- Richard FitzRalph: His Life, Times and Thought Edited by Michael W. Dunne and Simon Nolan, O.Carm
The title of this collection of ten essays on the Anglo-Irish Richard FitzRalph may suggest that we are being offered a new biography of the fourteenth-century bishop of Armagh. This is not an altogether helpful choice by the two editors. The [End Page 135] papers derive from a conference in November 2010 to mark the 650th anniversary of FitzRalph’s death; the organizers, here the editors, are both specialists in medieval philosophy, and it is primarily to others in similar faculties that this collection has most to offer. It should not be thought that the book in any way supersedes that by Katherine Walsh (Oxford, 1981); indeed, for many points concerning FitzRalph’s life and work, the reader must go back to that volume, even though more than thirty years have passed since it was published. A glance at the bibliography in the present work reveals that surprisingly little has been added at least directly on FitzRalph in that period.
Because the title may suggest to readers more general coverage, it may be helpful here to indicate the main interests of the contributors. The full chapters are nine in total, with a tenth short note by the first editor arguing that logical treatises formerly attributed to Richard FitzRalph should more correctly be recognized as the work of a later Armachanus, John Foxholes, who died in 1474. The main chapters are divided into three sections, the work of FitzRalph in Oxford, Avignon, and his “Reputation and Aftermath.” With the exception, however, of the first paper in the second group (by Terence Dolan on rhetoric in the Defensio curatorum), all are to some extent concerned with FitzRalph’s contribution to the medieval discussion of philosophic issues. The works primarily under discussion are the Lectura on the Sentences (chapters 1, 3, 4, and 6; and in part 7), a handful of sermons (chapter 2), and a small part of the Summa de quaestionibus Armenorum (chapter 7); the FitzRalph texts likely to be most familiar to many medievalists, the antifraternal sermons (save some aspects in chapter 8) and De pauperie Salvatoris, are hardly mentioned. Most of the texts that are here displayed have not been edited—consequently, there are long quotations, most (but regrettably not all) of which are translated; the absence of an index to the coverage of FitzRalph’s writings does not help in locating incidental references. Stephen Lahey’s chapter, “Untangling Armachanus from the Wycliffites,” is likely to have an interest for a wider range of medievalists; but even here the issue of dominion is hardly touched. Lahey is concerned to distinguish FitzRalph’s hostility to the friars in the latter part of his career from that displayed in the writings of John Wyclif and his followers. Certainly some of Wyclif’s comments, reflecting his reaction to fraternal opposition to his eucharistic views, express a hostility to all “private religion” (including that of the friars) beyond that which Armachanus displays. But detailed analysis of both men’s reasons for wishing for the curtailment of fraternal privileges, numbers, and wealth would reveal a considerable similarity. Certainly Wyclif had understood FitzRalph on the friars and on other issues better than the Spanish Dominican Francisco de Vitorio, subject of the ninth paper here, appears to have done in the early-sixteenth century. This is an enterprising, indeed in some ways provocative, collection of papers, but perhaps the moral that emerges most clearly from it is the serious need of printed modern editions of all of FitzRalph’s works. [End Page 136]