The Life of St Anselm: Archbishop of Canterbury

The Life of St Anselm: Archbishop of Canterbury

The Life of St Anselm: Archbishop of Canterbury

The Life of St Anselm: Archbishop of Canterbury

Excerpt

The work which follows is not a literary masterpiece, but it is the first intimate portrait of a saint in our history, by an observant pupil and ardent disciple. This is its great merit, and it is one which no criticism of detail can either diminish or enhance. Those who would see it in this light have no need of an introduction: tolle, lege, is all the advice they need. But it is also a fragment of a great religious and intellectual experience, which had its fullest expression in the time of Anselm and Eadmer. To place the work, and the life it records, in this setting demands labour and patience; and in this context the failures, and even the moments of bathos, are almost as important as the splendours and achievements. The introduction and footnotes are intended to provide some pointers to the historical scene of which this record is a part. Necessarily they are concerned with details, and many of the larger aspects of the subject have had to be dealt with elsewhere. In the present volume everything is subordinated to the presentation of the text and the matters which arise immediately from it. But in the volume, St Anselm and his Biographer, to which I frequently refer, I have allowed myself a larger liberty. The two books are quite distinct, but Eadmer's own words in describing his two attempts to portray his master may (I should like to think) be applied to them: nee illud istius, nec istud illius pro mutua sui cognitione multum videtur indigere. Plane tamen actus eius scire volentibus, nee illud sine isto, nec istud sine illo sufficere posse pronuntio.

I shall not repeat here what I have said in the other work about the debt which I owe to other scholars for their help in the preparation of both of them. But it is fitting that I should express my gratitude to the editors and publishers of this series for their patience and generosity in allowing me to apportion my matter as I thought best; and to the owners and custodians of the manuscripts mentioned below, who have allowed me every facility I could desire. R. W. S.

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