Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Adam Scotus

ADAM Scotus, or Anglicus (fl. 1180), was a theological writer. The very little that can be ascertained as to his life is almost entirely dependent upon incidental allusions contained in his writings. The national affix, ‘Scotus,’ does not apparently occur in the earliest edition of this writer's works—that published by Ægidius Gourmont at Paris in 1518. This folio (which may be looked upon as containing all of this author's works, of whose genuineness there can be absolutely no doubt at all) consisted, according to Panzer's account, of a series of ‘xxiv.’ sermons and two treatises entitled respectively ‘Liber de tripartito Tabernaculo’ and ‘Liber de triplici genere Contemplationis;’ and it is ascribed not to Adam Scotus, but to ‘Brother Adam of the Præmonstratensian order.’ It is almost certain that the xxiv. here must be a misprint for xiv., and that these sermons in reality represent the treatise entitled ‘De Ordine’ of the next edition (cf. Panzer, Annal. Typogr. viii. 49; Bibliotheca Telleriana, 43; and Possevinus, Apparatus Sacer, i. 6). In 1659 Peter Bellerus of Antwerp published the works of Adam Scotus, to which was prefixed an elaborate, but unsatisfactory, life of the author by Godfrey Ghiselbert, himself a Præmonstratensian. This new issue consisted of (a) forty-seven sermons, (b) a ‘Liber de ordine, habitu, et professione Canonicorum ordinis Præmonstratensis,’ divided into fourteen sermons (see above), and assigned in their title to Master Adam; (c) a treatise ‘De tripartito Tabernaculo;’ (d) another treatise ‘De triplici genere Contemplationis.’ The last three works are by the same writer, and are all dedicated to the Præmonstratensian brotherhood. The author of the ‘De Tripartito’ claims the ‘Liber de ordine,’ &c., and the author of the ‘De Triplici genere,’ &c. claims the ‘De Tripartito.’ One Adam, therefore, wrote the three treatises. And the ‘De Tripartito’ is full of hints which enable us to fix the author's era with certainty, and his country with a fair amount of probability. In part ii. c. 6 we read that the sixth age of the world dates from the coming of Christ, ‘of which age 1180 years are now past.’ The same date will suit the lists of popes and kings. The time in which Adam flourished may then be safely set down as being about 1180; he appears to have been alive two years or more later (De Trip. Tab. Proœm. I. c. iii.). As to the place of his birth we have no such certain indication. Ghiselbert assures us that the manuscripts of this writer call him sometimes ‘Scotus,’ sometimes ‘Anglicus,’ and sometimes ‘Anglo-Scotus.’ Everything in the treatises points to a locality which, about the year 1180, though within the limits of the kingdom of Scotland, was yet strongly under English influence, and already the seat of a Præmonstratensian community. In the explanation of the elaborate ‘tabula,’ or list of kings, in the ‘De Tripartito,’ Adam recommends his copyists to insert the royal line of their own sovereigns, after the kings of Germany and France, in the place of his list of English and Scotch ones. The only kingly house whose ancestry he traces up to Adam is that of England; but, on the other hand, he shows a minute knowledge of the character of Malcolm Canmore's children, and declares that he is writing in the ‘land of the English (Anglorum) and the kingdom of the Scots.’ Moreover, the book in question is formally dedicated to ‘John, abbot of Calchou.’ There is only one abbot of Calchou, or Kelso, named John, known before the middle of the sixteenth century—namely, John, formerly cantor of the abbey—who signed several charters under William the Lion. He was abbot from 1160 to 1180 (see Liber Sanctæ Mariæ de Calchou and Liber de Melros, i. 39, 43, &c.). There seems to be only one part of Great Britain which answers to all the requirements of the case, viz., the principality of Galloway, for which William the Lion did homage to Henry about the year 1175, a district where there were already three Præmonstratensian foundations by 1180. But it must be allowed that from many points of view Dryburgh would suit equally well. Ghiselbert, however, has preserved a number of passages from manuscript notices of Adam Scotus that had fallen into his hands, which tend to show that about 1177 Christian, bishop of Casa Candida (Whithorn in Galloway), changed the canons of his cathedral church into Præmonstratensian regulars. The name of Christian's new abbot, according to Mauritus à Prato, who here becomes Ghiselbert's authority, was Adam, or Edan, from the neighbouring foundation of Soulseat near Stranraer, and is identified with our writer. In the Præmonstratensian abbey of St. Michael at Antwerp Ghiselbert found another life of Adam which described him as being born of noble parents in Anglo-Scotia, and a contemporary of the ‘first fathers of the Præmonstratensian order.’ But the amount of truth that underlies these vague statements is very hard to appreciate at its exact value. Passing on to more certain matters, we can gather that, within two years of 1180, our Adam had been at Præmonstratum, the head abbey of the great order to which he belonged, and that the chief abbots of his order had requested him to forward them a copy of the ‘De Tripartito.’ In 1177 Alexander III had confirmed the statutes of the order which bade all the Præmonstratensian abbots be present at their annual general chapter. From the allusion made to this statute it seems probable that the writer was abbot of his house at the time, and most certainly he was a man of such reputation with his brethren that, had he lived long, he must have been elected to that office (Proœm. I. c. 8; and cf. Miræus ap. Kuen, vi. 36).

