The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Original Introduction to Ingram's Edition 
England may boast of two substantial monuments of
its early history; to either of which it would not be easy to find a parallel in any
nation, ancient or modern. These are, the Record of Doomsday (1) and the "Saxon Chronicle"
(2). The former, which is little more than a statistical survey, but contains the most
authentic information relative to the descent of property and the comparative importance
of the different parts of the kingdom at a very interesting period, the wisdom and
liberality of the British Parliament long since deemed worthy of being printed (3)
among the Public Records, by Commissioners appointed for that purpose. The other work,
though not treated with absolute neglect, has not received that degree of attention
which every person who feels an interest in the events and transactions of former
times would naturally expect. In the first place, it has never been printed entire,
from a collation of all the MSS. But of the extent of the two former editions, compared
with the present, the reader may form some idea, when he is told that Professor Wheloc's
"Chronologia Anglo-Saxonica", which was the first attempt (4) of the kind, published at
Cambridge in 1644, is comprised in less than 62 folio pages, exclusive of the Latin
appendix. The improved edition by Edmund Gibson, afterwards Bishop of London, printed
at Oxford in 1692, exhibits nearly four times the quantity of the former; but is very
far from being the entire (5) chronicle, as the editor considered it. The text of the
present edition, it was found, could not be compressed within a shorter compass than
374 pages, though the editor has suppressed many notes and illustrations, which may be
thought necessary to the general reader. Some variations in the MSS. may also still
remain unnoticed; partly because they were considered of little importance, and partly
from an apprehension, lest the commentary, as it sometimes happens, should seem an
unwieldy burthen, rather than a necessary appendage, to the text. Indeed, till the
editor had made some progress in the work, he could not have imagined that so many
original and authentic materials of our history still remained unpublished.
To those who are unacquainted with this monument of our national antiquities,
two questions appear requisite to be answered: -- "What does it contain?" and, "By whom
was it written?" The indulgence of the critical antiquary is solicited, whilst we endeavour
to answer, in some degree, each of these questions.
To the first question we answer, that the "Saxon Chronicle" contains the
original and authentic testimony of contemporary writers to the most important transactions
of our forefathers, both by sea and land, from their first arrival in this country to the
year 1154. Were we to descend to particulars, it would require a volume to discuss the
great variety of subjects which it embraces. Suffice it to say, that every reader will
here find many interesting facts relative to our architecture, our agriculture, our coinage,
our commerce, our naval and military glory, our laws, our liberty, and our religion. In
this edition, also, will be found numerous specimens of Saxon poetry, never before printed,
which might form the ground-work of an introductory volume to Warton's elaborate annals of
English Poetry. Philosophically considered, this ancient record is the second great
phenomenon in the history of mankind. For, if we except the sacred annals of the Jews,
contained in the several books of the Old Testament, there is no other work extant,
ancient or modern, which exhibits at one view a regular and chronological panorama of
a PEOPLE, described in rapid succession by different writers, through so many ages, in
their own vernacular LANGUAGE. Hence it may safely be considered, nor only as the primaeval
source from which all subsequent historians of English affairs have principally derived
their materials, and consequently the criterion by which they are to be judged, but also
as the faithful depository of our national idiom; affording, at the same time, to the
scientific investigator of the human mind a very interesting and extraordinary example
of the changes incident to a language, as well as to a nation, in its progress from
rudeness to refinement.
But that the reader may more clearly see how much we are indebted to the
"Saxon Chronicle", it will be necessary to examine what is contained in other sources
of our history, prior to the accession of Henry II., the period wherein this invaluable
The most ancient historian of our own island, whose work has been preserved,
is Gildas, who flourished in the latter part of the sixth century. British antiquaries of
the present day will doubtless forgive me, if I leave in their original obscurity the
prophecies of Merlin, and the exploits of King Arthur, with all the Knights of the Round
Table, as scarcely coming within the verge of history. Notwithstanding, also, the authority
of Bale, and of the writers whom he follows, I cannot persuade myself to rank Joseph of
Arimathea, Arviragus, and Bonduca, or even the Emperor Constantine himself, among the
illustrious writers of Great Britain. I begin, therefore, with Gildas; because, though
he did not compile a regular history of the island, he has left us, amidst a cumbrous
mass of pompous rhapsody and querulous declamation some curious descriptions of the character
and manners of the inhabitants; not only the Britons and Saxons, but the Picts and Scots (6).
