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Title: Early Britain - Anglo-Saxon Britain
Author: Allen, Grant, 1848-1899
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: BRITAIN IN A.D. 500]









This little book is an attempt to give a brief sketch of Britain under
the early English conquerors, rather from the social than from the
political point of view. For that purpose not much has been said about
the doings of kings and statesmen; but attention has been mainly
directed towards the less obvious evidence afforded us by existing
monuments as to the life and mode of thought of the people themselves.
The principal object throughout has been to estimate the importance of
those elements in modern British life which are chiefly due to purely
English or Low-Dutch influences.

The original authorities most largely consulted have been, first and
above all, the "English Chronicle," and to an almost equal extent,
Bæda's "Ecclesiastical History." These have been supplemented, where
necessary, by Florence of Worcester and the other Latin writers of later
date. I have not thought it needful, however, to repeat any of the
gossiping stories from William of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntingdon, and
their compeers, which make up the bulk of our early history as told in
most modern books. Still less have I paid any attention to the romances
of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Gildas, Nennius, and the other Welsh tracts
have been sparingly employed, and always with a reference by name. Asser
has been used with caution, where his information seems to be really
contemporary. I have also derived some occasional hints from the old
British bards, from _Beowulf_, from the laws, and from the charters in
the "Codex Diplomaticus." These written documents have been helped out
by some personal study of the actual early English relics preserved in
various museums, and by the indirect evidence of local nomenclature.

Among modern books, I owe my acknowledgments in the first and highest
degree to Dr. E.A. Freeman, from whose great and just authority,
however, I have occasionally ventured to differ in some minor matters.
Next, my acknowledgments are due to Canon Stubbs, to Mr. Kemble, and to
Mr. J.R. Green. Dr. Guest's valuable papers in the Transactions of the
Archæological Institute have supplied many useful suggestions. To
Lappenberg and Sir Francis Palgrave I am also indebted for various
details. Professor Rolleston's contributions to "Archæologia," as well
as his Appendix to Canon Greenwell's "British Barrows," have been
consulted for anthropological and antiquarian points; on which also
Professor Huxley and Mr. Akerman have published useful papers. Professor
Boyd Dawkins's work on "Early Man in Britain," as well as the writings
of Worsaae and Steenstrup have helped in elucidating the condition of
the English at the date of the Conquest. Nor must I forget the aid
derived from Mr. Isaac Taylor's "Words and Places," from Professor
Henry Morley's "English Literature," and from Messrs. Haddan and Stubbs'
"Councils." To Mr. Gomme, Mr. E.B. Tylor, Mr. Sweet, Mr. James Collier,
Dr. H. Leo, and perhaps others, I am under various obligations; and if
any acknowledgments have been overlooked, I trust the injured person
will forgive me when I have had already to quote so many authorities for
so small a book. The popular character of the work renders it
undesirable to load the pages with footnotes of reference; and scholars
will generally see for themselves the source of the information given in
the text.

Personally, my thanks are due to my friend, Mr. York Powell, for much
valuable aid and assistance, and to the Rev. E. McClure, one of the
Society's secretaries, for his kind revision of the volume in proof, and
for several suggestions of which I have gladly availed myself.

As various early English names and phrases occur throughout the book, it
will be best, perhaps, to say a few words about their pronunciation
here, rather than to leave over that subject to the chapter on the
Anglo-Saxon language, near the close of the work. A few notes on this
matter are therefore appended below.

The simple vowels, as a rule, have their continental pronunciation,
approximately thus: _ā_ as in _father_, _ă_ as in _ask_; _ē_ as in
_there_, _ĕ_ as in _men_; _ī_ as in _marine_, _ĭ_ as _fit_; _ō_ as
in _note_, _ŏ_ as in _not_; _ū_ as in _brute_, _ŭ_ as in _full_; _ȳ_
as in _grün_ (German), _y̆_ as in _hübsch_ (German). The quantity of
the vowels is not marked in this work. _Æ_ is not a diphthong, but a
simple vowel sound, the same as our own short _a_ in _man_, _that_, &c.
_Ea_ is pronounced like _ya_. _C_ is always hard, like _k_; and _g_ is
also always hard, as in _begin_: they must _never_ be pronounced like
_s_ or _j_. The other consonants have the same values as in modern
English. No vowel or consonant is ever mute. Hence we get the following
approximate pronunciations: Ælfred and Æthelred, as if written Alfred
and Athelred; Æthelstan and Dunstan, as Athelstahn and Doonstahn;
Eadwine and Oswine, nearly as Yahd-weena and Ose-weena; Wulfsige and
Sigeberht, as Wolf-seeg-a and Seeg-a-bayrt; Ceolred and Cynewulf, as
Keole-red and Küne-wolf. These approximations look a little absurd when
written down in the only modern phonetic equivalents; but that is the
fault of our own existing spelling, not of the early English names





At a period earlier than the dawn of written history there lived
somewhere among the great table-lands and plains of Central Asia a race
known to us only by the uncertain name of Aryans. These Aryans were a
fair-skinned and well-built people, long past the stage of aboriginal
savagery, and possessed of a considerable degree of primitive culture.
Though mainly pastoral in habit, they were acquainted with tillage, and
they grew for themselves at least one kind of cereal grain. They spoke a
language whose existence and nature we infer from the remnants of it
which survive in the tongues of their descendants, and from these
remnants we are able to judge, in some measure, of their civilisation
and their modes of thought. The indications thus preserved for us show
the Aryans to have been a simple and fierce community of early warriors,
farmers, and shepherds, still in a partially nomad condition, living
under a patriarchal rule, originally ignorant of all metals save gold,
but possessing weapons and implements of stone,[1] and worshipping as
their chief god the open heaven. We must not regard them as an idyllic
and peaceable people: on the contrary, they were the fiercest and most
conquering tribe ever known. In mental power and in plasticity of
manners, however, they probably rose far superior to any race then
living, except only the Semitic nations of the Mediterranean coast.

 [1] Professor Boyd Dawkins has shown that the Continental
     Celts were still in their stone age when they invaded
     Europe; whence we must conclude that the original Aryans
     were unacquainted with the use of bronze.

From the common Central Asian home, colonies of warlike Aryans gradually
dispersed themselves, still in the pre-historic period, under pressure
of population or hostile invasion, over many districts of Europe and
Asia. Some of them moved southward, across the passes of Afghanistan,
and occupied the fertile plains of the Indus and the Ganges, where they
became the ancestors of the Brahmans and other modern high-caste
Hindoos. The language which they took with them to their new settlements
beyond the Himalayas was the Sanskrit, which still remains to this day
the nearest of all dialects that we now possess to the primitive Aryan
speech. From it are derived the chief modern tongues of northern India,
from the Vindhyas to the Hindu Kush. Other Aryan tribes settled in the
mountain districts west of Hindustan; and yet others found themselves a
home in the hills of Iran or Persia, where they still preserve an allied
dialect of the ancient mother tongue.

But the mass of the emigrants from the Central Asian fatherland moved
further westward in successive waves, and occupied, one after another,
the midland plains and mountainous peninsulas of Europe. First of all,
apparently, came the Celts, who spread slowly across the South of Russia
and Germany, and who are found at the dawn of authentic history
extending over the entire western coasts and islands of the continent,
from Spain to Scotland. Mingled in many places with the still earlier
non-Aryan aborigines–perhaps Iberians and Euskarians, a short and
swarthy race, armed only with weapons of polished stone, and represented
at the present day by the Basques of the Pyrenees and the Asturias–the
Celts held rule in Spain, Gaul, and Britain, up to the date of the
several Roman conquests. A second great wave of Aryan immigration, that
of the Hellenic and Italian races, broke over the shores of the _Ægean_
and the Adriatic, where their cognate languages have become familiar to
us in the two extreme and typical forms of the classical Greek and
Latin. A third wave was that of the Teutonic or German people, who
followed and drove out the Celts over a large part of central and
western Europe; while a fourth and final swarm was that of the Slavonic
tribes, which still inhabit only the extreme eastern portion of the

With the Slavonians we shall have nothing to do in this enquiry; and
with the Greek and Italian races we need only deal very incidentally.
But the Celts, whom the English invaders found in possession of all
Britain when they began their settlements in the island, form the
subject of another volume in this series, and will necessarily call for
some small portion of our attention here also; while it is to the
Germanic race that the English stock itself actually belongs, so that we
must examine somewhat more closely the course of Germanic immigration
through Europe, and the nature of the primitive Teutonic civilisation.

The Germanic family of peoples consisted of a race which early split up
into two great hordes or stocks, speaking dialects which differed
slightly from one another through the action of the various
circumstances to which they were each exposed. These two stocks are the
High German and the Low German (with which last may be included the
Gothic and the Scandinavian). Moving across Europe from east to west,
they slowly drove out the Celts from Germany and the central plains, and
took possession of the whole district between the Alps, the Rhine, and
the Baltic, which formed their limits at the period when they first came
into contact with the Roman power. The Goths, living in closest
proximity to the empire, fell upon it during the decline and decay of
Rome, settled in Italy, Gaul, and Spain, and becoming absorbed in the
mass of the native population, disappear altogether from history as a
distinguishable nationality. But the High and Low Germans retain to the
present day their distinctive language and features; and the latter
branch, to which the English people belong, still lives for the most
part in the same lands which it has held ever since the date of the
early Germanic immigration.

The Low Germans, in the third century after Christ, occupied in the main
the belt of flat country between the Baltic and the mouths of the Rhine.
Between them and the old High German Swabians lay a race intermediate in
tongue and blood, the Franks. The Low Germans were divided, like most
other barbaric races, into several fluctuating and ill-marked tribes,
whose names are loosely and perhaps interchangeably used by the few
authorities which remain to us. We must not expect to find among them
the definiteness of modern civilised nations, but rather such a
vagueness as that which characterised the loose confederacies of North
American Indians or the various shifting peoples of South Africa. But
there are three of their tribes which stand fairly well marked off from
one another in early history, and which bore, at least, the chief share
in the colonisation of Britain. These three tribes are the Jutes, the
English, and the Saxons. Closely connected with them, but less strictly
bound in the same family tie, were the Frisians.

The Jutes, the northernmost of the three divisions, lived in the marshy
forests and along the winding fjords of Jutland, the extreme peninsula
of Denmark, which still preserves their name in our own day. The English
dwelt just to the south, in the heath-clad neck of the peninsula, which
we now call Sleswick. And the Saxons, a much larger tribe, occupied the
flat continental shore, from the mouth of the Oder to that of the Rhine.
At the period when history lifts the curtain upon the future Germanic
colonists of Britain, we thus discover them as the inhabitants of the
low-lying lands around the Baltic and the North Sea, and closely
connected with other tribes on either side, such as the Frisians and the
Danes, who still speak very cognate Low German and Scandinavian

But we have not yet fully grasped the extent of the relationship between
the first Teutonic settlers in Britain and their continental brethren.
Not only are the true Englishmen of modern England distantly connected
with the Franks, who never to our knowledge took part in the
colonisation of the island at all; and more closely connected with the
Frisians, some of whom probably accompanied the earliest piratical
hordes; as well as with the Danes, who settled at a later date in all
the northern counties: but they are also most closely connected of all
with those members of the colonising tribes who did not themselves bear
a share in the settlement, and whose descendants are still living in
Denmark and in various parts of Germany. The English proper, it is true,
seem to have deserted their old home in Sleswick in a body; so that,
according to Bæda, the Christian historian of Northumberland, in his
time this oldest England by the shores of the Baltic lay waste and
unpeopled, through the completeness of the exodus. But the Jutes appear
to have migrated in small numbers, while the larger part of the tribe
remained at home in their native marshland; and of the more numerous
Saxons, though a great swarm went out to conquer southern Britain, a
vast body was still left behind in Germany, where it continued
independent and pagan till the time of Karl the Great, long after the
Teutonic colonists of Britain had grown into peaceable and civilised
Christians. It is from the statements of later historians with regard to
these continental Saxons that our knowledge of the early English customs
and institutions, during the continental period of English history, must
be mainly inferred. We gather our picture of the English and Saxons who
first came to this country from the picture drawn for us of those among
their brethren whom they left behind in the primitive English home.

These three tribes, the Jutes, the English, and the Saxons, had not yet,
apparently, advanced far enough in the idea of national unity to possess
a separate general name, distinguishing them altogether from the other
tribes of the Germanic stock. Most probably they did not regard
themselves at this period as a single nation at all, or even as more
closely bound to one another than to the surrounding and kindred tribes.
They may have united at times for purposes of a special war; but their
union was merely analogous to that of two North American peoples, or two
modern European nations, pursuing a common policy for awhile. At a later
date, in Britain, the three tribes learned to call themselves
collectively by the name of that one among them which earliest rose to
supremacy–the English; and the whole southern half of the island came
to be known by their name as England. Even from the first it seems
probable that their language was spoken of as English only, and
comparatively little as Saxon. But since it would be inconvenient to use
the name of one dominant tribe alone, the English, as equivalent to
those of the three, and since it is desirable to have a common title for
all the Germanic colonists of Britain, whenever it is necessary to speak
of them together, we shall employ the late and, strictly speaking,
incorrect form of "Anglo-Saxons" for this purpose. Similarly, in order
to distinguish the earliest pure form of the English language from its
later modern form, now largely enriched and altered by the addition of
Romance or Latin words and the disuse of native ones, we shall always
speak of it, where distinction is necessary, as Anglo-Saxon. The term is
now too deeply rooted in our language to be again uprooted; and it has,
besides, the merit of supplying a want. At the same time, it should be
remembered that the expression Anglo-Saxon is purely artificial, and was
never used by the people themselves in describing their fellows or their
tongue. When they did not speak of themselves as Jutes, English, and
Saxons respectively, they spoke of themselves as English alone.



From the notices left us by Bæda in Britain, and by Nithard and others
on the continent, of the habits and manners which distinguished those
Saxons who remained in the old fatherland, we are able to form some idea
of the primitive condition of those other Saxons, English, and Jutes,
who afterwards colonized Britain, during the period while they still all
lived together in the heather-clad wastes and marshy lowlands of Denmark
and Northern Germany. The early heathen poem of _Beowulf_ also gives us
a glimpse of their ideas and their mode of thought. The known physical
characteristics of the race, the nature of the country which they
inhabited, the analogy of other Germanic tribes, and the recent
discoveries of pre-historic archæology, all help us to piece out a
fairly consistent picture of their appearance, their manner of life, and
their rude political institutions.

We must begin by dismissing from our minds all those modern notions
which are almost inevitably implied by the use of language directly
derived from that of our heathen ancestors, but now mixed up in our
conceptions with the most advanced forms of European civilisation. We
must not allow such words as "king" and "English" to mislead us into a
species of filial blindness to the real nature of our Teutonic
forefathers. The little community of wild farmers and warriors who lived
among the dim woodlands of Sleswick, beside the swampy margin of the
North Sea, has grown into the nucleus of a vast empire, only very
partially Germanic in blood, and enriched by all the alien culture of
Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and Rome. But as it still preserves the
identical tongue of its early barbarous days, we are naturally tempted
to read our modern acquired feelings into the simple but familiar terms
employed by our continental predecessors. What the early English called
a king we should now-a-days call a chief; what they called a meeting of
wise men we should now-a-days call a palaver. In fact, we must recollect
that we are dealing with a purely barbaric race–not savage, indeed, nor
without a certain rude culture of its own, the result of long centuries
of previous development; yet essentially military and predatory in its
habits, and akin in its material civilisation to many races which we now
regard as immeasurably our inferiors. If we wish for a modern equivalent
of the primitive Anglo-Saxon level of culture, we may perhaps best find
it in the Kurds of the Turkish and Persian frontier, or in the Mahrattas
of the wild mountain region of the western Deccan.

The early English in Sleswick and Friesland had partially reached the
agricultural stage of civilisation. They tilled little plots of ground
in the forest; but they depended more largely for subsistence upon their
cattle, and they were also hunters and trappers in the great belts of
woodland or marsh which everywhere surrounded their isolated villages.
They were acquainted with the use of bronze from the first period of
their settlement in Europe, and some of the battle-axes or shields which
they manufactured from this metal were beautifully chased with exquisite
decorative patterns, equalling in taste the ornamental designs still
employed by the Polynesian islanders. Such weapons, however, were
doubtless intended for the use of the chieftains only, and were probably
employed as insignia of rank alone. They are still discovered in the
barrows which cover the remains of the early chieftains; though it is
possible that they may really belong to the monuments of a yet earlier
race. But iron was certainly employed by the English, at least, from
about the first century of the Christian era, and its use was perhaps
introduced into the marshlands of Sleswick by the Germanic conquerors of
the north. Even at this early date, abundant proof exists of mercantile
intercourse with the Roman world (probably through Pannonia), whereby
the alien culture of the south was already engrafted in part upon the
low civilisation of the native English. Amber was then exported from the
Baltic, while gold, silver, and glass beads were given in return. Roman
coins are discovered in Low German tombs of the first five centuries in
Sleswick, Holstein, Friesland, and the Isles; and Roman patterns are
imitated in the iron weapons and utensils of the same period. Gold
byzants of the fifth century prove an intercourse with Constantinople
at the exact date of the colonisation of Britain. From the very earliest
moment when we catch a glimpse of its nature, the home-grown English
culture had already begun to be modified by the superior arts of Rome.
Even the alphabet was known and used in its Runic form, though the
absence of writing materials caused its employment to be restricted to
inscriptions on wooden tablets, on rude stone monuments, or on utensils
of metal-work. A golden drinking-horn found in Sleswick, and engraved
with the maker's name, referred to the middle of the fourth century,
contains the earliest known specimen of the English language.

The early English society was founded entirely on the tie of blood.
Every clan or family lived by itself and formed a guild for mutual
protection, each kinsman being his brother's keeper, and bound to avenge
his death by feud with the tribe or clan which had killed him. This duty
of blood-revenge was the supreme religion of the race. Moreover, the
clan was answerable as a whole for the ill-deeds of all its members; and
the fine payable for murder or injury was handed over by the family of
the wrong-doer to the family of the injured man.

Each little village of the old English community possessed a general
independence of its own, and lay apart from all the others, often
surrounded by a broad belt or mark of virgin forest. It consisted of a
clearing like those of the American backwoods, where a single family or
kindred had made its home, and preserved its separate independence
intact. Each of these families was known by the name of its real or
supposed ancestor, the patronymic being formed by the addition of the
syllable _ing_. Thus the descendants of Ælla would be called Ællings,
and their _ham_ or stockade would be known as Ællingaham, or in modern
form Allingham. So the _tun_ or enclosure of the Culmings would be
Culmingatun, similarly modernised into Culmington. Names of this type
abound in the newer England at the present day; as in the case of
Birmingham, Buckingham, Wellington, Kensington, Basingstoke, and
Paddington. But while in America the clearing is merely a temporary
phase, and the border of forest is soon cut down so as to connect the
village with its neighbours, in the old Anglo-Saxon fatherland the
border of woodland, heath, or fen was jealously guarded as a frontier
and natural defence for the little predatory and agricultural community.
Whoever crossed it was bound to give notice of his coming by blowing a
horn; else he was cut down at once as a stealthy enemy. The marksmen
wished to remain separate from all others, and only to mix with those of
their own kin. In this primitive love of separation we have the germ of
that local independence and that isolated private home life which is one
of the most marked characteristics of modern Englishmen.

In the middle of the clearing, surrounded by a wooden stockade, stood
the village, a group of rude detached huts. The marksmen each possessed
a separate little homestead, consisting usually of a small wooden house
or shanty, a courtyard, and a cattle-fold. So far, private property in
land had already begun. But the forest and the pasture land were not
appropriated: each man had a right from year to year to let loose his
kine or horses on a certain equal or proportionate space of land
assigned to him by the village in council. The wealth of the people
consisted mainly in cattle which fed on the pasture, and pigs turned out
to fatten on the acorns of the forest: but a small portion of the soil
was ploughed and sown; and this portion also was distributed to the
villagers for tillage by annual arrangement. The hall of the chief rose
in the midst of the lesser houses, open to all comers. The village moot,
or assembly of freemen, met in the open air, under some sacred tree, or
beside some old monumental stone, often a relic of the older aboriginal
race, marking the tomb of a dead chieftain, but worshipped as a god by
the English immigrants. At these informal meetings, every head of a
family had a right to appear and deliberate. The primitive English
constitution was a pure republican aristocracy or oligarchy of
householders, like that which still survives in the Swiss forest

But there were yet distinctions of rank in the villages and in the loose
tribes formed by their union for purposes of war or otherwise. The
people were divided into three classes of _æthelings_ or chieftains,
_freolings_ or freemen, and _theows_ or slaves. The _æthelings_ were the
nobles and rulers of each tribe. There was no king: but when the tribes
joined together in a war, their _æthelings_ cast lots together, and
whoever drew the winning lot was made commander for the time being. As
soon as the war was over, each tribe returned to its own independence.
Indeed, the only really coherent body was the village or kindred: and
the whole course of early English history consists of a long and tedious
effort at increased national unity, which was never fully realised till
the Norman conquerors bound the whole nation together in the firm grasp
of William, Henry, and Edward.

In personal appearance, the primitive Anglo-Saxons were typical Germans
of very unmixed blood. Tall, fair-haired, and gray-eyed, their limbs
were large and stout, and their heads of the round or brachycephalic
type, common to most Aryan races. They did not intermarry with other
nations, preserving their Germanic blood pure and unadulterated. But as
they had slaves, and as these slaves must in many cases have been
captives spared in war, we must suppose that such descriptions apply,
strictly speaking, to the freemen and chieftains alone. The slaves might
be of any race, and in process of time they must have learnt to speak
English, and their children must have become English in all but blood.
Many of them, indeed, would probably be actually English on the father's
side, though born of slave mothers. Hence we must be careful not to
interpret the expressions of historians, who would be thinking of the
free classes only, and especially of the nobles, as though they applied
to the slaves as well. Wherever slavery exists, the blood of the slave
community is necessarily very mixed. The picture which the heathen
English have drawn of themselves in _Beowulf_ is one of savage pirates,
clad in shirts of ring-armour, and greedy of gold and ale. Fighting and
drinking are their two delights. The noblest leader is he who builds a
great hall, throws it open for his people to carouse in, and liberally
deals out beer, and bracelets, and money at the feast. The joy of battle
is keen in their breasts. The sea and the storm are welcome to them.
They are fearless and greedy pirates, not ashamed of living by the
strong hand alone.

In creed, the English were pagans, having a religion of beliefs rather
than of rites. Their chief deity, perhaps, was a form of the old Aryan
Sky-god, who took with them the guise of Thunor or Thunder (in
Scandinavian, Thor), an angry warrior hurling his hammer, the
thunder-bolt, from the stormy clouds. These thunder-bolts were often
found buried in the earth; and being really the polished stone-axes of
the earlier inhabitants, they do actually resemble a hammer in shape.
But Woden, the special god of the Teutonic race, had practically usurped
the highest place in their mythology: he is represented as the leader of
the Germans in their exodus from Asia to north-western Europe, and since
all the pedigrees of their chieftains were traced back to Woden, it is
not improbable that he may have been really a deified ancestor of the
principal Germanic families. The popular creed, however, was mainly one
of lesser gods, such as elves, ogres, giants, and monsters, inhabitants
of the mark and fen, stories of whom still survive in English villages
as folk-lore or fairy tales. A few legends of the pagan time are
preserved for us in Christian books. _Beowulf_ is rich in allusions to
these ancient superstitions. If we may build upon the slender materials
which alone are available, it would seem that the dead chieftains were
buried in barrows, and ghost-worship was practised at their tombs. The
temples were mere stockades of wood, with rude blocks or monoliths to
represent deities and altars. Probably their few rites consisted merely
of human or other sacrifices to the gods or the ghosts of departed
chiefs. There was a regular priesthood of the great gods, but each man
was priest for his own household. As in most other heathen communities,
the real worship of the people was mainly directed to the special family
deities of every hearth. The great gods were appealed to by the
chieftains and by the race in battle: but the household gods or deified
ancestors received the chief homage of the churls by their own

Thus the Anglo-Saxons, before the great exodus from Denmark and North
Germany, appear as a race of fierce, cruel, and barbaric pagans,
delighting in the sea, in slaughter, and in drink. They dwelt in little
isolated communities, bound together internally by ties of blood, and
uniting occasionally with others only for purposes of rapine. They lived
a life which mainly alternated between grazing, piratical seafaring, and
cattle-lifting; always on the war-trail against the possessions of
others, when they were not specially engaged in taking care of their
own. Every record and every indication shows them to us as fiercer
heathen prototypes of the Scotch clans in the most lawless days of the
Highlands. Incapable of union for any peaceful purpose at home, they
learned their earliest lesson of subordination in their piratical
attacks upon the civilised Christian community of Roman Britain. We
first meet with them in history in the character of destroyers and
sea-robbers. Yet they possessed already in their wild marshy home the
germs of those free institutions which have made the history of England
unique amongst the nations of Europe.



Proximity to the sea turns robbers into corsairs. When predatory tribes
reach the seaboard they always take to piracy, provided they have
attained the shipbuilding level of culture. In the ancient Ægean, in the
Malay Archipelago, in the China seas, we see the same process always
taking place. Probably from the first period of their severance from the
main Aryan stock in Central Asia, the Low German race and their
ancestors had been a predatory and conquering people, for ever engaged
in raids and smouldering warfare with their neighbours. When they
reached the Baltic and the islands of the Frisian coast, they grew
naturally into a nation of pirates. Even during the bronze age, we find
sculptured stones with representations of long row-boats, manned by
several oarsmen, and in one or two cases actually bearing a rude sail.
Their prows and sterns stand high out of the water, and are adorned with
intricate carvings. They seem like the predecessors of the long
ships–snakes and sea-dragons–which afterwards bore the northern
corsairs into every river of Europe. Such boats, adapted for long
sea-voyages, show a considerable intercourse, piratical or commercial,
between the Anglo-Saxon or Scandinavian North and other distant
countries. Certainly, from the earliest days of Roman rule on the German
Ocean to the thirteenth century, the Low Dutch and Scandinavian tribes
carried on an almost unbroken course of expeditions by sea, beginning in
every case with mere descents upon the coast for the purposes of
plunder, but ending, as a rule, with regular colonisation or political
supremacy. In this manner the people of the Baltic and the North Sea
ravaged or settled in every country on the sea-shore, from Orkney,
Shetland, and the Faroes, to Normandy, Apulia, and Greece; from Boulogne
and Kent, to Iceland, Greenland, and, perhaps, America. The colonisation
of South-Eastern Britain was but the first chapter in this long history
of predatory excursions on the part of the Low German peoples.

The piratical ships of the early English were row-boats of very simple
construction. We actually possess one undoubted specimen at the present
day, whose very date is fixed for us by the circumstances of its
discovery. It was dug up, some years since, from a peat-bog in Sleswick,
the old England of our forefathers, along with iron arms and implements,
and in association with Roman coins ranging in date from A.D. 67 to A.D.
217. It may therefore be pretty confidently assigned to the first half
of the third century. In this interesting relic, then, we have one of
the identical boats in which the descents upon the British coast were
first made. The craft is rudely built of oaken boards, and is seventy
feet long by nine broad. The stem and stern are alike in shape, and the
boat is fitted for being beached upon the foreshore. A sculptured stone
at Häggeby, in Uplande, roughly represents for us such a ship under way,
probably of about the same date. It is rowed with twelve pairs of oars,
and has no sails; and it contains no other persons but the rowers and a
coxswain, who acted doubtless as leader of the expedition. Such a boat
might convey about 120 fighting men.

There are some grounds for believing that, even before the establishment
of the Roman power in Britain, Teutonic pirates from the northern
marshlands were already in the habit of plundering the Celtic
inhabitants of the country between the Wash and the mouth of the Thames;
and it is possible that an English colony may, even then, have
established itself in the modern Lincolnshire. But, be this as it may,
we know at least that during the period of the Roman occupation, Low
German adventurers were constantly engaged in descending upon the
exposed coasts of the English Channel and the North Sea. The Low German
tribe nearest to the Roman provinces was that of the Saxons, and
accordingly these Teutonic pirates, of whatever race, were known as
Saxons by the provincials, and all Englishmen are still so called by the
modern Celts, in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

The outlying Roman provinces were close at hand, easy to reach, rich,
ill-defended, and a tempting prey for the barbaric tribesmen of the
north. Setting out in their light open skiffs from the islands at the
mouth of the Elbe, or off the shore afterwards submerged in what is now
the Zuyder Zee, the English or Saxon pirates crossed the sea with the
prevalent north-east wind, and landed all along the provincial coasts of
Gaul and Britain. As the empire decayed under the assaults of the Goths,
their ravages turned into regular settlements. One great body pillaged,
age after age, the neighbourhood of Bayeux, where, before the middle of
the fifth century, it established a flourishing colony, and where the
towns and villages all still bear names of Saxon origin. Another horde
first plundered and then took up its abode near Boulogne, where local
names of the English patronymic type also abound to the present day. In
Britain itself, at a date not later than the end of the fourth century,
we find (in the "Notitia Imperil") an officer who bears the title of
Count of the Saxon Shore, and whose jurisdiction extended from
Lincolnshire to Southampton Water. The title probably indicates that
piratical incursions had already set in on Britain, and the duty of the
count was most likely that of repelling the English invaders.

As soon as the Romans found themselves compelled to withdraw their
garrison from Britain, leaving the provinces to defend themselves as
best they might, the temptation to the English pirates became a thousand
times stronger than before. Though the so-called history of the
conquest, handed down to us by Bæda and the "English Chronicle,"[1] is
now considered by many enquirers to be mythical in almost every
particular, the facts themselves speak out for us with unhesitating
certainty. We know that about the middle of the fifth century, shortly
after the withdrawal of the regular Roman troops, several bodies of
heathen Anglo-Saxons, belonging to the three tribes of Jutes, English,
and Saxons, settled _en masse_ on the south-eastern shores of Britain,
from the Firth of Forth to the Isle of Wight. The age of mere plundering
descents was decisively over, and the age of settlement and colonisation
had set in. These heathen Anglo-Saxons drove away, exterminated, or
enslaved the Romanised and Christianised Celts, broke down every vestige
of Roman civilisation, destroyed the churches, burnt the villas, laid
waste many of the towns, and re-introduced a long period of pagan
barbarism. For a while Britain remains enveloped in an age of complete
uncertainty, and heathen myths intervene between the Christian
historical period of the Romans and the Christian historical period
initiated by the conversion of Kent. Of South-Eastern Britain under the
pagan Anglo-Saxons we know practically nothing, save by inference and
analogy, or by the scanty evidence of archæology.

 [1] For an account of these two main authorities see further
     on, Bæda in chapter xi., and the "Chronicle" in chapter

According to tradition the Jutes came first. In 449, says the Celtic
legend (the date is quite untrustworthy), they landed in Kent, where
they first settled in Ruim, which we English call Thanet–then really an
island, and gradually spread themselves over the mainland, capturing the
great Roman fortress of Rochester and coast land as far as London.
Though the details of this story are full of mythical absurdities, the
analogy of the later Danish colonies gives it an air of great
probability, as the Danes always settled first in islands or peninsulas,
and thence proceeded to overrun, and finally to annex, the adjacent
district. A second Jutish horde established itself in the Isle of Wight
and on the opposite shore of Hampshire. But the whole share borne by the
Jutes in the settlement of Britain seems to have been but small.

The Saxons came second in time, if we may believe the legends. In 477,
Ælle, with his three sons, is said to have landed on the south coast,
where he founded the colony of the South Saxons, or Sussex. In 495,
Cerdic and Cynric led another kindred horde to the south-western shore,
and made the first settlement of the West Saxons, or Wessex. Of the
beginnings of the East Saxon community in Essex, and of the Middle
Saxons in Middlesex, we know little, even by tradition. The Saxons
undoubtedly came over in large numbers; but a considerable body of their
fellow-tribesmen still remained upon the Continent, where they were
still independent and unconverted up to the time of Karl the Great.

The English, on the other hand, apparently migrated in a body. There is
no trace of any Englishmen in Denmark or Germany after the exodus to
Britain. Their language, of which a dialect still survives in Friesland,
has utterly died out in Sleswick. The English took for their share of
Britain the nearest east coast. We have little record of their arrival,
even in the legendary story; we merely learn that in 547, Ida "succeeded
to the kingdom" of the Northumbrians, whence we may possibly conclude
that the colony was already established. The English settlement extended
from the Forth to Essex, and was subdivided into Bernicia, Deira, and
East Anglia.

Wherever the Anglo-Saxons came, their first work was to stamp out with
fire and sword every trace of the Roman civilisation. Modern
investigations amongst pagan Anglo-Saxon barrows in Britain show the Low
German race as pure barbarians, great at destruction, but incapable of
constructive work. Professor Rolleston, who has opened several of these
early heathen tombs of our Teutonic ancestors, finds in them everywhere
abundant evidence of "their great aptness at destroying, and their great
slowness in elaborating, material civilisation." Until the Anglo-Saxon
received from the Continent the Christian religion and the Roman
culture, he was a mere average Aryan barbarian, with a strong taste for
war and plunder, but with small love for any of the arts of peace.
Wherever else, in Gaul, Spain, or Italy, the Teutonic barbarians came in
contact with the Roman civilisation, they received the religion of
Christ, and the arts of the conquered people, during or before their
conquest of the country. But in Britain the Teutonic invaders remained
pagans long after their settlement in the island; and they utterly
destroyed, in the south-eastern tract, almost every relic of the Roman
rule and of the Christian faith. Hence we have here the curious fact
that, during the fifth and sixth centuries, a belt of intrusive and
aggressive heathendom intervenes between the Christians of the Continent
and the Christian Welsh and Irish of western Britain. The Church of the
Celtic Welsh was cut off for more than a hundred years from the Churches
of the Roman world by a hostile and impassable barrier of heathen
English, Jutes, and Saxons. Their separation produced many momentous
effects on the after history both of the Welsh themselves and of their
English conquerors.



Though the myths which surround the arrival of the English in Britain
have little historical value, they are yet interesting for the light
which they throw incidentally upon the habits and modes of thought of
the colonists. They have one character in common with all other legends,
that they grow fuller and more circumstantial the further they proceed
from the original time. Bæda, who wrote about A.D. 700, gives them in a
very meagre form: the English Chronicle, compiled at the court of
Ælfred, about A.D. 900, adds several important traditional particulars:
while with the romantic Geoffrey of Monmouth, A.D. 1152, they assume the
character of full and circumstantial tales. The less men knew about the
conquest, the more they had to tell about it.

Among the most sacred animals of the Aryan race was the horse. Even in
the Indian epics, the sacrifice of a horse was the highest rite of the
primitive religion. Tacitus tells us that the Germans kept sacred white
horses at the public expense, in the groves and woods of the gods: and
that from their neighings and snortings, auguries were taken. Amongst
the people of the northern marshlands, the white horse seems to have
been held in especial honour, and to this day a white horse rampant
forms the cognisance of Hanover and Brunswick. The English settlers
brought this, their national emblem, with them to Britain, and cut its
figure on the chalk downs as they advanced westward, to mark the
progress of their conquest. The white horses on the Berkshire and
Wiltshire hills still bear witness to their settlement. A white horse is
even now the symbol of Kent. Hence it is not surprising to learn that in
the legendary story of the first colonisation, the Jutish leaders who
led the earliest Teutonic host into Thanet should bear the names of
Hengest and Horsa, the stallion and the mare. They came in three
keels–a ridiculously inadequate number, considering their size and the
necessities of a conquering army: and they settled in 449 (for the
legends are always most precise where they are least historical) in the
Isle of Thanet. "A multitude of whelps," says the Welsh monk Gildas,
"came forth from the lair of the barbaric lioness, in three cyuls, as
they call them." Vortigern, King of the Welsh, had invited them to come
to his aid against the Picts of North Britain and the Scots of Ireland,
who were making piratical incursions into the deserted province, left
unprotected through the heavy levies made by the departing Romans. The
Jutes attacked and conquered the Gaels, but then turned against their
Welsh allies.

In 455, the Jutes advanced from Thanet to conquer the whole of Kent,
"and Hengest and Horsa fought with Vortigern the king," says the English
Chronicle, "at the place that is cleped Æglesthrep; and there men slew
Horsa his brother, and after that Hengest came to rule, and Æsc his
son." One year later, Hengest and Æsc fought once more with the Welsh at
Crayford, "and offslew 4,000 men; and the Britons then forsook
Kent-land, and fled with mickle awe to London-bury." In this account we
may see a dim recollection of the settlement of the two petty Jutish
kingdoms in Kent, with their respective capitals at Canterbury and
Rochester, whose separate dioceses still point back to the two original
principalities. It may be worth while to note, too, that the name Æsc
means the ash-tree; and that this tree was as sacred among plants as the
horse was among animals.

Nevertheless, a kernel of truth doubtless lingers in the traditional
story. Thanet was afterwards one of the first landing-places of the
Danes: and its isolated position–for a broad belt of sea then separated
the island from the Kentish main–would make it a natural post to be
assigned by the Welsh to their doubtful piratical allies. The inlet was
guarded by the great Roman fortress of Rhutupiæ: and after the fall of
that important stronghold, the English may probably have occupied the
principality of East Kent, with its capital of Canterbury. The walls of
Rochester may have held out longer: and the West Kentish kingdom may
well have been founded by two successful battles at the passage of the
Medway and the Cray.

