Book 2, Chapter 5, 878 AD to 901 AD – Alfred’s Educational Efforts
It has been already stated that among the first cares of Alfred was the providing of adequate means of defence against the Danes, and how far these means proved successful has sufficiently appeared. At the same time, the internal prosperity of the country was a matter of deep solicitude with the king, and he was unwearied in his efforts to promote it. One of his most cherished objects was the diffusion of knowledge and the encouragement of useful arts and industry.
It is commonly supposed that he was not able to read until he was twelve years of age, and one of the pleasant traditions connected with his name affirms that the acquirement of the art of reading was stimulated by a promise of an illuminated Saxon poem which his mother gave, offering it to any of her children who could first peruse it. An acquaintance with polite literature was not then deemed a necessary accomplishment, the ability to read and write being confined for the most part to the clergy. The king had drunk somewhat deeply and with avidity at such fountains of knowledge as then flowed, and his naturally inquiring and observant mind was ever wishful to obtain fresh supplies.
Though but a child, his two journeys to Rome must have contributed to the enlargement of his ideas and to the cultivation of his tastes and the welcome presence of learned foreigners at his court in after years, helped to gratify his ardent desires for intellectual improvement. His truly liberal mind prompted him to devise methods for the general education of his people, and that there was great need for this will appear from a quotation from the preface to a translation of Gregory’s Pastoral, which Allied instructed Werfrith, Bishop of Worcester, to make for the use of the clergy. In that preface Alfred says, addressing Werfrith, ” I would have thee know, that it very often comes into my mind what wise men in bygone days existed in England, as well laymen’ as ecclesiastics, and how happy those times were for all the people, how the kings who then governed ruled in obedience to God and his written will , how alike successful in peace and war, they preserved inviolate their domestic polity, and abroad gave tokens of their valour, how in those days they flourished equally in wisdom and prudence. Moreover, those who exercised the spiritual functions of ministers were diligent alike in learning and teaching, in the fulfilment of all the duties which they owed to Almighty God. Men were wont, moreover, formerly to seek wisdom and learning in this “country, but now we must go out of it to obtain knowledge.
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
Categories: Book 2