Bruce R. O'Brien

title.none: Cubbin, ed., The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 6 (O'Brien)

identifier.other: baj9928.9902.007 99.02.07

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Bruce R. O'Brien, Mary Washington College,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1999

identifier.citation: Cubbin, G. P., ed. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, Vol. 6 MS D. Rochester: B oydell & Brewer Inc., 1996. Pp. clxi, 123. $63.00. ISBN: 0-859-91467-4.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 99.02.07

Cubbin, G. P., ed. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition, Vol. 6 MS D. Rochester: B oydell & Brewer Inc., 1996. Pp. clxi, 123. $63.00. ISBN: 0-859-91467-4.

Reviewed by:

Bruce R. O'Brien
Mary Washington College

Th e English in the Middle Ages were well served by both Latin historians and vernacular chroniclers. Not only was a grand chronicle compiled in English at the court of Alfred near the end of the ninth century, but scribes and writers in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries felt free to tinker with their manuscript copies of this venerable product, adjusting older entries, introducing new material, and conflating the original with additional sources. This Alfredian chronicle, conventionally given the singular title of "the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," is really a complex and interrelated group of chronicles, now witnessed by seven manuscript copies and two fragments. Each of these witnesses is known conventionally by its own capital letter. The edition by G. P. Cubbin under review, part of the ambitious collaborative reediting of all Chronicle witnesses and sources, presents the D version (henceforth D), found in the late eleventh-century British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius B. iv, fols. 3-86. D is important for a number of reasons. It was one of the four versions that the magisterial Charles Plummer recognized as "distinct Chronicles" (Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel [1892-99], 2:xxiii). As such D provides unique evidence for English history before 1130, the date of its last entry. It stands as evidence for an English revival of interest in history that slightly preceded the Norman Conquest and the great revival of Latin historiography attributed to it. For Cubbin and indeed for the editors of certain other witnesses (C, British Library, Cotton MS Tiberius B. i, and E, Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Laud Misc. 636), D contains evidence needed to disentangle the various strands of Chronicle material in order to describe the relationship of the witnesses (and consequently allows the identification of original and derivative evidence within each).

The plan of the collaborative edition means that Cubbin has only addressed the last aspect cited above, since the big picture will only be presented in an analytical volume once all the individual texts have been edited. Given these bounds, Cubbin has provided a satisfactory textual and linguistic introduction and a new text of D. Cubbin proves himself a cautious and skeptical editor, accepting that "an accumulation of evidence is needed in order to make a case" (lx) in everything from D's relationship with its sources and hyparchetype to its dialectal proclivities and place of composition. His text is closer to the manuscript, as is appropriate for a semi-diplomatic edition, and so is a more trustworthy guide than the most recent edition, done in 1926, by E. Classen and F. E. Harmer. Not that Classen and Harmer's edition was flawed; rather, it was directed at a different audience (students of Old English prose) and so its editors worried less about textual complexities and more about accessibility. Where Classen and Harmer entirely omit blank annals (where the number of the year is followed by no entry), Cubbin prints the years in a single column, mimicking the manuscript. Where Classen and Harmer for continuity include (with warning) the replacement section covering the years 262-692/3 provided by Joscelyn in the sixteenth century, Cubbin (as had Dorothy Whitelock, et al., The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle [1961]) omits them. Sections traditionally identified as verse and printed in Classen and Harmer as such, appear as continuous text in Cubbin, reflecting the manuscript layout as well as, in certain cases, Cubbin's judgment. Marginalia are more amply cited in Cubbin's notes.

The text he produces is, of course, fairly close to Classen and Harmer's, and points of disagreement are almost always marked by notes. Cubbin has emended rarely, and generally has good company in B. Thorpe, Plummer, and Classen and Harmer. Some emendations require greater justification, or rather, explanation: the insertion of 60 B.C. at what may be D's first annal (p. 1), and ferde instead of fyrde inserted in the annal for 823, responding it appears more to the fierde "written above the line in an indeterminate hand" than to the scribe's usual form (see, e.g., annals for 827 and 828). The reasons for doing what Cubbin has done may be good, but these emendations do need to be justified in greater detail.

If the relationships of the manuscripts can be visualized as a snared ball of twine, then Cubbin's introduction is a repository of hundreds of comments on the individual knots creating it. There is too much here to do more than note some of the high points. Cubbin's explanation of the textual relationships between the witnesses has a number of surprises. For example, Cubbin's charting of the relationship between D, C, and E after 1016 is nuanced and careful, and shows remarkably that influence moved in both directions, from the hyparchetypes of C and E (symbolized by /C and /E) to D (as had been the case to 1016), but also in the other direction (lxxv). The evidence for this, as Cubbin admits, is subjective, but intriguing. I am not sure I would trust myself to identify the level of imagination in a series of related annals as a way of distinguishing which were copied from which, but Cubbin makes a sensible case for the derivation of some material in C and E from D using just such a method. Cubbin's identification of D as derived in its core from /E has allowed him to eliminate many of the bits of evidence used by past editors to identify the home of the author (lviii). His careful reading of what remains has helped him sort goats from sheep in his search for the home of the author more conclusively than had Whitelock. Cubbin, for example, notes that the evidence of the text itself argues that the "northern parts" in the entry for 1052 refers to Mercia, not York as Whitelock suspected (lxiii). Cubbin's scribes are branded for what they were: fickle friends of their exemplar, freely altering forms as they saw fit. This of course vitiates some (but not all) of the linguistic evidence for place of composition (e.g., xcviii and cxviii). Lastly, Cubbin has given us a name for the compiler. Others have been offered, but none so supported by the evidence as Aldred, bishop of Worcester (1046-62) and York (1061-69). Particularly telling here are the fluctuating interests of the eleventh- century entries (summarized on lxxxi-lxxxiii) between Worcester and York. Cubbin amasses a fairly substantial file of evidence to suggest Aldred as the instigator (lxxix), and provides persuasive reasons to dismiss alternatives: Whitelock's York (alone) or Plummer's Ripon. The list of surprises could be extended, for Cubbin provides copious discussion of textual relations, place of composition, and language in an introduction running to 145 pages (excluding bibliography).

