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The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Original Introduction to Ingram's Edition [1823]

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #17

England may boast of two substantial monuments of its early
history; to either of which it would not be easy to find a
parallel in any nation, ancient or modern.  These are, the Record
of Doomsday (1) and the "Saxon Chronicle" (2).  The former, which
is little more than a statistical survey, but contains the most
authentic information relative to the descent of property and the
comparative importance of the different parts of the kingdom at a
very interesting period, the wisdom and liberality of the British
Parliament long since deemed worthy of being printed (3) among
the Public Records, by Commissioners appointed for that purpose. 
The other work, though not treated with absolute neglect, has not
received that degree of attention which every person who feels an
interest in the events and transactions of former times would
naturally expect.  In the first place, it has never been printed
entire, from a collation of all the MSS.  But of the extent of
the two former editions, compared with the present, the reader
may form some idea, when he is told that Professor Wheloc's
"Chronologia Anglo-Saxonica", which was the first attempt (4) of
the kind, published at Cambridge in 1644, is comprised in less
than 62 folio pages, exclusive of the Latin appendix.  The
improved edition by Edmund Gibson, afterwards Bishop of London,
printed at Oxford in 1692, exhibits nearly four times the
quantity of the former; but is very far from being the entire (5)
chronicle, as the editor considered it.  The text of the present
edition, it was found, could not be compressed within a shorter
compass than 374 pages, though the editor has suppressed many
notes and illustrations, which may be thought necessary to the
general reader.  Some variations in the MSS. may also still
remain unnoticed; partly because they were considered of little
importance, and partly from an apprehension, lest the commentary,
as it sometimes happens, should seem an unwieldy burthen, rather
than a necessary appendage, to the text.  Indeed, till the editor
had made some progress in the work, he could not have imagined
that so many original and authentic materials of our history
still remained unpublished.

To those who are unacquainted with this monument of our national
antiquities, two questions appear requisite to be answered: --
"What does it contain?" and, "By whom was it written?"  The
indulgence of the critical antiquary is solicited, whilst we
endeavour to answer, in some degree, each of these questions.

To the first question we answer, that the "Saxon Chronicle"
contains the original and authentic testimony of contemporary
writers to the most important transactions of our forefathers,
both by sea and land, from their first arrival in this country to
the year 1154.  Were we to descend to particulars, it would
require a volume to discuss the great variety of subjects which
it embraces.  Suffice it to say, that every reader will here find
many interesting facts relative to our architecture, our
agriculture, our coinage, our commerce, our naval and military
glory, our laws, our liberty, and our religion.  In this edition,
also, will be found numerous specimens of Saxon poetry, never
before printed, which might form the ground-work of an
introductory volume to Warton's elaborate annals of English
Poetry.  Philosophically considered, this ancient record is the
second great phenomenon in the history of mankind.  For, if we
except the sacred annals of the Jews, contained in the several
books of the Old Testament, there is no other work extant,
ancient or modern, which exhibits at one view a regular and
chronological panorama of a PEOPLE, described in rapid succession
by different writers, through so many ages, in their own
vernacular LANGUAGE.  Hence it may safely be considered, nor only
as the primaeval source from which all subsequent historians of
English affairs have principally derived their materials, and
consequently the criterion by which they are to be judged, but
also as the faithful depository of our national idiom; affording,
at the same time, to the scientific investigator of the human
mind a very interesting and extraordinary example of the changes
incident to a language, as well as to a nation, in its progress
from rudeness to refinement.

But that the reader may more clearly see how much we are indebted
to the "Saxon Chronicle", it will be necessary to examine what is
contained in other sources of our history, prior to the accession
of Henry II., the period wherein this invaluable record

