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tice. In the principal biographies, those of "Gildas, Nennius, Asser," and others, there are pregnant proofs of his careful in vestigation of the authenticity, both of the histories of the writers, and of the works attributed to them. The discovery of the un-authenticity of Asser's "Life of Alfred" is particularly important, not only in itself, but because it affects so very interesting a portion of the Anglo-Saxon literary and political annals.
one place that King Alfred labored under a painful disease, which never quitted him from the time of his marriage till his fortieth year, when he was miraculously relieved from it in consequence of his praying to St. Neot, after which he never suffered a relapse; and in a subsequent page, he says that the king still continued to suffer from it at the time he was writing, in his forty-fifth year, and that he had never been free from it an hour together.
"There can be no doubt that the writer of this life of Alfred made use of a life of St. Neot. The story of Alfred and the peasant's wife is considered to be an interpolation in the original text, because it was omitted in the older manuscript; but even in that manuscript (the one printed by Matthew Parker) the reference to Neot remained in the words "Et, ut in vita sancti patris Neoti legitur, apud quendam suum vicarium." There are also other allusions to this life of Neot. It is our firm conviction that there exist
"It appears, in the first place, strange," says Mr. Wright, "that the life of Alfred should have been written in his lifetime, when he was in the vigor of his age, (in his forty-fifth year,) and particularly by a man in the position of Asser. It is not easy to conceive for what purpose it was written, or to point out any parallel case; but it is still more difficult to imagine why (if Asser the biographer and Asser, Bishop of Sher-ed no life of Neot in the time of the real Asser. borne be the same) its author, who lived nine There is, on the contrary, every reason for beyears after Alfred's death, did not complete it. lieving that the life of St. Neot began to be writWhen we examine the book itself, we see at ten after his relics were carried into Huntingonce that it does not support its own character; donshire, in 974. In this case, the life of Alfred it has the appearance of an unskilful compila- attributed to Asser, cannot have been written tion of history and legend. Asser's life of Alfred before the end of the tenth century; and it was consists of two very distinct parts; first, a chro- probably the work of a monk who, with no great nicle of events, strictly historical, from 851 to 887; knowledge of history, collected some of the nuand secondly, a few personal anecdotes of Alfred, merous traditions relating to King Alfred which which are engrafted upon the chronicle at the were then current, and joined them with the leyears 866 and 884, without any particular refer- gends in the life of St. Neot, and the historical ence to those years, and at the conclusion. No entries of the Saxon Chronicle, and, to give auperson can compare the first, or strictly histori-thenticity to his work, published it under the cal part of the work, with the Saxon Chronicle, name of Asser. At the time when it was pubwithout being convinced that it is a mere transla-lished, and when the Anglo-Saxons looked back tion from the corresponding part of that docu- to their great monarch with regret, it may have ment, which was most probably not in existence till long after Alfred's death. Why the writer should discontinue his chronological entries at the year 887, when he distinctly states that he was writing in 893, does not appear, unless we may suppose that the copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle he used was mutilated, and reached no lower than that year.
"The second part of the book, or the matter interpolated in the Chronicle, evidently contains legendary matter which could not have been written in Alfred's time, or by his bishop, Asser. The account he gives of Alfred's youth, cannot be strictly true; it is impossible to believe that the education of the favorite child of King Ethel
wulf, who was himself a scholar, should have been neglected, or that in the court where Swithun was the domestic adviser, he should want teachers. His early mission to Rome is a proof that such was not the case. Yet Asser states that Alfred complained that in his childhood, when he was desirous of learning, he could find no instructors. There are several things in the book which are not consistent: on one occasion the writer quotes the authority of King Alfred for the story of the West-Saxon queen Eadburga, which must have been well known to Alfred's subjects; whilst in another part he goes to a legendary life of St. Neot for all the information relating to Alfred's misfortunes at Athelney, which he has added to what is said in the Saxon Chronicle. In the same manner he asserts in
been intended to serve a political object. There is another work which bears Asser's name, itself a poor compilation from the Saxon Chronicle, but which is also described as a Chronicle of St. Neot's, though it is asserted that it ought to be called Asseri Annales. It is not impossible that the writer of both was a monk of St. Neot's, which would account for the frequent use of the life of St. Neot in the life of Alfred."
