Grosseteste, Groceteste, Grostest, Grost-head, Groshead
Grosseteste, Groceteste, Grostest, Grost-Head, Groshead (CAPITO, "Qui cognominatus est a pluribus GROSSUM-CAPUT," Trivet.), ROBERT, bishop of Lincoln, a celebrated ecclesiastic, theologian, statesman, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, poet, moralist, and teacher, in the first half of the thirteenth century. The various forms of the name indicate that it was a descriptive epithet, agnomen, or by-name, rather than a family designation, which was still no common appendage. The nickname has been rendered historical by the career of its bearer, who contended with pope and king, was the early counsellor of Simon De Montfort, the teacher, patron, and friend of Roger Bacon and Adam De Marisco, the colleague of the scarcely less eminent Robert Bacon and Richard Fitzakre. He has often been regarded as the first translator of the Scriptures into English, and as the precursor of the Protestant Reformation, and his continued reputation is mainly due to his strenuous and bold resistance to the corruptions of the Church at home, and to the vices of the papal court. The thirteenth century is one of the most active, bustling, eventful, and important in the whole series of the ages. It is crowded with great personages. It is full of mighty events attendant on.
The spirit of the years to come, Yearning to mix himself with life.
Not the least notable of these mutations occurred in England in the reign of Henry III, and laid, in the midst of anarchy and strife, the foundations of the English Church, the English jurisprudence, the English liberties, the English language, literature, philosophy, and science. In all of these movements Robert Grosseteste was concerned, and on all these forms of national development he left the impress of his genius and character.
Life. — Robert Grosseteste was born, about 1175, at Stradbrooke, in the county of Suffolk, England. His origin was extremely humble, and little is known of his early career except that he studied at Oxford, and that law, physic, and divinity all received his attention. He is supposed to have extended his education at Paris, and to have held a chair in its university. He owed his first ecclesiastical appointment apparently to the bishop of Hereford, to whom he had been commended by a letter of Giraldus Cambrensis. His superior died in 1199, but his character and talents secured promotion. Between 1214 and 1232 he held successively the archdeaconries of Wilts, Northampton, and Leicester, and various other livings, including the prebend of Clifton at Lincoln. In 1224, at the request of Agnellus, provincial of the Franciscans, he became reader in the recently founded Franciscan school at Oxford, and inaugurated the brilliant career of that university (Eccleston, De Adventu Fratrum Minorum, c.v.). This function he discharged till his elevation to the episcopate. It was probably during these years that he was rector scholarum, or chancellor of the university, and was associated with Robert Bacon, the head of the Dominican school there. In January, 1232, he contemplated a visit to Rome, but was retained by his bishop. Towards the end of this year he had a violent attack of fever, and resigned all his preferments in the Church except his prebendal stall at Lincoln. His own feelings on this occasion are perpetuated in his letters to his sister and to his friend (Epp. 8:ix). During this year he had undertaken the defence of the Jews against the outrageous persecutions and criminations to which they had been exposed since the Jewish massacre at the accession of Richard I. He further manifested his solicitude for them by laboring for their conversion. His zeal is illustrated by his V Letter and his treatise De Cessatione Legalium. His acquisition of Hebrew may have been the cause or the consequence of this intervention. In 1235 he was elected to the bishopric of Lincoln His promotion is commemorated by our earliest English poet, Robert of Gloucester Maister Roberd Groce teste thulke zer was also Isacred bishop of Lincolne at Seinte Edmunde at Redinge. His duties were onerous; the diocese was the largest and the most populous in the realm (Ep. xli). His new cares did not diminish at any time his active interest" in the University of Oxford, which owned his jurisdiction.
