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the successive characters of monk, hermit, and president of a new monastery, Athelstan acquired a renown, which eclipsed that of his former dignity, at the same time that it gave no offence to his reigning brethren. He attained to great eminence for those pious qualities which were then most in repute; was revered by his contemporaries of the highest order, and especially by his youngest brother Alfred; was canonised at his death; and has been complimented, by succeeding ages, with signal miraculous endowments, in return for their oblivion of his once elevated sphere of worldly dignity.

The reign of Alfred forms, in our judgement, the most interesting epoch in our whole national history. Whatever was intimately connected with him, if insignificant in itself, acquires a relative importance, like the habitation and appurtenances of some great and good man deceased. It appears to us, therefore, at all events, to be worth the pains which Mr. W. has taken, to ascertain the real nature and degree of that affinity which is universally acknowledged to have subsisted between Alfred and St. Neot. The interest which a biographical work may reasonably be expected to excite, depends however more on what was done by the person of whom it treats, than on the question, who he was: and if we have dwelt longer, in proportion to the extent of Mr. W.'s discussion, on the latter inquiry, than we may do on that of the former, it is only because on this point he has afforded us less satisfaction.

The centuries, both preceding and following the age of St. Neot, abounded with ecclesiastics, who have attained to no small eminence in historical or legendary records, either as benefactors or as disturbers of mankind. Some of our contemporaries would doubtless assign to the latter class those pious, zealous, and learned monks of Iona, who, after the example of their founder Colum, diffused the knowledge of the gospel in Britain and many parts of Europe, greatly to the annoyance of the Pagan religion,' We however are so fanatical, as to estimate their labours higher even than those of the venerable Bede, whose compositions exhibit a measure of learning and of exertion that is truly astonishing at so dark a period. Succeeding priests acquired equal renown with any of the former, but of a very different kind, as successful candidates for political authority. With none of these, did St. Neot enter the lists of competition. His prudence, and probably his piety, deterred him from setting an example of turbulence to the Dunstans and the Beckets of the next following centuries: and neither the activity of his zeal, nor the extent of his learning, qualified

him to tread in the steps of a Colum, or a Bede. There was however another line of usefulness, of no slight importance to mankind, open to ecclesiastics at that time much more than at present, in consequence of the veneration which was then paid to them, by the higher, as well as by the lower ranks, of our countrymen. They had the most favourable opportunities of administering advice and admonition to those, who of all men most need, yet seldomest receive, such salutary communications-we mean the sovereigns of states. In the exercise of this privilege and duty, which even then must have required a high degree of affectionate fortitude, St. Neot, if we may credit his early biographers as well as our oldest historians, was by no means deficient. They concur in assuring us, that he severely reproved the great Alfred, for improprieties which dishonoured the early part of his reign; and several of them moreover assert, that he excited that prince to lay the foundation of an university at Oxford. But of these substantial honours, Mr. W. has laboured to deprive him, as zealously as he has endeavoured to re-assert for him the more showy dignities of royal birth and of sovereign power.

Indeed the volume before us may be considered as a specimen of a new kind of writings, which should be called negative biography; and we shall not be surprised if it becomes fashionable. It will afford ample scope for ingenuity, and endless occupation of paper, to write anew the lives of celebrated personages, merely to prove that they never performed any of the actions which have commonly been attributed to them. This is completely exemplified in the present instance. If the author had, agreeably to the sensible advice of his publisher, prefixed to his various sections some indication of their contents, they must have run in this course:-Chap. 3. Sect. 1. St. Neot's reproofs of Alfred, refuted.-Sect. 2. His recommendation to him to found a school at Oxford, ditto.-Sect. 3. His building the churchin Cornwall, ditto. Chap. 4. Sect. 2. Alfred's seclusion in Athelney, ditto.-Sect. 3. The removal of St. Neot's remains to Huntingdonshire, ditto.

Our readers, we presume, will readily excuse us from entering into the detail of all these negative discussions. Their time, and ours, would be ill employed in the fabrication of historic doubts, or working our weary way against the powerful current of authentic records. It may suffice to remark, that in none of these investigations has the author, in our opinion, established his positions; and, frequently, the leaps which he has made to his conclusions have reminded us, that

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trifles light as air

Are, to the zealous, confirmations strong
As proofs of holy writ.

We can better agree with him in his endeavours to account, in a natural way, for facts, which he supposes to have been clothed by the later biographers of St. Neot with a supernatural garb. These form the principal subject of the first

section of his work.

We shall not attempt to decide the long pending controversy between our two universities, concerning their comparative antiquity, which is affected by the opposition of our author (though an Oxonian) to the idea that Alfred established a seminary at Oxford; but we think it necessary to remark, that some of his arguments are evidently untenable. As such, we regard one, on which he lays very considerable stress; that Oxford was not within the limits of the West Saxon kingdom. We doubt the fact, as Oxford_originally belonged to that kingdom, and therefore, when Egbert reduced Mercia to subjection, was most likely to be reunited to its former government. But supposing it to have remained, nominally, within the limits of Mercia, that kingdom having been reduced in Alfred's time to a mere province, he might as well establish a seminary there, as within the West Saxon boundary. We think it particularly curious, that our author should have cited, in support of his argument, a passage of Malmesbury, which asserts that Alfred's successor" constituted two bishops; for the South Saxons, Berney; and for the Mercians, Cenulph, at the city of Dorchester, in the county of Oxford," p. 176: as if the same authority which constituted a bishop over the Mercians, 'could not found a school among them! But he adds, from Henry of Huntingdon, that the same king" seized London and Oxford, and all the land belonging to the province of Mercia." This proves that Mercia was, previously, but a province of Edward's kingdom, under a separate, but subordinate government: and that its being in that condition, in Alfred's time, did not prevent him from exerting himself for the prosperity of its principal cities, is evident; for Asser informs us, that London, (one of those here named) was rebuilt by Alfred, after it had been depopulated by slaughter, and destroyed by conflagration.*