The most ancient historian of our own island, whose work has been
preserved, is Gildas, who flourished in the latter part of the
sixth century.  British antiquaries of the present day will
doubtless forgive me, if I leave in their original obscurity the
prophecies of Merlin, and the exploits of King Arthur, with all
the Knights of the Round Table, as scarcely coming within the
verge of history.  Notwithstanding, also, the authority of Bale,
and of the writers whom he follows, I cannot persuade myself to
rank Joseph of Arimathea, Arviragus, and Bonduca, or even the
Emperor Constantine himself, among the illustrious writers of
Great Britain.  I begin, therefore, with Gildas; because, though
he did not compile a regular history of the island, he has left
us, amidst a cumbrous mass of pompous rhapsody and querulous
declamation some curious descriptions of the character and
manners of the inhabitants; not only the Britons and Saxons, but
the Picts and Scots (6).  There are also some parts of his work,
almost literally transcribed by Bede, which confirm the brief
statements of the "Saxon Chronicle" (7).  But there is,
throughout, such a want of precision and simplicity, such a
barrenness of facts amidst a multiplicity of words, such a
scantiness of names of places and persons, of dates, and other
circumstances, that we are obliged to have recourse to the Saxon
Annals, or to Venerable Bede, to supply the absence of those two
great lights of history -- Chronology and Topography.

The next historian worth notice here is Nennius, who is supposed
to have flourished in the seventh century: but the work ascribed
to him is so full of interpolations and corruptions, introduced
by his transcribers, and particularly by a simpleton who is
called Samuel, or his master Beulanus, or both, who appear to
have lived in the ninth century, that it is difficult to say how
much of this motley production is original and authentic.  Be
that as it may, the writer of the copy printed by Gale bears
ample testimony to the "Saxon Chronicle", and says expressly,
that he compiled his history partly from the records of the Scots
and Saxons (8).  At the end is a confused but very curious
appendix, containing that very genealogy, with some brief notices
of Saxon affairs, which the fastidiousness of Beulanus, or of his
amanuensis, the aforesaid Samuel, would not allow him to
transcribe.  This writer, although he professes to be the first
historiographer (9) of the Britons, has sometimes repeated the
very words of Gildas (10); whose name is even prefixed to some
copies of the work.  It is a puerile composition, without
judgment, selection, or method (11); filled with legendary tales
of Trojan antiquity, of magical delusion, and of the miraculous
exploits of St. Germain and St. Patrick: not to mention those of
the valiant Arthur, who is said to have felled to the ground in
one day, single-handed, eight hundred and forty Saxons!  It is
remarkable, that this taste for the marvelous, which does not
seem to be adapted to the sober sense of Englishmen, was
afterwards revived in all its glory by Geoffrey of Monmouth in
the Norman age of credulity and romance.

We come now to a more cheering prospect; and behold a steady
light reflected on the "Saxon Chronicle" by the "Ecclesiastical
History" of Bede; a writer who, without the intervention of any
legendary tale, truly deserves the title of Venerable (12).  With
a store of classical learning not very common in that age, and
with a simplicity of language seldom found in monastic Latinity,
he has moulded into something like a regular form the scattered
fragments of Roman, British, Scottish, and Saxon history.  His
work, indeed. is professedly ecclesiastical; but, when we
consider the prominent station which the Church had at this time
assumed in England, we need not be surprised if we find therein
the same intermixture of civil, military, and ecclesiastical
affairs, which forms so remarkable a feature in the "Saxon
Chronicle".  Hence Gibson concludes, that many passages of the
latter description were derived from the work of Bede (13).  He
thinks the same of the description of Britain, the notices of the
Roman emperors, and the detail of the first arrival of the
Saxons.  But, it may be observed, those passages to which he
alludes are not to be found in the earlier MSS.  The description
of Britain, which forms the introduction, and refers us to a
period antecedent to the invasion of Julius Caesar; appears only
in three copies of the "Chronicle"; two of which are of so late a
date as the Norman Conquest, and both derived from the same
source.  Whatever relates to the succession of the Roman emperors
was so universally known, that it must be considered as common
property: and so short was the interval between the departure of
the Romans and the arrival of the Saxons, that the latter must
have preserved amongst them sufficient memorials and traditions
to connect their own history with that of their predecessors.
Like all rude nations, they were particularly attentive to
genealogies; and these, together with the succession of their
kings, their battles, and their conquests, must be derived
originally from the Saxons themselves. and not from Gildas, or
Nennius, or Bede (14).  Gibson himself was so convinced of this,
that he afterwards attributes to the "Saxon Chronicle" all the
knowledge we have of those early times (15).  Moreover, we might
ask, if our whole dependence had been centered in Bede, what
would have become of us after his death? (16)   Malmsbury indeed
asserts, with some degree of vanity, that you will not easily
find a Latin historian of English affairs between Bede and
himself (17); and in the fulness of self-complacency professes
his determination, "to season with Roman salt the barbarisms of
his native tongue!"  He affects great contempt for Ethelwerd,
whose work will be considered hereafter; and he well knew how
unacceptable any praise of the "Saxon Annals" would be to the
Normans, with whom he was connected (18).  He thinks it necessary
to give his reasons, on one occasion, for inserting from these
very "Annals" what he did not find in Bede; though it is obvious,
that the best part of his materials, almost to his own times, is
derived from the same source.