When he accepted the mitre there was general disorder among the ecclesiastics subjected to him; there was a total want of settled discipline; there was constant recalcitration against authority; there was refractoriness in his own chapter, which eventuated in protracted contention; ignorance, licentiousness, simony. and greed were prevalent. There was twofold and simultaneous danger from royal rapacity and papal exaction. His position was full of annoyance and hazard, but he addressed himself at once to the correction of abuses, to the resistance to encroachment, and to the earnest performance of his solemn functions. He first set his own house in order, and reformed the episcopal establishment. A detailed and interesting ordinance was prepared for the governance of his household (Mon, Francisc. Append. ix). The sons of the highest nobles, among them those of Simon de Montfort, were intrusted to him for training. He is supposed to have composed for these eleves his manual De Moribus Pueri ad Mensam, which is an early type of the popular Starts Puer ad Mensam, of which so many variations have been published by Mr. Furnivall in The Babees Boks. In the first year of his episcopacy he commenced the visitation of the parishes, deaneries, archdeaconries, etc., under his rule. He frequently encountered disobedience, but he proceeded with energy and firmness. The enmity thus provoked stimulated an attempt to poison him. His life was saved by his friend and leech, John de S. Giles. One of his reformatory measures has a special interest for the student of mediaeval literature and antiquities. He suppressed the celebration of the "Feast of Fools" in his cathedral, designating it as "vanate plenum et voluptatibus spurcum, Deo odibile et daemoni amabile" (Ep. xxxii). The character of this festival is copiously illustrated in the additions to Du Cange (tit. Kalendae). Warton has confounded it with the Festum Asinorum, which took place on the Nativity, not on the Circumcision. The bishop also prohibited Scot-Ales in chapters, synods, and on holy days. His earnestness for the spiritual improve-meat of his diocese, for the maintenance of religious purity, and for the advancement of knowledge, is shown by his Pastoral Letter or Constitutions in 1238 (Ep. lii); by his refusal to confer benefices on unworthy persons, even when powerfully connected and sustained (Epp. xlix, lii, lxxiv); by his opposition to the king's appointment of clerks as justices in eyre (Epp. 27:28:lxxii); by his anxiety to purchase from John de Foxton his copies of the sacred Scriptures (Ep. xxxiii); by his interference in behalf of the scholars of Oxford after their riotous attack on cardinal Otho, and by his consideration for them on other occasions. To Grosseteste is due the special jurisdiction conceded to the university in 1244, a privilege obtained by Cambridge only sixty years later. His rigorous episcopal visitations induced expostulations from Adam de Marisco, and furnished a text for the censures of Matthew Paris. They culminated in the great contention of 1239 with his canons, which was only settled six years later by pontifical decree. Its commencement is marked by an elaborate epistle or essay, which asserts the episcopal rights through all the ponderous forms of scholastic reasoning (Ep. cxxvii). The question of the limits of authority and obedience, and of the respective boundaries of concurrent or conflicting authorities, was indeed the main root of discord in all the great debates of Church and State, of the papacy and the empire, in the thirteenth century.
While this controversy was in progress Grosseteste displayed his accustomed energy in manifold directions. He maintains an intimate correspondence with ;he king, with the queen, with the archbishop of Canterbury, with the legate, with the cardinals, with the chiefs of the Franciscans and the Dominicans, to both of which orders he was warmly attached. He gives constant advice to De Montfort in his oscillating for- tunes; he constantly seeks it for himself from Adam de Marisco'. He keeps up and extends his studies in many ways. With the assistance of a Greek monk from St. Alban's and other scholars, he translated the spurious Testaments of the XII Patriarchs, and other Greek works. This version of the Testaments may have originated the tradition that he translated the Bible. He resisted the scandalous appointment of Italians, Poitevins, Provencals, and Savoyards to the rich benefices as they fell vacant. He opposed the extravagance and favoritism of the king, and in 1244 secured the united reply of the "Committee of XII on royal expenditures" that they would not grant the aids demanded without a pledge of the reformation of buses and the expenditure of the money by the commission for the king's benefit. This was the prelude to the Provisions of Oxford and the Barons' .War. In November of this year, bishop Grosseteste, with his friend and habitual adviser, brother Adam, proceeds to the papal court to look after the appeal of his chapter on the subject of visitation. He is thus present at the General Council of Lyons in 1245, which had been summoned for the condemnation, excommunication, and deposition of the emperor Frederick II. He does not appear prominent in the proceedings of the grand assemblage. His remote diocese, his resistance to papal aggression, the connection of Frederick with Henry III of England and with the earl of Leicester, may have precluded any ardent sympathy with the furious arrogance of Innocent IV. But his own