Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 42.djvu/146

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Oliver
Oliver
140

which the king had intimated to the council in a letter of 8 April 1611.

He played a prominent part in the political stir of the closing years of James's reign ; the sederunts of the privy council show that he was present at almost every meeting. In December 1612 he was one of a select commission of five for the settling of controversies between burgh and landward justices of the peace (ib. ix. 503) ; in August 1613 a commissioner for the trial of the Jesuit Robert Philip, in December 1614 for the trial of Father John Ogilvie [q.v.], and in June 1015 for that of James Mofiat; in December 1615 he was appointed a member of the reconstructed court of high commission, and in May 1616 one of the committee to report on the book 'God and the King,' which James had determined to introduce into Scotland as he had done in England and Ireland. On 17 Dec. 1016 Oliphant was elected a member of the financial committee of the council known as the commissioners for the king's rents (ib. x. 676 ; Balfour, Annals, ii. 65). As kind's advocate he appears in all the great political trials, notably those of Gordon of Gicht and Sir James Macdonald of Islay. He had the care, too, of putting into force the new acts against the sale of tobacco and the carrying of hagbuts ; and the numerous prosecutions which he carried out testify to his activity. The parliament of 1021 ratified the possession of the family lands to him and his sons James and William in fee {Acts of Parl. iv. 662). Charles I's proclamation prohibiting the holding of an ordinary seat in the court of session by officers of state and nobles compelled him to leave the bench (February 1020). He died on 1 (13?) April 1628, and was buried in the Greyfriars' churchyard at Edinburgh. To Oliphant is due the present procedure of examining witnesses in the hearing of the jury. Hitherto evidence had been taken in the trial of one Listen, accused of the murder of a certain John Mayne (Pitcairn).

[Register of the Privy Council of Scotland; Acts of Parliament of Scotland ;Retours; Denmylne MSS. in Advocates' Library, passim ; Brunton and Hair's Senators of the College of Justice; Pitcairn's Criminal Trials Anderson's Oliphants in Scotland, 1879, p. 156.]

G. G. S.

OLIVER of Malmesbury otherwise known as Eilmer, Elmer, or Æthelmær (fl. 1066), astrologer and mechanician, a monk of Malmesbury, is said by William of Malmesbury, who calls him Eilmer, a latinised form of the English name Æthelmaer, to have been a man of learning. In his youth he attempted to follow the example of Dædalus, fitted wings on to his hands and feet, ascended a tower to get the help of the wind, threw himself off, and is said to have flown a furlong or more. Becoming frightened at the strength of the wind, he fell and broke his legs, and thenceforward was lame. He attributed his failure to his having omitted to provide himself with a tail, which would have steadied him in his flight. He was advanced in years when, on 24 April 1066, there appeared the great comet, which, though seen with awe in every part of Europe, was held in England and elsewhere to have been a presage of the Norman conquest (Freeman, Norman Conquest, iii. 71, 72, 646-50). On beholding it Eilmer cried 'Thou hast come, thou hast come, bringing sorrow to many mothers. Long ago have I seen thee, but now more terrible do I behold thee, threatening the destruction of this country' (Will. Malm. Gesta Regum, ii. c. 225). The story seems to have been popular. It is possible that Orderic, writing independently of William of Malmesbury, refers to Elmer's words (p. 492); Alberic of Trois Fontaines (an. 1066) took the story from William of Malmesbury. It appears in the 'Speculum Historiale' of Vincent of Beauvais (d. 1204), and is given by Higden in his 'Polychronicon,' where the monk of Malmesbury is called Oliver, and the story consequently is in the two English translations of that work. Lastly, it was copied by John Nauclerus of Tubingen, who wrote his 'Commentaries* about 1500. Bale, in the 1549 edition of his 'Catalogus,' attributes to Oliver the authorship of the 'Eulogium Historiarum;' he corrects this strange mistake in the edition of 1557, where he quotes Capgrave as showing that the 'Eulogium' was compiled in the reign of Edward III. He says that Oliver was the sent known to exist,

[Will. Malm. Gesta Regum, lib. ii. c. 225 (Rolls Ser.) Orderic p. 492, ed. Duchesne ; Vincent of Beauvais's Speculum Majus, IV, Spec. bk. 25, e. 35, f. 350; Higden's Polychronicon, vii. 222 (Rolls Ser.); John Nauclerus's Memorabilium Commentarii, f. 160; Bale's Cat. Illustr. 88. cent. ii. p. 163 (1557); Eulogium Hist. i. Pref. xxvii (olls Ser.); Freeman's Norm. Conq. iii. 72. Wright (Biogr. Brit. Lit. ii. 18), who did not know that Oliver of Malmesbury was the same with the Eilmer of William of Malmesbury's 'Gesta Regum,' says that Bale is the only authority for Oliver's existence.]

W. H.