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§ 15. iii. Let us see if the hint thus furnished us by Gaimar can be made to coincide with the internal evidence supplied by the Saxon Chronicle itself.
It is by no means improbable that Alfred, a prince earnestly devoted to literature, should write, or cause to be written, a chronicle narrating the leading events of the history of his own country. That he should do this in the Saxon language, if he did it at all, is no less probable, when we remember that for the sake of extending our national literature he translated some of the writings of Gregory, Beda, Orosius, and Boethius into his mother tongue. The structure of the existing copies of the Chronicle favours the presumption thus raised. From the commencement of that document until the year 851, it exhibits all the appearances of a compilation; but from that period to 891 it assumes a more regular form, the narrative is more detailed, and it has every mark of a contemporaneous history. Again, from the year 891 onwards, the character of the document changes for the worse; its entries are less frequent and its information less valuable. These extreme dates of 851 and 891 limit, with tolerable accuracy, the period of Alfred's life.
§ 16. These considerations lead to the probable conclusion that the Saxon Chronicle-in its conception, if not in its executionoriginated with king Alfred. We may further conjecture that, about the year 891, he sent a copy of it to each of the cathedral churches, or larger monasteries; a supposition which will not be considered extravagant, when we remember that he assuredly did so in the case of his translation of the Pastorale of Pope Gregory, the copies of which, transmitted by him to Canterbury, Worcester, and Sherborne, are yet extant. In these several monasteries, in which Alfred placed copies of our annals, we conjecture that the narrative was continued; and that the existing copies are framed from various combinations of these several manuscripts. The Editor is not aware that any more probable solution of the question as to the origin of the Saxon Chronicle has been offered; and he believes that this meets all the requirements of the case, leaving no essential feature in the inquiry without a probable solution.
§ 17. Four editions of the Saxon Chronicle have been published. The first is due to Abraham Whelock, the professor of Arabic and Anglo-Saxon at Cambridge. It forms a portion of the supplemental matter appended to his edition of Beda, which appeared in folio at Cambridge in 1644. This edition is not without its value, even at the present time, since it is based upon the destroyed Cottonian MS., Otho B. xi. (see § 11), which we have reason to believe it represents, with a commendable degree of accuracy. Whelock also used our MS. A, of the value of which he does not appear to have been fully sensible.
§ 18. In 1692, Edmund Gibson, afterwards bishop of London, gave an improved edition of the Chronicle, having corrected Whelock's text by the aid of three important manuscripts, none of which had been employed by that editor. These are the copies B, E, and F of our list.
§ 19. Gibson's edition, in its turn, was superseded by that published in 1823, by the late Dr. Ingram, at that time President of Trinity College, Oxford. Ingram used all the existing manuscripts. This edition (though now valueless as far as the year 1066) still maintains its place in public estimation, since, from the date of the Norman Conquest to the year 1154, at which the Chronicle ends, we have no more satisfactory text than that which is here afforded.
§ 20. In 1848 appeared the first volume of the "Materials for the History of Britain," prepared by the late Mr. Petrie, and edited by Mr. Hardy. In accordance with Mr. Petrie's plan, this volume contains the Saxon Chronicle no further than the Norman Conquest. The text is entirely reconstructed, being based upon the earliest existing MS., that, namely, which we have designated as A, interwoven with which, however, are the additions furnished by the other copies. From the year 891, at which the text of MS. A ends, the narrative is framed from a comparison of all the surviving transcripts. It is accompanied by an English translation, which adheres, as closely as our modern language will admit, to the structure and idiom of the original.
§ 21. With the exception of a few unimportant corrections, the English version of the earlier portion of the Saxon Chronicle which is contained in this present volume, is a reprint of that which was published in 1848 by Mr. Petrie. The proprietors of the present series of English Historians are indebted to the Lords of Her Majesty's Treasury for permission to avail themselves of the result of Mr. Petrie's labours, as far as this document is concerned. It will be remembered, however, [§ 20,] that this translation extends no further than the year 1066. From that date, to the end of the work in 1154, a new translation has been prepared, and for this the Editor is responsible. It will be found to differ, in many instances, from the version furnished by Dr. Ingram. The text, moreover, has occasionally been corrected by a collation with the Laud MS. E. [§ 8.]