letters and his subsequent conduct show that he sustained the general action of the pontiff, whose cause was assuredly that of national liberty and independence against the menace of universal imperialism. In the autumn of this ominous year Grosseteste returned to England, having obtained a satisfactory decision in regard to his authority. His right of visitation was acknowledged, but a comparison of his letters with the statements of Matthew Paris demonstrates that he did not obtain all that he demanded from the pope. It is equally erroneous to suppose that he sacrificed any principle in urging the collection of the ecclesiastical subsidy granted to Boniface, the new archbishop of Canterbury. There is no abatement of his principle or of his resolution. He resumes his visitations, and extends them to the rich monasteries. They provoke fresh opposition, and occasion fresh complications. At the king's request, he writes upon the reciprocal relations of the sacerdotal and kingly powers. Despite of all obstacles, he sturdily maintains his course. He contends in Parliament against the exactions of the king and the intrusion of foreigners into English benefices. He continues his anxious supervision of the University of Oxford; is sedulous in offices of prudence and charity, especially in ministering to the wants of poor scholars. He is indefatigable in his own pursuits. To this period must be referred the affectionate letter of Adam de Marisco dissuading him from excessive study: "Numquid non est temperandus labor litteralis studii quod indubitanter nostis quia vitales spiritus exhaurit et attenuat corporis habitudinem, exasperat affectionem et rationem obnubilat?" . .... (Ep. xxxix.) The renewed resistance to his visitations, particularly by the monasteries, the dissensions thus engendered, and his differences with Boniface of Savoy, his archbishop, and the uncle of the queen, compelled him to make another visit to Lyons in 1250. He was coolly received by Innocent, and, at the close of an excited conversation, exclaimed. "Oh, money, money, how powerful you are, especially at the court of Rome!" He had anticipated the denunciations of Dante and Petrarch. He gave larger development to his honest indignation in the celebrated sermon on papal abuses which he preached on the 13th of May before the pope and three of the cardinals. This daring rebuke was not calculated to conciliate favor at court, and he turned his face homeward in December "tris-tis et vacuus." He came back wounded in spirit, and burdened with age, care, and anxiety for the future. He contemplated the resignation of his bishopric no unusual procedure at that time — and seclusion with his books; but he was induced to renounce this purpose by the representations of Adam de Marisco and other friends — perhaps by the authority of the archbishop and the fear that the temporalities would be despoiled by the king during the vacancy. The determination to retain his high office was marked by increased vigor in the repression of scandals. Matthew Paris censures with great bitterness his severity in putting down monastic luxury, but admits the righteousness of his purpose. His first open breach with the pope occurred at this time. He had refused the pontifical request to induct an Italian, ignorant of English, into a rich cure. He was suspended for a short time in consequence. This did not arrest his reforming ardor. He excommunicated an unworthy nominee of the king's, and placed an interdict on the church to which he had been presented. In the great Parliament of London, October 13, 1252, he opposed the king's demands, fortified by the pope's bull, and induced his brethren to join in a firm refusal of the application for a new subsidy. On this occasion he had a computation made of the incomes of the Italians beneficed in England by Innocent, and found that they reached 70,000 marks, or thrice the clear revenue of the crown. He addressed a formal appeal to the lords and commonalty of England to suppress this disastrous spoliation (Ep. cxxxi). It was the first direct claim of popular support in ecclesiastical and political dissensions, and indicated the course to Simon de Montfort as a popular leader. His conduct was still more decided and menacing at the Parliament of May, 1253. In this year, the last of his long and useful life Grosseteste gave the final affront to Innocent IV, and by one notable act, in strict accordance with his whole previous career, secured the highest public favor, and won the renown by which he is chiefly remembered. He rejected the pope's demand of a canonry at Lincoln for his nephew, Frederick di Lavagna, conveying his refusal in a letter of strong argument and striking condemnation of the pernicious "non-obstantes" and "provisions" of the papal procedure. It was a note of preparation for Edward III's celebrated "Statute of Provisors" nearly a hundred years afterwards (1344). This sharp letter concludes with the declaration "filialiter et obedienter non obedio, contradico, et rebello" (Ep. cxxviii). The pope was thrown into uncontrollable rage by this letter, but his rage was exchanged for equally unseemly joy when he heard of the death of Grosseteste within the year. This event occurred at Buckden on the 9th of Oct., 1253. His remains were buried in Lincoln Cathedral, where they were joined about four years later by those of his friend, Adam de Marisco, "God so providing that, as they were lovely and amiable in their lives, so in death they should not be divided" (Lanercost Chronicle).
