Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

the Ecclesiastical History was published at Cambridge in 1722, by professor John Smith. It is a folio volume, and includes Bede's other historical writings, along with the Anglo-Saxon version of his History by king Alfred. A more compendious edition of the Latin text was published at Oxford (Clarendon Press), in 1869, edited by Moberly; this embodies the most valuable of Smith's notes, and includes others more fully up to the present standard of historical and textual criticism. An excellent edition of the third and fourth books has also recently (1878) been published by the Cambridge University Press, with notes by professor J. E. B. Mayor and professor Lumby.

Saxon

Of scarcely less importance than Bede's History, The Angloeven for the period of which he treats, and of yet greater Chronic.e. value in that it extends to a much later period, is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which brings us down to the year 1154. The commencement of this great national work has been ascribed to king Alfred, but Dr. Guest is of opinion that though it was probably reduced to its present shape in the ninth century, yet many of its entries must have been written long before the age of Bede.' If we adopt this view, a portion of the work becomes contemporary evidence for the period of which we are now treating. It has been conjectured that the Chronicle was an annual compilation, made at one or more of the chief monasteries in the kingdom, from materials furnished by other monasteries throughout the realm. 'No other nation,' says Mr. Thorpe in the Pre

'Generally cited by Mr. Freeman under the title of the English Chronicles,' owing to his repudiation, on very good grounds, of the term 'Anglo-Saxon ' in the place of 'English.' As, however, the edition by Mr. Thorpe still retains the traditional designation, while that by Mr. Earle is designated as the Saxon Chronicles,' it has been thought better not to deviate here from established usage.

[ocr errors]

CHAP.
I.

Editions of

Bede by

Moberly,

&c.

CHAP.
I.

face to his edition, ' can produce any history, written in its own vernacular, at all approaching the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, either in antiquity, truthfulness, or extent, the historical books of the Bible alone excepted.' Mr. Freeman's observations on the work (Norman Conquest, i. 9) should be carefully noted. In addition to its value as a source of historical information, the Chronicle may also be regarded as a unique monument of the Anglo-Saxon language, inasmuch as it exhibits the modifications through which the language passed up to the period when its forms developed into what is known as Early English.

Editions of

Saxon

Chronicle by Thorpe

Of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle there are two excel. the Anglo- lent editions, that by Mr. Thorpe,' published in the Rolls Series in 1861, and that by professor Earle, puband Earle. lished in 1865. Mr. Thorpe's edition comprises the six different texts of six independent manuscripts, ending at different dates and written in different parts of the country. These are printed in parallel columns so that the student is enabled to see at a glance the various changes which occur in orthography, whether arising from locality or lapse of time. This edition is accompanied by a new translation of the work, published in a separate volume. Professor Earle's edition gives only two of the texts complete,-that known as (A) being the Parker MS. preserved in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and that known as (B) or the Laudian, which is in the Bodleian at Oxford, with occasional extracts from the rest. His edition, however, contains an elaborate preface, a large body of useful notes, and a very

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, according to the several Original Authorities. Edited and translated by Benjamin Thorpe. 2 vols. R. S. 1861.

2 Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel, with Supplementary Extracts from the others. Edited with Introduction, Notes, and a Glossarial Index, By John Earle, M.A. Oxford, 1865.

full glossarial index. While, therefore, Mr. Thorpe's edition provides the more complete apparatus for a critical study of the whole of the texts, professor Earle's supplies the larger amount of general assistance to the student.

Edited by Rev. J. Stevenson, E. H. S. 1838; included also in

M. H. B.

2 Edited by Dr. J. A. Giles, 1844. A translation of the work, along with translations of Ethelwerd's Chronicle, Asser's Life of Alfred, Gildas, Nennius, and Richard of Cirencester, forms a volume of Bohn's Antiquarian Library, 1848.

CHAP.

1.

The writer next in order is NENNIUS, of whose per- Nennius. sonal history nothing is known, and whose Historia Britonum has often been attributed to Gildas. His History, though written a century later than that of Bede, having been completed in the year 858, stops short of the period reached by the latter writer, by more than forty years. It is almost exclusively occupied with a narrative of events occurring in Wales. Nennius is deficient in judgment and extremely credulous, but he has preserved to us fragments from earlier treatises which are of considerable importance and interest.

b. 1113.

