Book 2, Chapter 4, 857 AD to 878 AD – Alfred the Great
As the story of his public life is also to a large extent the story of the national life of that time, it will be well to enter somewhat fully into particulars, and to introduce the hero even before his actual elevation to the throne, for he rendered signal services to his country while occupying a subordinate position under his brother Ethelred. Fortunately, we possess a narrative written by a contemporary, and one whom Alfred honoured with his confidence and friendship, and in the life of Alfred, by Asser, is contained most of the particulars, from which subsequent biographers and historians have drawn.
Doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of this narrative by one or two modern writers, whose character and attainments entitle their opinions to much respect, but, so far, the weight of evidence seems decidedly to remain on the side of the older and general opinion, that Asser’s memoir of his master and friend is a fair and trustworthy recital. Doubt has also been cast upon some of the most popularly received and cherished events of Alfred’s life, which the spirit of recent criticism summarily dismisses as fables, in this respect going, as human nature is apt to do, from one extreme to another, and rejecting as impossible all that to modern standards appears improbable. This, however, is not always wise or fair.
As Washington Irving well remarks, “There is a certain meddlesome spirit, which, in the garb of learned research, goes prying about the mazes of History, casting down its monuments, and marring and mutilating its fairest trophies.” While fully subscribing to this, it is needful to remark that some of Asser’s statements are to be received with caution. He wrote during the lifetime of Alfred, for whom he avowedly, and deservedly, entertained the highest veneration, and though in the main to be trusted, he seems, at times, to exaggerate the Excellencies and to conceal the defects of his king and patron, a fault in which he has numberless associates among the vast array of biographers. It will be desirable to quote Asser somewhat freely, continuing the thread of the history from the point now reached, and reserving many interesting particulars of the monarch until the time is arrived at which he was firmly established in the kingdom.
Chapter 4, Reign of Ethelbald
Chapter 4, Destruction of Croyland Abbey
Chapter 4, Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great
Chapter 4, Fresh Troubles with the Danes
Chapter 4, Treaty between him and Guthrun
Categories: Book 2