« PreviousContinue »
library, but it was burnt with the other manuscripts; and let it be observed, that the presses which contained the most valuable historical documents, were those which suffered most from the spiteful flames. A third manuscript was used by Sir Henry Saville :* we have no account of this codex, but it was imperfect, ending with the passage where the French text of the laws of the Conqueror is introduced; and, together with Marsham's copy, it has loug since disappeared. Whilst the documents thus evade our inquiries, a curious accident enables us to pronounce upon the age of the Croyland“ autograph’ with tolerable certainty. Spelman states, that he consulted the autograph' manuscript, from whence he has transcribed the first five chapters of the Norman laws.I Now, in his transcript, this eminent antiquary has fallen into an error which renders his misprint equivalent to a fac-simile of the characters of the manuscript. For the word. Euesjes, he reads Euestres. The cause of this mistake will be easily understood when it is observed that in the current handwriting which prevailed during the reigns of Edward I. and 11., the syllables esqes' bear so near a resemblance to the syllables estres,' as scarcely to be distinguishable from each other, as may be seen by inspection of the following examples, which are faithfully traced from a manuscript of that age:
But the mistake could hardly have been made by the transcriber,
Scriptores Rerum Anglicarum post Bedam, Lond. 1596. + The fate of Marsham's manuscript has not been ascertained. Bishop Gibson, writing July, 1694, to Dr. Arthur Charlett, Master of University College, says, Sir John Marsham's collection must be considerable. There is a curious Ingulphus in your library, which, as his family says, Obadiah Walker stole from him. I told him what they lay to his charge : his answer was, that Sir John gave it to him ; and that as an acknowledgement he presented him with some copies of the Ingulphus printed at Oxford. It is very probable, though Sir John did not design to part with the booksnay, he used to be complaining of Mr. Walker for using him so unkindly. But the old gentleman has too much of the spirit of an antiquarie and a great scholar to think stealing a munuscript any sin. He has ordered mne not to discover where it is lodged— (Gougl's Additions to Croyland, 283). Though it has often been suspected that col. lectors do not consider themselves under a strict obligation of obeying the eighth Commandment, yet we never heard this doctrine so plainly expressed and confessed. We are informed that the most diligent search has been made in the library of University College for the manuscript, but without success. Some other antiquarie and great scholar' may have followed the example of Obadiah, and acted with equal * spirit.'
Adjiciendum censec aliud specimen quarundam prædictarum legum, ut Normannico habentur idiomate inter cæteras Confessoris leges ab Ingulpho, Abbate Croylandiæ datæ et post excidium illius monasterii in veterrimo M.S. ab ædituis superstitis illic ecclesiæ sub tertia clave conservatæ. Posuit has in lucem V. C. Johannes Selden in suis ad Edwerum notis, versionemque adjecit, quam jam accuratiorem exhibemus ; sed leges ipsas er ipso designavimus archetypo, castigatiores paululum, quam in im. presso codice.- Concilia, vol. i. p. 313.
if the original manuscript had been written in the hands which prevailed in the age of Ingulphus; and we doubt whether the compilation was of much older date than the manuscript, that is to say, about the end of the thirteenth, or the first half of the fourteenth, century. In none of the chronicles anterior to that age can we trace a single line that is borrowed from Ingulphus. If the work had existed, it could scarcely have been neglected by these inveterate compilers. And subsequently to that period, the only work which exhibits a paragraph agreeing in substance with Ingulphus, is the Chronicle of Peterborough, compiled or interpolated by Robert of Boston, in the reign of Edward III. It is extremely probable that some history of Croyland existed in the archives of the abbey. Ordericus Vitalis, in his Ecclesiastical History, has given an abstract of the history of Croyland, perhaps deduced from genuine materials. Turketul is simply described as a certain clerk of London, of royal descent, a relative of Orketel Archbishop of York.' Had the biography consulted by Ordericus.m tioned the name of Ethelward, he would scarcely have identified the 'clerk' by noticing the remoter and more obscure consanguinity; nor is it likely that the dignity of the chancellorship would have been omitted in the narrative. The deposition of Abbot Ulfketel, and the promotion of Ingulphus, are briefly told. Either Ordericus, or the documents used by him, may have furnished the outline of the romance published under the name of the reverend abbot. But to separate the gloss from the text, and the embellishment from the fact, is a task almost impracticable. The pseudo-Ingulphus, if quoted, must be quoted only in those passages where relations, not improbable in themselves, are uncontradicted by surer authorities. Ingulphus,' saith Dr. Henry,
published an excellent history of the abbey of Croyland, from its foundation, A.D. 664 to A.D. 1091, with which he had introduced much of the general history of the kingdom, with a variety of curious anecdotes that are no where else to be found,'-but it is exactly these curious anecdotes which must be unsparingly rejected.