There are also some parts of his work, almost literally transcribed by Bede, which confirm
the brief statements of the "Saxon Chronicle" (7). But there is, throughout, such a want of
precision and simplicity, such a barrenness of facts amidst a multiplicity of words, such a
scantiness of names of places and persons, of dates, and other circumstances, that we are
obliged to have recourse to the Saxon Annals, or to Venerable Bede, to supply the absence
of those two great lights of history -- Chronology and Topography.
The next historian worth notice here is Nennius, who is supposed to have
flourished in the seventh century: but the work ascribed to him is so full of interpolations
and corruptions, introduced by his transcribers, and particularly by a simpleton who is
called Samuel, or his master Beulanus, or both, who appear to have lived in the ninth
century, that it is difficult to say how much of this motley production is original and
authentic. Be that as it may, the writer of the copy printed by Gale bears ample testimony
to the "Saxon Chronicle", and says expressly, that he compiled his history partly from the
records of the Scots and Saxons (8). At the end is a confused but very curious appendix,
containing that very genealogy, with some brief notices of Saxon affairs, which the
fastidiousness of Beulanus, or of his amanuensis, the aforesaid Samuel, would not allow
him to transcribe. This writer, although he professes to be the first historiographer (9)
of the Britons, has sometimes repeated the very words of Gildas (10); whose name is even
prefixed to some copies of the work. It is a puerile composition, without judgment, selection,
or method (11); filled with legendary tales of Trojan antiquity, of magical delusion, and of
the miraculous exploits of St. Germain and St. Patrick: not to mention those of the valiant
Arthur, who is said to have felled to the ground in one day, single-handed, eight hundred
and forty Saxons! It is remarkable, that this taste for the marvelous, which does not seem
to be adapted to the sober sense of Englishmen, was afterwards revived in all its glory by
Geoffrey of Monmouth in the Norman age of credulity and romance.
We come now to a more cheering prospect; and behold a steady light reflected
on the "Saxon Chronicle" by the "Ecclesiastical History" of Bede; a writer who, without
the intervention of any legendary tale, truly deserves the title of Venerable (12). With
a store of classical learning not very common in that age, and with a simplicity of
language seldom found in monastic Latinity, he has moulded into something like a regular
form the scattered fragments of Roman, British, Scottish, and Saxon history. His work,
indeed. is professedly ecclesiastical; but, when we consider the prominent station which
the Church had at this time assumed in England, we need not be surprised if we find therein
the same intermixture of civil, military, and ecclesiastical affairs, which forms so
remarkable a feature in the "Saxon Chronicle". Hence Gibson concludes, that many passages
of the latter description were derived from the work of Bede (13). He thinks the same of
the description of Britain, the notices of the Roman emperors, and the detail of the first
arrival of the Saxons. But, it may be observed, those passages to which he alludes are not
to be found in the earlier MSS. The description of Britain, which forms the introduction,
and refers us to a period antecedent to the invasion of Julius Caesar; appears only in
three copies of the "Chronicle"; two of which are of so late a date as the Norman Conquest,
and both derived from the same source. Whatever relates to the succession of the Roman
emperors was so universally known, that it must be considered as common property: and so
short was the interval between the departure of the Romans and the arrival of the Saxons,
that the latter must have preserved amongst them sufficient memorials and traditions to
connect their own history with that of their predecessors. Like all rude nations, they were
particularly attentive to genealogies; and these, together with the succession of their
kings, their battles, and their conquests, must be derived originally from the Saxons
themselves. and not from Gildas, or Nennius, or Bede (14). Gibson himself was so convinced
of this, that he afterwards attributes to the "Saxon Chronicle" all the knowledge we have
of those early times (15). Moreover, we might ask, if our whole dependence had been
centered in Bede, what would have become of us after his death? (16) Malmsbury indeed
asserts, with some degree of vanity, that you will not easily find a Latin historian of
English affairs between Bede and himself (17); and in the fulness of self-complacency
professes his determination, "to season with Roman salt the barbarisms of his native
tongue!" He affects great contempt for Ethelwerd, whose work will be considered hereafter;
and he well knew how unacceptable any praise of the "Saxon Annals" would be to the
Normans, with whom he was connected (18). He thinks it necessary to give his reasons,
on one occasion, for inserting from these very "Annals" what he did not find in Bede;
though it is obvious, that the best part of his materials, almost to his own times, is
derived from the same source.