The legend as to the settlement of Sussex is of much the same sort. In
477, Ælle the Saxon came to Britain also with the suspiciously
symmetrical number of three ships. With him came his three sons, Kymen,
Wlencing, and Cissa. These names are obviously invented to account for
those of three important places in the South-Saxon chieftainship. The
host landed at Kymenes ora, probably Keynor, in the Bill of Selsey,
then, as its title imports, a separate island girt round by the tidal
sea: their capital and, in days after the Norman conquest, their
cathedral was at Cissan-ceaster, the Roman Regnum, now Chichester: while
the third name survives in the modern village of Lancing, near Shoreham.
The Saxons at once fought the natives "and offslew many Welsh, and drove
some in flight into the wood that is named Andredes-leag," now the Weald
of Kent and Sussex. A little colony thus occupied the western half of
the modern county: but the eastern portion still remained in the hands
of the Welsh. For awhile the great Roman fortress of Anderida (now
Pevensey) held out against the invaders; until in 491 "Ælle and Cissa
beset Anderida, and offslew all that were therein; nor was there after
even one Briton left alive." All Sussex became a single Saxon kingdom,
ringed round by the great forest of the Weald. Here again the obviously
unhistorical character of the main facts throws the utmost doubt upon
the nature of the details. Yet, in this case too, the central idea
itself is likely enough,-–that the South Saxons first occupied the
solitary coast islet of Selsey; then conquered the fortress of Regnum
and the western shore as far as Eastbourne; and finally captured
Anderida and the eastern half of the county up to the line of the
Romney marshes.

Even more improbable is the story of the Saxon settlement on the more
distant portion of the south coast. In 495 "came twain aldermen to
Britain, Cerdic and Cynric his son, with five ships, at that place that
is cleped Cerdices ora, and fought that ilk day with the Welsh."
Clearly, the name of Cerdic may be invented solely to account for the
name of the place: since we see by the sequel that the English freely
imagined such personages as pegs on which to hang their mythical
history.[1] For, six years later, one Port landed at Portsmouth with two
ships, and there slew a Welsh nobleman. But we know positively that the
name of Portsmouth comes from the Latin _Portus_; and therefore Port
must have been simply invented to explain the unknown derivation. Still
more flagrant is the case of Wihtgar, who conquered the Isle of Wight,
and was buried at Wihtgarasbyrig, or Carisbrooke. For the origin of that
name is really quite different: the Wiht-ware or Wiht-gare are the men
of Wight, just as the Cant-ware are the men of Kent: and Wiht-gara-byrig
is the Wight-men's-bury, just as Cant-wara-byrig or Canterbury is the
Kent-men's-bury. Moreover, a double story is told in the Chronicle as to
the original colonisation of Wessex; the first attributing the conquest
to Cerdic and Cynric, and the second to Stuf and Wihtgar.

 [1] Cerdic is apparently a British rather than an English
     name, since Bæda mentions a certain "Cerdic, rex Brettonum."
     This may have been a Caradoc. Perhaps the first element in
     the names Cerdices ora, Cerdices ford, &c., was older than
     the English conquest. The legends are invariably connected
     with local names.

The only other existing legend refers to the great English kingdom of
Northumbria: and about it the English Chronicle, which is mainly West
Saxon in origin, merely tells us in dry terms under the year 547, "Here
Ida came to rule." There are no details, even of the meagre kind,
vouchsafed in the south; no account of the conquest of the great Roman
town of York, or of the resistance offered by the powerful Brigantian
tribes. But a fragment of some old Northumbrian tradition, embedded in
the later and spurious Welsh compilation which bears the name of
Nennius, tells us a not improbable tale–that the first settlement on
the coast of the Lothians was made as early as the conquest of Kent, by
Jutes of the same stock as those who colonised Thanet. A hundred years
later, the Welsh poems seem to say, Ida "the flame-bearer," fought his
way down from a petty principality on the Forth, and occupied the whole
Northumbrian coast, in spite of the stubborn guerilla warfare of the
despairing provincials. Still less do we learn about the beginnings of
Mercia, the powerful English kingdom which occupied the midlands; or
about the first colonisation of East Anglia. In short, the legends of
the settlement, unhistorical and meagre as they are, refer only to the
Jutish and Saxon conquests in the south, and tell us nothing at all
about the origin of the main English kingdoms in the north. It is
important to bear in mind this fact, because the current conceptions as
to the spread of the Anglo-Saxon race and the extermination of the
native Welsh are largely based upon the very limited accounts of the
conquest of Kent and Sussex, and the mournful dirges of the Welsh monks
or bards.

It seems improbable, however, that the north-eastern coast of Britain,
naturally exposed above every other part to the ravages of northern
pirates, and in later days the head-quarters of the Danish intruders in
our island, should so long have remained free from English incursions.
If the Teutonic settlers really first established themselves here a
century later than their conquest of Kent, we can only account for it by
the supposition that York and the Brigantes, the old metropolis of the
provinces, held out far more stubbornly and successfully than Rochester
and Anderida, with their very servile Romanised population. But even the
words of the Chronicle do not necessarily imply that Ida was the first
king of the Northumbrians, or that the settlement of the country took
place in his days.[2] And if they did, we need not feel bound to accept
their testimony, considering that the earliest date we can assign for
the composition of the chronicle is the reign of Ælfred: while Bæda, the
earlier native Northumbrian historian, throws no light at all upon the
question. Hence it seems probable that Nennius preserves a truthful
tradition, and that the English settled in the region between the Forth
and the Tyne, at least as early as the Jutes settled in Kent or the
Saxons along the South Coast, from Pevensey Bay to Southampton Water.

 [2] A remarkable passage in the Third Continuator of
     Florence mentions Hyring as the first king of Bernicia,
     followed by Woden and five other mythical personages, before
     Ida. Clearly, this is mere unhistorical guesswork on the
     part of the monk of Bury; but it may enclose a genuine
     tradition so far as Hyring is concerned.

If, then, we leave out of consideration the etymological myths and
numerical absurdities of the English or Welsh legends, and look only at
the facts disclosed to us by the subsequent condition of the country, we
shall find that the early Anglo-Saxon settlements took place somewhat
after this wise. In the extreme north, the English apparently did not
care to settle in the rugged mountain country between Aberdeen and
Edinburgh, inhabited by the free and warlike Picts. But from the Firth
of Forth to the borders of Essex, a succession of colonies, belonging to
the restricted English tribe, occupied the whole provincial coast,
burning, plundering, and massacring in many places as they went. First
and northernmost of all came the people whom we know by their Latinised
title of Bernicians, and who descended upon the rocky braes between
Forth and Tyne. These are the English of Ida's kingdom, the modern
Lothians and Northumberland. Their chief town was at Bebbanburh, now
Bamborough, which Ida "timbered, and betyned it with a hedge." Next in
geographical order stood the people of Deira, or Yorkshire, who occupied
the rich agricultural valley of the Ouse, the fertile alluvial tract of
Holderness, and the bleak coast-line from Tyne to Humber. Whether they
conquered the Roman capital of York, or whether it made terms with the
invaders, we do not know; but it is not mentioned as the chief town of
the English kings before the days of Eadwine, under whom the two
Northumbrian chieftainships were united into a single kingdom. However,
as Eadwine assumed some of the imperial Roman trappings, it seems not
unlikely that a portion at least of the Romanised population survived
the conquest. The two principalities probably spread back politically in
most places as far as the watershed which separates the basins of the
German Ocean and the Irish Sea; but the English population seems to have
lived mainly along the coast or in the fertile valley of the Ouse and
its tributaries; for Elmet and Loidis, two Welsh principalities, long
held out in the Leeds district, and the people of the dales and the
inland parts, as we shall see reason hereafter to conclude, even now
show evident marks of Celtic descent. Together the two chieftainships
were generally known by the name of Northumberland, now confined to
their central portion; but it must never be forgotten that the Lothians,
which at present form part of modern Scotland, were originally a portion
of this early English kingdom, and are still, perhaps, more purely
English in blood and speech than any other district in our island.

From Humber to the Wash was occupied by a second English colony, the men
of Lincolnshire, divided into three minor tribes, one of which, the
Gainas, has left its name to Gainsborough. Here, again, we hear nothing
of the conquest, nor of the means by which the powerful Roman colony of
Lincoln fell into the hands of the English. But the town still retains
its Roman name, and in part its Roman walls; so that we may conclude the
native population was not entirely exterminated.

East Anglia, as its name imports, was likewise colonised by an English
horde, divided, like the men of Kent, into two minor bodies, the North
Folk and the South Folk, whose names survive in the modern counties of
Norfolk and Suffolk. But in East Anglia, as in Yorkshire, we shall see
reason hereafter to conclude that the lower orders of Welsh were largely
spared, and that their descendants still form in part the labouring
classes of the two counties. Here, too, the English settlers probably
clustered thickest along the coast, like the Danes in later days; and
the great swampy expanse of the Fens, then a mere waste of marshland
tenanted by beavers and wild fowl, formed the inland boundary or mark of
their almost insular kingdom.

The southern half of the coast was peopled by Englishmen of the Saxon
and Jutish tribes. First came the country of the East Saxons, or Essex,
the flat land stretching from the borders of East Anglia to the estuary
of the Thames. This had been one of the most thickly-populated Roman
regions, containing the important stations of Camalodunum, London, and
Verulam. But we know nothing, even by report, of its conquest. Beyond
it, and separated by the fenland of the Lea, lay the outlying little
principality of Middlesex. The upper reaches of the Thames were still
in the hands of the Welsh natives, for the great merchant city of London
blocked the way for the pirates to the head-waters of the river.

On the south side of the estuary lay the Jutish principalities of East
and West Kent, including the strong Roman posts of Rhutupiæ, Dover,
Rochester, and Canterbury. The great forest of the Weald and the Romney
Marshes separated them from Sussex; and the insular positions of Thanet
and Sheppey had always special attractions for the northern pirates.

Beyond the marshes, again, the strip of southern shore, between the
downs and the sea, as far as Hayling Island, fell into the hands of the
South Saxons, whose boundary to the east was formed by Romney Marsh, and
to the west by the flats near Chichester, where the forest runs down to
the tidal swamp by the sea. The district north of the Weald, now known
as Surrey, was also peopled by Saxon freebooters, at a later date,
though doubtless far more sparsely.

Finally, along the wooded coast from Portsmouth to Poole Harbour, the
Gewissas, afterwards known as the West Saxons, established their power.
The Isle of Wight and the region about Southampton Water, however, were
occupied by the Meonwaras, a small intrusive colony of Jutes. Up the
rich valley overlooked by the great Roman city of Winchester (Venta
Belgarum), the West Saxons made their way, not without severe
opposition, as their own legends and traditions tell us; and in
Winchester they fixed their capital for awhile. The long chain of chalk
downs behind the city formed their weak northern mark or boundary,
while to the west they seem always to have carried on a desultory
warfare with the yet unsubdued Welsh, commanded by their great leader
Ambrosius, who has left his name to Ambres-byrig, or Amesbury.

We must not, however, suppose that each of these colonies had from the
first a united existence as a political community. We know that even the
eight or ten kingdoms into which England was divided at the dawn of the
historical period were each themselves produced by the consolidation of
several still smaller chieftainships. Even in the two petty Kentish
kingdoms there were under-kings, who had once been independent. Wight
was a distinct kingdom till the reign of Ceadwalla in Wessex. The later
province of Mercia was composed of minor divisions, known as the
Hwiccas, the Middle English, the West Hecan, and so forth. Henry of
Huntingdon, a historian of the twelfth century, who had access, however,
to several valuable and original sources of information now lost, tells
us that many chieftains came from Germany, occupied Mercia and East
Anglia, and often fought with one another for the supremacy. In fact,
the petty kingdoms of the eighth century were themselves the result of a
consolidation of many forgotten principalities founded by the first

Thus the earliest England with which we are historically acquainted
consisted of a mere long strip or borderland of Teutonic coast, divided
into tiny chieftainships, and girding round half of the eastern and
southern shores of a still Celtic Britain. Its area was discontinuous,
and its inland boundaries towards the back country were vaguely defined.
As Massachusetts and Connecticut stood off from Virginia and Georgia–as
New South Wales and Victoria stand off from South Australia and
Queensland–so Northumbria stood off from East Anglia, and Kent from
Sussex. Each colony represented a little English nucleus along the coast
or up the mouths of the greater rivers, such as the Thames and Humber,
where the pirates could easily drive in their light craft. From such a
nucleus, perched at first on some steep promontory like Bamborough, some
separate island like Thanet, Wight, and Selsey, or some long spit of
land like Holderness and Hurst Castle, the barbarians could extend their
dominions on every side, till they reached some natural line of
demarcation in the direction of their nearest Teutonic neighbours, which
formed their necessary mark. Inland they spread as far as they could
conquer; but coastwise the rivers and fens were their limits against one
another. Thus this oldest insular England is marked off into at least
eight separate colonies by the Forth, the Tyne, the Humber, the Wash,
the Harwich Marshes, the Thames, the Weald Forest, and the Chichester
tidal swamp region. As to how the pirates settled down along this wide
stretch of coast, we know practically nothing; of their westward advance
we know a little, and as time proceeds, that knowledge becomes more and



If any trust at all can be placed in the legends, a lull in the conquest
followed the first settlement, and for some fifty years the English–or
at least the West Saxons–were engaged in consolidating their own
dominions, without making any further attack upon those of the Welsh. It
may be well, therefore, to enquire what changes of manners had come over
them in consequence of their change of place from the shores of the
Baltic and the North Sea to those of the Channel and the German Ocean.

As a whole, English society remained much the same in Britain as it had
been in Sleswick and North Holland. The English came over in a body,
with their women and children, their flocks and herds, their goods and
chattels. The peculiar breed of cattle which they brought with them may
still be distinguished in their remains from the earlier Celtic
short-horn associated with Roman ruins and pre-historic barrows. They
came as settlers, not as mere marauders; and they remained banded
together in their original tribes and families after they had occupied
the soil of Britain.

From the moment of their landing in Britain the savage corsairs of the
Sleswick flats seem wholly to have laid aside their seafaring habits.
They built no more ships, apparently; for many years after Bishop
Wilfrith had to teach the South Saxons how to catch sea-fish; while
during the early Danish incursions we hear distinctly that the English
had no vessels; nor is there much incidental mention of shipping between
the age of the settlement and that of Ælfred. The new-comers took up
their abode at once on the richest parts of Roman Britain, and came into
full enjoyment of orchards which they had not planted and fields which
they had not sown. The state of cultivation in which they found the vale
of York and the Kentish glens must have been widely different from that
to which they were accustomed in their old heath-clad home. Accordingly,
they settled down at once into farmers and landowners on a far larger
scale than of yore; and they were not anxious to move away from the rich
lands which they had so easily acquired. From being sailors and graziers
they took to be agriculturists and landmen. In the towns, indeed, they
did not settle; and most of these continued to bear their old Roman or
Celtic titles. A few may have been destroyed, especially in the first
onset, like Anderida, and, at a later date, Chester; but the greater
number seem to have been still scantily inhabited, under English
protection, by a mixed urban population, mainly Celtic in blood, and
known by the name of Loegrians. It was in the country, however, that the
English conquerers took up their abode. They were tillers of the soil,
not merchants or skippers, and it was long before they acquired a taste
for urban life. The whole eastern half of England is filled with
villages bearing the characteristic English clan names, and marking each
the home of a distinct family of early settlers. As soon as the
new-comers had burnt the villa of the old Roman proprietor, and killed,
driven out, or enslaved his abandoned serfs, they took the land to
themselves and divided it out on their national system. Hence the whole
government and social organisation of England is purely Teutonic, and
the country even lost its old name of Britain for its new one of

In England, as of old in Sleswick, the village community formed the unit
of English society. Each such township was still bounded by its mark of
forest, mere, or fen, which divided it from its nearest neighbours. In
each lived a single clan, supposed to be of kindred blood and bearing a
common name. The marksmen and their serfs, the latter being conquered
Welshmen, cultivated the soil under cereals for bread, and also for an
unnecessarily large supply of beer, as we learn at a later date from
numerous charters. Cattle and horses grazed in the pastures, while large
herds of pigs were kept in the forest which formed the mark. Thus the
early English settled down at once from a nation of pirates into one of
agriculturists. Here and there, among the woods and fens which still
covered a large part of the country, their little separate communities
rose in small fenced clearings or on low islets, now joined by drainage
to the mainland; while in the wider valleys, tilled in Roman times, the
wealthier chieftains formed their settlements and allotted lands to
their Welsh tributaries. Many family names appear in different parts of
England, for a reason which will hereafter be explained. Thus we find
the Bassingas at Bassingbourn, in Cambridgeshire; at Bassingfield, in
Notts; at Bassingham and Bassingthorpe, in Lincolnshire; and at
Bassington, in Northumberland. The Billings have left their stamp at
Billing, in Northampton; Billingford, in Norfolk; Billingham, in Durham;
Billingley, in Yorkshire; Billinghurst, in Sussex; and five other places
in various other counties. Birmingham, Nottingham, Wellington,
Faringdon, Warrington, and Wallingford are well-known names formed on
the same analogy. How thickly these clan settlements lie scattered over
Teutonic England may be judged from the number which occur in the London
district alone–Kensington, Paddington, Notting-hill, Billingsgate,
Islington, Newington, Kennington, Wapping, and Teddington. There are
altogether 1,400 names of this type in England. Their value as a test of
Teutonic colonisation is shown by the fact that while 48 occur in
Northumberland, 127 in Yorkshire, 76 in Lincolnshire, 153 in Norfolk and
Suffolk, 48 in Essex, 60 in Kent, and 86 in Sussex and Surrey, only 2
are found in Cornwall, 6 in Cumberland, 24 in Devon, 13 in Worcester, 2
in Westmoreland, and none in Monmouth. Speaking generally, these clan
names are thickest along the original English coast, from Forth to
Portland; they decrease rapidly as we move inland; and they die away
altogether as we approach the purely Celtic west.

The English families, however, probably tilled the soil by the aid of
Welsh slaves; indeed, in Anglo-Saxon, the word serf and Welshman are
used almost interchangeably as equivalent synonyms. But though many
Welshmen were doubtless spared from the very first, nothing is more
certain than the fact that they became thoroughly Anglicized. A few new
words from Welsh or Latin were introduced into the English tongue, but
they were far too few sensibly to affect its vocabulary. The language
was and still is essentially Low German; and though it now contains
numerous words of Latin or French origin, it does not and never did
contain any but the very smallest Celtic element. The slight number of
additions made from the Welsh consisted chiefly of words connected with
the higher Roman civilisation–such as wall, street, and chester–or the
new methods of agriculture which the Teuton learnt from his more
civilised serfs. The Celt has always shown a great tendency to cast
aside his native language in Gaul, in Spain, and in Ireland; and the
isolation of the English townships must have had the effect of greatly
accelerating the process. Within a few generations the Celtic slave had
forgotten his tongue, his origin, and his religion, and had developed
into a pagan English serf. Whatever else the Teutonic conquest did, it
turned every man within the English pale into a thorough Englishman.

But the removal to Britain effected one immense change. "War begat the
king." In Sleswick the English had lived within their little marks as
free and independent communities. In Britain all the clans of each
colony gradually came under the military command of a king. The
ealdormen who led the various marauding bands assumed royal power in the
new country. Such a change was indeed inevitable. For not only had the
English to win the new England, but they had also to keep it and extend
it. During four hundred years a constant smouldering warfare was carried
on between the foreigners and the native Welsh on their western
frontier. Thus the townships of each colony entered into a closer union
with one another for military purposes, and so arose the separate
chieftainships or petty kingdoms of early England. But the king's power
was originally very small. He was merely the semi-hereditary general and
representative of the people, of royal stock, but elected by the free
suffrages of the freemen. Only as the kingdoms coalesced, and as the
power of meeting became consequently less, did the king acquire his
greater prerogatives. From the first, however, he seems to have
possessed the right of granting public lands, with the consent of the
freemen, to particular individuals; and such book-land, as the early
English called it, after the introduction of Roman writing, became the
origin of our system of private property in land.

Every township had its moot or assembly of freemen, which met around the
sacred oak, or on some holy hill, or beside the great stone monument of
some forgotten Celtic chieftain. Every hundred also had its moot, and
many of these still survive in their original form to the present day,
being held in the open air, near some sacred site or conspicuous
landmark. And the colony as a whole had also its moot, at which all
freemen might attend, and which settled the general affairs of the
kingdom. At these last-named moots the kings were elected; and though
the selection was practically confined to men of royal kin, the king
nevertheless represented the free choice of the tribe. Before the
conversion to Christianity, the royal families all traced their origin
to Woden. Thus the pedigree of Ida, King of Northumbria, runs as
follows:–"Ida was Eopping, Eoppa was Esing, Esa was Inguing, Ingui
Angenwiting, Angenwit Alocing, Aloc Benocing, Benoc Branding, Brand
Baldæging, Bældæg Wodening." But in later Christian times the
chroniclers felt the necessity of reconciling these heathen genealogies
with the Scriptural account in Genesis; so they affiliated Woden himself
upon the Hebrew patriarchs. Thus the pedigree of the West Saxon kings,
inserted in the Chronicle under the year 855, after conveying back the
genealogy of Æthelwulf to Woden, continues to say, "Woden was
Frealafing, Frealaf Finning," and so on till it reaches "Sceafing, _id
est filius Noe_; he was born in Noe's Ark. Lamech, Mathusalem, Enoc,
Jared, Malalehel, Camon, Enos, Seth, Adam, _primus homo et pater

The Anglo-Saxons, when they settled in Eastern and Southern Britain,
were a horde of barbarous heathen pirates. They massacred or enslaved
the civilised or half-civilised Celtic inhabitants with savage
ruthlessness. They burnt or destroyed the monuments of Roman occupation.
They let the roads and cities fall into utter disrepair. They stamped
out Christianity with fire and sword from end to end of their new
domain. They occupied a civilised and Christian land, and they restored
it to its primitive barbarism. Nor was there any improvement until
Christian teachers from Rome and Scotland once more introduced the
forgotten culture which the English pirates had utterly destroyed. As
Gildas phrases it, with true Celtic eloquence, the red tongue of flame
licked up the whole land from end to end, till it slaked its horrid
thirst in the western ocean. For 150 years the whole of English Britain,
save, perhaps, Kent and London, was cut off from all intercourse with
Christendom and the Roman world. The country consisted of several petty
chieftainships, at constant feud with their Teutonic neighbours, and
perpetually waging a border war with Welsh, Picts, and Scots. Within
each colony, much of the land remained untilled, while the clan
settlements appeared like little islands of cultivation in the midst of
forest, waste, and common. The villages were mere groups of wooden
homesteads, with barns and cattle-sheds, surrounded by rough stockades,
and destitute of roads or communications. Even the palace of the king
was a long wooden hall with numerous outhouses; for the English built no
stone houses, and burnt down those of their Roman predecessors. Trade
seems to have been confined to the south coast, and few manufactured
articles of any sort were in use. The English degraded their Celtic
serfs to their own barbaric level; and the very memory of Roman
civilization almost died out of the land for a hundred and fifty years.



From the little strip of eastern and southern coast on which they first
settled, the English advanced slowly into the interior by the valleys of
the great rivers, and finally swarmed across the central dividing ridge
into the basins of the Severn and the Irish Sea. Up the open river
mouths they could make their way in their shallow-bottomed boats, as the
Scandinavian pirates did three centuries later; and when they reached
the head of navigation in each stream for the small draught of their
light vessels, they probably took to the land and settled down at once,
leaving further inland expeditions to their sons and successors. For
this second step in the Teutonic colonisation of Britain we have some
few traditional accounts, which seem somewhat more trustworthy than
those of the first settlement. Unfortunately, however, they apply for
the most part only to the kingdom of Wessex, and not to the North and
the Midlands, where such details would be of far greater value.

The valley of the Humber gives access to the great central basin of the
Trent. Up this fruitful basin, at a somewhat later date, apparently,
than the settlement of Deira and Lincolnshire, scattered bodies of
English colonists, under petty leaders whose names have been forgotten,
seem to have pushed their way forward through the broad lowlands towards
Derby, Nottingham, and Leicester. They bore the name of Middle English.
Westward, again, other settlers raised their capital at Lichfield. These
formed the advanced guard of the English against the Welsh, and hence
their country was generally known as the Mark, or March, a name which
was afterwards latinized into the familiar form of Mercia. The absence
of all tradition as to the colonisation of this important tract, the
heart of England, and afterwards one of the three dominant Anglo-Saxon
states, leads one to suppose that the process was probably very gradual,
and the change came about so slowly as to have left but little trace on
the popular memory. At any rate, it is certain that the central ridge
long formed the division between the two races; and that the Welsh at
this period still occupied the whole western watershed, except in the
lower portion of the Severn valley.

The Welland, the Nene, and the Great Ouse, flowing through the centre of
the Fen Country, then a vast morass, studded with low and marshy
islands, gave access to the districts about Peterborough, Stamford, and
Cambridge. Here, too, a body of unknown settlers, the Gyrwas, seem about
the same time to have planted their colonies. At a later date they
coalesced with the Mercians. However, the comparative scarcity of
villages bearing the English clan names throughout all these regions
suggests the probability that Mercia, Middle England, and the Fen
Country were not by any means so densely colonised as the coast
districts; and independent Welsh communities long held out among the
isolated dry tracts of the fens as robbers and outlaws.

In the south, the advance of the West Saxons had been checked in 520,
according to the legend, by the prowess of Arthur, king of the
Devonshire Welsh. As Mr. Guest acutely notes, some special cause must
have been at work to make the Britons resist here so desperately as to
maintain for half a century a weak frontier within little more than
twenty miles of Winchester, the West Saxon capital. He suggests that the
great choir of Ambrosius at Amesbury was probably the chief Christian
monastery of Britain, and that the Welshman may here have been fighting
for all that was most sacred to him on earth. Moreover, just behind
stood the mysterious national monument of Stonehenge, the honoured tomb
of some Celtic or still earlier aboriginal chief. But in 552, the
English Chronicle tells us, Cynric, the West Saxon king, crossed the
downs behind Winchester, and descended upon the dale at Salisbury. The
Roman town occupied the square hill-fort of Old Sarum, and there Cynric
put the Welsh to flight and took the stronghold by storm.

The road was thus opened in the rear to the upper waters of the Thames
(impassable before because of the Roman population of London), as well
as towards the valley of the Bath Avon. Four years later Cynric and his
son Ceawlin once more advanced as far as Barbury hill-fort, probably on
a mere plundering raid. But in 571 Cuthwulf, brother of Ceawlin, again
marched northward, and "fought against the Welsh at Bedford, and took
four towns, Lenbury (or Leighton Buzzard), Aylesbury, Bensington (near
Dorchester in Oxfordshire), and Ensham." Thus the West Saxons overran
the whole upper valley of the Thames from Berkshire to above Oxford, and
formed a junction with the Middle Saxons to the north of London; while
eastward they spread as far as the northern boundaries of Essex. In 577
the same intruders made a still more important move. Crossing the
central watershed of England, near Chippenham, they descended upon the
broken valley of the Bath Avon, and found themselves the first
Englishmen who reached any of the basins which point westward towards
the Atlantic seaboard. At a doubtful place named Deorham (probably
Dyrham near Bath), "Cuthwine and Ceawlin fought against the Welsh, and
slew three kings, Conmail, and Condidan, and Farinmail, and took three
towns from them, Gloucester, and Cirencester, and Bath." Thus the three
great Roman cities of the lower Severn valley fell into the hands of the
West Saxons, and the English for the first time stood face to face with
the western sea. Though the story of these conquests is of course
recorded from mere tradition at a much later date, it still has a ring
of truth, or at least of probability, about it, which is wholly wanting
to the earlier legends. If we are not certain as to the facts, we can at
least accept them as symbolical of the manner in which the West Saxon
power wormed its way over the upper basin of the Thames, and crept
gradually along the southern valley of the Severn.

The victory of Deorham has a deeper importance of its own, however, than
the mere capture of the three great Roman cities in the south-west of
Britain. By the conquest of Bath and Gloucester, the West Saxons cut off
the Welsh of Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset from their brethren in the
Midlands and in Wales. This isolation of the West Welsh, as the English
thenceforth called them, largely broke the power of the native
resistance. Step by step in the succeeding age the West Saxons advanced
by hard fighting, but with no serious difficulty, to the Axe, to the
Parret, to the Tone, to the Exe, to the Tamar, till at last the West
Welsh, confined to the peninsula of Cornwall, became known merely as the
Cornish men, and in the reign of Æthelstan were finally subjugated by
the English, though still retaining their own language and national
existence. But in all the western regions the Celtic population was
certainly spared to a far greater extent than in the east; and the
position of the English might rather be described as an occupation than
as a settlement in the strict sense of the word.

The westward progress of the Northumbrians is later and much more
historical. Theodoric, son of Ida, as we may perhaps infer from the old
Welsh ballads, fought long and not always successfully with Urien of
Strathclyde. But in 592, says Bæda, who lived himself but three-quarters
of a century later than the event he describes, "there reigned over the
kingdom of the Northumbrians a most brave and ambitious king,
Æthelfrith, who, more than all other nobles of the English, wasted the
race of the Britons; for no one of our kings, no one of our chieftains,
has rendered more of their lands either tributary to or an integral part
of the English territories, whether by subjugating or expatriating the
natives." In 606 Æthelfrith rounded the Peakland, now known as
Derbyshire, and marched from the upper Trent upon the Roman city of
Chester. There "he made a terrible slaughter of the perfidious race."
Over two thousand Welsh monks from the monastery of Bangor Iscoed were
slain by the heathen invader; but Bæda explains that Æthelfrith put them
to death because they prayed against him; a sentence which strongly
suggests the idea that the English did not usually kill non-combatant

The victory of Chester divided the Welsh power in the north as that of
Deorham had divided it in the south. Henceforward, the Northumbrians
bore rule from sea to sea, from the mouth of the Humber to the mouths of
the Mersey and the Dee. Æthelfrith even kept up a rude navy in the Irish
Sea. Thus the Welsh nationality was broken up into three separate and
weak divisions–Strathclyde in the north, Wales in the centre, and
Damnonia, or Cornwall, in the south. Against these three fragments the
English presented an unbroken and aggressive front, Northumbria standing
over against Strathclyde, Mercia steadily pushing its way along the
upper valley of the Severn against North Wales, and Wessex advancing in
the south against South Wales and the West Welsh of Somerset, Devon, and
Cornwall. Thus the conquest of the interior was practically complete.
There still remained, it is true, the subjugation of the west; but the
west was brought under the English over-lordship by slow degrees, and in
a very different manner from the east and the south coast, or even the
central belt. Cornwall finally yielded under Æthelstan; Strathclyde was
gradually absorbed by the English in the south and the Scottish kingdom
on the north; and the last remnant of Wales only succumbed to the
intruders under the rule of the Angevin Edward I.

There were, in fact, three epochs of English extension in Britain. The
first epoch was one of colonisation on the coasts and along the valleys
of the eastward rivers. The second epoch was one of conquest and partial
settlement in the central plateau and the westward basins. The third
epoch was one of merely political subjugation in the western mountain
regions. The proofs of these assertions we must examine at length in the
succeeding chapter.



It has been usual to represent the English conquest of South-eastern
Britain as an absolute change of race throughout the greater part of our
island. The Anglo-Saxons, it is commonly believed, came to England and
the Lowlands of Scotland in overpowering numbers, and actually
exterminated or drove into the rugged west the native Celts. The
population of the whole country south of Forth and Clyde is supposed to
be now, and to have been ever since the conquest, purely Teutonic or
Scandinavian in blood, save only in Wales, Cornwall, and, perhaps,
Cumberland and Galloway. But of late years this belief has met with
strenuous opposition from several able scholars; and though many of our
greatest historians still uphold the Teutonic theory, with certain
modifications and admissions, there are, nevertheless, good reasons
which may lead us to believe that a large proportion of the Celts were
spared as tillers of the soil, and that Celtic blood may yet be found
abundantly even in the most Teutonic portions of England.

In the first place, it must be remembered that, by common consent, only
the east and south coasts and the country as far as the central
dividing ridge can be accounted as to any overwhelming extent English in
blood. It is admitted that the population of the Scottish Highlands, of
Wales, and of Cornwall is certainly Celtic. It is also admitted that
there exists a large mixed population of Celts and Teutons in
Strathclyde and Cumbria, in Lancashire, in the Severn Valley, in Devon,
Somerset, and Dorset. The northern and western half of Britain is
acknowledged to be mainly Celtic. Thus the question really narrows
itself down to the ethnical peculiarities of the south and east.

Here, the surest evidence is that of anthropology. We know that the pure
Anglo-Saxons were a round-skulled, fair-haired, light-eyed,
blonde-complexioned race; and we know that wherever (if anywhere) we
find unmixed Germanic races at the present day, High Dutch, Low Dutch,
or Scandinavian, we always meet with some of these same personal
peculiarities in almost every individual of the community. But we also
know that the Celts, originally themselves a similar blonde Aryan race,
mixed largely in Britain with one or more long-skulled dark-haired,
black-eyed, and brown-complexioned races, generally identified with the
Basques or Euskarians, and with the Ligurians. The nation which resulted
from this mixture showed traces of both types, being sometimes blonde,
sometimes brunette; sometimes black-haired, sometimes red-haired, and
sometimes yellow-haired. Individuals of all these types are still found
in the undoubtedly Celtic portions of Britain, though the dark type
there unquestionably preponderates so far as numbers are concerned. It
is this mixed race of fair and dark people, of Aryan Celts with
non-Aryan Euskarians or Ligurians, which we usually describe as Celtic
in modern Britain, by contradistinction to the later wave of Teutonic

Now, according to the evidence of the early historians, as interpreted
by Mr. Freeman and other authors (whose arguments we shall presently
examine), the English settlers in the greater part of South Britain
almost entirely exterminated the Celtic population. But if this be so,
how comes it that at the present day a large proportion of our people,
even in the east, belong to the dark and long-skulled type? The fact is
that upon this subject the historians are largely at variance with the
anthropologists; and as the historical evidence is weak and inferential,
while the anthropological evidence is strong and direct, there can be
very little doubt which we ought to accept. Professor Huxley [Essay "On
some Fixed Points in British Ethnography,"] has shown that the
melanochroic or dark type of Englishmen is identical in the shape of the
skull, the anatomical peculiarities, and the colour of skin, hair, and
eyes with that of the continent, which is undeniably Celtic in the wider
sense–that is to say, belonging to the primitive non-Teutonic race,
which spoke a Celtic language, and was composed of mixed Celtic,
Iberian, and Ligurian elements. Professor Phillips points out that in
Yorkshire, and especially in the plain of York, an essentially dark,
short, non-Teutonic type is common; while persons of the same
characteristics abound among the supposed pure Anglians of
Lincolnshire. They are found in great numbers in East Anglia, and they
are not rare even in Kent. In Sussex and Essex they occur less
frequently, and they are also comparatively scarce in the Lothians. Dr.
Beddoe, Dr. Thurnam, and other anthropologists have collected much
evidence to the same effect. Hence we may conclude with great
probability that large numbers of the descendants of the dark Britons
still survive even on the Teutonic coast. As to the descendants of the
light Britons, we cannot, of course, separate them from those of the
like-complexioned English invaders. But in truth, even in the east
itself, save only perhaps in Sussex and Essex, the dark and fair types
have long since so largely coalesced by marriage that there are probably
few or no real Teutons or real Celts individually distinguishable at
all. Absolutely fair people, of the Scandinavian or true German sort,
with very light hair and very pale blue eyes, are almost unknown among
us; and when they do occur, they occur side by side with relations of
every other shade. As a rule, our people vary infinitely in complexion
and anatomical type, from the quite squat, long-headed, swarthy peasants
whom we sometimes meet with in rural Yorkshire, to the tall,
flaxen-haired, red-cheeked men whom we occasionally find not only in
Danish Derbyshire, but even in mainly Celtic Wales and Cornwall. As to
the west, Professor Huxley declares, on purely anthropological grounds,
that it is probably, on the whole, more deeply Celtic than Ireland

These anthropological opinions are fully borne out by those scientific
archæologists who have done most in the way of exploring the tombs and
other remains of the early Anglo-Saxon invaders. Professor Rolleston,
who has probably examined more skulls of this period than any other
investigator, sums up his consideration of those obtained from
Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon interments by saying, "I should be
inclined to think that wholesale massacres of the conquered
Romano-Britons were rare, and that wholesale importations of Anglo-Saxon
women were not much more frequent." He points out that "we have
anatomical evidence for saying that two or more distinct varieties of
men existed in England both previously to and during the period of the
Teutonic invasion and domination." The interments show us that the races
which inhabited Britain before the English conquest continued in part to
inhabit it after that conquest. The dolichocephali, or long-skulled type
of men, who, in part, preceded the English, "have been found abundantly
in the Suffolk region of the Littus Saxonicum, where the Celt and Saxon
[Englishman] are not known to have met as enemies when East Anglia
became a kingdom." Thus we see that just where people of the dark type
occur abundantly at the present day, skulls of the corresponding sort
are met with abundantly in interments of the Anglo-Saxon period.
Similarly, Mr. Akerman, after explorations in tombs, observes, "The
total expulsion or extinction of the Romano-British population by the
invaders will scarcely be insisted upon in this age of enquiry." Nay,
even in Teutonic Kent, Jute and Briton still lie side by side in the
same sepulchres. Most modern Englishmen have somewhat long rather than
round skulls. The evidence of archæology supports the evidence of
anthropology in favour of the belief that some, at least, of the native
Britons were spared by the invading host.

