Florence of Worcester (DNB00)

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FLORENCE of Worcester (d. 1118), chronicler, a monk of Worcester, is said by one of his continuators, who praises his skill and industry, to have died on 7 July 1118 (Flor. Wig. ii. 72). This is all that is known of his personal history. He wrote the ‘Chronicon ex Chronicis,’ which is based on the work of Marianus, an Irish monk. Marianus, who died in 1082 or 1083, composed a general chronicle from the creation to his own time, containing a few notices of events relating to Britain and Ireland. The additions of Florence nearly all refer to English affairs. From 455 to 597 he uses the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,’ then chiefly Bæda to 732, and then again the ‘Chronicle’ and lives of saints, and later Asser's ‘Life of Alfred,’ together with some short extracts from Abbo. From 946 to 971 he relies on the ‘Lives’ of Dunstan, Oswald, and Æthelwold, and then again returns to the ‘Chronicle,’ which he amplifies from other sources. Some events specially connected with Worcester receive notice, though passed over by the English chronicle-writers. After the conclusion of the work of Marianus, Florence still goes on recording some pieces of continental history. His own work ends at 1117; he has several continuators. One of the earliest of them was a monk of Worcester named John. Orderic (p. 504) says that John, a monk of Worcester, added to the work of Marianus matters belonging to the reigns of the Conqueror and his sons, William Rufus and Henry, down to his own day, and that his chronicle, which covered nearly a hundred years, was undertaken at the command of Bishop Wulfstan. He no doubt found John employed on the works of Marianus and Florence when he visited Worcester about 1136, and probably confused the continuator, and possibly transcriber, of Florence with the original author. One continuator went down to 1031, another probably to 1037, another to 1141, and one manuscript has a continuation to 1295. Florence used a version of the ‘Chronicle’ which has since been lost; it was no doubt a version written at Worcester, which is to some extent represented by the Peterborough ‘Chronicle.’ This fact invests his work with peculiar importance, indeed it is one of the most valuable of the authorities for early English history; but it is impossible to say how much of the passages which are not to be traced to extant versions of the ‘Chronicle’ or other early sources is to be set down as translation from this lost Worcester chronicle, or is to be regarded as merely the amplifications of the twelfth-century compiler. Florence is an industrious and careful writer, but either he or the work which he copied adopted views on certain subjects, such, for example, as the causes of the English defeats in the reign of Æthelred the Unready, which seem exaggerated (Green, Conquest of England, p. 381). He wrote a list of the English bishops and genealogies of the kings, and, according to Bale, a book ‘De Rebus sui Cœnobii.’ Nine manuscripts of Florence's ‘Chronicle’ are extant. The first in the list of Sir T. D. Hardy, MS. C. C. C. Oxford, 12th cent. fol., ends abruptly at 1140; it belonged to the church of Worcester, contains the lists and genealogies, and insertions and a continuation by a contemporary monk of Worcester. MS. Lambeth, 12th cent. fol., ends at 1131, contains some lists, formerly belonged to Abingdon, and has some special Abingdon notices. MS. Bodl. 297, fol., also 12th cent., ends at 1131 and has notices of charters of Bury St. Edmunds. MS. C. C. C. Cambr. xcii., 13th cent. fol., ends at 1131 and has a continuation to 1295; it formerly belonged to Peterborough. Florence's ‘Chronicle’ was first printed in 1592 at London, 4to, under the editorship of William Howard of Naworth, third son of Thomas, duke of Norfolk, who dedicated his work to Lord Burghley; it was reprinted faultily at Frankfort, along with the ‘Flores Historiarum,’ 1601, fol. The two manuscripts used by Howard belong to Trinity College, Dublin; his edition ends with 1141. The portion from 450 to 1066 is edited by Petrie in the ‘Monumenta Historica Britannica,’ pp. 616–44, 1848, fol., where the portions taken from Marianus are omitted in the text, and the whole work from 450 with the C. C. C. Cambr. continuation to 1295 was edited by B. Thorpe for the English Historical Society, 1849, 2 vols. 8vo. Florence's ‘Chronicle’ has been translated by T. Forester for Bohn's ‘Historical Library,’ 1847, 8vo, and by J. Stevenson in his ‘Church Historians,’ vol. ii. pt. i. 1853, 8vo.

[Florence of Worcester, ii. 72 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Orderic, p. 504, ed. Duchesne; Hardy's Descriptive Cat. ii. 130 (Rolls Ser.); Mon. Hist. Brit., Preface, pp. 83–7; Wright's Biog. Lit. ii. 73; Green's Conquest of England, pp. 341, 381.]

W. H.