MoboReader> Literature > Anglo-Saxon Literature

   Chapter 2 THE MATERIALS.

Anglo-Saxon Literature By John Earle Characters: 47064

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The material of an early Literature is, above all, to be sought in written Books and documents. But, besides these, there are other available sources, which may be called in one word the Antiquities of the nation; and these are of great value as illustrations, that is to say, though the information they severally give may be uncertain and inexplicit, yet when they are put side by side with the literature, they greatly increase its informing power, and often draw, in return, a flow of light upon themselves. Accordingly the present chapter will fall into two parts: 1, of writings; 2, of subsidiary sources.

I.

There is a famous book that remains in the place where it was deposited in the Saxon period. Leofric, who was the tenth bishop of Crediton, and the first of Exeter, gave to his new cathedral about sixty books, and the list of these books is extant in contemporary writing. One of them is thus described:-"I. mycel englisc boc be gehwilcum thingum on leoth wisan geworht." = One large English book about various things in lay (song) wise wrought-that is to say, a large volume of miscellaneous poetry in English. This is the valuable, or rather, invaluable, Exeter Song Book, often quoted as "Codex Exoniensis." It is still where Leofric placed it in or about 1050, and it is in the keeping of his cathedral chapter. The others are dispersed; but many of them are still well known, as the "Leofric Missal," in the Bodleian; and others are at Cambridge.

The general break-up of monastic institutions between 1530 and 1540 caused the dispersion of many old libraries, whose forgotten treasures were thus restored to air and light. No doubt many valuable books and records were irrecoverably lost; as it is reasonable to suppose that among the parchments then cast upon the world, there existed material for a continuous and complete history of Anglo-Saxon times. This reflection may make us the more sensible of our penury, but it will not diminish the praise of those who saved something from the wreck.

Matthew Parker, the twentieth archbishop of Canterbury, 1559-1576, has been called a mighty collector of books. He gave commissions for searching after books in England and Wales, and presented the choicest of his miscellaneous collections to his own college at Cambridge, namely, Benet College (now Corpus Christi), where it still rests. In this library are some unique books, such as the oldest Saxon chronicle, which has been thought nearly as old as King Alfred's time. There is also a fine vellum of the laws of King Alfred, with the elder laws of King Ine attached in manner of appendix.

But the most famous book of this great collection is an illuminated manuscript of the Gospels in Latin (No. 286), which Wanley thought to be probably one of the very books that were sent to Augustine by Gregory. Professor Westwood says that the drawings in this manuscript are the most ancient monuments of Roman pictorial art existing in this country, and he further proceeds to say that, excepting a fourth-century manuscript at Vienna, these are the oldest instances of Roman-Christian iconography of which he can find any notice.11

Parker had singular opportunities, by the time in which he lived, by the advantages of his high office and personal character, by his power to command the services of other men, and by their general willingness to serve him. There were three distinguished searchers after books who were of the greatest use to him, viz., Bale, Joscelin, Leland.

John Bale, the antiquary, had been a White Friar in Norwich, then, changing his party, he became bishop of Ossory, but lived at length on a prebend he had in the church of Canterbury, where he followed his studies. Bale, in his preface to Leland's "New Year's Gift,"12 says that those who purchased the monasteries reserved the books, some to scour their candlesticks, some to rub their boots, some they sold to the grocers and soap-sellers, and some they sent over sea to the book-binders,13 not in small numbers, but at times whole ships full, to the wondering of foreign nations.

John Leland had a commission under Henry VIII. to travel and collect books; his Itinerary is a chief book for English topography. Of Joscelin we shall have occasion to speak below.

With all his advantages, however, Parker was weighted with the care of the churches, at a time, too, when that care was unusually heavy; and to this, as in duty bound, he gave his first thought. Though his example could not be exceeded, his collections were surpassed, and that by a gleaner who came after him. Of all book collectors the greatest was Robert Bruce Cotton, the founder of the Cottonian Library. He was born at Denton, in Huntingdonshire, and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. Cotton's antiquarian tastes declared themselves early; the formation of a library and museum was his life-long pursuit. Not that his interests were all confined to this. He wrote on the revenue, warned King James against the strained exaction of tonnage and poundage, especially in time of peace; and he counselled the creation of an order of baronets, each to pay the Crown £1,000 for the honour. In this way he became a baronet himself in 1611, having been knighted at the king's accession. Under Charles I. he was molested for his opinions, because he dared to disapprove of government without parliaments; and he was touched in his most sensitive part when his own library was sealed against him. He died 6th May, 1631, and was buried in Conington Church, where his monument may still be seen.

His library was further enlarged by his son, Sir Thomas Cotton; and it was sold to the nation by Sir John Cotton, the fourth baronet, in 1700. It was lodged in Ashburnham House, in 1731, when a disastrous fire consumed or damaged many valuable books.14 Annexed by statute to the British Museum in 1753, it was moved thither in 1757.