This extract affords a fair example of the author's style, reasoning, and learning. In like manner, he shows, in his sketch of Alfred himself, that the metrical translation of Boethius, attributed to him, must have been executed by another person; and the popular name of the king attached to it, either by the author or by fond posterity. The subject being curious, we shall present our readers with another extract of some length.
"We must not," says the author, "let ourselves be led by the greatness of his exertions to estimate Alfred's own learning at too high a rate. In "Grammar" his skill was never very profound, because he had not been instructed in it in his youth; and the work of Boethius had to undergo a singular process before the_royal translator commenced his operations. Bishop Asser, one of Alfred's chosen friends, was em
which endangered the whole Cottonian Library, to have been written in the tenth century."
We have cited these passages, both as a specimen of the author's language and manner, and because they refer to a personage who never can be viewed without interest, whether considered in his perBut there are other biographies of the Ansonal history, his rule, or his love of letters.
ployed to turn the original text of Boethius into The only manuscript containing this metrical plainer words'-'a necessary labor in those version which has yet been met with, appears, days,' says William of Malmsbury, although from the fragments of it preserved from the fire at present (in the 12th century) it seems somewhat ridiculous.' And in a similar manner, before he undertook the translation of the Pastorale, he had it explained to him-the task was perhaps executed sometimes by one, sometimes by another-by Archbishop Plegmund, by Bishop Asser, and by his "Mass-priests" Grimbald and John. But Alfred's mind was great and comprehensive; and we need not examine his scholarship in detail, in order to justify or to enhance his reputation. His are well written; and, whatever may have been the ex-glo-Saxon period which elucidate matters tent of his knowledge of the Latin language, of much importance;-such as the lives of they exhibit a general acquaintance with the "Alfric of Canterbury," (one of three Alsubject superior to that of the age in which he frics mingled in hitherto inextricable perlived. Whenever their author added to his original, in order to explain allusions which he plexity ;) and " Alfric, archbishop of York," original, in order to explain allusions which he his disciple; and of "Wulfstan, bishop of thought would not be understood, he exhibits a just idea of ancient history and fable, differing Worcester," whose Homilies were publishwidely from the distorted popular notions which ed under the title of Lupus Episcopus. were prevalent then and at a subsequent period From these, in particular, we ascertain the in the vernacular literature. There is one ap- importance of the elder Anglo-Saxon reliparent exception to this observation. In translat- gious doctrines, as approaching those of ing the second metre of the fifth book of Boe- the Reformed Church. The principles of thius, beginningthe future Reformation were there: they only expanded and flourished in the after days of Wickliffe and Lollardism.
Puro clarum lumine Phœbum
The Anglo-Saxon mind appears to have been eminently poetical. Columbanus, Tatwine, Bede, Acca, Cuthbert of Canterbury, Boniface, Alcuin, Ethelwolf, Fridegode, Briestan, and Wolstan, who wrote in Latin; and Cadmon, Aldhelm, and Cyne
Melliflui canit oris Homerus'Alfred has added an explanation which shows that Virgil was then much better known than Homer. "Homer," says he, "the good poet, who was best among the Greeks, he was Virgil's teacher; this Virgil was best among the Latins." Alfred probably means no more than that Virgil imitated Homer; but in the metrical version of the Metres of Boethius, also attributed wulf, who composed their verses in the to Alfred, the matter is placed quite in another light, and Homer not only becomes Virgil's teacher, but his friend also.
native tongue, are lasting expositors of this fact. Of the first-mentioned of these, Columbanus, Mr. Wright speaks as follows:
'His poems show that he was not ignorant of ancient history and fable, and that he had read attentively a certain class of authors; and his letters on the period of observing Easter, prove that he was well acquainted with the theological works then in repute. It has been conjectured from a passage at the end of one of his letters, that he could read Greek and Hebrew; but the inference seems hardly authorized by the observation which gave rise to it.