Much might be added respecting the treatment and interpretation of these ancient authorities. Their chronology in particular requires great attention. Years, amongst the heathen AngloSaxons, were reckoned by winters, and diurnal revolutions by nights. The winter began on the mother-night, the festival of Yule. Their lunar calendar required the correction of an intercalary month, which was inserted in the summer season.
The Roman missionaries certainly introduced the Roman calendar, but the period when it came into general use is unknown; and it is possible that the old national calendar may have been long
retained * In all regal tables and histories of England, the years of the reign of John are made to begin with the 6th April, 1199, the day of the death of Richard I. But John, notwithstanding the acknowledgment of his inchoate right, was only Duke of Normandy, until he was crowned as King of England, with the assent of the Baronage. In the period which elapsed between the death of Richard and the coronation, John had not the style of King, he exercised no acts of royal authority, nor did he become entitled to receive the royal revenue. His reign began with bis coronation, which took place on the Ascension day (27th May, 1199), and he was then let into the receipt of the revenue. The years of his reign are calculated from Ascension day to Ascension day; and, as the date changes with the moveable feast, each year of his reign is of different length, and begins on a different day. Consequently, all the documents whose dates fall between the 6th of April and Ascension-day, in each year, have been referred to the wrong year of the reign, by those writers who have not noticed the ancient mode of calculation. A mistake of the same description has been made with respect to the reign of Edward I. which is usually calculated from the 16th November, 1272, the day of the death of Henry III. Edward's reign really commenced from the 20th November, 1272, when he was proclaimed at the New Temple, and upon that day the date of the year of his reign was changed. Full proof is afforded of this assertion by the date of the charter of homage executed by John Balliol, ' apud Norham die Jovis in festo Sancti Eadmundi Regis et Martiris (20th November) anno Incarnationis Dominica millesimo ducentesimo nonagesimo secundo et regni ipsius domini nostri
retained for civil purposes and in popular computation. All the Anglo-Saxon charters express their dates ; the year of the King, of the Incarnation and the Indiction, are generally specified. But it is frequently difficult to reconcile the dates of these instruments to the chronicles, and the dates given by the chronicles as frequently offer discrepancies and varieties. Obvious as the convenience of denoting dates by a consecutive series of numbers may appear to us, this practice was by no means universal. Ethelweard reckons from event to event, and this rude and insecure chronology was probably the only mode of computation prevailing among the Anglo-Saxons before their conversion. There are even monastic chronicles in which the dates are entirely omitted. Instead of expressing the year, some scribes contented themselves with repeating the word 'annus,' without note, numeral, or particular of any description, and the date can only be supplied by conjecture. When the year of the incarnation is distinctly stated in an ancient chronicle, many perplexing difficulties still remain. On what day does the year begin? The year may begin either from the fixed feasts and days of Christmas, the kalends of January, the Annunciation, or Michaelmas-or else from the moveable feast of Easter. All these modes of computation prevailed. To increase the confusion, some chroniclers advanced upon their contemporaries by an entire year. If the year of the reign is to be calculated, our task will hardly be easier. It may have been reckoned from the king's accession, or from his consecration, and the date may change, not on the anniversary of the event from which it is reckoned, but with the beginning of the calendar year, whenever that beginning may have been reckoned.* The indic
Dr. Powell, - that this William put in for the bishopric of St. Asaph upon the death of the said Geoffrey, and being disappointed, fell into a mad humour of decrying the whole principality of Wales, its history, antiquity, and all that belongs to it. But without determining how far the disappointed hope of preferment urged his attack upon the British worthies, it appears doubtful whether he was fully qualified to pronounce his stern anathema. His acquaintance with the work of Gildas was the result of accident, not of research. The book was very rare; the style of the British author was so rude and insipid that few persons cared to keep the composition in their libraries, or to bestow on it the Jabour of transcription. British antiquities being thus neglected, the English writer could not easily obtain the information which was necessary to enable him to pronounce on the textual authenticity of a British history.