Among the books that suffered without being destroyed by the fire of 1731, is the unique copy of the Beowulf.15 One of the Saxon chronicles was almost consumed; only two or three leaves of it are now extant. But, happily, this particular chronicle had been printed by Wheloc, without curtailment or admixture, and so it was the one that could best be spared. This library also contains the Abingdon and Worcester chronicles, and, indeed, all the known Saxon chronicles except two. This collection is the richest in original Anglo-Saxon deeds and abbey registers.

Among the Cottonian treasures (Vespasian A.I.) is a glossed psalter, which was edited by Mr. Stevenson for the Surtees Society, in two vols., 1843-7, as containing a Northumbrian gloss, which is now, however, supposed to be Kentish.16 A facsimile of this manuscript by the Pal?ographical Society, part ii., 18, has a description, from which the following is taken:-"Written about A.D. 700, the gloss at the end of the ninth, or beginning of the tenth, and the later additions in the eleventh century. It formerly belonged to the Monastery of St. Augustine of Canterbury, and corresponds with Thomas of Elmham's description of one of the two psalters stated to have been acquired from Augustine; though the character of the ornamentation clearly shows that it is of English origin." It is sometimes called the Surtees Psalter; Professor Westwood calls it "The Psalter of St. Augustine."

The book which, to the eye of the artist and pal?ographer, forms the glory of the Cottonian Library, is that which is marked, Nero D. iv., and is commonly called the Lindisfarne Gospels. Other names which it has borne, are:-The Durham Book, because it was long preserved in Durham Cathedral, and the Gospels of St. Cuthbert, as having been written in honour of that saint. It is the most elaborately-ornamented of all Anglo-Saxon manuscripts; it is quite entire, and tells its own origin and date. Two entries enable us to fix the date of the original Latin book about 710; the interlinear Saxon gloss may be of the ninth century.

Locally connected with the Cottonian is the Harleian collection which was formed by Robert Harley (1661-1724), Earl of Oxford; and it was purchased for the British Museum in 1753. It contains, without name of author (Harl. 3,859) the most ancient manuscript (tenth century) of that "History of the Britons" which now bears the name of Nennius; a few originals or good early copies of Saxon charters; some abbey registers, and some Early-English poetry, especially a manuscript of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" (Harley, 7,334), which some have thought to be the oldest and best.

A name second only to Cotton is that of Archbishop Laud. He was a collector of old and rare books in many languages, and we are indebted to his care for some of the most valuable monuments of the mother-tongue. He was president of St. John's College, Oxford, and he had been educated there. Some valuable books he gave to his college, but his larger donations were to the library of his university, of which he became vice-chancellor in 1630. These books rest in the Bodleian Library.

THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY

dates from the year 1598; and here we have an admirable guide in the "Annals of the Bodleian Library," by Rev. W. D. Macray, whose annalistic order we will follow.

1601.-The Library bought the copy of the Anglo-Saxon Gospels, from which John Foxe had printed the edition of 1571.17 It is marked Bod. 441.

1603.-Some manuscripts were given by Sir Robert Cotton, and one of them (Auct. D., ii. 14:-Bod. 857) is an ancient volume of Latin Gospels, written probably in the sixth century, which shares with the illuminated Benet Gospels described above, the traditional reputation of being one of the books that were sent by Gregory to Augustine. It has no miniatures, but it has rubrication, and it is in a similar style of writing with that splendid volume. Thomas Elmham, who was a monk of St. Augustine's at Canterbury, and wrote a history of his monastery, about A.D. 1414, gives a list of the books of his house; and there are two entries of "Textus Evangeliorum," each being particularly described. Humphrey Wanley (p. 172) identified our two books as those known to Elmham; and Westwood pronounces them to be two of the oldest Latin manuscripts written in pure Roman uncials that exist in this country.

1635-1640.-In these years Archbishop Laud gave nearly 1,300 manuscripts, among which there is one (E. 2) that enjoys pre-eminently the title of "Codex Laudianus." This is a famous manuscript of the Acts of the Apostles, which has been variously dated from the sixth to the eighth century. It is the only known manuscript that exhibits certain irregular readings, seventy-four in number, which Bede, in his "Retractations on the Acts," quoted from his copy. Wetstein surmised that this was the very book before Bede when he wrote his "Retractations."18 At the end is a Latin Creed, written in the same uncial character, though not by the same hand, and Dr. Heurtley says it is one of the earliest, if not the very earliest, of what he calls the "Manuscript Creeds." He has given a facsimile of it.19

Another of these was the Peterborough chronicle (No. 636), a celebrated manuscript, containing the most extensive of all the Saxon chronicles.

1675.-Christopher, Lord Hatton, gave four volumes of Saxon Homilies, written shortly after the Conquest. These are now among the Junian MSS. (Nos. 22, 23, 24, 99), simply because Junius had them on loan. Being among his books at the time of his death, they came back to the Bodleian, as if part of the Junian bequest. This explains why Hatton manuscripts, which contain sermons of ?lfric and of Wulfstan, bear the signatures Jun. 22 and Jun. 99.

Other Hatton manuscripts, and very precious ones, have retained the name of their donor, as-

Hatton 20.-King Alfred's Translation of Gregory's "Pastoral Care," of which the king purposed to send a copy to each cathedral church, and this is the copy sent by the king to Werfrith, bishop of Worcester.