The object of Bishop Asser, the biographer of Alfred, who comes
next in order, was to deliver to posterity a complete memorial of
that sovereign, and of the transactions of his reign.  To him
alone are we indebted for the detail of many interesting
circumstances in the life and character of his royal patron (19);
but most of the public transactions will be found in the pages of
the "Saxon Chronicle": some passages of which he appears to have
translated so literally, that the modern version of Gibson does
not more closely represent the original.  In the editions of
Parker, Camden, and Wise, the last notice of any public event
refers to the year 887.  The interpolated copy of Gale, called by
some Pseudo-Asserius, and by others the Chronicle of St. Neot's,
is extended to the year 914 (20).  Much difference of opinion
exists respecting this work; into the discussion of which it is
not our present purpose to enter.  One thing is remarkable: it
contains the vision of Drihtelm, copied from Bede, and that of
Charles King of the Franks, which Malmsbury thought it worth
while to repeat in his "History of the Kings of England".  What
Gale observes concerning the "fidelity" with which these annals
of Asser are copied by Marianus, is easily explained.  They both
translated from the "Saxon Chronicle", as did also Florence of
Worcester, who interpolated Marianus; of whom we shall speak

But the most faithful and extraordinary follower of the "Saxon
Annals" is Ethelwerd; who seems to have disregarded almost all
other sources of information.  One great error, however, he
committed; for which Malmsbury does nor spare him.  Despairing of
the reputation of classical learning, if he had followed the
simplicity of the Saxon original, he fell into a sort of measured
and inverted prose, peculiar to himself; which, being at first
sufficiently obscure, is sometimes rendered almost unintelligible
by the incorrect manner in which it has been printed.  His
authority, nevertheless, in an historical point of view, is very
respectable.  Being one of the few writers untainted by monastic
prejudice (21), he does not travel out of his way to indulge in
legendary tales and romantic visions.  Critically considered, his
work is the best commentary on the "Saxon Chronicle" to the year
977; at which period one of the MSS. which he seems to have
followed, terminates.  Brevity and compression seem to have been
his aim, because the compilation was intended to be sent abroad
for the instruction of a female relative of high rank in Germany
(22), at her request.  But there are, nevertheless, some
circumstances recorded which are not to be found elsewhere; so
that a reference to this epitome of Saxon history will be
sometimes useful in illustrating the early part of the
"Chronicle"; though Gibson, I know not on what account, has
scarcely once quoted it.