On the other hand, against these unequivocal testimonies of modern
research we have to set the testimony of the early historical
authorities, on which the Teutonic theory mainly relies. The authorities
in question are three, Gildas, Bæda, and the English Chronicle. Gildas
was, or professes to be, a British monk, who wrote in the very midst of
the English conquest, when the invaders were still confined, for the
most part, to the south-eastern region. Objections have been raised to
the authenticity of his work, a small rhetorical Latin pamphlet,
entitled, "The History of the Britons;" but these objections have,
perhaps, been set at rest for many minds by Dr. Guest and Mr. Green.
Nevertheless, what little Gildas has to tell us is of slight historical
importance. His book is a disappointing Jeremiad, couched in the florid
and inflated Latin rhetoric so common during the decadence of the Roman
empire, intermingled with a strong flavour of hyperbolical Celtic
imagination; and it teaches us practically nothing as to the state of
the conquered districts. It is wholly occupied with fierce diatribes
against the Saxons, and complaints as to the weakness, wickedness, and
apathy of the British chieftains. It says little that can throw any
light on the question as to whether the Welsh were largely spared,
though it abounds with wild and vague declamation about the
extermination of the natives. Even Gildas, however, mentions that some
of his countrymen, "constrained by famine, came and yielded themselves
up to their enemies as slaves for ever;" while others, "committing the
safeguard of their lives to mountains, crags, thick forests, and rocky
isles, though with trembling hearts, remained in their fatherland."
These passages certainly suggest that a Welsh remnant survived in two
ways within the English pale, first as slaves, and secondly as isolated

Bæda stands on a very different footing. His authenticity is undoubted;
his language is simple and straightforward. He was born in or about the
year 672, only two hundred years after the landing of the first English
colonists in Thanet. Scarcely more than a century separated him from the
days of Ida. The constant lingering warfare with the Welsh on the
western frontier was still for him a living fact. The Celt still held
half of Britain. At the date of his birth the northern Welsh still
retained their independence in Strathclyde; the Welsh proper still
spread to the banks of the Severn; and the West Welsh of Cornwall still
owned all the peninsula south of the Bristol Channel as far eastward as
the Somersetshire marshes. Beyond Forth and Clyde, the Picts yet ruled
over the greater part of the Highlands, while the Scots, who have now
given the name of Scotland to the whole of Britain beyond the Cheviots,
were a mere intrusive Irish colony in Argyllshire and the Western Isles.
He lived, in short, at the very period when Britain was still in the
act of becoming England; and no historical doubts of any sort hang over
the authenticity of his great work, "The Ecclesiastical History of the
English people." But Bæda unfortunately knows little more about the
first settlement than he could learn from Gildas, whom he quotes almost
_verbatim_. He tells us, however, nothing of extermination of the Welsh.
"Some," he says, "were slaughtered; some gave themselves up to undergo
slavery: some retreated beyond the sea: and some, remaining in their own
land, lived a miserable life in the mountains and forests." In all this,
he is merely transcribing Gildas, but he saw no improbability in the
words. At a later date, Æthelfrith, of Northumbria, he tells us,
"rendered more of their lands either tributary to or an integral part of
the English territory, whether by subjugating or expatriating[1] the
natives," than any previous king. Eadwine, before his conversion,
"subdued to the empire of the English the Mevanian islands," Man and
Anglesey; but we know that the population of both islands is still
mainly Celtic in blood and speech. These examples sufficiently show us,
that even before the introduction of Christianity, the English did not
always utterly destroy the Welsh inhabitants of conquered districts. And
it is universally admitted that, after their conversion, they fought
with the Welsh in a milder manner, sparing their lives as
fellow-Christians, and permitting them to retain their lands as
tributary proprietors.

 [1] The word in the original is _exterminatis_, but of
     course _exterminare_ then bore its etymological sense of
     expatriation or expulsion, if not merely of confiscation,
     while it certainly did not imply the idea of slaughter,
     connoted by the modern word.

The English Chronicle, our third authority, was first compiled at the
court of Ælfred, four and a-half centuries after the Conquest; and so
its value as original testimony is very slight. Its earlier portions are
mainly condensed from Bæda; but it contains a few fragments of
traditional information from some other unknown sources. These
fragments, however, refer chiefly to Kent, Sussex, and the older parts
of Wessex, where we have reason to believe that the Teutonic
colonisation was exceptionally thorough; and they tell us nothing about
Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and East Anglia, where we find at the present
day so large a proportion of the population possessing an unmistakably
Celtic physique. The Chronicle undoubtedly describes the conflict in the
south as sharp and bloody; and in spite of the mythical character of the
names and events, it is probable that in this respect it rightly
preserves the popular memory of the conquest, and its general nature. In
Kent, "the Welsh fled the English like fire;" and Hengest and Æsc, in a
single battle, slew 4,000 men. In Sussex, Ælle and Cissa killed or drove
out the natives in the western rapes on their first landing, and
afterwards massacred every Briton at Anderida. In Wessex, in the first
struggle, "Cerdic and Cynric offslew a British king whose name was
Natanleod, and 5,000 men with him." And so the dismal annals of rapine
and slaughter run on from year to year, with simple, unquestioning
conciseness, showing us, at least, the manner in which the later
English believed their forefathers had acquired the land. Moreover,
these frightful details accord well enough with the vague generalities
of Gildas, from which, however, they may very possibly have been
manufactured. Yet even the Chronicle nowhere speaks of absolute
extermination: that idea has been wholly read into its words, not
directly inferred from them. A great deal has been made of the massacre
at Pevensey; but we hear nothing of similar massacres at the great Roman
cities–at London, at York, at Verulam, at Bath, at Cirencester, which
would surely have attracted more attention than a small outlying
fortress like Anderida. Even the Teutonic champions themselves admit
that some, at least, of the Celts were incorporated into the English
community. "The women," says Mr. Freeman, "would, doubtless, be largely
spared;" while as to the men, he observes, "we may be sure that death,
emigration, or personal slavery were the only alternatives which the
vanquished found at the hands of our fathers." But there is a vast gulf,
from the ethnological point of view, between exterminating a nation and
enslaving it.[2]

 [2] In this and a few other cases, modern authorities are
     quoted merely to show that the essential facts of a large
     Welsh survival are really admitted even by those who most
     strongly argue in favour of the general Teutonic origin of

In the cities, indeed, it would seem that the Britons remained in great
numbers. The Welsh bards complain that the urban race of Romanised
natives known as Loegrians, "became as Saxons." Mr. Kemble has shown
that the English did not by any means always massacre the inhabitants of
the cities. Mr. Freeman observes, "It is probable that within the
[English] frontier there still were Roman towns tributary to the
conquerors rather than occupied by them;" and Canon Stubbs himself
remarks, that "in some of the cities there were probably elements of
continuous life: London, the mart of the merchants, York, the capital of
the north, and some others, have a continuous political existence."
"Wherever the cities were spared," he adds, "a portion, at least, of the
city population must have continued also. In the country, too,
especially towards the west and the debateable border, great numbers of
Britons may have survived in a servile or half-servile condition." But
we must remember that in only two cases, Anderida and Chester, do we
actually hear of massacres; in all the other towns, Bæda and the
Chronicle tell us nothing about them. It is a significant fact that
Sussex, the one kingdom in which we hear of a complete annihilation, is
the very one where the Teutonic type of physique still remains the
purest. But there are nowhere any traces of English clan nomenclature in
any of the cities. They all retain their Celtic or Roman names. At
Cambridge itself, in the heart of the true English country, the charter
of the thegn's guild, a late document, mentions a special distinction of
penalties for killing a Welshman, "if the slain be a ceorl, 2 ores, if
he be a Welshman, one ore." "The large Romanised towns," says Professor
Rolleston, "no doubt made terms with the Saxons, who abhorred city
life, and would probably be content to leave the unwarlike burghers in a
condition of heavily-taxed submissiveness."

Thus, even in the east it is admitted that a Celtic element probably
entered into the population in three ways,–by sparing the women, by
making rural slaves of the men, and by preserving some, at least, of the
inhabitants of cities. The skulls of these Anglicised Welshmen are found
in ancient interments; their descendants are still to be recognised by
their physical type in modern England. "It is quite possible," says Mr.
Freeman, "that even at the end of the sixth century there may have been
within the English frontier inaccessible points where detached bodies of
Welshmen still retained a precarious independence." Sir F. Palgrave has
collected passages tending to show that parties of independent Welshmen
held out in the Fens till a very late period; and this conclusion is
admitted by Mr. Freeman to be probably correct. But more important is
the general survival of scattered Britons within the English communities
themselves. Traces of this we find even in Anglo-Saxon documents. The
signatures to very early charters,[3] collected by Thorpe and Kemble,
supply us with names some of which are assuredly not Teutonic, while
others are demonstrably Celtic; and these names are borne by people
occupying high positions at the court of English kings. Names of this
class occur even in Kent itself; while others are borne by members of
the royal family of Wessex. The local dialect of the West Riding of
Yorkshire still contains many Celtic words; and the shepherds of
Northumberland and the Lothians still reckon their sheep by what is
known as "the rhyming score," which is really a corrupt form of the
Welsh numerals from one to twenty. The laws of Northumbria mention the
Welshmen who pay rent to the king. Indeed, it is clear that even in the
east itself the English were from the first a body of rural colonists
and landowners, holding in subjection a class of native serfs, with whom
they did not intermingle, but who gradually became Anglicised, and
finally coalesced with their former masters, under the stress of the
Danish and Norman supremacies.

 [3] Kemble "On Anglo-Saxon Names." Proc. Arch. Inst., 1845.

In the west, however, the English occupation took even less the form of
a regular colonisation. The laws of Ine, a West Saxon king, show us that
in his territories, bordering on yet unconquered British lands, the
Welshman often occupied the position of a rent-paying inferior, as well
as that of a slave. The so-called Nennius tells us that Elmet in
Yorkshire, long an intrusive Welsh principality, was not subdued by the
English till the reign of Eadwine of Northumbria; when, we learn, the
Northumbrian prince "seized Elmet, and expelled Cerdic its king:" but
nothing is said as to any extermination of its people. As Bæda
incidentally mentions this Cerdic, "king of the Britons," Nennius may
probably be trusted upon the point. As late as the beginning of the
tenth century, King Ælfred in his will describes the people of Devon,
Dorset, Somerset, and Wilts, as "Welsh kin." The physical appearance of
the peasantry in the Severn valley, and especially in Shropshire,
Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and Herefordshire, indicates that the
western parts of Mercia were equally Celtic in blood. The dialect of
Lancashire contains a large Celtic infusion. Similarly, the English
clan-villages decrease gradually in numbers as we move westward, till
they almost disappear beyond the central dividing ridge. We learn from
Domesday Book that at the date of the Norman conquest the number of
serfs was greater from east to west, and largest on the Welsh border.
Mr. Isaac Taylor points out that a similar argument may be derived from
the area of the hundreds in various counties. The hundred was originally
a body of one hundred English families (more or less), bound together by
mutual pledge, and answerable for one another's conduct. In Sussex, the
average number of square miles in each hundred is only twenty-three; in
Kent, twenty-four; in Surrey, fifty-eight; and in Herts, seventy-nine:
but in Gloucester it is ninety-seven; in Derby, one hundred and
sixty-two; in Warwick, one hundred and seventy-nine; and in Lancashire,
three hundred and two. These facts imply that the English population
clustered thickest in the old settled east, but grew thinner and thinner
towards the Welsh and Cumbrian border. Altogether, the historical
evidence regarding the western slopes of England bears out Professor
Huxley's dictum as to the thoroughly Celtic character of their

On the other hand, it is impossible to deny that Mr. Freeman and Canon
Stubbs have proved their point as to the thorough Teutonisation of
Southern Britain by the English invaders. Though it may be true that
much Welsh blood survived in England, especially amongst the servile
class, yet it is none the less true that the nation which rose upon the
ruins of Roman Britain was, in form and organisation, almost purely
English. The language spoken by the whole country was the same which had
been spoken in Sleswick. Only a few words of Welsh origin relating to
agriculture, household service, and smithcraft, were introduced by the
serfs into the tongue of their masters. The dialects of the Yorkshire
moors, of the Lake District, and of Dorset or Devon, spoken only by wild
herdsmen in the least cultivated tracts, retained a few more evident
traces of the Welsh vocabulary: but in York, in London, in Winchester,
and in all the large towns, the pure Anglo-Saxon of the old England by
the shores of the Baltic was alone spoken. The Celtic serfs and their
descendants quickly assumed English names, talked English to one
another, and soon forgot, in a few generations, that they had not always
been Englishmen in blood and tongue. The whole organisation of the
state, the whole social life of the people, was entirely Teutonic. "The
historical civilisation," as Canon Stubbs admirably puts it, "is English
and not Celtic." Though there may have been much Welsh blood left, it
ran in the veins of serfs and rent-paying churls, who were of no
political or social importance. These two aspects of the case should be
kept carefully distinct. Had they always been separated, much of the
discussion which has arisen on the subject would doubtless have been
avoided; for the strongest advocates of the Teutonic theory are
generally ready to allow that Celtic women, children, and slaves may
have been largely spared: while the Celtic enthusiasts have thought
incumbent upon them to derive English words from Welsh roots, and to
trace the origin of English social institutions to Celtic models. The
facts seem to indicate that while the modern English nation is largely
Welsh in blood, it is wholly Teutonic in form and language. Each of us
probably traces back his descent to mixed Celtic and Germanic ancestry:
but while the Celts have contributed the material alone, the Teutons
have contributed both the material and the form.



We can now picture to ourselves the general aspect of the country after
the English colonies had established themselves as far west as the
Somersetshire marshes, the Severn, and the Dee. The whole land was
occupied by little groups of Teutonic settlers, each isolated by the
mark within their own township; each tilling the ground with their own
hands and those of their Welsh serfs. The townships were rudely gathered
together into petty chieftainships; and these chieftainships tended
gradually to aggregate into larger kingdoms, which finally merged in the
three great historical divisions of Northumbria, Mercia, and Wessex;
divisions that survive to our own time as the North, the Midlands, and
the South. Meanwhile, most of the Roman towns were slowly depopulated
and fell into disrepair, so that a "waste chester" becomes a common
object in Anglo-Saxon history. Towns belong to a higher civilisation,
and had little place in agricultural England. The roads were neglected
for want of commerce; and trade only survived in London and along the
coast of Kent, where the discovery of Frankish coins proves the
existence of intercourse with the Teutonic kingdom of Neustria, which
had grown up on the ruins of northern Gaul. Everywhere in Britain the
Roman civilisation fell into abeyance: in improved agriculture alone did
any notable relic of its existence remain. The century and a half
between the conquest and the arrival of Augustine is a dreary period of
unmixed barbarism and perpetual anarchy.

From time to time the older settled colonies kept sending out fresh
swarms of young emigrants towards the yet unconquered west, much as the
Americans and Canadians have done in our own days. Armed with their long
swords and battle-axes, the new colonists went forth in family bands,
under petty chieftains, to war against the Welsh; and when they had
conquered themselves a district, they settled on it as lords of the
soil, enslaved the survivors of their enemies, and made their leader
into a king. Meanwhile, the older colonies kept up their fighting spirit
by constant wars amongst themselves. Thus we read of contests between
the men of Kent and the West Saxons, or between conflicting nobles in
Wessex itself. Fighting, in fact, was the one business of the English
freeman, and it was but slowly that he settled down into a quiet
agriculturist. The influence of Christianity alone seems to have wrought
the change. Before the conversion of England, all the glimpses which we
get of the English freeman represent him only as a rude and turbulent
warrior, with the very spirit of his kinsmen, the later wickings of the

An enormous amount of the country still remained overgrown with wild
forest. The whole weald of Kent and Sussex, the great tract of Selwood
in Wessex, the larger part of Warwickshire, the entire Peakland, the
central dividing ridge between the two seas from Yorkshire to the Forth,
and other wide regions elsewhere, were covered with primæval woodlands.
Arden, Charnwood, Wychwood, Sherwood, and the rest, are but the relics
of vast forests which once stretched over half England. The bear still
lurked in the remotest thickets; packs of wolves still issued forth at
night to ravage the herdsman's folds; wild boars wallowed in the fens or
munched acorns under the oakwoods; deer ranged over all the heathy
tracts throughout the whole island; and the wild white cattle, now
confined to Chillingham Park, roamed in many spots from north to south.
Hence hunting was the chief pastime of the princes and ealdormen when
they were not engaged in war with one another or with the Welsh. Game,
boar-flesh, and venison formed an important portion of diet throughout
the whole early English period, up to the Norman conquest, and long

The king was the recognised head of each community, though his position
was hardly more than that of leader of the nobles in war. He received an
original lot in the conquered land, and remained a private possessor of
estates, tilled by his Welsh slaves. He was king of the people, not of
the country, and is always so described in the early monuments. Each
king seems to have had a chief priest in his kingdom.

There was no distinct capital for the petty kingdoms, though a principal
royal residence appears to have been usual. But the kings possessed many
separate _hams_ or estates in their domain, in each of which food and
other material for their use were collected by their serfs. They moved
about with their suite from one of these to another, consuming all that
had been prepared for them in each, and then passing on to the next. The
king himself made the journey in the waggon drawn by oxen, which formed
his rude prerogative. Such primitive royal progresses were absolutely
necessary in so disjointed a state of society, if the king was to govern
at all. Only by moving about and seeing with his own eyes could he gain
any information in a country where organisation was feeble and writing
practically unknown: only by consuming what was grown for him on the
spot where it was grown could he and his suite obtain provisions in the
rude state of Anglo-Saxon communications. But such government as existed
was mainly that of the local ealdormen and the village gentry.

Marriages were practically conducted by purchase, the wife being bought
by the husband from her father's family. A relic of this custom perhaps
still survives in the modern ceremony, when the father gives the bride
in marriage to the bridegroom. Polygamy was not unknown; and it was
usual for men to marry their father's widows. The wives, being part of
the father's property, naturally became part of the son's heritage.
Fathers probably possessed the right of selling their children into
slavery; and we know that English slaves were sold at Rome, being
conveyed thither by Frisian merchants.

The artizan class, such as it was, must have been attached to the houses
of the chieftains, probably in a servile position. Pottery was
manufactured of excellent but simple patterns. Metal work was, of
course, thoroughly understood, and the Anglo-Saxon swords and knives
discovered in barrows are of good construction. Every chief had also his
minstrel, who sang the short and jerky Anglo-Saxon songs to the
accompaniment of a harp. The dead were burnt and their ashes placed in
tumuli in the north: the southern tribes buried their warriors in full
military dress, and from their tombs much of the little knowledge which
we possess as to their habits is derived. Thence have been taken their
swords, a yard long, with ornamental hilt and double-cutting edge, often
covered by runic inscriptions; their small girdle knives; their long
spears; and their round, leather-faced, wooden shields. The jewellery is
of gold, enriched with coloured enamel, pearl, or sliced garnet.
Buckles, rings, bracelets, hairpins, necklaces, scissors, and toilet
requisites were also buried with the dead. Glass drinking-cups which
occur amongst the tombs, were probably imported from the continent to
Kent or London; and some small trade certainly existed with the Roman
world, as we learn from Bæda.

In faith the English remained true to their old Teutonic myths. Their
intercourse with the Christian Welsh was not of a kind to make them
embrace the religion which must have seemed to them that of slaves and
enemies. Bæda tells us that the English worshipped idols, and sacrificed
oxen to their gods. Many traces of their mythology are still left in our

First in importance among their deities came Woden, the Odin of our
Scandinavian kinsmen, whose name we still preserve in Wednesday (dies
Mercurii). To him every royal family of the English traced its descent.
Mr. Kemble has pointed out many high places in England which keep his
name to the present day. Wanborough, in Surrey, at the
heaven-water-parting of the Hog's Back, was originally Wodnesbeorh, or
the hill of Woden. Wanborough, in Wiltshire, which divides the valleys
of the Kennet and the Isis, has the same origin; as has also
Woodnesborough in Kent. Wonston, in Hants, was probably Woden's stone;
Wambrook, Wampool, and Wansford, his brook, his pool, and his ford. All
these names are redolent of that nature-worship which was so marked a
portion of the Anglo-Saxon religion. Godshill, in the Isle of Wight, now
crowned by a Christian church, was also probably the site of early Woden
worship. The boundaries of estates, as mentioned in charters, give
instances of trees, stones, and posts, used as landmarks, and dedicated
to Woden, thus conferring upon them a religious sanction, like that of
Hermes amongst the Greeks. Anglo-Saxon worship generally gathered around
natural features; and sacred oaks, ashes, wells, hills, and rivers are
among the commonest memorials of our heathen ancestors. Many of them
were reconsecrated after the introduction of Christianity to saints of
the church, and so have retained their character for sanctity almost to
our own time.

Thunor, the same word as our modern English thunder, was practically,
though not philologically, the Anglo-Saxon representative of Zeus. We
are more familiar with his name in its clipped Norse form of Thor.
Thursday is Thunor's day (Thunres dæg: dies Jovis) and the thunderbolt,
really a polished stone axe of the aboriginal neolithic savages, was
supposed to be his weapon. Thundersfield, in Surrey; Thundersley, in
Essex; and Thursley, in Surrey, still preserve the memory of his sacred
sites. Thurleigh, in Bedford; Thurlow, in Essex; Thursley, in
Cumberland; Thursfield, in Staffordshire; and Thursford, in Norfolk, are
more probably due to later Danish influence, and commemorate namesakes
of the Norse Thor rather than the English Thunor.

Tiw, the philological equivalent of Zeus, answered rather in character
to Ares, and had for his day Tuesday (dies Martis). Tiw's mere and Tiw's
thorn occur in charters, and a few places still retain his name. Frea
gives his title to Friday (dies Veneris), and Sætere to Saturday (dies
Saturni). But the Anglo-Saxon worship really paid more attention to
certain deified heroes,–Bældæg, Geat, and Sceaf; and to certain
personified abstractions,–Wig (war), Death, and Sige (victory), than to
these minor gods. And, as often happens in Polytheistic religions, there
is reason to believe that the popular creed had much less reference to
the gods at all than to many inferior spirits of a naturalistic sort.
For the early English farmer, the world around was full of spiritual
beings, half divine, half devilish. Fiends and monsters peopled the
fens, and tales of their doings terrified his childhood. Spirits of
flood and fell swamped his boat or misled him at night. Water nicors
haunted the streams; fairies danced on the green rings of the pasture;
dwarfs lived in the barrows of Celtic or neolithic chieftains, and
wrought strange weapons underground. The mark, the forest, the hills,
were all full for the early Englishman of mysterious and often hostile
beings. At length the Weirds or Fates swept him away. Beneath the earth
itself, Hel, mistress of the cold and joyless world of shades, at last
received him; unless, indeed, by dying a warrior's death, he was
admitted to the happy realms of Wælheal. As a whole, the Anglo-Saxon
heathendom was a religion of terrorism. Evil spirits surrounded men on
every side, dwelt in all solitary places, and stalked over the land by
night. Ghosts dwelt in the forest; elves haunted the rude stone circles
of elder days. The woodland, still really tenanted by deer, wolves, and
wild boars, was also filled by popular imagination with demons and imps.
Charms, spells, and incantations formed the most real and living part of
the national faith; and many of these survived into Christian times as
witchcraft. Some of them, and of the early myths, even continue to be
repeated in the folk-lore of the present day. Such are the legends of
the Wild Huntsman and of Wayland Smith. Indeed, heathendom had a strong
hold over the common English mind long after the public adoption of
Christianity; and heathen sacrifices continued to be offered in secret
as late as the thirteenth century. Our poetry and our ordinary language
is tinged with heathen ideas even in modern times.

Still more interesting, however, are those relics of yet earlier social
states, which we find amongst the Anglo-Saxons themselves. The
production of fire by rubbing together two sticks is a common practice
amongst all savages; and it has acquired a sacred significance which
causes it to live on into more civilised stages. Once a year the
needfire was so lighted, and all the hearths of the village were
rekindled from the blaze thus obtained. Cattle were "passed through the
fire" to preserve them from the attacks of fiends; and perhaps even
children were sometimes treated in the same manner. The ceremony,
originally adopted, perhaps, by the English from their Celtic serfs,
still lingers in remote parts of the country, as the lighting of fires
on St. John's Eve. Tattooing the face was practised by the noble
classes. It seems probable that the early English sacrificed human
victims, as the Germans certainly did to Wuotan (the High Dutch Woden);
and we know that the practice of suttee existed, and that widows slew
themselves on the death of their husbands, in order to accompany them to
the other world. Even more curious are the vestiges of Totemism, or
primitive animal worship, common to all branches of the Aryan race, as
well as to the North American Indians, the Australian black fellows, and
many other savages. Totemism consists in the belief that each family is
literally descended from a particular plant or animal, whose name it
bears; and members of the family generally refuse to pluck the plant or
kill the animal after which they are named. Of these beliefs we find
apparently several traces in Anglo-Saxon life. The genealogies of the
kings include such names as those of the horse, the mare, the ash, and
the whale. In the very early Anglo-Saxon poem of Beowulf, two of the
characters bear the names of Wulf and Eofer (boar). The wolf and the
raven were sacred animals, and have left their memory in many places, as
well as in such personal titles as Æthelwulf, the noble wolf. The boar
was also greatly reverenced; its head was used as an amulet, or as a
crest for helmets, and oaths were taken upon it till late in the middle
ages. Our own boar's head at Christmas is a relic of the old belief. The
sanctity of the horse and the ash has been already mentioned. Now many
of the Anglo-Saxon clans bore names implying their descent from such
plants or animals. Thus a charter mentions the Æscings, or sons of the
ash, in Surrey; another refers to the Earnings, or sons of the eagle
(earn); a third to the Heartings, or sons of the hart; a fourth to the
Wylfings, or sons of the wolf; and a fifth to the Thornings, or sons of
the thorn. The oak has left traces of his descendants at Oakington, in
Cambridge: the birch, at Birchington, in Kent; the boar (Eofer) at
Evringham, in Yorkshire; the hawk, at Hawkinge, in Kent; the horse, at
Horsington, in Lincolnshire; the raven, at Raveningham, in Norfolk; the
sun, at Sunning, in Berks; and the serpent (Wyrm), at Wormingford,
Worminghall, and Wormington, in Essex, Bucks, and Gloucester,
respectively. Every one of these objects is a common and well-known
totem amongst savage tribes; and the inference that at some earlier
period the Anglo-Saxons had been Totemists is almost irresistible.

Moreover, it is an ascertained fact that the custom of exogamy (marriage
by capture outside the tribe), and of counting kindred on the female
side alone, accompanies the low stage of culture with which Totemism is
usually associated. We know also that this method of reckoning
relationship obtained amongst certain Aryan tribes, such as the Picts.
Traces of the ceremonial form of marriage by capture survived in England
to a late date in the middle ages; and therefore the custom of exogamy,
upon which the ceremony is based, must probably have existed amongst the
English themselves at some earlier period. Even in the first historical
age, a conquered king generally gave his daughter in marriage to his
conqueror, as a mark of submission, which is a relic of the same custom.
Now, if members of the various tribes–Jutes, English, and Saxons,–used
at one time habitually to intermarry with one another, and to give their
children the clan-name of the father, it would follow that persons
bearing the same clan-name would appear in all the tribes. Such we find
to be actually the case. The Hemings, for instance, are met with in six
counties–York, Lincoln, Huntingdon, Suffolk, Northampton, and Somerset;
the Mannings occur in English Norfolk and in Saxon Dorset; the
Billings, and many other clans, have left their names over the whole
land, from north to south and from east to west alike. It has often been
assumed that these facts prove the intimate intermixture of the invading
tribes; but the supposition of the former existence of exogamy, and
consequent appearance of similar clan-names in all the tribes, seems far
more probable than such an extreme mingling of different tribesmen over
the whole conquered territory.[1] Part of the early English ceremony of
marriage consisted in the bridegroom touching the head of the bride with
a shoe, a relic, doubtless, of the original mode of capture, when the
captor placed his foot on the neck of his prisoner or slave. After
marriage, the wife's hair was cut short, which is a universal mark of

 [1] I owe this ingenious explanation to a note in Mr. Andrew
     Lang's essays prefixed to Mr. Holland's translation of
     Aristotle's _Politics_. He has there also suggested the
     analysis of the clan names for traces of Totemism, whose
     results I have given above in part.

Thus we may divide the early English religion into four elements. First,
the remnants of a very primitive savage faith, represented by the
sanctity of animals and plants, by Totemism, by the needfire, and by the
use of amulets, charms, and spells. Second, the relics of the old common
Aryan nature-worship, found in the reverence paid to Thunor, or Thunder,
who is a form of Zeus, and in the sacredness of hills, rivers, wells,
fords, and the open air. Third, a system of Teutonic hero or
ancestor-worship, typified by Woden, Bældæg, and the other great names
of the genealogies, and having its origin in the belief in ghosts.
Fourth, a deification of certain abstract ideas, such as War, Fate,
Victory, and Death. But the average heathen Anglo-Saxon religion was
merely a vast mass of superstition, a dark and gloomy terrorism,
begotten of the vague dread of misfortune which barbarians naturally
feel in a half-peopled land, where war and massacre are the highest
business of every man's lifetime, and a violent death the ordinary way
in which he meets his end.



It was impossible that a country lying within sight of the orthodox
Frankish kingdom, and enclosed between two Christian Churches on either
side, should long remain in such a state of isolated heathendom. For to
be cut off from Christendom was to be cut off from the whole social,
political, intellectual, and commercial life of the civilised world. In
Britain, as distinctly as in the Pacific Islands in our own day, the
missionary was the pioneer of civilisation. The change which
Christianity wrought in England in a few generations was almost as
enormous as the change which it has wrought in Hawaii at the present
time. Before the arrival of the missionary, there was no written
literature, no industrial arts, no peace, no social intercourse between
district and district. The church came as a teacher and civiliser, and
in a few years the barbarous heathen English warrior had settled down
into a toilsome agriculturist, an eager scholar, a peaceful law-giver,
or an earnest priest. The change was not merely a change of religion, it
was a revolution from a life of barbarism to a life of incipient
culture, and slow but progressive civilisation.

So inevitable was the Christianisation of England, that even while the
flood of paganism was pouring westward, the east was beginning to
receive the faith of Rome from the Frankish kingdom and from Italy. It
has been necessary, indeed, to anticipate a little, in order to show the
story of the conquest in its true light. Ten years before the heathen
Æthelfrith of Northumbria massacred the Welsh monks at Chester,
Augustine had brought Christianity to the people of Kent.

In 596, Gregory the Great determined to send a mission to England. Even
before that time, Kent had been in closer union with the Continent than
any other part of the country. Trade went on with the kindred Saxon
coast of the Frankish kingdom, and Æthelberht, the ambitious Kentish
king, and over-lord of all England south of the Humber, had even married
Bercta, a daughter of the Frankish king of Paris. Bercta was of course a
Christian, and she brought her own Frankish chaplain, who officiated in
the old Roman church of St. Martin, at Canterbury. But Gregory's mission
was on a far larger scale. Augustine, prior of the monastery on the
Cœlian Hill, was sent with forty monks to convert the heathen
English. They landed in Thanet, in 597, with all the pomp of Roman
civilisation and ecclesiastical symbolism. Gregory had rightly
determined to try by ritual and show to impress the barbarian mind.
Æthelberht, already predisposed to accept the Continental culture, and
to assimilate his rude kingdom to the Roman model, met them in the open
air at a solemn meeting; for he feared, says Bæda, to meet them within
four walls, lest they should practice incantations upon him. The foreign
monks advanced in procession to the king's presence, chanting their
litanies, and displaying a silver cross. Æthelberht yielded almost at
once. He and all his court became Christians; and the people, as is
usual amongst barbarous tribes, quickly conformed to the faith of their
rulers. Æthelberht gave the missionaries leave to build new churches, or
to repair the old ones erected by the Welsh Christians. Augustine
returned to Gaul, where he was consecrated as Archbishop of the English
nation, at Arles. Kent became thenceforth a part of the great
Continental system. Canterbury has ever since remained the metropolis of
the English Church; and the modern archbishops trace back their
succession directly to St. Augustine.

For awhile, the young Church seemed to make vigorous progress. Augustine
built a monastery at Canterbury, where Æthelberht founded a new church
to SS. Peter and Paul, to be a sort of Westminster Abbey for the tombs
of all future Kentish kings and archbishops. He also restored an old
Roman church in the city. The pope sent him sacramental vessels, altar
cloths, ornaments, relics, and, above all, many books. Ten years later,
Augustine enlarged his missionary field by ordaining two new
bishops–Mellitus, to preach to the East Saxons, "whose metropolis,"
says Bæda, "is the city of London, which is the mart of many nations,
resorting to it by sea and land;" and Justus to the episcopal see of
West Kent, with his bishop-stool at Rochester. The East Saxons
nominally accepted the faith at the bidding of their over-lord,
Æthelberht; but the people of London long remained pagans at heart. On
Augustine's death, however, all life seemed again to die out of the
struggling mission. Laurentius, who succeeded him, found the labour too
great for his weaker hands. In 613 Æthelberht died, and his son Eadbald
at once apostatised, returning to the worship of Woden and the ancestral
gods. The East Saxons drove out Mellitus, who, with Justus, retired to
Gaul; and Archbishop Laurentius himself was minded to follow them. Then
the Kentish king, admonished by a dream of the archbishop's, made
submission, recalled the truant bishops, and restored Justus to
Rochester. The Londoners, however, would not receive back Mellitus,
"choosing rather to be under their idolatrous high-priests." Soon
Laurentius died too, and Mellitus was called to take his place, and
consecrated at last a church in London in the monastery of St. Peter. In
624, the third archbishop was carried off by gout, and Justus of
Rochester succeeded to the primacy of the struggling church. Up to this
point little had been gained, except the conversion of Kent itself, with
its dependent kingdom of Essex–the two parts of England in closest
union with the Continent, through the mercantile intercourse by way of
London and Richborough.

Under the new primate, however, an unexpected opening occurred for the
conversion of the North. The Northumbrian kings had now risen to the
first place in Britain. Æthelfrith had done much to establish their
supremacy; under Eadwine it rose to a height of acknowledged
over-lordship. "As an earnest of this king's future conversion and
translation to the kingdom of heaven," says Bæda, with pardonable
Northumbrian patriotic pride, "even his temporal power was allowed to
increase greatly, so that he did what no Englishman had done
before–that is to say, he united under his own over-lordship all the
provinces of Britain, whether inhabited by English or by Welsh." Eadwine
now took in marriage Æthelburh, daughter of Æthelberht, and sister of
the reigning Kentish king. Justus seized the opportunity to introduce
the Church into Northumbria. He ordained one Paulinus as bishop, to
accompany the Christian lady, to watch over her faith, and if possible
to convert her husband and his people.

Gregory had planned his scheme with systematic completeness; he had
decided that there should be two metropolitan provinces, of York and
London (which he knew as the old Roman capitals of Britain), and that
each should consist of twelve episcopal sees. Paulinus now went to York
in furtherance of this comprehensive but abortive scheme. A miraculous
escape from assassination, or what was reputed one, gave the Roman monk
a hold over Eadwine's mind; but the king decided to put off his
conversion till he had tried the efficacy of the new faith by a
practical appeal. He went on an expedition against the treacherous king
of the West Saxons, who had endeavoured to assassinate him, and
determined to abide by the result. Having overthrown his enemy with
great slaughter, he returned to his royal city of Coningsborough (the
king's town), and put himself as a catechumen under the care of
Paulinus. The pope himself was induced to interest himself in so
promising a convert; and he wrote a couple of briefs to Eadwine and his
queen. These letters, the originals of which were carefully preserved at
Rome, are copied out in full by Bæda. No doubt, the honour of receiving
such an epistle from the pontiff of the Eternal City was not without its
effect upon the semi-barbaric mind of Eadwine, who seems in some
respects to have inherited the old Roman traditions of Eboracum.

Still the king held back. To change his own faith was to change the
faith of the whole nation, and he thought it well to consult his witan.
The old English assembly was always aristocratic in character, despite
its ostensible democracy, for it consisted only of the heads of
families; and as the kingdoms grew larger, their aristocratic character
necessarily became more pronounced, as only the wealthier persons could
be in attendance upon the king. The folk-moot had grown into the
witena-gemot, or assembly of wise men. Eadwine assembled such a meeting
on the banks of the Derwent–for moots were always held in the open air
at some sacred spot–and there the priests and thegns declared their
willingness to accept the new religion. Coifi, chief priest of the
heathen gods, himself led the way, and flung a lance in derision at the
temple of his own deities. To the surprise of all, the gods did not
avenge the insult. Thereupon "King Æduin, with all the nobles and most
of the common folk of his nation, received the faith and the font of
holy regeneration, in the eleventh year of his reign, which is the year
of our Lord's incarnation the six hundred and twenty-seventh, and about
the hundred and eightieth after the arrival of the English in Britain.
He was baptized at York on Easter-day, the first before the Ides of
April (April 12), in the church of St. Peter the Apostle, which he
himself had hastily built of wood, while he was being catechised and
prepared for Baptism; and in the same city he gave the bishopric to his
prelate and sponsor Paulinus. But after his Baptism he took care, by
Paulinus's direction, to build a larger and finer church of stone, in
the midst whereof his original chapel should be enclosed." To this day,
York Minster, the lineal descendant of Eadwine's wooden church, remains
dedicated to St. Peter; and the archbishops still sit in the
bishop-stool of Paulinus. Part of Eadwine's later stone cathedral was
discovered under the existing choir during the repairs rendered
necessary by the incendiary Martin. As to the heathen temple, its traces
still remained even in Bæda's day. "That place, formerly the abode of
idols, is now pointed out not far from York to the westward, beyond the
river Dornuentio, and is to-day called Godmundingaham, where the priest
himself, through the inspiration of the true God, polluted and destroyed
the altars which he himself had consecrated." So close did Bæda live to
these early heathen English times. From the date of St. Augustine's
arrival, indeed, Bæda stands upon the surer ground of almost
contemporary narrative.