It now remains to say a few words respecting the other works assigned to Adam. Ghiselbert has prefixed to his edition of this author forty-seven sermons which are in their heading ascribed to ‘Master Adam, called Anglicus of the Præmonstratensian order.’ From the author's preface to this collection we learn that it is only part of a body of 100 discourses, of which the first division consisted of forty-seven sermons covering the period from Advent to Lent. Among the latter fifty-three sermons we read that there were fourteen ‘qui specialiter ad viros spectant religiosos.’ Oudin tells us that, when a young theological student in the Præmonstratensian abbey of Coussi, near Laon, he used often to have a certain codex containing about 114 sermons in his hands. The writing of this codex he assigns to the year 1200 or thereabouts, and though the first leaves had been torn away he does not hesitate to identify this volume with the complete work of which Ghiselbert's forty-seven sermons formed the first division. The account Oudin gives of the scope of these discourses strengthens this belief, and we can hardly fail to surmise what the fourteen odd sermons are. Copies or originals of the remaining sermons (in whole or in part) were, according to the same authority, to be found in the hands of Herman à Porta, abbot of St. Michael's at Antwerp, and in the library of the Cœlestins at Mantes (cod. 619), where they are ascribed to ‘Brother Adam, the Præmonstratensian.’ Ghiselbert tells us that the Cœlestins at Paris were still accustomed at mealtimes to read aloud our author's sermons, of which, in another passage, he adds that they possessed an old manuscript entitled ‘Magistri Adami Anglici Præmonstratensis Sermones.’ From the above remarks it would appear that the Præmonstratensian Adam of the sermons was very probably the Præmonstratensian Adam of the fourteen sermons entitled ‘De Ordine,’ &c., who in that case went by the name of Adam Anglicus the Præmonstratensian. Again, both Herman à Porta and the Cœlestins at Mantes (cod. 618) possessed a ‘Libellus Adam Præmonstratensis, natione Anglici, De Instructione Animæ,’ which they assigned to the author of the sermons. Now this work was in 1721 published by Pez from altogether another source, and is by him headed as the work of ‘Adam the Præmonstratensian, abbot and bishop of Candida Casa in Scotland.’ But Pez neglects to tell us whether he is here following the manuscript title of the work, or merely adopting Ghiselbert's theory alluded to above. The treatise in question is, in its prologue, dedicated to Walter, prior of St. Andrew's in Scotland, by brother Adam ‘servorum Dei servus,’ a phrase which seems to imply that its author was an abbot or other high church dignitary. Now there appears to have been only one Walter among all the known priors of St. Andrews, and he held office from 1162 to 1186, and from 1188 to at least the year 1195 (Gordon's Ecclesiastical Chronicle, iii. 75). This agrees very well with the date already established for the so-called Adam Scotus; but of course there may have been many Adams flourishing at this time in Scotland, though it would seem hardly likely that there should be two Scotch Præmonstratensian canons of this name with a European reputation. The deduction to be made from the above remarks is that all the before-mentioned works are probably by one author, who was certainly a Scotch Præmonstratensian canon and probably an abbot, but whether of Whithorn—in which case he may have been bishop also—or not can hardly be considered as settled in one way or the other. Still more uncertain is Ghiselbert's identification of our Adam with the Præmonstratensian English bishop, the contemporary of Cæsar Heisterbachensis (scripsit c. 1222), of whose death that author tells so pretty a story (Miracula, 1. iii. c. 22). Ghiselbert makes mention of a lost work written by our Adam entitled ‘De dulcedine Dei,’ and also of a volume of letters. Pez believed himself to have traced the former work in a fifteenth-century catalogue of ‘Codices Tegernseenses,’ and assigns a set of Latin verses entitled ‘Summula’ to the same author, but on very insufficient grounds.

[Migne's Patrologiæ Cursus Completus, cxcviii., which contains all Adam's writings that have as yet been published under his name; Mackenzie's Writers of the Scotch Nation, i. 141–5; Oudin De Scriptor. Eccles. ii. 1544–7; A. Miræi Chronicon Ord. Præmonstr. ap. Kuen's Collectio Scriptorum. vi. 36, 38, and sub anno 1518; B. Pez' Thesaurus Anecdot. pt. ii. 335–72; Fabricius' Biblioth. Lat. i. 11; Cave's Scriptores Ecclesiæ, ii. 234. For Christian, bishop of Candida Casa, and his suspension in 1177, see Roger Hoveden (Rolls Ser.), ii. 135, &c.]

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