Hatton 76.-Translation by Werfrith, bishop of Worcester, of Gregory's "Dialogues," with King Alfred's Preface (in Wanley this is Hatton 100).

Hatton 65.-The Gospels in Saxon, written about the time of Henry II.

1678.-Franciscus Junius died at Windsor. He was born at Heidelberg, in 1589, and his vernacular name was Francis Dujon. He lived much in England, as librarian to Howard, Earl of Arundel. He bequeathed to the Bodleian his Anglo-Saxon and Northern collections. Among these is a beautiful Latin Psalter (Jun. 27) of the tenth century, with grotesque initials and interlinear Saxon. This book has been called "Codex Vossianus," because Junius obtained it from his relative, Isaac Voss. Among these also is the unique C?dmon, a MS. of about A.D. 1000, which had been given to Junius by Archbishop Usher, and of which the earlier history is unknown. Usher, a scholar of European celebrity, founded the library of Trinity College, Dublin; and in his enquiries after books for his college he picked up this famous manuscript. It became a favourite with Junius, who edited the Editio Princeps, Amsterdam, 1655. Another book (Jun. 121) is a collection of Canons of the Anglo-Saxon Church, which belonged to Worcester Cathedral. In this book, fol. 101, the writer describes himself: Me scripsit Wulfgeatus scriptor Wigorniensis = Me wrote Wulfgeat of Worcester, a writer. This Wulfgeat is said by Wanley (p. 141) to have lived about A.D. 1064. Junius 22 seems to be written by the same hand; so does Junius 99. The former contains writings by ?lfric; the latter, some by ?lfric and some by Wulfstan. Another book of the Junian bequest, hardly less singular and unique, is the "Ormulum," a poetical exposition of the Gospels, a work of the thirteenth century, of singular beauty, as poetry and as English.

1681.-This is probably the year in which John Rushworth, of Lincoln's Inn, the historian of the Long Parliament, presented to the library the book (Auct. D., ii. 19) which is still known as Codex Rushworthianus. It contains the Gospels in Latin, written about A.D. 800, by an Irish scribe, who has recorded his name as Macregol, and it is glossed with an interlinear Anglo-Saxon version by Owun and by F?rmen, a priest, at Harewood. It is described by Westwood.

1755.-Richard Rawlinson was born in 1690, son of Sir Thomas Rawlinson, who was lord mayor of London in 1706; was educated at St. John's College, Oxford, of which he always remained an attached member, and to which he left by will the bulk of his estate. Though he passed for a layman, he was a bishop among the Nonjurors, having been ordained deacon and priest by Bishop Jeremy Collier in 1716, and consecrated bishop 25th March, 1728. He was through life an indefatigable collector; he purchased historical materials of all kinds, heraldry, genealogy, biography, topography, and log-books. He was a repeated benefactor to the library during his life, but after his death his books and manuscripts came in overwhelming quantity, so that the staff of the library could not possibly catalogue them; and it was not until Henry Octavius Coxe became Bodley's librarian that the extent of the Rawlinson collection was ascertained. This benefactor founded the Anglo-Saxon professorship which bears his name.

1809.-Richard Gough, the eminent topographer and antiquary, died 20th February; he had bequeathed to the Bodleian all his topographical collections, together with all his books relating to Saxon and Northern literature. The following is from his will:-"Also I give and bequeath to the Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars, of the University of Oxford, my printed Books and Manuscripts on Saxon and Northern Literature, mentioned in a Catalogue of the same, for the Use of the Saxon professor in the said University when he shall have occasion to consult them, with liberty to take them to his Apartments on condition of faithfully returning them."

I close these Bodleian notes with the remark that three of the books above noticed may be easily seen even by the casual visitor. The late librarian, Henry Octavius Coxe, devised the happy plan of exhibiting under a glass case a chronological series of manuscripts written by English scribes, so as to exhibit the progress of the arts of calligraphy and illuminating in England. This case is in the north wing, at the further end from the entrance door. Among the selections for this series occur Alfred's gift-book to Worcester, the "Codex Vossianus," the "C?dmon," and a fourth book, one that has not yet been described. It is a volume of Latin Gospels in Anglo-Saxon writing, of about the end of the tenth century. This book appears, from an entry at the end of it, to have belonged to the abbey of Barking.20

CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE, OXFORD,

though not endowed with treasures equal to those of its namesake in Cambridge, has a few books of very high quality and value. Among these a Saxon Bede of the tenth century, wanting at the beginning and end, but otherwise in excellent condition.

A remarkably interesting manuscript of the Rule of St. Benedict, Latin and Saxon, which has never yet been published.21 Mr. H. O. Coxe, in his catalogue of the manuscripts of the colleges, assigned this book to the close of the tenth century. The interest of the volume is greatly increased by some pages of entries, which also tend to fix the date of the book with greater precision. It was written for the monastery of Bury St. Edmunds, and it appears to have been still there in the fourteenth century. It was given by William Fulman, who was a fellow of this college, to the college library. The same donor gave them their "Piers Plowman" and their famous manuscript of the "Canterbury Tales."

