Celling, William (DNB00)

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CELLING, WILLIAM, or perhaps more properly William Tilly of Selling (d. 1494), derived his name, according to Leland, from the village of Celling, or Selling, some two miles distant from Faversham in Kent: Hasted, however, assigns him to a family settled at Selling near Hythe (Hist. of Kent, iii. 55). He appears to have been a monk of Christ Church, Canterbury; thence he proceeded to Oxford, where he became a member of the newly founded college of All Souls. In the Oxford Register (February 1457-8) William Celling, a Benedictine, figures as B.D.) Tanner states that he was a fellow of All Souls at the beginning of Edward IV's reign, but without assigning any authority for the assertion. He must have left Oxford before the close of 1472, in which year a William Celling was elected abbot of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, but seems to have resigned immediately. But whether this William Celling be the subject of this article or not it is certain that the latter was elected prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, on 10 Sept. 1472. It was in all probability later than this that he made his first journey to Italy; if, indeed, Leland is right in his statement that Celling became acquainted with Politian, who was born in 1454, and can hardly have established a reputation at Bologna (where Celling met him) before the age of eighteen. While abroad Celling used every effort to collect Latin and, more especially, Greek manuscripts, and when he returned to England brought these treasures with him. Among other works a copy of Cicero's 'Republic,' of St. Cyril's and St. Basil's 'Commentaries on the Prophets,' and the works of Synesius are specially mentioned. For the reception of his manuscripts he restored the library over the prior's chapel. Unfortunately many of his books son were destroyed some quarter of a century later in the fire caused by the carelessness of Henry VIII's' visitors. At home Celling was a careful steward of his convent's wealth. He cleared the priory of all the debts under which it had laboured; he built a stone tower, afterwards known as the prior's study, roofed it with lead, and glazed the windows. He also beautified the cloisters, began to build the 'Bell Harry steeple,' and placed a new ceiling over the before-mentioned prior's library' (Hasted, iv. 555, &c.; Wharton). It would appear to be after his return from Italy that Celling charged himself with the education of Linacre, who is said to have been his pupil at Canterbury, and who certainly accompanied his old master on his second journey to Italy (1480), whither the prior of Christ Church was sent on an embassy to Rome (Leland, and epitaph of Celling, quoted in Hasted, iv. 555, &c.; Wharton, i. 145-6). Passing through Bologna, Celling left his young friend there to enjoy the society of Politian. This embassy must have taken place beween 1485 and 1490. In 1490 and 1491 we find Celling's name constantly associated with that of the bishop of Exeter in the negotiations between England, France, and Brittany (Rymer, xii. 431, &c.) Some three years later he appears to have died on the day of St. Thomas's passion (10 Dec.) having ruled his monastery for nearly twenty-two years and a half (Hasted, iv. 555). He was buried in the martyrium of St. Thomas, in a richly blazoned tomb, on which was inscribed a long epitaph narrating his embassies to France and Rome. A book from Ceiling's library is still preserved at the Bodleian in Oxford (Laud, V 120). The same library has also a letter written to him from Rome, and dated January 1488 (Ash. MS, 1729). Celling was esteemed a great scholar in Greek as well as in Latin, and besides being an ardent collector of manuscripts he was a great patron of promising students.

[Leland's Catalogue, 482; Bale, De Script. Brit. 851-2; Tanner's Bibl. Hib. Brit.; Johnson's life of Linacre {1835); Linacre's Galeni de Tempementis ed. Payne (1881), introduction p. 6-8 and note 1; Hasted's Hist. of Kent, vol.iv &c.; Rymer's Foedera, vol. xii; Campbell's Mat. for Hist. of Henry VII (Rolls Ser.); Wharton's Anglia Sacra, i.; Boase's Registrum Univ. Oxon.]

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