"The works of Columbanus, which have always found the greatest number of readers, and have been most frequently printed, are his
We will, however, willingly relieve the AngloSaxon monarch from all responsibility for this error, which seems to have arisen from the misconstruction of Alfred's words by some other person who was the author of the prosaic verses that have hitherto gone under his name. Sev-poems. Yet they are few in number, and of no eral reasons combine in making us believe that these were not written by Alfred: they are little more than a transposition of the words of his own prose, with here and there a few additions and alterations in order to make alliteration; the compiler has shown his want of skill on many occasions. He has, on the one hand, turned into metre both Alfred's preface (or at least imitated it) and his introductory chapter, which certainly had no claim to that honor; whilst, on the other hand, he has overlooked entirely three of the metres, which appear to have escaped his eye as they lay buried among King Alfred's prose.
great importance. His style is simple, and not incorrect; but there is little spirit or vigor in his versification. He frequently imitates the later poets; and, like them, is too partial to dactylic measures-a fault which strikes us in his hexameters, most of which have a dactyl for their base. He also possesses another fault in common with all the poets of the middle ages, the frequent use of unnecessary particles, inserted only to help the verse. The subject of Columbanus's poetry never varies; all his pieces are designed to convey to his friends his exhort[ations to quit the vanities and vexations of the
world, which he seems to have thought would of a thousand years!-to see how many of be longer retained in their memory if expressed the features bear a strong resemblancein metre.' how much of the family likeness is preWe pass over the illustrations of the served! To draw out the parallels would rude, alliterative, and punning imitations of be a delightful task; but it would require a the classics by Aleuin and Aldhelm-the large volume, and we are near the close Enigmata of Tatwine,' who died A. D. of a limited article. 734, the second in point of date of the We may, however, remark, what these Anglo-Latin poets-the industrious versi-biographies show, that the Anglo-Saxons fication of Bede, and the unknown poems cultivated almost every branch of literature said to have passed as those of his friend and science, and that they even endeavorBishop Acca of Hexham-Archbishop Cuth-ed to solve questions which still puzzle the bert's poor epigrams, most of which have scientific world. What would the patentee been lost-the superior literary remains of of the Aerial say to their speculating on Boniface-Ethelwolf's 'Metrical Account the possibility of making a machine to fly? of the Abbots, &c., of his Monastery, Lin- The inventor of the Æolian harp was foredasferne'-Fridegode the monk of Dovor's stalled by St. Dunstan. He was accused 'Life of St. Wilfred,' in heroic verse, so of magic for making an enchanted harp, filled with Greek words as to need trans- which performed tunes, without the agency lation-Bricstan's 'Elegy on the Destruc- of fingers, whilst it hung against the wall. tion of Croyland Abbey,' of which only a few lines have been preserved-and Wolstan's Miracles of St. Swithin,' about the last and best of these Saxon Latinists. Respecting the second class to whom we have alluded, we shall only quote a few remarks from Mr. Wright. Of Cadmon he says
'While men of higher rank and education were laboring to introduce among their countrymen the language and literature of Rome, we find a person rising out of the common orders of the people, under remarkable circumstances, to Christianize and refine the vernacular poetry. No name has of late years excited more interest among scholars than that of Cadmon, yet he is not mentioned by any early writer except Bede.'
The biography of Bridferth has some curious and interesting references to the educational works of our Saxon ancestors, and those perused in their schools. Bridferth (who flourished A. D. 980) was one of the most eminent men teachers of the school of Ramsey, and commentator on the scientific treatises of Bede. He is said to have been a disciple of Abbo of Fleury, and called by some Thorneganus, perhaps from being a monk of Thorney.