Still the greater part of English Britain remained heathen. Kent, Essex,
and Northumbria were converted, or at least their kings and nobles had
been baptised: but East Anglia, Mercia, Sussex, Wessex, and the minor
interior principalities were as yet wholly heathen. Indeed, the various
Teutonic colonies seemed to have received Christianity in the exact
order of their settlement: the older and more civilised first, the newer
and ruder last. Paulinus, however, made another conquest for the church
in Lindsey (Lincolnshire), "where the first who believed," says the
Chronicle, "was a certain great man who hight Blecca, with all his
clan." In the very same year with these successes, Justus died, and
Honorius received the See of Canterbury from Paulinus at the old Roman
city of Lincoln. So far the Roman missionaries remained the only
Christian teachers in England: no English convert seems as yet to have
taken holy orders.

Again, however, the church received a severe check. Mercia, the youngest
and roughest principality, stood out for heathendom. The western colony
was beginning to raise itself into a great power, under its fierce and
strong old king Penda, who seems to have consolidated all the petty
chieftainships of the Midlands into a single fairly coherent kingdom.
Penda hated Northumbria, which, under Eadwine, had made itself the chief
English state: and he also hated Christianity, which he knew only as a
religion fit for Welsh slaves, not for English warriors. For twenty-two
years, therefore, the old heathen king waged an untiring war against
Christian Northumbria. In 633, he allied himself with Cadwalla, the
Christian Welsh king of Gwynedd, or North Wales, in a war against
Eadwine; an alliance which supplies one more proof that the gulf between
Welsh and English was not so wide as it is sometimes represented to be.
The Welsh and Mercian host met the Northumbrians at Heathfield (perhaps
Hatfield Chase) and utterly destroyed them. Eadwine himself and his son
Osfrith were slain. Penda and Cadwalla "fared thence, and undid all
Northumbria." The country was once more divided into Deira and Bernicia,
and two heathen rulers succeeded to the northern kingdom. Paulinus,
taking Æthelburh, the widow of Eadwine, went by sea to Kent, where
Honorius, whom he had himself consecrated, received him cordially, and
gave him the vacant see of Rochester. There he remained till his death,
and so for a time ended the Christian mission to York. Penda made the
best of his victory by annexing the Southumbrians, the Middle English,
and the Lindiswaras, as well as by conquering the Severn Valley from the
West Saxons. Henceforth, Mercia stands forth as one of the three leading
Teutonic states in Britain.



It was not the Roman mission which finally succeeded in converting the
North and the Midlands. That success was due to the Scottish and Pictish
Church. At the end of the sixth century, Columba, an Irish missionary,
crossed over to the solitary rock of Iona, where he established an abbey
on the Irish model, and quickly evangelised the northern Picts. From
Iona, some generations later, went forth the devoted missionaries who
finally converted the northern half of England.

The native churches of the west, cut off from direct intercourse with
the main body of Latin Christendom, had retained certain habits which
were now regarded by Rome as schismatical. Chief among these were the
date of celebrating Easter, and the uncanonical method of cutting the
tonsure in a crescent instead of a circle. Augustine, shortly after his
arrival, endeavoured to obtain unity between the two churches on these
matters of discipline, to which great importance was attached as tests
of submission to the Latin rule. He obtained from Æthelberht a
safe-conduct through the heathen West-Saxon territories as far as what
is now Worcestershire; and there, "on the borders of the Huiccii and
the West-Saxons," says Bæda, "he convened to a colloquy the bishops and
doctors of the nearest province of the Britons, in the place which, to
the present day, is called in the English language, Augustine's Oak."
Such open-air meetings by sacred trees or stones were universal in
England both before and after its conversion. "He began to admonish them
with a brotherly admonition to embrace with him the Catholic faith, and
to undertake the common task of evangelising the pagans. For they did
not observe Easter at the proper period: moreover, they did many other
things contrary to the unity of the Church." But the Welsh were jealous
of the intruders, and refused to abandon their old customs. Thereupon,
Augustine declared that if they would not help him against the heathen,
they would perish by the heathen. A few years later, after Augustine's
death, this prediction was verified by Æthelfrith of Northumbria, whose
massacre of the monks of Bangor has already been noticed.

It was in return for the destruction of Chester and the slaughter of the
monks that Cadwalla joined the heathen Penda against his fellow
Christian Eadwine. But the death of Eadwine left the throne open for the
house of Æthelfrith, whose place Eadwine had taken. After a year of
renewed heathendom, however, during part of which the Welsh Cadwalla
reigned over Northumbria, Oswald, son of Æthelfrith, again united Deira
and Bernicia under his own rule. Oswald was a Christian, but he had
learnt his Christianity from the Scots, amongst whom he had spent his
exile, and he favoured the introduction of Pictish and Scottish
missionaries into Northumbria. The Italian monks who had accompanied
Augustine were men of foreign speech and manners, representatives of an
alien civilisation, and they attempted to convert whole kingdoms _en
bloc_ by the previous conversion of their rulers. Their method was
political and systematic. But the Pictish and Irish preachers were men
of more Britannic feelings, and they went to work with true missionary
earnestness to convert the half Celtic people of Northumbria, man by
man, in their own homes. Aidan, the apostle of the north, carried the
Pictish faith into the Lothians and Northumberland. He placed his
bishop-stool not far from the royal town of Bamborough, at Lindisfarne,
the Holy Island of the Northumbrian coast. Other Celtic missionaries
penetrated further south, even into the heathen realm of Penda and his
tributary princes. Ceadda or Chad, the patron saint of Lichfield,
carried Christianity to the Mercians. Diuma preached to the Middle
English of Leicester with much success, Peada, their ealdorman, son of
Penda, having himself already embraced the new faith. Penda had slain
Oswald in a great battle at Maserfeld in 641; but the martyr only
brought increased glory to the Christians: and Oswiu, who succeeded him,
after an interval of anarchy, as king of Deira (for Bernicia now chose a
king of its own), was also a zealous adherent of the Celtic
missionaries. Thus the heterodox Church made rapid strides throughout
the whole of the north.

Meanwhile, in the south the Latin missionaries, urged to activity,
perhaps, by the Pictish successes, had been making fresh progress. In
the very year when Oswald was chosen king by the Northumbrians, Birinus,
a priest from northern Italy, went by command of the pope to the West
Saxons: and after twelve months he was able to baptise their king,
Cynegils, at his capital of Dorchester, on the Thames, his sponsor being
Oswald of Northumbria. A year later, Felix, a Burgundian, "preached the
faith of Christ to the East Anglians," who had indeed been converted by
the Augustinian missionaries, but afterwards relapsed. Only Sussex and
Mercia still remained heathen. But, in 655, Penda made a last attempt
against Northumbria, which he had harried year after year, and was met
by Oswiu at Winwidfield, near Leeds; the Christians were successful, and
Penda was slain, together with thirty royal persons–petty princes of
the tributary Mercian states, no doubt. His son, Peada, the Christian
ealdorman of the Middle English, succeeded him, and the Mercians became
Christians of the Pictish or Irish type. "Their first bishop," says
Bæda, "was Diuma, who died and was buried among the Middle English. The
second was Cellach, who abandoned his bishopric, and returned during his
lifetime to Scotland (perhaps Ireland, but more probably the Scottish
kingdom in Argyllshire). Both of these were by birth Irishmen. The third
was Trumhere, by race an Englishman, but educated and ordained by the
Irish." Thus Roman Christianity spread over the whole of England south
of the Wash (save only heathen Sussex): while the Irish Church had made
its way over all the north, from the Wash to the Firth of Forth. The
Roman influence may be partly traced by the Roman alphabet superseding
the old English runes. Runic inscriptions are rare in the south, where
they were regarded as heathenish relics, and so destroyed: but they are
comparatively common in the north. Runics appear on the coins of the
first Christian kings of Mercia, Peada and Æthelred, but soon die out
under their successors.

Heathendom was now fairly vanquished. It survived only in Sussex, cut
off from the rest of England by the forest belt of the Weald. The next
trial of strength must clearly lie between Rome and Iona.

The northern bishops and abbots traced their succession, not to
Augustine, but to Columba. Cuthberht, the English apostle of the north,
who really converted the _people_ of Northumbria, as earlier
missionaries had converted its _kings_, derived his orders from Iona.
Rome or Ireland, was now the practical question of the English Church.
As might be expected, Rome conquered. To allay the discord, King Oswiu
summoned a synod at Streoneshalch (now known by its later Danish name of
Whitby) in 664, to settle the vexed question as to the date of Easter.
The Irish priests claimed the authority of St. John for their crescent
tonsure; the Romans, headed by Wilfrith, a most vigorous priest,
appealed to the authority of St. Peter for the canonical circle. "I will
never offend the saint who holds the keys of heaven," said Oswiu, with
the frank, half-heathendom of a recent convert; and the meeting shortly
decided as the king would have it. The Irish party acquiesced or else
returned to Scotland; and thenceforth the new English Church remained in
close communion with Rome and the Continent. Whatever may be our
ecclesiastical judgment of this decision, there can be little doubt that
its material effects were most excellent. By bringing England into
connection with Rome, it brought her into connection with the centre of
all then-existing civilisation, and endowed her with arts and
manufactures which she could never otherwise have attained. The
connection with Ireland and the north would have been as fatal, from a
purely secular point of view, to early English culture as was the later
connection with half-barbaric Scandinavia. Rome gave England the Roman
letters, arts, and organisation: Ireland could only have given her a
more insular form of Celtic civilisation.



The change wrought in England by the introduction of the new faith was
immense and sudden at the moment, as well as deep-reaching in its after
consequences. The isolated heathen barbaric communities became at once
an integral part of the great Roman and Christian civilisation. Even
before the arrival of Augustine, some slight tincture of Roman influence
had filtered through into the English world. The Welsh serfs had
preserved some traditional knowledge of Roman agriculture; Kent had kept
up some intercourse with the Continent; and even in York, Eadwine
affected a certain imitation of Roman pomp. But after the introduction
of Christianity, Roman civilisation began to produce marked results over
the whole country. Writing, before almost unknown, or confined to the
engraving of runic characters on metal objects, grew rapidly into a
common art. The Latin language was introduced, and with it the key to
the Latin literature and Latin science, the heirlooms of Greece and the
East. Roman influences affected the little courts of the English kings;
and the customary laws began to be written down in regular codes. Before
the conversion we have not a single written document upon which to base
our history; from the moment of Augustine's landing we have the
invaluable works of Bæda, and a host of lesser writings (chiefly lives
of saints), besides an immense number of charters or royal grants of
land to monasteries and private persons. These grants, written at first
in Latin, but afterwards in Anglo-Saxon, were preserved in the
monasteries down to the date of their dissolution, and then became the
property of various collectors. They have been transcribed and published
by Mr. Kemble and Mr. Thorpe, and they form some of our most useful
materials for the early history of Christian England.

It was mainly by means of the monasteries that Christianity became a
great civilising and teaching agency in England. Those who judge
monastic institutions only by their later and worst days, when they had,
perhaps, ceased to perform any useful function, are apt to forget the
benefits which they conferred upon the people in the earlier stages of
their existence. The state of England during this first Christian period
was one of chronic and bloody warfare. There was no regular army, but
every freeman was a soldier, and raids of one English tribe upon another
were everyday occurrences; while pillaging frays on the part of the
Welsh, followed by savage reprisals on the part of the English, were
still more frequent. During the heathen period, even the Picts seem
often to have made piractical expeditions far into the south of England.
In 597, for example, we read in the Chronicle that Ceolwulf, king of the
West Saxons, constantly fought "either against the English, or against
the Welsh, or against the Picts." But in 603, the Argyllshire Scots made
a raid against Northumbria, and were so completely crushed by
Æthelfrith, that "since then no king of Scots durst lead a host against
this folk"; while the southern Picts of Galloway became tributaries of
the Northumbrian kings. But war between Saxons and English, or between
Teutons and Welsh, still remained chronic; and Christianity did little
to prevent these perpetual border wars and raids. In 633, Cadwalla and
Penda wasted Northumbria; in 644, Penda drove out King Kenwealh, of the
West Saxons, from his possessions along the Severn; in 671, Wulfhere,
the Mercian, ravaged Wessex and the south as far as Ashdown, and
conquered Wight, which he gave to the South Saxons; and so, from time to
time, we catch glimpses of the unceasing strife between each folk and
its neighbours, besides many hints of intestine struggles between prince
and prince, or of rivalries between one petty shire and others of the
same kingdom, far too numerous and unimportant to be detailed here in

With such a state of affairs as this, it became a matter of deep
importance that there should be some one institution where the arts of
peace might be carried on in safety; where agriculture might be sure of
its reward; where literature and science might be studied; and where
civilising influences might be safe from interruption or rapine. The
monasteries gave an opportunity for such an ameliorating influence to
spring up. They were spared even in war by the reverence of the people
for the Church; and they became places where peaceful minds might
retire for honest work, and learning, and thinking, away from the fierce
turmoil of a still essentially barbaric and predatory community. At the
same time, they encouraged the development of this very type of mind by
turning the reproach of cowardice, which it would have carried with it
in heathen times, into an honour and a mark of holiness. Every monastery
became a centre of light and of struggling culture for the surrounding
district. They were at once, to the early English recluse, universities
and refuges, places of education, of retirement, and of peace, in the
midst of a jarring and discordant world.

Hence, almost the first act of every newly-converted prince was to found
a monastery in his dominions. That of Canterbury dates from the arrival
of Augustine. In 643, Kenwealh of Wessex "bade timber the old minster at
Winchester." In 654, shortly after the conversion of East Anglia,
"Botulf began to build a monastery at Icanho," since called after his
name Botulf's tun, or Boston. In 657, Peada of Mercia and Oswiu of
Northumbria "said that they would rear a monastery to the glory of
Christ and the honour of St. Peter; and they did so, and gave it the
name of Medeshamstede"; but it is now known as Peterborough.[1]

 [1] The charter is a late forgery, but there is no reason to
     doubt that it represents the correct tradition.

Before the battle of Winwidfield, Oswiu had vowed to build twelve
minsters in his kingdom, and he redeemed his vow by founding six in
Bernicia and six in Deira. In 669, Ecgberht of Kent "gave Reculver to
Bass, the mass-priest, to build a monastery thereon." In 663,
Æthelthryth, a lady of royal blood, better known by the Latinised name
of St. Etheldreda, "began the monastery at Ely." Before Bæda's death, in
735, religious houses already existed at Lastingham, Melrose,
Lindisfarne, Whithern, Bardney, Gilling, Bury, Ripon, Chertsey, Barking,
Abercorn, Selsey, Redbridge, Coldingham, Towcester, Hackness, and
several other places. So the whole of England was soon covered with
monastic establishments, each liberally endowed with land, and each
engaged in tilling the soil without, and cultivating peaceful arts
within, like little islands of southern civilisation, dotted about in
the wide sea of Teutonic barbarism.

In the Roman south, many, if not all, of the monasteries seem to have
been planned on the regular models; but in the north, where the Irish
missionaries had borne the largest share in the work of conversion, the
monasteries were irregular bodies on the Irish plan, where an abbot or
abbess ruled over a mixed community of monks and nuns. Hild, a member of
the Northumbrian princely family, founded such an abbey at Streoneshalch
(Whitby), made memorable by numbering amongst its members the first
known English poet, Cædmon. St. John of Beverley, Bishop of Hexham, set
up a similar monastery at the place with which his name is so closely
associated. The Irish monks themselves founded others at Lindisfarne and
elsewhere. Even in the south, some Irish abbeys existed. An Irish monk
had set up one at Bosham, in Sussex, even before Wilfrith converted that
kingdom; and one of his countrymen, Maidulf (or Maeldubh?) was the
original head of Malmesbury. In process of time, however, as the union
with Rome grew stronger, all these houses conformed to the more regular
usage, and became monasteries of the ordinary Benedictine type.

The civilising value of the monasteries can hardly be over-rated. Secure
in the peace conferred upon them by a religious sanction, the monks
became the builders of schools, the drainers of marshland, the clearers
of forest, the tillers of heath. Many of the earliest religious houses
rose in the midst of what had previously been trackless wilds.
Peterborough and Ely grew up on islands of the Fen country. Crowland
gathered round the cell of Guthlac in the midst of a desolate mere.
Evesham occupied a glade in the wild forests of the western march.
Glastonbury, an old Welsh foundation, stood on a solitary islet, where
the abrupt knoll of the Tor looks down upon the broad waste of the
Somersetshire marshes. Beverley, as its name imports, had been a haunt
of beavers before the monks began to till its fruitful dingles. In every
case agriculture soon turned the wild lands into orchards and
cornfields, or drove drains through the fens which converted their
marshes into meadows and pastures for the long-horned English cattle.
Roman architecture, too, came with the Roman church. We hear nothing
before of stone buildings; but Eadwine erected a church of stone at
York, under the direction of Paulinus; and Bishop Wilfrith, a
generation later, restored and decorated it, covering the roof with lead
and filling the windows with panes of glass. Masons had already been
settled in Kent, though Benedict, the founder of Wearmouth and Jarrow,
found it desirable to bring over others from the Franks. Metal-working
had always been a special gift of the English, and their gold jewellery
was well made even before the conversion, but it became still more
noticeable after the monks took the craft into their own hands. Bæda
mentions mines of copper, iron, lead, silver, and jet. Abbot Benedict
not only brought manuscripts and pictures from Rome, which were copied
and imitated in his monasteries at Wearmouth and Jarrow, but he also
brought over glass-blowers, who introduced the art of glass-making into
England. Cuthberht, Bæda's scholar, writes to Lull, asking for workmen
who can make glass vessels. Bells appear to have been equally early
introductions. Roman music of course accompanied the Roman liturgy. The
connection established with the clergy of the continent favoured the
dispersion of European goods throughout England. We constantly hear of
presents, consisting of skilled handicraft, passing from the civilised
south to the rude and barbaric north. Wilfrith and Benedict journeyed
several times to and from Rome, enlarging their own minds by intercourse
with Roman society, and returning laden with works of art or manuscripts
of value. Bæda was acquainted with the writings of all the chief
classical poets and philosophers, whom he often quotes. We can only
liken the results of such intercourse to those which in our own time
have proceeded from the opening of Japan to western ideas, or of the
Hawaiian Islands to European civilisation and European missionaries. The
English school which soon sprang up at Rome, and the Latin schools which
soon sprang up at York and Canterbury, are precise equivalents of the
educational movements in both those countries which we see in our own
day. The monks were to learn Latin and Greek "as well as they learned
their own tongue," and were so to be given the key of all the literature
and all the science that the world then possessed.

The monasteries thus became real manufacturing, agricultural, and
literary centres on a small scale. The monks boiled down the salt of the
brine-pits; they copied and illuminated manuscripts in the library; they
painted pictures not without rude merit of their own; they ran rhines
through the marshy moorland; they tilled the soil with vigour and
success. A new culture began to occupy the land–the culture whose
fully-developed form we now see around us. But it must never be
forgotten that in its origin it is wholly Roman, and not at all
Anglo-Saxon. Our people showed themselves singularly apt at embracing
it, like the modern Polynesians, and unlike the American Indians; but
they did not invent it for themselves. Our existing culture is not
home-bred at all; it is simply the inherited and widened culture of
Greece and Italy.

The most perfect picture of the monastic life and of early English
Christianity which we possess is that drawn for us in the life and
works of Bæda. Before giving any account, however, of the sketch which
he has left us, it will be necessary to follow briefly the course of
events in the English church during the few intervening years.

The Church of England in its existing form owes its organisation to a
Greek monk. In 667, Oswiu of Northumbria and Ecgberht of Kent, in order
to bring their dominions into closer connection with Rome, united in
sending Wigheard the priest to the pope, that he might be hallowed
Archbishop of Canterbury. No Englishman had yet held that office, and
the choice may be regarded as a symptom of growth in the native Church.
But Wigheard died at Rome, and the pope seized the opportunity to
consecrate an archbishop in the Roman interest. His choice fell upon one
Theodore, a monk of Tarsus in Cilicia, who was in the orders of the
Eastern church. The pope was particular, however, that Theodore should
not "introduce anything contrary to the verity of the faith into the
Church over which he was to preside." Theodore accepted Roman orders and
the Roman tonsure, and set out for his province, where he arrived after
various adventures on the way. His re-organisation of the young Church
was thorough and systematic. Originally England had been divided into
seven great dioceses, corresponding to the principal kingdoms (save only
still heathen Sussex), and having their sees in their chief towns–East
and West Kent, at Canterbury and Rochester; Essex, at London; Wessex, at
Dorchester or Winchester; Northumbria, at York; East Anglia, at
Dunwich; and Mercia, at Lichfield. The Scottish bishopric of Lindisfarne
coincided with Bernicia. Theodore divided these great dioceses into
smaller ones; East Anglia had two, for its north and south folk, at
Elmham and Dunwich; Bernicia was divided between Lindisfarne and Hexham;
Lincolnshire had its see placed at Sidnacester; and the sub-kingdoms of
Mercia were also made into dioceses, the Huiccii having their
bishop-stool at Worcester; the Hecans, at Hereford; and the Middle
English, at Leicester. But Theodore's great work was the establishment
of the national synod, in which all the clergy of the various English
kingdoms met together as a single people. This was the first step ever
taken towards the unification of England; and the ecclesiastical unity
thus preceded and paved the way for the political unity which was to
follow it. Theodore's organisation brought the whole Church into
connection with Rome. The bishops owing their orders to the Scots
conformed or withdrew, and henceforward Rome held undisputed sway.
Before Theodore, all the archbishops of Canterbury and all the bishops
of the southern kingdoms had been Roman missionaries; those of the north
had been Scots or in Scottish orders. After Theodore they were all
Englishmen in Roman orders. The native church became thenceforward
wholly self-supporting.

Theodore was much aided in his projects by Wilfrith of York, a man of
fiery energy and a devoted adherent of the Roman see, who had carried
the Roman supremacy at the Synod of Whitby, and who spent a large part
of his time in journeys between England and Italy. His life, by Æddi,
forms one of the most important documents for early English history. In
681 he completed the conversion of England by his preaching to the South
Saxons, whom he endeavoured to civilise as well as Christianise. His
monastery of Selsey was built on land granted by the under-king (now a
tributary of Wessex), and his first act was to emancipate the slaves
whom he found upon the soil. Equally devoted to Rome was the young
Northumbrian noble, who took the religious name of Benedict Biscop.
Benedict became at first an inmate of the Abbey of Lérins, near Cannes.
He afterwards founded two regular Benedictine abbeys on the same model
at Wearmouth and Jarrow, and made at least four visits to the papal
court, whence he returned laden with manuscripts to introduce Roman
learning among his wild Northumbrian countrymen. He likewise carried
over silk robes for sale to the kings in exchange for grants of land;
and he brought glaziers from Gaul for his churches. Jarrow alone
contained 500 monks, and possessed endowments of 15,000 acres.

It was under the walls of Jarrow that Bæda himself was born, in the year
672. Only fifty years had passed since his native Northumbria was still
a heathen land. Not more than forty years had gone since the conversion
of Wessex, and Sussex was still given over to the worship of Thunor and
Woden. But Bæda's own life was one which brought him wholly into
connection with Christian teachers and Roman culture. Left an orphan at
the age of seven years, he was handed over to the care of Abbot
Benedict, after whose death Abbot Ceolfrid took charge of the young
aspirant. "Thenceforth," says the aged monk, fifty years later, "I
passed all my lifetime in the building of that monastery [Jarrow], and
gave all my days to meditating on Scripture. In the intervals of my
regular monastic discipline, and of my daily task of chanting in chapel,
I have always amused myself either by learning, teaching, or writing. In
the nineteenth year of my life I received ordination as deacon; in my
thirtieth year I attained to the priesthood; both functions being
administered by the most reverend bishop John [afterwards known as St.
John of Beverley], at the request of Abbot Ceolfrid. From the time of my
ordination as priest to the fifty-ninth year of my life, I have occupied
myself in briefly commenting upon Holy Scripture, for the use of myself
and my brethren, from the works of the venerable fathers, and in some
cases I have added interpretations of my own to aid in their

The variety of Bæda's works, the large knowledge of science and of
classical literature which he displays (when judged by the continental
standard of the eighth century), and his familiar acquaintance with the
Latin language, which he writes easily and correctly, show that the
library of Jarrow must have been extensive and valuable. Besides his
Scriptural commentaries, he wrote a treatise _De Natura Rerum_, Letters
on the Reason of Leap-Year, a Life of St. Anastasius, and a History of
his Own Abbey, all in Latin. In verse, he composed many pieces, both in
hexameters and elegiacs, together with a treatise on prosody. But his
greatest work is his "Ecclesiastical History of the English People," the
authority from which we derive almost all our knowledge of early
Christian England. It was doubtless suggested by the Frankish history of
Gregory of Tours, and it consists of five books, divided into short
chapters, making up about 400 pages of a modern octavo. Five
manuscripts, one of them transcribed only two years after Bæda's death,
and now deposited in the Cambridge library, preserve for us the text of
this priceless document. The work itself should be read in the original,
or in one of the many excellent translations, by every person who takes
any intelligent interest in our early history.

Bæda's accomplishments included even a knowledge of Greek–then a rare
acquisition in the west–which he probably derived from Archbishop
Theodore's school at Canterbury. He was likewise an English author, for
he translated the Gospel of St. John into his native Northumbrian; and
the task proved the last of his useful life. Several manuscripts have
preserved to us the letter of Cuthberht, afterwards Abbot of Jarrow, to
his friend Cuthwine, giving us the very date of his death, May 27, A.D.
735, and also narrating the pathetic but somewhat overdrawn picture,
with which we are all familiar, of how he died just as he had completed
his translation of the last chapter. "Thus saying, he passed the day in
peace till eventide. The boy [his scribe] said to him, 'Still one
sentence, beloved master, is yet unwritten.' He answered, 'Write it
quickly.' After a while the boy said, 'Now the sentence is written.'
Then he replied, 'It is well,' quoth he, 'thou hast said the truth: it
is finished.'... And so he passed away to the kingdom of heaven."

It is impossible to overrate the importance of the change which made
such a life of earnest study and intellectual labour as Bæda's possible
amongst the rough and barbaric English. Nor was it only in producing
thinkers and readers from a people who could not spell a word half a
century before, that the monastic system did good to England. The
monasteries owned large tracts of land which they could cultivate on a
co-operative plan, as cultivation was impossible elsewhere. _Laborare
est orare_ was the true monastic motto: and the documents of the
religious houses, relating to lands and leases, show us the other or
material side of the picture, which was not less important in its way
than the spiritual and intellectual side. Everywhere the monks settled
in the woodland by the rivers, cut down the forests, drove out the
wolves and the beavers, cultivated the soil with the aid of their
tenants and serfs, and became colonisers and civilisers at the same time
that they were teachers and preachers. The reclamation of waste land
throughout the marshes of England was due almost entirely to the
monastic bodies.

The value of the civilising influence thus exerted is seen especially in
the written laws, and it affected even the actions of the fierce English
princes. The dooms of Æthelberht of Kent are the earliest English
documents which we possess, and they were reduced to writing shortly
after the conversion of the first English Christian king: while Bæda
expressly mentions that they were compiled after Roman models. The
Church was not able to hold the warlike princes really in check; but it
imposed penances, and encouraged many of them to make pilgrimages to
Rome, and to end their days in a cloister. The importance of such
pilgrimages was doubtless immense. They induced the rude insular
nobility to pay a visit to what was still, after all, the most civilised
country of the world, and so to gain some knowledge of a foreign
culture, which they afterwards endeavoured to introduce into their own
homes. In 688, Ceadwalla, the ferocious king of the West Saxons, whose
brother Mul had been burnt alive by the men of Kent, and who harried the
Jutish kingdom in return, and who also murdered two princes of Wight,
with all their people, in cold blood, went on a pilgrimage to Rome,
where he was baptised, and died immediately after.[2] Ine, who succeeded
him, re-endowed the old British monastery of Glastonbury, in territory
just conquered from the West Welsh, and reduced the laws of the West
Saxons to writing. He, too, retired to Rome, where he died. In 704,
Æthelred, son of Penda, king of the Mercians, "assumed monkhood." In
709, Cenred, his successor, and Offa of Essex, went to Rome. And so on
for many years, king after king resigned his kingship, and submitted, in
his latter days, to the Church. Within two centuries, no less than
thirty kings and queens are recorded to have embraced a conventual life:
and far more probably did so, but were passed over in silence. Bæda
tells us that many Englishmen went into monasteries in Gaul.

 [2] He was buried at St. Peter's, and his tomb still exists
     in the remodelled building. Bæda quotes the inscription in
     full, and quotes it correctly; a fact which may be taken as
     an excellent test of his historical accuracy, and the care
     with which he collected his materials.

On the other hand, it cannot be denied that while Christianity made
great progress, many marks of heathendom were still left among the
people. Well-worship and stone-worship, devil-craft and sacrifices to
idols, are mentioned in every Anglo-Saxon code of laws, and had to be
provided against even as late as the time of Eadgar. The belief in elves
and other semi-heathen beings, and the reverence for heathen memorials,
was rife, and shows itself in such names as Ælfred, elf-counsel;
Ælfstan, elf-stone; Ælfgifu, elf-given; Æthelstan, noble-stone; and
Wulfstan, wolf-stone. Heathendom was banished from high places, but it
lingered on among the lower classes, and affected the nomenclature even
of the later West Saxon kings themselves. Indeed, it was closely
interwoven with all the life and thought of the people, and entered, in
altered forms, even into the conceptions of Christianity current amongst
them. The Christian poem of Cædmon is tinctured on every page with ideas
derived from the legends of the old heathen mythology. And it will
probably surprise many to learn that even at this late date, tattooing
continued to be practised by the English chieftains.



With the final triumph of Christianity, all the formative elements of
Anglo-Saxon Britain are complete. We see it, a rough conglomeration of
loosely-aggregated principalities, composed of a fighting aristocracy
and a body of unvalued serfs; while interspersed through its parts are
the bishops, monks, and clergy, centres of nascent civilisation for the
seething mass of noble barbarism. The country is divided into
agricultural colonies, and its only industry is agriculture, its only
wealth, land. We want but one more conspicuous change to make it into
the England of the Augustan Anglo-Saxon age–the reign of Eadgar–and
that one change is the consolidation of the discordant kingdoms under a
single loose over-lordship. To understand this final step, we must
glance briefly at the dull record of the political history.

Under Æthelfrith, Eadwine, and Oswiu, Northumbria had been the chief
power in England. But the eighth century is taken up with the greatness
of Mercia. Ecgfrith, the last great king of Northumbria, whose
over-lordship extended over the Picts of Galloway and the Cumbrians of
Strathclyde, endeavoured to carry his conquests beyond the Forth, and
annex the free land lying to the north of the old Roman line. He was
defeated and slain, and with him fell the supremacy of Northumbria.
Mercia, which already, under Penda and Wulfhere, had risen to the second
place, now assumed the first position among the Teutonic kingdoms.
Unfortunately we know little of the period of Mercian supremacy. The
West Saxon chronicle contains few notices of the rival state, and we are
thrown for information chiefly on the second-hand Latin historians of
the twelfth century. Æthelbald, the first powerful Mercian king
(716-755), "ravaged the land of the Northumbrians," and made Wessex
acknowledge his supremacy. By this time all the minor kingdoms had
practically become subject to the three great powers, though still
retaining their native princes: and Wessex, Mercia, and Northumbria
shared between them, as suzerains, the whole of Teutonic Britain. The
meagre annals of the Chronicle, upon which alone (with the Charters and
Latin writers of later date) we rest after the death of Bæda, show us a
chaotic list of wars and battles between these three great powers
themselves, or between them and their vassals, or with the Welsh and
Devonians. Æthelbald was succeeded, after a short interval, by Offa,
whose reign of nearly forty years (758-796), is the first settled period
in English history. Offa ruled over the subject princes with rigour, and
seems to have made his power really felt. He drove the Prince of Powys
from Shrewsbury, and carried his ravages into the heart of Wales. He
conquered the land between the Severn and the Wye, and his dyke from
the Dee to the Severn, and the Wye, marked the new limits of the Welsh
and English borders; while his laws codified the customs of Mercia, as
those of Æthelberht and Ine had done with the customs of Kent and
Wessex. He set up for awhile an archbishopric at Lichfield, which seems
to mark his determination to erect Mercia into a sovereign power. He
also founded the great monastery of St. Alban's, and is said to have
established the English college at Rome, though another account
attributes it to Ine, the West Saxon. East Anglia, Kent, Essex, and
Sussex all acknowledged his supremacy. Karl the Great was then reviving
the Roman Empire in its Germanic form, and Offa ventured to correspond
with the Frank emperor as an equal. The possession of London, now a
Mercian city, gave Offa an interest in continental affairs; and the
growth of trade is marked by the fact that when a quarrel arose between
them, they formally closed the ports of their respective kingdoms
against each other's subjects.

Nevertheless, English kingship still remained a mere military office,
and consolidation, in our modern sense, was clearly impossible. Local
jealousies divided all the little kingdoms and their component
principalities; and any real subordination was impracticable amongst a
purely agricultural and warlike people, with no regular army, and
governed only by their own anarchic desires. Like the Afghans of the
present time, the early English were incapable of union, except in a
temporary way under the strong hand of a single warlike leader against a
common foe. As soon as that was removed, they fell asunder at once into
their original separateness. Hence the chaotic nature of our early
annals, in which it is impossible to discover any real order underlying
the perpetual flux of states and princes.

A single story from the Chronicle will sufficiently illustrate the type
of men whose actions make up the history of these predatory times. In
754, King Cuthred of the West Saxons died. His kinsman, Sigeberht,
succeeded him. One year later, however, Cynewulf and the witan deprived
Sigeberht of his kingdom, making over to him only the petty principality
of Hampshire, while Cynewulf himself reigned in his stead. After a time
Sigeberht murdered an ealdorman of his suite named Cymbra; whereupon
Cynewulf deprived him of his remaining territory and drove him forth
into the forest of the Weald. There he lived a wild life till a herdsman
met him in the forest and stabbed him, to avenge the death of his
master, Cymbra. Cynewulf, in turn, after spending his days in fighting
the Welsh, lost his life in a quarrel with Cyneheard, brother of the
outlawed Sigeberht. He had endeavoured to drive out the ætheling; but
Cyneheard surprised him at Merton, and slew him with all his thegns,
except one Welsh hostage. Next day, the king's friends, headed by the
ealdorman Osric, fell upon the ætheling, and killed him with all his
followers. In the very same year, Æthelbald of Mercia was killed
fighting at Seckington; and Offa drove out his successor, Beornred. Of
such murders, wars, surprises, and dynastic quarrels, the history of
the eighth century is full. But no modern reader need know more of them
than the fact that they existed, and that they prove the wholly
ungoverned and ungovernable nature of the early English temper.

Until the Danish invasions of the ninth century, the tribal kingdoms
still remained practically separate, and such cohesion as existed was
only secured for the purpose of temporary defence or aggression. Essex
kept its own kings under Æthelberht of Kent; Huiccia retained its royal
house under Æthelred of Mercia; and later on, Mercia itself had its
ealdormen, after the conquest by Ecgberht of Wessex. Each royal line
reigned under the supreme power until it died out naturally, like our
own great feudatories in India at the present day. "When Wessex and
Mercia have worked their way to the rival hegemonies," says Canon
Stubbs, "Sussex and Essex do not cease to be numbered among the
kingdoms, until their royal houses are extinct. When Wessex has
conquered Mercia and brought Northumbria on its knees, there are still
kings in both Northumbria and Mercia. The royal house of Kent dies out,
but the title of King of Kent is bestowed on an ætheling, first of the
Mercian, then of the West Saxon house. Until the Danish conquest, the
dependant royalties seem to have been spared; and even afterwards
organic union can scarcely be said to exist."

