Paul Antony Hayward

title.none: Roberts, et al., eds., Alfred the Wise (Hayward)

identifier.other: baj9928.9711.003 97.11.03

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Paul Antony Hayward, Jesus College, Oxford,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1997

identifier.citation: Roberts, Jane, Janet L. Nelson, and Malcolm Godden, eds. Alfred the Wise: Studies in Honour of Janet Bately on the Occasion of Her Sixty-Fifth Birthday. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1997. Pp. xxii, 277. $89.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-859-91515-8.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 97.11.03

Roberts, Jane, Janet L. Nelson, and Malcolm Godden, eds. Alfred the Wise: Studies in Honour of Janet Bately on the Occasion of Her Sixty-Fifth Birthday. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1997. Pp. xxii, 277. $89.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-859-91515-8.

Reviewed by:

Paul Antony Hayward
Jesus College, Oxford

This festschrift, dedicated to Janet Bately, holder of the distinguished Sir Israel Gollancz Chair of English at King's College, London, comprises twenty mainly brief but penetrating papers. All are in the style of the master, asking searching questions about the significance of palaeographical, linguistic and textual minutiae. Most are concerned with texts and historical sources associated with the court of King Alfred the Great, the subject that has been the focus of Professor Bately's research to date.

Simon Keynes explores the significance of the two sets of Anglo-Saxon entries in the Liber Vitae of San Salvatore in Brescia, a nunnery associated with the Carolingian royal family. They attest the passage of West-Saxon and Mercian royal pilgrims to Rome in the 850s and 870s respectively, and the first may well demonstrate that the infant Alfred did undertake two visits to Rome--once in 853 to be confirmed by Pope Leo IV (847-55) and then again in the company of his father, King Æthelwulf, in 855-6. Janet Nelson reconsiders the theory that the Letter of Fulk, archbishop of Rheims, to Alfred was fabricated at Winchester, retracting her earlier position, asserting its authenticity and interpreting it as a willing response to a carefully crafted appeal on Alfred's part. The letter emerges as important evidence of the centrality of the Carolingian model for the makers of the West-Saxon polity. Eric Stanley brings out the importance of oath-keeping in Alfred's conception of law and justice, with particular reference to the significance of the Old English (OE) word-pair ath and wedd, 'oath' and 'pledge'. Malcolm Godden explains the marginal position of Wærferth's rendering of Gregory's Dialogi in the Alfredian canon by pointing to its author's failure both to translate the original properly and to adapt its philosophy for its West-Saxon audience as Alfred had done with Boethius and Augustine. The manuscript tradition reveals a trail of abortive attempts to repair its errors, and Godden speculates that Wærferth may have left Alfred feeling distinctly unimpressed.

Alfred Smyth discusses the total solar eclipse of 878 and Asser's account of it: modern astronomy finds that the eclipse would have been seen over Britain prior to Nones, Asser states that it happened 'between Nones and Vespers but nearer to Nones'. This article deserves serious consideration, even though it is doubtful whether the minor error made by Asser helps, as Smyth would suggest, to demonstrate that his Life of Alfred is a late tenth- century forgery--no matter what significance W. H. Stevenson and Dorothy Whitelock may have attached to Asser's being right. (This is surely an acceptable mistake in a work of praise written some fifteen years after the event with only the inadequate account in the Chronicle as a written source.) Smyth usefully draws attention to important technical considerations involved in correlating medieval reports of eclipses of the sun with the predictions of modern astronomy.

Other contributors address themselves to the cultural history of the ninth century. Barbara Raw examines the contents of the Nunnaminster Prayerbook (London, British Library, MS Harley 2965) as a record of the ideas about God which were current at Winchester in the ninth century. Jane Roberts explores the Old English martyrologist's sense of the geography of Western Europe, bringing out the centrality of Rome in his world view and usefully providing an index to many different places and peoples named in his work. Ann Knock analyses the translation strategy at work in OE Wonders of the East, a work produced during or soon after Alfred's reign, arguing that the intention was to improve the original as a work of science. Allen Frantzen examines references to Sodom and Gomorrah in the translation of Gregory's Cura Pastoralis, in Wærferth's translation of Gregory's Dialogi, and in the translation of Orosius's Historia adversum Paganos for the attitudes of the Anglo-Saxon Church to homosexuality, identifying a policy of restraint intended to avoid giving people ideas.

