Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Oswald (fl.1010)

OSWALD or OSWOLD (fl. 1010), scholar, was the son of a brother of St. Oswald [q. v.], archbishop of York, and was educated at his uncle's monastery in Ramsey, Huntingdonshire. The story is told that in an idle hour he and three other boys rang the abbey bells for fun, and one was broken. The boys confessed in the chapter-house, and Oswald condoned his nephew's offence, to the annoyance of the monks. Oswald sent his nephew to complete his education at Fleury on the Loire, and there he became a man of learning, and a friend of the abbot Constantine, one of the first scholars of the day. Before he returned to England a poem concerning his accomplishments in Latin elegiacs, written by Constantine and Archbishop Oswald, heralded his fame. After visiting the abbey of St. Bertin, St. Vedast, Corbey, St. Denis, near Paris, and Lagny, he returned to Ramsey, and, refusing to be made a bishop, led a quiet life of study as a monk there. After 1048 he had an interview with Edward the Confessor, and obtained from him a grant of a hundred and a half at Wimbotsham, Norfolk (Chron. Rames. p. 160). A poem by him was preserved at Ramsey, when the chronicler of Ramsey wrote. In Leland's time there were manuscripts by him at Glaston and Ramsey. Leland mentions 'Liber sacrarum precationum,' which Bale calls a book of necromancy; 'De componendis epistolis,' and 'De edendis carminibus.' Oswald was probably author of the anonymous Vita S. Oswaldi in the Cotton MS. Nero E. I. 1. printed in 'Historians of the Church of York,' ed. Raine, i. 399. Oudin (Comm. Script, ii. 523) ascribes it to him, quoting a statement of Usher to that effect; it was written between 995 and 1005, by one intimately associated with St. Oswald at Ramsey, well acquainted with the Christian poets and with the historians of Fleury, who writes like a foreigner, and shows considerable knowledge of the world (ib. p. lxvi). All this points to Oswald as the author; the preface is not quite intact, and the injured passages of the manuscript may have contained a record of the author's relationship to the saint. It has been suggested by Lord Selborne that he compiled the MS. 265 at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, called the Worcester MS., to which a later hand has prefixed the title 'Liber penitentialis Egberti' (Nasmith, Catalogue Librorum, p. 310). The manuscript belonged to Worcester, and could only have been compiled by one who had access to foreign libraries, and in all probability the library of Fleury. Leland calls Oswald a monk of Worcester, but the 'Ramsey Chronicle' shows Oswald to have been connected with Ramsey rather than Worcester.

[Chronicon Abbatiæ Ramesiensis, ed. Macray, pp. 112, 159; Selborne's Facts and Fictions about Tithes, 1892, p. 234; Leland, De Scriptoribus, i. 172.]

M. B.