During the sanguinary conflicts of the eleventh century, which
ended first in the temporary triumph of the Danes, and afterwards
in the total subjugation of the country by the Normans, literary
pursuits, as might be expected, were so much neglected, that
scarcely a Latin writer is to be found: but the "Saxon Chronicle"
has preserved a regular and minute detail of occurrences, as they
passed along, of which subsequent historians were glad to avail
themselves.  For nearly a century after the Conquest, the Saxon
annalists appear to have been chiefly eye-witnesses of the
transactions which they relate (23).  The policy of the Conqueror
led him by degrees to employ Saxons as well as Normans: and
William II. found them the most faithful of his subjects: but
such an influx of foreigners naturally corrupted the ancient
language; till at length, after many foreign and domestic wars,
tranquillity being restored on the accession of Henry II.,
literature revived; a taste for composition increased; and the
compilation of Latin histories of English and foreign affairs,
blended and diversified with the fabled romance and legendary
tale, became the ordinary path to distinction.  It is remarkable,
that when the "Saxon Chronicle" ends, Geoffrey of Monmouth
begins.  Almost every great monastery about this time had its
historian: but some still adhered to the ancient method. 
Florence of Worcester, an interpolator of Marianus, as we before
observed, closely follows Bede, Asser, and the "Saxon Chronicle"
(24).  The same may be observed of the annals of Gisburne, of
Margan, of Meiros, of Waverley, etc.; some of which are anonymous
compilations, whilst others have the name of an author, or rather
transcriber; for very few aspired to the character of authors or
original historians.  Thomas Wikes, a canon of Oseney, who
compiled a Latin chronicle of English affairs from the Conquest
to the year 1304, tells us expressly, that he did this, not
because he could add much to the histories of Bede, William of
Newburgh, and Matthew Paris, but "propter minores, quibus non
suppetit copia librorum." (25)  Before the invention of printing,
it was necessary that numerous copies of historical works should
be transcribed, for the instruction of those who had not access
to libraries.  The transcribers frequently added something of
their own, and abridged or omitted what they thought less
interesting.  Hence the endless variety of interpolators and
deflorators of English history.  William of Malmsbury, indeed,
deserves to be selected from all his competitors for the
superiority of his genius; but he is occasionally inaccurate, and
negligent of dates and other minor circumstances; insomuch that
his modern translator has corrected some mistakes, and supplied
the deficiencies in his chronology, by a reference to the "Saxon
Chronicle".  Henry of Huntingdon, when he is not transcribing
Bede, or translating the "Saxon Annals", may be placed on the
same shelf with Geoffrey of Monmouth.

As I have now brought the reader to the period when our
"Chronicle" terminates, I shall dismiss without much ceremony the
succeeding writers, who have partly borrowed from this source;
Simon of Durham, who transcribes Florence of Worcester, the two
priors of Hexham, Gervase, Hoveden, Bromton, Stubbes, the two
Matthews, of Paris and Westminster, and many others, considering
that sufficient has been said to convince those who may not have
leisure or opportunity to examine the matter themselves, that
however numerous are the Latin historians of English affairs,
almost everything original and authentic, and essentially
conducive to a correct knowledge of our general history, to the
period above mentioned, may be traced to the "Saxon Annals".

It is now time to examine, who were probably the writers of these
"Annals".  I say probably, because we have very little more than
rational conjecture to guide us.

The period antecedent to the times of Bede, except where passages
were afterwards inserted, was perhaps little else, originally,
than a kind of chronological table of events, with a few
genealogies, and notices of the death and succession of kings and
other distinguished personages.  But it is evident from the
preface of Bede and from many passages in his work, that he
received considerable assistance from Saxon bishops, abbots, and
others; who not only communicated certain traditionary facts
"viva voce", but also transmitted to him many written documents.
These, therefore, must have been the early chronicles of Wessex,
of Kent, and of the other provinces of the Heptarchy; which
formed together the ground-work of his history.  With greater
honesty than most of his followers, he has given us the names of
those learned persons who assisted him with this local
information.  The first is Alcuinus or Albinus, an abbot of
Canterbury, at whose instigation he undertook the work; who sent
by Nothelm, afterwards archbishop of that province, a full
account of all ecclesiastical transactions in Kent, and in the
contiguous districts, from the first conversion of the Saxons.
From the same source he partly derived his information respecting
the provinces of Essex, Wessex, East Anglia, and Northumbria.
Bishop Daniel communicated to him by letter many particulars
concerning Wessex, Sussex, and the Isle of Wight.  He
acknowledges assistance more than once "ex scriptis priorum"; and
there is every reason to believe that some of these preceding
records were the "Anglo-Saxon Annals"; for we have already seen
that such records were in existence before the age of Nennius. 
In proof of this we may observe, that even the phraseology
sometimes partakes more of the Saxon idiom than the Latin.  If,
therefore, it be admitted, as there is every reason to conclude
from the foregoing remarks, that certain succinct and
chronological arrangements of historical facts had taken place in
several provinces of the Heptarchy before the time of Bede, let
us inquire by whom they were likely to have been made.

