Oxenedes, John de (DNB00)

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OXENEDES or OXNEAD, JOHN de (d. 1293?), is the reputed author of a chronicle published by Sir Henry Ellis in 1859 in the Rolls Series. The sole evidence in favour of Oxenedes's authorship is based on the title of the manuscript (Cotton MS. Nero D. 11), which was then believed to be the only one extant. But the fact that the title is not in the handwriting of the original scribe, which is that of the early part of the fourteenth century, but in a hand of the middle of the sixteenth century, considerably weakens the statement. It has been regarded, however, as satisfactory by many writers. Wharton in 'Anglia Sacra' (i. 405) and Smith in his 'Catalogue of the Cotton MS.' treat Oxenedes as the author. Tanner has given him a place in his 'Bibliotheca' (Bibl. Britannico-Hibernica, p. 567), and Sir Henry Ellis seemed to have no doubt as to the authorship, though his edition was not very carefully compiled, and he is especially negligent in his account of the sources from which the Hulmeian Chronicle is derived (cf. Introduction, pp. vi sq. with Mon. Hist. Germ. Scriptt. xxviii. 598). Moreover, the discovery of another manuscript, belonging to the Duke of Newcastle, just after Ellis's edition was printed off, has somewhat vitiated his conclusions. This manuscript is in a fourteenth-century handwriting, and is regarded as having been transcribed, not from the Cotton MS., but from a common lost original. A collation of the Duke of Newcastle's MS. with the Cotton MS., made by Mr. Knowles, was published as an appendix to Ellis's edition. It is not clear from the printed edition whether this manuscript also ascribes the authorship to Oxenedes.

Nothing is known positively about Oxenedes. His name is plainly derived from the little village of Oxnead, on the Bure in Norfolk, about four miles south-east of Aylsham, and it is therefore usual to assume that he was born there. It is clear that the chronicle ascribed to him is the work of a monk of the great Norfolk Benedictine monastery of St. Benet's, Hulme, which is situated in the marshes lower down the Bure, about ten miles from Oxnead. It is noteworthy, however, that Oxnead did not belong to the monks of St. Benet's, and its name is not mentioned either in the chronicle or in the cartularies of that house.

The chronicle of Oxenedes extends from the time of Alfred to 1293. The earlier portion is a compilation of no great value. Up to 1258 the writer mainly follows John of Wallingford. Between 1258 and 1292 the narrative is derived from the Bury St. Edmunds chronicle of John de Tayster and his continuators. Up to 1280 there is practically nothing fresh added by the Hulme writer except some details of the barons' wars in 1264 and 1265. After 1280 a good deal of Norfolk history is mentioned which is not found elsewhere, but very little of any importance that affects general history. The chronicle deals fully with the affairs of St. Benet's, Hulme, and breaks off abruptly in the middle of a sentence announcing the election of Robert, Winchelsey as archbishop of Canterbury in March 1293. It is thought to be evident, from the back of the leaf being left blank, that the abrupt conclusion is due to the author having ceased his labour, so that the death of the writer probably took place in 1293. A short chronicle of St. Benet's, which is appended to the Newcastle manuscript, also ends in 1294.

[The Introduction of Sir Henry Ellis to his edition of the Chronicle in the Rolls Series should be compared with the brief but valuable Introduction by Dr. Liebermann to the extracts concerning imperial affairs printed by him in Monumenta Germaniæ Historica, Scriptores, xxxviii. 598 sq.]

T. F. T.