“BOOK PLATES in themselves are often curious enough. Occasionally they cover up curiosities greater still. Our correspondent, Dr. William McMillan, Pollokshields, has sent for inspection a small piece of paper which he lately discovered under the bookplate of the father of Walter Savage Landor. Written in a shaky hand of late seventeenth or early eighteenth century style – to all appearance that of an old man – it purports to be a speech addressed to William the Conqueror.
TOTAM Angliam quasi amplissimam praedam dij[udico] Ipsamque cum suis gazis velut ignem ardentem contingere [formido.] – Non video qua lege digniter praeesse valeam illorum cuneo quorum Patres charosque Parentes & amicos gladio occidistis vel exhaereditatos opprimitis exilio, vel carcere vel indebit intolerabilique servitio. – Edgarus Aldinus, aliique complures ex Lineâ Regalis Prosapiae orti secundu Leges Hebraeorum, aliarumque gentium, propinquiores sunt Haeredes Diadematis Anglici. – Non haereditario jure tantum decus tibi provenit, sed gratuita largitione Omnipotentis Dei & amicitia Edvardi Consanguinei. – Obtentum Angliae in praesentia Regis & Optimatum ejus Rapinam appellent.
Sti Guitmundi Oratio ad Gulielmum I. Anglorum Regem.
Ob. Col. 503, &c.
[I DEEM England to be wholly as it were a rich plunder and I fear to touch her with her treasure as I would a flaming fire. – I see not by what law worthily I should be able to exercise authority over a body of men whose dear fathers kinsmen and friends you have slain with the sword or, disinherited, oppress with exile or imprisonment or undeserved and unendurable slavery. – Edgar the Atheling and many others sprung from the line of the royal stock are by the laws of the Hebrews and other nations nearer heirs of the English crown – Not by hereditary right has so great a glory come to you but by the free gift of Almighty God and the friendship of Edward your cousin. – Men may call the getting of England in face of its King and nobles a robbery.]
Possibly some reader can trace the citation in the Bibl. Patrum referred to. We have found it elsewhere. In 1070 Guitmund, a Norman monk who had come to England by invitation of William the Conqueror, was offered important preferment if he would remain. Guitmund declined, writing to the King a remarkable letter setting forth in very plain terms reasons why he could not conscientiously accept. Of that long letter, as recorded by Ordericus Vitalis (see Duchesne’s Historiae Normannorum 1619, pp. 524-5; Migne’s Patrologia. vol. 188, col. 336-8) our correspondent’s curious fragment contains the pith. The word and part-word in brackets lost through the fraying of the edges of the paper are supplied from the printed sources quoted. There are some verbal variations, – Aldinus, for example, a plain error for Adelinus. The concluding sentence does not really belong to the letter, but is a statement of Ordericus that current talk, running high on the subject, had – not without approximate truth – accredited Guitmund with having told the King that his Conquest was downright robbery.”