Craig Davis

title.none: Keynes and Smyth, eds., Anglo-Saxons (Craig Davis)

identifier.other: baj9928.0709.007 07.09.07

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Craig Davis, Smith College,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Keynes, Simon and Alfred P. Smith. Anglo-Saxons: Studies presented to Cyril Roy Hart. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006. Pp. 317. $85.00 1-85182-932-6. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.09.07

Keynes, Simon and Alfred P. Smith. Anglo-Saxons: Studies presented to Cyril Roy Hart. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006. Pp. 317. $85.00 1-85182-932-6. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Craig Davis
Smith College

This volume opens with a warm tribute to Roy Hart, a retired medical doctor who is also a leading Anglo-Saxon historian in his studies of early charters, survey of The Danelaw (1992), and most recent work on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and role of Byrhtferth of Ramsey (fl. c. 986-c. 1016) "in re-editing--not to say re-inventing-- the Anglo-Saxon past" (12). The editors include the honorand's bibliography from 1947, with an index of names, places and texts mentioned in the seventeen studies offered to him. These are diverse in topic, but of very high scholarly quality, so that together they comprise a distinctive set of new insights into many aspects of Anglo- Saxon and early Norman England.

In "From Augustine to Parker: The Changing Face of the First Archbishop of Canterbury," Richard and Fiona Gameson describe the image of St. Augustine of Kent as it was established by Bede in the eighth century and revised by subsequent writers up to Matthew Parker (1504-75). The authors argue that Bede's criticism of the first missionary to the Anglo-Saxons in 597, especially the stress upon his haughty treatment of the Christian British clerics, was motivated in part by Bede's desire to promote Pope Gregory as the true apostle of the English. However, the Old English translator of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica at the turn of the tenth century sought to assert a more independent role for Augustine in establishing Christianity in England. Almost 700 years later, Elizabeth I's Protestant archbishop returns to Bede's critique of Augustine in order to confirm the anti- papal posture of his Church, making "the saint personify (as he saw it) the worst excesses of Roman Catholicism" (37).

In advance of her new edition and translation of this extract from the Old English Orosius (2007), Janet Bately considers "The Language of Ohthere's Report to King Alfred: Some Problems and Some Puzzles for Historians and Linguists." She details the difficulty of translating accurately into Modern English key terms in this Norwegian traveler's personal communication to Alfred of Wessex (d. 899). These problem words are (1) "either of Norse origin, or used in a sense recorded in surviving Norse, but not Old English, texts" (41); or (2) those for which a number of competing meanings in Old English are available. In this latter category, for instance, Bately is unsure whether the term port is Ohthere's own or that of an Old English translator, and whether it is intended to indicate a port, harbor, market-place, trading center, emporium, or town.

Paul E. Szarmach examines "The 'Poetic Turn of Mind' of the Translator of the OE Bede," giving an ironic twist to this evaluation of the vernacular writer's sensibility offered by Greenfield and Calder (1986) in defining the translator's particular approach to the poetry in Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica. Szarmach finds that Bede's translator quietly skips passages of verse wherever he can, especially the internally echoing or serpentine elegiacs of the Hymn to AEtheldreda with their alphabetic and acrostic schemes. Since traditional Old English poetry could only offer a "one-size-fits-all" alliterative long line to capture these and other prosodic effects, the translator discreetly stuck to lesser challenges, like his close but "prosaic" summary of Gregory's Epitaph. To this extent, the translator's "poetic turn of mind' turns out to be a "turn and run," "discretion [being] the better part of poetic valor" (66).

Janet L. Nelson sees the Welsh bishop Asser as singularly well placed to observe the role of "The Queen in Ninth-Century Wessex." The force of queenly status was to restrict the field of succession to the queen's own sons, rather than leaving it open laterally to the king's other male relatives or aethelings. The West Saxons resisted queenship for this reason, but in 856 Judith was consecrated AEthelwulf's queen of the West Saxons in Francia to secure a political alliance. Her queenly rank was maintained after her husband's death, much to the outrage of clerics, by subsequent marriage to her own step-son AEthelbald. Wulfthryth, a second ninth-century West Saxon queen, became a focus of support for the (failed) claims of her sons in the 870s. King Alfred more cannily kept his options open and his wife Eahlswith in a subordinate position: "Not until the tenth century was an Anglo-Saxon queen consecrated in England" (77).