The object of Bishop Asser, the biographer of Alfred, who comes next in
order, was to deliver to posterity a complete memorial of that sovereign, and of the
transactions of his reign. To him alone are we indebted for the detail of many interesting
circumstances in the life and character of his royal patron (19); but most of the public
transactions will be found in the pages of the "Saxon Chronicle": some passages of which
he appears to have translated so literally, that the modern version of Gibson does not
more closely represent the original. In the editions of Parker, Camden, and Wise, the last
notice of any public event refers to the year 887. The interpolated copy of Gale, called
by some Pseudo-Asserius, and by others the Chronicle of St. Neot's, is extended to the
year 914 (20). Much difference of opinion exists respecting this work; into the discussion
of which it is not our present purpose to enter. One thing is remarkable: it contains the
vision of Drihtelm, copied from Bede, and that of Charles King of the Franks, which
Malmsbury thought it worth while to repeat in his "History of the Kings of England". What
Gale observes concerning the "fidelity" with which these annals of Asser are copied by
Marianus, is easily explained. They both translated from the "Saxon Chronicle", as did
also Florence of Worcester, who interpolated Marianus; of whom we shall speak hereafter.
But the most faithful and extraordinary follower of the "Saxon Annals" is
Ethelwerd; who seems to have disregarded almost all other sources of information. One
great error, however, he committed; for which Malmsbury does nor spare him. Despairing
of the reputation of classical learning, if he had followed the simplicity of the Saxon
original, he fell into a sort of measured and inverted prose, peculiar to himself; which,
being at first sufficiently obscure, is sometimes rendered almost unintelligible by the
incorrect manner in which it has been printed. His authority, nevertheless, in an historical
point of view, is very respectable. Being one of the few writers untainted by monastic
prejudice (21), he does not travel out of his way to indulge in legendary tales and
romantic visions. Critically considered, his work is the best commentary on the "Saxon
Chronicle" to the year 977; at which period one of the MSS. which he seems to have
followed, terminates. Brevity and compression seem to have been his aim, because the
compilation was intended to be sent abroad for the instruction of a female relative of
high rank in Germany (22), at her request. But there are, nevertheless, some circumstances
recorded which are not to be found elsewhere; so that a reference to this epitome of Saxon
history will be sometimes useful in illustrating the early part of the "Chronicle"; though
Gibson, I know not on what account, has scarcely once quoted it.
