William of Ramsey (DNB00)

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WILLIAM of Ramsey (fl. 1219), hagiographer and poet, was a native of Ramsey and a monk of Crowland. His earliest work appears to have been a poem in 1666 hexameters (Univ. Libr. Cambridge MS. Dd. xi. 78), which was written probably at the time of the translation of the relics of St. Guthlac in 1195, and was dedicated to Henry of Longchamp, abbot of Crowland (1190–1236); some extracts from it have been printed by Birch in ‘Memorials of St. Guthlac,’ and by Searle in ‘Ingulf and the Historia Croylandensis,’ p. 35. It is based principally on Felix's life. The statement in the ‘Annales Burgo-Spaldingenses,’ 1237, that one Henry wrote this life, is no doubt due to the fact that the manuscript contains works by Henry of Avranches. In the same manuscript are verse lives of the royal saints Fremund and Edmund, and also of St. Birinus, which Leland ascribes to him. The life of Birinus is dedicated to Peter des Roches [q. v.], bishop of Winchester 1205–38. Baronius is also of opinion that William wrote the prose life of St. Edmund printed by Surius (Vitæ Sanctorum, iv. 121). William also wrote: 1. A prose ‘Translatio S. Neoti’ found in several manuscripts, and printed in Whitaker and in the ‘Acta SS.’ July, vii. 330; it was written by him probably in 1213, when the abbot Henry translated his relics. A verse life printed by Whitaker is also from his pen. 2. A prose life of Waltheof, probably when Abbot Henry translated his relics in 1219. It has been printed by F. Michel in ‘Chroniques Anglo-Normandes,’ from the Douai MS. 851, where it is found in a disordered arrangement. This Douai manuscript, all of which deals with Waltheof's life or death, has been analysed by Dr. Liebermann (Ostenglische Geschichtsquellen), who positively ascribes to William two of the pieces in it, and thinks the rest may also be by him, except the ‘Miracula Waldevi.’ A work, ‘De Vita et Moribus Philosophorum,’ addressed by one William to a friend named Guthlac, was seen by Leland in the library of St. Paul's (Collect. iii. 47, and Dugdale's St. Paul's, p. 283), and has also been ascribed to William of Ramsey. Dr. Stubbs, however, inclines to think that it is by William of Malmesbury, and that it is identical with Harleian MS. 3969, of which the first leaves are now gone (Gesta Regum, I. cxlii).

In Leland's opinion the works on Bæda and Isidore ascribed to William of Ramsey were probably the work of Brihtferth of Ramsey (Collect. iii. 23). The ‘Translatio Sarisburiensis,’ found in conjunction with William's works in the destroyed Cottonian MS. Vit. D xiv, and in the Cambridge MS. Dd. xi. 78, is ascribed by Matthew Paris (Chron. Maj. iii. 189) to Henry of Avranches.

William of Crowland (d. 1179), abbot of Ramsey and Cluny, has been confounded with the above. He was prior of St. Martin des Prés, became abbot of Ramsey by the interest of Becket (1161), and in 1177 was made abbot of Cluny (Bibl. Cluniac. p. 1662). He died at Charité on 7 Jan. 1179 (Chron. Ramesiensis).

[Hardy's Descriptive Cat. i. 236; Tanner's Bibliotheca, p. 363; Whitaker's St. Neot; Neues Archiv f. ält Geschichtskunde, xviii. 251–3.]

M. B.