Elaine Treharne

title.none: Irvine, ed., Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Elaine Treharne)

identifier.other: baj9928.0508.010 05.08.10

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Elaine Treharne, University of Leicester,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2005

identifier.citation: Irvine, Susan, ed. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition: Volume 7 MS. E. Series: Anglo-Saxon Chronicle vol. 7. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2004. Pp. clxxvii, 174. 110.00 0-85991-494-1. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 05.08.10

Irvine, Susan, ed. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Collaborative Edition: Volume 7 MS. E. Series: Anglo-Saxon Chronicle vol. 7. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2004. Pp. clxxvii, 174. 110.00 0-85991-494-1. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Elaine Treharne
University of Leicester

Susan Irvine's edition of the English text in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. 636 brings to a textual conclusion, some twenty years after its inception, the ambitious project to publish all of the manuscript witnesses to the complex Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. D. S. Brewer has championed this series, as they champion so much important medieval scholarship, and they are to be congratulated on another fine production. It remains for the General Editors of the series to produce the glossary or translation, and other additional volumes, which will see the series completed and thence at its most useful and usable.

Following the general principle of the series, Irvine provides a semi-diplomatic edition of the Peterborough Chronicle, which is the latest extant manuscript and the version that extends furthest chronologically, up to AD 1154. Irvine, adhering to the series' policy, does not provide a translation, and the regret she expresses will be widely echoed. She hopes that scholars will employ one of the available translations in parallel with her edition, and for many readers of the volume it will be essential. Given Irvine's expertise in issues of textual editing, demonstrated recently in Bruce Mitchell and Irvine's 'Beowulf' Repunctuated, she also comments in her editorial statement on her concerns about supplying modern punctuation within the Old English text, which she reluctantly, but expertly, employs to comply with the series' conventions (clxvii). Within the edition itself, the apparatus contains only scribal emendations or comments on the mise-en-page, the page otherwise providing a clear text. The Peterborough Interpolations are presented in a smaller font to distinguish them, which gives them an appropriate visual impact. Three Indices, of Personal Names, People Names and Place Names, follow.

As one might expect from an editor of Irvine's experience and expertise, her lengthy and meticulous introduction contributes substantially to previous discussions of this manuscript. It is surely one of the most intellectually, culturally, and linguistically significant codices to survive from the earlier medieval period, and one can derive a sense of this importance particularly from the discussion of the Chronicle in relation to Latin historiographies of the period, which predominate after 1100. I should have welcomed a more explicit sense of the manuscript's place in literary history and English intellectual culture in the post-Conquest period, but in many ways, some of this is implicit throughout the Introduction, which extends to 177 pages with the Bibliography. Indeed, Irvine states her aim as being to "encourage and facilitate study on this particular version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle [and to] allow the complexity of its interrelationships with the other versions of the Chronicle and other historical works to be more fully recognized" (vii). These latter aims are met by the Introduction. A very considerable amount of interest is incorporated into these pages, from the history of the manuscript, including its use by Archbishop Parker's circle of scholars, to a brief description of the key palaeographical characteristics of the two hands. There are numerous significant conclusions, which will repay careful study. Irvine's style is unassuming, when, at every turn, she is raising issues of fundamental consequence.

The manuscript relationships of the Chronicle texts are examined in great detail in sections dealing with annals up to 890, from 892-981, 983-1043, 1043-1063, 1064-1080, and post-1080. It is impossible to summarize all of the points raised in the untangling of these complex relationships. Irvine illustrates, for example, that the E version represents the northern recension of the Chronicle most accurately in its annals up to 890, and that other Chronicle compilers, such as that of the F version, also drew on the same archetype as E in the eleventh century. These findings are confirmed by comparison of the annals up to 1058 when F ends. The Latin annals in E and F also demonstrate unequivocally the shared textual history of these two versions (lxxxviii-xc). Close relationships exist between the E version and D, particularly in the later annals in the eleventh century, where the evidence suggests a shared source at some point in the transmission of the text. In the course of this thorough analysis, Irvine also brings to bear upon the discussion the Latin chronicles that evince the use of the same source materials, such as The Waverly Annals, which are closely related to the E version of the Chronicle, Henry of Huntingdon's Historia Anglorum, which is an abbreviated account of the Chronicle's annals, the chronicle of John of Worcester, and William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum Anglorum. It is by evaluating these Latin texts alongside E, especially once the E version becomes the only extensive vernacular survivor of the Chronicle after 1080, that Irvine is able to demonstrate that "the archetype of E on which the Peterborough scribe drew existed as a single exemplar...extending to 1121," (lxxxv) originally created at a centre other than Peterborough (lxxxviii).

In relation to the Peterborough origin of the E version, Irvine discusses the Interpolations made by the first scribe, perhaps translating his sources as he wrote. These passages have close links with other Peterborough manuscripts and diplomatic materials, some of which are forgeries. Of most significance, of course, is the Chronicle by Hugh Candidus, written in the third quarter of the twelfth century, and with which the E version's Interpolations and Continuations share a number of annals and pieces of local information about Peterborough. Irvine offers an annal-by-annal comparison, but allows the reader to interpret the implications and consequences of the authors' manipulations of this textual material. At the end of this section on the text's and its relationships, some kind of overall summary of conclusions might have been helpful.