The final supremacy of the West Saxons was mainly brought about by the
Danish invasion. But the man who laid the foundation of the West Saxon
power was Ecgberht, the so-called first king of all England. Banished
from Wessex during his youth by one of the constant dynastic quarrels,
through the enmity of Offa, the young ætheling had taken refuge with
Karl the Great, at the court of Aachen, and there had learnt to
understand the rising statesmanship of the Frankish race and of the
restored Roman empire. The death of his enemy Beorhtric, in 802, left
the kingdom open to him: but the very day of his accession showed him
the character of the people whom he had come to rule. The men of
Worcester celebrated his arrival by a raid on the men of Wilts. "On that
ilk day," says the Chronicle, "rode Æthelhund, ealdorman of the Huiccias
[who were Mercians], over at Cynemæres ford; and there Weohstan the
ealdorman met him with the Wilts men [who were West Saxons:] and there
was a muckle fight, and both ealdormen were slain, and the Wilts men won
the day." For twenty years, Ecgberht was engaged in consolidating his
ancestral dominions: but at the end of that time, he found himself able
to attack the Mercians, who had lost Offa six years before Ecgberht's
return. In 825, the West Saxons met the Mercian host at Ellandun, "and
Ecgberht gained the day, and there was muckle slaughter." Therefore all
the Saxon name, held tributary by the Mercians, gathered about the Saxon
champion. "The Kentish folk, and they of Surrey, and the South Saxons,
and the East Saxons turned to him." In the same year, the East Anglians,
anxious to avoid the power of Mercia, "sought Ecgberht for peace and for
aid." Beornwulf, the Mercian king, marched against his revolted
tributaries: but the East Anglians fought him stoutly, and slew him and
his successor in two battles. Ecgberht followed up this step by annexing
Mercia in 829: after which he marched northward against the
Northumbrians, who at once "offered him obedience and peace; and they
thereupon parted." One year later, Ecgberht led an army against the
northern Welsh, and "reduced them to humble obedience." Thus the West
Saxon kingdom absorbed all the others, at least so far as a loose
over-lordship was concerned. Ecgberht had rivalled his master Karl by
founding, after a fashion, the empire of the English. But all the local
jealousies smouldered on as fiercely as ever, the under-kings retained
their several dominions, and Ecgberht's supremacy was merely one of
superior force, unconnected with any real organic unity of the kingdom
as a whole. Ecgberht himself generally bore the title of King of the
West Saxons, like his ancestors: and though in dealing with his Anglian
subjects he styled himself Rex Anglorum, that title perhaps means little
more than the humbler one of Rex Gewissorum, which he used in addressing
his people of the lesser principality. The real kingdom of the English
never existed before the days of Eadward the Elder, and scarcely before
the days of William the Norman and Henry the Angevin. As to the kingdom
of England, that was a far later invention of the feudal lawyers.



In the long period of three and a-half centuries which had elapsed
between the Jutish conquest of Kent and the establishment of the West
Saxon over-lordship, the politics of Britain had been wholly insular.
The island had been brought back by Augustine and his successors into
ecclesiastical, commercial, and literary union with the continent: but
no foreign war or invasion had ever broken the monotony of murdering the
Welsh and harrying the surrounding English. The isolation of England was
complete. Ship-building was almost an obsolete art: and the small trade
which still centred in London seems to have been mainly carried on in
Frisian bottoms; for the Low Dutch of the continent still retained the
seafaring habits which those of England had forgotten. But a new enemy
was now beginning to appear in northern Europe–the Scandinavians. The
history of the great wicking movement forms the subject of a separate
volume in this series: but the manner in which the English met it will
demand a brief treatment here. Some outline of the bare facts, however,
must first be premised.

As early as 789, during the reign of Offa in Mercia, "three ships of
Northmen from Hæretha land" came on shore in Wessex. "Then the reeve
rode against them, and would have driven them to the king's town, for he
wist not what they were: and there men slew him. Those were the first
ships of Danish men that ever sought English kin's land." In 795, "the
harrying of heathen men wretchedly destroyed God's church at Lindisfarne
isle, through rapine and manslaughter." In the succeeding year, "the
heathen harried among the Northumbrians, and plundered Ecgberht's
monastery at Wearmouth." In 832, "heathen men ravaged Sheppey"; and a
year later, "King Ecgberht fought against the crews of thirty-five ships
at Charmouth, and there was muckle slaughter made, and the Danes held
the battle-field."[1] In 835, another host came to the West Welsh (now
almost reduced to the peninsula of Cornwall): and the Welsh readily
joined them against their West Saxon over-lord. Ecgberht met the united
hosts at Hengestesdun and put them both to flight. It was his last
success. In the succeeding year he died, and the kingdom descended to
his weak son, Æthelwulf. His second son, Æthelstan, was placed over
Kent, Essex, Surrey, and Sussex, as under-king.

 [1] This entry in the Chronicle, however, is probably
     erroneous, as an exactly similar one occurs under Æthelwulf,
     seven years later.

Next spring, the flood of wickings began to pour in earnest over
England. Thirty-three piratical ships sailed up Southampton Water to
pillage Southampton, perhaps with an ultimate eye to the treasures of
royal Winchester, the capital and minster-town of the West Saxon
over-lord himself. This was a bold attempt, but the West Saxons met it
in full force. The ealdorman Wulfheard gathered together the levy of
fighting men, attacked the host, and put it to flight with great
slaughter. Shortly after a second Danish host landed near Portland,
doubtless to plunder Dorchester: and the local ealdorman Æthelhelm,
falling upon them with the levy of Dorset men, was defeated after a
sharp struggle, leaving the heathen in possession of the field. It was
not in Wessex, however, that the wickings were to make their great
success. The north had long suffered from terrible anarchy, and was a
ready prey for any invader. Out of fourteen kings who had reigned in
Northumbria during the eighth century, no less than seven were put to
death and six expelled by their rebellious subjects. Christian
Northumbria, which in Bæda's days had been the most flourishing part of
Britain, was now reduced to a mere agglomeration of petty princes and
clans, dependent on the West Saxon over-lord, and utterly unconnected
with one another in feeling or sympathy. Already we have seen how the
Danes harried Northumbria without opposition. The same was probably the
case with the whole Anglian coast on the east. In 840, the wickings fell
on the fen country. "The ealdorman Hereberht was slain by heathen men,
and many with him among the marsh-men." All down the east coast, the
piratical fleet proceeded, burning and slaughtering as it went. "In the
same year, in Lindsey, and in East Anglia, and among the Kent men, many
men were slain by the host." A year later, the wickings returned,
growing bolder as they found out the helplessness of the people. They
sailed up the Thames, and ravaged Rochester and London, with great
slaughter; after which they crossed the channel and fell upon Cwantawic,
or Étaples, a commercial port in the Saxon land of the Boulonnais. In
842, a Danish host defeated Æthelwulf himself at Charmouth in Dorset;
and in the succeeding summer "the ealdorman Eanulf, with the Somerset
levy, and Bishop Ealhstan and the ealdorman Osric, with the Dorset levy,
fought at Parretmouth with the host, and made a muckle slaughter, and
won the day."

The utter weakness of the first English resistance is well shown in
these facts. A terrible flood of heathen savagery was let loose upon the
country, and the people were wholly unable to cope with it. There was
absolutely no central organisation, no army, no commissariat, no ships.
The heathen host landed suddenly wherever it found the people
unprepared, and fell upon the larger towns for plunder. The local
authority, the ealdorman or the under-king, hastily gathered together
the local levy in arms, and fell upon the pirates tumultuously with the
men of the shire as best he might. But he had no provisions for a long
campaign: and when the levy had fought once, it melted away immediately,
every man going back again of necessity to his own home. If it won the
battle, it went home to drink over its success: if it lost, it
dissolved, demoralized, and left the burghers to fight for their own
walls, or to buy off the heathen with their own money. But every shire
and every kingdom fought for itself alone. If the Dorset men could only
drive away the host from Charmouth and Portland, they cared little
whether it sailed away to harry Sussex and Hants. If the Northumbrians
could only drive it away from the Humber, they cared little whether it
set sail for the Thames and the Solent. The North Folk of East Anglia
were equally happy to send it off toward the South Folk. While there was
so little cohesion between the parts of the same kingdoms, there was no
cohesion at all between the different kingdoms over which Æthelwulf
exercised a nominal over-lordship. The West Saxon kings fought for
Dorset and for Kent, but there is no trace of their ever fighting for
East Anglia or for Northumbria. They left their northern vassals to take
care of themselves. "It was never a war between the Danes and the
national army," says Prof. Pearson, "but between the Danes and a local
militia." It would have been impossible, indeed, to resist the wickings
effectually without a strong central system, which could move large
armies rapidly from point to point: and such a system was quite undreamt
of in the half-consolidated England of the ninth century. Only war with
a foreign invader could bring it about even in a faint degree: and that
was exactly what the Danish invasion did for Wessex.

The year 851 marks an important epoch in the English resistance. The
annual horde of wickings had now become as regular in its recurrence as
summer itself; and even the inert West Saxon kings began to feel that
permanent measures must be taken against them. They had built ships,
and tried to tackle the invaders in the only way in which so partially
civilised a race could tackle such tactics as those of the Danes–upon
the sea. A host of wickings came round to Sandwich in Kent. The
under-king Æthelstan fell upon them with his new navy, and took nine of
their ships, putting the rest to flight with great slaughter. But in the
same year another great host of 250 sail, by far the largest fleet of
which we have yet heard, came to the mouth of the Thames, and there
landed, a step which marks a fresh departure in the wicking tactics.
They took Canterbury by assault, and then marched on to London. There
they stormed the busy merchant town, and put to flight Beorhtwulf, the
under-king of the Mercians, with his local levy. Thence they proceeded
southward into Surrey, doubtless on their way to Winchester. King
Æthelwulf met them at Ockley, with the West-Saxon levy, "and there made
the greatest slaughter among the heathen host that we have yet heard,
and gained the day." In spite of these two great successes, however,
both of which show an increasing statesmanship on the part of the West
Saxons, this year was memorable in another way, for "the heathen men for
the first time sat over winter in Thanet." The loose predatory
excursions were beginning to take the complexion of regular conquest and
permanent settlement.

Yet so little did the English still realise the terrible danger of the
heathen invasion, that next year Æthelwulf was fighting the Welsh of
Wales; and two years after he went on a pilgrimage to Rome, "with great
pomp, and dwelt there twelve months, and then fared homeward." In that
same year, "heathen men sat over winter in Sheppey."

After Æthelwulf's death the English resistance grew fainter and fainter.
In 860, under his second son, Æthelberht, a Danish host took Winchester
itself by storm. Five years later, a heathen army settled in Thanet, and
the men of Kent agreed to buy peace of them–the first sign of that evil
habit of buying off the Dane, which grew gradually into a fixed custom.
But the host stole away during the truce for collecting the money, and
harried all Kent unawares.

Meanwhile, we hear little of the North. The almost utter destruction of
its records during the heathen domination restricts us for information
to the West Saxon chronicles; and they have little to tell us about any
but their own affairs. In 866, however, we learn that there came a great
heathen host to East Anglia–an organised expedition under two
chieftains–"and took winter quarters there, and were horsed; and the
East Anglians made peace with them." Next year, this permanent host
sailed northward to Humber, and attacked York. The Northumbrians, as
usual, were at strife among themselves, two rival kings fighting for the
supremacy. The burghers of York admitted the heathen host within the
walls. Then the rival kings fell upon the town, broke the slender
fortifications, and rushed into the city. The Danes attacked them both,
and defeated them with great slaughter. Northumbria passed at once into
the power of the heathen. Their chiefs, Ingvar and Ubba, erected Deira
into a new Danish kingdom, leaving Bernicia to an English puppet; and
Northumbria ceases to exist for the present as a factor in Anglo-Saxon
history. We must hand it over for sixty years to the Scandinavian
division of this series.

In 868, Ingvar and Ubba advanced again into Mercia and beset Nottingham.
Then the under-king Burhred called in the aid of his over-lord, Æthelred
of Wessex, who came to his assistance with a levy. "But there was no
hard fight there, and the Mercians made peace with the host." In 870,
the heathen overran East Anglia, and destroyed the great monastery of
Peterborough, probably the richest religious house in all England.
Eadmund, the under-king, came against them with the levy, but they slew
him; and the people held him for a martyr, whose shrine at Bury St.
Edmunds grew in after days into the holiest spot in East Anglia. The
Danes harried the whole country, burnt the monasteries, and annexed
Norfolk and Suffolk as a second Danish kingdom. East Anglia, too,
disappears for a while from our English annals.

Lastly, the Danes turned against Mercia and Wessex. In 871, a host under
Bagsecg and Halfdene came to Reading, which belonged to the latter
territory, when the local ealdorman engaged them and won a slight
victory. Shortly afterward the West Saxon king Æthelred, with his
brother Ælfred, came up, and engaged them a second time with worse
success. Three other bloody battles followed, in all of which the Danes
were beaten with heavy loss; but the West Saxons also suffered severely.
For three years the host moved up and down through Mercia and Wessex;
and the Mercians stood by, aiding neither side, but "making peace with
the host" from time to time. At last, however, in 874, the heathens
finally annexed the greater part of Mercia itself. "The host fared from
Lindsey to Repton, and there sat for the winter, and drove King Burhred
over sea, two and twenty years after he came to the kingdom; and they
subdued all the land. And Burhred went to Rome, and there settled; and
his body lies in St. Mary's Church, in the school of the English kin.
And in the same year they gave the kingdom of Mercia in ward to
Ceolwulf, an unwise thegn; and he swore oaths to them, and gave hostages
that it should be ready for them on whatso day they willed; and that he
would be ready with his own body, and with all who would follow him, for
the behoof of the host." Thus Mercia, too, fades for a short while out
of our history, and Wessex alone of all the English kingdoms remains.

This brief but inevitable record of wars and battles is necessarily
tedious, yet it cannot be omitted without slurring over some highly
important and interesting facts. It is impossible not to be struck with
the extraordinarily rapid way in which a body of fierce heathen invaders
overran two great Christian and comparatively civilised states. We
cannot but contrast the inertness of Northumbria and the lukewarmness
of Mercia with the stubborn resistance finally made by Ælfred in Wessex.
The contrast may be partly due, it is true, to the absence of native
Northumbrian and Mercian accounts. We might, perhaps, find, had we
fuller details, that the men of Bernicia and Deira made a harder fight
for their lands and their churches than the West Saxon annals would lead
us to suppose. Still, after making all allowance for the meagreness of
our authorities, there remains the indubitable fact that a heathen
kingdom was established in the pure English land of Bæda and Cuthberht,
while the Christian faith and the Saxon nationality held their own for
ever in peninsular and half-Celtic Wessex.

The difference is doubtless due in part to merely surface causes. East
Anglia had long lost her autonomy, and, while sometimes ruled by Mercia,
was sometimes broken up under several ealdormen. For her and for
Northumbria the conquest was but a change from a West Saxon to a Danish
master. The house of Ecgberht had broken down the national and tribal
organisation, and was incapable of substituting a central organisation
in its place. With no roads and no communications such a centralising
scheme is really impracticable. The disintegrated English kingdoms made
little show of fighting for their Saxon over-lord. They could accept a
Dane for master almost as readily as they could accept a Saxon.

But besides these surface causes, there was a deeper and more
fundamental cause underlying the difference. The Scandinavians were
nearer to the pure English in blood and speech than they were to the
Saxons. In their old home the two races had lived close together,–in
Sleswick, Jutland, and Scania,–while the Saxons had dwelt further
south, near the Frankish border, by the lowlands of the Elbe. To the
English of Northumbria, the Saxons of Wessex were almost foreigners.
Even at the present day, when the existence of a recognised literary
dialect has done so much to obliterate provincial varieties of speech in
England, a Dorsetshire peasant, speaking in a slightly altered form the
classical West Saxon of Ælfred, has great difficulty in understanding a
Yorkshire peasant, speaking in a slightly altered form the classical
Northumbrian of Bæda. But in the ninth century the differences between
the two dialects were probably far greater. On the other hand, though
Danish and Anglian have widely separated at the present day, and were
widely distinct even in the days of Cnut, it is probable that at this
earlier period they were still, to some extent, mutually comprehensible.
Thus, the heathen Scandinavian may have seemed to the Northumbrian and
the East Anglian almost like a fellow-countryman, while the West Saxon
seemed in part like an enemy and an intruder. At any rate, the
similarity of blood and language enabled the two races rapidly to
coalesce; and when the cloud rises again from the North half a century
later, the distinction of Dane and Englishman has almost ceased in the
conquered provinces. It is worthy of note in this connection that the
part of Mercia afterwards given over by Ælfred to Guthrum, was the
Anglian half, while the part retained by Wessex was mostly the Saxon
half–the land conquered by Penda from the West Saxons two hundred years

Nor must we suppose that this first wave of Scandinavian conquest in any
way swamped or destroyed the underlying English population of the North.
The conquerors came merely as a "host," or army of occupation, not as a
body of rural colonists. They left the conquered English in possession
of their homes, though they seized upon the manors for themselves, and
kept the higher dignities of the vanquished provinces in their own
hands. Being rapidly converted to Christianity, they amalgamated readily
with the native people. Few women came over with them, and intermarriage
with the English soon broke down the wall of separation. The
archbishopric of York continued its succession uninterruptedly
throughout the Danish occupation. The Bishops of Elmham lived through
the stormy period; those of Leicester transferred their see to
Dorchester-on-the-Thames; those of Lichfield apparently kept up an
unbroken series. We may gather that beneath the surface the North
remained just as steadily English under the Danish princes as the whole
country afterwards remained steadily English under the Norman kings.

There was, however, one section of the true English race which kept
itself largely free from the Scandinavian host. North of the Tyne the
Danes apparently spread but sparsely; English ealdormen continued to
rule at Bamborough over the land between Forth and Tyne. Hence
Northumberland and the Lothians remained more purely English than any
other part of Britain. The people of the South are Saxons: the people of
the West are half Celts; the people of the North and the Midlands are
largely intermixed with Danes; but the people of the Scottish lowlands,
from Forth to Tweed, are almost purely English; and the dialect which we
always describe as Scotch is the strongest, the tersest, and the most
native modern form of the original Anglo-Saxon tongue. If we wish to
find the truest existing representative of the genuine pure-blooded
English race, we must look for him, not in Mercia or in Wessex, but
amongst the sturdy and hard-headed farmers of Tweedside and Lammermoor.



Only one English kingdom now held out against the wickings, and that was
Wessex. Its comparatively successful resistance may be set down, in some
slight degree, to the energy of a single man, Ælfred, though it was
doubtless far more largely due to the relatively strong organisation of
the West Saxon state. In judging of Ælfred, we must lay aside the false
notions derived from the application of words expressing late ideas to
an early and undeveloped stage of civilised society. To call him a great
general or a great statesman is to use utterly misleading terms.
Generalship and statesmanship, as we understand them, did not yet exist,
and to speak of them in the ninth century in England is to be guilty of
a common, but none the more excusable, anachronism. Ælfred was a sturdy
and hearty fighter, and a good king of a semi-barbaric people. As a lad,
he had visited Rome; and he retained throughout life a strong sense of
his own and his people's barbarism, and a genuine desire to civilise
himself and his subjects, so far as his limited lights could carry him.
He succeeded to a kingdom overrun from end to end by piratical hordes:
and he did his best to restore peace and to promote order. But his
character was merely that of a practical, common-sense, fighting West
Saxon, brought up in the camp of his father and brothers, and doing his
rough work in life with the honest straightforwardness of a simple,
hard-headed, religious, but only half-educated barbaric soldier.

The successful East Anglian wickings, under their chief Guthrum, turned
at once to ravage Wessex. They "harried the West Saxons' land, and
settled there, and drove many of the folk over sea." For awhile it
seemed as if Wessex too was to fall into their hands. Ælfred himself,
with a little band, "withdrew to the woods and moor-fastnesses." He took
refuge in the Somerset marshes, and there occupied a little island of
dry land in the midst of the fens, by name Athelney. Here he threw up a
rude earthwork, from which he made raids against the Danes, with a petty
levy of the nearest Somerset men. But the mass of the West Saxons were
not disposed to give in so easily. The long border warfare with Devon
and Cornwall had probably kept up their organisation in a better state
than that of the anarchic North. The men of Somerset and Wilts, with
those Hampshire men who had not fled to the Continent, gathered at a
sacred stone on the borders of Selwood Forest, and there Ælfred met them
with his little band. They attacked the host, which they put to flight,
and then besieged it in its fortified camp. To escape the siege, Guthrum
consented to leave Wessex, and to accept Christianity. He was baptised
at once, with thirty of his principal chiefs, after the rough-and-ready
fashion of the fighting king, near Athelney. The treaty entered into
with Guthrum restored to Ælfred all Wessex, with the south-western part
of Mercia, from London to Bedford, and thence along the line of Watling
Street to Chester. Thus for a time the Saxons recovered their autonomy,
and the great Scandinavian horde retired to East Anglia. Æthelred,
Ælfred's son-in-law, was appointed under-king of recovered Mercia.
Henceforward, Teutonic Britain remains for awhile divided into Wessex
and the Denalagu–that is to say, the district governed by Danish law.

Though peace was thus made with Guthrum, new bodies of wickings came
pouring southward from Scandinavia. One of these sailed up the Thames to
Fulham, but after spending some time there, they went over to the
Frankish coast, where their depredations were long and severe.
Throughout all Ælfred's reign, with only two intervals of peace, the
wickings kept up a constant series of attacks on the coast, and
frequently penetrated inland. From time to time, the great horde under
Hæsten poured across the country, cutting the corn and driving away the
cattle, and retreating into East Anglia, or Northumbria, or the
peninsula of the Wirrall, whenever they were seriously worsted. "Thanks
be to God," says the Chronicle pathetically "the host had not wholly
broken up all the English kin;" but the misery of England must have been
intense. Ælfred, however, introduced two military changes of great
importance. He set on foot something like a regular army, with a
settled commissariat, dividing his forces into two bodies, so that
one-half was constantly at home tilling the soil while the other half
was in the field; and he built large ships on a new plan, which he
manned with Frisians, as well as with English, and which largely aided
in keeping the coast fairly free from Danish invasion during the two
intervals of peace.

Throughout the whole of the ninth century, however, and the early part
of the tenth, the whole history of England is the history of a perpetual
pillage. No man who sowed could tell whether he might reap or not. The
Englishman lived in constant fear of life and goods; he was liable at
any moment to be called out against the enemy. Whatever little
civilisation had ever existed in the country died out almost altogether.
The Latin language was forgotten even by the priests. War had turned
everybody into fighters; commerce was impossible when the towns were
sacked year after year by the pirates. But in the rare intervals of
peace, Ælfred did his best to civilise his people. The amount of work
with which he is credited is truly astonishing. He translated into
English with his own hand "The History of the World," by Orosius; Bæda's
"Ecclesiastical History;" Boethius's "De Consolatione," and Gregory's
"Regula Pastoralis." At his court, too, if not under his own direction,
the English Chronicle was first begun, and many of the sentences quoted
from that great document in this work are probably due to Ælfred
himself. His devotion to the church was shown by the regular
communication which he kept up with Rome, and by the gifts which he
sent from his impoverished kingdom, not only to the shrine of St. Peter
but even to that of St. Thomas in India. No doubt his vigorous
personality counted for much in the struggle with the Danes; but his
death in 901 left the West Saxons as ready as ever to contend against
the northern enemy.

One result of the Danish invasion of Wessex must not be passed over. The
common danger seems to have firmly welded together Welshman and Saxon
into a single nationality. The most faithful part of Ælfred's dominions
were the West Welsh shires of Somerset and Devon, with the half Celtic
folk of Dorset and Wilts. The result is seen in the change which comes
over the relations between the two races. In Ine's laws the distinction
between Welshmen and Englishmen is strongly marked; the price of blood
for the servile population is far less than that of their lords: in
Ælfred's laws the distinction has died out. Compared to the heathen
Dane, West Saxons and West Welsh were equally Englishmen. From that day
to this, the Celtic peasantry of the West Country have utterly forgotten
their Welsh kinship, save in wholly Cymric Cornwall alone. The Devon and
Somerset men have for centuries been as English in tongue and feeling as
the people of Kent or Sussex.



The history of the tenth century and the first half of the eleventh
consists entirely of the continued contest between the West Saxons and
the Scandinavians. It falls naturally into three periods. The first is
that of the English reaction, when the West Saxon kings, Eadward and
Æthelstan, gradually reconquered the Danish North by inches at a time.
The second is that of the Augustan age, when Dunstan and Eadgar held
together the whole of Britain for a while in the hands of a single West
Saxon over-lord. The third is that of the decadence, when, under
Æthelred, the ill-welded empire fell asunder, and the Danish kings,
Cnut, Harold, and Harthacnut, ruled over all England, including even the
unconquered Wessex of Ælfred himself.

At Ælfred's death, his dominions comprised the larger Wessex, from Kent
to the Cornish border at Exeter, together with the portion of Mercia
south-west of Watling Street. The former kingdom passed into the hands
of his son Eadward; the latter was still held by the ealdorman Æthelred,
who had married Ælfred's daughter Æthelflæd. The departure of the Danish
host, led by Hæsten, left the English time to breathe and to recruit
their strength. Henceforth, for nearly a century, the direct wicking
incursions cease, and the war is confined to a long struggle with the
Northmen already settled in England. Four years later, the east Anglian
Danes broke the peace and harried Mercia and Wessex; but Eadward overran
their lands in return, and the Kentish men, in a separate battle,
attacked and slew Eric their king with several of his earls. In 912,
Æthelred the Mercian died, and Eadward at once incorporated London and
Oxford with his own dominions, leaving his sister Æthelflæd only the
northern half of her husband's principality. Thenceforth Æthelflæd, "the
Lady of the Mercians," turned deliberately to the conquest of the North.
She adopted a fresh kind of tactics, which mark again a new departure in
the English policy. Instead of keeping to the old plan of alternate
harryings on either side, and precarious tenure of lands from time to
time, Æthelflæd began building regular fortresses or _burhs_ all along
her north-eastern frontiers, using these afterwards as bases for fresh
operations against the enemy. The spade went hand in hand with the
sword: the English were becoming engineers as well as fighters. In the
year of her husband's death, the Lady built _burhs_ at Sarrat and
Bridgnorth. The next year "she went with all the Mercians to Tamworth,
and built the _burh_ there in early summer; and ere Lammas, that at
Stafford." In the two succeeding years she set up other strongholds at
Eddesbury, Warwick, Cherbury, Wardbury, and Runcorn. By 917, she found
herself strong enough to attack Derby, one of the chief cities in the
Danish confederacy of the Five Burgs, which she captured after a hard
siege. Thence she turned on Leicester, which capitulated on her
approach, the Danish host going over quietly to her side. She was in
communication with the Danes of York for the surrender of that city,
too, when she died suddenly in her royal town of Tamworth, in the year

Meanwhile Eadward had been pushing forward his own boundary in the east,
building _burhs_ at Hertford and Witham, and endeavouring to subjugate
the Danish league in Bedford, Huntingdon, and Northampton. In 915,
Thurketel, the jarl of Bedford, "sought him for lord," and Eadward
afterwards built a _burh_ there also. On his sister's death, he annexed
all her territories, and then, in a fierce and long doubtful struggle,
reconquered not only Huntingdon and Northampton but East Anglia as well.
The Christian English hailed him as a deliverer. Next, he turned on
Stamford, the Danish capital of the Fens, and on Nottingham, the
stronghold of the Southumbrian host. In both towns he erected _burhs_.
These successes once more placed the West Saxon king in the foremost
position amongst the many rulers of Britain. The smaller principalities,
unable to hold their own against the Scandinavians, began spontaneously
to rally round Eadward as their leader and suzerain. In the same year
with the conquest of Stamford, "the kings of the North Welsh, Howel, and
Cledauc, and Jeothwel, and all the North Welsh kin, sought him for
lord." In 923, Eadward pushed further northward, and sent a Mercian host
to conquer "Manchester in Northumbria," and fortify and man it. A line
of twenty fortresses now girdled the English frontier, from Colchester,
through Bedford and Nottingham, to Manchester and Chester. Next year,
Eadward himself, now immediate king of all England south of Humber,
attacked the last remaining Danish kingdom, Northumbria, throwing a
bridge across the Trent at Nottingham, and marching against Bakewell in
Peakland, where again he built a _burh_. The new tactics were too fine
for the rough and ready Danish leaders. Before Eadward reached York, the
entire North submitted without a blow. "The king of Scots, and all the
Scottish kin, and Ragnald [Danish king of York], and the sons of Eadulf
[English kings of Bamborough], and all who dwell in Northumbria, as well
English as Danes and Northmen and others, and also the king of the
Strathclyde Welsh and all the Strathclyde Welsh, sought him for father
and for lord." This was in 924. Next year, Eadward "rex invictus" died,
over-lord of all Britain from sea to sea, while the whole country south
of the Humber, save only Wales and Cornwall, was now practically united
into a single kingdom of England.

But the seeming submission of the North was fallacious. The Danes had
reintroduced into Britain a fresh mass of incoherent barbarism, which
could not thus readily coalesce. The Scandinavian leaven in the
population had put back the shadow on the dial of England some three
centuries. Æthelstan, Eadward's son, found himself obliged to give his
sister in marriage to Sihtric or Sigtrig, Danish king of the Yorkshire
Northumbrians, which probably marks a recognition of his vassal's
equality. Soon after, however, Sihtric died, and Æthelstan made himself
first king of all England by adding Northumbria to his own immediate
dominions. Then "he bowed to himself all the kings who were in this
island; first, Howel, king of the West Welsh; and Constantine, king of
Scots; and Owen, king of Gwent [South Wales]; and Ealdred, son of
Ealdulf of Bamborough; and with pledge and with oaths sware they peace,
and forsook every kind of heathendom." In the West, he drove the Welsh
from Exeter, which they had till then occupied in common with the
English, and fixed their boundary at the Tamar. But once more the
pretended vassals rebelled. Constantine, king of Scots, threw off his
allegiance, and Æthelstan thereupon "went into Scotland, both with a
land host and a ship host, and harried a mickle deal of it." In 937, the
feudatories made a final and united effort to throw off the West Saxon
yoke. The Scots, the Strathclyde Welsh, the people of Wales and
Cornwall, the lords of Bamborough, and the Danes throughout the North
and East, all rose together in a great league against their over-lord.
Anlaf, king of the Dublin Danes, came over from Ireland to aid them,
with a large body of wickings. The confederates met the West Saxon
_fyrd_ or levy at an unknown spot named Brunanburh, where Æthelstan
overthrew them in a crushing defeat, which forms the subject of a fine
war-song, inserted in full in the English Chronicle.[1] Three years
later Æthelstan died, as his father had died before him, undisputed
over-lord of all Britain, and immediate king of the whole Teutonic

 [1] See chapter xx.

Yet once more the feeble unity of the country broke hopelessly asunder.
Eadmund, who succeeded his brother, found the Danes of the North and the
Midlands again insubordinate. The year after his accession "the
Northumbrians belied their oath, and chose Anlaf of Ireland for king."
The Five Burgs went too, and the old boundary of Watling Street was once
more made the frontier of the Danish possessions. In 944, however,
Eadmund subdued all Northumbria, and expelled its Danish kings. His
recovery of the Five Burgs, and the joy of the Christian English
inhabitants, are vividly set forth in a fragmentary ballad embedded in
the Chronicle. The next year he harried Strathclyde or Cumberland, the
Welsh kingdom between Clyde and Morecambe, and handed it over to
Malcolm, king of Scots, as a pledge of his fidelity. At Eadmund's death
in 946–when he was stabbed in his royal hall by an outlaw–his kingdom
fell to his brother Eadred. Two years later Northumbria again revolted,
and chose Eric for its king. Eadred harried and burnt the province,
which he then handed over to an earl of his own creation, one of the
Bamborough family. The king himself died in 955, and was succeeded by
his nephew Eadwig. But Northumbria and Mercia revolted once more, and
chose Eadwig's brother, Eadgar, instead of their own Danish princes.
Eadwig died in 958, and Eadgar then became king of all three provinces;
thus finally uniting the whole of Teutonic England into one kingdom.

Eadgar's reign forms the climax of the West Saxon power. It was, in
fact, the only period when England can be said to have enjoyed any
national unity under the Anglo-Saxon dynasties. The strong hand of a
priest gave peace for some years to the ill-organised mass. Dunstan was
probably the first Englishman who seriously deserves the name of
statesman. He was born in the half-Celtic region of Somerset, beside the
great abbey of Glastonbury, which held the bones of Arthur, and a good
deal of the imaginative Celtic temper ran probably with the blood in his
veins.[2] But he was above all the representative of the Roman
civilisation in the barbarised, half-Danish England of the tenth
century. He was a musician, a painter, a reader, and a scholar, in a
world of fierce warriors and ignorant nobles. Eadmund made him abbot of
Glastonbury. Eadgar appointed him first bishop of London, and then, on
Eadwig's death, Archbishop of Canterbury. It was Dunstan who really
ruled England throughout the remainder of his life. Essentially an
organiser and administrator, he was able to weld the unwieldy empire
into a rough unity, which lasted as long as its author lived, and no
longer. He appeased the discontent of Northumbria and the Five Burgs by
permitting them a certain amount of local independence, with the
enjoyment of their own laws and their own lawmen. He kept a fleet of
boats cruising in the Irish Sea to check the Danish hosts at Dublin and
Waterford. He put forward a code, known as the laws of Eadgar, for the
better government of Wessex and the South. He made the over-lordship of
the West Saxons over their British vassals more real than it had ever
been before; and a tale, preserved by Florence, tells us that eight
tributary kings rowed Eadgar in his royal barge on the Dee, in token of
their complete subjection. Internally, Dunstan revived the declining
spirit of monasticism, which had died down during the long struggle with
the Danes, and attempted to reintroduce some tinge of southern
civilisation into the barbarised and half-paganised country in which he
lived. Wherever it was possible, he "drove out the priests, and set
monks," and he endeavoured to make the monasteries, which had
degenerated during the long war into mere landowning communities, regain
once more their old position as centres of culture and learning. During
his own time his efforts were successful, and even after his death the
movement which he had begun continued in this direction to make itself
felt, though in a feebler and less intelligent form.

 [2] It is impossible to avoid noticing the increased
     importance of semi-Celtic Britain under Dunstan's
     administration. He was himself at first an abbot of the old
     West Welsh monastery of Glastonbury: he promoted West
     countrymen to the principal posts in the kingdom: and he had
     Eadgar hallowed king at the ancient West Welsh royal city of
     Bath, married to a Devonshire lady, and buried at
     Glastonbury. Indeed, that monastery was under Dunstan what
     Westminster was under the later kings. Florence uses the
     strange expression that Eadgar was chosen "by the
     Anglo-Britons:" and the meeting with the Welsh and Scotch
     princes in the semi-Welsh town of Chester conveys a like

One act of Dunstan's policy, however, had far-reaching results, of a
kind which he himself could never have anticipated. He handed over all
Northumbria beyond the Tweed–the region now known as the Lothians–as a
fief to Kenneth, king of Scots. This accession of territory wholly
changed the character of the Scottish kingdom, and largely promoted the
Teutonisation of the Celtic North. The Scottish princes now took up
their residence in the English town of Edinburgh, and learned to speak
the English language as their mother-tongue. Already Eadmund had made
over Strathclyde or Cumberland to Malcolm; and thus the dominions of the
Scottish kings extended over the whole of the country now known as
Scotland, save only the Scandinavian jarldoms of Caithness, Sutherland,
and the Isles. Strathclyde rapidly adopted the tongue of its masters,
and grew as English in language (though not in blood) as the Lothians
themselves. Fife, in turn, was quickly Anglicised, as was also the whole
region south of the Highland line. Thus a new and powerful kingdom arose
in the North; and at the same time the cession of an English district to
the Scottish kings had the curious result of thoroughly Anglicising two
large and important Celtic regions, which had hitherto resisted every
effort of the Northumbrian or West Saxon over-lords. There is no reason
to believe, however, that this introduction of the English tongue and
English manners was connected with any considerable immigration of
Teutonic settlers into the Anglicised tracts. The population of
Ayrshire, of Fife, of Perthshire, and of Aberdeen, still shows every
sign of Celtic descent, alike in physique, in temperament, and in habit
of thought. The change was, in all probability, exactly analogous to
that which we ourselves have seen taking place in Wales, in Ireland, and
in the Celtic north of Scotland at the present day.



The slight pause in the long course of Danish warfare which occurred
during the vigorous administration of Dunstan, affords the best
opportunity for considering the degree of civilisation reached by the
English in the last age before the Norman Conquest. Our materials for
such an estimate are partly to be found in existing buildings,
manuscripts, pictures, ornaments, and other archæological remains, and
partly in the documentary evidence of the chronicles and charters, and
more especially of the great survey undertaken by the Conqueror's
commissioners, and known as Domesday Book. From these sources we are
enabled to gain a fairly complete view of the Anglo-Saxon culture in the
period immediately preceding the immense influx of Romance civilisation
after the Conquest; and though some such Romance influence was already
exerted by the Normanising tendencies of Eadward the Confessor, we may
yet conveniently consider the whole subject here under the age of Eadgar
and Æthelred. It is difficult, indeed, to trace any very great
improvement in the arts of life between the days of Dunstan and the days
of Harold.