'It has not,' says Mr. Wright, 'hitherto been observed, that Bridferth had pursued his studies in France; though in his Commentary on Bede, De Temporum Ratione, he mentions an observation which he had himself made at Thionville. Bale says that Bridferth flourished about A. D. 980. All the known allusions to him, seem to concur in pointing him out as the most eminent English mathematician of the latter part of the tenth century.
'Bridferth's Commentaries on the two treatises
The Cowherd at Streaneshalch,' (now Whitby) furnishes a romantic history; and he was much imitated in his religious poetry, though so little of the imitations have survived the ravages of time. Of of Bede, De Natura Rerum and De Temporum Aldhelm's Anglo-Saxon compositions we Ratione, are extremely valuable for the light have no remains; and of Cynewulf, who they throw on the method of teaching in the Anglo-Saxon schools. They are probably nolived at the commencement of the eleventh thing more than notes of the lectures delivered century, above 300 years after Cædmon, we in the school at Ramsey. Bede's Treatises learn that his identity, as an Anglo-Saxon were still the text-books of the Anglo-Saxon poet, has only recently been discovered by scholars. In commenting upon them, Bridferth the name, concealed in a playful Runic de- adduced various kinds of illustrations. Somevice, among the poems in the Exeter and times he supports the statements of Bede by slight numerical calculations. In some inVercelli manuscripts. But the chief and stances he explains the meaning of the text, peculiar interest created by a view of all where the words of the original appeared to these writings, and the general statements him not sufficiently clear'-and sometimes his respecting the men of the Anglo-Saxon Commentaries become mere explanations and period, whose deeds and productions have derivations of words. In his Commentaries, he reached us in story, is owing to their pos-quotes the authorities of the fathers of the sessing so much of modern feeling and Church, as Clemens, Augustine, Ambrose, Eusebius, Jerome, Isidore, &c.; with those also of sentiment, and even, in some degree, of Latin writers of a different class, such as Pliny, literary character. How extraordinary to Macrobius, Marcus Varro, Terentianus, Priscian, contemplate the reflections of the mirror | Hyginus, and Marcianus Capella; and he fre
quently cites the Latin poets Virgil, Horace, done towards separating the false from the Juvenal, Persius, Terence, and Lucan, as writers true. This is not, however, a task con
well known to his readers.'
Of the other volume mentioned at the head of this article, we must fairly say, that though we have seen nothing from any English institution which could pretend to rival the Continental archeologists on its chosen ground, yet in Greek and Egyptian antiquities, it may compete with the best publications of France, Germany, and Italy; while, as a commencement, it may, on the whole, be allowed to be alike honorable to the Body and to our national literature.
