Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rich, Robert (fl.1240)

Robert of Abingdon in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. It casts doubt on his role as biographer.

RICH, ROBERT (fl. 1240), biographer, was second son of Reginald and Mabel Rich of Abingdon, and younger brother of St. Edmund (Rich) [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury. He seems to have been the latter's lifelong companion, and was sent with him to study at Paris about 1185–90. With Edmund he was called home by his mother's illness, and accompanied Edmund to Oxford. He is perhaps the Master Robert de Abingdon who, in consideration of his services and sufferings, had license to hold an additional benefice on 31 Aug. 1220 (Bliss, Cal. Papal Registers, i. 76). In 1239 Robert, who is there styled Magister Robertus de Abingdon, was employed by Archbishop Edmund as one of his officials in negotiating with the monks of Christchurch, Canterbury (Wallace, pp. 297–9, 507; Gervase of Canterbury, ii. 161–5). He accompanied Edmund in his exile at Pontigny, and was present with him at his death. Edmund gave Robert his hair shirt (Osney Annals ap. Annales Monastici, iv. 87–8), and also bequeathed him a sapphire, which subsequently passed into the possession of Nicholas, a goldsmith of St. Albans, who gave it to the abbey there (Matt. Paris, vi. 384). He died before 1244, for Matthew Paris (iv. 378) under that year speaks of miracles that were wrought at his tomb. Eustace the monk, in his life of St. Edmund, speaks of Robert's singular piety, winning conversation, and profound learning (ap. Wallace, p. 543).

Robert was the author of a life of his brother, which seems on the best evidence to be that in Cotton. MS. Faustina B. i. ff. 180–183, in the British Museum, and in Fell MS. 1, vol. iv. in the Bodleian Library; a brief fragment of it is in Lambeth MS. 135. It ‘furnishes us (according to its editor, Mr. Wallace) with an insight into Edmund's interior development, which Robert (his lifelong companion) was most competent to give,’ and was not the work of a monk. This life also appears to have been used by Surius, who professes to follow the lives by Robert Rich and Robert Bacon (Wallace, pp. 4–7, 612–613), and it has been printed in Wallace's ‘Life of St. Edmund,’ pp. 613–24. with another life of the archbishop, ascribed by Mr. Wallace to Eustace, monk of Christchurch, and now in Cotton. MS. Julius D. vi. (1). Sir Thomas Hardy assumed, with less probability, that the latter was the biography from Robert Rich's pen, because there is a statement to that effect in a modern hand inscribed on an abridgment of it (in Cotton. MS. Cleop. B. 1, f. 24). The nine lessons given in the York ‘Breviary’ (Surtees Society, lxxv.) for the office of St. Edmund are taken from the life by Robert Rich. It seems not improbable that the ‘proper’ office for St. Edmund was composed by Robert (Wallace, pp. 446, 453, 455). Some fragments of this office are given in Wallace's ‘Life of St. Edmund’ (pp. 453–8).

Bale also ascribes to Robert: 1. ‘De Translatione Eadmundi.’ 2. ‘Exegesis in Canonem S. Augustini.’ 3. ‘Eadmundi Archiepiscopi Cantuariensis Liber de resurrectione,’ &c. This last was printed in 1519, 8vo.

[Lives of St. Edmund by Eustace and Robert Bacon ap. Wallace, pp. 542–3, and 591–3, and by Bertrand ap. Martène's Thesaurus Anecdotorum, iii. 1775–6; Bale's Scriptores, iii. 97; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hib. p. 630; Hardy's Descript. Cat. of Brit. Hist. iii. 87, 90, 93; Wallace's Life of St. Edmund of Canterbury.]

C. L. K.