Paris, Matthew

Paris, Matthew an English Benedictine monk of the Middle Ages, noted as the best Latin chronicler of the 13th century, was born about 1195. He joined the order at St. Albans in 1217. He was soon marked as a man of the highest character, and distinguished as a musician, poet, orator, theologian painter and architect. His practical talents were turned to the reformation of monastic discipline, on which account he was sent to Norway by the pope. After his return to England Matthew Paris stood high in the favor of king Henry III, who used to converse with him in the most familiar manner, and who derived from him much historical information. Paris had besides a large number of influential friends, and a wide circle of acquaintances among the clergy. After the departure of Roger of Wendover, in 1235, Paris was chosen to succeed him as analist of the monastery. A man of his marked probity could not be expected to discharge this duty in any politic spirit, and he reproved vice without distinction of persons, and did not even spare the English court itself: at the same time he showed a hearty affection for his country in maintaining its privileges against the encroachments of the pope and his creatures and officers who plied all their engines to destroy and abolish them. Of this we have a clear though unwilling evidence in Baronius, who observes that Matthew Paris remonstrated with too sharp and bitter a spirit against the court of Rome, and that, except in this particular only, his history was an incomparable production. But if it did not find hearty recognition among his learned coreligionists, the people did not withhold their approbation, and as far down as the days of the Reformation Englishmen pointed with pride to this the most considerate and trustworthy Latin chronicler. This work is entitled Historia Major, and consists of two parts: the first, from the creation of the world to William the Conqueror; the second, from that king's reign to 1250. He carried on this history afterwards to the year of his death in 1259. Rishauger, a monk of the monastery of St. Albans, continued it to 1272 or 1273, the year of the death of Henry III. Paris made an abridgment of his own work, which he entitled Historia Minor. The MS. of this work is in the British Museum. He also published some other pieces explanatory of his Historia Major. An account of these papers may be seen in Basle. The first edition of the Historia Major was published at London by archbishop Parker in 1571, and was reproduced at Zurich in 1606; later and more complete editions are those of London in 1640-41, and in 1684. An English translation was published in Bohn's Antiquarian Library. Matthew Paris died in 1259. See Inett, Eccles. Hist. of England; Burton, Ch. Hist. of England.

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