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from the Latin when he became king. Poli- . myself to his service, and to become tical institutions were in an equal state of companion. He begged me to give unr; disorganization. Spiritual, intellectual, civil preferments beyond the Severn, promises life-everything was to be restored ; and, to bestow on me still richer prefermenis Alfred undertook to restore everything. No their place.” Asser said that he was : man in these days stands alone, or towers in willing to quit, merely for worldly honou:,: unapproachable superiority above his fellows. country in which he had been brought
I Nor can any man now play all the parts. A and ordained. “ At least,” replied the king division of labour has taken place in all." 'give me half your time. Pass six mon, spheres. The time when the missionaries of the year with me and the rest in Wa.es. at once converted and civilized the fore- Asser still hesitated. The king repeated as fathers of European Christendom, when solicitations, and Asser promised to retum Charlemagne or Alfred was the master spirit within half a year ; the time was fixed for his in every thing, has passed away, and with it visit, and on the fourth day of their inte the day of hero-worship, of rational hero-wor- view he left the king and went home. ship, has departed, at least for the European In order to restore civilization, it was neces nations. The more backward races may sary above all things to reform the Chuni. still need, and have reason to venerate, a “I have often thought,” says Alfred, “*** Peter the Great.
wise men there were once among the Era Alfred had to do everything almost with lish people, both clergy and laymen, 25his own hands. He was himself the inven- what blessed times those were when the tor of the candle-clock which measured his people were governed by kings who obero. time, so unspeakably precious, and of the God and his gospels, and how they m.. lantern of transparent horn which pro- tained peace, virtue, and good order at hun, tected the candle-clock against the wind in and even extended them beyond their us? the tent, or the quarters scarcely more im- country; how they prospered in batte 25 pervious to the weather than a tent, which in well as in wisdom, and how zealous this those times sheltered the head of wandering clergy were in teaching and learning, and royalty. Far and wide he sought for men, all their sacred duties; and how peopie Cat like a bee in quest of honey, to condense hither from foreign countries to seek for a some-what prolix trope of his bio-struction, whereas now, when we desire it, *** grapher. An embassy of bishops, priests, can only obtain it from abroad.” It is cle: and religious laymen, with great gifts, was that the King, unlike the literary devotes sent to the Archbishop of Rheims, within of Scandinavian paganism, looked up whose diocese the famous Grimbald resided, Christianity as the root of the greatness and to persuade him to allow Grimbald to come even of the military force, of the nation to England, and with difficulty the ambas- In order to restore the Church, again, :: sadors prevailed, Alfred promising to treat was necessary above all things to resound.
toGrimbald with distinguished honour during monasteries, which afterwards--society in the rest of his life. It is touching to see ing become settled, religion being estallisreek. what a price the king set upon a good and and the Church herself having acquired ... able man. “ I was called " says Asser, wealth--sank into torpor and corruption; “ from the western extremity of Wales. I was which, while the Church was still a missing. led to Sussex, and first saw the king in the ary in a spiritual and material wilderness, royal mansion of Dene. He received me waging a death struggle with heathers with kindness, and amongst other conver- and barbarism, were the almost indisper sation, earnestly besought me to devote sable engines of the holy war. The relcun
dation of monasteries therefore was one of with Rome, and through her with continent. Alfred's first cares; and he did not fail, in al Christendom, which had been interrupted token of his pious gratitude, to build at by the troubles. The Pope, upon Alfred's Athelney a house of God which was far accession, had sent him gifts and a holier than the memorial abbey afterwards piece of the holy cross. Alfred sent embas. built by the Norman conqueror at Battle. sies to the Pope, and made a voluntary The revival of monasticism among the Eng- annual offering, to obtain favourable treatlish, however, was probably no easy task; ment for his subjects at Rome. But, adoptfor their domestic and somewhat material ed child of Rome, and naturally attached to nature never was well suited to monastic | her as the centre of ecclesiastical order and life.
