The Letters of John of Salisbury: Volume Two, the Later Years (1163-1180)

The Letters of John of Salisbury: Volume Two, the Later Years (1163-1180)

The Letters of John of Salisbury: Volume Two, the Later Years (1163-1180)

The Letters of John of Salisbury: Volume Two, the Later Years (1163-1180)

Excerpt

The early letters comprise an archive from John's career as secretary to Archbishop Theobald: the first collection contains a moderate number of intimate, personal letters, and a larger number of business letters, mostly in Theobald's name, mostly dealing with the special area of John's expertise as archbishop's adviser on appeals to Rome.

In 1161 Theobald died, and in this volume his successor, Thomas Becket, plays in life and death something of the role played by Theobald in volume i. Something, but hardly the same: for the letters only start when John was in exile and Thomas preparing to leave England. Its centre is not the movement of orderly business from Canterbury to Rome but the tempest of the Becket dispute. This volume has little to tell us about appeal jurisdiction, save for a small group at its end when John was once more the legal expert, aiding a circle of English bishops. Nor is it quite so rich in really intimate letters, for from 1164 to 1170 he was living in Rheims, the guest of Peter 'of Celle', now abbot of Saint-Rémi, to whom the best of his early letters had been addressed. For reasons which can be guessed, but not fully explained, John refused to be one of Becket's companions, and in the first years of exile he lived in some hope of a return to England even if the archbishop stayed in France. But his basic loyalty both to Thomas and to his principles was unswerving, and he frequently acted as adviser to the archbishop. If they had lived closer together this advice would have been lost. Furthermore, he was well placed at Rheims to hear the news and the gossip from all sides: from correspondents in England and in Poitou, from the court of Louis VII, whose brother, the archbishop of Rheims, was during this time in a sense John's patron; and the situation of Rheims, now as in the days of Gerbert over a century and a half earlier, made it a good centre to receive news from other parts of western Europe, especially from Germany and Italy. Occasionally he left Rheims to help Thomas on a mission or for his own spiritual comfort and better information --for to which should we attribute his pilgrimages to Saint-Gilles . . .

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