ST. JOHN'S COLLEGE, OXFORD,

has an important manuscript containing (1) ?lfric's Grammar, (2) Glossary, and (3) the Colloquy of ?lfric Bata, in usum puerorum (for the boys). On fol. 202, the writer calls himself, "I ?lfric Bata," and says that his master "?lfric abbot" was the original author. The writing of (1) and (2) is in the round, strong, professional hand of the tenth century; the sequel is in later writing. On the first page is written in a hand of the fourteenth century "Liber Sci Cuthberhti de Dunelmo" (a book of St. Cuthbert, of Durham); and next thereto, but in a hand nearly as old as the MS. itself, "de armario precentoris, qui alienaverit de eo anathema sit" (is kept in the precentor's chest; whoever alienates it therefrom, let him be anathema). It was given to the college by Christopher Coles, who took his degree in 1611. The grammar has been recently edited by Dr. Zupitza.

THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY AT CAMBRIDGE

possesses the oldest manuscript of the ecclesiastical history of Bede (K. K. 5. 16). It is supposed to have been written shortly after the death of the venerable author, which happened in 735. This book came into that library in 1715, with the fine collection of 30,000 volumes collected by Dr. More, bishop of Ely. This collection was purchased by George I. for 6,000 guineas, and presented to the University by the king. This invaluable book is distinctively called Bishop More's manuscript.

In the Cathedral Library at Canterbury there are some valuable Saxon charters;22-many more whose natural home was there are in the British Museum among the Cottonian collections.

In the library of Lambeth Palace there is an interesting book, which belonged to Archbishop Parker, and has been well scored by him: but it is not entered either in the Lambeth catalogue of 1812, or in that of Benet College. This is the "Gospels of MacDurnan," in Irish calligraphy of the ninth century, and it contains some valuable Anglo-Saxon entries.23

RESEARCH, DISCOVERY, AND RECONSTRUCTION.

Hitherto we have been describing the collection of material; this it was that rescued our early history and literature from hopeless oblivion. The old parchments contained much knowledge that ought to be recovered and diffused; but this would require preparation and labour. Among the labourers, Matthew Parker comes first as he does among the collectors. This prelate was an earnest student in the ancient history of the country and especially in whatever had relation to the Church. He was the first editor of a Saxon Homily. It was printed by John Day, and was entitled, "A Testimony of Antiquity showing the Ancient Faith of the Church of England touching the Sacrament, &c." The interest of this publication as understood at the time, lay in its witness against transubstantiation. It was reprinted at Oxford by Leon Lichfield, 1675.

In 1571 the Saxon Gospels were published by John Fox, who acknowledges obligations to Parker in his preface. This book was reprinted at Dort, in 1665, by Marshall, who was afterwards rector of Lincoln College, in Oxford.

In 1574 appeared Parker's edition of Asser's Life of Alfred, and we read in Strype that "of this edition of Asserius there had been great expectation among the learned." We can add, that of this edition the interest is not yet extinct.

How far Parker's books were done by himself and how far he was dependent on his literary assistants, is a question of little importance. No doubt, a great deal of it was the work of his secretary, Joscelin. We look at Parker as a master builder, not as a journeyman. The name of Joscelin meets us often when we are following the footsteps of those times. His writing is seen on many a manuscript, and we have to thank him for much valuable information. It is chiefly through his annotations that we know the external and local relations of our several Saxon chronicles.24 In August, 1565, he was at St. Augustine's, Canterbury; and there he found the old transcript of the first life of St. Dunstan, which is now in the Cotton Library.25

But the chief labourers and reconstructors of the first movement were William Camden (b. 1551-d. 1623), and Sir Henry Spelman (b. 1562-d. 1641). The name of Camden's "Britannia" is still alive, and is familiar as a household word with all who explore even a little beyond the beaten track. But it is otherwise with Sir Henry Spelman, whose studies were more recondite, and to whom Abraham Wheloc looked back as to "the hero of Anglo-Saxon literature." His "Glossary" was a work of vast compass, and for it he corresponded much with learned men abroad; among others with the famous Northern antiquary, Olaus Wormius, the author of "Literatura Runica," of which he sent Spelman a copy in October, 1636.26 His son, Sir John Spelman, wrote the "Life of King Alfred." Before he died, Sir Henry Spelman founded an Anglo-Saxon chair at Cambridge; and the first occupant of it was Abraham Wheloc, who edited Bede in 1643 and with it that Saxon Chronicle which was burnt in 1731. In 1644 he edited the Anglo-Saxon Laws. His successor was William Somner (b. 1606-d. 1669), who produced the first Anglo-Saxon dictionary. So this foundation was not unfruitful. But the chair fell into abeyance, until it was restored by Dr. Bosworth, and filled by Professor Skeat.