The Historia Britonum of GEOFFREY OF MON- Geoffrey of MOUTH is of still less value as an historical guide. Monmouth. Geoffrey wrote during the reign of Stephen, and taking d. 1154. Nennius as the groundwork of what is little better than a romance, passed off his production as a translation of a Breton original. Regarded, however, simply as a source of a large amount of falsification with respect to our early history, the work requires to be noticed. It is from these pages that a considerable proportion of the legendary traditions respecting Brut and king Arthur has found its way into English poetry. Buckle, in his History of Civilisation (i., 321–5), has somewhat unjustly selected the Historia Britonum as a fair sample of what passed for English history in the twelfth century; but

CHAP.

1.

Influence of his Historia.

The de Situ Britanniae.

we have satisfactory proof that it was rejected as an im pudent fiction by William of Newbury, and it is probable that his estimate of the work was that of the majority of his contemporaries. It was not until long after the twelfth century that Geoffrey of Monmouth began to be regarded as a credible historian. But with the sixteenth century it had become almost a heresy to question his authority, and Polydore Vergil, on venturing so to do found himself looked upon as one bereft of his senses 'Few historical works,' says Sir T. D. Hardy, 'have had a wider circulation than Geoffrey of Monmouth's Gesta Regum Britanniae. The alleged history of the origin of the work is seemingly a fabrication; but without entering into the question whether he did in reality translate into Latin a narrative written in the British tongue, it must be admitted that his writings had a great, perhaps an inspiring influence, not only upon the literature of his age, but upon that of succeeding centuries. . . . They became the great fountains of romance, out of which the poets of successive generations have drawn a flood of fiction that has left an indelible impress upon our medieval literature. Indeed it is hardly going beyond bounds to say that there is scarcely an European tale of chivalry, down to the sixteenth century, that is not derived, directly or indirectly, from Geoffrey of Monmouth. If he had never written, our literature would not, in all probability, have been graced by the exquisite dramas of " Lear" and "Cymbeline;" and much of the material which he has woven into his work would no doubt have perished.'1

Some mention is here required of another spurious work. For more than a hundred and twenty years, it was almost universally believed that a valuable addition to our knowledge of early Britain had been made by the 1 Hardy, D. C. i. 348-9.

ness of the

discovery and publication (in 1747) of a treatise bearing the title de Situ Britanniae. It was brought out by Dr. Charles Julius Bertram, professor of English at Copenhagen, who died in 1765 in his forty-second year. The work, as he represented, was the production of Richard of Cirencester, a monk of St. Peter's in Westminster, who died in the year 1400. Of this writer one Spuriouswork,-the Speculum Historiale de Gestis Regum Angliae, Work. -is extant, and though of little value has always been accepted as genuine; it offers, however, the strongest possible contrast to the de Situ, which was really a forgery by Bertram. Professor J. E. B. Mayor, in his edition of the Speculum for the Rolls Series, has exposed with a masterly hand the absurdity of supposing that the two works could have been the production of the same writer. The fabricator,' he says, 'ascribes a mosaic of classical citations to an author who never cites independently even the most current poets, Virgil, Lucan, Statius, and whose reading appears to have been confined to the Vulgate, to medieval theology, chronicles and hagiology, and to the charters of his monastery.' The evidence is as conclusive against the genuineness of the treatise, as against its authenticity. The de Situ is unmentioned until the year 1747; the original manuscript could never be produced; the fac-simile which Bertram pretended to have made bears no resemblance to the writing of the fourteenth century, and even on Bertram's own shewing the grounds for attributing the work to Richard of Cirencester are very insufficient. It accordingly becomes necessary to reject the details which some writers of repute, such as Gibbon (Decline and Fall, c. 31), Lingard, and Lappenberg, have derived from the de Situ, as altogether untrustworthy.'

[ocr errors]

See also Wright's Celt, Roman and Saxon, Append. pp. 466-9; and Note E to chap. i. of The Student's Hume, editions prior to 1880.

R

CHAP.

I.

« AnteriorContinua »