This is a biographical book. The information, which has come down to us respecting the early life of the only Englishman, who ever sat on the papal throne, is so defective and scanty, as easily to be comprised in a few paragraphs. Nicholas Breakspere was born near St. Albans, most probably about the close of the 11th century. His father was a clergyman, who became a monk in the monastery of that city, while his son was yet a boy. Owing to extreme poverty, Nicholas could not pay for his education, and was obliged to attend the school of the monks on charity. This circumstance would seem to have put his father so painfully to the blush, that he took an unnatural dislike to his son; whom he shortly compelled by his threats and reproaches to flee the neighbourhood in a state of utter destitution.