The contemporaneous and posthumous fame of Gros-seteste insured a copious crop of legends, He was supposed to have prophesied the ensuing civil war, which he might have done without any extraordinary illumination. On the night of his death, bells ringing in the sky were heard by Mr. Bishop, of London, and by some Franciscan friars in the neighborhood. He appeared in a portentous dream to Innocent IV in his last illness. Miracles were attributed to him, and in 1307 the king requested his canonization. To him was also ascribed the talking head of brass, which has been sometimes assigned to Friar Bacon, and sometimes to Friar Bungay; but this arose from his reputation as a magician, and not as a saint. His books he bequeathed to the Franciscans at Oxford, out of friendship for Adam de Marisco, or out of regard for the school which he had taught, governed, cherished, and organized. The services rendered by Robert Grosse-teste to the University of Oxford have been too little appreciated.
Character, Acquirements, and Influence. — There was no one in the age in which he lived who led a more blameless life, or displayed higher excellences than Grosseteste: Matthew Paris, whose temperament and associations bred prejudice, attests his pre-eminent virtues. The elegance of his manners attracted admiring comment; the placidity and placability of his disposition equalled his unyielding resolution. The eulogy pronounced upon him after his death by the University of Oxford was entirely just: "No one knew him to neglect any good action appropriate to his office or his charge from fear of any man; he was ever ready for martyrdom if the sword of the executioner should present itself." This testimony is re-echoed by Adam d Marisco. He was essentially a reformer without being an innovator. He "stood upon the ancient ways' to restore, preserve, or improve what was good and old. In this sense he was a reformer in Church and State, in education, in letters, and in philosophy. He is not to be regarded as a reformer before the Reformation — as a herald of either Lollardism or Lutheranism. His career tended to that result, but it was unforeseen and undesigned. He is devoted to the order of the Church, solicitous for Catholic orthodoxy. imbued with the spirit, sentiments, and doctrines of his communion. These points are abundantly confirmed by his letters (Epp. lxxii, cxxii). Notwithstanding the sternness and severity of his ministry, there was great gentleness in his demeanor, with moderation and prudence in his private and public counsels. He seems to have had withal a very moderate opinion of his own judgment, and habitually sought aid from others whom he deemed wiser than himself. He was easily charmed with simple amusements, enjoyed a jest, and had a rich vein of native humor, as numerous anecdotes attest. This lofty character was sustained and irradiated by transcendent genius and splendid accomplishments. These can be only imperfectly appreciated from his remains published or preserved, They must be estimated from the commendations of his own and of immediately succeeding times. His pupil, Roger Bacon, calls him "sapientissimus Latinorum," and "sa-pientissimus theologus et optimus homo" (Opus Minus, p. 317, 320), and remarks that "Grosseteste alone knew the sciences" (Opus Tert. c. x; Compend. Stud. c. viii); that "Robert, bishop of Lincoln, and Brother Adam de Marisco, were perfect in all wisdom, and that no more were perfect in philosophy" than these two, and Avi-cenna, and Aristotle, and Solomon (Op. Tert. c. xxxi); that the said Robert and Adam were "the greatest clerks in the world, perfect in divine and human knowledge'' (Ibid. c. xxiii). Tyssington speaks of him, "cujus comparatio ad omnes doctores modernos est velut compa-ratio solis ad lunam quando eclipsatur." The range of his acquirements will be partially illustrated by the number and variety of his writings. He is credited with a consummate mastery of all existing science, and with a knowledge of the three learned professions. Roger Bacon distinctly assigns to him the adoption or the inauguration of the Experimental Method (Comp. Stud. c. viii). Several poems, Latin, French, and even English, are attributed to him; and he certainly encouraged the use of the English tongue in preaching, and it may have been, from his employment of the still rude vernacular, that he became the most popular as well as powerful preacher of his day. He is reputed to have been familiar with Greek and Hebrew, but we are assured that he attained only in advanced life a sufficient mastery of the former to translate Greek books (Rog. Bacon, Op. Tert. c. xxv), and then not without more competent assistance (Comp. Stud. e. viii). The vast influence which he exercised over his contemporaries and our succeeding times is ably presented by Luard (Pref. p. lxxxv, ix): "No one," says he, "had a greater influence upon English thought and English literature for the two centuries which followed his time; few books will be found that do not contain some quotations from Lincolniensis, "the great clerk Grostest."