During the sanguinary conflicts of the eleventh century, which ended first
in the temporary triumph of the Danes, and afterwards in the total subjugation of the
country by the Normans, literary pursuits, as might be expected, were so much neglected,
that scarcely a Latin writer is to be found: but the "Saxon Chronicle" has preserved a
regular and minute detail of occurrences, as they passed along, of which subsequent
historians were glad to avail themselves. For nearly a century after the Conquest, the
Saxon annalists appear to have been chiefly eye-witnesses of the transactions which they
relate (23). The policy of the Conqueror led him by degrees to employ Saxons as well as
Normans: and William II. found them the most faithful of his subjects: but such an influx
of foreigners naturally corrupted the ancient language; till at length, after many foreign
and domestic wars, tranquillity being restored on the accession of Henry II., literature
revived; a taste for composition increased; and the compilation of Latin histories of
English and foreign affairs, blended and diversified with the fabled romance and legendary
tale, became the ordinary path to distinction. It is remarkable, that when the "Saxon
Chronicle" ends, Geoffrey of Monmouth begins. Almost every great monastery about this
time had its historian: but some still adhered to the ancient method. Florence of
Worcester, an interpolator of Marianus, as we before observed, closely follows Bede,
Asser, and the "Saxon Chronicle" (24). The same may be observed of the annals of Gisburne,
of Margan, of Meiros, of Waverley, etc.; some of which are anonymous compilations, whilst
others have the name of an author, or rather transcriber; for very few aspired to the
character of authors or original historians. Thomas Wikes, a canon of Oseney, who
compiled a Latin chronicle of English affairs from the Conquest to the year 1304, tells
us expressly, that he did this, not because he could add much to the histories of Bede,
William of Newburgh, and Matthew Paris, but "propter minores, quibus non suppetit copia
librorum." (25) Before the invention of printing, it was necessary that numerous copies
of historical works should be transcribed, for the instruction of those who had not
access to libraries. The transcribers frequently added something of their own, and
abridged or omitted what they thought less interesting. Hence the endless variety of
interpolators and deflorators of English history. William of Malmsbury, indeed, deserves
to be selected from all his competitors for the superiority of his genius; but he is
occasionally inaccurate, and negligent of dates and other minor circumstances; insomuch
that his modern translator has corrected some mistakes, and supplied the deficiencies in
his chronology, by a reference to the "Saxon Chronicle". Henry of Huntingdon, when he is
not transcribing Bede, or translating the "Saxon Annals", may be placed on the same shelf
with Geoffrey of Monmouth.
As I have now brought the reader to the period when our "Chronicle"
terminates, I shall dismiss without much ceremony the succeeding writers, who have
partly borrowed from this source; Simon of Durham, who transcribes Florence of Worcester,
the two priors of Hexham, Gervase, Hoveden, Bromton, Stubbes, the two Matthews, of Paris
and Westminster, and many others, considering that sufficient has been said to convince
those who may not have leisure or opportunity to examine the matter themselves, that
however numerous are the Latin historians of English affairs, almost everything original
and authentic, and essentially conducive to a correct knowledge of our general history,
to the period above mentioned, may be traced to the "Saxon Annals".
It is now time to examine, who were probably the writers of these "Annals".
I say probably, because we have very little more than rational conjecture to guide us.
The period antecedent to the times of Bede, except where passages were
afterwards inserted, was perhaps little else, originally, than a kind of chronological
table of events, with a few genealogies, and notices of the death and succession of
kings and other distinguished personages. But it is evident from the preface of Bede
and from many passages in his work, that he received considerable assistance from Saxon
bishops, abbots, and others; who not only communicated certain traditionary facts "viva
voce", but also transmitted to him many written documents. These, therefore, must have
been the early chronicles of Wessex, of Kent, and of the other provinces of the
Heptarchy; which formed together the ground-work of his history. With greater honesty
than most of his followers, he has given us the names of those learned persons who
assisted him with this local information. The first is Alcuinus or Albinus, an abbot
of Canterbury, at whose instigation he undertook the work; who sent by Nothelm,
afterwards archbishop of that province, a full account of all ecclesiastical transactions
in Kent, and in the contiguous districts, from the first conversion of the Saxons. From
the same source he partly derived his information respecting the provinces of Essex,
Wessex, East Anglia, and Northumbria. Bishop Daniel communicated to him by letter many
particulars concerning Wessex, Sussex, and the Isle of Wight. He acknowledges assistance
more than once "ex scriptis priorum"; and there is every reason to believe that some of
these preceding records were the "Anglo-Saxon Annals"; for we have already seen that
such records were in existence before the age of Nennius. In proof of this we may observe,
that even the phraseology sometimes partakes more of the Saxon idiom than the Latin. If,
therefore, it be admitted, as there is every reason to conclude from the foregoing
remarks, that certain succinct and chronological arrangements of historical facts had
taken place in several provinces of the Heptarchy before the time of Bede, let us
inquire by whom they were likely to have been made.