nected with the volume before us. To conclude: We think the work, of which it may In a general point of view, the 'Bio- be regarded as the first portion, singularly graphia' exhibits the greatness and energy appropriate to the Society from which it of the Anglo-Saxon character. The labors has emanated; and that portion is certainof Wilfred, the first great patron of archi- ly creditable to the care, research, and tecture, as manifested at York and Ripon scholarship of Mr. Wright. We trust that to bring in the Papal authority, and cause the sequel will contain at least an equally it to be servilely obeyed, may be instanced interesting history of the Anglo-Norman as a proof of this; and so may the wander- period which followed, and which is so full ings of Benedict Biscop to seek ornaments of varied matter, connected with all that and treasures for his church and monastery has since been done. of Wearmouth. Among other valuables, he imported vast quantities of books for the library; had foreign glaziers to adorn them with glass windows; and introduced, through the archicantor of St. Peter's, the Roman choral service into Wearmouth, whence it soon spread over the island. The library was doomed to perish amid the depredations of the Danes; and the loss is the more to be deplored, since, from references and allusions in the writings of his disciple Bede, it is evident that it must have contained, together with works of other kinds, a rare collection of Greek and Latin authors. With the same view, we might appeal to the daring missionary adventures of Wilbrord and Boniface to convert the German tribes; to the travels of ORTOLANS.-Perhaps the greatest refinement in Willibald (born 700, died 786) to the Holy fattening is exhibited in the manner of feeding ortoLand, combined with King Alfred's send- delicacy by Italians. It is the fat of this bird which ing alms' to the Christians of St. Thomas is so delicious; but it has a peculiar habit of feedand St. Bartholomew, in the remote regions ing, which is opposed to its rapid fattening-this is, of India, whence his messengers, Sighelm that it feeds only at the rising of the sun. and Athelstan, brought back numerous rich peculiarity has not proved an insurmountable obstacle to the Italian gourmands. The ortolans are gems and other costly commodities; and last-placed in a warm chamber, perfectly dark, with Ïy, to the struggles for the introduction of monarchism under Ethelwald, Dunstan, and Oswold. From all their biographies, facts strongly illustrating their perseverance and energy of character might easily be adduced.
lans. The ortolan is a small bird, esteemed a great
only one aperture in the wall. Their food is scattered over the floor of the chamber. At a certain hour in the morning the keeper of the birds places a lantern in the orifice of the wall; the dim light thrown by the lantern on the floor of the apartment induces the ortolans to believe that the sun is about to rise, and they greedily consume the food upon the floor. More food is now scattered over it, and the lantern is withdrawn. The ortolans, rather surprised at the shortness of the day, think it their duty to fall asleep, as night has spread his sable mantle round them. During sleep, little of the food being expended in the production of force, most of it goes been allowed to repose for one or two hours, in to the formation of muscle and fat. After they have order to complete the digestion of the food taken, their keeper again exhibits the lantern through the aperture. The rising sun a second time illuminates the apartment, and the birds, awaking from their slumber, apply themselves voraciously to the food on the floor; after having discussed which, they are again enveloped in darkness. Thus the sun is made to shed its rising rays into the chamber four or five times every day, and as many nights follow become like little balls of fat in a few days.-PlayThe ortolans thus treated its transitory beams.
We may remark, that notwithstanding the general and comprehensive title of the work, 'Biographia Britannica Literaria,' the author has (and we think wisely) omitted the numerous class of early but very doubtful writers enumerated by the Welsh and Irish bibliographers; inserting only such Welsh and Irish writers as can be proved to have been known to the Anglo-Saxons, and their productions to have had a wide circulation in that period of our literary history. Such were Columbanus, the geographer Dicuil, and the pseudo Gildas. Welsh and Irish literary history in its earlier ages, is full of obscurities and difficulties; and as yet, little, we fear, has been | fair, in the Journ. Agricult. Soc.
THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION.
From the Literary Gazette.