Harold Fox sets out to explain "Fragmented Manors and the Customs of the Anglo-Saxons" in Devonshire. He traces ownership of detached tracts of land in Dartmoor by lower-lying estates in South Devon to the practice of transhumance in the Anglo-Saxon period, when animals were driven to common pasturage in the uplands from May through October. Public access to these grazing lands was customary, but portions came to be reserved for the seasonal dwellings of the livestock-tenders from particular lowland manors.

Susan Kelly describes "Lyminge Minster and its Early Charters," which are preserved in the archive at Christ Church, Canterbury, the earliest dating from c. 700. Lyminge was one of the first monasteries for women in Kent, putatively established in the 630s by AEthelburh, widow of Edwin of Northumbria, daughter of the first Christian Anglo- Saxon king AEthelberht I and his Frankish queen Bertha. Kelly suggests the house may have been endowed as a burial-church for AEthelburh on the site of a former Roman villa that had become a Kentish royal vill. She then postulates its re-founding after the great plague of 664 in association with St. Eadburh, who was later venerated there. The monastery survived independently until the ninth century when it became part of the archiepiscopal estate of Canterbury under the threat of viking attacks along the coast of Kent.

Emma Mason asks whether we should consider "Wulfstan of Worcester [1008-95]: Patriarch of the English?" Her answer is "yes." He rose to that stature during a long career that spanned the Norman Conquest as the only Anglo-Saxon bishop to be retained by William I. In these anxious times, Wulfstan became a protective father figure to the monks and secular clerics of Worcester cathedral priory, securing their temporal fortunes with cunning management of his church's estates and insisting on "a high standard of Benedictine observance" (117). Mason gives him much credit for the very survival of monastic cathedrals in England, threatened by French clerics who knew only secular chapters. As his pastoral duties increased, Wulfstan also became a leader among his wealthy secular peers, resolving disputes, establishing religious houses, dedicating churches. And finally, he was honored by posterity as a sage authority who had looked after his people well.

Audrey L. Meaney considers the role of the older Wulfstan, archbishop of York (d. 1023), in compiling the late "Old English Legal and Penitential Penalties for 'Heathenism.'" The proscribed practices range from "devotion to countryside shrines centred on a natural object such as a spring, a stone or a tree, to black magic which could kill, to other magic practices to make the heart grow fonder, or to cure the sick or to ward off illness, to attempts to know the future. The means employed for magic included performing incantations, using powerful herbs, and manipulating children for their own good [e.g., putting them on the roof to cure a fever]" (157). Meaney adds, however, that the proscription of these activities in the law codes and penitentials need not imply that they were still prevalent in late Anglo-Saxon England.

After surveying coinage finds from the areas that had been occupied by Danish vikings in the latter half of the ninth century, D. M. Metcalf describes the open system of "Monetary Circulation in the Danelaw, 973-1083," concluding that there "were continuous inflows and outflows of silver across the frontier and also overseas" (183) to Scandinavia and the near Continent during the century after the coinage was reformed by King Eadgar. Nonetheless, Metcalf challenges the presumption that the vikings themselves had revolutionized an earlier economy in this region driven primarily by gift exchange with a new one based upon the use of silver currency. Copious finds from pre-874 Northumbria and pre-870 East Anglia belie this view, so that it remains an open question as to when and how far the Danelaw moved to a monetized system during its first century from c. 870 to c. 973.

In "Sokemen and Freemen: Tenure, Status and Landscape Conservatism in Eleventh-Century Cambridgeshire," Susan Oosthuizen attributes "the persistence of both prehistoric field boundaries, and huge greens and commons in the medieval open fields of the Bourn Valley" (186) to the presence of a large class of free farmers, called sochmanni "sokemen" in Domesday Book of 1086. These sokemen occupied independent freeholdings on "warland," perhaps over half the arable of the valley, along with access to common pasturage "in whose products the whole community was entitled to share and over which the whole group, rather than individuals, had rights" (195). In return these free farmers owed their lord service in the fyrd "militia", repair work on bridges and fortifications, riding with the king or carrying for him, and geld or taxes based on an assessment by hides, notionally the amount of land required for the sustenance of a single family and its dependents.

In "Chronicle D, 1067 and Women: Gendering Conquest in Eleventh- Century England" Pauline Stafford analyzes the way the momentous political change of 1066 is symbolized in an entry of the Anglo- Saxon Chronicle, which is quite unique in its reference to a large number of royal females. Edgar, scion of the displaced dynasty, leaves England with his mother Agatha and two sisters Margaret and Christina. Gytha, the slain king Harold's mother, also leaves with "the wives of many good men" (quoted 208). In the other direction, Mathilda, wife of William I, arrives to be consecrated queen by the English archbishop Ealdred of York. Stafford suggests that this account may have been composed in Ealdred's own household, using the movement of female victims and non-combatants to invest the "passing of the old order and the coming of the new" (213) with special poignancy and permanence.