In the province of Kent, the first person on record, who is
celebrated for his learning, is Tobias, the ninth bishop of
Rochester, who succeeded to that see in 693.  He is noticed by
Bede as not only furnished with an ample store of Greek and Latin
literature, but skilled also in the Saxon language and erudition
(26).  It is probable, therefore, that he left some proofs of
this attention to his native language and as he died within a few
years of Bede, the latter would naturally avail himself of his
labours.  It is worthy also of remark, that Bertwald, who
succeeded to the illustrious Theodore of Tarsus in 690, was the
first English or Saxon archbishop of Canterbury.  From this
period, consequently, we may date that cultivation of the
vernacular tongue which would lead to the composition of brief
chronicles (27), and other vehicles of instruction, necessary for
the improvement of a rude and illiterate people.  The first
chronicles were, perhaps, those of Kent or Wessex; which seem to
have been regularly continued, at intervals. by the archbishops
of Canterbury, or by their direction (28), at least as far as the
year 1001, or by even 1070; for the Benet MS., which some call
the Plegmund MS., ends in the latter year; the rest being in
Latin. From internal evidence indeed, of an indirect nature,
there is great reason to presume, that Archbishop Plegmund
transcribed or superintended this very copy of the "Saxon Annals"
to the year 891 (29); the year in which he came to the see;
inserting, both before and after this date, to the time of his
death in 923, such additional materials as he was well qualified
to furnish from his high station and learning, and the
confidential intercourse which he enjoyed in the court of King
Alfred.  The total omission of his own name, except by another
hand, affords indirect evidence of some importance in support of
this conjecture.  Whether King Alfred himself was the author of a
distinct and separate chronicle of Wessex, cannot now be
determined.  That he furnished additional supplies of historical
matter to the older chronicles is, I conceive, sufficiently
obvious to every reader who will take the trouble of examining
the subject.  The argument of Dr. Beeke, the present Dean of
Bristol, in an obliging letter to the editor on this subject, is
not without its force; -- that it is extremely improbable, when
we consider the number and variety of King Alfred's works, that
he should have neglected the history, of his own country. 
Besides a genealogy of the kings of Wessex from Cerdic to his own
time, which seems never to have been incorporated with any MS. of
the "Saxon Chronicle", though prefixed or annexed to several, he
undoubtedly preserved many traditionary facts; with a full and
circumstantial detail of his own operations, as well as those of
his father, brother, and other members of his family; which
scarcely any other person than himself could have supplied.  To
doubt this would be as incredulous a thing as to deny that
Xenophon wrote his "Anabasis", or Caesar his "Commentaries". 
From the time of Alfred and Plegmund to a few years after the
Norman Conquest, these chronicles seem to have been continued by
different hands, under the auspices of such men as Archbishops
Dunstan, Aelfric, and others, whose characters have been much
misrepresented by ignorance and scepticism on the one hand; as
well as by mistaken zeal and devotion on the other.  The indirect
evidence respecting Dunstan and Aelfric is as curious as that
concerning Plegmund; but the discussion of it would lead us into
a wide and barren field of investigation; nor is this the place
to refute the errors of Hickes, Cave, and Wharton, already
noticed by Wanley in his preface.  The chronicles of Abingdon, of
Worcester, of Peterborough, and others, are continued in the same
manner by different hands; partly, though not exclusively, by
monks of those monasteries, who very naturally inserted many
particulars relating to their own local interests and concerns;
which, so far from invalidating the general history, render it
more interesting and valuable.  It would be a vain and frivolous
attempt ascribe these latter compilations to particular persons
(31), where there were evidently so many contributors; but that
they were successively furnished by contemporary writers, many of
whom were eye-witnesses of the events and transactions which they
relate, there is abundance of internal evidence to convince us.
Many instances of this the editor had taken some pains to
collect, in order to lay them before the reader in the preface;
but they are so numerous that the subject would necessarily
become tedious; and therefore every reader must be left to find
them for himself.  They will amply repay him for his trouble, if
he takes any interest in the early history of England, or in the
general construction of authentic history of any kind.  He will
see plagarisms without end in the Latin histories, and will be in
no danger of falling into the errors of Gale and others; not to
mention those of our historians who were not professed
antiquaries, who mistook that for original and authentic
testimony which was only translated.  It is remarkable that the
"Saxon Chronicle" gradually expires with the Saxon language,
almost melted into modern English, in the year 1154.  From this
period almost to the Reformation, whatever knowledge we have of
the affairs of England has been originally derived either from
the semi-barbarous Latin of our own countrymen, or from the
French chronicles of Froissart and others.

