Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Adalbert (fl.1160?)
ADALBERT of Spalding (fl. 1160?) is said by Bale and Pits to have been a Cluniac monk belonging to the abbey of Spalding in Lincolnshire, and to have flourished about the year 1160. Our early biographers give him great praise for his knowledge of the Scriptures and the fathers. They also speak in high terms of his elegance of style and his modesty in always following the opinions of these authorities rather than his own. His favourite author, they add, was Gregory the Great, from whose treatise upon Job (Moralia) he compiled his own work entitled ‘De Statu Hominis,’ or ‘Speculum Status Hominis.’ An ‘Epistola ad Herimannum Presbyterum’ and certain ‘Homiliæ’ are also mentioned among his writings.
But, whatever may be the case with the ‘Homiliæ,’ it is very questionable whether the author of the ‘Speculum’ and the ‘Epistola ad Herimannum’ has any right to the surname ‘Spaldingensis,’ or, indeed, to be considered as an Englishman at all. For Boston Buriensis (cir. 1410), the first English writer who mentions the ‘Speculum,’ calls it the work of Adalbert the Deacon, and describes it as a book divided into 155 chapters, and composed of extracts from Gregory's ‘Moralia.’ More than one hundred years later Leland (Collect. iii. 32) found at Spalding a work entitled ‘Adelberti liber Diaconi ad Herimannum Presbyterum.’ Now there are many copies extant of a letter addressed by Adalbert the Deacon to a priest Herman, all acting as a kind of preface to a book of extracts from the ‘Moralia’ of St. Gregory. Moreover, this letter speaks of the compilation that follows as a ‘Speculum,’ the very title given by Boston and Pits to the similar collection of their Adalbert, to whom the latter assigns likewise an ‘Epistola ad Hermannum.’ When we consider the extent to which Bale and Pits have availed themselves of the labours of Boston and Leland, we can hardly avoid the inference that all four are alluding to one and the same work—a series of extracts from Gregory's ‘Moralia’ prefaced by a letter from Adalbert the Deacon to Herman the priest—but that the two first, learning from Leland that a copy of this book existed at Spalding, have imagined it to be the production of an Adalbertus Spaldingensis of their own creation. Again, the greater number of the manuscripts of this work (cf. Martene, Anecdot. i. 84, and Tanner) are to be found abroad—a fact which tells strongly against its author's being an Englishman, though we need hardly go so far as Tanner, who suggests that he was a monk of St. Martin's at Tours, and identifies Adalbert's correspondent with Herman, the abbot of that establishment till 1136. The editor in Migne calls this Adalbert ‘Scolasticus Mettensis,’ and boldly assigns the year 879 as the date of his death.
Though the author of the ‘Speculum’ can hardly have been a native of Spalding, yet there may have been an ‘Adalbertus Spaldingensis’ who was the author of the ‘Homiliæ’ mentioned by Bale and Pits; and the testimony of these two writers may then be accepted as regards his character and the age in which he lived.Bale, Scriptorum Catalogus, i. 205; Pits, Rel. Hist. de Reb. Angl. 225; Tanner, Bibl. Brit. Præfat. xxvii, and under Adalbert; Leland's Collect. iii. 32; Martene's Anecdota, i. 83, 84; Mabillon's Analecta, i. 132; Migne's Curs. Patrolog. cxxxvi. 1309, ccxviii. 402.]