In spite of constant wars and ravages from the northern pirates, there
can be little doubt that England had been slowly advancing in material
civilisation ever since the introduction of Christianity. The heathen
intermixture in the North and the Midlands had retarded the advance but
had not completely checked it; while in Wessex and the South the
intercourse with the continent and the consequent growth in culture had
been steadily increasing. Æthelwulf of Wessex married a daughter of Karl
the Bald; Ælfred gave his daughter to a count of Flanders; and Eadward's
princesses were married respectively to the emperor, to the king of
France, and to the king of Provence. Such alliances show a considerable
degree of intercourse between Wessex and the Roman world; and the relics
of material civilisation fully bear out the inference. The Institutes of
the city of London mention traders from Brabant, Liège, Rouen, Ponthieu,
France (in the restricted sense), and the Empire; but these came "in
their own vessels." England, which now has in her hands the carrying
trade of the world, was still dependent for her own supply on foreign
bottoms. We know also that officers were appointed to collect tolls from
foreign merchants at Canterbury, Dover, Arundel, and many other towns;
and London and Bristol certainly traded on their own account with the

As a whole, however, England still remained a purely agricultural
country to the very end of the Anglo-Saxon period. It had but little
foreign trade, and what little existed was chiefly confined to imports
of articles of luxury (wine, silk, spices, and artistic works) for the
wealthier nobles, and of ecclesiastical requisites, such as pictures,
incense, relics, vestments, and like southern products for the churches
and monasteries. The exports seem mainly to have consisted of slaves and
wool, though hides may possibly have been sent out of the country, and a
little of the famous English gold-work and embroidery was perhaps sold
abroad in return for the few imported luxuries. But taking the country
at a glance, we must still picture it to ourselves as composed almost
entirely of separate agricultural manors, each now owned by a
considerable landowner, and tilled mainly by his churls, whose position
had sunk during the Danish wars to that of semi-servile tenants, owing
customary rents of labour to their superiors. War had told against the
independence of the lesser freemen, who found themselves compelled to
choose themselves protectors among the higher born classes, till at last
the theory became general that every man must have a lord. The noble
himself lived upon his manor, accepted service from his churls in
tilling his own homestead, and allowed them lands in return in the
outlying portions of his estates. His sources of income were two only:
first, the agricultural produce of his lands, thus tilled for him by
free labour and by the hands of his serfs; and secondly, the breeding of
slaves, shipped from the ports of London and Bristol for the markets of
the south. The artisans depended wholly upon their lord, being often
serfs, or else churls holding on service-tenure. The mass of England
consisted of such manors, still largely interspersed with woodland, each
with the wooden hall of its lord occupying the centre of the homestead,
and with the huts of the churls and serfs among the hays and valleys of
the outskirts. The butter and cheese, bread and bacon, were made at
home; the corn was ground in the quern; the beer was brewed and the
honey collected by the family. The spinner and weaver, the shoemaker,
smith, and carpenter, were all parts of the household. Thus every manor
was wholly self-sufficing and self-sustaining, and towns were rendered
almost unnecessary.

Forests and heaths still also covered about half the surface. These were
now the hunting-grounds of the kings and nobles, while in the leys,
hursts, and dens, small groups of huts gave shelter to the swineherds
and woodwards who had charge of their lord's property in the woodlands.
The great tree-covered region of Selwood still divided Wessex into two
halves; the forest of the Chilterns still spread close to the walls of
London; the Peakland was still overgrown by an inaccessible thicket; and
the long central ridge between Yorkshire and Scotland was still shadowed
by primæval oaks, pinewoods, and beeches. Agriculture continued to be
confined to the alluvial bottoms, and had nowhere as yet invaded the
uplands, or even the stiffer and drier lowland regions, such as the
Weald of Kent or the forests of Arden and Elmet.

Only two elements broke the monotony of these self-sufficing
agricultural communities. Those elements were the monasteries and the

A large part of the soil of England was owned by the monks. They now
possessed considerable buildings, with stone churches of some
pretensions, in which service was conducted with pomp and
impressiveness. The tiny chapel of St. Lawrence, at Bradford-on-Avon,
forms the best example of this primitive Romanesque architecture now
surviving in England. Around the monasteries stretched their well-tilled
lands, mostly reclaimed from fen or forest, and probably more
scientifically cultivated than those of the neighbouring manors. Most of
the monks were skilled in civilised handicrafts, introduced from the
more cultivated continent. They were excellent ecclesiastical
metalworkers; many of them were architects, who built in rude imitation
of Romanesque models; and others were designers or illuminators of
manuscripts. The books and charters of this age are delicately and
minutely wrought out, though not with all the artistic elaboration of
later mediæval work. The art of painting (almost always in miniature)
was considerably advanced, the figures being well drawn, in rather stiff
but not unlifelike attitudes, though perspective is very imperfectly
understood, and hardly ever attempted. Later Anglo-Saxon architecture,
such as that of Eadward's magnificent abbey church at Westminster
(afterwards destroyed by Henry III. to make way for his own building),
was not inferior to continental workmanship. All the arts practised in
the abbeys were of direct Roman origin, and most of the words relating
to them are immediately derived from the Latin. This is the case even
with terms relating to such common objects as _candle_, _pen_, _wine_,
and _oil_. Names of weights, measures, coins, and other exact
quantitative ideas are also derived from Roman sources. Carpenters,
smiths, bakers, tanners, and millers, were usually attached to the
abbeys. Thus, in many cases, as at Glastonbury, Peterborough, Ripon,
Beverley, and Bury St. Edmunds, the monastery grew into the nucleus of a
considerable town, though the development of such towns is more marked
after than before the Norman Conquest. As a whole, it was by means of
the monasteries, and especially of their constant interchange of inmates
with the continent, that England mainly kept up the touch with the
southern civilisation. There alone was Latin, the universal medium of
continental intercommunication, taught and spoken. There alone were
books written, preserved, and read. Through the Church alone was an
organisation kept up in direct communication with the central civilising
agencies of Italy and the south. And while the Church and the
monasteries thus preserved the connection with the continent, they also
formed schools of culture and of industrial arts for the country itself.
At the abbeys bells were cast, glass manufactured, buildings designed,
gold and silver ornaments wrought, jewels enamelled, and unskilled
labour organised by the most trained intelligence of the land. They thus
remained as they had begun, homes and retreats for those exceptional
minds which were capable of carrying on the arts and the knowledge of a
dying civilisation across the gulf of predatory barbarism which
separates the artificial culture of Rome from the industrial culture of
modern Europe.

The towns were few and relatively unimportant, built entirely of wood
(except the churches), and very liable to be burnt down on the least
excuse. In considering them we must dismiss from our minds the ideas
derived from our own great and complex organisation, and bring ourselves
mentally into the attitude of a simple agricultural people, requiring
little beyond what was produced on each man's own farm or petty holding.
Such people are mainly fed from their own corn and meat, mainly clad
from their own homespun wool and linen. A little specialisation of
function, however, already existed. Salt was procured from the wyches or
pans of the coast, and also from the inland wyches or brine wells of
Cheshire and the midland counties. Such names as Nantwich, Middlewych,
Bromwich, and Droitwich, still preserve the memory of these early
saltworks. Iron was mined in the Forest of Dean, around Alcester, and in
the Somersetshire district. The city of Gloucester had six smiths'
forges in the days of Eadward the Confessor, and paid its tax to the
king in iron rods. Lead was found in Derbyshire, and was largely
employed for roofing churches. Cloth-weaving was specially carried on at
Stamford; but as a rule it is probable that every district supplied its
own clothing. English merchants attended the great fair at St. Denys, in
France, much as those of Central Asia now attend the fair at Kandahar;
and madder seems to have been bought there for dyeing cloth. In Kent,
Sussex, and East Anglia, herring fisheries already produced considerable
results. With these few exceptions, all the towns were apparently mere
local centres of exchange for produce, and small manufactured wares,
like the larger villages or bazaars of India in our own time.
Nevertheless, there was a distinct advance towards urban life in the
later Anglo-Saxon period. Bæda mentions very few towns, and most of
those were waste. By the date of the Conquest there were many, and their
functions were such as befitted a more diversified national life.
Communications had become far greater; and arts or trade had now to some
extent specialised themselves in special places.

A list of the chief early English towns may possibly seem to give too
much importance to these very minor elements of English life; yet one
may, perhaps, be appended with due precaution against misapprehension.

The capital, if any place deserved to be so called under the
perambulating early English dynasty, was Winchester (Wintan-ceaster),
with its old and new minsters, containing the tombs of the West-Saxon
kings. It possessed a large number of craftsmen, doubtless dependant
ultimately upon the court; and it was relatively a place of far greater
importance than at any later date.

The chief ports were London (Lundenbyrig), situated at the head of tidal
navigation on the Thames; and Bristol (Bricgestow) and Gloucester
(Gleawan-ceaster), similarly placed on the Avon and Severn. These towns
were convenient for early shipping because of their tidal position, at
an age when artificial harbours were unknown; They were the seat of the
export traffic in slaves and the import traffic in continental goods.
Before Ælfred's reign the carrying trade by sea seems to have been in
the hands of the Frisian skippers and slave-dealers, who stood to the
English in the same relation as the Arabs now stand to the East African
and Central African negroes; but after the increased attention paid to
shipbuilding during the struggle with the Danes, English vessels began
to engage in trade on their own account. London must already have been
the largest and richest town in the kingdom. Even in Bæda's time it was
"the mart of many nations, resorting to it by sea and land." It seems,
indeed, to have been a sort of merchant commonwealth, governed by its
own port reeve, and it made its own dooms, which have been preserved to
the present day. From the Roman time onward, the position of London as a
great free commercial town was probably uninterrupted.

York (Eoforwic), the capital of the North, had its own archbishop and
its Danish internal organisation. It seems to have been always an
important and considerable town, and it doubtless possessed the same
large body of handicraftsmen as Winchester. During the doubtful period
of Danish and English struggles, the archbishop apparently exercised
quasi-royal authority over the English burghers themselves.

Among the cathedral towns the most important were Canterbury
(Cant-wara-byrig), the old capital of Kent and metropolis of all
England, which seems to have contained a relatively large trading
population; Dorchester, in Oxfordshire, first the royal city of the West
Saxons, and afterwards the seat of the exiled bishopric of Lincoln;
Rochester (Hrofes-ceaster), the old capital of the West Kentings, and
seat of their bishop: and Worcester (Wigorna-ceaster), the chief town of
the Huiccii. Of the monastic towns the chief were Peterborough (Burh),
Ely (Elig), and Glastonbury (Glæstingabyrig). Bath, Amesbury,
Colchester, Lincoln, Chester, and other towns of Roman origin were also
important. Exeter, the old capital of the West Welsh, situated at the
tidal head of the Exe, had considerable trade. Oxford was a place of
traffic and a fortified town. Hastings, Dover, and the other south-coast
ports had some communications with France. The only other places of any
note were Chippenham, Bensington, and Aylesbury; Northampton and
Southampton; Bamborough; the fortified posts built by Eadward and
Æthelflæd; and the Danish boroughs of Bedford, Derby, Leicester,
Stamford, Nottingham, and Huntingdon. The Witena-gemots and the synods
took place in any town, irrespective of size, according to royal
convenience. But as early as the days of Cnut, London was beginning to
be felt as the real centre of national life: and Eadward the Confessor,
by founding Westminster Abbey, made it practically the home of the
kings. The Conqueror "wore his crown on Eastertide at Winchester; on
Pentecost at Westminster; and on Midwinter at Gloucester:" which
probably marks the relative position of the three towns as the chief
places in the old West Saxon realm at least. Under Æthelstan, London had
eight moneyers or mint-masters, while Winchester had only six, and
Canterbury seven.

As regards the arts and traffic in the towns, they were chiefly carried
on by guilds, which had their origin, as Dr. Brentano has shown with
great probability, in separate families, who combined to keep up their
own trade secrets as a family affair. In time, however, the guilds grew
into regular organisations, having their own code of rules and laws,
many of which (as at Cambridge, Exeter, and Abbotsbury) we still
possess. It is possible that the families of craftsmen may at first have
been Romanised Welsh inhabitants of the cities; for all the older
towns–London, Canterbury, York, Lincoln, and Rochester–were almost
certainly inhabited without interruption from the Roman period onward.
But in any case the guilds seem to have grown out of family compacts,
and to have retained always the character of close corporations. There
must have been considerable division of the various trades even before
the Conquest, and each trade must have inhabited a separate quarter; for
we find at Winchester, or elsewhere, in the reign of Æthelred,
Fellmonger, Horsemonger, Fleshmonger, Shieldwright, Shoewright, Turner,
and Salter Streets.

The exact amount of the population of England cannot be ascertained,
even approximately; but we may obtain a rough approximation from the
estimates based upon Domesday Book. It seems probable that at the end
of the Conqueror's reign, England contained 1,800,000 souls. Allowing
for the large number of persons introduced at the Conquest, and for the
natural increase during the unusual peace in the reigns of Cnut, of
Eadward the Confessor, and, above all, of William himself, we may guess
that it could not have contained more than a million and a quarter in
the days of Eadgar. London may have had a population of some 10,000;
Winchester and York of 5,000 each; certainly that of York at the date of
Domesday could not have exceeded 7,000 persons, and we know that it
contained 1,800 houses in the time of Eadward the Confessor.

The organisation of the country continued on the lines of the old
constitution. But the importance of the simple freeman had now quite
died out, and the gemot was rather a meeting of the earls, bishops,
abbots, and wealthy landholders, than a real assembly of the people. The
sub-divisions of the kingdom were now pretty generally conterminous with
the modern counties. In Wessex and the east the counties are either
older kingdoms, like Kent, Sussex, and Essex; or else tribal divisions
of the kingdom, like Dorset, Somerset, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Surrey. In
Mercia, the recovered country is artificially mapped out round the chief
Danish burgs, as in the case of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire,
Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Leicestershire, where the county
town usually occupies the centre of the arbitrary shire. In Northumbria
it is divided into equally artificial counties by the rivers. Beneath
the counties stood the older organisation of the hundred, and beneath
that again the primitive unit of the township, known on its
ecclesiastical side as the parish. In the reign of Eadgar, England seems
to have contained about 3,000 parish churches.



The death of Dunstan was the signal for the breaking down of the
artificial kingdom which he had held together by the mere power of his
solitary organising capacity. Æthelred, the son of Eadgar (who succeeded
after the brief reign of his brother Eadward), lost hopelessly all hold
over the Scandinavian north. At the same time, the wicking incursions,
intermitted for nearly a century, once more recommenced with the same
vigour as of old. Even before Dunstan's death, in 980, the pirates
ravaged Southampton, killing most of the townsfolk; and they also
pillaged Thanet, while another host overran Cheshire. In the succeeding
year, "great harm was done in Devonshire and in Wales;" and a year later
again, London was burnt and Portland ravaged. In 985, Æthelred, the
Unready, as after ages called him, from his lack of _rede_ or counsel,
quarrelled with Ælfric, ealdormen of the Mercians, whom he drove over
sea. The breach between Mercia and Wessex was thus widened, and as the
Danish attacks continued without interruption the redeless king soon
found himself comparatively isolated in his own paternal dominions.
Northumbria, under its earl, Uhtred (one of the house of Bamborough),
and the Five Burgs under their Danish leaders, acted almost
independently of Wessex throughout the whole of Æthelred's reign. In 991
Sigeric, archbishop of Canterbury, advised that the Danes should be
bought off by a payment of ten thousand pounds, an enormous sum; but it
was raised somehow and duly paid. In 992, the command of a naval force,
gathered from the merchant craft of the Thames, was entrusted to Ælfric,
who had been recalled; and the Mercian leader went over on the eve of an
engagement at London to the side of the enemy. Bamborough was stormed
and captured with great booty, and the host sailed up Humber mouth.
There they stood in the midst of the old Danish kingdom, and found the
leading men of Northumbria and Lindsey by no means unfriendly to their
invasion. In fact, the Danish north was now far more ready to welcome
the kindred Scandinavian than the West Saxon stranger. Æthelred's realm
practically shrank at once to the narrow limits of Kent and Wessex.

The Danes, however, were by no means content even with these successes.
Olaf Tryggvesson, king of Norway, and Swegen Forkbeard,[1] king of
Denmark, fell upon England. The era of mere plundering expeditions and
of scattered colonisation had ceased; the era of political conquest had
now begun. They had determined upon the complete subjugation of all
England. In 994 Olaf and Swegen attacked London with 94 ships, but were
put to flight by a gallant resistance of the townsmen, who did "more
harm and evil than ever they weened that any burghers could do them."
Thence the host sailed away to Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Hampshire,
burning and slaying all along the coast as they went. Æthelred and his
witan bought them off again, with the immense tribute of sixteen
thousand pounds. The host accepted the terms, but settled down for the
winter at Southampton–a sufficient indication of their
intentions–within easy reach of Winchester itself; and there "they fed
from all the West Saxons' land." Æthelred was alarmed, and sent to Olaf,
who consented to meet him at Andover. There the king received him "with
great worship," and gifted him with kinglike gifts, and sent him away
with a promise never again to attack England. Olaf kept his word, and
returned no more. But still Swegen remained, and went on pillaging
Devonshire and Cornwall, wending into Tamar mouth as far as Lidford,
where his men "burnt and slew all that they found." Thence they betook
themselves to the Frome, and so up into Dorset, and again to Wight. In
999, on the eve of doomsday as men then thought, they sailed up Thames
and Medway, and attacked Rochester. The men of Kent stoutly fought them,
but, as usual, without assistance from other shires; and the Danes took
horses, and rode over the land, almost ruining all the West Kentings.
The king and his witan resolved to send against them a land fyrd and a
ship fyrd or raw levy. But the spirit of the West Saxons was broken, and
though the craft were gathered together, yet in the end, as the
Chronicle plaintively puts it, "neither ship fyrd nor land fyrd wrought
anything save toil for the folk, and the emboldening of their foes."

 [1] See Mr. York-Powell's "Scandinavian Britain."

So, year after year, the endless invasion dragged on its course, and
everywhere each shire of Wessex fought for itself against such enemies
as happened to attack it. At last, in the year 1002, Æthelred once more
bought off the fleet, this time with 24,000 pounds; and some of the
Danes obtained leave to settle down in Wessex. But on St. Brice's day,
the king treacherously gave orders that all Danes in the immediate
English territory should be massacred. The West Saxons rose on the
appointed night, and slew every one of them, including Gunhild, the
sister of King Swegen, and a Christian convert. It was a foolhardy
attempt. Swegen fell at once upon Wessex, and marched up and down the
whole country, for two years. He burnt Wilton and Sarum, and then sailed
round to Norwich, where Ulfkytel, of East Anglia, gave him "the hardest
hand-play" that he had ever known in England. A year of famine
intervened; but in 1006 Swegen returned again, harrying and burning
Sandwich. All autumn the West Saxon fyrd waited for the enemy, but in
the end "it came to naught more than it had oft erst done." The host
took up quarters in Wight, marched across Hants and Berks to Reading,
and burned Wallingford. Thence they returned with their booty to the
fleet, by the very walls of the royal city. "There might the Winchester
folk behold an insolent host and fearless wend past their gate to sea."
The king himself had fled into Shropshire. The tone of utter despair
with which the Chronicle narrates all these events is the best measure
of the national degradation. "There was so muckle awe of the host," says
the annalist, "that no man could think how man could drive them from
this earth or hold this earth against them; for that they had cruelly
marked each shire of Wessex with burning and with harrying." The English
had sunk into hopeless misery, and were only waiting for a strong rule
to rescue them from their misery.

The strong rule came at last. Thorkell, a Danish jarl, marched all
through Wessex, and for three years more his host pillaged everywhere in
the South. In 1011, they killed Ælfheah, the archbishop of Canterbury,
at Greenwich. When the country was wholly weakened, Swegen turned
southward once more, this time with all Northumbria and Mercia at his
back. In 1013 he sailed round to Humber mouth, and thence up the Trent,
to Gainsborough. "Then Earl Uhtred and all Northumbrians soon bowed to
him, and all the folk in Lindsey; and sithence the folk of the Five
Burgs, and shortly after, all the host by north of Watling-street; and
men gave him hostages of each shire." Swegen at once led the united army
into England, leaving his son Cnut in Denalagu with the ships and
hostages. He marched to Oxford, which received him; then to the royal
city of Winchester, which made no resistance. At London Æthelred was
waiting; and for a time the town held out. So Swegen marched westward,
and took Bath. There, the thegns of the Welsh-kin counties–Somerset,
Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall–bowed to him and gave him hostages. "When
he had thus fared, he went north to his ships, and all the folk held him
then as full king." London itself gave way. Æthelred fled to Wight, and
thence to Normandy. He had married Ymma, the daughter of Richard the
Fearless; and he now took refuge with her brother, Richard the Good.

Next year Swegen died, and the West Saxon witan sent back for Æthelred.
No lord was dearer to them, they said, than their lord by kin. But the
host had already chosen Cnut; and the host had a stronger claim than the
witan. For two years Æthelred carried on a desultory war with the
intruders, and then died, leaving it undecided. His son Eadmund,
nicknamed Ironside, continued the contest for a few months; but in the
autumn of 1016 he died–poisoned, the English said, by Cnut–and Cnut
succeeded to undisputed sway. He at once assumed Wessex as his own
peculiar dominion, and the political history of the English ends for two
centuries. Their social life went on, of course, as ever; but it was the
life of a people in strict subjection to foreign rulers–Danish, Norman,
or Angevin. The story of the next twenty-five years at least belongs to
the chronicles of Scandinavian Britain.

At the end of that time, however, there was a slight reaction. Cnut and
his sons had bound the kingdom roughly into one; and the death of
Harthacnut left an opportunity for the return of a descendant of Ælfred.
But the English choice fell upon one who was practically a foreigner.
Eadward, son of Æthelred by Ymma of Normandy, had lived in his mother's
country during the greater part of his life. Recalled by Earl Godwine
and the witan, he came back to England a Norman, rather than an
Englishman. The administration remained really in the hands of Godwine
himself, and of the Danish or Danicised aristocracy. But Mercia and
Northumbria still stood apart from Wessex, and once procured the exile
of Godwine himself. The great earl returned, however, and at his death
passed on his power to his son Harold, a Danicised Englishman of great
rough ability, such as suited the hard times on which he was cast.
Harold employed the lifetime of Eadward, who was childless, in preparing
for his own succession. The king died in 1066, and Harold was quietly
chosen at once by the witan. He was the last Englishman who ever sat
upon the throne of England.

The remaining story belongs chiefly to the annals of Norman Britain.
Harold was assailed at once from either side. On the north, his brother
Tostig, whom he had expelled from Northumbria, led against him his
namesake, Harold Hardrada, king of Norway. On the south, William of
Normandy, Eadward's cousin, claimed the right to present himself to the
English electors. Eadward's death, in fact, had broken up the temporary
status, and left England once more a prey to barbaric Scandinavians from
Denmark, or civilised Scandinavians from Normandy. The English
themselves had no organisation which could withstand either, and no
national unity to promote such organisation in future. Harold of Norway
came first, landing in the old Danish stronghold of Northumbria; and the
English Harold hurried northward to meet him, with his little body of
house-carls, aided by a large fyrd which he had hastily collected to use
against William. At Stamford-bridge he overthrew the invaders with great
slaughter, Harold Hardrada and Tostig being amongst the slain.
Meanwhile, William had crossed to Pevensey, and was ravaging the coast.
Harold hurried southward, and met him at Senlac, near Hastings. After a
hard day's fight, the Normans were successful, and Harold fell. But even
yet the English could not agree among themselves. In this crisis of the
national fate, the local jealousies burnt up as fiercely as ever. While
William was marching upon London, the witan were quarrelling and
intriguing in the city over the succession. "Archbishop Ealdred and the
townsmen of London would have Eadgar Child,"–a grandson of Eadmund
Ironside–"for king, as was his right by kin." But Eadwine and Morkere,
the representatives of the great Mercian family of Leofric, had hopes
that they might turn William's invasion to their own good, and secure
their independence in the north by allowing Wessex to fall unassisted
into his hands. After much shuffling, Eadgar was at last chosen for
king. "But as it ever should have been the forwarder, so was it ever,
from day to day, slower and worse." No resistance was organised. In the
midst of all this turmoil, the Peterborough Chronicler is engaged in
narrating the petty affairs of his own abbey, and the question which
arose through the application made to Eadgar for his consent to the
appointment of an abbot. In such a spirit did the English meet an
invasion from the stoutest and best organised soldiery in Europe.
William marched on without let or hindrance, and on his way, the
Lady–the Confessor's widow–surrendered the royal city of Winchester
into his hands. The duke reached the Thames, burnt Southwark, and then
made a détour to cross the river at Wallingford, whence he proceeded
into Hertfordshire, thus cutting off Eadwine and Morkere in London from
their earldoms. The Mercian and Northumbrian leaders being determined to
hold their own at all hazards, retreated northward; and the English
resistance crumbled into pieces. Eadgar, the rival king, with Ealdred,
the archbishop, and all the chief men of London, came out to meet
William, and "bowed to him for need." The Chronicler can only say that
it was very foolish they had not done so before. A people so helpless,
so utterly anarchic, so incapable of united action, deserved to undergo
a severe training from the hard taskmasters of Romance civilisation. The
nation remained, but it remained as a conquered race, to be drilled in
the stern school of the conquerors. For awhile, it is true, William
governed England like an English king; but the constant rebellion and
faithlessness of his new subjects drove him soon to severer measures;
and the great insurrection of 1068, with its results, put the whole
country at his feet in a very different sense from the battle of Senlac.
For a hundred and fifty years, the English people remained a mere race
of chapmen and serfs; and the English language died down meanwhile into
a servile dialect. When the native stock emerges again into the full
light of history, by the absorption of the Norman conquerors in the
reign of John, it reappears with all the super-added culture and
organisation of the Romance nationalities. The Conquest was an
inevitable step in the work of severing England from the barbarous
North, and binding it once more in bonds of union with the civilised
South. It was the necessary undoing of the Danish conquest; more still,
it was an inevitable step in the process whereby England itself was to
begin its unified existence by the final breaking down of the barriers
which divided Wessex from Mercia, and Mercia from Northumbria.



A description of Anglo-Saxon Britain, however brief, would not be
complete without some account of the English language in its earliest
and purest form. But it would be impossible within reasonable limits to
give anything more than a short general statement of the relation which
the old English tongue bears to the kindred Teutonic dialects, and of
the main differences which mark it off from our modern simplified and
modified speech. All that can be attempted here is such a broad outline
as may enable the general reader to grasp the true connexion between
modern English and so-called Anglo-Saxon, on the one hand, as well as
between Anglo-Saxon itself and the parent Teutonic language on the
other. Any full investigation of grammatical or etymological details
would be beyond the scope of this little volume.

The tongue spoken by the English and Saxons at the period of their
invasion of Britain was an almost unmixed Low Dutch dialect. Originally
derived, of course, from the primitive Aryan language, it had already
undergone those changes which are summed up in what is known as Grimm's
Law. The principal consonants in the old Aryan tongue had been
regularly and slightly altered in certain directions; and these
alterations have been carried still further in the allied High German
language. Thus the original word for _father_, which closely resembled
the Latin _pater_, becomes in early English or Anglo-Saxon _fæder_, and
in modern High German _vater_. So, again, among the numerals, our _two_,
in early English _twa_, answers to Latin _duo_ and modern High German
_zwei_; while our _three_, in old English _threo_, answers to Latin
_tres_, and modern High German _drei_. So far as these permutations are
concerned, Sanscrit, Greek, and Latin may be regarded as most nearly
resembling the primitive Aryan speech, and with them the Celtic dialects
mainly agree. From these, the English varies one degree, the High German
two. The following table represents the nature of such changes
approximately for these three groups of languages:–

Greek, Sanscrit, |            |               |               |
Latin, Celtic    | p.  b.  f. |  t.   d.  th. |  k.   g.  ch. |
Gothic, English, |            |               |               |
Low Dutch        | f.  p.  b. | th.   t.   d. | ch.   k.  g.  |
                 |            |               |               |
High German      | b.  f.  p. |  d.  th.   t. |  g.  ch.  k.  |

In practice, several modifications arise; for example, the law is only
true for old High German, and that only approximately, but its general
truth may be accepted as governing most individual cases.

Judged by this standard, English forms a dialect of the Low Dutch branch
of the Aryan language, together with Frisian, modern Dutch, and the
Scandinavian tongues. Within the group thus restricted its affinities
are closest with Frisian and old Dutch, less close with Icelandic and
Danish. While the English still lived on the shores of the Baltic, it is
probable that their language was perfectly intelligible to the ancestors
of the people who now inhabit Holland, and who then spoke very slightly
different local dialects. In other words, a single Low Dutch speech then
apparently prevailed from the mouth of the Elbe to that of the Scheldt,
with small local variations; and from this speech the Anglo-Saxon and
the modern English have developed in one direction, while the Dutch has
developed in another, the Frisian dialect long remaining intermediate
between them. Scandinavian ceased, perhaps, to be intelligible to
Englishmen at an earlier date, the old Icelandic being already marked
off from Anglo-Saxon by strong peculiarities, while modern Danish
differs even more widely from the spoken English of the present day.

The relation of Anglo-Saxon to modern English is that of direct
parentage, it might almost be said of absolute identity. The language of
_Beowulf_ and of Ælfred is not, as many people still imagine, a
different language from our own; it is simply English in its earliest
and most unmixed form. What we commonly call Anglo-Saxon, indeed, is
more English than what we commonly call English at the present day. The
first is truly English, not only in its structure and grammar, but also
in the whole of its vocabulary: the second, though also truly English
in its structure and grammar, contains a large number of Latin, Greek,
and Romance elements in its vocabulary. Nevertheless, no break separates
us from the original Low Dutch tongue spoken in the marsh lands of
Sleswick. The English of _Beowulf_ grows slowly into the English of
Ælfred, into the English of Chaucer, into the English of Shakespeare and
Milton, and into the English of Macaulay and Tennyson.

Old words drop out from time to time, old grammatical forms die away or
become obliterated, new names and verbs are borrowed, first from the
Norman-French at the Conquest, then from the classical Greek and Latin
at the Renaissance; but the continuity of the language remains unbroken,
and its substance is still essentially the same as at the beginning. The
Cornish, the Irish, and to some extent the Welsh, have left off speaking
their native tongues, and adopted the language of the dominant Teuton;
but there never was a time when Englishmen left off speaking Anglo-Saxon
and took to English, Norman-French, or any other form of speech

An illustration may serve to render clearer this fundamental and
important distinction. If at the present day a body of Englishmen were
to settle in China, they might learn and use the Chinese names for many
native plants, animals, and manufactured articles; but however many of
such words they adopted into their vocabulary, their language would
still remain essentially English. A visitor from England would have to
learn a number of unfamiliar words, but he would not have to learn a new
language. If, on the other hand, a body of Frenchmen were to settle in a
neighbouring Chinese province, and to adopt exactly the same Chinese
words, their language would still remain essentially French. The
dialects of the two settlements would contain many words in common, but
neither of them would be a Chinese dialect on that account. Just so,
English since the Norman Conquest has grafted many foreign words upon
the native stock; but it still remains at bottom the same language as in
the days of Eadgar.

Nevertheless, Anglo-Saxon differs so far in externals from modern
English, that it is now necessary to learn it systematically with
grammar and dictionary, in somewhat the same manner as one would learn a
foreign tongue. Most of the words, indeed, are more or less familiar, at
least so far as their roots are concerned; but the inflexions of the
nouns and verbs are far more complicated than those now in use: and many
obsolete forms occur even in the vocabulary. On the other hand the
idioms closely resemble those still in use; and even where a root has
now dropped out of use, its meaning is often immediately suggested by
the cognate High German word, or by some archaic form preserved for us
in Chaucer, Shakespeare, or Milton, as well as by occasional survival in
the Lowland Scotch and other local dialects.

English in its early form was an inflexional language; that is to say,
the mutual relations of nouns and of verbs were chiefly expressed, not
by means of particles, such as _of_, _to_, _by_, and so forth, but by
means of modifications either in the termination or in the body of the
root itself. The nouns were declined much as in Greek and Latin; the
verbs were conjugated in somewhat the same way as in modern French.
Every noun had gender expressed in its form.

The following examples will give a sufficient idea of the commoner forms
of declension in the classical West Saxon of the time of Ælfred. The
pronunciation has already been briefly explained in the preface.

         SING.                     PLUR.

(1.) _Nom._ stan (_a stone_).  _Nom._ stanas.
     _Gen._ stanes.            _Gen._ stana.
     _Dat._ stane.             _Dat._ stanum.
     _Acc._ stan.              _Acc._ stanas.

This is the commonest declension for masculine nouns, and it has fixed
the normal plural for the modern English.

         SING.                   PLUR.

(2.) _Nom._ fot (_a foot_).  _Nom._ fet.
     _Gen._ fotes.           _Gen._ fota.
     _Dat._ fet.             _Dat._ fotum.
     _Acc._ fot.             _Acc._ fet.

Hence our modified plurals, such as _feet_, _teeth_, and _men_.

         SING.                   PLUR.

(3.) _Nom._ wudu (_a wood_). _Nom._ wuda.
     _Gen._ wuda.            _Gen._ wuda.
     _Dat._ wuda.            _Dat._ wudum.
     _Acc._ wudu.            _Acc._ wuda.

All these are for masculine nouns.

The commonest feminine declension is as follows:–

         SING.                    PLUR.

(4.) _Nom._ gifu (_a gift_).  _Nom._ gifa.
     _Gen._ gife.             _Gen._ gifena.
     _Dat._ gife.             _Dat._ gifum.
     _Acc._ gife.             _Acc._ gifa.

Less frequent is the modified form:

         SING.                   PLUR.

(5.) _Nom._ boc (_a book_).  _Nom._ bec.
     _Gen._ bec.             _Gen._ boca.
     _Dat._ bec.             _Dat._ bocum.
     _Acc._ boc.             _Acc._ bec.

Of neuters there are two principal declensions. The first has the plural
in _u_; the second leaves it unchanged.

         SING.                    PLUR.

(6.) _Nom._ scip (_a ship_).  _Nom._ scipu.
     _Gen._ scipes.           _Gen._ scipa.
     _Dat._ scipe.            _Dat._ scipum.
     _Acc._ scip.             _Acc._ scipu.

         SING.                    PLUR.

(7.) _Nom._ hus (_a house_).  _Nom._ hus.
     _Gen._ huses.            _Gen._ husa.
     _Dat._ huse.             _Dat._ husum.
     _Acc._ hus.              _Acc._ hus.

Hence our "collective" plurals, such as _fish_, _deer_, _sheep_, and

There is also a weak declension, much the same for all three genders, of
which the masculine form runs as follows:–

    SING.                   PLUR.

_Nom._ guma (_a man_).  _Nom._ guman.
_Gen._ guman.           _Gen._ gumena.
_Dat._ guman.           _Dat._ guman.
_Acc._ guman.           _Acc._ guman.

Adjectives are declined throughout, as in Latin, through all the cases
(including an instrumental), numbers, and genders. The demonstrative
pronoun or definite article _se_ (the) may stand as an example.


             Masc.          Fem.          Neut.
_Nom._       se,            seo,          thæt.
_Gen._       thæs,          thære,        thæs.
_Dat._       tham,          thære,        tham.
_Acc._       thone,         tha,          thæt.
_Inst._      thy,           thære,        thy.


                 Masc. Fem. Neut.
_Nom._                 tha.
_Gen._                 thara.
_Dat._                 tham.
_Acc._                 tha.
_Inst._                --

Verbs are conjugated about as fully as in Latin. There are two principal
forms: strong verbs, which form their preterite by vowel modification,
as _binde_, pret. _band_; and weak verbs, which form it by the addition
of _ode_ or _de_ to the root, as _lufige_, pret. _lufode_; _hire_, pret.
_hirde_. The present and preterite of the first form are as follows:–

                       IND.      SUBJ.

_Pres. sing._     1.  binde.    binde.
                  2.  bindest.  binde.
                  3.  bindeth.  binde.

_plur._     1, 2, 3.  bindath.  binden.

_Pret. sing._     1.  band.     bunde.
                  2.  bunde.    bunde.
                  3.  band.     bunde.

_plur._     1, 2, 3.  bundon.   bunden.

Both the grammatical forms and still more the orthography vary much from
time to time, from place to place, and even from writer to writer. The
forms used in this work are for the most part those employed by West
Saxons in the age of Ælfred.

A few examples of the language as written at three periods will enable
the reader to form some idea of its relation to the existing type. The
first passage cited is from King Ælfred's translation of Orosius; but it
consists of the opening lines of a paragraph inserted by the king
himself from his own materials, and so affords an excellent illustration
of his style in original English prose. The reader is recommended to
compare it word for word with the parallel slightly modernised version,
bearing in mind the inflexional terminations.

Ohthere sæde his hlaforde,         | Othhere said [to] his lord,
Ælfrede cyninge, thæt he           | Ælfred king, that he of all
ealra Northmonna northmest         | Northmen northmost abode.
bude. He cwæth thæt he             | He quoth that he abode
bude on thæm lande northweardum    | on the land northward against
with tha West-sæ.                  | the West Sea. He said,
He sæde theah thæt thæt land       | though, that that land was
sie swithe lang north thonan;      | [or extended] much north
ac hit is eall weste, buton on     | thence; eke it is all waste,
feawum stowum styccemælum          | but [except that] on few stows
wiciath Finnas, on huntothe        | [in a few places] piecemeal
on wintra, and on sumera on        | dwelleth Finns, on hunting on
fiscathe be thære sæ. He           | winter, and on summer on
sæde thæt he æt sumum cirre        | fishing by the sea. He said
wolde fandian hu longe thæt        | that he at some time [on one
land northryhte læge, oththe       | occasion] would seek how long
hwæther ænig monn be northan       | that land lay northright [due
thæm westenne bude. Tha            | north], or whether any man by
for he northryhte be thæm          | north of the waste abode.
lande: let him ealne weg           | Then fore [fared] he northright,
thæt weste land on thæt steorbord, | by the land: left all the
and tha wid-sæ on thæt             | way that waste land on the
bæcbord thrie dagas. Tha           | starboard of him, and the wide
wæs he swa feor north swa tha      | sea on the backboard [port,
hwæl-huntan firrest farath.        | French _babord_] three days.
                                   | Then was he so far north as
                                   | the whale-hunters furthest
                                   | fareth.