In the province of Kent, the first person on record, who is celebrated
for his learning, is Tobias, the ninth bishop of Rochester, who succeeded to that
see in 693. He is noticed by Bede as not only furnished with an ample store of Greek
and Latin literature, but skilled also in the Saxon language and erudition (26). It
is probable, therefore, that he left some proofs of this attention to his native
language and as he died within a few years of Bede, the latter would naturally avail
himself of his labours. It is worthy also of remark, that Bertwald, who succeeded to
the illustrious Theodore of Tarsus in 690, was the first English or Saxon archbishop
of Canterbury. From this period, consequently, we may date that cultivation of the
vernacular tongue which would lead to the composition of brief chronicles (27), and
other vehicles of instruction, necessary for the improvement of a rude and illiterate
people. The first chronicles were, perhaps, those of Kent or Wessex; which seem to
have been regularly continued, at intervals. by the archbishops of Canterbury, or by
their direction (28), at least as far as the year 1001, or by even 1070; for the Benet
MS., which some call the Plegmund MS., ends in the latter year; the rest being in Latin.
From internal evidence indeed, of an indirect nature, there is great reason to presume,
that Archbishop Plegmund transcribed or superintended this very copy of the "Saxon
Annals" to the year 891 (29); the year in which he came to the see; inserting, both
before and after this date, to the time of his death in 923, such additional materials
as he was well qualified to furnish from his high station and learning, and the
confidential intercourse which he enjoyed in the court of King Alfred. The total
omission of his own name, except by another hand, affords indirect evidence of some
importance in support of this conjecture. Whether King Alfred himself was the author
of a distinct and separate chronicle of Wessex, cannot now be determined. That he
furnished additional supplies of historical matter to the older chronicles is, I
conceive, sufficiently obvious to every reader who will take the trouble of examining
the subject. The argument of Dr. Beeke, the present Dean of Bristol, in an obliging
letter to the editor on this subject, is not without its force; -- that it is extremely
improbable, when we consider the number and variety of King Alfred's works, that he
should have neglected the history, of his own country. Besides a genealogy of the
kings of Wessex from Cerdic to his own time, which seems never to have been incorporated
with any MS. Of the "Saxon Chronicle", though prefixed or annexed to several, he
undoubtedly preserved many traditionary facts; with a full and circumstantial detail
of his own operations, as well as those of his father, brother, and other members of
his family; which scarcely any other person than himself could have supplied. To doubt
this would be as incredulous a thing as to deny that Xenophon wrote his "Anabasis", or
Caesar his "Commentaries". From the time of Alfred and Plegmund to a few years after
the Norman Conquest, these chronicles seem to have been continued by different hands,
under the auspices of such men as Archbishops Dunstan, Aelfric, and others, whose
characters have been much misrepresented by ignorance and scepticism on the one hand;
as well as by mistaken zeal and devotion on the other. The indirect evidence respecting
Dunstan and Aelfric is as curious as that concerning Plegmund; but the discussion of it
would lead us into a wide and barren field of investigation; nor is this the place to
refute the errors of Hickes, Cave, and Wharton, already noticed by Wanley in his preface.
The chronicles of Abingdon, of Worcester, of Peterborough, and others, are continued in
the same manner by different hands; partly, though not exclusively, by monks of those
monasteries, who very naturally inserted many particulars relating to their own local
interests and concerns; which, so far from invalidating the general history, render it
more interesting and valuable. It would be a vain and frivolous attempt ascribe these
latter compilations to particular persons (31), where there were evidently so many
contributors; but that they were successively furnished by contemporary writers, many
of whom were eye-witnesses of the events and transactions which they relate, there is
abundance of internal evidence to convince us. Many instances of this the editor had
taken some pains to collect, in order to lay them before the reader in the preface;
but they are so numerous that the subject would necessarily become tedious; and
therefore every reader must be left to find them for himself. They will amply repay
him for his trouble, if he takes any interest in the early history of England, or in
the general construction of authentic history of any kind. He will see plagarisms
without end in the Latin histories, and will be in no danger of falling into the
errors of Gale and others; not to mention those of our historians who were not
professed antiquaries, who mistook that for original and authentic testimony which
was only translated. It is remarkable that the "Saxon Chronicle" gradually expires
with the Saxon language, almost melted into modern English, in the year 1154. From
this period almost to the Reformation, whatever knowledge we have of the affairs of
England has been originally derived either from the semi-barbarous Latin of our own
countrymen, or from the French chronicles of Froissart and others.