its civilizing influences though he was, and The monastery schools, the germs, as has much as he was surrounded by ecclesiastibeen already said, of our modern universities cal friends and ministers, we trace in him and colleges, were the King's main organs no ultramontanism, no servile submission in restoring education. But he had also a to priests. The English Church, so far as school in his palace for the children of the we can see, remains national, and the Engnobility and the royal household. It was lish King remains its head. not only clerical education that he desired Not only with Latin but with Eastern to promote. His wish was “that all the Christendom, Alfred, if we may trust the freeborn youth of his people, who possessed contemporary Saxon chronicles, opened the means, might persevere in learning so communication. As Charlemagne, in the long as they had no other work to occupy spirit partly perhaps of piety, partly of ambithem, until they could perfectly read the tion, had sent an embassy with proofs of his English scriptures; while such as desired to grandeur to the Caliph of Bagdad, as devote themselves to the service of the Louis XIV., in the spirit of mere ambition, Church might be taught Latin." No doubt delighted to receive an embassy from Siam, the wish was most imperfectly fulfilled, bu, Alfred, in a spirit of pure piety, sent ambasstill it was a noble wish. We are told the sadors to the traditional Church of St. King himself was often present at the in- Thomas in India ; and the ambassadors restruction of the children in the palace turned, we are told, with perfumes and school. A pleasant calm after the storms precious stones as the memorials of their of battle with the Dane.
journey, which were long preserved in the Oxford (Ousen-ford, the ford of the churches. “ This was the first intercourse,” Ouse) was already a royal city; and there remarks Pauli, “ that took place between can be little doubt that, amidst the general England and Hindostan.” restoration of learning under Alfred, a All nations are inclined to ascribe their prischool of some sort would be opened there. mitive institutions to some national founder, This is the only vestige of historical founda- a Lycurgus, a Theseus, or a Romulus. It tion for the academic legend which gave is not necessary now to prove that Alfred rise to the recent celebration. Oxford was did not found trial by jury, or the frankdesolated by the Norman Conquest, and pledge, or that he was not the first who anything that remained of the educational divided the kingdom into shires, hundreds, institutions of Alfred was in all probability or tithings. The part of trial by jury which
has been politically of so much importance, Another measure, indispensable to the its popular character, as opposed to arbicivilizer as well as to the church reformer in trary trial by a royal or imperial officer-that those days, was to restore the intercourse of which the preservation, amidst the gen
eral prevalence of judicial imperialism, has from the barbarous system of weregeld, or been the glory of England-was simply Teu- composition for murder and other crimes as tonic ; so was the frank-pledge, the rude private wrongs, towards a Slate system of machinery for preserving law and order by criminal justice. In totally forbidding mutual responsibility in the days before composition for blood, and asserting that police; so were the hundreds and the tith indefeasible sanctity of human life which is ings, rudimentary institutions marking the the essential basis of civilization, the code transition from the clan to the local com- of Moses stands contrasted with other primunity or canton. The shires probably meval codes. Alfred, in fact, incorporated marked some stage in the consolidation of an unusually large amount of the Mosaic and the Saxon settlements; at all events they Christian elements, which blend with Germanwere ancient divisions which Alfred can have ic customs and the relics of Roman law, in done no more than revise after the anarchy. different proportions, to make up the various
He seems, however, to have introduced a codes of the early middle ages, called the real and momentous innovation by appoint-Laws of the Barbarians. His code opens with ing special judges to administer a more re
the Ten Commandments, followed by exgular justice than that which was administer-tracts from Exodus, containing the Mosaic ed in the local courts of the earls and law respecting the relations between masters bishops, or even in the national assembly. and servants, murder and other crimes, and In this respect he was the imitator, probably the observance of holy days, and the Aposthe unconscious imitator, of Charlemagne, tolic Epistle from Acts xv. 23-29. Then is adand the precursor of Henry II., the insti- ded Matthew vii. 12, “Whatsoever ye would tutor of our Justices in Eyre. The powers
that men should do to you, do ye even so to and functions of the legislature, the execu
them." "By this one Commandment," tive, and the judiciary, lie at first enfolded in says Alfred, “a man shall know whether he the same germ, and are alike exercised does right, and he will then require 19 by the king, or, as in the case of the ancient
other law-book.” This is not the form of republics, by the national assembly. It is a
a modern Act of Parliament, but legislatioa great step when the special office of the in those days was as much preaching as judiciary is separated from the rest. It is a enactment; it often resembled in character great step also when uniformity of justice is the Queen's Proclamation against Vice and introduced. Probably, however, these Immorality. judges, like the itinerant justices of Henry
Alfred's laws unquestionably show a tenII., were administrative as well as judicial dency to enforce loyalty to the king and to officers; or in the terms of our modern polity, enhance the guilt of treason, which, in the they were delegates of the Home Office as
case of an attempt on the king's life, is punwell as of the Central Courts of Law.
