Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/307

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Layamon
Layamon
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he went barefoot, wore a tow coat and trousers (much darned) of his own making, and as he never shaved his curious milk coloured beard, he presented a singular appearance. He continued his crusade against slavery, illustrating his principles in odd ways, and distributing many pamphlets of his own composition. One of his tracts, 'All Slave-keepers that keep the Innocent in Bondage, Apostates,' was printed in 1737 by Franklin, who paid Lay a visit on one occasion in company with Governor Penn. Lay also 'had a testimony' against tobacco and against tea, and on one occasion carried a number of tea-cups to the market-place of Philadelphia and destroyed some as a public protest. A more dangerous fancy induced him to try to fast for forty days in imitation of Christ, and bought him to the verge of the grave. As early as 1737 he suggested humane improvements in the criminal code. About 1740 he removed from his cave-like cottage to a neighbouring farmhouse and boarded there. He died 8 Feb. 1759, and buried at the quakers' burial-ground, Abington, near Philadelphia. His wife, Sarah, predeceased him. Lay was hump-backed, with very thin legs, and only four seven inches in height. His wife was deformed. But he was recognised as a philanthropist, and his pamphlets and teaching are said to have been of considerable influence upon the younger quakers of the district. Just before his death the society resolved to disown such of their members as persisted in holding slaves. His portrait is in the collection at the London Friends' Institute, Devonshire House.

[Memoirs by Vaux and Francis; Benjamin Rush's Essays; Smith's Cat. of Friends' Books Wharton's Notes on the Provincial Literature of Pennsylvannia in Memoirs, &c. of the Hist. Soc. of Pennsylvannia, vol. i.; Biog. Cat. . . . of Friends and others whose portraits are in the London Friends' Institute.]

W. A. J. A.


LAYAMON (fl. 1200), author of 'Brut,' is only known through statements of his own. His great work opens by saying, ‘There was a priest in the land, Layamon hight; he was Leoenath's son (May the Lord love him!) He dwelt at Ernley (sic), at a noble church upon the Severn's bank; it seemed to him good to be there. Fast by Radestone (sic) there he read books’ [read the service, or simply studied]. And he goes on to say that here the idea occurred to him of writing a history of England. The mention of 'Radestone' and of the Severn clearly identifies ‘Ernley' with Areley Regis in North Worcestershire, close by which is a high cliff called Redstone. Tradition, according to Murray's 'Guide to Worcestershire’ (p. 232, cd. 1872), has specially associated Layamon with this cliff which has had extensive excavations made in its solid rock, and 'once enjoyed high repute as a hermitage.' Layamon's own statement negatives such a tradition. As Sir Frederick Madden rightly insists, he distinctly connects himself with Areley Church, and mentions Redstone by way of direction and for this purpose it might well serve if, as is very possible, a well-known route from London to North Wales passed by it in the middle ages, as in later times Redstone Ferry, says Murray, ‘was once the high road from North Wales to London.' Layamon also styles himself a ‘priest.’ Now, though a priest might have turned hermit, yet in the middle ages the hermits formed a distinct 'religious' class. The second and later version of the 'Brut' writes Lawemon for Layamon, and Leuca for Leonenað; and for ‘at æðelen are chirechen,' it reads 'wid þan gode cniþte,’ and so makes the sense run: ‘He dwelt at Ernley with the good kniqht.' The scribe has perhaps translated ‘æðelen are chirechen,' by 'good’ (so elsewhere, e.g. l. 57), and wildly misread 'chirechen,' or boldly converted it into ‘cniþte.’

Sir Frederick Madden, in the preface to his edition, remarks that both the names Layamon and Leouenath, or variants of them, occur in documents of the beginning of the thirteenth century. He refers to an occurrence of Legemann in Cambridgeshire, and Levenoth or Levenethe in Essex. It has apparently not been hitherto observed that the latter name is found close by Worcestershire, viz. in Herefordshire, and in almost the very same form as in the 'Brut,' at the close of the tenth century. A charter of Ealdulf, his bishop of Worcester, dated 996, assigns certain lands to one Leofenað, who may have been an ancestor, and at any rate lived in the same district (Kemble, Codex Diplomaticus, dcxcv, iii. 295–6).

The date of Layamon is approximately settled by the fact that his poem is based on Wace's ‘Roman da Brut.' Describing the works he collected for information on English history he says that the third book he took and laid before him was made by 'a French clerk, hight Wace, who well could write; and he gave it to the noble Eleanor, that was the high King Henry’s Queen.' Now, Wace himself tells us he composed this work in ll55. Again, Madden has pointed out what seemsan allusion to the destruction of Leicester by the forces of Henry II, under the justiciary, Richard de Lacy, in 1173 (see ll. 2916–21, i. 123–4 of Madden's edit.) Henry II and Queen Eleanor, apparently