Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/133

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Langton
Langton
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By his advice the matter was deferred to a council at Westminster on the octave of Epiphany (1226). The king's illness and the absence of several bishops, including, it seems, Stephen himself, caused a further postponement till after Easter; and then the rejection of the pope's claim was a foregone conclusion, for meanwhile Stephen had persuaded Honorius virtually to abandon it by recalling Otto. Having thus, as he trusted, secured the liberties of the state and the church in general, Stephen in 1228 applied himself to recover for his own see certain of its ancient privileges and immunities which had fallen into desuetude. He offered the king three thousand marks for their restoration, but proved his case so clearly that Henry remitted the offer. Shortly afterwards the archbishop fell sick, and withdrew to his manor of Slindon, Sussex, where he died. The dates of his death and burial are given by the chroniclers of the time in a strangely conflicting and self-contradictory way; the most probable solution of the puzzle seems to be that he died on 9 July 1228, and was buried on the 15th at Canterbury, whither his body had been transported from Slindon on the 13th (Gerv. Cant. ii. 115; Rog. Wend. iv. 170; Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. iii. 157, and Hist. Angl. ii. 302; Ann. Worc. ann. 1228; Cont. Flor. Wig. ann. 1228; Stubbs, Reg. Sacr. Anglic. p. 37). Five years later Bishop Henry of Rochester proclaimed that he had seen in a vision the souls of Stephen Langton and Richard I released from purgatory, both on the same day. The pope himself did not hesitate to declare, a few months after the primate's death, that 'the custodian of the earthly paradise of Canterbury, Stephen of happy memory, a man pre-eminently endued with the gifts of knowledge and supernal grace, has been called, as we hope and believe, to the joy and rest of paradise above.' A tomb, fixed in a very singular position in the wall of St. Michael's Chapel in Canterbury Cathedral, is shown as the resting-place of his mortal remains; but the tradition is of doubtful authenticity.

Stephen Langton's political services to his country and his national church were but a part of his work for the church at large. A great modern scholar has called him, 'next to Bede, the most voluminous and original commentator on the Scriptures this country has produced.' It was as a theologian, 'second to none in his own day' (Ann. Wav. ann. 1228), that he was chiefly famed throughout the middle ages. He left glosses, commentaries, expositions, treatises, on almost all the books of the Old Testament, besides a large number of sermons. The many copies of these various works preserved in the university and college libraries of Oxford and Cambridge, at Lambeth Palace, and in different libraries in France, bear witness to the lofty and widespread esteem in which they and their author were held. The only portion of Stephen's writings which has been printed, except the few letters already referred to, is a treatise on the translation of St. Thomas the Martyr, probably an expanded version of the sermon preached on that occasion. One memorial of his pious industry is still in daily use: either in the early days when he was lecturing on theology, or during one of his periods of exile, 'he coted the Bible at Parys and marked the chapitres' (Higden, Polychronicon, l. vii. c. 34, trans. Trevisa) according to the division which has been generally adopted ever since. His literary labours were not confined to theology; he was, moreover, an historian and a poet. He wrote a 'Life of Richard I,' of which the sole extant remains are embodied in the 'Polychronicon' of Ralph Higden, who 'studied to take the floures of Stevenes book' for his own account of that king (ib. c. 25). Several bibliographers mention among Langton's writings two other historical works: a 'Life of Mahomet' and 'Annals of the Archbishops of Canterbury.' Of the former, however, nothing is now known, while the ascription of the latter to Stephen seems to have originated in a confusion between the owner and the author of two manuscripts now in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (lxxvi and cccclxvii). In Leland's day Canterbury College, Oxford, possessed a poem in heroic verse called 'Hexameron,' and said to be written by Langton, and Oudin mentions a 'Carmen de Contemptu Mundi' among the manuscripts at Lambeth. Both of these seem to be now lost, but a rhythmical poem entitled 'Documenta Clericorum,' ascribed to the same writer, is still in the Bodleian Library (Bodl. MS. 57, f. 66 b). More interesting still is a 'Sermon by Stephen Langton on S. Mary, in verse partly Latin, partly French,' of which a thirteenth-century manuscript is preserved in the British Museum (Arundel 292, f. 38). The sermon begins and ends with a few Latin rhymes; its main part is in Latin prose, and its text is, not a passage from Scripture, but a verse of a French song upon a lady called 'la bele Aliz,' to which the preacher contrives very skilfully to give an excellent spiritual interpretation. Another copy of this sermon, followed by a theological drama and a long canticle on the Passion, both in French verse, was found in the Duke of Norfolk's library by the Abbé de la Rue, who attributed all three works to the same author (Archæo-