The revival of good taste and of good sense, and of the good old
custom adopted by most nations of the civilised world -- that of
writing their own history in their own language -- was happily
exemplified at length in the laborious works of our English
chroniclers and historians.

Many have since followed in the same track; and the importance
of the whole body of English History has attracted and employed
the imagination of Milton, the philosophy of Hume, the simplicity
of Goldsmith, the industry of Henry, the research of Turner, and
the patience of Lingard.  The pages of these writers, however,
accurate and luminous as they generally are, as well as those of
Brady, Tyrrell, Carte, Rapin, and others, not to mention those in
black letter, still require correction from the "Saxon
Chronicle"; without which no person, however learned, can possess
anything beyond a superficial acquaintance with the elements of
English History, and of the British Constitution.

Some remarks may here be requisite on the CHRONOLOGY of the
"Saxon Chronicle".  In the early part of it (32) the reader will
observe a reference to the grand epoch of the creation of the
world.  So also in Ethelwerd, who closely follows the "Saxon
Annals".  It is allowed by all, that considerable difficulty has
occurred in fixing the true epoch of Christ's nativity (33),
because the Christian aera was not used at all till about the
year 532 (34), when it was introduced by Dionysius Exiguus; whose
code of canon law, joined afterwards with the decretals of the
popes, became as much the standard of authority in ecclesiastical
matters as the pandects of Justinian among civilians.  But it
does not appear that in the Saxon mode of computation this system
of chronology was implicitly followed.  We mention this
circumstance, however, not with a view of settling the point of
difference, which would not be easy, but merely to account for
those variations observable m different MSS.; which arose, not
only from the common mistakes or inadvertencies of transcribers,
but from the liberty which the original writers themselves
sometimes assumed in this country, of computing the current year
according to their own ephemeral or local custom.  Some began
with the Incarnation or Nativity of Christ; some with the
Circumcision, which accords with the solar year of the Romans as
now restored; whilst others commenced with the Annunciation; a
custom which became very prevalent in honour of the Virgin Mary,
and was not formally abolished here till the year 1752; when the
Gregorian calendar, commonly called the New Style, was
substituted by Act of Parliament for the Dionysian.  This
diversity of computation would alone occasion some confusion; but
in addition to this, the INDICTION, or cycle of fifteen years,
which is mentioned in the latter part of the "Saxon Chronicle",
was carried back three years before the vulgar aera, and
commenced in different places at four different periods of the
year!  But it is very remarkable that, whatever was the
commencement of the year in the early part of the "Saxon
Chronicle", in the latter part the year invariably opens with
Midwinter-day or the Nativity.  Gervase of Canterbury, whose
Latin chronicle ends in 1199, the aera of "legal" memory, had
formed a design, as he tells us, of regulating his chronology by
the Annunciation; but from an honest fear of falsifying dates he
abandoned his first intention, and acquiesced in the practice of
his predecessors; who for the most part, he says, began the new
year with the Nativity (35).

Having said thus much in illustration of the work itself, we must
necessarily be brief in our account of the present edition.  It
was contemplated many years since, amidst a constant succession
of other occupations; but nothing was then projected beyond a
reprint of Gibson, substituting an English translation for the
Latin.  The indulgence of the Saxon scholar is therefore
requested, if we have in the early part of the chronicle too
faithfully followed the received text.  By some readers no
apology of this kind will be deemed necessary; but something may
be expected in extenuation of the delay which has retarded the
publication.  The causes of that delay must be chiefly sought in
the nature of the work itself.  New types were to be cast;
compositors to be instructed in a department entirely new to
them; manuscripts to be compared, collated, transcribed; the text
to be revised throughout; various readings of great intricacy to
be carefully presented, with considerable additions from
unpublished sources; for, however unimportant some may at first
sight appear, the most trivial may be of use.  With such and
other difficulties before him, the editor has, nevertheless, been
blessed with health and leisure sufficient to overcome them; and
he may now say with Gervase the monk at the end of his first

