As the latest in a long line of St. Anselm's biographers, I am privileged here to address the comments of my most distinguished predecessor, Sir Richard Southern. Perhaps the greatest compliment one's work can receive is a rigorous and thorough examination of its premises, evidence, and argument; Southern has graciously rendered that favor to my Anselm of Bec and Robert of Meulan. I am grateful to both Sir Richard and to Albion for this opportunity to reply.
No one could dispute Southern's summation of the difficulty involved in assessing the richness and variety of Anselm's activities and achievements, nor indeed the fullness of the surviving materials and yet their tantalizing silences toward some of our most pressing questions. Indeed, fifteen years would hardly be enough time to work through them, were it not for the labors of many others, including Southern, upon which my arguments often depend. What seems remarkable to me, and apparently to Sir Richard as well, is that he and I can derive such different conclusions from virtually the same evidence. Southern views Anselm as “essentially a monastic contemplative man, with his eyes wholly directed towards God, and with his energies mainly absorbed in the task of calling others to the monastic life,” while I have argued for Anselm's political awareness, his conviction (at some point prior to his archiepiscopal consecration) that God had destined him for Canterbury, and his sense that as God's steward of the mother church of Britain, he must take effective action in the world of high politics to safeguard Canterbury's lands, privileges, and primatial rights. And I have argued that he did so skillfully and successfully. These two views seem almost mutually exclusive.