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written a perfect book, that he has exhausted the subject, left nothing to be said, &c. &c.; but after all the objections which we shall have to urge, the result will appear hardly less than wonderful, considering the materials with which he had to work. The life of Alfred, as we read it in Hume, or in Sharon Turner, is scarcely more than a mass of legend, which vanishes under an industrious criticism; and at best it is but a vague conjectural business, where we can hardly assure ourselves of anything except when we have his own word for it.
It is only of rarely recurring periods that any real history is possible; and the intervals have to be filled as we can fill them, with lists of names, and dates, and battles; a few marked events, with here and there a charter or a law code, lying as lonely rock islands of fact, in the midst of huge desolate oceans, with cloudy legends over them and round them. Ages like those of Pericles and Cæsar are illuminated with everburning lamps-historians, poets, philosophers, statesmen, dramatists, artists, all contemporary with what they describe, and throwing cross lights on all sides and on all figures -while the long centuries of Saxon history are lighted only by faint cloister tapers, thinly scattered along the generations, often far away from what we try to see by them, and the shadows which they throw are strange, and dim, and unearthly. Dr. Pauli has had nothing to depend upon except Asser's Life of Alfred, the Saxon Chronicle, and a few autobiographical fragments; and at first sight Asser seems hopelessly interpolated, and at first sight too, the Saxon Chronicle yields nothing but a list of battles, following year after year, one as like another as Livy's old wearying irruptions of the qui and Volsci. As soon as we leave them, we pass at once into the purely legendary, and the story rolls down along the chroniclers, gathering up into itself just what each writer thought best assimilated with Alfred's character; history faring with the chronicler as physical science fared with the schoolmen, and being put together on the grandest à priori method. So that to find any real human features left
remaining, after the rubbish of critical demolition is cleared away, may well surprise us; still more to find any so clear and detailed and delicate as some of those which Dr. Pauli has laid open to us.
Before giving an account of his work, however, we will first get rid of the disagreeable part of our business, and dispose of the points on which we are at issue with him. And, first, as to Asser's Life. It is known to have been very largely interpolated out of a Life of St. Neot, or by the author of that Life somewhere towards the end of the tenth century. The more gross of these interpolations are easily eliminated, but after that is done, the beginning of the story remains full of contradictions, which it is impossible to reconcile. Dr. Pauli would make his way through them by supposing that large paragraphs have got out of place, and tries to construct a consecutive story by an alteration of the order of the text. He loves Alfred's memory too dearly to sacrifice a single trait if he can help it; yet his theory is thoroughly unsatisfactory, and for anything we have yet seen, the whole story of Alfred's childhood remains unhistoric. Here is an instance. His mother is described by Asser as religiosa nimirum fæmina, nobilis ingenio, nobilis et genere. One day, we are told, the boy Alfred was playing with his brothers in her presence, when she called them all to her, and showed them an illuminated volume of Saxon Poems,—' whichever of you children (said she) will first learn to read this, shall have it for a present.' On this, Alfred went off to his tutor, told him what had been said, and applying himself with all diligence to the work, in a short time earned for himself the beautiful book. . . . Now we will not speak hardly of the internal merit of this anecdote; it is the sort of thing which a monk would think edifying, and Dr. Pauli seems to admire it. Is there any reason, however, to believe it true? First, there is the startling difficulty that the same writer, calling himself Asser, declares that Alfred was entirely neglected by his parents, and taught nothing; and then we have his own word that he could not read
before he was twelve years old... Dr. Pauli gets out of the difficulty by supposing that the tutor in question taught him to repeat the poems by heart, and that the neglectful parent was Judith, his father's second wife. Sharon Turner, on the other hand, pushes forward the story; supposes the kind mother to have been Judith, the step-mother, and the neglectful one his own proper mother.... Against both of these suggestions we must enter our protest. According to Dr. Pauli, Alfred went to Rome when he was four years old, and the story could not well be referred to an earlier period; while it is scarcely possible, if he did take this journey, that he could ever have seen his mother again; while Judith had married a second time, and left his father's house and family before Alfred was eight.... And more than this, who could the children be who were playing with him? His sister, Ethelswitha, who was the child next above him, was marriageable when he was little more than able to walk; and his brothers were grown up warriors before he could have learnt to repeat a poem.
