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conversion, the succession of its sovereigns and its bishops. The neighbouring state of Middle Anglia, which, if ever independent of Mercia, soon merged in it, is similarly circumstanced, and we are perhaps indebted to its connexion with the princes and bishops of Northumbria for what is known of its early history.
"Lindsey, part of Lincolnshire, although situated so near to the kingdom of Northumbria, was both politically and ecclesiastically independent of it, and Bede was as ignorant of the transactions of that province as of those which were much more remote from Jarrow. He received some materials from bishop Cynebert, but they appear to have been scanty, for the circumstances which relate to Lincolnshire are generally derived from the information of other witnesses.
"The history of East Saxony is more copious, and is derived partly from the communications of Albinus and Nothelm, and partly from the monks of Lastingham. To the first of these two sources we must probably refer the account of the pontificate of Mellitus, and the apostasy of the sons of Sabert,-circumstances too intimately connected with the see of Canterbury to be omitted in its annals. To the latter we are indebted for the history of the recon version of Saxony,—an event in which the monks of Lastingham were interested, as it was accomplished by their founder Cedd. From them Bede also received an account of the ministry of Chad. Some further details respecting its civil and ecclesiastical affairs, the life of Earconwald, bishop of London, and the journey of Offa to Rome, conclude the information which we have respecting this kingdom.
"In the history of Northumbria Bede, as a native, was particularly interested, and would probably exert himself to procure the most copious and authentic information regarding it. Although he gives no intimation of having had access to previous historical documents, when speaking of his sources of information, yet there seems reason to believe that he has made use of such materials. We may infer from what he says of the mode in which Oswald's reign was generally calculated, that in this king's time there existed Annals or Chronological Tables, in which events were inserted as they occurred, the regnal year of the monarch who ther
filled the throne being at the time specified. These anrala appear to have extended beyond the period of the conversion of Northumbria to Christianity, although it is difficult to imagine how any chronological calculation or record of events could be preserved before the use of letters had become known. But the history of Edwin, with its interesting details, shows that Bede must have had access to highly valu able materials which reached back to the very earliest era of authentic history; and we need not be surprised at finding information of a similar character throughout the remainder of his history of Northumbria. Accordingly we have minute accounts of the pedigrees of ts kings, their accession, exploits, anecdotes of them, and sketches of their cha racter, their deaths, and the duration of their reigns,—details too minute in themselves, and too accurately defined by Bede, to have been derived by him from tradition. Similar proofs might, if necessary, be drawn from the history of its bishops.
"(3.) The Historia Ecclesiastica contains various transcripts of important official documents. These are of two classes, either such as were sent from the Papal Court to the princes and ecclesiastics of England, or were the production of native writers. The first were transcribed from the Papal Regesta by Nothelm of London, during a residence at Rome, and were sent to Bede by the advice of his friend Albinus of Canterbury. They relate to the history of the kingdoms of Kent and Northumbria. The letters of archbishops Laurentius and Honorius, concerning the proper time for celebrating Easter, were probably furnished by the same indi vidual. The proceedings of the councils of Hertford and Hatfield may have been derived from the archives of Bede's own monastery, since it was customary in the early ages of the church for each ecclesiastical establishment to have a 'tabularium' in which were deposited the synodal decrees by which its members were governed.
"(n.) A considerable portion of the Historia Ecclesiastica, especially that part of it which relates to the kingdom of Northumberland, is founded upon local information which its author derived frora various individuals. On almost every occasion Bede gives the name and designation of his informant, being anxious, apparently, to show that nothing in
serted for which he had not the testimony of some respectable witness. Some of these persons are credible from having been present at the event which they related; others, from the high rank which they held in the church, such as Acca, bishop of Hexham, Guthfrid, abbat of Lindisfarne, Berthun, abbat of Beverley, and Pechthelm, bishop of Whitherne. The author received secondary evidence with caution, for he distinguishes between the statements which he received from eye-witnesses, and those which reached him through a succession of informants. In the last of these instances, the channel of information is always pointed out with scrupulous exactness, whatever opinion we may entertain, as in the case of some visions and miracles, of the credibility of the facts themselves."
Of the value of this work we can have no better evidence than the fact of its having been so often translated into the vernacular tongue. King Alfred thought it not beneath his dignity to render it familiar to his Anglo-Saxon subjects, by translating it into their tongue.
