Reginald of Canterbury (DNB00)

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REGINALD of Canterbury (fl. 1112), Latin poet, was born and brought up at a place which he eulogises in one of his poems as ‘Fagia;’ of this place a certain Aimeric, to whom another of his poems (‘Domino suo Americo Fagiensi’) is addressed, was lord. The authors of the ‘Histoire Littéraire de la France’ (ix. 170–1) suppose that Fagia was in Normandy, guessing that a letter of St. Anselm addressed to Boso, abbot of Bec (Anselmi Epistolæ, iii. 22), in which he sends a greeting to the abbot's brother Reginald [Rainaldus], may refer to Reginald of Canterbury. If this were so, Reginald would be the son of a man named Aimeric and his wife Lezelina. But in that case he would have been born on a monastic estate in the neighbourhood of Rouen, and not, as the poet certainly was, under the shadow of the castle of a powerful lay lord (see his poem, Ad Fagiam castellum). Besides, there is reason to believe that the abbot's brother Reginald, who died after 1136, the date of Abbot Boso's death, did not leave the monastery of Bec (Vita Bosonis ap. Lanfranci Opera, i. 327, 337). The name Reginald was so common at that time that it cannot safely be made a basis of conjecture. Another theory, for which no reason is given, places Fagia vaguely in the south of France (Wright, Biographia Britannica Literaria, ii. 77). The solution of the doubt must be found in the name of the place and in the name of its lord. It is suggested, then, that the poet's Fagia represents Tiffauges or Tifauge (Lat. Theofagium), in the north of Poitou, on the little river Sèvre, which in Reginald's time belonged to Aimeric, viscount of Thouars, called ‘de Theofagiis’ from his castle there. This Aimeric was a powerful lord. He married Mahaut or Agnes, daughter of William VII, count of Poitou and duke of Aquitaine, and the magnificence of the life at the castle of Fagia, on which the poet dilates, may well have been found in Aimeric's castle at Tiffauges (Recueil des Historiens, xii. 409; L'Art de vérifier les Dates, x. 108). If this identification is correct, Reginald's Fagia became notorious in the fifteenth century as the scene of some of the worst infamies laid to the charge of its lord, Gilles de Retz, the original of Blue Beard. The ruins of the castle are still to be seen, and include some building that may have stood in the time of the poet and his lord, the Viscount Aimeric.

Reginald became a monk of St. Augustine's, Canterbury. That he was previously a monk of Bec, and came over to England in consequence of the coming of Anselm, is probable, but is a matter of mere conjecture. He wrote a large quantity of verses in rhyming hexameters. Some are addressed to Anselm, one poem to Gilbert Crispin, abbot of Westminster, who died 6 Dec. 1117 (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, an. 1117), and one to Hugh, sub-prior of St. Pancras, Canterbury, possibly Hugh de Flory, who became abbot of St. Augustine's, and died 1124 (Thorne, cols. 1794–8). He lent his poems to the famous scholar Hildebert, bishop of Le Mans, consecrated in 1097, and translated to the see of Tours in 1126, who in return sent him a highly complimentary letter (Hildebert, Opera, iii. 180, Ep. 15). Some verses of compliment were also addressed to him by Thomas, archbishop of York, who died in 1114. They refer to his longest poem, which was therefore written before that date. It is in six books, containing about 3,390 lines, and is a life of St. Malchus, a Syrian hermit, whose life was written by St. Jerome. Like the rest of his poems, it is in leonine hexameters, and is dedicated to Baldwin, prior of St. Andrew's, Rochester, and the brethren there. Reginald describes his minor poems variously as ‘versus reciproce leonitatis,’ ‘versus dicaces,’ and ‘trilices.’ He wrote with grammatical accuracy, with much spirit, and some taste, his poem in twenty-seven stanzas, ‘Ad Fagiam castellum,’ being specially pleasing. He shows acquaintance with some Latin poets of classical times, and mixes up the language of paganism with Christian sentiment. There is no ground for the assertion of Pits that he understood Greek. His poems are preserved in beautiful handwriting in Cotton. MS. Vespas. E. iii., and in the Bodleian Library in Laud. MS. Miscell. 40, and in part in Miscell. 500.

[Cotton. MS. Vespas. E. iii.; Hildebert, Opp. iii. 180, Anselm, Opp. ii. 50 (both ed. Migne); Croke's Essay on … Rhyming Latin Verse, pp. 63–82, with extracts from the poems; Bale's Script. Brit. Cat. cent. xii. 82; Pits, De Angliæ Script. pp. 893–4.]

W. H.