In this passage it is easy to see that the variations which make it into
modern English are for the most part of a very simple kind. Some of the
words are absolutely identical, as _his_, _on_, _he_, _and_, _land_, or
_north_. Others, though differences of spelling mask the likeness, are
practically the same, as _sæ_, _sæde_, _cwæth_, _thæt_, _lang_, for
which we now write _sea_, _said_, _quoth_, _that_, _long_. A few have
undergone contraction or alteration, as _hlaford_, now _lord_, _cyning_,
now _king_, and _steorbord_, now _starboard_. _Stow_, a place, is now
obsolete, except in local names; _styccemælum_, stickmeal, has been
Normanised into _piecemeal_. In other cases new terminations have been
substituted for old ones; _huntath_ and _fiscath_ are now replaced by
_hunting_ and _fishing_; while _hunta_ has been superseded by _hunter_.
Only six words in the passage have died out wholly: _buan_, to abide
(_bude_); _swithe_, very; _wician_, to dwell; _cirr_, an occasion;
_fandian_, to enquire (connected with _find_); and _bæcbord_, port,
which still survives in French from Norman sources. _Dæg_, day, and
_ænig_, any, show how existing English has softened the final _g_ into a
_y_. But the main difference which separates the modern passage from its
ancient prototype is the consistent dropping of the grammatical
inflexions in _hlaforde_, _Ælfrede_, _ealra_, _feawum_, and _fandian_,
where we now say, _to his lord_, _of all_, _in few_, and _to enquire_.

The next passage, from the old English epic of _Beowulf_, shows the
language in another aspect. Here, as in all poetry, archaic forms
abound, and the syntax is intentionally involved. It is written in the
old alliterative rhythm, described in the next chapter:–

    Beowulf mathelode               bearn Ecgtheowes;
    Hwæt! we the thas sæ-lac        sunu Healfdenes
    Leod Scyldinga                  lustum brohton,
    Tires to tacne,                 the thu her to-locast.
    Ic thæt un-softe                ealdre gedigde
    Wigge under wætere,             weore genethde
    Earfothlice;                    æt rihte wæs
    Guth getwæfed                   nymthe mec god scylde.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Beowulf spake,                  the son of Ecgtheow:
    See! We to thee this sea-gift,  son of Healfdene,
    Prince of the Scyldings,        joyfully have brought,
    For a token of glory,           that thou here lookest on.
    That I unsoftly,                gloriously accomplished,
    In war under water:             the work I dared,
    With much labour:               rightly was
    The battle divided,             but that a god shielded me.

Or, to translate more prosaically:–

"Beowulf, the son of Ecgtheow, addressed the meeting. See, son of
Healfdene, Prince of the Scyldings; we have joyfully brought thee this
gift from the sea which thou beholdest, for a proof of our valour. I
obtained it with difficulty, gloriously, fighting beneath the waves: I
dared the task with great toil. Evenly was the battle decreed, but that
a god afforded me his protection."

In this short passage, many of the words are now obsolete: for example,
_mathelian_, to address an assembly (_concionari_); _lac_, a gift;
_wig_, war; _guth_, battle; and _leod_, a prince. _Ge-digde_,
_ge-nethde_, and _ge-twæfed_ have the now obsolete particle _ge_-, which
bears much the same sense as in High German. On the other hand, _bearn_,
a bairn; _sunu_, a son; _sæ_, sea; _tacen_, a token; _wæter_, water; and
_weorc_, work, still survive: as do the verbs _to bring_, _to look_, and
_to shield_. _Lust_, pleasure, whence _lustum_, joyfully, has now
restricted its meaning in modern English, but retains its original sense
in High German.

A few lines from the "Chronicle" under the year 1137, during the reign
of Stephen, will give an example of Anglo-Saxon in its later and corrupt
form, caught in the act of passing into Chaucerian English:–

This gære for the King          | This year fared the King
Stephan ofer sæ to Normandi;    | Stephen over sea to Normandy;
and ther wes under              | and there he was
fangen, forthi thæt hi wenden   | accepted [received as duke]
thæt he sculde ben alsuic alse  | because that they weened
the eom wæs, and for he         | that he should be just as his
hadde get his tresor; ac he     | uncle was, and because he
todeld it and scatered sotlice. | had got his treasure: but he
Micel hadde Henri king          | to-dealt [distributed] and
gadered gold and sylver, and    | scattered it sot-like [foolishly].
na god ne dide men for his      | Muckle had King
saule tharof. Tha the King      | Henry gathered of gold and
Stephan to Englaland com,       | silver; and man did no good
tha macod he his gadering       | for his soul thereof. When
æt Oxeneford, and thar he       | that King Stephan was come
nam the biscop Roger of         | to England, then maked he
Sereberi, and Alexander         | his gathering at Oxford, and
biscop of Lincoln, and the      | there he took the bishop
Canceler Roger, hise neves,     | Roger of Salisbury, and Alexander,
and dide ælle in prisun, til    | bishop of Lincoln, and
hi iafen up hire castles.       | the Chancellor Roger, his
                                | nephew, and did them all in
                                | prison [put them in prison]
                                | till they gave up their castles.

The following passage from Ælfric's Life of King Oswold, in the best
period of early English prose, may perhaps be intelligible to modern
readers by the aid of a few explanatory notes only. _Mid_ means _with_;
while _with_ itself still bears only the meaning of _against_:–

"Æfter tham the Augustinus to Englalande becom, wæs sum æthele cyning,
Oswold ge-haten [_hight_ or _called_], on North-hymbra-lande, ge-lyfed
swithe on God. Se ferde [went] on his iugothe [youth] fram his freondum
and magum [relations] to Scotlande on sæ, and thær sona wearth ge-fullod
[baptised], and his ge-feran [companions] samod the mid him sithedon
[journeyed]. Betwux tham wearth of-slagen [off-slain] Eadwine his eam
[uncle], North-hymbra cyning, on Crist ge-lyfed, fram Brytta cyninge,
Ceadwalla ge-ciged [called, named], and twegen his æfter-gengan binnan
twam gearum [years]; and se Ceadwalla sloh and to sceame tucode tha
North-hymbran leode [people] æfter heora hlafordes fylle, oth thæt
[until] Oswold se eadiga his yfelnysse adwæscte [extinguished]. Oswold
him com to, and him cenlice [boldly] with feaht mid lytlum werode
[troop], ac his geleafa [belief] hine ge-trymde [encouraged], and Crist
him ge-fylste [helped] to his feonda [fiends, enemies] slege."

It will be noticed in every case that the syntactical arrangement of the
words in the sentences follows as a whole the rule that the governed
word precedes the governing, as in Latin or High German, not _vice
versa_, as in modern English.

A brief list will show the principal modifications undergone by nouns in
the process of modernisation. _Stan_, stone; _snaw_, snow; _ban_, bone.
_Cræft_, craft; _stæf_, staff; _bæc_, back. _Weg_, way; _dæg_, day;
_nægel_, nail; _fugol_, fowl. _Gear_, year; _geong_, young. _Finger_,
finger; _winter_, winter; _ford_, ford. _Æfen_, even; _morgen_, morn.
_Monath_, month; _heofon_, heaven; _heafod_, head. _Fot_, foot; _toth_,
tooth; _boc_, book; _freond_, friend. _Modor_, mother; _fæder_, father;
_dohtor_, daughter. _Sunu_, son; _wudu_, wood; _caru_, care; _denu_,
dene (valley). _Scip_, ship; _cild_, child; _ceorl_, churl; _cynn_, kin;
_ceald_, cold. Wherever a word has not become wholly obsolete, or
assumed a new termination, (_e.g._, _gifu_, gift; _morgen_, morn-ing),
it usually follows one or other of these analogies.

The changes which the English language, as a whole, has undergone in
passing from its earlier to its later form, may best be considered under
the two heads of form and matter.

As regards form or structure, the language has been simplified in three
separate ways. First, the nouns and adjectives have for the most part
lost their inflexions, at least so far as the cases are concerned.
Secondly, the nouns have also lost their gender. And thirdly, the verbs
have been simplified in conjugation, weak preterites being often
substituted for strong ones, and differential terminations largely lost.
On the other hand, the plural of nouns is still distinguished from the
singular by its termination in _s_, which is derived from the first
declension of Anglo-Saxon nouns, not as is often asserted, from the
Norman-French usage. In other words, all plurals have been assimilated
to this the commonest model; just as in French they have been
assimilated to the final _s_ of the third declension in Latin. A few
plurals of the other types still survive, such as _men_, _geese_,
_mice_, _sheep_, _deer_, _oxen_, _children_ and (dialectically)
_peasen_. To make up for this loss of inflexions, the language now
employs a larger number of particles, and to some extent, of
auxiliaries. Instead of _wines_, we now say _of a friend_; instead of
_wine_, we now say _to a friend_; and instead of _winum_, we now say _to
friends_. English, in short, has almost ceased to be inflexional and has
become analytic.

As regards matter or vocabulary, the language has lost in certain
directions, and gained in others. It has lost many old Teutonic roots,
such as _wig_, war; _rice_, kingdom; _tungol_, light; with their
derivatives, _wigend_, warrior; _rixian_, to rule; _tungol-witega_,
astrologer; and so forth. The relative number of such losses to the
survivals may be roughly gauged from the passages quoted above. On the
other hand, the language has gained by the incorporation of many Romance
words, shortly after the Norman Conquest, such as _place_, _voice_,
_judge_, _war_, and _royal_. Some of these have entirely superseded
native old English words. Thus the Norman-French _uncle_, _aunt_,
_cousin_, _nephew_, and _niece_, have wholly ousted their Anglo-Saxon
equivalents. In other instances the Romance words have enriched the
language with symbols for really new ideas. This is still more
strikingly the case with the direct importations from the classical
Greek and Latin which began at the period of the Renaissance. Such words
usually refer either to abstract conceptions for which the English
language had no suitable expression, or to the accurate terminology of
the advanced sciences. In every-day conversation our vocabulary is
almost entirely English; in speaking or writing upon philosophical or
scientific subjects it is largely intermixed with Romance and
Græco-Latin elements. On the whole, though it is to be regretted that
many strong, vigorous or poetical old Teutonic roots should have been
allowed to fall into disuse, it may safely be asserted that our gains
have far more than outbalanced our losses in this respect.

It must never be forgotten, however, that the whole framework of our
language still remains, in every case, purely English–that is to say,
Anglo-Saxon or Low Dutch–however many foreign elements may happen to
enter into its vocabulary. We can frame many sentences without using one
word of Romance or classical origin: we cannot frame a single sentence
without using words of English origin. The Authorised Version of the
Bible, "The Pilgrim's Progress," and such poems as Tennyson's "Dora,"
consist almost entirely of Teutonic elements. Even when the vocabulary
is largely classical, as in Johnson's "Rasselas" and some parts of
"Paradise Lost," the grammatical structure, the prepositions, the
pronouns, the auxiliary verbs, and the connecting particles, are all
necessarily and purely English. Two examples will suffice to make this
principle perfectly clear. In the first, which is the most familiar
quotation from Shakespeare, all the words of foreign origin have been
printed in italics:–

    To be, or not to be,–that is the _question_:
    Whether 'tis _nobler_ in the mind to _suffer_
    The slings and arrows of _outrageous fortune_;
    Or to take _arms_ against a sea of _troubles_,
    And, by _opposing_, end them? To die,–to sleep,–
    No more; and, by a sleep, to say we end
    The heart-ache, and the thousand _natural_ shocks
    That flesh is _heir_ to,–'tis a _consummation_
    _Devoutly_ to be wished. To die,–to sleep;–
    To sleep! _perchance_ to dream: ay, there's the rub
    For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
    When we have shuffled off this _mortal_ coil,
    Must give us _pause_: there's the _respect_
    That makes _calamity_ of so long life;
    For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
    The _oppressor's_ wrong, the proud man's _contumely_,
    The _pangs_ of _despised_ love, the law's _delay_,
    The _insolence_ of _office_, and the _spurns_
    That _patient merit_ of the unworthy takes,
    When he himself might his _quietus_ make
    With a bare bodkin?

Here, out of 167 words, we find only 28 of foreign origin; and even
these are Englished in their terminations or adjuncts. _Noble_ is
Norman-French; but the comparative _nobler_ stamps it with the Teutonic
mark. _Oppose_ is Latin; but the participle _opposing_ is true English.
_Devout_ is naturalised by the native adverbial termination, _devoutly_.
_Oppressor's_ and _despised_ take English inflexions. The formative
elements, _or_, _not_, _that_, _the_, _in_, _and_, _by_, _we_, and the
rest, are all English. The only complete sentence which we could frame
of wholly Latin words would be an imperative standing alone, as,
"Observe," and even this would be English in form.

On the other hand, we may take the following passage from Mr. Herbert
Spencer as a specimen of the largely Latinised vocabulary needed for
expressing the exact ideas of science or philosophy. Here also borrowed
words are printed in italics:–

"The _constitution_ which we _assign_ to this _etherial medium_,
however, like the _constitution_ we _assign_ to _solid substance_, is
_necessarily_ an _abstract_ of the _impressions received_ from
_tangible_ bodies. The _opposition_ to _pressure_ which a _tangible_
body _offers_ to us is not shown in one _direction_ only, but in all
_directions_; and so likewise is its _tenacity_. _Suppose countless
lines radiating_ from its _centre_ on every side, and it _resists_ along
each of these _lines_ and _coheres_ along each of these _lines_. Hence
the _constitution_ of those _ultimate units_ through the
_instrumentality_ of which _phenomena_ are _interpreted_. Be they
_atoms_ of _ponderable matter_ or _molecules_ of _ether_, the
_properties_ we _conceive_ them to _possess_ are nothing else than these
_perceptible properties idealised_."

In this case, out of 122 words we find no less than 46 are of foreign
origin. Though this large proportion sufficiently shows the amount of
our indebtedness to the classical languages for our abstract or
specialised scientific terms, the absolutely indisputable nature of the
English substratum remains clearly evident. The tongue which we use
to-day is enriched by valuable loan words from many separate sources;
but it is still as it has always been, English and nothing else. It is
the self-same speech with the tongue of the Sleswick pirates and the
West Saxon over-lords.



Perhaps nothing tends more to repel the modern English student from the
early history of his country than the very unfamiliar appearance of the
personal names which he meets before the Norman Conquest. There can be
no doubt that such a shrinking from the first stages of our national
annals does really exist; and it seems to be largely due to this very
superficial and somewhat unphilosophical cause. Before the Norman
invasion, the modern Englishman finds himself apparently among complete
foreigners, in the Æthelwulfs, the Eadgyths, the Oswius, and the
Seaxburhs of the Chronicle; while he hails the Norman invaders, the
Johns, Henrys, Williams, and Roberts, of the period immediately
succeeding the conquest, as familiar English friends. The contrast can
scarcely be better given than in the story told about Æthelred's Norman
wife. Her name was Ymma, or Emma; but the English of that time murmured
against such an outlandish sound, and so the Lady received a new English
name as Ælfgifu. At the present day our nomenclature has changed so
utterly that Emma sounds like ordinary English, while Ælfgifu sounds
like a wholly foreign word. The incidental light thrown upon our history
by the careful study of personal names is indeed so valuable that a few
remarks upon the subject seem necessary in order to complete our hasty
survey of Anglo-Saxon Britain.

During the very earliest period when we catch a glimpse of the English
people on the Continent or in eastern Britain, a double system of naming
seems to have prevailed, not wholly unlike our modern plan of Christian
and surname. The clan name was appended to the personal one. A man was
apparently described as Wulf the Holting, or as Creoda the Æscing. The
clan names were in many cases common to the English and the Continental
Teutons. Thus we find Helsings in the English Helsington and the Swedish
Helsingland; Harlings in the English Harlingham and the Frisian
Harlingen; and Bleccings in the English Bletchingley and the
Scandinavian Bleckingen. Our Thyrings at Thorrington answer, perhaps, to
the Thuringians; our Myrgings at Merrington to the Frankish Merwings or
Merovingians; our Wærings at Warrington to the Norse Væringjar or
Varangians. At any rate, the clan organization was one common to both
great branches of the Teutonic stock, and it has left its mark deeply
upon our modern nomenclature, both in England and in Germany. Mr. Kemble
has enumerated nearly 200 clan names found in early English charters and
documents, besides over 600 others inferred from local names in England
at the present day. Taking one letter of the alphabet alone, his list
includes the Glæstings, Geddings, Gumenings, Gustings, Getings,
Grundlings, Gildlings, and Gillings, from documentary evidence; and the
Gærsings, Gestings, Geofonings, Goldings, and Garings, with many
others, from the inferential evidence of existing towns and villages.

The personal names of the earliest period are in many cases
untranslateable–that is to say, as with the first stratum of Greek
names, they bear no obvious meaning in the language as we know it.
Others are names of animals or natural objects. Unlike the later
historical cognomens, they each consist, as a rule, of a single element,
not of two elements in composition. Such are the names which we get in
the narrative of the colonization and in the mythical genealogies;
Hengest, Horsa, Æsc, Ælle, Cymen, Cissa, Bieda, Mægla; Ceol, Penda,
Offa, Blecca; Esla, Gewis, Wig, Brand, and so forth. A few of these
names (such as Penda and Offa), are undoubtedly historical; but of the
rest, some seem to be etymological blunders, like Port and Wihtgar;
others to be pure myths, like Wig and Brand; and others, again, to be
doubtfully true, like Cerdic, Cissa, and Bieda, eponyms, perhaps, of
Cerdices-ford, Cissan-ceaster, and Biedan-heafod.

In the truly historical age, the clan system seems to have died out, and
each person bore, as a rule, only a single personal name. These names
are almost invariably compounded of two elements, and the elements thus
employed were comparatively few in number. Thus, we get the root
_æthel_, noble, as the first half in Æthelred, Æthelwulf, Æthelberht,
Æthelstan, and Æthelbald. Again, the root _ead_, rich, or powerful,
occurs in Eadgar, Eadred, Eadward, Eadwine, and Eadwulf. _Ælf_, an elf,
forms the prime element in Ælfred, Ælfric, Ælfwine, Ælfward, and
Ælfstan. These were the favourite names of the West-Saxon royal house;
the Northumbrian kings seem rather to have affected the syllable _os_,
divine, as in Oswald, Oswiu, Osric, Osred, and Oslaf. _Wine_, friend, is
a favourite termination found in Æscwine, Eadwine, Æthelwine, Oswine,
and Ælfwine, whose meanings need no further explanation. _Wulf_ appears
as the first half in Wulfstan, Wulfric, Wulfred, and Wulfhere; while it
forms the second half in Æthelwulf, Eadwulf, Ealdwulf, and Cenwulf.
_Beorht_, _berht_, or _briht_, bright, or glorious, appears in
Beorhtric, Beorhtwulf, Brihtwald; Æthelberht, Ealdbriht, and Eadbyrht.
_Burh_, a fortress, enters into many female names, as Eadburh,
Æthelburh, Sexburh, and Wihtburh. As a rule, a certain number of
syllables seem to have been regarded as proper elements for forming
personal names, and to have been combined somewhat fancifully, without
much regard to the resulting meaning. The following short list of such
elements, in addition to the roots given above, will suffice to explain
most of the names mentioned in this work.

_Helm_: helmet.
_Gar_: spear.
_Gifu_: gift.
_Here_: army.
_Sige_: victory.
_Cyne_: royal.
_Leof_: dear.
_Wig_: war.
_Stan_: stone.
_Eald_: old, venerable.
_Weard_, _ward_: ward, protection.
_Red_: counsel.
_Eeg_: edge, sword.
_Theod_: people, nation.

By combining these elements with those already given most of the royal
or noble names in use in early England were obtained.

With the people, however, it would seem that shorter and older forms
were still in vogue. The following document, the original of which is
printed in Kemble's collection, represents the pedigree of a serf, and
is interesting, both as showing the sort of names in use among the
servile class, and the care with which their family relationships were
recorded, in order to preserve the rights of their lord.

     Dudda was a boor at Hatfield, and he had three daughters:
     one hight Deorwyn, the other Deorswith, the third Golde. And
     Wulflaf at Hatfield has Deorwyn to wife. Ælfstan, at
     Tatchingworth, has Deorswith to wife: and Ealhstan,
     Ælfstan's brother, has Golde to wife. There was a man hight
     Hwita, bee-master at Hatfield, and he had a daughter Tate,
     mother of Wulfsige, the bowman; and Wulfsige's sister Lulle
     has Hehstan to wife, at Walden. Wifus and Dunne and Seoloce
     are inborn at Hatfield. Duding, son of Wifus, lives at
     Walden; and Ceolmund, Dunne's son, also sits at Walden; and
     Æthelheah, Seoloce's son, also sits at Walden. And Tate,
     Cenwold's sister, Mæg has to wife at Welgun; and Eadhelm,
     Herethryth's son, has Tate's daughter to wife. Wærlaf,
     Wærstan's father, was a right serf at Hatfield; he kept the
     grey swine there.

In the west, and especially in Cornwall, the names of the serfs were
mainly Celtic,–Griffith, Modred, Riol, and so forth,–as may be seen
from the list of manumissions preserved in a mass-book at St. Petroc's,
or Padstow. Elsewhere, however, the Celtic names seem to have dropped
out, for the most part, with the Celtic language. It is true, we meet
with cases of apparently Welsh forms, like Maccus, or Rum, even in
purely Teutonic districts; and some names, such as Cerdic and Ceadwalla,
seem to have been borrowed by one race from the other: while such forms
as Wealtheow and Waltheof are at least suggestive of British descent:
but on the whole, the conquered Britons appear everywhere to have
quickly adopted the names in vogue among their conquerors. Such names
would doubtless be considered fashionable, as was the case at a later
date with those introduced by the Danes and the Normans. Even in
Cornwall a good many English forms occur among the serfs: while in very
Celtic Devonshire, English names were probably universal.

The Danish Conquest introduced a number of Scandinavian names,
especially in the North, the consideration of which belongs rather to a
companion volume. They must be briefly noted here, however, to prevent
confusion with the genuine English forms. Amongst such Scandinavian
introductions, the commonest are perhaps Harold, Swegen or Swend, Ulf,
Gorm or Guthrum, Orm, Yric or Eric, Cnut, and Ulfcytel. During and after
the time of the Danish dynasty, these forms, rendered fashionable by
royal usage, became very general even among the native English. Thus
Earl Godwine's sons bore Scandinavian names; and at an earlier period we
even find persons, apparently Scandinavian, fighting on the English side
against the Danes in East Anglia.

But the sequel to the Norman Conquest shows us most clearly how the
whole nomenclature of a nation may be entirely altered without any large
change of race. Immediately after the Conquest the native English names
begin to disappear, and in their place we get a crop of Williams,
Walters, Rogers, Henries, Ralphs, Richards, Gilberts, and Roberts. Most
of these were originally High German forms, taken into Gaul by the
Franks, borrowed from them by the Normans, and then copied by the
English from their foreign lords. A few, however, such as Arthur, Owen,
and Alan, were Breton Welsh. Side by side with these French names, the
Normans introduced the Scriptural forms, John, Matthew, Thomas, Simon,
Stephen, Piers or Peter, and James; for though a few cases of Scriptural
names occur in the earlier history–for example, St. John of Beverley
and Daniel, bishop of the West Saxons–these are always borne by
ecclesiastics, probably as names of religion. All through the middle
ages, and down to very recent times, the vast majority of English men
and women continued to bear these baptismal names of Norman
introduction. Only two native English forms practically survived–Edward
and Edmund–owing to mere accidents of royal favour. They were the names
of two great English saints, Eadward the Confessor and Eadmund of East
Anglia; and Henry III. bestowed them upon his two sons, Edward I. and
Edmund of Lancaster. In this manner they became adopted into the royal
and fashionable circle, and so were perpetuated to our own day. All the
others died out in mediæval times, while the few old forms now current,
such as Alfred, Edgar, Athelstane, and Edwin, are mere artificial
revivals of the two last centuries. If we were to judge by nomenclature
alone, we might almost fancy that the Norman Conquest had wholly
extinguished the English people.

A few steps towards the adoption of surnames were taken even before the
Conquest. Titles of office were usually placed after the personal name,
as Ælfred King, Lilla Thegn, Wulfnoth Cild, Ælfward Bishop, Æthelberht
Ealdorman, and Harold Earl. Double names occasionally occur, the second
being a nickname or true surname, as Osgod Clapa, Benedict Biscop,
Thurkytel Myranheafod, Godwine Bace, and Ælfric Cerm. Trade names are
also found, as Ecceard smith, or Godwig boor. Everywhere, but especially
in the Danish North, patronymics were in common use; for example, Harold
Godwine's son, or Thored Gunnor's son. In all these cases we get
surnames in the germ; but their general and official adoption dates from
after the Norman Conquest.

Local nomenclature also demands a short explanation. Most of the Roman
towns continued to be called by their Roman names: Londinium, Lunden,
London; Eburacum, Eoforwic, Eurewic, York; Lindum Colonia, Lincolne,
Lincoln. Often _ceaster_, from _castrum_, was added: Gwent, Venta
Belgarum, Wintan-ceaster, Winteceaster, Winchester; Isca, Exan-ceaster,
Execestre, Exeter; Corinium, Cyren-ceaster, Cirencester. Almost every
place which is known to have had a name at the English Conquest retained
that name afterwards, in a more or less clipped or altered form.
Examples are Kent, Wight, Devon, Dorset; Manchester, Lancaster,
Doncaster, Leicester, Gloucester, Worcester, Colchester, Silchester,
Uttoxeter, Wroxeter, and Chester; Thames, Severn, Ouse, Don, Aire,
Derwent, Swale, and Tyne. Even where the Roman name is now lost, as at
Pevensey, the old form was retained in Early English days; for the
"Chronicle" calls it Andredes-ceaster, that is to say, Anderida. So the
old name of Bath is Akemannes-ceaster, derived from the Latin _Aqua_,
Cissan-ceaster, Chichester, forms an almost solitary exception.
Canterbury, or Cant-wara-byrig, was correctly known as Dwrovernum or
Doroberna in Latin documents of the Anglo-Saxon period.

On the other hand, the true English towns which grew up around the
strictly English settlements, bore names of three sorts. The first were
the clan villages, the _hams_ or _tuns_, such as Bænesingatun,
Bensington; Snotingaham, Nottingham; Glæstingabyrig, Glastonbury; and
Wæringwica, Warwick. These have already been sufficiently illustrated;
and they were situated, for the most part, in the richest agricultural
lowlands. The second were towns which grew up slowly for purposes of
trade by fords of rivers or at ports: such are Oxeneford, Oxford;
Bedcanford, Bedford (a British town); Stretford, Stratford; and
Wealingaford, Wallingford. The third were the towns which grew up in the
wastes and wealds, with names of varied form but more modern origin. As
a whole, it may be said that during the entire early English period the
names of cities were mostly Roman, the names of villages and country
towns were mostly English.



Nothing better illustrates the original peculiarities and subsequent
development of the early English mind than the Anglo-Saxon literature. A
vast mass of manuscripts has been preserved for us, embracing works in
prose and verse of the most varied kind; and all the most important of
these have been made accessible to modern readers in printed copies.
They cast a flood of light upon the workings of the English mind in all
ages, from the old pagan period in Sleswick to the date of the Norman
Conquest, and the subsequent gradual supplanting of our native
literature by a new culture based upon the Romance models.

All national literature everywhere begins with rude songs. From the
earliest period at which the English and Saxon people existed as
separate tribes at all, we may be sure that they possessed battle-songs,
like those common to the whole Aryan stock. But among the Teutonic races
poetry was not distinguished by either of the peculiarities–rime or
metre–which mark off modern verse from prose, so far as its external
form is concerned. Our existing English system of versification is not
derived from our old native poetry at all; it is a development of the
Romance system, adopted by the school of Gower and Chaucer from the
French and Italian poets. Its metre, or syllabic arrangement, is an
adaptation from the Greek quantitative prosody, handed down through
Latin and the neo-Latin dialects; its rime is a Celtic peculiarity
borrowed by the Romance nationalities, and handed on through them to
modern English literature by the Romance school of the fourteenth
century. Our original English versification, on the other hand, was
neither rimed nor rhythmic. What answered to metre was a certain
irregular swing, produced by a roughly recurrent number of accents in
each couplet, without restriction as to the number of feet or syllables.
What answered to rime was a regular and marked alliteration, each
couplet having a certain key-letter, with which three principal words in
the couplet began. In addition to these two poetical devices,
Anglo-Saxon verse shows traces of parallelism, similar to that which
distinguishes Hebrew poetry. But the alliteration and parallelism do not
run quite side by side, the second half of each alliterative couplet
being parallel with the first half of the next couplet. Accordingly,
each new sentence begins somewhat clumsily in the middle of the couplet.
All these peculiarities are not, however, always to be distinguished in
every separate poem.

The following rough translation of a very early Teutonic spell for the
cure of a sprained ankle, belonging to the heathen period, will
illustrate the earliest form of this alliterative verse. The key-letter
in each couplet is printed in capitals, and the verse is read from end
to end, not as two separate columns.[1]

    Balder and Woden                  Went to the Woodland:
    There Balder's Foal               Fell, wrenching its Foot.
    Then Sinthgunt beguiled him,      and Sunna her Sister:
    Then Frua beguiled him,           and Folla her sister,
    Then Woden beguiled him,          as Well he knew how;
    Wrench of blood, Wrench of bone,  and eke Wrench of limb:
    Bone unto Bone,                   Blood unto Blood,
    Limb unto Limb                    as though Limèd it were.

 [1] The original of this heathen charm is in the Old High
     German dialect; but it is quoted here as a good specimen of
     the early form of alliterative verse. A similar charm
     undoubtedly existed in Anglo-Saxon, though no copy of it has
     come down to our days, as we possess a modernised and
     Christianised English version, in which the name of our Lord
     is substituted for that of Balder.

In this simple spell the alliteration serves rather as an aid to memory
than as an ornamental device. The following lines, translated from the
ballad on Æthelstan's victory at Brunanburh, in 937, will show the
developed form of the same versificatory system. The parallelism and
alliteration are here well marked:–

    Æthelstan king,                    lord of Earls,
    Bestower of Bracelets,             and his Brother eke,
    Eadmund the Ætheling,              honour Eternal
    Won in the Slaughter,              with edge of the Sword
    By Brunnanbury.                    The Bucklers they clave,
    Hewed the Helmets,                 with Hammered steel,
    Heirs of Edward,                   as was their Heritage,
    From their Fore-Fathers,           that oft the Field
    They should Guard their Good folk  Gainst every comer,
    Their Home and their Hoard.        The Hated foe cringed to them,
    The Scottish Sailors,              and the Northern Shipmen;
    Fated they Fell.                   The Field lay gory
    With Swordsmen's blood             Since the Sun rose
    On Morning tide                    a Mighty globe,
    To Glide o'er the Ground,          God's candle bright,
    The endless Lord's taper,          till the great Light
    Sank to its Setting.               There Soldiers lay,
    Warriors Wounded,                  Northern Wights,
    Shot over Shields;                 and so Scotsmen eke,
    Wearied with War.                  The West Saxon onwards,
    The Live-Long day                  in Linkèd order
    Followed the Footsteps             of the Foul Foe.

Of course no songs of the old heathen period were committed to writing
either in Sleswick or in Britain. The minstrels who composed them taught
them by word of mouth to their pupils, and so handed them down from
generation to generation, much as the Achæan rhapsodists handed down the
Homeric poems. Nevertheless, two or three such old songs were afterwards
written out in Christian Northumbria or Wessex; and though their
heathendom has been greatly toned down by the transcribers, enough
remains to give us a graphic glimpse of the fierce and gloomy old
English nature which we could not otherwise obtain. One fragment, known
as the _Fight at Finnesburh_ (rescued from a book-cover into which it
had been pasted), probably dates back before the colonisation of
Britain, and closely resembles in style the above-quoted ode. Two other
early pieces, the _Traveller's Song_ and the _Lament of Deor_, are
inserted from pagan tradition in a book of later devotional poems
preserved at Exeter. But the great epic of _Beowulf_, a work composed
when the English and the Danes were still living in close connexion with
one another by the shores of the Baltic, has been handed down to us
entire, thanks to the kind intervention of some Northumbrian monk, who,
by Christianising the most flagrantly heathen portions, has saved the
entire work from the fate which would otherwise have overtaken it. As a
striking representation of early English life and thought, this great
epic deserves a fuller description.[2]

 [2] It is right to state, however, that many scholars regard
     _Beowulf_ as a late translation from a Danish original.

_Beowulf_ is written in the same short alliterative metre as that of the
Brunanburh ballad, and takes its name from its hero, a servant or
companion of the mighty Hygelac, king of the Geatas (Jutes or Goths). At
a distance from his home lay the kingdom of the Scyldings, a Danish
tribe, ruled over by Hrothgar. There stood Heorot, the high hall of
heroes, the greatest mead-house ever raised. But the land of the Danes
was haunted by a terrible fiend, known as Grendel, who dwelt in a dark
fen in the forest belt, girt round with shadows and lit up at eve by
flitting flames. Every night Grendel came forth and carried off some of
the Danes to devour in his home. The description of the monster himself
and of the marshland where he had his lair is full of that weird and
gloomy superstition which everywhere darkens and overshadows the life
of the savage and the heathen barbarian. The terror inspired in the rude
English mind by the mark and the woodland, the home of wild beasts and
of hostile ghosts, of deadly spirits and of fierce enemies, gleams
luridly through every line. The fen and the forest are dim and dark;
will-o'-the-wisps flit above them, and gloom closes them in; wolves and
wild boars lurk there, the quagmire opens its jaws and swallows the
horse and his rider; the foeman comes through it to bring fire and
slaughter to the clan-village at the dead of night. To these real
terrors and dangers of the mark are added the fancied ones of
superstition. There the terrible forms begotten of man's vague dread of
the unknown–elves and nickors and fiends–have their murky
dwelling-place. The atmosphere of the strange old heathen epic is
oppressive in its gloominess. Nevertheless, its poetry sometimes rises
to a height of great, though barbaric, sublimity. Beowulf himself,
hearing of the evil wrought by Grendel, set sail from his home for the
land of the Danes. Hrothgar received him kindly, and entertained him and
his Goths with ale and song in Heorot. Wealtheow, Hrothgar's queen,
gold-decked, served them with mead. But when all had retired to rest on
the couches of the great hall, in the murky night, Grendel came. He
seized and slew one of Beowulf's companions. Then the warrior of the
Goths followed the monster, and wounded him sorely with his hands.
Grendel fled to his lair to die. But after the contest, Grendel's
mother, a no less hateful creature–the "Devil's dam" of our mediæval
legends–carries on the war against the slayer of her son. Beowulf
descends to her home beneath the water, grapples with her in her cave,
turns against her the weapons he finds there, and is again victorious.
The Goths return to their own country laden with gifts by Hrothgar.
After the death of Hygelac, Beowulf succeeds to the kingship of the
Geatas, whom he rules well and prosperously for many years. At length a
mysterious being, named the Fire Drake, a sort of dragon guarding a
hidden treasure, some of which has been stolen while its guardian
sleeps, comes out to slaughter his people. The old hero buckles on his
rune-covered sword again, and goes forth to battle with the monster. He
slays it, indeed, but is blasted by its fiery breath, and dies after the
encounter. His companions light his pyre upon a lofty spit of land
jutting out into the winter sea. Weapons and jewels and drinking bowls,
taken from the Fire Drake's treasure, were thrown into the tomb for the
use of the ghost in the other world; and a mighty barrow was raised upon
the spot to be a beacon far and wide to seafaring men. So ends the great
heathen epic. It gives us the most valuable picture which we possess of
the daily life led by our pagan forefathers.

But though these poems are the oldest in tone, they are not the oldest
in form of all that we possess. It is probable that the most primitive
Anglo-Saxon verse was identical with prose, and consisted merely of
sentences bound together by parallelism. As alliteration, at first a
mere _memoria technica_, became an ornamental adjunct, and grew more
developed, the parallelism gradually dropped out. Gnomes or short
proverbs of this character were in common use, and they closely
resembled the mediæval proverbs current in England to the present day.

With the introduction of Christianity, English verse took a new
direction. It was chiefly occupied in devotional and sacred poetry, or
rather, such poems only have come down to us, as the monks transcribed
them alone, leaving the half-heathen war-songs of the minstrels attached
to the great houses to die out unwritten. The first piece of English
literature which we can actually date is a fragment of the great
religious epic of Cædmon, written about the year 670. Cædmon was a poor
brother in Hild's monastery at Whitby, and he acquired the art of poetry
by a miracle. Northumbria, in the sixth and seventh centuries, took the
lead in Teutonic Britain; and all the early literature is Northumbrian,
as all the later literature is West Saxon. Cædmon's poem consisted in a
paraphrase of the Bible history, from the Creation to the Ascension. The
idea of a translation of the Bible from Latin into English would never
have occurred to any one at that early time. English had as yet no
literary form into which it could be thrown. But Cædmon conceived the
notion of paraphrasing the Bible story in the old alliterative Teutonic
verse, which was familiar to his hearers in songs like _Beowulf_. Some
of the brethren translated or interpreted for him portions of the
Vulgate, and he threw them into rude metre. Only a single short excerpt
has come down to us in the original form. There is a later complete
epic, however, also attributed to Cædmon, of the same scope and purport;
and it retains so much of the old heathen spirit that it may very
possibly represent a modernised version of the real Cædmon's poem, by a
reviser in the ninth century. At any rate, the latter work may be
treated here under the name of Cædmon, by which it is universally known.
It consists of a long Scriptural paraphrase, written in the alliterative
metre, short, sharp, and decisive, but not without a wild and passionate
beauty of its own. In tone it differs wonderfully little from _Beowulf_,
being most at home in the war of heaven and Satan, and in the titanic
descriptions of the devils and their deeds. The conduct of the poem is
singularly like that of _Paradise Lost_. Its wild and rapid stanzas show
how little Christianity had yet moulded the barbaric nature of the
newly-converted English. The epic is essentially a war-song; the Hebrew
element is far stronger than the Christian; hell takes the place of
Grendel's mere; and, to borrow Mr. Green's admirable phrase, "the verses
fall like sword-strokes in the thick of battle."