This, the first movement of reconstruction, had its seat in Cambridge, under the shadow of Archbishop Parker's library. The next advance, dating from the middle of the seventeenth century, grew in Oxford, and was connected with the sojourn of Junius in this place. He was much at the Bodleian, and he is said to have lodged opposite Lincoln College. He was a fellow-labourer with Dr. Marshall, the rector of that college, in the M?so-Gothic and Anglo-Sa

xon Gospels which they printed at Dordrecht, 1665. This Oxford period may be said to have culminated in the work of George Hickes, Nonjuror and Saxonist (b. 1642-d. 1715), the author of the massive "Thesaurus Linguarum Septentrionalium," Oxford, 1705, a monument of diligence and insight, to which was appended a work of the greatest utility and necessity,-the idea was Hickes's, as was also much of the sustaining energy,-Humphrey Wanley's catalogue of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. We must not omit Edmund Gibson (b. 1669-d. 1748), who in early life produced his admirable "Chronicon Saxonicum," amplifying the work of Wheloc, and embodying for the first time the Peterborough manuscript. He was afterwards bishop of London. In 1750 Richard Rawlinson gave rents of the yearly value of £87. 16s. 8d. to the University of Oxford, for the maintenance and support of an Anglo-Saxon lecture or professorship for ever.

Up to this time it might still be said of the collections that they were just stored in bulk as goods are stored in great magazines; there was much to explore and to learn. Important discoveries still remained to be made by explorers in these and other collections. Wanley's catalogue had somewhat the effect of running a line of road through a fertile but unfrequented land; and Conybeare's "Illustrations of Anglo-Saxon Poetry," published in 1826, fruit of the Oxford chair, had a great effect in calling the attention of the educated, and more than any other book in the present century has served as the introduction to Saxon studies.

It was not until the close of the eighteenth century that the "Beowulf" was discovered. Wanley had catalogued it, but without any idea of the real nature of the book. Thorkelin was, however, attracted from Denmark; he came and transcribed it, and prepared an edition which was nearly ready in 1808, when his house was burnt in the bombardment of Copenhagen. But he began again, and lived to see his name to the Editio Princeps of "Beowulf," at a time when there were few who knew or cared for his work. He left two transcripts, which are now our highest source in many passages of the poem. The original having been scorched in the fire of 1731, the edges of the leaves went on cracking away, so that many words which were near the margins and which are now gone, passed under the eye of Thorkelin.

In 1832, a learned German, Dr. Blume, discovered at Vercelli, in North Italy, a thick volume containing Anglo-Saxon homilies, and some sacred poems of great beauty. The poems were copied and printed under the care of Mr. Thorpe, by the Record Commission, in a book known as the "Appendix to Mr. Cooper's Report on the F?dera," a book that became famous through the complaints that were made because of the long years during which it was kept back. A few privileged persons got copies, and when Grimm, in 1840, published the two chief poems of the new find, the Andreas and the Elene, which he had extracted from Lappenberg's copy, he had a little fling at "die Recorders," as if they kept the book to themselves for a rarity to deck their own shelves withal. The poems are six in number: 1. A Legend of St. Andrew; 2. The Fortunes of the Twelve Apostles; 3. The Departed Soul's Address to the Body; 4. A Fragment; 5. A Dream of the Holy Rood; 6. Elene, or The Invention of the Cross.

In 1851 the first notice of a book of homilies older than ?lfric,-the property of the Marquis of Lothian, and preserved in the library of Blickling Hall, Norfolk,-was made public by Mr. Godwin in the transactions of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society.27

In 1860 was discovered the valuable fragment of an epic poem on King Waldhere, and the manner of the find shall be told in the words of Professor George Stephens, which I quote from the Editio Princeps of "Waldhere," published by him in the same year. "On the 12th of January, 1860, Professor E. C. Werlauff, Chief Librarian of the Great National Library, Cheapinghaven [Copenhagen], was engaged in sorting some bundles of papers, parchment leaves, and fragments, mostly taken from books, or book-backs, which had not hitherto been arranged. While thus occupied, he lighted upon two vellum leaves of great antiquity, and bearing an Old English text. He kindly communicated the discovery to me, and the present work is the result."

II.

INSCRIPTIONS

of the Anglo-Saxon period exist both in the learned and the vernacular language. It is peculiarly interesting, when an inscription is exhumed that gives us back a contemporary monument, however slight, of that Anglian Church which was the first-fruit of Christianity in our nation. About twenty years ago, a stone was found at Wearmouth which had been buried in the ruins of the monastery ever since the ninth century, and which came up fresh and clear in almost every letter, bearing, "Hic in sepulcro requiescit corpore Hereberecht prb.28 (Here in this tomb Hereberecht presbiter rests in the body)." A fine inscription from Deerhurst, in Gloucestershire, is now among the Arundel Marbles at Oxford. It is printed in Parker's "Glossary of Architecture," and in my Saxon Chronicles. Often the interest of these Latin inscriptions is enhanced by a strong touch of the vernacular showing through. This is the case on a fine monumental stone in Mortimer Church.

OF VERNACULAR INSCRIPTIONS

there is one at Lincoln, in the tower of St. Mary-le-Wigford Church. Into this tower, which is of early date, a Roman pagan monument (Diis Manibus, &c.) is walled, and, on the triangular gable of the stone, a Saxon inscription has been carved. It is imperfect, but the general sense is clear. It must be read from the lowest and longest line upwards to the apex. It says: "Eirtig caused me to be made and endowed in honour of Christ and St. Mary." Perhaps the tower, or even the church, is the speaker. The founder's name is much defaced: I have adopted the reading of Rev. J. Wordsworth, who has bestowed attention on this stone.