The revival of good taste and of good sense, and of the good old custom
adopted by most nations of the civilised world -- that of writing their own history
in their own language -- was happily exemplified at length in the laborious works of
our English chroniclers and historians.
Many have since followed in the same track; and the importance of the
whole body of English History has attracted and employed the imagination of Milton,
the philosophy of Hume, the simplicity of Goldsmith, the industry of Henry, the research
of Turner, and the patience of Lingard. The pages of these writers, however, accurate
and luminous as they generally are, as well as those of Brady, Tyrrell, Carte, Rapin,
and others, not to mention those in black letter, still require correction from the
"Saxon Chronicle"; without which no person, however learned, can possess anything
beyond a superficial acquaintance with the elements of English History, and of the
Some remarks may here be requisite on the CHRONOLOGY of the "Saxon
Chronicle". In the early part of it (32) the reader will observe a reference to the
grand epoch of the creation of the world. So also in Ethelwerd, who closely follows
the "Saxon Annals". It is allowed by all, that considerable difficulty has occurred
in fixing the true epoch of Christ's nativity (33), because the Christian aera was
not used at all till about the year 532 (34), when it was introduced by Dionysius
Exiguus; whose code of canon law, joined afterwards with the decretals of the popes,
became as much the standard of authority in ecclesiastical matters as the pandects of
Justinian among civilians. But it does not appear that in the Saxon mode of computation
this system of chronology was implicitly followed. We mention this circumstance,
however, not with a view of settling the point of difference, which would not be easy,
but merely to account for those variations observable in different MSS.; which arose,
not only from the common mistakes or inadvertencies of transcribers, but from the
liberty which the original writers themselves sometimes assumed in this country, of
computing the current year according to their own ephemeral or local custom. Some
began with the Incarnation or Nativity of Christ; some with the Circumcision, which
accords with the solar year of the Romans as now restored; whilst others commenced
with the Annunciation; a custom which became very prevalent in honour of the Virgin
Mary, and was not formally abolished here till the year 1752; when the Gregorian
calendar, commonly called the New Style, was substituted by Act of Parliament for
the Dionysian. This diversity of computation would alone occasion some confusion;
but in addition to this, the INDICTION, or cycle of fifteen years, which is mentioned
in the latter part of the "Saxon Chronicle", was carried back three years before the
vulgar aera, and commenced in different places at four different periods of the year!
But it is very remarkable that, whatever was the commencement of the year in the early
part of the "Saxon Chronicle", in the latter part the year invariably opens with
Midwinter-day or the Nativity. Gervase of Canterbury, whose Latin chronicle ends
in 1199, the aera of "legal" memory, had formed a design, as he tells us, of
regulating his chronology by the Annunciation; but from an honest fear of falsifying
dates he abandoned his first intention, and acquiesced in the practice of his
predecessors; who for the most part, he says, began the new year with the Nativity (35).
Having said thus much in illustration of the work itself, we must
necessarily be brief in our account of the present edition. It was contemplated
many years since, amidst a constant succession of other occupations; but nothing
was then projected beyond a reprint of Gibson, substituting an English translation
for the Latin. The indulgence of the Saxon scholar is therefore requested, if we
have in the early part of the chronicle too faithfully followed the received text.
