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Early Britain - Anglo-Saxon Britain
Preface
by Allen, Grant (B.A.)


This little book is an attempt to give a brief sketch of Britain under the early English conquerors, rather from the social than from the political point of view. For that purpose not much has been said about the doings of kings and statesmen; but attention has been mainly directed towards the less obvious evidence afforded us by existing monuments as to the life and mode of thought of the people themselves. The principal object throughout has been to estimate the importance of those elements in modern British life which are chiefly due to purely English or Low-Dutch influences.

The original authorities most largely consulted have been, first and above all, the "English Chronicle," and to an almost equal extent, Bæda's "Ecclesiastical History." These have been supplemented, where necessary, by Florence of Worcester and the other Latin writers of later date. I have not thought it needful, however, to repeat any of the gossiping stories from William of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntingdon, and their compeers, which make up the bulk of our early history as told in most modern books. Still less have I paid any attention to the romances of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Gildas, Nennius, and the other Welsh tracts have been sparingly employed, and always with a reference by name. Asser has been used with caution, where his information seems to be really contemporary. I have also derived some occasional hints from the old British bards, from Beowulf, from the laws, and from the charters in the "Codex Diplomaticus." These written documents have been helped out by some personal study of the actual early English relics preserved in various museums, and by the indirect evidence of local nomenclature.

Among modern books, I owe my acknowledgments in the first and highest degree to Dr. E.A. Freeman, from whose great and just authority, however, I have occasionally ventured to differ in some minor matters. Next, my acknowledgments are due to Canon Stubbs, to Mr. Kemble, and to Mr. J.R. Green. Dr. Guest's valuable papers in the Transactions of the Archæological Institute have supplied many useful suggestions. To Lappenberg and Sir Francis Palgrave I am also indebted for various details. Professor Rolleston's contributions to "Archæologia," as well as his Appendix to Canon Greenwell's "British Barrows," have been consulted for anthropological and antiquarian points; on which also Professor Huxley and Mr. Akerman have published useful papers. Professor Boyd Dawkins's work on "Early Man in Britain," as well as the writings of Worsaae and Steenstrup have helped in elucidating the condition of the English at the date of the Conquest. Nor must I forget the aid derived from Mr. Isaac Taylor's "Words and Places," from Professor Henry Morley's "English Literature," and from Messrs. Haddan and Stubbs' "Councils." To Mr. Gomme, Mr. E.B. Tylor, Mr. Sweet, Mr. James Collier, Dr. H. Leo, and perhaps others, I am under various obligations; and if any acknowledgments have been overlooked, I trust the injured person will forgive me when I have had already to quote so many authorities for so small a book. The popular character of the work renders it undesirable to load the pages with footnotes of reference; and scholars will generally see for themselves the source of the information given in the text.

Personally, my thanks are due to my friend, Mr. York Powell, for much valuable aid and assistance, and to the Rev. E. McClure, one of the Society's secretaries, for his kind revision of the volume in proof, and for several suggestions of which I have gladly availed myself.

As various early English names and phrases occur throughout the book, it will be best, perhaps, to say a few words about their pronunciation here, rather than to leave over that subject to the chapter on the Anglo-Saxon language, near the close of the work. A few notes on this matter are therefore appended below.

The simple vowels, as a rule, have their continental pronunciation, approximately thus: ā as in father, ă as in ask; ē as in there, ĕ as in men; ī as in marine, ĭ as fit; ō as in note, ŏ as in not; ū as in brute, ŏ as in full; ȳ as in grün (German), as in hübsch (German). The quantity of the vowels is not marked in this work. Æ is not a diphthong, but a simple vowel sound, the same as our own short a in man, that, &c. Ea is pronounced like ya. C is always hard, like k; and g is also always hard, as in begin: they must never be pronounced like s or j. The other consonants have the same values as in modern English. No vowel or consonant is ever mute. Hence we get the following approximate pronunciations: Ælfred and Æthelred, as if written Alfred and Athelred; Æthelstan and Dunstan, as Athelstahn and Doonstahn; Eadwine and Oswine, nearly as Yahd-weena and Ose-weena; Wulfsige and Sigeberht, as Wolf-seeg-a and Seeg-a-bayrt; Ceolred and Cynewulf, as Keole-red and Küne-wolf. These approximations look a little absurd when written down in the only modern phonetic equivalents; but that is the fault of our own existing spelling, not of the early English names themselves.

G.A.

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