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than the names has survived ; and it is often doubtful whether even those are are not names of men : it may be fairly questioned whether we know the name and rank of Athelberht's grandfather.
Although it is far from probable that Augustine was the first to plant Christi. anity among the Anglo-saxons, yet the results of any previous labours must have been very unimportant ; nor is it to be imagined that letters fit for the composition of continuous annals, or a regular system of dates, were among the number. When therefore the missionaries of Gregory had so far prevailed as to obtain permission to build a church and preach the gospel abroad, it seems that one of their first cares would be to habituate the people to the Roman character, the Roman calendar, and the Roman era ; perhaps also to the decimal system of notation. They cannot have expected to be continually recruited from Rome; and the early appearance of Anglosaxons, even of high rank, among the bishops and archbishops of the Anglican church, shows that if the teachers brought zeal to their task, they were not repulsed by backwardness on the part of those whom they taught. The great advance in civilization made, especially in Northumberland, before the close of the seventh century, proves that even the rough denizens of that inhospitable portion of our land were apt and earnest scholars. There was therefore every reason to introduce among the Anglosaxons such branches of learning as were looked upon as essential; and among these the art of writing in Roman letters (vulgarly called Anglosaxon), and the Roman method of dating, might justly be considered the first.
To this would be added another consideration of no mean importance. What. ever fasti existed, could only record the deeds of Pagans ; the songs were not unfrequently carmina diabolica, for in the language of those times, the gods of our forefathers were demons. Moreover, the Runes or letters of the Anglosaxons had been used for little else than divinations and auguries, which from the first were an especial object of horror with the missionaries : ill adapted as they were to continuous writing, there is little probability of their having ever been put to that use; and it was less difficult for Augustine and his companions to introduce the characters with the language of Rome, than to learn the rude forms of the Saxon letters, which were as little known to the mass of the people as the new ones which replaced them.
It seems therefore certain that the History of England commences with Augustine ; that is to say, the orderly and digested series of events, arranged according to certain definite and systematic dates, and committed to writing accordingly. Not that I imagine the earliest missionaries to have busied themselves in collecting the fragmentary traditions of those who to them can only bave been benighted and barbarous Pagans : on the contrary, they were far more likely to destroy any that they could lay their hands on. But that the first who composed annals of their own times, which served as a basis for future chroniclers, were the Romans. In latter times tradition meagrely filled up the void they had left; and a few echos only have come down to us from the centuries which may sed between the first settlement of the Saxons on our shores, and the successful and most glorious work of Gregory ; dull and fragmentary voices telling of generations which have past away from us for ever!
But if we owe an era to Augustine, what is that likely to have been ? Surely no other than that which had been in use in the place from which he came. I see no reason to doubt that this was the era of the Incarnation of our Lord; perhaps also the cycle of the Indictions. What other could in fact be used ? Certainly not the years of Roman emperors or popes, unknown to the new converts even by name: hardly the regnal years of petty sovereigns, numerous, far apart, some still
is addicted to Pagan superstitions, many still unknown even by name to the mission12 aries, all still uncertain in what year their reigns began. But if other reasons
had been wanting, there was one which seems likely to have been decisive. The I great Christian festival of the nativity fell, by a wonderful chance, upon that mys
tical night which the mothers celebrated among all the nations of the north, with i solemn religious observances and ceremonies. In the spirit which then, and since, : animated the missionaries of the faith, this day, holy among the heathen, was - especially adopted by their teachers, and became for the new converts the commencement of the
year. From the night of Christ's birth the years were henceforth reckoned, and what so natural, so apparently unavoidable, as the affixing of Christ's date to the year so commenced ? Another and strong ground
may be assigned for the belief here expressed. The Romans found Christi• anity in England ; but that in which the orthodoxy of those days mainly
consisted they did not find ; I mean the Roman time of celebrating Easter. Now the disputes on this subject between the Western and Eastern churches had already led to the composition of elaborate tables, accurately defining the recurring dates upon the calculation of which the paschal period depended. Amongst these the most celebrated are those of Dionysius, who about the put forth his complete series of circles, introducing for the first time the years of the incarnation. It will be difficult to believe that these tables, so important for the solution of the great controversy, were not brought to Britain by Augustine; and still more difficult to believe that he did not
eagerly seize the opportunity to substitute the venerable era they contained for 3 any other that he might find here established. Those who
argue that the era of the incarnation was not introduced into England till the time of Beda, appear to me to have no sound grounds for their belief. 1BID. p. lxviii.
I believe it is now admitted that in the course of the eighth century the pontifical had superseded the imperial indictions in England : and Pagi, the learned commentator on Baronius, asserts this distinctly. I am satisfied that this view is the correct one, with perhaps the exception of the word superseded; for I know of no evidence that we ever had the imperial indictions.
p. lxxix. Anachronism in dates is undoubtedly the surest test by which we detect forgery in a charter ; but . : .. anachronism is not to be charged too lightly : the
; error may lie after all with ourselves. Especially allowance is to be made in apographs found in chartularies : here setting aside the case already alluded to where the
year of our Lord had been miscalculated from the indiction, a want of coincidence between the year and the indiction is not of uncommon occurrence. This however generally arises from the latter date having been partially abraded by age, and so misread: the want of a light line at the bottom readily transforms a V (in the old charters U) into a II; an abrasion may convert an X into a V: hence we not uncommonly find in these copies indiction 1111 for VII or XV; VII for XII; XII for XV, and the like. Nor is another error at all uncommon, where a letter or contraction has been taken to be part of the date : for instance, indictione u (uero) IIa, has often been read as if it were indictione VIIa. Again, indictione Xma, has become transformed into indictione XIIIa, the strokes of the written m having been taken to represent three units. This cause of error is so frequent as to render multiplied examples unnecessary. But even the carelessness of a scribe may bave given rise to blunders of omission
The researches of diplomatists have established the fact that many of the most powerful princes of the Teutonic tribes could not write at all, but stamped their names upon their grants. p. xc.