By some readers no apology of this kind will be deemed necessary; but something may
be expected in extenuation of the delay which has retarded the publication. The
causes of that delay must be chiefly sought in the nature of the work itself. New
types were to be cast; compositors to be instructed in a department entirely new to
them; manuscripts to be compared, collated, transcribed; the text to be revised
throughout; various readings of great intricacy to be carefully presented, with
considerable additions from unpublished sources; for, however unimportant some
may at first sight appear, the most trivial may be of use. With such and other
difficulties before him, the editor has, nevertheless, been blessed with health
and leisure sufficient to overcome them; and he may now say with Gervase the monk
at the end of his first chronicle,
"Finito libro reddatur gratia Christo." (36)
Of the translation it is enough to observe, that it is made as literal
as possible, with a view of rendering the original easy to those who are at present
unacquainted with the Saxon language. By this method also the connection between the
ancient and modern language will be more obvious. The same method has been adopted in
an unpublished translation of Gibson's "Chronicle" by the late Mr. Cough, now in the
Bodleian Library. But the honour of having printed the first literal version of the
"Saxon Annals" was reserved for a learned LADY, the Elstob of her age (37); whose
Work was finished in the year 1819. These translations, however, do not interfere
with that in the present edition; because they contain nothing but what is found in
the printed texts, and are neither accompanied with the original, nor with any
collation of MSS.
- Whatever was the origin of this title, by which it is now distinguished, in an appendix to the work itself it is called "Liber de Wintonia," or "The Winchester-Book," from its first place of custody.
- This title is retained, in compliance with custom, though it is a collection of chronicles, rather than one uniform work, as the received appellation seems to imply.
- In two volumes folio, with the following title: "Domesday-Book, seu Liber Censualis Willelmi Primi Regis Angliae, inter Archlyos Regni in Domo Capitulari Westmonasterii asservatus: jubente rege augustissimo Georgio Tertio praelo mandatus typis MDCCLXXXIII"
- Gerard Langbaine had projected such a work, and had made considerable progress in the collation of MSS., when he found himself anticipated by Wheloc.
- "Nunc primum integrum edidit" is Gibson's expression in the title-page. He considers Wheloc's MSS. as fragments, rather than entire chronicles: "quod integrum nacti jam discimus." These MSS., however, were of the first authority, and not less entire, as far as they went, than his own favourite "Laud". But the candid critic will make allowance for the zeal of a young Bachelor of Queen's, who, it must be remembered, had scarcely attained the age of twenty-three when this extraordinary work was produced.
- The reader is forcibly reminded of the national dress of the Highlanders in the following singular passage: "furciferos magis vultus pilis, quam corporum pudenda, pudendisque proxima, vestibus tegentes."
- See particularly capp. xxiii. and xxvi. The work which follows, called the "Epistle of Gildas", is little more than a cento of quotations from the Old and New Testament.
- "De historiis Scotorum Saxonumque, licet inimicorum," etc. "Hist. Brit. ap." Gale, XV. Script. p. 93. See also p. 94 of the same work; where the writer notices the absence of all written memorials among the Britons, and attributes it to the frequent recurrence of war and pestilence. A new edition has been prepared from a Vatican MS. with a translation and notes by the Rev. W. Gunn, and published by J. and A. Arch.
- "Malo me historiographum quam neminem," etc.
- He considered his work, perhaps, as a lamentation of declamation, rather than a history. But Bede dignifies him with the title of "historicus," though he writes "fiebili sermone."
- But it is probable that the work is come down to us in a garbled and imperfect state.
- There is an absurd story of a monk, who in vain attempting to write his epitaph, fell asleep, leaving it thus: "Hac sunt in fossa Bedae. ossa:" but, when he awoke, to his great surprise and satisfaction he found the long-sought epithet supplied by an angelic hand, the whole line standing thus: "Hac sunt in fossa Bedae venerabilis ossa."
- See the preface to his edition of the "Saxon Chronicle".
- This will be proved more fully when we come to speak of the writers of the "Saxon Chronicle".
- Preface, "ubi supra".
- He died A.D. 734, according to our chronicle; but some place his death to the following year.
- This circumstance alone proves the value of the "Saxon Chronicle". In the "Edinburgh Chronicle" of St. Cross, printed by H. Wharton, there is a chasm from the death of Bede to the year 1065; a period of 330 years.
