1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Henry of Huntingdon

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HENRY OF HUNTINGDON, English chronicler of the 12th century, was born, apparently, between the years 1080 and 1090. His father, by name Nicholas, was a clerk, who became archdeacon of Cambridge, Hertford and Huntingdon, in the time of Remigius, bishop of Lincoln (d. 1092). The celibacy of the clergy was not strictly enforced in England before 1102. Hence the chronicler makes no secret of his antecedents, nor did they interfere with his career. At an early age Henry entered the household of Bishop Robert Bloet, who appointed him, immediately after the death of Nicholas (1110), archdeacon of Hertford and Huntingdon. Henry was on familiar terms with his patron; and also, it would seem, with Bloet’s successor, by whom he was encouraged to undertake the writing of an English history from the time of Julius Caesar. This work, undertaken before 1130, was first published in that year; the author subsequently published in succession four more editions, of which the last ends in 1154 with the accession of Henry II. The only recorded fact of the chronicler’s later life is that he went with Archbishop Theobald to Rome in 1139. On the way Henry halted at Bec, and there made the acquaintance of Robert de Torigni, who mentions their encounter in the preface to his Chronicle.

The Historia Anglorum was first printed in Savile, Rerum Anglicarum scriptores post Bedam (London, 1596). The first six books excepting the third, which is almost entirely taken from Bede, are given in Monumenta historica Britannica, vol. i. (ed. H. Petrie and J. Sharpe, London, 1848). The standard edition is that of T. Arnold in the Rolls Series (London, 1879). There is a translation by T. Forester in Bohn’s Antiquarian Library (London, 1853). The Historia is of little independent value before 1126. Up to that point the author compiles from Eutropius, Aurelius Victor, Nennius, Bede and the English chronicles, particularly that of Peterborough; in some cases he professes to supplement these sources from oral tradition; but most of his amplifications are pure rhetoric (see F. Liebermann in Forschungen zur deutschen Geschichte for 1878, pp. 265 seq.). Arnold prints, in an appendix, a minor work from Henry’s pen, the Epistola ad Walterum de contemptu mundi, which was written in 1135. It is a moralizing tract, but contains some interesting anecdotes about contemporaries. Henry also wrote epistles to Henry I. (on the succession of kings and emperors in the great monarchies of the world) and to “Warinus, a Briton” (on the early British kings, after Geoffrey of Monmouth). A book, De miraculis, composed of extracts from Bede, was appended along with these three epistles to the later recensions of the Historia. Henry composed eight books of Latin epigrams; two books survive in the Lambeth MS., No. 118. His value as a historian, formerly much overrated, is discussed at length by Liebermann and in T. Arnold’s introduction to the Rolls edition of the Historia.  (H. W. C. D.)