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LETTER XXXIV (circa A.D. 1130)

Hildebert, Archbishop of Tours, to the Abbot Bernard. 5555    In not a few MSS. this Letter, with the answer following, is placed after Letter 127, and in some even after Letter 252. Hildebert, the author of this Letter, ruled the Church of Mans (1098-1125), whence, on the death of Gilbert, he was translated to the Metropolitan See of Tours. This is clear, first from Ordericus Vitalis, Bk. x., sub ann., 1198, and next from the Acts of the Bishops of Mans, published in the third volume of Analecta, where Guido, his successor in the See of Mans, is said to have been consecrated, after long strife, in 1126. Hildebert only ruled in Tours six years and as many months. So say the Acts just mentioned. With them agrees a dissertation by Duchesne, and John Maan’s History of the Metropolitan See of Tours, and so also Ordericus Vitalis on the year 1125 (p. 882), where he assigns to Hildebert an Archiepiscopate of about seven years. Hildebert, then, did not reach the year 1136, as Gallia Christiana says, but died in 1132, in which year John Maan places his death. Horst, in the note to this Letter, refers to another Letter of Hildebert (the 24th), which he thinks was also written to Bernard. But this Letter, which in all the editions appears without the name of the person to whom it was addressed, is entitled in two MSS. “To H., Abbot of Cluny,” which we have followed. From this Letter we understand that Hildebert had it in mind to retire to Cluny, if the Supreme Pontiff would allow him. Peter of Blois praises his Letters. (Ep. 101)

1. Few, I believe, are ignorant that balsam is known by its scent, and the tree by its fruit. So, dearly beloved brother, there has reached even to me the report of you—how you are steadfast in holiness, and sound in doctrine. For though I am 132far separated from you by distance of place, yet the report has come even to me. What pleasant nights you spend with your Rachel; how abundant an offspring is born to you of Leah; how you show yourself wholly a follower of virtue, and an enemy of the flesh. Whoever speaks to me of you has this one tale to tell. Such is the perfume of your name, like that of balm, poured out; such are already the rewards of your merit. These are the ears that you are gathering from your field before the last great harvest. For in this life some reward of virtue is to be found in the notable and undying tribute paid to it. This it wins unaided, and keeps unaided. Its renown is not diminished by envy, nor increased by the favour of men. As the esteem of good men cannot be taken away by false accusations, so it cannot be won by the attentions of flattery. It rests with the individual himself either to advance that esteem by fruitfulness in virtue, or to detract from it by deficiency. The whole Church, I am quite sure, hopes that your renown will be for ever sustained, since it is believed to be founded upon a strong rock.

2. As for me, having heard this report of you everywhere, with desire I have desired to be received into the inmost shrine of your friendship, and to be 133held in remembrance in your prayers when stealing yourself from converse with mortals you speak on behalf of mortals to the King of Angels. Now, this my desire was much increased by Gébuin, Archdeacon of Troyes, a man eminent as well for his piety as for his learning. I should have thought it my duty to commend him to you, if I were not sure that those whom you deem worthy of your favour need no further commendation. I wish, however, that you should know that it was through his information I learnt that you are in the Church, one who art fit to be a teacher of virtue, both by precept and example. But not to burden you with too long a letter, I bring my writing to an end, though end the above petition I will not until I have the happiness to obtain what I have asked. I beg you to tell me by a letter in reply how you are disposed with regard to it.

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