A fragment of a similar inscription, but much more copious, was found at St. Mary's, York, and is described in Hübner, No. 175.

But the most characteristic of the vernacular inscriptions are those on sun-dials. There are no less than three of these in the North Riding of Yorkshire; viz., at Old Byland, and at Edstow near Pickering, and at Kirkdale.29 The last is fullest and most perfect, and is, moreover, dated. It bears: "+ Orm Gamalson bought the minster of S. Gregory when it was all to broken and to fallen, and he it let make anew from ground for Christ and S. Gregory in the days of Edward the King and Tosti the Earl. + and Hawarth wrought me and Brand presbiter. + This is day's sun-marker, hour by hour."

The poetical inscription in Runes, on the Ruthwell Cross, is too large a subject for this place.30

JEWELLERY.

The Anglo-Saxons retained an old tradition of decorative art, and they had among them skilful jewellers. Several specimens have been found, and are to be seen in museums; but the noblest of all these is that which is known as the Alfred Jewel.

The Alfred Jewel was discovered in Newton Park, near Athelney, in the year 1693, and it found its way to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford by the year 1718, where it still rests. It consists of an enamelled figure enshrined in a golden frame, with a golden back to it, and with a thick piece of rock crystal in front to serve as a glass to the picture. Imagine a longitudinal section of a pigeon's egg, and let the golden plate at the back of our jewel represent the plane of the egg's diameter. From this plane, if we measure three-quarters of an inch in the girth of the egg, and then take another section parallel to the gold plate at the back, we obtain the front surface of the crystal through which the enamelled figure is visible. The smaller end of our oval section is prolonged and is fashioned like the head of a boar. The snout forms a socket, as if to fit on to a peg or dole; a cross-pin, to fix the socket to the dole, is still in place. Around the sloping rim, which remains, the following legend is wrought in the fabric: ?lfred mec heht gewyrcean (Alfred me commanded to make). The language of the legend agrees perfectly with the age of King Alfred, and it seems to be the unhesitating opinion of all those who have investigated the subject that it was a personal ornament of the great West Saxon king. As to the manner of wearing it, and as to the signification of the enamelled figure, there has been the greatest diversity of opinion. Sir Francis Palgrave suggested that the figure was older than the setting. Perhaps it was a sacred object, and perhaps one of the presents of Pope Marinus, or some other potentate; and that the mounting was intended to adapt it for fixture in the rim of a helmet or crown over the centre of the royal brow. By its side, in the same glass case, there lies a gold ornament of far simpler design, but of like adaptation.

DRAWING AND ILLUMINATION OF BOOKS.

This is the branch of Saxon art which is best represented by extant remains. That the specimens are numerous may be gathered from what has been said above in the description of manuscripts. There are two periods, and the change takes place with the revival of learning in the reign of Edgar. In the earlier period, the drawings and the decorations are of the same general type as the Irish illuminated books, and it has been thought that our artists had learnt their art from the Irish; but now there is a disposition to see in this art a type common to both islands, and to call it British. The Lindisfarne Gospels (A.D. 710) offer the best example of this kind. In the tenth century, Frankish art was much imitated, and the Saxon style was altered. But the Saxons, in their imitations, displayed originality; and they developed a gorgeous form of decoration, which was recognised as a distinct style, and was known on the Continent as English work (opus Anglicum). The typical specimen of this kind is the Benedictional of ?thelwold (between 963 and 970). From the same cause, the character of the penmanship also passes through a corresponding change, but more gradually and indistinctly.31

ARCHITECTURE.

Of Saxon architecture there are many traces; we will take but a few.

The cathedral at Canterbury was an old church, which had been built by Christians under the Romans, and which Augustine, by the king's help, recovered, and consecrated as the Church of St. Saviour;32 in later times it came to be called Christ Church. This building lasted all through the Saxon period; it was enlarged by Abbot Odo, about 950, and was finally pulled down by Lanfranc, in 1070. But there exists a written description of this old church by a man who had seen it,-namely, Eadmer the Precentor, who was a diligent collector of traditions concerning his cathedral. What makes his description especially valuable to the architectural historian is the fact that he compares it to St. Peter's at Rome, and he had been to Rome in company with Anselm. Now, although the old Basilica at Rome was destroyed in the sixteenth century, yet plans and drawings which were made before its demolition are preserved in the Vatican: and, with all these data before him, Professor Willis reconstructed the plan of the metropolitan church of the Saxon period.33 In certain features he used, moreover, the evidence of the ancient Saxon church at Brixworth.34

Not only from models left in Britain by the Romans, but also through the frequent visits of our ecclesiastics to Rome, it naturally happened that the Saxon architecture was imitated from the Roman. Nevertheless, the Anglo-Saxons appear to have developed a style of their own. Sir Gilbert Scott in his posthumous Essays characterises this early church architecture by two features-the square termination of the east end, and the west end position of the tower. This was quite insular, and not to be found in Roman patterns. In Professor Willis's plan of the first cathedral at Canterbury the east and west ends are both apsidal, and the two towers are placed on the north and south sides of the nave.