Peter Sawyer traces "English Influence on the Development of the Norwegian Kingdom" in the tenth and eleventh centuries. In addition to contacts between missionaries, merchants and emissaries, a number of Norwegian kings spent time in England, so that in "the eleventh century, when Harald Hard-Ruler and his successors had the challenging task of making their rule effective throughout a huge and expanding territory, the governmental techniques of the English, who faced similar problems in the tenth century, if on a smaller scale, provided models that the Norwegians eagerly adopted or adapted" (229). These techniques included minting and control of coinage, collection of tolls, regulation of harbors and markets, routine taxation, law- writing and legislation, extension of the "king's peace" to include offenses against the whole community, vernacular charters, systematic maintenance of a navy, and use of local magnates as agents of royal authority.

Before c. 1000 "Anglo-Saxon England was the only early medieval culture that had a medical literature in its own tongue" (230), notes Debby Banham in "A Millennium in Medicine? New Medical Texts and Ideas in England in the Eleventh Century." The recipes in these Old English collections call for two or three native British or easily obtainable western Mediterranean herbs, with a vehicle such as water, beer or lard, and a few notes on blood-letting and prognosis. The new Latin recipes are more complex, sometimes prescribing exotic vehicles like mastic or petroleum. Measurements, too, become more specific-- scruples, drams, ounces--rather than spoonfuls or an eggshell. The new texts also include treatises on diagnosis and physiology according to the theory of four bodily fluids or humors and use Greek-derived names for diseases. Several texts are attributed to Galen, "one of them apparently genuine" (234).

In "Reading the Bayeux Tapestry through Canterbury Eyes," Gale R. Owen-Crocker confirms that the embroidery was probably designed at St. Augustine's, Canterbury, since it reveals familiarity with many surviving manuscripts "which belonged in the eleventh century to Canterbury libraries" (244). The most important is the Old English Illustrated Hexateuch, which like other relevant manuscripts displays active male figures in groups in secular northwestern European clothing with "stylized hunching of the shoulder and expressive gestures" (246). Owen-Crocker then compares particular images and suggests that the designer of the main register of the Tapestry consciously adduced the biblical texts illustrated by his models in order to offer an implicit commentary on the action, in particular "to suggest guilt and wrong kingship" on the part of the slain Harold, but also "decadence and tyranny in [King] William and his brothers" (265).

Susan Edgington discusses "The Entrepreneurial Activities of Herbert Losinga, Abbot of Ramsey (1087-91) and First Bishop of Norwich," whose early career in the East Anglian see (1091-1119) was clouded by simony. In his prior position as abbot of Ramsey, Bishop Herbert had successfully promoted on monastery land a major fair in association with the cult of St. Ivo, whereby he generated the considerable funds necessary to purchase his episcopacy from King William Rufus. After his elevation, Bishop Herbert then moved his see from Thetford to the more promising commercial center of Norwich. There, in similar fashion but with less success, he attempted to appropriate the lucrative cult of St. Edmund from the rival Bury Abbey by promoting a three-day fair in the market town of Hoxne under his own jurisdiction at the newly invented site of that king's martyrdom.

Ann Williams invites us to "Meet the Antecessores: Lords and Land in Eleventh-Century Suffolk," by examining the way this term for prior English holders of land granted to new Norman owners is used in Domesday Book. The implication is that the new owner of a fief will possess all of his predecessor's rights and dues from estates spread over one or more shires. But many such fiefs were newly created in more compact units from smaller parts so that very minor landowners were called antecessores as a "legal fiction" (280) to imply the preexistence of a post-Conquest fief. The king's administrators contrived this fictive inheritance to imply a "continuation" of the traditional obligations owed the king by large landowners, as well as to obviate claims to parts of the new fief by its pre-Conquest owners or their heirs.

David Cozens details "The Demise of Ramsey Abbey" in the sixteenth century, which at the time of the Domesday Survey four and a half centuries before "had been the fourth wealthiest monastery in England" (288). It was still quite rich at the time of the installation of its last abbot in 1507, with "a magnificent library...known to contain a significant amount of Hebrew material" (290). It also was said to contain a charter from King Edgar (d. 975), "most serene emporour of the Angles" (quoted 291), exempting the abbey from the power of all bishops, including that of Rome. Ramsey was formally surrendered to the Crown in 1539, its monk pensioned off, its lands and buildings sold, with the stone and other materials of the church and priory so thoroughly dismantled that their locations are today unknown.