Asser's The Life Of King Alfred
This work is ascribed, on its own internal
authority, to Asser, who is said to have been Bishop of St. David's, of
Sherborne or of Exeter, in the time of king Alfred. Though most of the public
events recorded in this book are to be found in the Saxon Chronicle, yet for
many interesting circumstances in the life of our great Saxon king we are
indebted to this biography alone. But, as if no part of history is ever to be
free from suspicion, or from difficulty, a doubt has been raised concerning the
authenticity of this work. (1) There is also another short treatise called the
Annals of Asser, or the Chronicle of St. Neot, different from the present: it is
published in vol. iii. of Gale and Fell's "Collection of Historians".
And it has been suspected by a living writer that both of these works are to be
looked upon as compilations of a later date, the arguments upon which this
opinion is founded are drawn principally from the abrupt and incoherent
character of the work before us. But we have neither time nor space to enter
further into this question. As the work has been edited by Petrie, so has it
been here translated, and the reader, taking it upon its own merits, will find
therein much of interest about our glorious king, concerning whom he will lament
with me that all we know is so little, so unsatisfying.
--- J.A. Giles
(1) See Wright's "Biographia Literaria
Anglo-Saxonica", p. 405. Dr. Lingard, however, in his recent work on the
"History and Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church", vol. ii. pp.
424-428, has replied to Mr. Wright's objections, and vindicated the authenticity
of Asser's "Life".