Book 2, Chapter 5, 878 AD to 901 AD – Summary of Alfred’s Character
During the frequent wars and other trammels of this life, the invasions of the pagans, and his own daily infirmities of body, Alfred continued to carry on the government, to teach his workers in gold and artificers of all kinds, his falconers, hawkers, and dog keepers, to build houses majestic and good, by new mechanical inventions, to recite Saxon books, and especially to learn by heart Saxon poems, and to make others learn them. He never desisted from studying most diligently, he attended mass and other daily services of religion, and he was frequently at psalm singing and prayer, at the hours both of day and night. He bestowed alms and largesses on both natives and foreigners of all countries, he was affable and pleasant to all and curiously eager to investigate things unknown. Whenever he had leisure, he commanded books to be read to him, to increase his knowledge.
Alfred died at the age of fifty two, and his life was literally a life of disease. The ficus molested him severely in his childhood, but after distressing him for many years, this malady disappeared, to be replaced at the age of twenty by another of the most tormenting nature. It attacked him before all the people, suddenly, with immense pain, during, and probably caused by the protracted banquets of his nuptial festivities, and it never left him. Its seat was internal and invisible, but its agony was incessant. Such was the dreadful anguish it perpetually produced, that if for one short hour it happened to intermit, the dread and horror of its inevitable return poisoned the little interval of ease.
The skill of his Saxon physicians was unable to detect its nature, or to alleviate its pain. Alfred had to endure it unrelieved. It is not among the least admirable circumstances of this extraordinary man, that he withstood the fiercest hostilities that ever distressed a nation, cultivated, literature, discharged his public duties, and executed all his schemes for the improvement of his people, amid a perpetual agony so distressing, that it would have disabled a common man from the least exertion, but he bore up bravely and uncomplainingly, and his work only terminated with his life. That life was not long, measured merely by years, for he died on the 28th of October, 901, being but fifty two years old, yet, measured by labour and by results, it was a long and a worthy life, and one richly meriting all the space invariably devoted to it by historians.
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Fortifications
Chapter 5, Revolt in the Danelagh
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Educational Efforts
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Industry and Zeal
Chapter 5, Saxon Laws
Chapter 5, Summary of Alfred’s Character
The king’s Illness and Death
Categories: Book 2