     "Finito libro reddatur gratia Christo." (36)

Of the translation it is enough to observe, that it is made as
literal as possible, with a view of rendering the original easy
to those who are at present unacquainted with the Saxon language.
By this method also the connection between the ancient and modern
language will be more obvious.  The same method has been adopted
in an unpublished translation of Gibson's "Chronicle" by the late
Mr. Cough, now in the Bodleian Library.  But the honour of having
printed the first literal version of the "Saxon Annals" was
reserved for a learned LADY, the Elstob of her age (37); whose
Work was finished in the year 1819.  These translations, however,
do not interfere with that in the present edition; because they
contain nothing but what is found in the printed texts, and are
neither accompanied with the original, nor with any collation of

(1)  Whatever was the origin of this title, by which it is now
     distinguished, in an appendix to the work itself it is
     called "Liber de Wintonia," or "The Winchester-Book," from
     its first place of custody.
(2)  This title is retained, in compliance with custom, though it
     is a collection of chronicles, rather than one uniform work,
     as the received appellation seems to imply.
(3)  In two volumes folio, with the following title: "Domesday-
     Book, seu Liber Censualis Willelmi Primi Regis Angliae,
     inter Archlyos Regni in Domo Capitulari Westmonasterii
     asservatus: jubente rege augustissimo Georgio Tertio praelo
     mandatus typis MDCCLXXXIII"
(4)  Gerard Langbaine had projected such a work, and had made
     considerable progress in the collation of MSS., when he
     found himself anticipated by Wheloc.
(5)  "Nunc primum integrum edidit" is Gibson's expression in the
     title-page.  He considers Wheloc's MSS. as fragments, rather
     than entire chronicles: "quod integrum nacti jam discimus."
     These MSS., however, were of the first authority, and not
     less entire, as far as they went, than his own favourite
     "Laud".  But the candid critic will make allowance for the
     zeal of a young Bachelor of Queen's, who, it must be
     remembered, had scarcely attained the age of twenty-three
     when this extraordinary work was produced.
(6)  The reader is forcibly reminded of the national dress of the
     Highlanders in the following singular passage: "furciferos
     magis vultus pilis, quam corporum pudenda, pudendisque
     proxima, vestibus tegentes."
(7)  See particularly capp. xxiii. and xxvi.  The work which
     follows, called the "Epistle of Gildas", is little more than
     a cento of quotations from the Old and New Testament.
(8)  "De historiis Scotorum Saxonumque, licet inimicorum," etc.
     "Hist. Brit. ap." Gale, XV. Script. p. 93.  See also p. 94
     of the same work; where the writer notices the absence of
     all written memorials among the Britons, and attributes it
     to the frequent recurrence of war and pestilence.  A new
     edition has been prepared from a Vatican MS. with a
     translation and notes by the Rev. W. Gunn, and published by
     J. and A. Arch.
(9)  "Malo me historiographum quam neminem," etc.
(10) He considered his work, perhaps, as a lamentation of
     declamation, rather than a history.  But Bede dignifies him
     with the title of "historicus," though he writes "fiebili
(11) But it is probable that the work is come down to us in a
     garbled and imperfect state.
(12) There is an absurd story of a monk, who in vain attempting
     to write his epitaph, fell asleep, leaving it thus: "Hac
     sunt in fossa Bedae. ossa:" but, when he awoke, to his great
     surprise and satisfaction he found the long-sought epithet
     supplied by an angelic hand, the whole line standing thus:
     "Hac sunt in fossa Bedae venerabilis ossa."
(13) See the preface to his edition of the "Saxon Chronicle".
(14) This will be proved more fully when we come to speak of the
     writers of the "Saxon Chronicle".
(15) Preface, "ubi supra".
(16) He died A.D. 734, according to our chronicle; but some place
     his death to the following year.
(17) This circumstance alone proves the value of the "Saxon
     Chronicle". In the "Edinburgh Chronicle" of St. Cross,
     printed by H. Wharton, there is a chasm from the death of
     Bede to the year 1065; a period of 330 years.