ished with death and confiscation, instead! In his laws Alfred, with the sobriety and of the old composition by payment of the caution on which the statesmen of his race royal weregeld. Hence he has been accushave príded themselves, renounces the cha- ed of imperializing and anti-Teutonic tenracter of an innovator, fearing, as he
dencies; he had even the misfortune to be
says, that his innovations might not be accepted fixed upon as a prototype by Oxford advoby those who would come after him. His cates of the absolutism of Charles I. There code, if so inartificial a document can be is no ground for the charge, so far at least dignified with the name, is mainly a com
as Alfred's legislation or any known meapilation from the laws of his Saxon prede-sure of his government is concerned. The
We trace, however, an advance kingly power was the great source of order
and justice amidst that anarchy, the sole ral- with him, and in which the daily lessons, lying point and bond of union for the imper- psalms and prayers, were written, and begged illed nation; to maintain it, and protect me to transcribe that passage into his book.” from violence the life of its holder, was the Asser assented, but found that the book was duty of a patriot law-giver : and as the au- already full, and proposed to the king to thority of a Saxon king depended in great begin another book, which was soon in its measure on his personal character and posi- turn filled with extracts. A portion of the tion, no doubt the personal authority of Al- process of Alfred's education is recorded by fred was exceptionally great. But he con- Asser. “I was honourably received at the tinued to govern by the advice of the royal mansion, and at that time stayed national council; and the fundamental eight months in the king's court. I transprinciples of the Teutonic polity remained lated and read to him whatever books unimpaired by him, and were transmitted he wished which were within our reach; intact to his successors. His writings breathe for it was his custom, day and night, amidst a sense of the responsibilities of rulers and all his afflictions of mind and body, to read a hatred of tyranny. He did not even at- books himself or to have them read to him tempt to carry further the incorporation of by others.” To original composition Alfred the subordinate kingdoms with Wessex ; but did not aspire ; he was content with giving
; ruled Mercia as a separate state by the hand his people a body of translations of what of his brother-in-law, and left it its own na- he deemed the best authors; here again tional council or witan. Considering his showing his royal good sense. In the circumstances, and the chaos from which his selection of his authors, he shows liberality government had emerged, it is wonderful and freedom from Roman, ecclesiastical, imthat he did not centralize more. He was, perialist, or other bias. On the one hand we repeat, a true Teuton, and worthy of his he chooses for the benefit of the clergy place in the Germanic Walhalla.
