Henry of Huntingdon (DNB00)

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HENRY of Huntingdon (1084?–1155), historian, was born between 1080 and 1085, the son of Nicholas, a churchman, whom he styles ‘stella cleri,’ and who may possibly have been the archdeacon of Huntingdon who had died in 1110 (Hist. Anglor. vii. 27). His knowledge of the fen country makes it probable that it was there that he was born, and as he speaks of Aldwin, abbat of Ramsey, as 'dominus meus,' it has been surmised that he was born on some part of the abbatial domain (Arnold, Introduction, p. xxxi). His early years were certainly spent at Lincoln (he speaks of the diocese as 'episcopatus noster'), and his own words (Epistola de Contemptu Mundi, § 1) give the idea that he was brought up in the household of Robert Bloet [q. v.], bishop of Lincoln from 1093 to 1123. He mentions one Albinus of Angers (ib. § 3) as his master. The new see of Ely was taken out of that of Lincoln in 1109, and in that or the following year he was made archdeacon of Huntingdon, an office he probably held till his death. In 1139 he accompanied Archbishop Theobald on his journey to Rome for the pall; on his way he visited the monastery of Bec, and there he made the acquaintance of Robert de Monte (de Torigny), the Norman historian, then a monk at Bec (Robert de Torigny, i. 96, 97, ed. Delisle). Through him he became acquainted with the `Historia Britonum' of Geoffrey of Monmouth.

At the request of Alexander [q. v.], bishop of Lincoln from 1123 to 1147 (Hist. Anglor. Prolog.), he undertook an English history, following Bede by the bishop's advice, and extracting from other chroniclers. The first edition of this work was carried down to 1129, and he continued to add to it at various times, the last edition being brought down to 1154, the year of Stephen's death, which could not long have preceded his own, as we find a new archdeacon of Huntingdon in 1155.

The early portion of Henry's ' Historia Anglorum ' is taken from the usual sources, the 'Historia Miscella,' 'Aurelius Victor,' 'Nennius,' 'Bede,' and the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicles;' he enlarges partly from oral tradition (as in the story of Cnut and the sea), and partly from his own invention. After 1127 he is probably original, and his narrative is written contemporaneously with the events he describes.

The later editions of the work contain two additional books, 'De Miraculis,' an account of the miracles of nineteen saints from St. Oswald to St. Wilfrid, and `De Summitatibus,' consisting of the epilogue to his history, with three epistles: one addressed probably in 1131 to Henry I 'De serie regum potentissimorum qui per orbem terrarum hucusque fuerunt;' the second to Warine 'De regibus Britonum,' given by Robert de Monte (i. 97-111, Delisle), and the third to Walter (abbat of Ramsey according to Leland), `De Contemptu Mundi, sive de episcopis et viris illustribus,' written probably in 1145. According to Leland (De Scriptoribus Britanicis. p. 198) he also wrote eight books of epigrams, eight books 'De Amore,' and eight books `De Herbis,' `De Aromatibus,' `De Gemmis,' and a work `De Lege Domini,' addressed to the Peterborough monks. Two books of epigrams by Henry are found at the close of a Lambeth MS. of his `History,' but nothing is known of the other works mentioned by Leland.

Henry of Huntingdon's history was first published in Savile's 'Scriptores post Bedam,' London, 1596; this was reprinted at Frankfort in 1601, and again in Migne's 'Patrologia' in 1854 (vol. cxcv.) The portion as far as 1066 (excluding the third book as taken from Bede) was included by Mr. Petrie in the `Monumenta Historica Britonnica.' There is a complete edition by Mr. Thomas Arnold in the Rolls Series (1879). The 'Epistola ad Walterum de Contemptu Mundi is given by Wherton, ' Anglia Sacra,' ii. 694; 'D'Achery, `Spicilegium,' viii. 178 = iii. 512; Migne's `Petrologia,' vol. cxcv.; and in Arnold's edition of the `Historia,' Appendix, p. 207. One of the two extant books of `Epigrammata' is printed in Wright's `Anglo-Latin Satirical Poets and Epigrammatists of the Twelfth Century' (Rolls Series, 1872), ii. 163-74.

[Leland's De Scriptoribus Britanicis; Hardy's Introduction to the Monumenta Historica Britannica, where will be found a full discussion of Huntingdon's Chronology; Liebermann's Heinrich von Huntingdon. Forschungen zur Deutschen Geschichts, Göttingen. 1878, p. 265; Mr. Arnold's Introduction to his edition in the Rolls Series, where the dates and characteristics of the different editions are fully discussed. Capgrave's Life in the Liber de Illustribus Henricis (Rolls Series) is worthless.]

H. R. L.