« PreviousContinue »
gratification to observe, that so much of the attention of the public continues to be directed to the transactions, remains, and language of their Anglo-Saxon ancestors, and that so many able men still apply themselves to illustrate this truly national subject by various and valuable publications. It was one of his earnest wishes that men of talent and industry should be induced to do so, that what he could not but leave imperfect on several points, might be completed by subsequent research. This has been creditable to themselves, and just to our forefathers; and will now rescue our most important antiquities from future oblivion.
THE Anglo-Saxons were deficient in the surprising improvements which their present descendants have attained; but unless they had acquired and exercised the valuable qualities, both moral and intellectual, which they progressively advanced to before their dynasty ceased, England would not have become that distinguished nation which, after the Norman graft on its original Saxon stock, it has since been gradually led to be.
Cottage, Winchmore Hill,
July 4. 1836.
THE THIRD EDITION.
THE first edition of this work was published, in successive parts, between the years 1799 and 1805. When the first volume appeared, the subject of the Anglo-Saxon antiquities had been nearly forgotten by the British public; although a large part of what we most love and venerate in our customs, laws, and institutions, originated among our Anglo-Saxon ancestors. A few scholars in a former century had cultivated the study, and left grammars, dictionaries, and catalogues for our use; but their labours had been little heeded, and no one had added to the information which they had communicated. The Anglo-Saxon MSS. lay still unexamined, and neither their contents nor the important facts which the ancient writers and records of other nations had preserved of the transactions and fortunes of our ancestors had been ever made
a part of our general history. The Quida, or death-song, of Ragnar Lodbrog first led the present author to perceive the deficiency, and excited his wish to supply it. A series of careful researches into every original document that he had
the opportunity of examining was immediately begun, and steadily pursued, till all that was most worth preserving was collected from the AngloSaxon MSS. and other ancient books. The valuable information thus obtained the author endeavoured to give to the public, in a readable form in this work, of which two-thirds have not appeared in English history before. His favourite desire
has been fulfilled — a taste for the history and remains of our Great Ancestors has revived, and is visibly increasing.
MANY writers have since followed in the same path. Their publications have spread the useful taste, and contributed to obtain for our venerable forefathers the attention of their enlightened posterity. To gratify more fully this patriotic curiosity, some additional portions of original matter, from the Anglo-Saxon remains, have been inserted in the present edition. The most important of these consist of the following additions:
ON reading our Alfred's Anglo-Saxon translation of Boetius, the author observed passages which were not in the original. Struck with this curious fact, he compared the king's work carefully with the Latin of Boetius, and found that Alfred had frequently taken occasion to insert his own thoughts and reasonings in various parts, forming so many little essays, dialogues, and imitated tales, of our venerable sovereign's own composition. Some of the most important of these have been selected and translated, and inserted in the second volume of the present edition.
SINCE the author called the attention of the public, in 1805, to the neglected, and indeed unknown Saxon heroic poem on Beowulf, Dr.
Thorkelin has printed it at Copenhagen in 1815. This valuable publication has assisted, the author in giving a fuller analysis of this curious composition in the third volume.
On the composition of the Anglo-Saxon parliament, or witena-gemot, many have desired more satisfactory information than the author had incorporated in the preceding editions. He has inserted, in the present, all the facts that he found, which seemed to have an actual relation to this interesting subject, and has added such remarks as they have suggested to a mind, wishing to be correct and impartial.
THE author has added a statement of the great principles of the Anglo-Saxon Constitution and laws, as far as an attentive consideration of our most ancient documents has enabled him to discriminate them.
He has been long since requested to give some detail of the Anglo-Saxon population. The Conqueror's Record of Domesday afforded good materials for this subject. It has been examined, with this object in view; and the reader will find, in the third volume, an enumeration of the different classes and numbers of people whom it records to have been living in England about the time of the Norman conquest.
SOME pains have been taken to make the work, in its other parts, as improved and as complete as a careful diligence could secure, and at the same time to comprise the whole within the compass of three octavo volumes. This object has been attained without the sacrifice of any material information, although, to accomplish it, some parts have been necessarily printed in a smaller type, and
other as appendices. But the convenience to the public of compressing this history into three volumes seemed to outbalance the disadvantage of a partial alteration of the printed letter. As it now stands, it presents the reader with the History of England from the earliest known period to the time of the Norman conquest.
It would have been desirable, for the gratification of the curious student, that the original Anglo-Saxon of the various passages that are cited and given in English should have been added; but this would have extended the work into a fourth volume, and have made it more expensive than the author desired. The public may rely on his assurance, that he has endeavoured to make the translations literally faithful, in order that the style, as well as the sense, of the Anglo-Saxon writer may be perceived.
LONDON, March, 1820.