Geoffrey's History may be divided into three distinct portions - the succession of the British kings from Brutus to Vortigern— the wars with the Saxons, and the adventures of Arthur-and the events from the reign of Arthur until the death of Cadwallader, the Saxon Ceadwall, who is claimed by the Britons as a British King.–Geoffrey, 'though guilty of many gross anachronisms, affords a plausible if not a convincing mode of reconciling the conflicting statements. Ceadwalla, or Cadwallader, the son of Cadwallon, was descended, by the mother's side, from the Kings of Wessex, and he united in himself the rights of two hostile races.* In the Saxon authorities, there is a remarkable obscurity about the early history of Ceadwalla. He acquired bis kingdom by force, and the details of his actions seem to be studiously avoided. Nor is the British origin of Ceadwalla disproved by the genealogy given in the Saxon chronicle. The Saxon genealogies are deduced
through males only, omitting any intermediate descent of females; no female name ever appears in them; and, according to their genealogic phraseology, which is expressed only by patronymics, Ceadwalla might be truly called the descendant of Coenbyrht, though two generations of females were interposed.†. Great obscurity prevails respecting the mode and manner of the English conquests of the British territory; and we may suspect that the progress of the Anglo-Saxon dominion was facilitated by alliances with the British sovereigns, for we cannot otherwise explain the
• Mater ejus fuerat soror Pendæ, patre tantum: Matre vero diversa ei nobili genere Gewisseorum edita fuerat. Galf. Mon. lib. ix. c. 6.
+ Ceadwalla wæs Coenhyrhting; Coenbyrht Ceadding; Ceada Cubaing; Cupa Ceawnling; Ceawlin Cynricing; Cynric Cerdicing.–Sax. Chiron. p. 55. Florence omits
the genealogy, and calls him, Ceadwalla juvenis strenuissimus de regio genere Gewissorum, following Bede, who employs the same expressions.
appearance of British names in the family of Penda the Mercian sovereign.
It has not been remarked that Geoffrey, besides preserving the British fables, contributes his share of English romance. Nennius relates the loves of Vortigern and the fair deluder: but Geoffrey is the first writer who records the name of Ronir; nor is there any other chronicler who notices the well known salutation of the maiden— Liever King Wacht heil,'—the origin of the joyous Wassail cup. From whence did Geoffrey derive this incidept? The tale bears the character of poetry; it might be suspected that his authority is some Anglo-Saxon ballad. But Nennius, though less diffuse, has equally the outlines of the story.
There is, perhaps, no English author who appears at first with greater claims of authenticity than INGULPHUS, the venerable abbot of Croyland. Il avoit tout vu, en bon connoisseur,' say the learned editors of the French historians, ' et ce qu'il rapporte il l'écrit en homme lettré, judicieux et vrai. He does not veil himself in the uncertainty of anonymous composition; but, addressing the reader in his proper person, he relates the fortunes of his house, adducing the best authorities. His materials are collected from the monastic archives. And whilst these facts were transmitted to him from his predecessors, he indites his own memoirs with every appearance of candour and sincerity. From the foundation of the monastery in 616 to the 34th year of Edgar, he abridges or transcribes the monastic chronicle which was compiled under the direction and authority of Abbot Turketul-of whom more hereafter-by Brother Sweetman, from the relation of the oldest members of the monastery. Abbot Egelric the younger, the kinsman of Turketul, composed the life of that abbot, which constitutes the most important episode in the history of the monastery; and Ingulphus himself continued the work from thence to his own time.
Let us now briefly analyze these component portions; and, first, with every possible respect for Brother Sweetman's care and industry, it must be recollected that he depended principally upon oral information. Croyland had been entirely subverted by the Danes in the year 870. After profaning the relics and rifling the tombs of saints and kings, the robbers burnt the immense library' of sacred volumes; innumerable charters shared the same fate, and the buildings were reduced to a heap of ruins* Nothing was saved except some articles of value, and the charters of Ethelbald, and the confirmations by subsequent kings, which the monks bore away wịth them in their flight. The few members of the monastery, who returned to their old home, constructed an humble
* Ingulph. 22, 23. VOL. XXXIV, NO. LXVII.