The first version in modern English was that of Stapleton, bearing the following title, "The History of the Church of Englande, compiled by Venerable Bede, Englishman, translated out of Latin into English by Thomas Stapleton, Student in Divinity. Antw. by John Lact, 1565." The object of the translator was to recall the affections of the people to the theological forms and doctrines which in his time were being exploded. In the dedication to queen Elizabeth occurs the following passage:- "In this History Your Hignes shall see in how many and weighty pointes the pretended reformers of the Church in Your Graces dominions have departed from the patern of that sounde and catholike faith planted first among Englishmen by holy S. AUGUSTIN our Apostle, and his virtuous company, described truly and sincerely by Venerable BEDE, so called in all Christendom for his passing vertues and rare learning, the Author of this History. And to thentent Your Highnes intention bent to weightier consider. ations and affaires may spende no longe time in espying oute the particulars, I have gathered out of the whole History a number of diversities betwene the pretended religion of Protestants, and the primitive faith of the EnglishChurch."
The work was again translated into English by John Ste. vens, Lond. 8vo. 1723; and a third time (with some omissions) by W. Hurst, Lond. 8vo. 1814, and apparently with the same object which influenced Stapleton.
In 1840, the editor of the present volume published a new edition of Stevens's translation, altering it in many respects, and correcting the orthography of proper names, according to the modern and generally received standard. A second edition of the same volume was published in 1842. In the same year also it was introduced, to accompany the Latin text, in the second volume of an edition of the complete works of Venerable Bede, and is now a fourth time printed with the other works contained in this volume. As the translation has on each occasion received certain corrections, it is hoped that the English reader will now find it to convey a tolerably accurate notion of the style and sense of the original.
CHAP. IV.-OF THE SAXON CHRONICLE.
THE work, which passes under the name of the Saxon Chronicle, is a continued narrative written at different dates, and in the Anglo-Saxon language, of the most important events of English History from the earliest period to the year of our Lord 1154. As it is evident, both from the antiquity of the very manuscripts of it now extant, as well as from certain allusions and forms of speech which occur in it, that the latter part of it at least was written by a person contemporary with the events which he relates, it cannot but be an object of interest and of great historical importance to examine so ancient a writing according to all the modes which literary criticism can suggest; and this inquiry becomes the more imperative from the extreme probability that the earlier part of the Chronicle is also of a contemporary character, and therefore ascends to a very earlier period of Saxon history, even to the time of the Heptarchy itself. This opinion rests upon the remarkable fact, that whilst the dialect of the latter portion of the Chronicle approaches very nearly to our modern English, the early part of it bears the impress of times much more rude and ancient, and the language in which it is written is absolutely unintelligible to the modern Englishman, who has not made the Anglo-Saxon tongue a serious object of his study.
The first point which suggests itself to the inquirer, concerns the form in which so valuable a national monument has come down to us. I shall not deem it necessary to delay the reader's attention by an account of the mode in which our large public and private collections of manuscripts have been formed. It is sufficient to observe that in all our collections of MSS. there are now only six ancient copies of the Saxon Chronicle known to be in existence. proceed to enumerate and describe them in order.
I. The first copy of this Chronicle is generally known by the name of the Benet or Plegmund MS., so called because it is preserved in Benet [now Corpus Christi] College, Cambridge, and because Plegmund, archbishop of Canterbury, in the reign of king Alfred, is thought to have had some hand in compiling the first part of it.
"From internal evidence of an indirect nature," says Dr. Ingram, "there is great reason to presume that archbishop Plegmund transcribed or superintended this very copy of the Saxon Annals to the year 891, the year in which he came to the see. Wanley observes it is written in one and the same hand to this year, and in hands equally ancient to the year 924, after which it is continued in different hands to the end.
"At the end of the year 890 is added, in a neat but imitative hand, the following interpolation, which is betrayed by the faintness of the ink, as well as by the Norman cast of the dialect and orthography :
"Her was Plegemund gecoron of gode and of eallen his halechen.
"There are many other interpolations in this MS.;* a par ticular account of which, however curious, would necessarily become tedious. A few only are here selected, with a view to illustrate the critical apparatus of this work, and the progressive accumulation of historical facts. They are generally very short, except where an erasure has been made to find room for them. The notice of the birth of St. Dunstan, as of every thing else relating to him, appears to be a monastic interpolation. His death is mentioned in the margin, in a very minute hand, in Latin. There seems to be nothing of any great value in this MS. beyond the time of Alfric, whose * The death of Plegmund for instance.