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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).>br>Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

IX. Latin Chroniclers from the Eleventh to the Thirteenth Centuries

§ 16. Jocelin of Brakelond

Social life in England at the end of the twelfth century, and especially the internal life and economy of the monasteries are portrayed with intimate knowledge in the celebrated chronicle of Jocelin of Brakelond. Jocelin has had the good fortune, denied to the more ambitious chroniclers of great affairs of state, to engage the attention of a brilliant modern writer, and will continue to be known through Carlyle’s Past and Present to thousands of readers who will never have the curiosity to read his actual Latin record. Quite apart, however, from the adventitious importance it has thus gained, Jocelin’s account of the deeds of Abbot Sampson and his community at St. Edmundsbury is of unique historical value for the light it throws upon the organisation of monastic institutions and of their relations to the social and industrial life of the common people.

The life and habits of a different section of society have been illustrated, in an almost equally vivid way, by several of the scholars who flourished in and around the court of Henry II. John of Salisbury and Peter of Blois, Gervase of Tilbury and Nigel Wireker, and, above all, Walter Map and Gerald of Wales, have left behind them documents which bear, in some respects, even more of the very “form and pressure” of the time than the chronicles themselves. The Polycraticus of John of Salisbury, the letters of Peter of Blois, the Otia Imperialia of Gervase and the poems of Nigel Wireker, throw a flood of light upon the studies and the pastimes, the intrigues and the scandals, the humours and the passions of those who dwelt in the high places of both state and church.