whom he desired to reform, the “Pastoral The most striking proof of his multifa- Care" of the good Pope, Gregory the Great, rious activity of mind, and of the unlimited the author of the mission which had conextent of the task which his circumstances verted England to Christianity; but on the imposed upon him, as well as of his tho- other hand he chooses the Consolations roughly English character, is his undertak- of Philosophy," the chief work of Boethius, ing to give his people a literature in their the last of the Romans, and the victim of own tongue. To do this he had first to edu- the cruel jealousy of Theodoric, of whom cate himself—to educate himself at an ad- Hallam says: “ Last of the classic writers, vanced age, after a life of fierce distraction, in style not impure, though displaying too
a and with the reorganization of his shattered lavishly that poetic exuberance which had kingdom on his hands. In his boyhood he distinguished the two or three preceding had got by heart Saxon lays, vigorous and centuries; in elevation of sentiment equal to inspiring, but barbarous ; he had learned to any of the philosophers; and, mingling read, but it is thought that he had not learn- a Christian sanctity with their lessons, he ed to write. “As we were one day sitting in speaks frorn his prison in the swan-like the royal chamber," says Asser, “and were tones of dying eloquence. The philosophy conversing as was our wont, it chanced that which consoled him in bonds was soon reI read him a passage out of a certain book. I quired in the sufferings of a cruel death. After he had listened with fixed attention, Quenched in his blood, the lamp he had and expressed great delight, he showed me trimmed with a skilful hand gave no more the little book which he always carried about light; the language of Tully and Virgil soon ceased to be spoken ; and many ages were the political world had not much advanced to pass away before learned diligence re- when, six centuries after Alfred, it arrived at stored its purity, and the union of genius Machiavelli. with imitation taught a few modern writers There is an especial sadness in the tone to surpass in eloquence the Latinity of of some words respecting the estate of Boethius." Bede's Ecclesiastical History of kings, their intrinsic weakness, disguised the English, the highest product of that only by their royal trains, the mutual dread memorable burst of Saxon intellect which that exists between them and those by whom followed the conversion, and a work, though they are surrounded, the drawn sword that not untainted by miracle and legend, most hangs over their heads, “as to me it ever remarkable for its historical qualities as well did.” We seem to catch a glimpse of some as for its mild and liberal Christianity, is trials, and perhaps errors, not recorded by balanced in the king's series of translations Asser or the chroniclers. by the work of Orosius, who wrote of
In his private life Alfred appears to have general and secular history, though with a
been an example of conjugal fidelity and religious object. In the translation of Orɔsius, Alfred has inserted a sketch of the geo asceticism which was revered by the super
manly purity, while we see no traces of the graphy of Germany, and the reports of stition of the age of Edward the Confessor. explorations made by two mariners under his auspices among the natives dwelling on wife, if not up to the standard of modern
His words on the value and the claims of a the coasts of the Baltic and the North Sea;
sentiment, are at least instinct with genuine further proof of the variety of his interests
affection. and the reach of his mind. In his prefaces and in his amplifications
The struggle with the Northmen was not and interpolations of the philosophy of
Their swarms came again in the latBoethius, Alfred comes before us an in- ter part of Alfred's reign, from Germany, dependent author, and shows us something whence they had been repulsed, and from of his own mind on theology, on psychology, France, which they had exhausted by their on government, and generally as to the es ravages. But the King's generalship foiled tate of man. To estimate these passages
them and compelled them to depart. Seeing rightly, we must put ourselves back into the where their strength lay, he built a regular anarchical and illiterate England of the fleet to encounter them on their own eleninth century, and imagine an author, who ment, and he may be called the founder if we could see him, would appear barbarous of the Royal Navy. . and grotesque, as would all his equipments His victory was decisive. The English and surroundings, and one who had spent his monarchy rose from the ground in renewed days in a desperate struggle with wolfish strength, and entered on a fresh lease of Danes, at his literary work in his rude Saxon greatness. A line of able kings followed mansion, with his candle-clock protected by Alfred. His son and successor, Edward, the horn lantern against the wind. The inherited his vigour. His favourite grandutterances of Alfred will then appear alto-son, Athelstan, smote the Dane and the gether worthy of his character and his deeds. Scot together at Brunanburgh, and awoke He always emphasizes and expands passages by his glorious victory the last echoes of which speak either of the responsibilities of Saxon song. Under Edgar the greatness of rulers or of the nothingness of earthly power; the monarchy reached its highest pitch, and and the reflections are pervaded by a pensive it embraced the whole island under its imness which reminds us of Marcus Aurelius. perial ascendancy.
At last its hour came;