Page images



§ 1. This first portion of the second volume contains two historical documents of considerable value, the Saxon Chronicle and the Chronicle of Florence of Worcester, with its Continuation and Appendices; upon each of which it is necessary for us to make a few observations.

§ 2. Inferior, perhaps, in general importance to the Ecclesiastical History of the Venerable Beda, yet possessing an interest which is in some respects superior to that document, is the Saxon Chronicle. Each of these two great authorities has its own distinct value. The former claims to itself a more remote antiquity ; it exhibits a regular continuity of narrative, and a systematic attempt to present a connected history of the introduction of Christianity into England, and its progress up to the time at which its author wrote-none of which characteristics belong to the Saxon Chronicle. Its authorship, too, is an undisputed fact. We know when, where, and by whom it was written; and we can trace with remarkable precision the materials out of which Beda constructed his narrative. And it has been transmitted to us in a degree of completeness and purity which enables us to decide that we have it nearly as it was left by its venerable author.

3. But with the Saxon Chronicle the case is widely different. We are left in some uncertainty as to almost every question connected with its date, its origin, its progress, and its component parts ; and the consequence naturally is, that its value is hereby seriously affected. We very rarely can affirm that the statements which it makes are those of a contemporary; we can only say that such is probably the case. It has come down to us through various MSS., each of which is in some degree independent of the other; while all of them exhibit sufficient uniformity of structure and language to lead to the conviction that they must have proceeded from a common original. We have to regret that this prototype of the Saxon Chronicle has not reached us; for, could it be recovered, the results to be derived from its examination would be most important. In its absence, however, we must endeavour to satisfy ourselves by throwing together the few, inferences which may be gleaned from an inquiry into the condition of the existing copies— citing them by the designations which they respectively bear in the notes and various readings to the present edition.

§ 4. A. In many respects this is one of the most important copies which has come down to our times. It is preserved in the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Library of Corpus Christi College at Cambridge, having formed a portion of the valuable collections of Archbishop Parker which he presented to that society. It is now numbered clxxiii. It is written upon vellum, in double columns, as far as A.D. 417, at folio 9; but after that date, in a single column. It extends from the time of Julius Cæsar to the year 1070. The original handwriting ends with the year 891 ; and from that point onwards the entries have been made from time to time by a variety of scribes, specimens of whose writing may be seen in plates xxiii. and xxiv. of Petrie and Hardy's Monumenta Historica. From the fact of the first portion of this copy exhibiting some philological peculiarities which indicate a modified Anglian dialect, we may assume that it had its origin in the kingdom of Mercia, although, at the same time, its earlier entries relate chietly to incidents which have no exclusive connexion with that kingdom. An alteration in the range of its information takes place about A.D. 806, after which date it becomes much more general. Many passages have been inserted from a copy corresponding with MS. E, and in several places it agrees closely with that marked G. Its uniformity with C in some points is also worthy of notice.

$ 5. B. The Cottonian MS., Tiberius A. vi., in small folio. It suffered slightly in the disastrous fire of October, 1731. Apparently it represents a copy which was compiled in the year 977, to which period it extends from the incarnation of our Lord. It is written in one uniform hand, which may be referred to about the latter half of the tenth century, and of which a specimen is given in Petrie and Hardy's volume, plate xxii. It is faulty (or, perhaps, imperfect), by frequently omitting dates at the beginning of its narrative of the respective years to which they refer. As far as the year 918 it agrees very closely with MS. G, as represented by Whelock's edition ; from that point to 934 there is a considerable variation between these two texts ; but the similarity is again perceptible from 934 to 977, where B ends. It has many points of correspondence with MS. C, and these so minute as to argue either a common origin, or that one has been constructed upon, or at least influenced by, the other. It is interesting as embodying what appears to have been an independent Mercian Chronicle, having for its object a narrative of the exploits of the lady Aethelfled.

$6. C. This copy is likewise one of the Cottonian MSS., being distinguished by the press-mark, Tiberius B. i. Before it became the property of Sir Robert Cotton it belonged to Bowyer, the Keeper of the Records in the Tower of London. Like its predecessors, it is written upon vellum, in folio. It extends from the invasion of Julius Cæsar to A.D. 1066, the original scribe carrying it on from the beginning to 1047. Various hands have been employed upon it from that point to its conclusion. A fac simile of the writing may be seen in Petrie and Hardy, plate xxi. There is a marked degree of similarity between this copy and B, as far as the latter extends (that is, to a.d. 977), with this difference, however, that in the present copy the chronology is complete ; after this date it coincides with D, E, and F, to the end of the year 1056, from

« PreviousContinue »