This Judith, too, is a most apocryphal lady. Mr. Kemble tells us, that by a third marriage, she became the mother of Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, a fact about as probable or possible as that a present English duke is the son of a mistress of Charles the Second. Dr. Pauli would help out the difficulty by inserting a link, and calling her the grandmother instead of mother; but he has not mended it, and it must remain as it is.
And again, curiously, one of the passages which he selects as characteristic of the genuine Asser, and in virtue of which he concludes him to have been a person of highly cultivated taste, he will find word for word (or nearly so) in one of the lives of that very St. Neot who has led to all this trouble-so vitiated Asser's text has been-for this passage does not occur in the portion of the story which refers to this saint, but in the directly descriptive narrative which belongs only to Alfred.
Then, as to the Saxon Chronicle, Dr. Pauli says, that it was made
up in the form in which we now read it, down to the year 891, either in that year, or at any rate before the close of the century. If this be so, it is, of course, a high authority; and the evidence that it is so, is the style of writing in a MS. now extant, which is declared to belong to that period. Dr. Pauli is a far better judge of Saxon manuscripts than we are; but we have a right to require him in his next edition to append a note, explaining how it comes to pass that in the entry for the year 876, which details Rollo's conquests, there is a further statement that Rollo reigned fifty years. This may have been a marginal gloss, entered carelessly, and apparently belonging to the text. But if so, is the handwriting in which it is entered perceptibly different from the rest? Again, the year of the eclipse is given wrongly, as may be proved by calculation; various stories, too, are omitted; Ethelbald's rebellion, for instance, which it is not easy to explain. But what is of more consequence than all, it is impossible to read the two stories of Alfred's journey or journeys to Rome, and not to feel that there is a confusion somewhere. Dr. Pauli, by fixing the date of the compilation so near the period in question, cannot allow a mistake, and supposes that he went twice there once without his father, and again with him. He must further suppose that he was twice anointed, and that the pope did not recollect in 857, what he had before done in 853, or else that the writer of the Chronicle forgot in writing one page what he had written on that preceding. Here are the two stories in question:
853. King Ethelwulf sent his son Alfred to Rome; Leo was then Pope of Rome, and he consecrated him king, and took him for his son at confirmation.
855. The same year, he (Ethelwulf) went to Rome in great state, and dwelt there twelve months, and then returned homewards. And Charles, king of the Franks, gave him his daughter to wife; and after that he came to his people, and they were glad of it; and about two years after he came from France he died.
Then follows a genealogy, tracing Alfred through Woden to Adam, and after that
Alfred, his third son, (he was the
fourth,) he had sent to Rome, and when Pope Leo heard say that Ethelwulf was dead, he consecrated Alfred king, and held him as his spiritual son at confirmation, even as his father Ethelwulf had requested on sending him thither.
The boy, therefore, had remained in Rome three years at least in the pope's care; he was looked upon as the future king of England, and yet we are to believe that he was not even taught to read.
We cannot resist the conclusion that these entries were put together from the writings of two wholly different persons, who had each described some one event, with which they were both imperfectly ac quainted; and the whole story of the anointing, when its object was a child five years old, with three elder brothers living, and when the throne in question was filled always by elective princes, and never by children, savours strongly of the à priori method, and of a later age, when the papal anointing had become a European question; Alfred was a great Catholic king, and therefore he could not have been without so vast a spiritual blessing, It is not easy to be too disrespectful to the historicalability of the monastic writers; never did any set of men betake themselves to the recording human affairs who had less power of distinguishing between truth and falsehood, or who were less scrupulous in inventing a useful or an edifying fact, when they did not find one ready to their hand.
We have two more faults to find before proceeding. We must call on Dr. Pauli to justify his quoting the work passing under the name of Ingulf of Croyland as a credible witness for any one fact contained in it. It has no pretensions what ever to be a real work of the secretary of the Conqueror; and it was not written, at the earliest, till the time of Edward I. . . . Among the many serious monastic delinquents in the matter of charters, histories, and other documents, the monks of Croyland are the very worst, and no one of them may be admitted into the historical witness court without formal testimonials of character.