The Editor cannot conclude his observations upon the Saxon Chronicle without expressing his regret that we are still unprovided with a satisfactory critical edition of the whole of these Annals, forming, as they assuredly do, one of the most interesting and valuable remnants of our early national literature.
17th November, 1853.
[THE island' of Britain is eight hundred miles long and two hundred miles broad: and here in this island are five tongues; English, British, Scottish, Pictish, and Latin. The first inhabitants of this land were Britons; they came from Armenia, and first settled in the south of Britain. Then befel it that Picts came from the south from Scythia, with long ships, not many, and first landed in North Hibernia, and there entreated the Scots that they might there abide. But they would not permit them, for they said that they could not all abide there together. And then the Scots said, "We may nevertheless give you counsel. We know another island eastward of this, where ye may dwell if ye will, and if any one withstand you, we will assist you, so that you may subdue it." Then went the Picts and subdued this land northwards; the southern part the Britons had, as we before have said. And the Picts obtained wives for themselves of the Scots, on this condition, that they should always choose their royal lineage on the woman's side; which they have held ever since. And then befel it in the course of years that some part of the Scots departed from Hibernia into Britain, and conquered some portion of the land. And their leader was called Reoda; from whom they are named Dalreodi.*]
Before the incarnation of Christ sixty years, Gaius Julius the emperor, first of the Romans, sought the land of Britain; and he crushed the Britons in battle, and overcame them: and nevertheless he was unable to gain any empire there.
Sixty years before Christ was born, Gaius Julius, emperor of the Romans, with eighty ships, sought Britain. There he was at first dis
1 This description of Britain, which is found only in MSS. D. E. F., is taken from Beda's Eccl. Hist.-P.
2 Armorica is meant: "De tractu Armoricano," Hist. Eccl. § 7.
3 These words are those of Beda, from whose History this introduction is taken; and a slight but unmistakeable peculiarity in the diction enables us to decide that they are copied from Alfred's version of that history. See Smith's edition, 474. 19.
The MSS. D. E. F. proceed with the paragraph beginning with the word "Sixty." 5 MSS. D. E. F. in continuation of the introduction.
tressed by a fierce battle, and a large portion of his army was dispersed. And then he left his army to abide among the Scots,' and went south into Gaul, and there collected six hundred ships, with which he came again into Britain. And as they first rushed together, the emperor's 'gerefa was slain he was called Labienus. Then the Welsh took large and sharp stakes and drove them into the fording-place of a certain river, under water; this river was called Thames. When the Romans discovered this, then would they not go over the ford. Then fled the Britons to the woodwastes, and the emperor conquered very many of their chief cities after a great struggle, and departed again into Gaul.
A.D. 1. Octavianus reigned fifty-six years; and in the fortysecond year of his reign Christ was born.
A.D. 2. The three astrologers came from the eastern parts in order that they might worship Christ. And the children were slain at Bethlehem, in persecution of Christ by Herod.
A.D. 3. This year died Herod, having stabbed himself, and Archelaus his son succeeded to the government. 2And the child Christ was brought back again from Egypt.
A.D. 4, 5.
A.D. 6. From the beginning of the world to this year, five thousand and two hundred years were gone by.
A.D. 11. This year Herod the son of Antipater obtained the government of Judea.
A.D. 12. Philip and Herod divided Lysia (between them), and Judea they divided into tetrarchies.
A.D. 12. This year Judea was divided into four tetrarchies.
A.D. 16. This year Tiberius succeeded to the empire.
A.D. 26. This year Pilate began to rule over the Jews.
A.D. 30. This year Christ was baptized; and he converted Peter and Andrew, and James and John and Philip, and the twelve apostles.
A.D. 31, 32.
A.D. 33. This year Christ was crucified; being from the beginning of the world about five thousand two hundred and twenty-six years.
A.D. 34. This year St. Paul was converted, and St. Stephen stoned.
A.D. 35. This year the blessed apostle Peter established a bishop's see in the city of Antioch.
A.D. 36, 37.
1 Some MSS. of Beda for "hiberna" read "Hibernia," whence, Hibernia being the proper country of the Scots, the Roman forces are sent thither by the compilers.-P.
2 In F. only.
3 This is an insertion in A.
The text is here corrupted; see Beda, Six Ages, i. 627, from which this is erroneously copied.
5 In F. only.
A.D. 15, B. C.
7 B. C.
A.D. 29, C.