In her impressive analysis of the language of the two scribes, Irvine provides a comprehensive catalogue of the forms used throughout the E version. A minor quibble here would be the adherence to conventional labels about the periodization of language that simply serves to ease categorisation for scholars, when the situation is clearly much more complex. For example, at page cv, Irvine notes that "The Old English spelling cg is sporadically found as the Middle English gg" in the writing of Scribe 1. However, one might wonder what can be deduced from this: that is, is Scribe 1 manifesting "Middle English" orthographic forms anomalously, precociously? Or, does this show a generalized adherence to fossilized Old English forms? Do these terms "Old" and "Middle" or, indeed, "transitional" refer to something meaningful in this period? In relation to the interchange of d, ð and t, too, Irvine comments that "the use of d for ð occurs sporadically throughout this scribe's copying" (cxxvii), and notes (at n91), citing Jordan's Handbook of Middle English Grammar, that this represents an "early Middle English" sound change. This is true enough in some respects, but this particular consonantal interchange is widely evinced in manuscripts from the late tenth century onwards, none of which could suitably be labelled "early Middle English." Still, contesting labels is all very well; more notable here is that Irvine provides one of the most important and accurate descriptions of the features of English in this period, making available a very wide range of critical linguistic data for further scholarly analysis.

Of particular significance are the inferences that can be drawn from the distinctions between text that is written contemporaneously and that which is copied. These distinctions emerge from scrutinising the orthography, phonology and morphology fastidiously supplied for the second scribe and in three categories for the first scribe: i) Entries up to 1121 (excluding the Peterborough Interpolations); ii) Interpolations; iii) First Continuation. The first scribe appears prone to hypercorrection and conservatism in his copying and writing, but at times, the "transitional nature of the scribe's language" (cxviii) is evident, as in his occasional spelling of West Saxon long æ as e, for example, or in the falling together of back and front vowels in unstressed syllables (cxxiv-vi), which indicates a more advanced stage of levelling in his idiolect than in late West Saxon.

In many respects, it is Scribe 2 who offers most to historical linguists tracing the major features of language movement from synthetic to analytic. In the case of this scribe, there is an increase of elements particularly associated with later medieval English, as the advanced falling together of unstressed back and front vowels demonstrate (cxxxvi-vii), or as the presence of Norse forms, such as oc rather than ac (cxxxi) suggests. As Scribe 1's forms show greater evidence of late forms in the Continuations, so these are reinforced by Scribe 2's traits, which are exemplified to a far greater extent. These forms include the loss of the dative case, the loss of historical gender, the lack of inflection in adjectival forms, the increasing use of the plural -es, and the frequent use of þe for the definite article in all circumstances. Syntactically, Irvine's findings are confined to the annals up to 1080 in comparison with other versions of the Chronicle. Among the notable aspects of the work of the E Chronicler is the possible evidence for the emergence of auxiliary "do," modality in the form "magan + infinitive," the use of a plural verb with a collective noun, and the use of "of + genitive," reinforcing the possessive. Finally, in relation to lexis, which is arguably one of the most interesting areas of linguistic activity in the twelfth century, Irvine has identified only a few differences in the annals shared between E and the other versions. Of these, it should be noted, a number are very common lexical replacements in later copies of Old English materials seen in a diverse range of twelfth-century manuscripts.

Irvine's examination of the language, then, provides a template for the subsequent scrutiny of individual scribes' copying and composition in this period. How the language of these scribes reflects wider linguistic evolution in the twelfth century remains to be seen. It would be important too, to investigate those aspects of a scribe's own language that infiltrate the text during the copying process. One could cite here, for example, the approaches illustrated by Jeremy Smith in his 1996 book An Historical Study of English: Function, Form and Change or by Roy Liuzza in his work on the Old English Gospels. Neither of these works is cited in the Bibliography. Other relevant studies not included would be D. G. Scragg's work on spelling, Andreas Fischer's work on twelfth-century lexis, and the various discussions (by Hogg, Lass, Lutz, for example) on the end of Old English and the beginning of Middle English, which usually cite the E version of the Chronicle as a major turning point in linguistic history.

In sum, Irvine's holistic discussion of Laud 636 is impressive, and it is likely that it will become the principal edition of E for some decades to come. This will be especially the case once the series is complete. It must be a desideratum that translations or a glossary linking the various individual editions be published as soon as possible to turn this excellent, but specialised, set of works into something rather more user-friendly. As for Irvine's contribution, the volume will, without doubt, inspire further research, particularly as the tools for textual comparison, source analysis and linguistic scrutiny are now available so readily and reliably. Irvine's scholarship, always so modestly presented, is meticulous, erudite and accessible, and the volume a major contribution to literary and textual studies.