Several contributions, as befits a festschrift dedicated to someone who produced an exemplary edition of the Parker manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, address issues raised by that complex document. Bruce Mitchell investigates Malcolm Parkes' suggestion that the Tironian symbol 7, which appears some thirty-six times in the annal for 871 in the Parker manuscript, may sometimes mark the beginning of a new sentence as well as meaning and. Cyril Hart argues that more than one manuscript of the Chronicle was known and used at Ramsey Abbey during the time of Byrhtferth and asks whether more than one of the identifiable recensions may have been revised there. Usefully, he edits anew the 'Ramsey Annals' in Oxford, St. John's College, MS 17. Donald Scragg argues for the moral propriety of King Cynewulf's actions as portrayed in the annal for 755, showing that the phrase on Wifcyththe, which appears uniquely in this text, need not have pejorative connotations.

The significance of particular words is also explored in three more papers. Andrew Breeze argues that the OE word deor 'Brave' derives from the Celtic word of the same meaning dewr, providing a further example of greater intimacy between the two languages than is usually supposed. Roberta Frank traces the accumulation of sinister connotations around the OE loan-word orc 'vessel, cup' in an essay as notable for its flair as for its scholarship. Lynne Grundy, whose recent and premature death saddened many, discusses Ælfric's use of the concept ece 'eternal'.

Three contributions celebrate Janet Bately's enthusiastic support for the Fontes Anglo-Saxonici project with thought-provoking studies in source criticism. The late James Cross and Andrew Hamer explore Ælfric's role in the compilation of the so-called Excerptiones Ecgberhti, a collection of canons associated with Archbishop Wulfstan. Paul Szarmach examines analogues for chapter XXVII.2 of Alfred's Boethius (on the Four Cardinal Virtues) within the tradition of commentaries on Boethius, in Alcuin's De virtutibus et vitiis, and in homilies based upon Alcuin. Szarmach finds the lack of exact parallels at once both frustrating and liberating: the search for a satisfactory 'source' remains inconclusive, yet this permits us to entertain the pleasing idea of Alfred's 'originality'. Joyce Hill shows that Ælfric's Homily on the Holy Innocents is indebted to either Bede or Smaragdus (whose homily for the feast is largely based on that by Bede), leading to some important reflections on the unsuitability of attempting to identify a single source, when medieval homilists operated within a textual culture which offered many routes to identical material.

Two articles, finally, discuss the Tudor contribution to the recovery of the Anglo-Saxon past. Walter Goffart draws attention to the map of the Saxon Heptarchy which appears in William Lambarde's Archaionomia of 1568, the first attempt at a properly cartographic representation of the seven kingdoms and an image of the Anglo-Saxon world which enjoyed an influential after-life. Patrick Wormald re- examines the vexed problem of whether Lambarde used manuscripts of the Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman law codes now-lost when he edited them for Archaionomia. He concludes that at least one lost witness may, as Felix Liebermann suspected, lie behind Lambarde's work, even though, as Kenneth Sisam first suggested, the vast majority of his idiosyncratic readings were introduced through transcripts collated and 'edited' by his friend and teacher Lawrence Nowell.

The editors are to be congratulated for the way in which the volume has been conceived and for the general accuracy of the texts, and the press for the clarity with which the articles are set out. There was perhaps a case for a few more illustrations since the arguments of two articles depend upon visual data not provided here: Knock argues, for example, that the text of the Wonders of the East was emended to accord with the cycle of illuminations that accompanied it, yet one has to consult the facsimile edition to see what she means; and reproductions of Lambarde's Map and at least one or two of its descendants would have proven Goffart's point. But this is a minor quibble. Representative of the range of Professor Bately's interests and of the high standards of technical skill that she has helped in no small measure to instil within the field, this collection is a worthy celebration of her contribution to the present efflorescence of Anglo-Saxon studies. Imitation is great praise indeed.