This praise does not mean that all of this information is easily found or extracted from the introduction. Cubbin's work is not easily accessible -- less so, in fact, than Janet Bately's introduction to MS A and Simon Taylor's to MS B in this same collaborative edition. The structure of Cubbin's introduction is fractured, with the level of subtitling extending to the fourth degree. Section value and size in no way correspond to significance. Some of this format is simply a product of the custom of this collaborative edition, and some is a reflection of contemporary editing practices with Old English texts. Nevertheless, Cubbin might have kept his readers in mind before splitting his analysis in so many small compartments. He also expects readers to have Plummer's edition on hand: his discussion of Evesham and Scandinavian interests in annals from the 1040s (lxix-lxx) struck me as sensible only as a commentary on Plummer, whose views on these matters are not fully explained by Cubbin. He should recognize that without Plummer the value of some of his comments is lost. At times, he does not follow through with the implications of his insights in places where caution no longer appears needed. For instance, Cubbin argues convincingly that Scribe 3, responsible for the annals from 1016 to 1051, followed his own lead in linguistic forms and not his exemplar, and that this scribe and Scribe 15 (whom Ker thought was perhaps the same scribe as 3) diverge in many places on shared forms; yet Cubbin is unwilling to conclude that they cannot be the same person, no matter how close their handwriting (cxxxviii).

More annoying are numerous inconsistencies in the introduction, or between introduction and text. In his description of Tiberius B. iv, Cubbin presents Ker's collation, though his own description of "gatherings" drops Ker's singleton ("8 one [f. 67]") and may confuse readers who find Cubbin's eighth gathering as including fols. 59-66. It might have been better for Cubbin to have given his own collation and then cited agreement with Ker's. Cubbin's identification of the changeover from hand to hand in the introduction differs in a number of small ways from that found in his annotation to the text. While in the introduction Scribe 5 takes over from his predecessor "at the top of 74r" with the word metsod (xii), the notes to this point say that "the fifth hand starts here [with metsod] or a few words later" (71). Similar differences appear regarding the division between the eighth and ninth hands, between the fourteenth and fifteenth hands, and on the very existence of the sixteenth hand (xiv-xv). The explanation for the misdating of D's last annal, 1130 but 1080 in the manuscripts, based on the similarity of L and C in Roman numerals, gives the L "a generous cross-bar at the top" in the introduction (xv), but only "a thin top-stroke" in a note to the text (89). These differing labels for whatever is to be found at the top of L's vertical stroke do not contradict one another, but do fall short of the consistency wanted in an edition. There is also some sloppiness in Cubbin's discussion of the verse sections of the Chronicle, specifically for the entry for 959 (in praise of Edgar). Cubbin prints this, appropriately, as continuous prose and notes that "there is nothing in the MS to indicate verse in this annal" (45). In his introduction, he leaves it a possibility that it is verse and adds "in the style of Wulfstan," here quoting Whitelock in such a way that it implies she thought it a verse passage. Whitelock, however, only identifies it as alliterative prose, and prints her translation as continuous prose (unlike the editions of Plummer and Classen and Harmer). On the more well- known poem on the Battle of Brunanburh, included as the entry for 937, Whitelock says it "is entirely in alliterative verse" ( Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 69 n. 4). Cubbin generously includes the traditional line numbers, though notes, as with the previous example, that "there is nothing in the MS to indicate verse in this annal" (43). That the text as edited should not reflect later critics reformatting of the words to make the passage "look" like a poem is exactly what is to be expected in a semi-diplomatic edition. Nevertheless, the issue of verse versus prose should not have been dealt with in such a brief fashion.

Lastly, the prose is often in need of pruning and recasting, which suggests to me that this introduction could have benefited from one more revision and tighter proof reading. For instance, the exact meaning of some statements eludes me (e.g., the sentence beginning with "The emerging D took . . ." on p. xxix). Footnotes are not always to texts readily identifiable in the bibliography (see p. xxvi n. 11; p. cxxxv n. 31). One note (cxlviii n. 54) has migrated to the next page. Typos are few -- I found only two: cxlviii ("is, however, is") and 79 n. 1. Overall, however, the prose of the introduction does not serve well the editor's many important insights.

The text provided by this edition will endure and provide the raw material needed by historians and linguists. If the introduction retains a less secure grasp on our affections, it is clearly more a matter of style and some issues that, while bothersome, do not diminish excessively the value of the edition as a whole.