The witnesses to Saxon charters vary with the circumstances of the time and country. They probably were very generally merely the court or comites of the king, and with the importance of the king, the importance of the witnesses would vary. The earliest instruments of this nature, granted by the petty sovereigns, or half sovereigns of petty states, are distinguished by the small number of signatures, the presence of one bishop, or at most two, and the simple manner of the subscription. The same remarks apply also to grants made as it were in the private court, at the private dwelling of the king. But far different is it in later times with the records of synodal decrees, or with grants made at the annual councils, or the great festivals of Christmas and Easter, when the king celebrated these. Then we have an array of lay lords and church lords, sometimes comprehending a majority of the nobles and bishops of the whole land ; and then we have a multitude of ministri and milites, and even some names without addition, which we may believe to be those of persons who were not members of the king's court. Far different in still later times, when there was but one king and one court, and when courtiers of all classes crowded to testify their approbation of grants, which might act hereafter as happy precedents in their own case.
The sign of the cross is found in the earliest Italian documents, and is universal among the Anglo-Saxons, from whom we ourselves have derived it ... It may be doubted whether an older and heathen feeling did not lurk at first under this symbol ; whether, in short, such marks may not have been held binding among the Saxons even before the introduction of Christianity. For the hammer of Thunor (Thôrr) was the true heathen symbol in all contracts, and it is well known that the hammer of Thunor was represented by a cross. p. xciii.
The second class of documents contained in this collection [i. e. of charters), comprise the records of trials determined either in the county court before the sheriff, or in the great synods or councils, held twice a year. These meetings, which present the nearest approach to our parliaments that is to be met with in the Anglo-Saxon institutions, correspond in some degree to the old heathen assemblies, and the later March and May-fields of the Franks : That these councils were legislative bodies we may see by the collections of laws passed in them not only for the church, but the laity; and a passage already cited (p. lxxiii) proves that they were also courts of justice. p. cvi.
Perhaps, however, the most valuable and interesting of all the documents contained in this collection are the Wills. p. cviii.
[The reader is referred to King Alfred's Will, to be given hereafter in this volume, for some general remarks on the subject.]
CHARTERS, BEARING THE SIGNATURE OF ALFRED,
BEFORE HE BECAME KING IN 871.
1. The first appearance of Alfred's name affixed to a charter is under the year 853, when he was only four years old. His father Ethelwolf, then king, "for the expiation of his crimes and the absolution of his sins,” grants some land to “his faithful minister Ealdhere &c. &c.” Among the witnesses to this grant are ;
“ + I Ethelbearht king have confirmed and subscribed this grant with the sign of the holy cross." “+ I Elfred son of the king have consented and subscribed.” It is evident that either this charter is a forgery, or that some person acted for the child Alfred in affixing his consent and signature.
But this is not the only difficulty; for Ethelbert second son of Ethelwolf, was never, as far as we know, king during his father's life.
2. In the charter, whether genuine or spurious, containing Ethelwolf's grant of tithes to the church, (see Harmony of the Chronicles, page 16,) and dated April 22, 854, we again find “+ Ælfred son of the king,” but not in the second charter bearing the same date.
3. Under the same year is a grant to Malmesbury abbey church, to which the name of Alfred is also affixed. “+ Aelfred son of the king.” The charter is probably a forgery.
4. In 855, to a grant, by king Ethelwolf, of some land near Rochester castle. “ +1 Aelfred son of the king have consented and subscribed."
5. A charter, by Ethelbert, “king of the West-Saxons,” and therefore granted between 860 and $62, bears the signature “ +1 Elfræd son of the king,” i. e. of king Ethelwolf,
6. In 862, to another charter of Ethelbert, “ + I Aelfred brother of the king have consented and subscribed.”
7. To another, of the same king, in the same year,“ + I Aelfred son of the king.”
8. In 868, Aug. 1, a charter of Burgred king of Mercia, to Theodore abbat of Croyland, bears the attestation—“I Alfred brother of the king of West-Saxony have consented.”
9. In 868, to a charter by Ethelswith Alfred's sister, and queen of Mercia, “ +I Ælfred brother of the king have consented and subscribed.”
In 871, Ethelred died, and Alfred was elected king with the unanimous consent of all the estates of the realm, notwithstanding that some of his brother's children were then alive ; but these appear to have been thought too young to protect the kingdom from its enemies; and, as the crown was at that time elective, and not hereditary-or if hereditary, only so in a qualified degree,
-the eldest nephew of Alfred, Ethelward, was easily set aside in favour of his illustrious uncle, though, on Alfred's death in 901, he set up a fruitless claim to the succession in opposition to his cousin Edward the Elder.
CHARTERS BEARING THE SIGNATURE OF ALFRED
AFTER HE BECAME KING IN 871.
We have not a single charter belonging to the first seven years of king Alfred's life, and it may be remarked as a curious fact, that there was (so it seems) a “duke Alfred” contemporary with the Great King His name appears as “Elfred dux,” or “ Ælfred dux," subscribed to charters granted between the years 871 and 889.
In 878 begin the charters which properly are to be ascribed to king Alfred himself, and it seems the more imperative to give them in a collected edition of his works, from the great probability that, unlike his more illiterate predecessors, who may be supposed to have had little to do with such documents,-king Alfred, being a scholar fond of using his pen, and of taking part in every thing which concerned the good of his people, may himself have assisted in penning the charters which bear his name. Twelve only of these instruments bear Alfred's name, and it is