The first section of Mr. W.'s fourth chapter relates to a

* An. 886. Ælfred Angulsaxonum rex, post incendia urbium stragesque populorum Londoniam civitatem honorificè restauravit, et habitabilem fecit: quam genero suo Ætheredo Merciorum comiti commendavit servandam. Camdeni Anglica, &c. Frankf, 1602, f. 15.

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chronicle published by Gale, in his Scriptores XV Historia Britannica, &c. with the title of Chronicon Fani Sancti Neoti, which it bears in a MS. found by Leland in the time of Henry VIII at St. Neot's in Huntingdonshire. Our author clearly demonstrates this to be a performance of Asser, which had been controverted:+ but he makes some strange mistakes respecting it. "I shall distinguish it," says he, "by the title of his Annals;" which unfortunately is the same that Leland used for Asser's treatise De Alfredi rebus gestis, commonly called his life of Alfred-we say unfortu nately, because on no other ground he charges Leland with attributing that to the Annals, which he evidently meant of the Life. Both works might indeed justly be called Annals, being written in the form which is usually designed by the title. Hence also, when Leland, speaking of the Chronicon Fani Neoti, calls it "a book, which has reduced the annals of Asser into an epitome," "So plainly," says Mr. W. "was Leland acquainted with the life, as to know it was merely an epitome of the annals!" Leland, on the contrary, knew, and said, that what our author distinguishes as the annals, is really an epitome of the life. Mr. W. seems to have been deceived by the superior extent of the whole annals, to that of the life; not observing or considering that the, an. nals, which embrace a much greater length of time than the life, comprise all that relates to Alfred within less than half the space which is occupied by Asser's narrative of his life.

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For the ground which there is to believe, that the former part of Alfred's reign exposed him justly to the reproof of his pious elder brother, we must refer our readers to several extracts, on the subject, from Turner's History of the Anglo-Saxons, in our review of that valuable work, (vol. iii. pp. 77—79.) Mr. Turner's authorities, and conclusions, appear to us much too strong, to be subverted by the objections with which Mr. W. has assailed this part of Alfred's history. There is, in-. deed, a seeming inconsistency, between the excellent qualities which Asser ascribes to Alfred from his early youth, and the acknowledgement which he notwithstanding makes, that the signal calamities which befel him were not undeservedly inflicted. We are inclined to attribute the haughtiness and severity, with which Alfred is said to have disgusted his sub-.

↑ His labour to this effect appears to be wholly disinterested; for the very account of Alfred's degraded condition, which he asserts to have been interpolated in Asser's Life of Alfred, is verbatim the same in the Chronicon Neoti, which he maintains to be a genuine composition of Asser's.

jects, to his consciousness of a vast superiority of attainments, and his indignation against the barbarous ignorance and stupi dity which then so generally prevailed over all classes among them. If this, as is probable, was particularly directed against the Saxon Clergy, on whom it was most incumbent to acquaint themselves with useful learning, we may impute some share of the severity of St. Neot's reproofs to his clerical partialities, without derogating from the honour that is due to his fidelity and fortitude. The asperity of his admo nitions might, perhaps, tend to diminish their immediate utility; but they appear to have been recollected by Alfred with the most salutary effect, when his heart was humbled, and softened, by adversity and retirement.

Mr. W. however, denies that retirement to have been so solitary and defenceless, as it has been represented, generally, by our historians. The trifling variations, which occur among the earliest writers on the subject, seem to us rather to confirm than to invalidate their testimony; as it may reasonably be inferred, that their information was derived from witnesses who were not in compact. It is of little consequence, whether Denevulf, (the peasant who harboured Alfred, and was afterwards raised by him to the episcopal order) was originally a swine-herd, or a cow-herd. He might be both; for, although Athelney, in its former, as well as in its present state, seems to have been better adapted to the pasture of cows than of hogs, we are not aware that the latter animals betray any aversion to water and mud. To avoid sticking fast in the subject, we shall quit the reputed isle of Athelney, after remarking that our author's description of it implies him to have touched at it, when passing, by the straight road, from Taunton to Glastonbury. Of the ruins at the last mentioned place, he introduces a particular description, when treating of St. Neot's retirement there; as he does, more opportunely, of the church in Cornwall, which is denominated after the saint, when speaking of his residence on that spot. For the lat ter account, which will peculiarly gratify the antiquarian reader, Mr. W. acknowledges his obligations to a worthy clergyman of the vicinity, whose work on Latin Grammar we had the pleasure to recommend in our third volume, p. 633.*

Our author supposed all that remains of the royal saint to be still contained in a hole, formed for the purpose, in a wall of the Cornish church. This is only a small quantity of mould; whereas the Huntingdonshire church exhibited a set of bones, as having belonged to St. Neot. We cannot therefore but regard the claim of the latter, as the more

* Festuca Grammatica, by the Rev. Richard Lyne, of Liskeard.

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