- The cold and reluctant manner in which he mentions the "Saxon Annals", to which he was so much indebted, can only be ascribed to this cause in him, as well as in the other Latin historians. See his prologue to the first book, "De Gestis Regum," etc.
- If there are additional anecdotes in the Chronicle of St. Neot's, which is supposed to have been so called by Leland because he found the MS. there, it must be remembered that this work is considered an interpolated Asser.
- The death of Asser himself is recorded in the year 909; but this is no more a proof that the whole work is spurious, than the character and burial of Moses, described in the latter part of the book of "Deuteronomy", would go to prove that the Pentateuch was not written by him. See Bishop Watson's "Apology for the Bible".
- Malmsbury calls him "noble and magnificent," with reference to his rank; for he was descended from King Alfred: but he forgets his peculiar praise -- that of being the only Latin historian for two centuries; though, like Xenophon, Caesar, and Alfred, he wielded the sword as much as the pen.
- This was no less a personage than Matilda, the daughter of Otho the Great, Emperor of Germany, by his first Empress Eadgitha or Editha; who is mentioned in the "Saxon Chronicle", A.D. 925, though not by name, as given to Otho by her brother, King Athelstan. Ethelwerd adds, in his epistle to Matilda, that Athelstan sent two sisters, in order that the emperor might take his choice; and that he preferred the mother of Matilda.
- See particularly the character of William I. p. 294, written by one who was in his court. The compiler of the "Waverley Annals" we find literally translating it more than a century afterwards: -- "nos dicemus, qui eum vidimus, et in curia ejus aliquando fuimus," etc. -- Gale, ii. 134.
- His work, which is very faithfully and diligently compiled, ends in the year 1117; but it is continued by another hand to the imprisonment of King Stephen.
- "Chron. ap." Gale, ii. 21.
- "Virum Latina, Graec, et Saxonica lingua atque eruditione multipliciter instructum." -- Bede, "Ecclesiastical History", v. 8. "Chron. S. Crucis Edinb. ap.", Wharton, i. 157.
- The materials, however, though not regularly arranged, must be traced to a much higher source.
- Josselyn collated two Kentish MSS. of the first authority; one of which he calls the History or Chronicle of St. Augustine's, the other that of Christ Church, Canterbury. The former was perhaps the one marked in our series "C.T."A VI.; the latter the Benet or Plegmund MS.
- Wanley observes, that the Benet MS. is written in one and the same hand to this year, and in hands equally ancient to the year 924; after which it is continued in different hands to the end. Vid. "Cat." p. 130.
- Florence of Worcester, in ascertaining the succession of the kings of Wessex, refers expressly to the "Dicta Aelfredi". Ethelwerd had before acknowledged that he reported many things -- "sicut docuere parentes;" and then he immediately adds, "Scilicet Aelfred rex Athulfi regis filius; ex quo nos originem trahimus." Vid. Prol.
- Hickes supposed the Laud or Peterborough Chronicle to have been compiled by Hugo Candidus (Albus, or White), or some other monk of that house.
- See A.D. xxxiii., the aera of Christ's crucifixion, p. 23, and the notes below.
- See Playfair's "System of Chronology", p. 49.
- Playfair says 527: but I follow Bede, Florence of Worcester, and others, who affirm that the great paschal cycle of Dionysius commenced from the year of our Lord's incarnation 532 -- the year in which the code of Justinian was promulgated. "Vid. Flor. an." 532, 1064, and 1073. See also M. West. "an." 532.
- "Vid. Prol. in Chron." Bervas. "ap. X." Script. p. 1338.
- Often did the editor, during the progress of the work, sympathise with the printer; who, in answer to his urgent importunities to hasten the work, replied once in the classical language of Manutius: "Precor, ut occupationibus meis ignoscas; premor enim oneribus, et typographiae cura, ut vix sustineam." Who could be angry after this?
- Miss Gurney, of Keswick, Norfolk. The work, however, was not