On the other point we touch with more delicacy. It may seem out of place in an English reader to criticise
a German's style; and yet, when the literature of the two countries is beginning so largely to interchange, he will hardly be sorry to see how the dress in which he has set out his thoughts appears to the eye of a foreigner. Partly from a most laudable effort at condensation, and partly from the natural fulness of his own mind, all his sentences are crowded with matter. But he thinks with so much eagerness and intensity, that he crams it together without much care in the arrangement; and in important passages it lies heaped in most tumultuous disorganization. This is so much the case, that in translating we have been driven to take wide liberties of paraphrase, and we are often uncertain whether we have caught his real meaning. In this way we have to struggle through long paragraphs, and often pages, till we come to the conclusion of the particular subject; and then, like the last few drops of a body of water which has been rushing out through an aperture too small to let it escape freely, the few last sentences being relieved of the pressure from behind, flow off in a clear, bright, beautiful stream, which shows what the whole might be if he would take pains with it. Take, for instance, his story of the wonderful Ceadwallah, out of the Introductory Summary, whose wild life is the death-shriek of paganism; and which, as a symbol of the struggle, and of its issue, dies away in a prayer of penitence at the feet of the pope. The pages in which Pauli describes it all are full of vigour and brilliancy, but altogether without shape or organization, till the last clear sentence, in which he lets it roll away from him to its finish.
Wie ein feuriges Meteor, das kurz leuchtet, Kreig und Verheerung verkundend, und dann plotzlich zerplatzt, streift Ceadwallah, mehr Kelte als Germane durch die Geschichte von Wessex.
And now, after all this fault finding, to go on with a more pleasant employment.
For the first three centuries of their life in England, the only external enemies with whom the Saxons had to contend were the Picts of the northern border and the Celts of Wales and Cornwall.
Neither of these were strong enough to give them serious trouble, and they had had time to develope themselves into a free industrious people; somewhat lazy in their method of working, yet, if Mr. Kemble is right in his calculations, having contrived by the end of the reign of Egbert to bring into cultivation as large an area of soil as was under the plough in the reign of our own first George. There had been time for a rise and for a decline of a spiritual and social cultivation. Strength had brought security, security case, ease selfishness, selfishness weakness, in the old unerring cycle. Their battles among themselves had served at first, like those between the Grecian states, as a school of discipline and courage. But the spirit of independence was waning slowly and surely. The deadly symptom of centralization had begun to show itself; and then a storm was to break on them which was to try them to the quick. In the old language, the priests and bishops call it a punishment for their sins and with all justice. For if the Saxons had been what men ought to have been, the first ships of the Danes which touched on the English shores would have carried back an account of their reception which would scarcely have tempted others to try the experiment again. But so it was to be. And the far off issues of history required a new element, as, two centuries later, they required again another, to be interfused among the Anglo-Saxons before they would be fit for the work which was in store for them. Perhaps it is with nations as with families, and only mixed blood breeds the fine race. But however that may be, towards the middle of the ninth century the old roving spirit began to stir again on the shores of the northern seas, and fleets of homeless wanderers, driven out either by force or by over-crowding, under the fiercest and most needy of their chiefs, came sweeping down over the same track which, three centuries before, had been first marked by the Saxons. We cannot tell now what causes lay behind this movement. Perhaps it was another pulsation of the same great force which, from time out of mind,
had been driving stream after stream, and race after race, westward and westward from the wall of China to the Atlantic. Perhaps Charlemagne's military missionaries, preaching Christianity in the German forests at the sword's point, drove back wave upon wave of proud warriors upon Norway, and Sweden, and Iceland, who preferred independence and their old faith; and rolling back upon the ocean, took ship and passed again towards the south, in search of a restingplace. At any rate, the Danes who came down upon England and Ireland had swarmed out from their hive without intention of returning to it; and, with rare exceptions, they never even attempted to return. They were adventurers bent as much on settlement as on plunder; and they fought when they landed with the desperation of men who knew that the place which they had left was filled behind them, and that there was no hope for them or home for them except what their sword could win. We call them pirates, and the Saxon writers of the day speak of them with a frightened horror as preternatural or fiendish visitants. They were to the Saxons what the same Saxons, three centuries before, had been to the poor Roman Britons-neither any better nor any worse. If they could beat the Saxons, and wrest from them part of their conquest, they had the same right here which the Saxons had made for themselves, or which the Normans afterwards won; and a nation of several millions of men who can be conquered by the crews of a few pirate boats, have no very deep claims on our commiseration.... It was for their sins, as their clergy told them; and without their sins it could not have been. They had been dividing themselves into classes -rich gentlemen and suffering poor; and selfishness in one, and want in the other, had made both cowards, as they always will. It is the universal rule; and the rights of free men are very justly taken away from such as have not courage to defend them. This is the principle of all such struggles, then, now, and ever; and that instinct of judgment which sides so irresistibly with the victor is a true and faithful voice in
us. It is foolishness to cavil at the right of Saxons and Normans; and the Danes conquered half England, and made their right good in it by the same title as they. Where it was good that they should be, there they settled themselves. If they had conquered all the island, they would have thrown it back into paganism, and that would not have been good. And God raised up King Alfred to turn them back from where they should not be, at the right time and the right place, and to give them his faith, not to receive theirs.