The great discovery, a few years ago, of the Saxon chapel at Bradford-on-Avon, and the successful way in which it was cleared and detached from other buildings by Canon Jones, has not only given us so complete an example of Saxon church architecture as we had nothing like it before, but it has also improved our faculty of recognising Saxon work in fragmentary relics, and, if I may so speak, of pulling them all together. A remarkable passage in William of Malmesbury records that Aldhelm built a little church (ecclesiola) in this place; and the possibility that this may be that very church is not rejected by the best judges. Aldhelm died in 709.

Of Saxon construction a chief peculiarity is that which is called "longs and shorts." It occurs in coins of towers, in panelling work, and sometimes in door jambs.35 Of the latter, a fine example occurs at Laughton, near Maltby, not many miles distant from Sheffield. What makes this latter instance more peculiarly interesting, is the fact that over the churchyard wall on the west, in a small grass field, traditionally called the Castle Field, there is the well-preserved plan of a Saxon lordly mansion. The circuit of the earthwork is almost complete, and at a point in the enceinte there rises the mound on which was pitched the garrison of the little castle. I use the term castle, as the habits of the language now require, and as it is expressed in the name of the spot. But, indeed, castles were little known in England before the Conquest; had it been otherwise, the Conquest would not have been so easy.36 The name and the thing came in with the Normans. Yet there were ancient places of security, and their great feature was an earthen mound, upon which a wooden building was pitched. The Saxon mounds often became, to borrow a phrase from Mr. Freeman, the kernel of the Norman castle. And there was a traditional method of fortification for the houses of great men of which Laughton is an example.

SCULPTURE.

There are several pieces of Anglo-Saxon sculpture extant; and they are not hard to recognise, because of the peculiar lines of drawing with which we are already familiar in the illuminated manuscripts. In the Saxon chapel at Bradford-on-Avon there are two angels, of life size, or larger, carved in relief on stone. They appear in the wall high above the chancel arch, towards the nave; and it is supposed from the distance between them, and from their facing one another, that there was once a holy rood placed between them, towards which they were in attendance.

In Bristol Cathedral there is a remarkable piece of Saxon sculpture, representing a human figure, life size, apparently the Saviour, delivering a small figure, as it were a soul, out of the mouth of the dragon. This is carved on the upper side of the massive lid of a stone coffin. It was discovered about forty years ago, and it may be seen in the vestry within the Norman chapter-house, where it is masoned into the wall over the chimney-piece.

BURIALS.

The Saxon graves have yielded many illustrative objects, especially weapons and personal ornaments, pottery, and glass.37

The Saxon graves were first systematically explored by Bryan Faussett, of Heppington, in Kent (b. 1720-d. 1776); who was called by his contemporaries "the British Montfaucon." He is unequalled for the extent of his excavations, and the distinctness of his well-kept chronicle. After him, in the next generation, came an interpreter, who was also a great excavator; James Douglas, author of "Nenia Britannica," 1793. The Faussett collection is in Liverpool, the Douglas collection (most of it) in Oxford.

In more recent times the general accuracy of the results has been established by means of comparative researches. The tumuli in the old mother country of the Saxons have been examined, and their affinity with our Saxon graves has been determined beyond question; while a parallel comparison has also been instituted between the Frankish graves in France, and the ancestral Frankish graves in old Franconia over the Rhine. Thus it is well known what interments are really Saxon.

The chronology of the varieties of interment is not, however, so completely ascertained. In the boundaries of property from the tenth century and onwards we find repeated mention of "heathen burial-places," and it has perhaps been too readily inferred that all the Saxon graves in the open country unconnected with churches are older than the Conversion. Mr. Kemble investigated this subject, and he came to the conclusion that the cinerary urns were heathen, but that the whole interments were Christian. His observations were made chiefly in the old mother country, which lies between the Rhine, the Elbe, and the Main. He identified the change from cremation to inhumation with that from heathenism to Christianity.

The tumular relics of different parts of England suggest old tribal distinctions of costume and apparel. In Kent the fibul? are circular and highly ornamented, but these are sparingly found beyond the area of the earliest settlers. From Suffolk to Leicestershire the fibul? are mostly bridge-shaped. A third variety, the concave or saucer-shaped, is found in Berkshire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, and Gloucestershire. It is, however, possible that these distinctions may be partly chronological.

The most splendid fibula known is of the first kind. It was exhumed by Bryan Faussett, 5th August, 1771, on Kingston Down in Kent, from a deep grave containing numerous relics, and such as indicated a lady of distinction. The Kingston fibula is circular, entirely of gold, richly set with garnets and turquoise; it is 3? inches in diameter, ? inch in thickness, and weighs 6 oz. 5 dwt. 18 gr. This is the gem of all Saxon tumular antiquities, and it rests with the other Faussett finds in the Mayer collection at Liverpool. Near it was found a golden neck-ornament, weighing 2 dwt. 7 gr. These and other like examples, though less splendid, from the graves of Saxon ladies, are good illustrations of the poetic epithet "gold-adorned," which is repeatedly applied to women of high degree.