(18) The cold and reluctant manner in which he mentions the
     "Saxon Annals", to which he was so much indebted, can only
     be ascribed to this cause in him, as well as in the other
     Latin historians.  See his prologue to the first book, "De
     Gestis Regum," etc.
(19) If there are additional anecdotes in the Chronicle of St.
     Neot's, which is supposed to have been so called by Leland
     because he found the MS. there, it must be remembered that
     this work is considered an interpolated Asser.
(20) The death of Asser himself is recorded in the year 909; but
     this is no more a proof that the whole work is spurious,
     than the character and burial of Moses, described in the
     latter part of the book of "Deuteronomy", would go to prove
     that the Pentateuch was not written by him.  See Bishop
     Watson's "Apology for the Bible".
(21) Malmsbury calls him "noble and magnificent," with reference
     to his rank; for he was descended from King Alfred: but he
     forgets his peculiar praise -- that of being the only Latin
     historian for two centuries; though, like Xenophon, Caesar,
     and Alfred, he wielded the sword as much as the pen.
(22) This was no less a personage than Matilda, the daughter of
     Otho the Great, Emperor of Germany, by his first Empress
     Eadgitha or Editha; who is mentioned in the "Saxon
     Chronicle", A.D. 925, though not by name, as given to Otho
     by her brother, King Athelstan. Ethelwerd adds, in his
     epistle to Matilda, that Athelstan sent two sisters, in
     order that the emperor might take his choice; and that he
     preferred the mother of Matilda.
(23) See particularly the character of William I. p. 294, written
     by one who was in his court.  The compiler of the "Waverley
     Annals" we find literally translating it more than a century
     afterwards: -- "nos dicemus, qui eum vidimus, et in curia
     ejus aliquando fuimus," etc. -- Gale, ii. 134.
(24) His work, which is very faithfully and diligently compiled,
     ends in the year 1117; but it is continued by another hand
     to the imprisonment of King Stephen.
(25) "Chron. ap." Gale, ii. 21.
(26) "Virum Latina, Graec, et Saxonica lingua atque eruditione
     multipliciter instructum." -- Bede, "Ecclesiastical
     History", v. 8. "Chron. S. Crucis Edinb. ap.", Wharton, i.
(27) The materials, however, though not regularly arranged, must
     be traced to a much higher source.
(28) Josselyn collated two Kentish MSS. of the first authority;
     one of which he calls the History or Chronicle of St.
     Augustine's, the other that of Christ Church, Canterbury.
     The former was perhaps the one marked in our series "C.T."A
     VI.; the latter the Benet or Plegmund MS.
(29) Wanley observes, that the Benet MS. 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.  Vid. "Cat." p. 130.
(30) Florence of Worcester, in ascertaining the succession of the
     kings of Wessex, refers expressly to the "Dicta Aelfredi".
     Ethelwerd had before acknowledged that he reported many
     things -- "sicut docuere parentes;" and then he immediately
     adds, "Scilicet Aelfred rex Athulfi regis filius; ex quo nos
     originem trahimus." Vid. Prol.
(31) Hickes supposed the Laud or Peterborough Chronicle to have
     been compiled by Hugo Candidus (Albus, or White), or some
     other monk of that house.
(32) See A.D. xxxiii., the aera of Christ's crucifixion, p. 23,
     and the notes below.
(33) See Playfair's "System of Chronology", p. 49.
(34) Playfair says 527: but I follow Bede, Florence of Worcester,
     and others, who affirm that the great paschal cycle of
     Dionysius commenced from the year of our Lord's incarnation
     532 -- the year in which the code of Justinian was
     promulgated.  "Vid. Flor. an." 532, 1064, and 1073.  See
     also M. West. "an." 532.
(35) "Vid. Prol. in Chron." Bervas. "ap. X." Script. p. 1338.
(36) Often did the editor, during the progress of the work,
     sympathise with the printer; who, in answer to his urgent
     importunities to hasten the work, replied once in the
     classical language of Manutius: "Precor, ut occupationibus
     meis ignoscas; premor enim oneribus, et typographiae cura,
     ut vix sustineam."  Who could be angry after this?
(37) Miss Gurney, of Keswick, Norfolk.  The work, however, was
     not published.