon) et Nicolai (Hereford) et Wycclyff …; et nedum ipse, sed etiam procuratores universitatis Walterus Dasch et Johannes Hunteman’ (Fasc. Ziz. p. 304). It is safe therefore to distinguish these two persons hitherto identified, and to leave Oxford the credit of the Lollard proctor, and Cambridge that of the catholic friar, Walter Diss.

Subsequently Diss was employed by Urban VI, in whose allegiance, as against Clement VII, England continued unshaken. He had been for some time confessor to John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, and to his wife Constance, through whom this prince pretended to the crown of Castile, and Pope Urban seized the opportunity of using this claim as a means of asserting his own authority in Spain, where that of his rival was generally acknowledged. In 1386 indulgences were offered to those who should support John of Gaunt's expedition (see Richard II's proclamation on the subject, dated 11 April, in Rymer, Fœdera, vii. 507 f. ed. 1709), and Diss was named papal legate to give it the character of a crusade. He was authorised, according to Walsingham (a. 1387) and the other St. Albans chronicler, to grant certain privileges, ‘non sine pecunia,’ and to appoint papal chaplains on the same footing as those holding office in the Roman curia—also, it seems, in return for a considerable payment—to assist his mission. No less than fifty were to be thus appointed, and there was a rush of applicants which filled the more sober Benedictines with jealous disgust (Walsingham, Gest. Abbat. Monast. S. Albani, ii. 417 et seq. ed. Riley, 1867). Among those, however, so appointed was an Austin friar named Peter Pateshull, who made considerable sensation by at once attaching himself to the Lollards, and in consequence of this mishap, if we are to believe Walsingham, Diss never proceeded to Spain at all. The common account, on the other hand, repeated from Tritthemius (who ascribes his commission to Boniface IX), makes him papal legate in England, Spain (i.e. Castile), Portugal, Navarre, Aragon, and Gascony, where he was deputed to counteract the influence of schismatics (meaning adherents of Clement VII), and also of heretics in general. A Carmelite sermon preached in 1386, and printed in the appendix to the ‘Fasciculi Zizaniorum,’ p. 508, confirms the opinion that Diss's mission was not confined to Spain, but does not state that the mission was actually carried out. Of the rest of Diss's career nothing is recorded. He seems to have retired to the Carmelite monastery at Norwich, where he was buried about 1404 (5 Hen. IV).

Diss's eminence as a preacher is commemorated by his biographers; it may indeed be guessed from his appointment as legate in circumstances of much difficulty. He is said by Tritthemius to have written commentaries ‘Super quosdam Psalmos,’ ‘Sermones de Tempore,’ ‘Sermones de Sanctis,’ ‘Contra Lolhardos,’ and ‘De Schismate.’ This last is apparently the ‘Carmen de schismate ecclesiæ’ (inc. ‘Helyconis rivulo modice dispersus’)—possibly only three fragments of a larger poem—bearing his name, and printed by J. M. Lydius in his edition of ‘Nicolai de Clemangiis Opera,’ pp. 31–4 (Leyden, 1613, quarto). Another work by Diss, entitled ‘Quæstiones Theologie,’ was found by Bishop Bale in the library at Norwich (see his manuscript collections, Bodl. Libr. Cod. Selden., supra, 64, f. 50). In his printed ‘Scriptt. Brit. Cat.’ Bale ascribes to him also the following writings: ‘Lectura Theologiæ,’ ‘Ex Augustino et Anselmo,’ ‘Determinationes Variæ,’ ‘Ad Ecclesiarum Præsides,’ and ‘Epistolæ ad Urbanum et Bonifacium.’

[Walsingham's Historia Anglicana, ii. 157 f. ed. H. T. Riley, Rolls Series, 1864; Monach. Evesh Vita R. Ricardi II, pp. 79 f. ed. Hearne, 1729; Walsingham's Ypodigma Neustriæ, p. 348, ed. Riley, 1876; Chronicon Angliæ a Monacho S. Albani, pp. 376 f. ed. E. M. Thompson, Rolls Series, 1874; J. Tritthemius, De ortu et progressu ac viris illustribus ordinis de Monte Carmel, p. 48, ed. Cologne, 1643; Leland's Comm. de Scriptt. Brit. pp. 385, 393 f.; Anthony à Wood's Hist. et Antiq. Univ. Oxon. ii. 106, 400 (Latin ed., 1674, folio); Wood's Fasti Oxon. 31, 32; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. p. 229. Peter Lucius (Carmelitana Bibliotheca, f. 80 verso, 1593) adds nothing to our information about Diss.]

R. L. P.