At Egbert's death, the heptarchy had broken into a tetrarchy. Kent had been incorporated into Wessex; Mercia was still a kingdom, but dependent on it. The rest of the island, from the Ouse to the Tweed, was shared virtually between East Anglia and Northumberland, and these were still independent. Lying nearest to the Danes, these two kingdoms were first exposed to them; and from the strong ground they so early made for themselves in Lincolnshire and Norfolk, it is likely that they had begun their visits there before they are mentioned by the Wessex Chronicle. Egbert had come first into collision with them in 835; but their first arrivals were like the drops before a thunderstorm; and they were generally, ,though not always, driven back. It was when their visits had begun to be repeated with every summer, and the coast of Wessex, from the Exe to the Thames, had been the scene, year after year, of many and desperate engagements, that Alfred, grandson of Egbert, and the youngest child of Ethelwulf, was born in the year 849 at Wantage, then a royal hunting seat in the midst of a forest. We have already spoken of the ill success which seems to have attended Dr. Pauli's efforts at reconstructing his boyhood out of Asser. Here is a happy passage, which in form is only hypothetical, yet which, from what we know of the habits of the Saxon kings, we may receive with all certainty.
What must have been the early impressions which formed themselves on the spirit of the child? Surely the heart-inspiring features of Nature around him and above him--the summer green VOL. XLV. NO. CCLXV.
of woods and fields-the blue English sky with its light clouds, which the breezes waft over the Island; and when the father would break up his household and remove to some other of his castles far away, the immeasurable, ever lovely ocean, where the whale reigns among the rolling waves, and the sea-mew bathes his wings.' While on this very ocean in those days the fierce hordes were roaming, in fear of whom every peasant slept upon his weapons, and whose ruthless deeds the child must have learnt to fear in the first words which he could understand. So in the free air, with the war-cries ever ringing round him, he grew on to be the delight of his parents, fairer to look upon than either of his brothers, and lovelier in word and gesture. To this gentleness of temper a further charm was added by the Ionging he soon showed to do honour to his noble race by his own noble life. Of education proper, at least, in its modern sense, there was little enough possible for him. The Church, in those days the only instructress, did not care to educate any except such as were to be exclusively dedicated to her service; and it was a rare and fortunate exception when a layman, even a king or a noble, had learnt to read and to write. Through his early years he was taught to hunt, and to ride, and to be expert in all the martial exercises; and the mind in all nations of the Germanic family was supplied with vigorous food in the old songs and poems of the fatherland.
So gradually comes out before us the figure of a lovely boy, showing early all grace, and energy, and promise, and gathering to him the hope, and affection, and confidence of every one. When he was seven years old, his father Ethelwulf died -the last two years of his life having been made bitter by the rebellion of his eldest son; the success of which obliged him to forgive it and to recognise it. But Alfred was too young to have suffered or learnt much from such an incident; and in five years the brother followed the father to the same grave. This was in 861. The second brother, Ethelbert, succeeded, and with him the northern clouds, which for a few years had fallen back under the horizon, began to thicken up again. In the general danger and general insecurity, the character of the country had gone on rapidly in its decline. The Saxon law had not permitted private persons to hold