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Richard of Devizes Chronicle

 
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Richard of Devizes
Chronicle
page 18

but the sees of their bishops. Oxford scarcely, I will not say satisfies, but sustains, its clerks. Exeter supports men and beasts with the same grain. Bath is placed, or rather buried, in the lowest parts of the valleys, in a very dense atmosphere and sulphury vapour, as it were at the gates of hell. Nor yet will you select your habitation in the northern cities, Worcester, Chester, Hereford, on account of the desperate Welshmen. York abounds in Scots, vile and faithless men, or rather rascals. The town of Ely is always putrefied by the surrounding marshes. In Durham, Norwich, or Lincoln, there are very few of your disposition among the powerful; you will never hear any one speak French. At Bristol, there is nobody who is not, or has not been, a soapmaker, and every Frenchman esteems soapmakers as he does nightmen. After the cities, every market, village, or town, has but rude and rustic inhabitants. Moreover, at all times, account the Cornish people for such as you know our Flemish are accounted in France. For the rest, the kingdom itself is generally most favoured with the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth; and in every place there are some good, but much fewer in them all than in Winchester alone.

Sect. 82. "This is in those parts the Jerusalem of the Jews, in it alone they enjoy perpetual peace; it is the school of those who desire to live well and prosper. Here they become men, here there is bread and wine enough for nothing. There are therein monks of such compassion and gentleness, clergy of such understanding and frankness, citizens of such civility and good faith, ladies of such beauty and modesty, that little hinders but I should go there and become a Christian with such Christians. To that city I direct you, the city of cities, the mother of all, the best above all. There is but one fault, and that alone in which they customarily indulge too much. With the exception I should say of the learned and of the Jews, the Winchester people tell lies like watchmen, but it is in making up reports. For in no place under heaven so many false rumours are fabricated so easily as there; otherwise they are true in every thing. I should have many things too still to tell you about business; but for fear you should not understand or should forget, you will place this familiar note in the hands of the Jew my friend, and I think, too, you may some time be rewarded by him." The short note was in Hebrew. The Jew made an end of his speech, and the boy having understood all things for good, came to Winchester.

Sect. 83. His awl supplied him, and his companion as well, with food, and the cruel courtesy and deceitful beneficence of the Jew was by the letter unfortunately obtained to their relief. Wherever the poor fellows worked or eat apart by day, they reposed every night in one little bed in the same old cottage of a certain old woman. Days follow days, and months months, and in the same way as we have hitherto so carefully described, our boys hasten the time of their separation that they may meet again. The day of the Holy Cross had arrived, and the boy that same day, whilst working at his Jew's, being by some means put out of the way, was not forthcoming. Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was at hand. His companion, during the evening, greatly surprised at his absence, not returning home to bed, was terrified that night with many visions and dreams. When he had sought him several days in all corners of the city without success, he came to the Jew and simply asked if he had sent his benefactor anywhere; whom when he found violently enraged beyond his general disposition, from having been so courteous the day before, and noticed the incoherence of his words and change of countenance, he presently fired up, and as he was of a shrill voice and admirable readiness of speech, he broke out into abuse, and with great clamour challenged him with taking his companion away. "Thou son of a sordid harlot," said he; "thou robber, then traitor, thou devil, thou hast crucified my friend. Alas, me! wherefore have I not now the strength of a man! I would tear you to pieces with my hands." The noise of his quarrelling in the house is heard in the street, Jews and Christians come running together from all quarters. The boy persists, and now, deriving courage from the crowd, addressing those present, he alleged his concern for his companion as an excuse. "O you good people," said he, "who are assembled, behold if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. That Jew is a devil; he has stolen away my heart from my breast - he has butchered my only companion, and I presume too that he has eaten him. A certain son of the devil, a Jew of French birth, I neither know nor am acquainted with; that Jew gave my comrade letters of his death-warrant to that man. To this city he came, induced, or rather seduced. He often gave attendance upon this Jew, and in his house he was last seen." He was not without a witness to some points, inasmuch as a Christian woman, who, contrary to the canons, had nursed up the young Jews in the same house, constantly swore that she had seen the boy go down into the Jew's store, without coming up again. The Jew denies it - the case is referred to the judges. The accusers are defective; the boy because he was under age, the woman because the service of Jews had rendered her ignominious. The Jew offered to clear his conscience of the evil report. Gold contented the judges. Phineas gave and pleased, and the controversy ceased.

Sect. 84. The bishop of Chester, who, from his detestation of religion, had expelled the monks from Coventry, entirely broke down all the workshops there were in the monastery, that by the altered appearance of the place, all remembrance of its past state might be taken away from posterity. And further, lest the ruin of the walls should some day bespeak their author, the church of the place, which had not been finished, was found a ready plea, and having bestowed the materials upon it, without charge, he began to build. Moreover, he appointed the masons and plasterers their hire out of the chattels of the monastery. He selected two principal manors of the monks for his own proper use; this arrangement being made for their abuse - that wherever he should eat, some special delicacy provided out of the issues of the aforesaid manors should be presented to him to eat, that he might glory in the victory, and might batten, as it were, on the viscera of the monks, whom he had by his wickedness overcome. But all the rest of their revenues be allotted to the prebends, some of which he conferred and settled for ever on the Romish church, appropriated to certain cardinals of the Apostolic See, appointing them and their canonical successors in the same titles to be canons of the church of Coventry, that if by any chance there should be any delay to the transactions before the pope, he should make the whole court the more ready in the defence of his part; he conferred the other prebends on others, but not one on any whom he did not know for certain to be an advocate of no religion. They built


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