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Finding Consolation at the End of the Millennium


Drawing a connection between a fire (at Fleury in 974), a letter (from Lantfred of Fleury to Dunstan of Canterbury), a poem (Carmen de libero arbitrio), and a manuscript (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS lat. 6401), this essay reconstructs two potential trajectories of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, as it crossed and re-crossed the Channel between Winchester, Fleury, and Ramsey in the decades on either side of the year 1000. The study of the early medieval English reception of Boethius’s Consolation usually centers on its translation into Old English at the beginning of the tenth century. By turning instead to the end of the century and to the beginning of the next, this essay demonstrates the resiliency of Boethius’s dialectical original—and claims another, more diffuse Boethian tradition for early medieval England. In short, Boethius’s Consolation may have arrived in England from the Continent ca. 900, but it did not stop moving—its travels demonstrating not only the interconnectivity of late tenth-century monastic centers in England and on the Continent but also the enduring importance of Boethius’s Latin text in the century after it was first translated into English, highlighting figures such as Lantfred and Abbo of Fleury, Æthelwold of Winchester, and Byrhtferth of Ramsey.

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