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Epistle LIV.

To Desiderius, Bishop of Gaul165165    Desiderius was bishop of Vienne, cf. VI. 54.  This letter, with others that follow (Epp. LV., LVI., LVII., LVIII, LIX., LX., LXI., LXII., LXIV., LXV., LXVI., and possibly also the preceding Epistle, XXIX.) were carried, as appears from its conclusion, by Mellitus and his companions, who, in answer to Augustine’s request, were sent by Gregory from Rome to reinforce the mission to Britain (Bede, H. E. I. 27, 29).  See Prolegomena, p. xxvi.  It is notable as shewing Gregory’s views with regard to the study of secular literature..

Gregory to Desiderius, &c.

Many good things having been reported to us with regard to your pursuits, such joy arose in our heart that we could not bear to refuse what your Fraternity had requested to have granted to you.  But it afterwards came to our ears, what we cannot mention without shame, that thy Fraternity is in the habit of expounding grammar to certain persons.  This thing we took so much amiss, and so strongly disapproved it, that we changed what had been said before into groaning and sadness, since the praises of Christ cannot find room in one mouth with the praises of Jupiter.  And consider thyself what a grave and heinous offence it is for bishops to sing what is not becoming even for a religious layman.  And, though our most beloved son Candidus the presbyter, having been, when he came to us, strictly examined on this matter, denied it, and endeavoured to excuse you, yet still the thought has not departed from our mind, that in proportion as it is execrable for such a thing to be related of a priest, it ought to be ascertained by strict and veracious evidence whether or not it be so.  Whence, if hereafter what has been reported to us should prove evidently to be false, and it should be clear that you do not apply yourself to trifles and secular literature, we shall give thanks to our God, who has not permitted your heart to be stained with the blasphemous praises of the 70abominable; and we will treat without misgiving or hesitation concerning the granting of what you request.

We commend to you in all respects the monks whom together with our most beloved son Laurentius the presbyter and Mellitus the abbot we have sent to our most reverend brother and fellow-bishop Augustine, that, through the succour of your Fraternity, no delay may stop their onward progress.


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