The Saxon pottery is known to us by the burial urns. These are marked by a local character for the various districts, but still with a generic resemblance, which is based upon the comprehensive fact that although they appear like inferior copies from Roman work, yet they are at the same time like the urns found in Old Saxony and Franconia.

The glass drinking-vessels are very peculiar, and they are noticed as such in the poetry.38 The hooped buckets that have been found in men's graves only, seem also to answer to expressions in convivial descriptions.

Of the tumular remains this general remark may be made, that they richly illustrate the elder poetry. The abundance and variety of the objects which remain after so long a time unperished, give a strong impression of the lavish generosity with which the dead were sent on their way. Answering to these finds there are two descriptions in the "Beowulf," one in the beginning where the mythic hero Scyld Scefing is (not buried but) shipped off to sea; and the other the funeral of Beowulf with which the poem closes.

The graves also afford illustration negative as well as positive. The comparative rarity of swords is a fact that has been particularly remarked. This too agrees with the poetry in which there are swords of fame, which are known by their own proper names, and which have an established pedigree of illustrious owners at the head of which often stands the name of the divine fabricator, Weland. Perhaps it would not be too much to say that affinity with the tumular deposits is one of the notes of the primary poetry.

11 "Pal?ographia Sacra Pictoria."

12 "Leland's laboryouse journey and serche for Englandes antiquities, given as a newe years gifte to King Henry VIII., enlarged by John Bale." London. 1549.

13 This is curiously confirmed by the discovery of Waldhere, described below.

14 As this fire is one that the student is only too often reminded of, a few details may be acceptable. A committee was appointed by the House of Commons to view the Cotton Library after this disaster, and we learn from their Report (1732, folio) that "114 volumes are either lost, burnt, or entirely spoiled, and 98 others damaged so as to be defective; so that the said library at present consists of 746 entire volumes and 98 defective ones." The collection when purchased had contained 958 volumes. Of late years great pains have been taken for the preservation of the fragments by careful mounting.

15 Photographed by the Early English Text Society, 1883.

16 "Die Sprache des Kentischen Psalters," von Rudolf Zeuner. Halle, 1882. Referring to Mr. Sweet, in Transactions of Philological Society, 1875-6.

17 "The Gospels of the fower Evangelistes, translated in the olde Saxons tyme out of Latin into the vulgare toung of the Saxons, newly collected out of Auncient Monumentes of the sayd Saxons, and now published for testimonie of the same." At London. Printed by Iohn Daye, dwelling ouer Aldersgate, 1571.

18 See Scrivener, "Introduction to Criticism of New Testament," ed. 2, p. 147.

19 "Harmonia Symbolica," Oxford, 1858, p. 61.

20 Westwood, "Facsimiles," p. 123.

21 It was to have been edited by Professor Buckley for the ?lfric Society, but that society closed its career too soon.

22 They were arranged by Kemble; and have recently been facsimiled by the Ordnance Survey, under the editorship of Mr. W. Basevi Sanders.

23 Fully described by Mr. W. B. Sanders in the "Annual Report for 1873 of the Deputy Keeper of Public Records," p. 271 ff.

24 See the particulars in "Two Saxon Chronicles Parallel." Clarendon Press, 1865. Introduction, pp. vii., xxv., xxviii.

25 Stubbs, "Memorials of Saint Dunstan," p. xxx.

26 "The Englishman and the Scandinavian," by Frederick Metcalfe, M.A., 1880, p. 11.

27 In 1880 these Homilies were edited by Dr. Morris, for the Early English Text Society, under the name of "The Blickling Homilies."

28 Hübner, 197.

29 Hübner, 179, 180, 181.

30 Kemble, "Arch?ologia," Anno 1843; Stephens, "Runic Monuments," p. 405.

31 Westwood, "Pal?ographia Sacra Pictoria," and "Facsimiles of Miniatures from Irish and Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts."

32 Beda, "Church History," i., 33.

33 "The Architectural History of Canterbury Cathedral," 1845, p. 27.

34 "The church at Brixworth has plainly had its walls raised, and a clerestory with windows added, even in the Saxon period; assuming that midwall baluster-shafts are to be received as characteristics of this period, for a triple window with such shafts was inserted in the western wall when the walls were so raised." Ibid., p. 30. See also Haddan and Stubbs, i., 38.

35 Some of the churches in which these features may be observed are Deerhurst in Gloucestershire; Earl's Barton, Northants; Benet church in Cambridge; Sompting in Sussex. Figured illustrations may be seen in Parker's "Introduction to Gothic Architecture."

36 Freeman, N. C., ii., 605; "Reign of Rufus" i., 49.

37 These are described and figured in Bryan Faussett's "Inventorium Sepulchrale," ed. Roach Smith; Wylie, "Fairford Graves"; Neville, "Saxon Obsequies"; Akerman, "Pagan Saxondom"; Kemble, "Hor? Ferales."

38 "The Celt, the Roman, and the Saxon," by T. Wright, p. 424.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares