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Goscelin

Benedictine biographical writer; d. about 1099

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Goscelin (or GOTSELIN, according to the spelling in the earliest MSS. of his works), a Benedictine biographical writer; d. about 1099. He was born in the north of France and became a monk of St. Bertin's at Omer. Hermann, Bishop of Salisbury, brought him to England, but the exact date of his doing so is disputed. Wright gives 1058, on the authority of William of Malmesbury, but Goscelin himself states that he accompanied Hermann to Rome in 1049, shortly before the great Council of Reims in that year, and as that prelate returned to England in 1053, it seems likely that Goscelin came with him then. He remained in England to the end of his life, visiting many monasteries and cathedrals, and collecting, wherever he went, materials for his numerous biographies of English saints. William of Malmesbury praises his industry in the highest terms. He was at Ely about 1082, where he wrote a life of St. Etheldreda. Between 1087 and 1092 he was at Ramsey, and compiled there a life of St. Ivo, or Ives. In 1098 he went to Canterbury, where he wrote his account of the translation of the relics of St. Augustine and his companions, which had taken place in 1091. This he dedicated to St. Anselm, and it was probably his last work. The Canterbury Obituary, quoted by Wharton, gives May 15 as the day of his death but does not name the year. He was certainly alive in the beginning of the year 1099, but we hear nothing of him afterwards. His works consist of the lives of many English saints, chiefly of those connected with Canterbury, where he spent his last years. Some of them have been printed by the Bollandists, by Mabillon, and by Migne. Others are contained in MSS. in the British Museum (London) and at Cambridge. A full list of his known writings is given in the eighth volume of the "Histoire litteraire de France". His chief work was a life of St. Augustine of Canterbury, professing to be based on older records and divided into two parts,—an "Historia major" (in Mabillon, Acta SS. O.S.B., I) and an "Historia minor" (in Wharton, Anglia Sacra, I). His life of St. Swithin (in Bollandists, Acta SS., July) is also of some importance, but the majority of his writings have not much value at the present day. His method seems to have been usually to take some older writer as his basis and to reproduce his work, in a somewhat inflated style, with additions of his own, but critics are agreed that no very great reliance can be placed on these latter. According to William of Malmesbury, Goscelin was also a skilled musician.

G. CYPRIAN ALSTON


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