prolific in individuals in that zone in which is their maximum, and of which they may be regarded as characteristic. Mingled with the Report on the Mollusca and Radiata of the true natives of every zone are strangers, owing Egean Sea, and on their distribution, con- their presence to the action of the secondary sidered with reference to Geology. By E. influences which modify distribution. Every FORBES, Prof. Bot. King's College, London. zone has also a more or less general mineral THE report now presented to the Association, character, the sea-bottom not being equally variand drawn up at its request, embodies the re- able in each, and becoming more and more unisults of eighteen months' research in the eastern form as we descend. The deeper zones are Mediterranean, among the islands of the Archi- greatest in extent; the most superficial, although pelago and on the coasts of Asia Minor, during most prolific in animal and vegetable life, are the greater part of which time daily observa- least, ranging through a depth of two fathoms tions were made and numerous explorations of only. The second region ranges from 2 to 10 the sea-bottom conducted by means of the fathoms, the third from 10 to 20, the fourth from dredge, in all depths of water, between the sur- 20 to 35, the fifth from 35 to 55, the sixth from face and 230 fathoms. During the progress of 55 to 75, the seventh from 75 to 105; the eighth the inquiry, the author was attached as natural- exceeds in extent all the others combined, rangist to her majesty's surveying vessel Beacon, ing from 105 to the lowest depth explored, and and received every possible assistance from presenting a uniform mineral character, and Captain Graves and his officers, without whose peculiar fauna throughout. In the deepest part active co-operation the results laid before the of this hitherto unexplored region, mollusca of meeting could not have been obtained. The the genera Arca, Dentalium, Nucula, Ligula, objects of the inquiry were-1st, to collect and and Neæra, were found alive; and zoophytes define the several species of mollusca and radi- of the genera Idmonea and Alecto. The region ata inhabiting the gean; 2d, to ascertain the immediately above abounds in ozrachiopoda. conditions under which those animals lived, and Annelides were found as deep as 110 fathoms. the manner in which they were associated to- Certain species range through several zones; gether; 3d, to inquire whether species known and two, Arca lactea and Cerithum lima, were only as fossil existed at present in a living state, common to all. Such testacea as had the greatin depths and localities hitherto unexplored; est ranges in depth were for the most part such and 4th, to compare the species and the associa- as have a wide geographical range. On the tions of species now inhabiting that sea, with those other hand, species having a very limited range found fossil in the neighboring tertiary deposits. in depth were found to be either forms peculiar The first part of the report is devoted to an to the Mediterranean, or such as, though very enumeration of the species observed, with an rare in that sea, were abundant in northern account of the range of each in depth, and the seas. The testacea of the Egean are for the ground which it inhabits. The Egean sea, al- most part dwarfs as compared with their anathough most interesting to the naturalist, as the logues in the ocean, and the numbers of medusæ scene of the labors of Aristotle, has been but and zoophyta comparatively small. Below the little investigated since his time. The partially fourth region the number of animals diminishes published observations of Sibthorp, and the great as we descend, until in the lowest part of the French work on the Morea, include the chief eighth the number of testacea had decreased contributions to its natural history. In the last- from 147 to 8; indicating a zero in the distribunamed work are contained catalogues of the tion of animal life at a probable depth of about fishes and mollusca, with notices of a few other 300 fathoms. In the upper zones, the more marine animals. The lists of Prof. Forbes great-southern forms prevailed, whilst the inhabitants ly exceed the French catalogues, more than of the lower regions presented a northern chardoubling the number of fishes, and increasing racter; indicating as a probable law, that in the that of the mollusca by above 150 species; not distribution of marine animals regions of depth to mention radiata, amorphozoa, and articulata. are equivalent to parallels of latitude. The Of the animals which especially form the sub-colors of testacea become more varied and ject of the report, nearly 700 species were observed, full catalogues of which were laid before the meeting.
vivid in proportion to their proximity to the surface. The representation and replacement of specific forms by similar but not identical species The second division of the report treats of the has long been recognized in time and in geocauses which regulate the distribution of the graphic space. During the course of these remollusca and radiata in the Ægean, and of the searches, an analogous succession and represeveral regions of depth presented by that sea. sentation of forms were discovered in depth. There are eight well-marked regions of depth Each species attains a maximum in developin the eastern Mediterranean, each characterized ment of individuals, and gradually diminishes in by its peculiar fauna; and where plants are pre-numbers as we descend; but before its dissent, by its flora. These regions are distin- appearance in many genera a representative guished from each other by the association of species commences, attaining a maximum after the species they severally include. Certain the disappearance of its predecessor, and then in species in each are found in no other; several like manner diminishing to a minimum, and disare found in one region which do not range into appearing. When a genus includes several the next above, while they extend to that below, groups of forms or subgenera, we may have a or vice versa. Certain species have their maxi- double or triple series of representations, in mum of development in each zone; being most which case they are very generally parallel.