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• The great object of the work (he states) has always been to preserve those interesting particulars concerning our Anlgo-Saxon ancestors which had been left unnoticed in their ancient MSS., and to throw light where it was possible on those parts of their history which had been usually deemed confused and obscure. To fulfil these purposes, I have examined every MS, and author within my reach which promised to be useful. 'I have been scrupulous to insert no circumstance without a suficient authority, and it has been always important to me that my quotations should be faithful.'
As a kind of introduction to the History of the Manners, Government, Laws, Literature, Arts, Religion, and Language of the Anglo-Saxons, we are presented with a short account of the Saxons in their pagan state. - As, however, (says Mr. Tur. per,) the converted Anglo-Saxon remembered the practices of his idolatrous ancestors with too much abhorrence to record them for the notice of future ages, and as we have 10 ronic spells to call the pagan warrior from his grav:, we can only see him in those imperieer sketches which patient industry may collect from the passages that are scattered in the works which time has spared. These evidences prove him to have been active and fearless, ferocious and predatory. The continental Saxons, in the eighth and preceding centuries, lived under an aristocracy of chicftains, without a king or supreme head, except in case of war, when they appointed a temporary chief; and at the time of their invasion of Fogland, they were under war-kings, who were continued till a limited monarchy was established. Among the four orders existed, viz. the Etheling or noble ; the free-man; the freed-inan; and the servile.
The objects of Saxon adoration are still preserved in our names for the days of the week; and some persons will be surprised to hear, that the term Easter, which is yet retained to express the s-ason of our great pascal solemnity, is derived trom Esstre, one of the goddesses worshipped by our savage ancestors ; who certainly oficsed human sacrifices to theis wols.
Thoug! it has been doubted whether the Saxons had the use of leiters when they possessed themselves of England, reasons may be offered to make it probable that they were not then unaccuainted with alphabetic writing : yet none of their compositiunis remain, and it is supposed by the present histozjan that their alphabetic characters, if they possessed upy, were Siedly us:d for divinations, charms, and funeral inscriptions.
Having in tile first book taken a view of those fierce, idoe laireus, and cruil pirates who possesses themselves of the vouci part of this island during the filth and sixth ceaturies, and having portrayed them as they existed in the North of
Germany, Mr. Turner follows them into the country which they invaded, and notices the improvements which have been made in the intellectual and moral qualities of a people whose character was so unpromising :
• From such ancestors a nation has, in the course of twelve centu. ries, been formed, which, inferior to none in every moral and intellectual merit, is superior to every other in the love and possession of useful liberty : a nation which cultivates with equal success the elegancies of art, the ingenious labours of industry, the energies of war, the researches of science, and the richest productions of genius.'
It is concluded, with much probability, that the first step to the improvement of the invading Saxons was derived from their intercourse with a people who had been for a considerable period obedient to the Roman Government, and that, as the conquered Greeks had softened the Romans, so the conquered Britons ameliorated the Saxons. A farther change was produced in them by their conversion to Christianity.
Under the head of Manners, distinct chapters are assigned to Infancy, Education,-Food,—Drinks and Cookery, -Dress, -Houses, Furniture, and Luxuries,--Conviviality and Amusements,--Marriages, Classes and Condition of Society,-Gilds or Clubs,-Trades, Mechanical Arts, and foreign Commerce, Money, -Chivalry, Superstitions, -and Funerals. From this enumeration, it will be apparent that Mr. Turner's account of the social state of the Anglo-Saxons is not desultory; and as specimens of the mode in which he has executed his undertaking, we shall make a few short extracts from this part of the work. The chapter relative to their houses, furniture, and luxuries, proves that, soon after their reception of Christianity, they grew more refined and luxurious than we their descendants are apt to imagine:
· The Anglo-Saxons had many conveniences and luxuries which men so recently emerging from the barbarian state could not have derived from their own invention. They were indebtod for these to their conversion to Christianity. When the Gothic nations ex, changed their idolatry for the Christian faiin, hierarchies arose in every converted state, which maintained a close and perpetual intercourse with Rome and with each other. From the letters of Pope Gregory, of our Baniface, and many others, we perceive that an intercourse of personal civilities, visits, messages, and presents, was perpetually taking place. Whatever that was rare, curious, or valuable, which one person possessed, he communicated, and not unfrequently gave to liis acquaintance. This is very remarkable in the let. ters of Boniface and his friends, of whom some were in England, some in France, some in Germany, and elsewhere. The most cordial phrases of urbanity and affection are usually followed by a present of appari!, the aromatic productions of the cas, little articles of for
niture and domestic comfort, books, and whatever else promised to be acceptable to the person addressed. This reciprocity of liberality, and the perpetual visits which all ranks of the state were in the habit of making to Rome, the seat and centre of all the arts, science, wealth, and industry of the day, occasioned a general diffusion and use of the known conveniences and approved inventions which had then appeared.'
To the instirutions of our Saxon ancestors, the fair sex are indebted for the superior rank which they hold in European society, compared with that which ladies enjoy in the east, After having explained the provisions made by the snorgen gift (or matrimonial settlement) for the wife among the AngloSaxons, Mr. Turner remarks:
Nothing could be more calculated to produce a very striking dissimilarity between the Gothic nations and the Oriental states, than this exaltation of the female sex to that honour, consequence, and independence, which European laws studied to uphold. As the edu; cation of youth will always rest principally with women in the most ductile part of life, it is of the greatest importance that the fair sex should possess high rank and estimation in society, and nothing could more certainly tend to perpetuate this feeling than the privilege of possessing property in their own right, and at their own disposal.
