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England-Civilization under Alfred


were decreed to be in force in all three kingdoms,-Kent, Wessex, and English Mercia. His laws formed the groundwork of the judicial system of the Welsh, the West Saxons, and the Mercians.

But it is said that the real services of Alfred the Great to his people lay less in the framing and codifying of the laws, than. in the enforcing of them. He made it clear to his people that the supreme power of the ruler was buttressed by the judicial system, and the executive authority would be used to the utmost to enforce obedience. The effect was immeasurable for good.

Not only did this extraordinary man rebuild London, but his constructive genius was stamped all through Wessex. A considerable part of the royal revenue was paid to the workmen whom he brought from other nations, for, wherever he could command ability, he cheerfully paid the price. You may see to-day in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford an illustration of his goldsmith's skill in the specimen known as "King Alfred's Jewel," which is a polished crystal of an oval form, a little more than two inches in length, and half an inch in thickness, inlaid with a green and yellow mosaic enamel. It may have been a part of the King's sceptre. The quaint inscription means,— "Alfred ordered me to be made."

The British Museum contains 452 coins issued under Alfred, his money having been coined at Bath, Canterbury, Exeter, Gloucester, Winchester, London, and Oxford. The artistic work upon these coins is inferior to that shown in earlier as well as later pieces. The work, however, of the illuminators and writers of manuscripts was excellent. There is preserved a manuscript produced by the monks of Alfred's monastery at Winchester, as well as a volume of Gospels written at Canterbury, which are not excelled by anything done in Europe at that period.

Centuries were yet to come and go before printing would be thought of, and a written volume was worth a moderate fortune. Alfred caused a number of books to be copied and distributed for the instruction of his people. Among these was his translation of the Universal History of Orosius, which was written near the opening of the fifth century. Others were the translation of Bede's "Ecclesiastical History of the English," "The Pastoral Care" of Gregory the Great, and another book by him called the "Dialogues." Several volumes have been named as bearing the stamp of the King's mind, but investigation throws doubt upon the claim. It is more than probable, however, that the "List of Martyrs" was composed during his time, and also the work known as the "Blooms or Blossoms of King Alfred," which is an adaptation of St. Augustine's "Soliloquies," and of his Epistles to Paulina in the "Vision of God," together with extracts from his "City of God," and from Gregory and Jerome.

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IN the death of Alfred his followers raised on a shield, as their king, his eldest son Edward, surnamed The Elder, an able and ambitious soldier. He became King of all the English, the ruler of that people to the Humber, and lord of all Britain. The most important event of his reign was the effect produced upon England by the marauding leader of the Northmen, known by various names, and of whom you have learned in the history of France as Rollo the Ganger. Charles the Simple, King of the West Franks, bought peace of Rollo by a large bribe, in the form of an extensive tract of land at the mouth of the Seine. Then the pirate turned Christian and became a fairly good ruler, with the title of Duke of the Normans, as the name became in French, while the territory which he obtained was known as Normandy.

Edward passed away in 925, and his eldest son Æthelstan reigned until 940. Three years before his death, he and his brother Edmund gained a crushing victory over a Danish king from Ireland and the Scots, Danes, and Welsh of the north, so that in the end there was only one king in all England. His son, Edward the Magnificent, after reigning brilliantly for six years, was stabbed to death by a banished outlaw, who had forced himself to the royal board, and fought viciously when the King and others attempted to eject him. Since the sons of Edmund were still quite young, his brother Edred, who had a sickly body but a strong mind, was chosen king. The wisest act of Edred was to

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take as his adviser Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a man of remarkable ability, who gave all his energy to carrying forward true reform.

When Dunstan was a boy he lived near the village of Glastonbury, where his father, who was a rich man, had a large number of serfs to till the land. The monks in the neighborhood were attracted by the bright wit of the lad, and took pains in instructing him. He became so learned that his fame reached the King, who called him to his court. But when the courtiers saw how superior Dunstan was to them, they were jealous and treated him so roughly that he angrily went home. He had been pulled from his horse and flung into a pond, the effects of which threw him into a brain fever. When he recovered, he became a monk. He was not only profoundly learned for the time, but he could sing well and play the harp; besides which he painted beautiful pictures, and was a cunning worker in metals. He was so kind and sympathetic that all loved him deeply, though many looked upon him with such awe that they believed he had power over evil spirits, and in an encounter with the devil had put him to flight. You will not forget that in those far-away days, and indeed for a long time after, the people were superstitious to an absurd degree.

Dunstan however, was as much human as you and I. One of his failings was a quick temper, which often got him into trouble even after he became Archbishop of Canterbury and chief adviser of the King, who more than once was obliged to send him away. But Dunstan was so able and honest that it was not long before he was brought back again.

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Now at that time there were two classes of clergy in England, -the regular and the secular. The regulars, or monks, lived in the monasteries, apart from the world, and were forbidden to marry, while the seculars lived in the world and were allowed to marry. The discipline among the regulars had become very lax. Many of them were married and some were lazy and wicked. Dunstan insisted that none of the clergy, whether secular or regular, should marry. He impressed upon them the necessity of leading better lives, and laboring for the good of their fellow-men. He taught them to study painting and music, hushed the quarrels between the English and the Danes, and altogether did a blessed work for his country and for his fellow-men. He was virtually sovereign during the reign of the licentious Edgar (959—975), and it was his wise policy which procured for Edgar the title of the Pacific.

A good deal of disorder followed the death of Edgar in 975, and there was a bitter quarrel as to which of the King's sons should succeed him,-Edward, about twelve years old, or Ethelred, who was six years younger. The elder was finally fixed upon, and Elfrida, the mother of the younger, was mortally in. censed, for she had set her heart upon obtaining the crown for Æthelred. She

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