In all these works we get the genuine native English note, the wild song
of a pirate race, shaped in early minstrelsy for celebrating the deeds
of gods and warriors, and scarcely half-adapted afterward to the not
wholly alien tone of the oldest Hebrew Scriptures. But the Latin
schools, set up by the Italian monks, introduced into England a totally
new and highly-developed literature. The pagan Anglo-Saxons had not
advanced beyond the stage of ballads; they had no history, or other
prose literature of their own, except, perhaps, a few traditional
genealogical lists, mostly mythical, and adapted to an artificial
grouping by eights and forties. The Roman missionaries brought over the
Roman works, with their developed historical and philosophical style;
and the change induced in England by copying these originals was as
great as the change would now be from the rude Polynesian myths and
ballads to a history of Polynesia written in English, and after English
prototypes, by a native convert. In fact, the Latin language was almost
as important to the new departure as the Latin models. While the old
English literary form, restricted entirely to poetry, was unfitted for
any serious narrative or any reflective work, the old English tongue,
suited only to the practical needs of a rude warrior race, was unfitted
for the expression of any but the simplest and most material ideas. It
is true, the vocabulary was copious, especially in terms for natural
objects, and it was far richer than might be expected even in words
referring to mental states and emotions; but in the expression of
abstract ideas, and in idioms suitable for philosophical discussion, it
remained still, of course, very deficient. Hence the new serious
literature was necessarily written entirely in the Latin language, which
alone possessed the words and modes of speech fitted for its
development; but to exclude it on that account from the consideration of
Anglo-Saxon literature, as many writers have done, would be an absurd
affectation. The Latin writings of Englishmen are an integral part of
English thought, and an important factor in the evolution of English
culture. Gradually, as English monks grew to read Latin from generation
to generation, they invented corresponding compounds in their own
language for the abstract words of the southern tongue; and therefore by
the beginning of the eleventh century, the West Saxon speech of Ælfred
and his successors had grown into a comparatively wealthy dialect,
suitable for the expression of many ideas unfamiliar to the rude pirates
and farmers of Sleswick and East Anglia. Thus, in later days, a rich
vernacular literature grew up with many distinct branches. But, in the
earlier period, the use of a civilised idiom for all purposes connected
with the higher civilisation introduced by the missionaries was
absolutely necessary; and so we find the codes of laws, the penitentials
of the Church, the charters, and the prose literature generally, almost
all written at first in Latin alone. Gradually, as the English tongue
grew fuller, we find it creeping into use for one after another of these
purposes; but to the last an educated Anglo-Saxon could express himself
far more accurately and philosophically in the cultivated tongue of Rome
than in the rough dialect of his Teutonic countrymen. We have only to
contrast the bald and meagre style of the "English Chronicle," written
in the mother-tongue, with the fulness and ease of Bæda's
"Ecclesiastical History," written two centuries earlier in Latin, in
order to see how great an advantage the rough Northumbrians of the early
Christian period obtained in the gift of an old and polished instrument
for conveying to one another their higher thoughts.

Of this new literature (which began with the Latin biography of Wilfrith
by Æddi or Eddius, and the Latin verses of Ealdhelm) the great
representative is, in fact, Bæda, whose life has already been
sufficiently described in an earlier chapter. Living at Jarrow, a
Benedictine monastery of the strictest type, in close connection with
Rome, and supplied with Roman works in abundance, Bæda had thoroughly
imbibed the spirit of the southern culture, and his books reflect for us
a true picture of the English barbarian toned down and almost
obliterated in all distinctive features by receptivity for Italian
civilisation. The Northumbrian kingdom had just passed its prime in his
days; and he was able to record the early history of the English Church
and People with something like Roman breadth of view. His scientific
knowledge was up to that of his contemporaries abroad; while his
somewhat childish tales of miracles and visions, though they often
betray traces of the old heathen spirit, were not below the average
level of European thought in his own day. Altogether, Bæda may be taken
as a fair specimen of the Romanised Englishman, alike in his strength
and in his weakness. The samples of his historical style already given
will suffice for illustration of his Latin works; but it must not be
forgotten that he was also one of the first writers to try his hand at
regular English prose in his translation of St. John's Gospel. A few
English verses from his lips have also come down to us, breathing the
old Teutonic spirit more deeply than might be expected from his other

During the interval between the Northumbrian and West Saxon
supremacies–the interval embraced by the eighth century, and covered by
the greatness of Mercia under Æthelbald and Offa–we have few remains of
English literature. The laws of Ine the West Saxon, and of Offa the
Mercian, with the Penitentials of the Church, and the Charters, form the
chief documents. But England gained no little credit for learning from
the works of two Englishmen who had taken up their abode in the old
Germanic kingdom: Boniface or Winfrith, the apostle of the heathen
Teutons subjugated by the Franks, and Alcuin (Ealhwine), the famous
friend and secretary of Karl the Great. Many devotional Anglo-Saxon
poems, of various dates, are kept for us in the two books preserved at
Exeter, and at Vercelli in North Italy. Amongst them are some by
Cynewulf, perhaps the most genuinely poetical of all the early minstrels
after Cædmon. The following lines, taken from the beginning of his poem
"The Phœnix" (a transcript from Lactantius), will sufficiently
illustrate his style:–

    I have heard that hidden        Afar from hence
    On the east of earth            Is a fairest isle,
    Lovely and famous.              The lap of that land
    May not be reached              By many mortals,
    Dwellers on earth;              But it is divided
    Through the might of the Maker  From all misdoers.
    Fair is the field,              Full happy and glad,
    Filled with the sweetest        Scented flowers.
    Unique is that island,          Almighty the worker
    Mickle of might                 Who moulded that land.
    There oft lieth open            To the eyes of the blest,
    With happiest harmony,          The gate of heaven.
    Winsome its woods               And its fair green wolds,
    Roomy with reaches.             No rain there nor snow,
    Nor breath of frost,            Nor fiery blast,
    Nor summer's heat,              Nor scattered sleet,
    Nor fall of hail,               Nor hoary rime,
    Nor weltering weather,          Nor wintry shower,
    Falleth on any;                 But the field resteth
    Ever in peace,                  And the princely land
    Bloometh with blossoms.         Berg there nor mount
    Standeth not steep,             Nor stony crag
    High lifteth the head,          As here with us,
    Nor vale, nor dale,             Nor deep-caverned down,
    Hollows or hills;               Nor hangeth aloft
    Aught of unsmooth;              But ever the plain,
    Basks in the beam,              Joyfully blooming.
    Twelve fathoms taller           Towereth that land
    (As quoth in their writs        Many wise men)
    Than ever a berg                That bright among mortals
    High lifteth the head           Among heaven's stars.

Two noteworthy points may be marked in this extract. Its feeling for
natural scenery is quite different from the wild sublimity of the
descriptions of nature in _Beowulf_. Cynewulf's verse is essentially the
verse of an agriculturist; it looks with disfavour upon mountains and
rugged scenes, while its ideal is one of peaceful tillage. The monk
speaks out in it as cultivator and dreamer. Its tone is wholly different
from that of the Brunanburh ballad or the other fierce war-songs.
Moreover, it contains one or two rimes, preserved in this translation,
whose full significance will be pointed out hereafter.

The anarchy of Northumbria, and still more the Danish inroads, put an
end to the literary movement in the North and the Midlands; but the
struggle in Wessex gave new life to the West Saxon people. Under Ælfred,
Winchester became the centre of English thought. But the West Saxon
literature is almost entirely written in English, not in Latin; a fact
which marks the progressive development of vocabulary and idiom in the
native tongue. Ælfred himself did much to encourage literature, inviting
over learned men from the continent, and founding schools for the West
Saxon youth in his dwarfed dominions. Most of the Winchester works are
attributed to his own pen, though doubtless he was largely aided by his
advisers, and amongst others by Asser, his Welsh secretary and Bishop of
Sherborne. They comprise translations into the Anglo-Saxon of Boëthius
_de Consolatione_, the Universal History of Orosius, Bæda's
Ecclesiastical History, and Pope Gregory's _Regula Pastoralis_. But the
fact that Ælfred still has recourse to Roman originals, marks the stage
of civilisation as yet mainly imitative; while the interesting passages
intercalated by the king himself show that the beginnings of a really
native prose literature were already taking shape in English hands.

The chief monument of this truly Anglo-Saxon literature, begun and
completed by English writers in the English tongue alone, is the
Chronicle. That invaluable document, the oldest history of any Teutonic
race in its own language, was probably first compiled at the court of
Ælfred. Its earlier part consists of mere royal genealogies of the
first West Saxon kings, together with a few traditions of the
colonisation, and some excerpts from Bæda. But with the reign of
Æthelwulf, Ælfred's father, it becomes comparatively copious, though its
records still remain dry and matter-of-fact, a bare statement of facts,
without comment or emotional display. The following extract, giving the
account of Ælfred's death, will show its meagre nature. The passage has
been modernised as little as is consistent with its intelligibility at
the present day:–

     An. 901. Here died Ælfred Æthulfing [Æthelwulfing–the son
     of Æthelwulf], six nights ere All Hallow Mass. He was king
     over all English-kin, bar that deal that was under Danish
     weald [dominion]; and he held that kingdom three half-years
     less than thirty winters. There came Eadward his son to the
     rule. And there seized Æthelwold ætheling, his father's
     brother's son, the ham [villa] at Winburne [Wimbourne], and
     at Tweoxneam [Christchurch], by the king's unthank and his
     witan's [without leave from the king]. There rode the king
     with his fyrd till he reached Badbury against Winburne. And
     Æthelwold sat within the ham, with the men that to him had
     bowed, and he had forwrought [obstructed] all the gates in,
     and said that he would either there live or there lie.
     Thereupon rode the ætheling on night away, and sought the
     [Danish] host in Northumbria, and they took him for king and
     bowed to him. And the king bade ride after him, but they
     could not outride him. Then beset man the woman that he had
     erst taken without the king's leave, and against the
     bishop's word, for that she was ere that hallowed a nun. And
     on this ilk year forth-fared Æthelred (he was ealdorman on
     Devon) four weeks ere Ælfred king.

During the Augustan age the Chronicle grows less full, but contains
several fine war-songs, of the genuine old English type, full of
savagery in sentiment, and abrupt or broken in manner, but marked by the
same wild poetry and harsh inversions as the older heathen ballads.
Amongst them stand the lines on the fight of Brunanburh, whose exordium
is quoted above. Its close forms one of the finest passages in old
English verse:–

    Behind them they Left,   the Lych to devour,
    The Sallow kite          and the Swart raven,
    Horny of beak,–          and Him, the dusk-coated,
    The white-afted Erne,    the corse to Enjoy,
    The Greedy war-hawk,     and that Grey beast,
    The Wolf of the Wood.    No such Woeful slaughter
    Aye on this Island       Ever hath been,
    By edge of the Sword,    as book Sayeth,
    Writers of Eld,          since of Eastward hither
    English and Saxons       Sailed over Sea,
    O'er the Broad Brine,–   landed in Britain,
    Proud Workers of War,    and o'ercame the Welsh,
    Earls Eager of fame,     Obtaining this Earth.

During the decadence, in the disastrous reign of Æthelred, the Chronicle
regains its fulness, and the following passage may be taken as a good
specimen of its later style. It shows the approach to comment and
reflection, as the compilers grew more accustomed to historical writing
in their own tongue:–

     An. 1009. Here on this year were the ships ready of which we
     ere spake, and there were so many of them as never ere (so
     far as books tell us) were made among English kin in no
     king's day. And man brought them all together to Sandwich,
     and there should they lie, and hold this earth against all
     outlanders [foreigners'] hosts. But we had not yet the luck
     nor the worship [valour] that the ship-fyrd should be of
     any good to this land, no more than it oft was afore. Then
     befel it at this ilk time or a little ere, that Brihtric,
     Eadric's brother the ealdorman's, forwrayed [accused]
     Wulfnoth child to the king: and he went out and drew unto
     him twenty ships, and there harried everywhere by the south
     shore, and wrought all evil. Then quoth man to the ship-fyrd
     that man might easily take them, if man were about it. Then
     took Brihtric to himself eighty ships and thought that he
     should work himself great fame if he should get Wulfnoth,
     quick or dead. But as they were thitherward, there came such
     a wind against them such as no man ere minded [remembered],
     and it all to-beat and to-brake the ships, and warped them
     on land: and soon came Wulfnoth and for-burned the ships.
     When this was couth [known] to the other ships where the
     king was, how the others fared, then was it as though it
     were all redeless, and the king fared him home, and the
     ealdormen, and the high witan, and forlet the ships thus
     lightly. And the folk that were on the ships brought them
     round eft to Lunden, and let all the people's toil thus
     lightly go for nought: and the victory that all English kin
     hoped for was no better. There this ship-fyrd was thus
     ended; then came, soon after Lammas, the huge foreign host,
     that we hight Thurkill's host, to Sandwich, and soon wended
     their way to Canterbury, and would quickly have won the burg
     if they had not rather yearned for peace of them. And all
     the East Kentings made peace with the host, and gave it
     three thousand pound. And the host there, soon after that,
     wended till it came to Wightland, and there everywhere in
     Suth-Sex, and on Hamtunshire, and eke on Berkshire harried
     and burnt, as their wont is. Then bade the king call out all
     the people, that men should hold against them on every half
     [side]: but none the less, look! they fared where they
     willed. Then one time had the king foregone before them with
     all the fyrd as they were going to their ships, and all the
     folk was ready to fight them. But it was let, through Eadric
     ealdorman, as it ever yet was. Then, after St. Martin's
     mass, they fared eft again into Kent, and took them a winter
     seat on Thames, and victualled themselves from East-Sex and
     from the shires that there next were, on the twain halves
     of Thames. And oft they fought against the burg of Lunden,
     but praise be to God, it yet stands sound, and they ever
     there fared evilly. And there after mid-winter they took
     their way up, out through Chiltern, and so to Oxenaford
     [Oxford], and for-burnt the burg, and took their way on to
     the twa halves of Thames to shipward. There man warned them
     that there was fyrd gathered at Lunden against them; then
     wended they over at Stane [Staines]. And thus fared they all
     the winter, and that Lent were in Kent and bettered
     [repaired] their ships.

We possess several manuscript versions of the Chronicle, belonging to
different abbeys, and containing in places somewhat different accounts.
Thus the Peterborough copy is fullest on matters affecting that
monastery, and even inserts several spurious grants, which, however, are
of value as showing how incapable the writers were of scientific
forgery, and so as guarantees of the general accuracy of the document.
But in the main facts they all agree. Nor do they stop short at the
Norman Conquest. Most of them continue half through the reign of
William, and then cease; while one manuscript goes on uninterruptedly
till the reign of Stephen, and breaks off abruptly in the year 1154 with
an unfinished sentence. With it, native prose literature dies down
altogether until the reign of Edward III.

As a whole, however, the Conquest struck the death-blow of Anglo-Saxon
literature almost at once. During the reigns of Ælfred's descendants
Wessex had produced a rich crop of native works on all subjects, but
especially religious. In this literature the greatest name was that of
Ælfric, whose Homilies are models of the classical West Saxon prose.
But after the Conquest our native literature died out wholly, and a new
literature, founded on Romance models, took its place. The Anglo-Saxon
style lingered on among the people, but it was gradually killed down by
the Romance style of the court writers. In prose, the history of William
of Malmesbury, written in Latin, and in a wider continental spirit,
marks the change. In poetry, the English school struggled on longer, but
at last succumbed. A few words on the nature of this process will not be
thrown away.

The old Teutonic poetry, with its treble system of accent, alliteration,
and parallelism, was wholly different from the Romance poetry, with its
double system of rime and metre. But, from an early date, the English
themselves were fond of verbal jingles, such as "Scot and lot," "sac and
soc," "frith and grith," "eorl and ceorl," or "might and right." Even in
the alliterative poems we find many occasional rimes, such as "hlynede
and dynede," "wide and side," "Dryht-guman sine drencte mid wine," or
such as the rimes already quoted from Cynewulf. As time went on, and
intercourse with other countries became greater, the tendency to rime
settled down into a fixed habit. Rimed Latin verse was already familiar
to the clergy, and was imitated in their works. Much of the very ornate
Anglo-Saxon prose of the latest period is full of strange verbal tricks,
as shown in the following modernised extract from a sermon of Wulfstan.
Here, the alliterative letters are printed in capitals, and the rimes in

     No Wonder is it that Woes befall us, for Well We Wot that
     now full many a year men little _care_ what thing they
     _dare_ in word or deed; and Sorely has this nation Sinned,
     whate'er man Say, with Manifold Sins and with right Manifold
     Misdeeds, with Slayings and with Slaughters, with _robbing_
     and with _stabbing_, with Grasping _deed_ and hungry
     _Greed_, through Christian Treason and through heathen
     Treachery, through _guile_ and through _wile_, through
     _lawlessness_ and _awelessness_, through Murder of Friends
     and Murder of Foes, through broken Troth and broken Truth,
     through wedded unchastity and cloistered impurity. Little
     they _trow_ of marriage _vow_, as ere this I said: little
     they reck the breach of _oath_ or _troth_; swearing and
     for-swearing, on every _side_, far and _wide_, Fast and
     Feast they hold not, Peace and Pact they keep not, oft and
     anon. Thus in this _land_ they _stand_, Foes to Christendom,
     Friends to heathendom, Persecutors of Priests, Persecutors
     of People, all too many; spurners of godly law and Christian
     bond, who Loudly Laugh at the _Teaching_ of God's _Teachers_
     and the _Preaching_ of God's _Preachers_, and whatso rightly
     to God's rites belongs.

The nation was thus clearly preparing itself from within for the
adoption of the Romance system. Immediately after the Conquest, rimes
begin to appear distinctly, while alliteration begins to die out. An
Anglo-Saxon poem on the character of William the Conqueror, inserted in
the Chronicle under the year of his death, consists of very rude rimes
which may be modernised as follows–

    Gold he took by might,
    And of great unright,
    From his folk with evil deed
    For sore little need.
    He was on greediness befallen,
    And getsomeness he loved withal.
    He set a mickle deer frith,
    And he laid laws therewith,
    That whoso slew hart or hind
    Him should man then blinden.
    He forbade to slay the harts,
    And so eke the boars.
    So well he loved the high deer
    As if he their father were.
    Eke he set by the hares
    That they might freely fare.
    His rich men mourned it
    And the poor men wailed it.
    But he was so firmly wrought
    That he recked of all nought.
    And they must all withal
    The king's will follow,
    If they wished to live
    Or their land have,
    Or their goods eke,
    Or his peace to seek.
    Woe is me,
    That any man so proud should be,
    Thus himself up to raise,
    And over all men to boast.
    May God Almighty show his soul mild-heart-ness,
    And do him for his sins forgiveness!

From that time English poetry bifurcates. On the one hand, we have the
survival of the old Teutonic alliterative swing in Layamon's Brut and in
Piers Plowman–the native verse of the people sung by native minstrels:
and on the other hand we have the new Romance rimed metre in Robert of
Gloucester, "William of Palerne," Gower, and Chaucer. But from Piers
Plowman and Chaucer onward the Romance system conquers and the Teutonic
system dies rapidly. Our modern poetry is wholly Romance in descent,
form, and spirit.

Thus in literature as in civilisation generally, the culture of old
Rome, either as handed down ecclesiastically through the Latin, or as
handed down popularly through the Norman-French, overcame the native
Anglo-Saxon culture, such as it was, and drove it utterly out of the
England which we now know. Though a new literature, in Latin and
English, sprang up after the Conquest, that literature had its roots,
not in Sleswick or in Wessex, but in Greece, in Rome, in Provence, and
in Normandy. With the Normans, a new era began–an era when Romance
civilisation was grafted by harsh but strong hands on to the Anglo-Saxon
stock, the Anglo-Saxon institutions, and the Anglo-Saxon tongue. With
the first step in this revolution, our present volume has completed its
assigned task. The story of the Normans will be told by another pen in
the same series.



Perhaps the best way of summing up the results of the present inquiry
will be by considering briefly the main elements of our existing life
and our actual empire which we owe to the Anglo-Saxon nationality. We
may most easily glance at them under the five separate heads of blood,
character, language, civilisation, and institutions.

In _blood_, it is probable that the importance of the Anglo-Saxon
element has been generally over-estimated. It has been too usual to
speak of England as though it were synonymous with Britain, and to
overlook the numerical strength of the Celtic population in Scotland,
Wales, Cornwall, and Ireland. It has been too usual, also, to neglect
the considerable Danish, Norwegian, and Norman element, which, though
belonging to the same Low German and Scandinavian stock, yet differs in
some important particulars from the Anglo-Saxon. But we have seen reason
to conclude that even in the most purely Teutonic region of Britain, the
district between Forth and Southampton Water, a considerable proportion
of the people were of Celtic or pre-Celtic descent, from the very first
age of English settlement. This conclusion is borne out both by the
physical traits of the peasantry and the nature of the early remains. In
the western half of South Britain, from Clyde to Cornwall, the
proportion of Anglo-Saxon blood has probably always been far smaller.
The Norman conquerors themselves were of mixed Scandinavian, Gaulish,
and Breton descent. Throughout the middle ages, the more Teutonic half
of Britain–the southern and eastern tract–was undoubtedly the most
important: and the English, mixed with Scandinavians from Denmark or
Normandy, formed the ruling caste. Up to the days of Elizabeth, Teutonic
Britain led the van in civilisation, population, and commerce. But since
the age of the Tudors, it seems probable, as Dr. Rolleston and others
have shown, that the Celtic element has largely reasserted itself. A
return wave of Celts has inundated the Teutonic region. Scottish
Highlanders have poured into Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London: Welshmen
have poured into Liverpool, Manchester, and all the great towns of
England: Irishmen have poured into every part of the British dominions.
During the middle ages, the Teutonic portion of Britain was by far the
most densely populated; but at the present day, the almost complete
restriction of coal to the Celtic or semi-Celtic area has aggregated the
greatest masses of population in the west and north. If we take into
consideration the probable large substratum of Celts or earlier races in
the Teutonic counties, the wide area of the undoubted Celtic region
which pours forth a constant stream of emigrants towards the Teutonic
tract, the change of importance between south-east and north-west, since
the industrial development of the coal country, and the more rapid rate
of increase among the Celts, it becomes highly probable that not
one-half the population of the British Isles is really of Teutonic
descent. Moreover, it must be remembered that, whatever may have been
the case in the primitive Anglo-Saxon period, intermarriages between
Celts and Teutons have been common for at least four centuries past; and
that therefore almost all Englishmen at the present day possess at least
a fraction of Celtic blood.

"The people," says Professor Huxley, "are vastly less Teutonic than
their language." It is not likely that any absolutely pure-blooded
Anglo-Saxons now exist in our midst at all, except perhaps among the
farmer class in the most Teutonic and agricultural shires: and even this
exception is extremely doubtful. Persons bearing the most obviously
Celtic names–Welsh, Cornish, Irish, or Highland Scots–are to be found
in all our large towns, and scattered up and down through the country
districts. Hence we may conclude with great probability that the
Anglo-Saxon blood has long since been everywhere diluted by a strong
Celtic intermixture. Even in the earliest times and in the most Teutonic
counties, many serfs of non-Teutonic race existed from the very
beginning: their masters have ere now mixed with other non-Teutonic
families elsewhere, till even the restricted English people at the
present day can hardly claim to be much more than half Anglo-Saxon. Nor
do the Teutons now even retain their position as a ruling caste. Mixed
Celts in England itself have long since risen to many high places.
Leading families of Welsh, Cornish, Scotch, and Irish blood have also
been admitted into the peerage of the United Kingdom, and form a large
proportion of the House of Commons, of the official world, and of the
governing class in India, the Colonies, and the empire generally. These
families have again intermarried with the nobility and gentry of
English, Danish, or Norman extraction, and thus have added their part to
the intricate intermixture of the two races. At the present day, we can
only speak of the British people as Anglo-Saxons in a conventional
sense: so far as blood goes, we need hardly hesitate to set them down as
a pretty equal admixture of Teutonic and Celtic elements.

In _character_, the Anglo-Saxons have bequeathed to us much of the
German solidity, industry, and patience, traits which have been largely
amalgamated with the intellectual quickness and emotional nature of the
Celt, and have thus produced the prevailing English temperament as we
actually know it. To the Anglo-Saxon blood we may doubtless attribute
our general sobriety, steadiness, and persistence; our scientific
patience and thoroughness; our political moderation and endurance; our
marked love of individual freedom and impatience of arbitrary restraint.
The Anglo-Saxon was slow to learn, but retentive of what he learnt. On
the other hand, he was unimaginative; and this want of imagination may
be traced in the more Teutonic counties to the present day. But when
these qualities have been counteracted by the Celtic wealth of fancy,
the race has produced the great English literature,–a literature whose
form is wholly Roman, while in matter, its more solid parts doubtless
owe much to the Teuton, and its lighter portions, especially its poetry
and romance, can be definitely traced in great measure to known Celtic
elements. While the Teutonic blood differentiates our somewhat slow and
steady character from the more logical but volatile and unstable Gaul,
the Celtic blood differentiates it from the far slower, heavier, and
less quick or less imaginative Teutons of Germany and Scandinavia.

In _language_ we owe almost everything to the Anglo-Saxons. The Low
German dialect which they brought with them from Sleswick and Hanover
still remains in all essentials the identical speech employed by
ourselves at the present day. It received a few grammatical forms from
the cognate Scandinavian dialects; it borrowed a few score or so of
words from the Welsh; it adopted a small Latin vocabulary of
ecclesiastical terms from the early missionaries; it took in a
considerable number of Romance elements after the Norman Conquest; it
enriched itself with an immense variety of learned compounds from the
Greek and Latin at the Renaissance period: but all these additions
affected almost exclusively its stock of words, and did not in the least
interfere with its structure or its place in the scientific
classification of languages. The English which we now speak is not in
any sense a Romance tongue. It is the lineal descendant of the English
of Ælfred and of Bæda, enlarged in its vocabulary by many words which
they did not use, impoverished by the loss of a few which they employed,
yet still essentially identical in grammar and idiom with the language
of the first Teutonic settlers. Gradually losing its inflexions from the
days of Eadgar onward, it assumed its existing type before the
thirteenth century, and continuously incorporated an immense number of
French and Latin words, which greatly increased its value as an
instrument of thought. But it is important to recollect that the English
tongue has nothing at all to do in its origin with either Welsh or
French. The Teutonic speech of the Anglo-Saxon settlers drove out the
old Celtic speech throughout almost all England and the Scotch Lowlands
before the end of the eleventh century; it drove out the Cornish in the
eighteenth century; and it is now driving out the Welsh, the Erse, and
the Gaelic, under our very eyes. In language at least the British empire
(save of course India) is now almost entirely English, or in other
words, Anglo-Saxon.

In _civilisation_, on the other hand, we owe comparatively little to the
direct Teutonic influence. The native Anglo-Saxon culture was low, and
even before its transplantation to Britain it had undergone some
modification by mediate mercantile transactions with Rome and the
Mediterranean states. The alphabet, coins, and even a few southern
words, (such as "alms") had already filtered through to the shores of
the Baltic. After the colonisation of Britain, the Anglo-Saxons learnt
something of the higher agriculture from their Romanised serfs, and
adopted, as early as the heathen period, some small portion of the Roman
system, so far as regarded roads, fortifications, and, perhaps
buildings. The Roman towns still stood in their midst, and a fragment,
at least, of the Romanised population still carried on commerce with the
half-Roman Frankish kingdom across the Channel. The re-introduction of
Christianity was at the same time the re-introduction of Roman culture
in its later form. The Latin language and the Mediterranean arts once
more took their place in Britain. The Romanising prelates,–Wilfrith,
Theodore, Dunstan,–were also the leaders of civilisation in their own
times. The Norman Conquest brought England into yet closer connection
with the Continent; and Roman law and Roman arts still more deeply
affected our native culture. Norman artificers supplanted the rude
English handicraftsmen in many cases, and became a dominant class in
towns. The old English literature, and especially the old English
poetry, died utterly out with Piers Plowman; while a new literature,
based upon Romance models, took its origin with Chaucer and the other
Court poets. Celtic-Latin rhyme ousted the genuine Teutonic
alliteration. With the Renaissance, the triumph of the southern culture
was complete. Greek philosophy and Greek science formed the
starting-point for our modern developments. The ecclesiastical revolt
from papal Rome was accompanied by a literary and artistic return to the
models of pagan Rome. The Renaissance was, in fact, the throwing off of
all that was Teutonic and mediæval, the resumption of progressive
thought and scientific knowledge, at the point where it had been
interrupted by the Germanic inroads of the fifth century. The unjaded
vigour of the German races, indeed, counted for much; and Europe took up
the lost thread of the dying empire with a youthful freshness very
different from the effete listlessness of the Mediterranean culture in
its last stage. Yet it is none the less true that our whole civilisation
is even now the carrying out and completion of the Greek and Roman
culture in new fields and with fresh intellects. We owe little here to
the Anglo-Saxon; we owe everything to the great stream of western
culture, which began in Egypt and Assyria, permeated Greece and the
Archipelago, spread to Italy and the Roman empire, and, finally, now
embraces the whole European and American world. The Teutonic intellect
and the Teutonic character have largely modified the spirit of the
Mediterranean civilisation; but the tools, the instruments, the
processes themselves, are all legacies from a different race. Englishmen
did not invent letters, money, metallurgy, glass, architecture, and
science; they received them all ready-made, from Italy and the Ægean, or
more remotely still from the Euphrates and the Nile. Nor is it necessary
to add that in religion we have no debt to the Anglo-Saxon, our existing
creed being entirely derived through Rome from the Semitic race.

In _institutions_, once more, the Anglo-Saxon has contributed almost
everything. Our political government, our limited monarchy, our
parliament, our shires, our hundreds, our townships, are considered by
the dominant school of historians to be all Anglo-Saxon in origin. Our
jury is derived from an Anglo-Saxon custom; our nobility and officials
are representatives of Anglo-Saxon earls and reeves. The Teuton, when he
settled in Britain, brought with him the Teutonic organisation in its
entirety. He established it throughout the whole territory which he
occupied or conquered. As the West Saxon over-lordship grew to be the
English kingdom, and as the English kingdom gradually annexed or
coalesced with the Welsh and Cornish principalities, the Scotch and
Irish kingdoms,–the Teutonic system spread over the whole of Britain.
It underwent some little modification at the hands of the Normans, and
more still at those of the Angevins; but, on the whole, it is still a
wide yet natural development of the old Germanic constitution.

Thus, to sum up in a single sentence, the Anglo-Saxons have contributed
about one-half the blood of Britain, or rather less; but they have
contributed the whole framework of the language, and the whole social
and political organisation; while, on the other hand, they have
contributed hardly any of the civilisation, and none of the religion. We
are now a mixed race, almost equally Celtic and Teutonic by descent; we
speak a purely Teutonic language, with a large admixture of Latin roots
in its vocabulary; we live under Teutonic institutions; we enjoy the
fruits of a Græco-Roman civilisation; and we possess a Christian
Church, handed down to us directly through Roman sources from a Hebrew
original. To the extent so indicated, and to that extent only, we may
still be justly styled an Anglo-Saxon people.


Ælfheah of Canterbury, 168

Ælfred the West Saxon, 136;
  his life, 139;
  his death, 140;
  his writings, 216

Ælle of Sussex, 24, 30

Æsc the Jute, 29

Æthelbald of Mercia, 117

Æthelberht of Kent, 85

Æthelberht of Wessex, 129

Æthelflæd of Mercia, 142

Æthelfrith of Northumbria, 53, 62

Æthelred of Wessex, 130

Æthelred the Unready, 164

Æthelstan of Wessex, 144

Æthelwulf of Wessex, 124

Aidan of Lindisfarne, 95

Akerman, Mr., on survival of Celts, 59

Anderida, 30, 41

Anglo-Saxons, 8;
  their religion, 16;
  language, 174

Architecture, 155

Aryans, 1

Augustine, St., of Canterbury, arrives in England, 85;
  colloquy with Welsh bishops, 93

Bæda, 61;
  his life, 109;
  his writings, 213, and _passim_

Bamborough built, 34;
  princes of, 134, 144

Bayeux, Saxon settlement at, 22

Benedict Biscop, 109

Beowulf, 185, 206, and _passim_

Bercta, queen of Kentmen, 85

Bernicia settled, 34;
  coalesces with Deira, 35

Boulogne, Saxon settlement at, 22

Brunanburh, battle of, 145
  ballad on, 204, 218

Burhred of Mercia, 131

Cadwalla, 92, 94

Cædmon the poet, 103;
  his epic, 209

Cerdic the Briton, 31, 67

Cerdic the West Saxon, 24, 31

Chester, battle of, 58

Chronicle, English, 63;
  its origin and nature, 216;
  quoted, _passim_

Clans, 8, 43;
  meanings of their names, 80;
  occurrence in different shires, 81

Cnut, 169

Coifi the priest, 89

Count of the Saxon Shore, 22

Cuthberht of Lindisfarne, 97

Cuthwine of Wessex, 51

Cuthwulf of Wessex, 50

Cynewulf the poet, 214

Cynewulf of Wessex, 119

Danish invasions, 123 _et seq._

Dawkins, Prof. Boyd, 2

Deira settled, 34

Deorham, battle of, 51

Dunstan, 147

Eadgar of Wessex, 147

Eadmund of East Anglia, 130

Eadward (the Elder), 141

Eadward (the Confessor), 170

Eadwine of Northumbria, 63;
  converted, 88

East Anglia colonised, 36;
  conquered by Danes, 130

Ecgberht of Wessex, 120

Elmet, 35;
  conquered by English, 67

English (or Anglians), 5;
  their language, _see_ Anglo-Saxons

English Chronicle, _see_ Chronicle, English

Essex colonised, 36

Felix converts East Anglia, 96

Freeman, Dr. E.A., 57, 64, 65, 69, and _passim_

Frisians, 5;
  as slave merchants, 75;
  ships, 123;
  employed by Ælfred, 139

Germanic race, 4

Gewissas, 37

Gildas, 28, 47;
  his book, 60

Gregory the Great sends mission to England, 85

Grimm's Law, 175

Guthrum the Dane, 137

Gyrwas, 49

Hæsten the pirate, 138, 141

Harold, 170

Hastings, battle of, 171

Heathendom, 16, 71

Hengest, 28

Horsa, 28

Huxley, Prof., on English Ethnography, 5

Hyring, king of Bernicia, 33

Ida of Northumbria, 25, 32;
  his pedigree, 46

Iona, 93

Jutes, 5;
  settle in Kent, 23, 28;
  in the Isle of Wight, 24, 37;
  in Northumbria, 32

Kemble, on British in towns, 65;
  on Celtic personal names in England, 66

Kent, settled by Jutes, 23, 28;
  converted, 85

Lincolnshire colonised, 35;
  converted, 91

Lindisfarne, 95

Loidis, 35

London, 37, 158

Lothian, originally English, 35;
  unconquered by Danes, 135;
  granted to king of Scots, 149

Low Germans, 5;
  their language, 176

Marriage in heathen times, 74, 81

Meonwaras, 37

Mercia colonised, 49;
  its rise under Penda, 92;
  its supremacy, 117;
  conquered by Wessex, 122;
  by the Danes, 131

Monasteries, 102

Nennius, 32, 67

Nithard, 9

Northumbria settled, 32;
  converted, 88;
  conquered by Danes, 130

Notitia Imperii, 22

Offa of Mercia, 117;
  his dyke, 118

Oswald of Northumbria, 94

Oswiu of Northumbria, 95

Palgrave, Sir F., 66

Paulinus, 88

Penda of Mercia, 91, 94

Phillips, Prof., on Celtic blood in Yorkshire, 57

Port, mythical hero, 31

Rolleston, Prof., on Anglo-Saxon barrows, 25;
  on survival of Celts, 59

Ruim, old name of Thanet, 23

Runes, 97

Salisbury conquered by English, 50

Saxons, 5;
  English, so called by Celtic races, 21;
  settle in Sussex, 24;
  in Essex, 36;
  in Wessex, 37

Saxons, Old, 7;
  their constitution, 9

Ships of bronze age, 19;
  of iron age, 20;
  king Ælfred's, 139

Stubbs, Rev. Canon, 120, and _passim_

Sussex settled, 24, 29

Swegen, 165

Taylor, Rev. Isaac, on Hundreds, 68

Teutonic race, 4

Thanet, 23

Theodore of Canterbury, 107

Thunor, 16;
  his worship, 77

Towns, 157

Totemism, 79

Vortigern, 28

Wessex settled, 24, 31

Whitby, synod of, 97;
  abbey at, 103

Wight, settled by Jutes, 23

Wihtgar, 31

Wilfrith of York, 97, 105, 108

Winchester, 37, 158

Winwidfield, 96

Woden, 16, 46;
  his worship, 76


       *       *       *       *       *


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