Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

moving from it every thing that did not immediately belong to the explanations, it became necessary either to reject many curious and not altogether useless facts, or to embody them in a separate department. The latter course has been pursued.

The Kalendars, it is presumed, will be found of considerable service. They are six in number, of which two are incorporated in one, but the others are distinct. They range from the middle of the tenth century to the end of the fourteenth, and may, therefore, be supposed to contain all the information which can be expected from works of their description. Of one, of which the original is believed to have been the property of King Æthelstan, it must be confessed that it contains much matter that is not likely to prove remarkably useful, and it has been presented more as a literary curiosity than as an assistant in chronology. The obits of another have been retained, so far as they could be read by the transcriber; because it is possible that one or other of them may determine the date of some particular fact. For instance, we know from the Saxon Chronicles that the battle of Malden was fought in the year 993, and we ascertain what is not mentioned by our historians, from the obit of Byrhtnoth, that it took place on the eleventh of August.

The tables interspersed through the Glossary, and the Perpetual Lunar Kalendar, will furnish the means of verifying dates.

[ocr errors]

DATES, CHARTERS, AND CUSTOMS

OF THE

MIDDLE AGES,

&c. &c.

BOOK I.

ON CHARTERS AND DATES.

Confusion in medieval chronology-Number and obscurity

of terms productive of error-General chronology— The name Chartæ used among the Anglo-SaxonsAncient English chartersCharter of Ethelbert I, the most ancient-Achronical charters--Forged charter of King Edgar-Ancient conveyances without writingsReasons for the omission of dates in charters-Law of datesForgeries of the Saxon monks-Prevalence of the French language after the Conquest-English not wholly neglectedSaxon proclamation in the 13th century-Earliest instruments in English-Signature of the cross before and after the reign of Edward the ConfessorManner of recording the names of witnesses--Anathema and benediction in Saxon charters; adopted by some of the Anglo-Normans-Maledictions in the manumissions of Saxon serfs— Brevia Testata Use of sealsDates, omitted in some and repeated in other Saxon chartersRedundancy of dates-- Annunciations of the end of the world in charters-Dates from historical occurrencesIrregularities as to time and place; of no legal importance-Dates, studiously neglected by the omission of parts

B

-Extraordinary use of the Roman computation by kalends, fc.--Necessity of inquiries with respect to the authors and witnesses of charters-Recent forgery of a charter of Henry II to the town of Liverpool-Diplomatic doctrine of datesGeneral and particular rulesCircumstances to be noticed in English charters.

BOOK

I.

THEORETICAL writers on historical composition have established the maxim, that they who relate the events of ages anterior to their own, deserve credit so far only as they acquaint us with the sources, from which they derive their information.* These historical authorities resolve themselves into two classes of corroborative testimony, public acts and monuments, and private writers.

Among the former are medals, inscriptions, charters, diplomas, statutes, and, in short, all instruments of a national character; in the latter class are comprised authors of histories, chronicles, annals, memoirs, and letters, who are either contemporary, or remote from the events, which they relate, and whose credibility is necessarily proportionate to their presence or distance. Hence the verification of facts requires the institution of a comparison between the record and the monuments of the age described, between the narration and its reasoning, and the documents on which the assertions and inferences depend. He that would verify the accounts of the historian, or that would compare public records and authors of the same period together, will often find himself perplexed by the irregularity and obscurity which embarrass the chronology of the middle ages. The statesman, the churchman, and the historian, in speaking of the same time, employ very different language; and, indeed, it rarely happens that two contemporary writers agree in adopting the

* “ Des historiens qui racontent les événemens des siècles antérieurs au temps où ils ont vécu, ne méritent proprement de foi qu'autant qu'ils font connoître les sources où ils ont puisse.”—P. GREFFET, Traité des différentes sortes de Preuves qui servent à établir la Verité de l'Histoire.

BOOK

I.

same chronological terms. If the indications of the time be not understood, it is evident, that the order of events will be liable to be deranged, that anachronisms will arise, that things will be confounded with persons, and that the effect will often be mistaken for the cause, the cause for the effect.*

Gibbon, the historian, remarks on the chronology of Irregular English history, that it may be considered as a neglected English department. Events, narrated by our ancient writers, are History, frequently put, with a variation of one, two, or more years. This often depends merely upon the different modes they followed in calculating the commencement of the year. Some began it in the month of March, and antedated events near a year: thus the year 1000 with them begins 25th March, 999. Others began the year in March, and yet retarded it three months, reckoning, for example, the space of the year 1000 preceding 25th March, as belonging to the year 999. Others began the year 25th December. Others at Easter, and varied its commencement as Easter varied. Some who compute from 1st January, still reckon one or two more years

from Christ's birth than we do.”+ In different copies of the Saxon Chronicle the same events are frequently assigned to different dates ;thus occasioning a diversity by which our historians have been much perplexed. If in one and the same Chronicle the same year is found to be dated from divers epochs, no little uncertainty may be expected from a comparison of divers chronicles with each other; all these variations will occur, and charters will not

• M. Koch, Tableau des Revolutions de l'Europe, Tom. I., p.

27. + Miscell. Works, Vol. III., p. 610.

# The Oxford Copy, commonly called Laud's MS., assigns for example, a series of important events to the year MXLVI; the Cotton MS. (Domit. A. VIII.) places the same events in the year MXLVIII; and the Worcester MS. (Tiberius B. IV.) ascribes them to the year ML. Different commencements of the year are found in each of the eight ancient copies of this interesting monument of our infant language.

BOOK

I.

be found exempt from the same obscurity.* Gervase of Canterbury, early in the thirteenth century, lamented the confusion, which had been introduced into history by the diversity of computation, prevalent in his time, when chronicles were multiplied almost to infinity, and when authors assumed the liberty of reckoning the current year according to their own peculiar notions or local customs.+ Some began the year at the Annunciation ; some at the Nativity; others at the Circumcision; and many commenced it at the Passion. In addition to this source of perplexity, was the Cycle of the Indiction, which was extended three years before the vulgar era, and which took its course in different places, from different periods of the year. I This annalist had formed a design of regulating his own chronology by the Annunciation, but, abandoning that intention lest he should falsify dates, he acquiesced in the practice of his predecessors, who, for the most part, he says, began the new year with the Nativity.S

The difficulties of determining, with precision, the chronological indications of our ancestors are, by no means diminished, by the extravagant number of names which they

conferred upon one and the same day and week, and which Dates from were derived partly from local events and customs, and local cus, partly from religious ceremonies and offices, as well as from 1 ceremonies the kalendar of the church, itself overteeming with festivals.

Memory, however prodigious its strength, refuses to retain them; and terms, once familiar in the mouth of the rustic, are now enigmas in the study of the learned. || Lawyers

occasion error.

[ocr errors]

* L'Art de vérifier les Dates, Tom. I., p. 17, Ed. Paris, 1818.
+ See Gloss. Art. Years of Christ; Braggot Sunday; Woodmunday, ge.

# See Gloss. Art. Cycle and Julian Period. Gervase very properly inquires, “How can both computations be true, when one begins the years of the incarnation at the opening, and the other at the end, of the solar year ?" The difference was seven days.

See Mr. Ingram on Anglo-Saxon Chronology, Introduction to Saxon Chronicle, p. xv.

|| Dr. Samuel Pegge, whose profound erudition entitles him to be treated with the highest respect, endeavouring to explain the word Brandon, as an

« ZurückWeiter »