Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/John of London (d.1311)

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John Bever in the ODNB; also referred to as Castorius

1324110Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 29 — John of London (d.1311)1892Charles Lethbridge Kingsford

JOHN (d. 1311), called of London, or John Bever, chronicler, was a monk at Westminster; his name occurs as John Bever in the infirmary rolls of the abbey in 1294, 1298 and 1310-11, and in a list of the monks of Westminster in October 1303 (Dugdale, Monasticon, i. 312). Sir T. D. Hardy quotes a document, dated 1310, in which 'Johannes de London, dictus Le Bevere,' is cited before P. de Wandresford, commissary of the archdeacon of London (Cat. Brit. Hist. iii. 282). John of London died in 1311. His second name, Bever, was translated into Latin as Fiber and Castorius.

John of London was the author of 'Commendatio lamentabilis in transitum magni Regis Edwardi Quarti' (i.e. Edward I according to our reckoning). This is a curious but verbose tract, inscribed to Queen Margaret, the second wife of Edward I, and written at her request after her husband's death; it is of some importance as a contemporary account of Edward's character, and shows a real appreciation of his historical position. It occurs in several manuscripts which contain versions or abridgments of the 'Flares Historiarum' current under the name of Matthew of Westminster; e.g. Laud. 572 and Hatton 53 in the Bodleian Library, College of Arms xx. 3, and Cotton Nero D. ii. ff. 199-203. The 'Commendatio' is printed in 'Chronicles of Edward I and II,' ii. 3-21 (Rolls Ser.) Our author is no doubt the John who wrote a narrative of the sufferings of the monks of Westminster in 1303 (Flores Historiarum, iii. 117, Rolls Ser.)

John Bever has often been supposed to be the actual author of the 'Flores Historiarum' from 1265 to 1306, and his name occurs on several of the manuscript versions of that work, the most important being Harley MS. 641. This manuscript was certainly written in the fourteenth century, and before 1309, in or for St. Augustine's, Canterbury. At the foot of f. 1 is the following note: Cronica de editione domini Johannis, dicti Bevere, monachi Westmonasterii. De Libraria Sancti Augustini, Cantuariensis. Distinct. T. Abbatis' (i.e. Thomas de Fyndone, abbot from 1283 to 1309). This manuscript follows the Merton recension of the 'Flores,' but contains four short passages which are peculiar to it; they are printed in Dr. Luard's preface to the 'Flores,' i. xxxii-iii. Both Sir T. Hardy and Sir F. Madden were inclined to support John's claim to be the author of the latter part of the 'Flores,' but Dr. Luard holds, with more probability, that he was merely employed by the monks of St. Augustine to prepare them a copy of the already famous 'Flores Historiarum.' It is, however, plain that John was not a monk at Canterbury (Tanner), and still less at St. Albans (MS. Reg. 2, F. vii.) It is, perhaps worth notice that John of London is once mentioned in connection with Robert of Reading, the undoubted author of the 'Flores' from 1307 to 1325 (Pat. Roll, 31 Edw. I, m. 12d.) It should be mentioned that another John of London was in 1312 a minor canon of St. Paul's, and that he may possibly be the real author of the 'Commendatio.'

[Tanner's Bibl. Brit,-Hib, p. 436; Hardy's Descriptive Catalogue of British History, iii. 200, 282-3, 309, 325, 362-3 (Rolls Ser.), Sir F. Madden's Preface to Historia Anglorum, i. xxiv. (ib.); Dr. Stubbe's Preface to Chron. Edw. I and II, II. vli-xviii (ib.); Dr. Luard's Preface to Flores Historiarum, i. xxxi (ib.)]

C. L. K.