Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 48.djvu/377

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

England to 1270, which bears his name. That his christian name was Robert and that he was a Gloucestershire man are the only certainties, and perhaps he was an inhabitant of the city of Gloucester. The method in which an account of him has been built up by the ingenious speculations of successive writers is traced by the last editor of the chronicle, Dr. Aldis Wright, in the Rolls Series. Stow, in his ‘Summarie of Englyshe Chronicles,’ 1565, is the first to notice ‘Robert, a chronicler that wrate in the tyme of Henry the Thirde,’ and in his ‘Chronicles of England,’ published in 1580, he has found him a fuller name, ‘Robert of Gloster,’ which has been adopted by subsequent writers. With Weever's ‘Ancient Funerall Monuments,’ 1631, a further development takes place, and the chronicler appears as ‘Robert, the monke of Gloucester;’ and, following on this, Fuller, in his ‘Worthies,’ describes him as ‘Robert of Gloucester, so called because a monk thereof.’ Wood, in the ‘History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford,’ 1674, quoting Robert's verses on the Oxford riot of 1263, and assuming, from the exactness of the narrative, that it was written by an eye-witness, adopts him as a ‘poeta Oxoniensis;’ and Hearne, in his edition of the chronicle, makes a further addition, by suggesting ‘that Robert, being a monk of Gloucester, was sent to Oxford “by some of the Directors of the great Abbey of Gloucester,” to take charge of the youth that they had there under their care’ (Wright, Pref. p. vii); and he even assigns him a dwelling-place in the university, in a house which stood on the future site of Gloucester Hall (afterwards Worcester College). Robert himself describes a great darkness which came on at the time of the battle of Evesham (1265) and extended for thirty miles around: ‘this saw Robert, that first this book made, and was right sore afraid.’

Whether he wrote the whole of the chronicle which bears his name is doubtful. It exists in two recensions, which are substantially the same to the end of the reign of Henry I. At this point they divide, the one, in which occurs the reference quoted above, continuing in a fuller, the other in a shorter, form. The earlier portion, together with the longer continuation, may be all the work of one man; it is not, however, improbable that the continuator merely adopted the previous history from another writer. We therefore cannot positively name Robert as the author of more than the continuation; and the date of writing cannot be earlier than 1297, as the canonisation of St. Louis, which took place in that year, was known to him.

The language of the chronicle is English in the dialect of Gloucestershire, and the writer makes it evident by minute points of detail in his descriptions of local events that he was familiar with Gloucester and its neighbourhood. The sources of the earlier portion of the work appear principally to have been the chronicles of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Henry of Huntingdon, and William of Malmesbury. The view which has been advanced and repeated, that the chronicle is a translation from the French, has been based on the author's employment of certain French forms of proper names; but against this it is urged that these forms were already in the language of his time, and that there is no evidence for the existence of the French originals (Wright, Pref. p. xiv). The value of the chronicle is chiefly linguistic; for it is only in the contemporary narrative of the barons' war under Henry III that it can be said to have any historical interest. It was first printed by Hearne in 1724, and was edited for the Rolls Series by Dr. Aldis Wright in 1887 (2 vols.).

A metrical ‘Lives of the Saints,’ from which the writer of the chronicle frequently quotes, written in the same verse and in the same dialect, has also been attributed to Robert of Gloucester, but, in Dr. Wright's opinion, on insufficient grounds: ‘The verse is the same, it is true, and the language is the same, but this at most proves that the Lives of the Saints were the work of some monk or guild of monks belonging to a Gloucestershire monastery, perhaps even to the abbey of Gloucester itself. They can only be assigned to the writer of the chronicle on the supposition that there was but one person in England at the end of the thirteenth century who could write in this style, and for evidence that this was not the case we need go no further than the chronicle itself as it appears in the two recensions’ (Wright, Pref. p. xxxix).

[Chronicle of Robert of Gloucester (Rolls Ser.), ed. W. Aldis Wright; Hardy's Cat. Brit. Hist. iii. 181; Encycl. Brit. xx. 596; Oliphant's Old and Middle English.]

E. M. T.

ROBERT of Leicester (fl. 1320), Franciscan. [See Leicester.]

ROBERT the Englishman (fl. 1326), also called Robertus Perescrutator, was a native of Yorkshire. He was a doctor of divinity and a Dominican friar, and is said to have been called ‘Perscrutator’ from his zealous study of medicine. He wrote: 1. ‘De Impressionibus Æris,’ inc. ‘De æris impressionibus anno Christi 1325 in civitate Eboraci Angliæ’ (Cambr. Univ. Libr. MS. Ii.