* That the Anglo-Saxon ladies both inherited and disposed of property as they pleased, appears from many instances : a wife is mentioned who devised land by her will, with the consent of her husband, in his lifetime. We read also ot land which a wife had sold in her husband's life. We frequently find wives the parties to a sale of land, and still oftener we read of estates given to women, or devised by men of affluence to their wives. Widows selling property is also a common occurrence ; so is the incident of women devising it. That they inherited land is also clear, for a case is mentioned wherein there being no male heir the estate went to a female. Women ap: pear as tenants in capite ia Doomsday.'
In the chapter on the Classes and Conditions of Society, we perceive that the annexation of political privileges to landed property is of antient date; and that the improvements which were afterward introduced were in accordance with the original principle :
• The birth that was thought illustrious conserred personal honour, but no political rank or power. No title was attached to it which descended by heirship and gave a perpetuity of political privileges. That was a later iinprovement. In theoretical reasoning, and in the eye of religion, the distinction of birth seems to be an unjust prejudice ; we have all one common ancestor, and the same Creator, protector, and judge ; but tlie morality and merit of society is the pro. duct of very complicated and diversified motives, and is never so superabundant as to suffer uninjured the loss of any one of its in. centives' and supports. The fame of an applauded ancestor has sti. mulated many to perform noble actions, or to preserve an honourable character, and will continue so to operate while human nature exists. It creates a sentiment of honour, a dread of disgrace, an useful pride of name, which, though not universally efficient, wil frequently check the vicious propensities of passion or selfishness, when reason or religion has exhorted in vain. The distinction of birth may be there. fore added to the exaltation of the female sex as another of those peculiarities, which have tended to extract from the barbarism of the Guthic nations a far nobler character than any that the rich climates of the east could rear.
That there was a nobility from landed property distinct from that of birth, attainable by every one, and possessing (what noble birth had not of itself) political rank and immunities, is very often clear from several passages. It is mentioned in the laws, as an in. centive to proper actions, that through God's gift a servile thræl may become a chane, and a ceorl, an eorl, just as singer may become a priest, and a bocere (a writer) a bishop. In the time of Ethelstan it is expressly declared, that if a ceorle have the full proprietorship of five hides of his own land, a church, and kitchen, a bell-house, a burhgate-seat, and an appropriate office in the king's hall, he shall thenceforth be a thegen or thane by right. The same laws provide that a thegen may arrive at the dignity of an eorl, and that a massere, or merchant, who went three times over sea with his own craft, might become a thegen. But the most curious passage on this subject is that which attests, that without the possession of a certain quan. tity of landed property the dignity of sitting in the witena-gemot could not be enjoyed, not even though the person was noble already. An abbot of Ely had a brother who was courting the daughter of a great man, but the lady refused him because, although noble, he had not the lordship of forty hides, and therefore could not be numbered
among the proceres or witena. To enable him to gratify his love and her ambition, the abbot conveyed to him certain lands belonging to his monastery. The nuptials took place, and the fraud was for some time undiscovered.
• The principle of distinguishing men by their property is also es. tablished in the laws. Thus we read of twyhyndum, of syxhyndum, and of twelfhyndum men. A twyhynde man was level in his were with a ceorle, and a twelthynde with a thegen. But though property might confer distinction, yet it was the possession of landed property which raised a man to those titles which might be called ennobling. Hence it is mentioned, that though a ceorle should attain to a helmet, mail
, and a gold-hilted sword, yet if he had no land he must still remain 3 ceorle.'
It must not, however, be forgotten that a large proportion of the Saxon population was in a state of slavery: but, through the influence of Christianity, which mildly attempered the feelings of the individual, the custom of manumission began to prevail; and thus the benevolent spirit of the Gospel powerfully contributed to the amelioration of general suciety. It
was not in this instance only that the religion embraced by the Anglo-Saxons contributed to their improvement. The fortu. nate connection, which Christianity established between the Clergy of Europe, favoured the advancement of the mechanical arts, and opened the door to traffic and the exchange of commodities. To the Roman ecclesiastics Mr. T. ascribes the introduction of coined money among the Anglo-Saxons, and he founds this belief on the expression which they applied to coin. • This was mynet, a coin, and from this, mynetian, to coin, and mynetere, a person coining. These words are obviously the Latin moneta and monetarilis; and it usually happens that when one nation borrows such a term from another, they are indebted to the same source for the knowlege of the thing which it designates.'
Gold, the author is inclined to believe, was used among these people in an uncoined state; and according to his etymology of the word shilling *, it is probable that silver was originally employed as a medium of exchange in the same way. The Saxon coinage, however, is a dark subject; and Mr. Turner cannot bring his mind to a decisive judgment.
Many curious particulars are related in the Book on Landed Property. It is known that the most essential parts of what is called the Feudal System prevailed among the Anglo-Saxons ; and that the modes of inheritance called gavel kind and be. rough-english descended from them: but it appears that they had no prescribed form of words for the conveyance of a freehold estate, and that their then deeds had no wax-seals, which were introduced at the Norman conquest. We might conclude from the documents belonging to the Anglo-Saxons, in which different kinds of property are described, that England was formerly blessed with a more genial climate than it at present enjoys; since in these writings a vineyard is not unfree quently mentioned.
As a proof of the duration of the names of places, we shall make a quotation from the chapter containing particulars on this subject :
• The local denominations by which the various places in England are now known seem to have been principally imposed by our AngloSaxon ancestors. Most of them, in their composition, betray their Saxon origin ; and whoever will take the trouble to compare names in Doomsday.book, which prevailed in the island during the
•* The etymology of the word scyllinga would lead us to suppose it to have been a certain quantity of uncoined silver ; for whe. ther we derive it from scylan to divide, or sceale, a scale, the idea presented to us by either word is the same; that is, so much silver cut off, as in China, and weighing so much.' ş