Matthew (2)


(Matthaeus) OF PARIS, an English monastic, of great celebrity as a chronicler of England's early history, was born about the end of the 12th century. He took the religious habit in the Benedictine monastery of St. Albans in 1217. Almost the only incident of his life that has been recorded is a journey he made to Norway, by command of the pope, to introduce some reforms into the monastic establishments of that country, which mission he has the credit of having executed with great ability and success. He is said to have stood high in the favor of Henry III, and to have obtained various privileges for the University of Oxford through his influence with that king. His acquirements embraced all the learning and science of his age; besides theology and history; oratory, poetry, painting, architecture, and a practical knowledge of mechanics, are reckoned among his accomplishments by his biographers or panegyrists. His memory is preserved mainly by his history of England, entitled Historia Major, really a continuation of a work begun at St. Albans by Roger of Wendover (who died in May, 1236), and which was subsequently entitled Chronica Major, or Chronica Majora Sancti Albani. Roger's name, however, was obscured by that of our subject, Matthew of Paris, who, though he adopted the plan of Roger's work, really furnished a most valuable chronicle, especially of mediaeval history. In the British Museum, and in the libraries of Corpus Christi and Benedict colleges, Cambridge, there are manuscripts of an epitome, by Matthew of Paris himself, of his history, generally referred to by the names of the Historia Minot', or the Chronica, which, bishop Nicholson says, contains "several particulars of note omitted in the larger history." This smaller work was for a long time ascribed to a Matthew of Westminster (q.v.). Of late, however, the question of authorship has been fairly settled by Sir Frederick Madden, who edited and published these chronicles. He pronounced the Westminster Matthew "a phantom who never existed," and observes that even the late Mr. Buckle was so deceived by the general tone of confidence manifested in quoting this writer that he characterizes him as, after Froissart, the most celebrated historian of the 14th century. "The mystery of the 'phantom historian,'" says a writer in the Westminster Review (Oct., 1866, p. 238), "has been happily unveiled by Sit Frederick Madden, whose correct anticipation is unexpectedly confirmed by his discovery of the original copy of the work, now in the Chetham Library at Manchester. This manuscript establishes beyond all doubt that the largest portion of the Flores Historiarum, attributed to the pseudo Matthew of Westminster, was written at St. Albans, under the eye and by direction of Matthew of Paris, as an abridgment of his greater chronicle; and the text from the close of the year 1241 to about two thirds of 1249 is in his own handwriting. This manuscript, continued after his death by another hand on the same plan, down to the issue of the battle of Evesham in 1265, ceased after that date to be written at St. Albans, and passed eventually into the library of the Monastery of St. Peter, at Westminster. The author of the first continuation, after the manuscript had left St. Albans, was, Sir F. Madden thinks, John Bevere, otherwise named John of London. It was brought down by Bevere to the year 1306. A special class of manuscripts, including the Eton MS. of Matthew of Westminster, implicitly follows Bevere's chronicle; but in the original copy of the Flores Historiarum, after it came to Westminster, Bevere's text is generally abridged, although under some years there are additions. The entire work is carried on to the year 1305. 'It was,' says Sir Frederick, 'no doubt from the fact that the latter portion of the Flores Historiarum was composed by a Westminster monk, that the entire work was afterwards attributed to a Matthew of Westminster, for the name of Matthew really belonged to Matthew of Paris, whilst the affix of Westminster was supplied by conjecture; and this pseudonyme having been recognized by Bale and Joscelin, and adopted by archbishop Parker, the error has been perpetuated to our own time.'" Besides this edition by Madden, entitled Matthei Parisiensis, Monachi Sancti Albani, Historia Anglorum, sive ut vulgo dicitur, Historia Minor, item, ejusdem abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae (published by the authority of the lords commissioners of her majesty's treasury, London, Longmans, 1866 sq.), we have one by archbishop Parker (London, 1571, folio; reprinted at Liguri, Zurich, 1606; London, 1640 [or in some copies 1641], fol., by Dr. William Watts; Par. 1644, fol.; Lond. 1684, fol.). Watts's edition, which is sometimes divided into two volumes, contains, besides various readings and copious indexes, two other works of the author never before printed, namely, his Duorum Offarum MerciorunRegum (S. Albani Fundatorum) Vitae, and his Viginti Trium Abbatum S. Albani Vitae, together with what he calls his Additamenta to those treatises. "Matthew of Paris writes with considerable spirit and rhetorical display, and uses remarkable freedom of speech; and his work, which is continued to the death of Henry III (1272) by William Rishanger, another monk of the same abbey, has been the chief authority commonly relied upon for the history of that reign. Its spirit, however, is somewhat fiercely and narrowly English; and from the freedom with which he inveighs against what he regards as the usurpations of the papal see, Romanist writers have always expressed strong dissatisfaction especially with his accounts of ecclesiastical affairs. With Protestant critics, on the other hand, Matthew of Paris has been a favorite in proportion to the dislike he has incurred from their opponents. At one time it used to be affirmed by the Roman Catholics that the printed Matthew of Paris was in many things a mere modern fabrication of the Reformers; but Watts, by collating all the manuscript copies he could find, and noting the various readings, proved that there was no foundation for this charge" (Engl. Cyclop. s.v.). A translation of the History of Matthew of Paris, by Dr. Giles, forms a volume of Bohn's "Antiquarian Library," and the Flowers of History of Roger of Wendover forms two volumes of the same series. See Oudin, Scriptores Eccles. 3:204 sq.; also Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie, 9:176; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lexikon, 6:932: North British Rev. Oct. 1869, p. 119. SEE ROGER OF WENDOVER.

Bible concordance for MATTHEW.

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