Neot, St

Neot, St.

a learned English monastic of the Anglo-Saxon period, noted as the preceptor as well as kinsman and friend of king Alfred, was born towards the middle of the first half of the 9th century. He is believed to have been first bred for a soldier's life, but while yet a youth to have grown tired of the world, and retired to the abbey of Glastonbury, about 850, for a solitary and devoted life. He studied assiduously, and it is said that even there he became eminent for his literary attainments, and that the fame of his learning drew to Glastonbury a great number of scholars eager to profit by his instruction. The Anglo-Saxon Life of Neot seems to indicate that at this period of his life he made several visits to Rome. After a residence of some years at Glastonbury, Neot was seized with an eager desire to live in greater solitude, and he quitted his abbey, accompanied by a single attendant named Barius, to seek a place suitable to his purpose. At length he settled among the woods of Cornwall, in a beautifully retired spot, near a village previously known by the name of Ham-Stoke, but afterwards called from him Neot-Stoke, and in more modern times distinguished by the simple appellation of St. Neot's. He there built himself a hermitage, and remained in it with his single companion during seven years, at the end of which period he began again to conceive the idea of returning to the world. His biographers tell us that he went to Rome to consult with the pope, by whose advice he returned to his once solitary dwelling, and founded there a small monastic house, into which he gathered some monks, and was himself constituted their first abbot. According to his biographers, he at this time received frequent visits from his kinsman king Alfred, who held him in the highest respect, and he urged his royal relative to turn his mind from the vanities of the world. It is pretended that it was by his advice that Alfred re-endowed the English school at Rome and sent offerings to the pope, and that his influence with the pope procured for Alfred many apostolic favors. Some writers of very suspicious authority have gone still further, and asserted that not only did St. Neot originate the idea of the foundation of the University of Oxford, which they affirm was first laid by Alfred, but that he and Grimbald were the first two professors there. If we can put any faith in the stories told by the biographers. Neot must have died in or a little before the year 877; but all our information relating to him is extremely uncertain. His festival was kept on the 31st of July. He was buried at St. Neot's in Cornwall, where his bones remained in peace until 974, when they were carried away by stealth to the newly-founded monastery of St. Neot's in Hutingdonshire, and were there deposited in a handsome chapel. The old bibliographers (Bale, Pits, etc.) attribute to Neot several writings, as Annals of the Earlier Part of Alfred's Reign: Sermons and Exhortations: A Letter to Pope Martin on the Subject of the English at Rome: — and a book of Exhortations to King Alfred. We may observe that there is less authority for making him the author of these writings than for making him professor at Oxford. St. Neot is described as "humble to all, affable in conversation, wise in transacting business, venerable in aspect, severe in countenance, moderate even in his walk, upright, calm, temperate, and charitable." Two towns in England bear his name. His attributes are the pilgrim's staff and wallet. He is commemorated by the Church of Rome October 28th. There are several lives extant of St. Neot, but they are all filled more or less with legendary matter. The one on which the others were probably based was composed towards the beginning of the 11th century. The most ancient of the lives now extant is a sketch in Anglo-Saxon, which has been printed in the Reverend G.C. Gorham's History and Antiquities of Eynesbury and St. Neot's (Lond. 18201824, 2 volumes, 8vo). This is the most valuable of any remains regarding St. Neot. See also Wright, Biographia Britannica Literaria (Anglo-Saxon period), pages 381-383; Clement, Hand-book of Legendary and Mythological Art, page 233. (J.H.W.)

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