1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Higdon, Ranulf

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

HIGDON (or Higden), RANULF (c. 1299-c. 1363), English chronicler, was a Benedictine monk of the monastery of St Werburg in Chester, in which he lived, it is said, for sixty-four years, and died “in a good old age,” probably in 1363. Higdon was the author of a long chronicle, one of several such works based on a plan taken from Scripture, and written for the amusement and instruction of his society. It closes the long series of general chronicles, which were soon superseded by the invention of printing. It is commonly styled the Polychronicon, from the longer title Ranulphs Castrensis, cognomine Higdon, Polychronicon (sive Historia Polycratica) ab initio mundi usque ad mortem regis Edwardi III. in septem libros dispositum. The work is divided into seven books, in humble imitation of the seven days of Genesis, and, with exception of the last book, is a summary of general history, a compilation made with considerable style and taste. It seems to have enjoyed no little popularity in the 15th century. It was the standard work on general history, and more than a hundred MSS. of it are known to exist. The Christ Church MS. says that Higdon wrote it down to the year 1342; the fine MS. at Christ's College, Cambridge, states that he wrote to the year 1344, after which date, with the omission of two years, John of Malvern, a monk of Worcester, carried the history on to 1357, at which date it ends. According, however, to its latest editor, Higdon's part of the work goes no further than 1326 or 1327 at latest, after which time it was carried on by two continuators to the end. Thomas Gale, in his Hist. Brit. &c., scriptores, xv. (Oxon., 1691), published that portion of it, in the original Latin, which comes down to 1066. Three early translations of the Polychronicon exist. The first was made by John of Trevisa, chaplain to Lord Berkeley, in 1387, and was printed by Caxton in 1482, the second by an anonymous writer, was written between 1432 and 1450; the third, based on Trevisa's version, with the addition of an eighth book, was prepared by Caxton. These versions are specially valuable as illustrating the change of the English language during the period they cover.

The Polychronicon, with the continuations and the English versions, was edited for the Rolls Series (No. 41) by Churchill Babington (vols. i and ii) and Joseph Rawson Lumby (1865-1886). This edition was adversely criticized by Mandell Creighton in the Eng. Hist. Rev. for October 1888.