Writings. The works of Grosseteste have been diversely reported at 200 and 300. The difference of estimation, as well as the magnitude of the sum, may be explained by loose modes of enumeration, as indicated by the comparison of the lists of Roger Bacon's treatises with his actual remains. Divisions or chapters were frequently accounted separate productions. The same works were circulated under different titles, Many of Grosseteste's alleged books were only elaborate epistles or occasional essays, which would now 1 pass as tracts. Many compositions were assigned to him of which he was guiltless; many fathered upon him to secure the favor of his name. But. after all such rectifications, the multitude and multiplicity of his writings must have been amazing, especially when regarded as the leisure fruitage of an active life. Most of them have been lost, destroyed, or forgotten. Le-land humorously reports the disappointment attending his own eager exploration of the Franciscan treasures at Oxford at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries: "Summe Jupiter! quid ego illic inveni ! Pul-verem autera inveni, telas aranearum, tineas, blattas, siturn denique et squalorem. Inveni etiam et libros, sed quos tribus obolis non emerem" (Script'.Brit. p. 286).
Much, however, remains, the greater part of which is still unpublished. In Pegge's Life of Grosseteste — "the scarcest of modern books" — the list of his writings fills twenty-three quarto pages, closely printed. Similar catalogues are given by Leland, Tanner, Ou-din, etc. These it were unreasonable to repeat or to review. He was the reputed author of a religious romance in verse, Chasteau d'Amour, and of the didactic poem Manuel Peche, translated by Robert de Brunne. Richard Hampole's Prikke of Conscience has also been referred to him. He may have composed or compiled the rude draft of these noted productions, or may have provided the crude materials with which they were constructed. We know from many sources that the venerable bishop was devoted to music, and "stair with the love of sacred song." Polycarp Leyser ascribes to him the metrical Dialogus inter Corpus et Animam, of which many versions exist in Anglo- Norman, English, Greek, Provencal, French, German, Walloon, Spanish, Italian, Danish, and Swedish (Latin Poems of Walter Mapes, ed. Wright, p 95-106 321 349),and whose echoes may have occasioned Tennyson's Two Voices. Grosseteste left behind him many moral and theological treatises, and a copious collection of sermons. He wrote commentaries on Aristotle and Boethius, and translated several works from the Greek. He wrote on agriculture, digested according to the calendar, The Buke of Husbandry, and of Plantunge and Graffynge Trees and Vynes, according to Wynkyn de Worde's title of the version printed by him. This was probably compiled from Palladius and the Geoponica. We trace in the letters of Adam de Marisco his untiring interest in all physical research and contemporaneous history; and from Roger Bacon we learn that he wrote De Iride, de Cometis, et de aliis (Comp. Stud. c. viii), including probably a discussion of tides. Other works have been alluded to already. But the most interesting of his remains, for the knowledge of the man and of his age, is the large volume of his letters, from which, and from the instructive preface by Mr. Luard, his notice has been principally drawn.
Authorities. The fascination of Grosseteste's name ms in successive centuries excited the enthusiasm of biographers, but has rarely resulted in the accomplishment of their designs. Bishop Barlow, of Lincoln; Samuel Knight, the biographer of dean Colet and Erasmus, and Anthony a Wood, collected materials for his life. Williams, archbishop of York, previously bishop of Lincoln, the successor of lord Bacon in the custody of the seals, meditated the publication of Gros-eteste's life and writings in three volumes folio, but was prevented by the outburst of the Great Rebellion. Edward Brown, of Clare Hall, designed a life of the great bishop, but was anticipated by death in 1699. Dr. Samuel Pegge achieved his biography, which is valuable, but unattainable. Other authorities, some "which have been previously referred to, are Leland, Script. Hist. Brit.; Ball, Script. Ill. Maj. Brit.; Taner, Bibliotheca ; Wharton, Anglia Sacra; Oudin, Script. Eccles. ; Pope Blount, Cens. Celebr. Auct. ; Godwin, De Praesulibus AngIiae ; Cave, Script. Eccl. Hist. ; Warton, Hist. English Poetry; - Epistolae Roberti Grosseteste, edit. uard; Monumenta Franciscana, ed. Brewer, contain. g Eccleston, De Adventu Fratrum Minorum, and Adami de Marisco Epistolae, with valuable appendixes; Rogeri Baconis Opera Anecdota, edit. Brewer; Royal and Historical Letters regn. Henry III. The last four works are published by the British Treasury, in continuation of the task of the Record Commission. To these authorities should be added the Chronicles of Matthew of Paris, Matthew of Westminster, Roger of Wendover, Capgrave, Trivet, Rishanger, and Laner-cost. See also Lechler, Robert Groseteste (Leipsig, 1867). (G. R. H.)