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BY J. A. GILES, D.C.L.,
LATE FELLOW OF CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE, OXFORD.
REPRINTED FROM STEREOTYPE PLATES BY WM. CLOWES & SONS, LTD.,
STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.
THE period of six hundred years (from about A.D. 466 to 1066), during which the Anglo-Saxons were dominant in England, has always been viewed with much interest and attention by the modern English, particularly of our own day. Nor are we at a loss to discover the true explanation of this fact. A nation will always be most attached to that portion of its former history which developes a state of things, polity, and institutions, similar to their own, and adapted to become a model for their imitation. Now the tendency of the present times is to enlarge the rights and privileges of the people, that they may-all, and not merely a section of them-enjoy as much happiness in their social life and during their existence on the earth, as the constitution of their nature requires; and, moreover, that they shall, as a body, have the privilege of judging for themselves in what way the largest share of enjoyment may be obtained. Hence has arisen that renewal of attention which the people of England at present devote to that part of English history which preceded the Norman conquest. Then are supposed to have been planted those seeds of national liberty which, under every form of cutting and pruning to which the plant may occasionally have been subjected, have nevertheless con tinually germinated, until the tree, like that which sprang from the grain of mustard-seed, bids fair to overshadow all of us.
To such a spirit of inquiry must be attributed the fact that the Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical History by the Venerable Bede, has already, before the appearance of this volume, been published in three separate editions in about seven years; and to the same cause must be ascribed the publication of this volume, in which, at an unprecedented low price, are now for the first time presented to the public the two great
Chronicles of Anglo-Saxon History. Although of limited dimensions, they present us with a most extraordinary number of facts arranged chronologically, and form a mass of history such as no other nation of Europe possesses.
CHAP. II.-LIFE OF BEDE.
Sect. 1.-Of his birth.
THE year of our Lord 673, remarkable for one of the most important of our early English councils, held at Hertford, for the purpose of enforcing certain general regulations of the church, has an equal claim on our attention, as the year in which that great teacher of religion, literature, and science, the Venerable Bede, first saw the light.
The time of his birth has, however, been placed by some writers as late as A.D. 677, but this error arose from not perceiving that the last two or three pages of his Chronological Epitome, attached to the Ecclesiastical History, were added by another hand.*
Bede's own words appear decisive in fixing the date of his birth:-"This is the present state of Britain, about 285 years since the coming of the Saxons, and in the seven hundred and thirty-first year of our Lord's incarnation." To this he subjoins a short chronology which comes down to 731, and was continued to 734, either by another hand or by Bede himself, at a later period just before his death: he then gives a short account of the principal events of his own life, and says, that he has attained (attigisse) the fifty-ninth year of his life. Gehle, in his recent publication on the life of Bede, has not scrupled to fix the year 672, interpreting Bede's expression that he had attained his fifty-ninth year as implying that he was entering on his sixtieth. On the other hand, another learned critic,† whose opinion has been adopted by Stevenson in his Introduction [p. 7], has endeavoured to show that 674 is the true date. But in so unimportant a articular it is hardly worth while to weigh the conflicting opinions, and the intermediate date, so long ago settled by
• Mabill. in v. Bed. sect. ii. Sim. Dun. de Ecc. D. 8, and Ep. de Archie. Ebor. Stubbs's Act. Pont. Eborac. Sparke's Hist. Ang. Scrip. 1723. Surtees' Hist. of Durham, ii. p. 69.
+ Pagi Critic. in Baron. Ann. A.D. 693, sect. 8