Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

AElfric's Letter to the Monks of Eynsham

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

AElfric's Letter to the Monks of Eynsham

Article excerpt

Elfric's Letter to the Monks of Eynsham. By Christopher A. Jones. [Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England, 24.] (New York: Cambridge University Press.1998. Pp. x, 255. $69.95.)

This series, best known for highly professional monographs, has here borrowed the format of the Oxford Medieval Texts and presents a hitherto inadequately edited text with facing translation, prefaced by an extensive introduction and followed by a detailed commentary. The work in question is a disquisition by the Anglo-Saxon homilist and prose pioneer AElfric as to liturgical practice to be followed (putatively anyhow) in the new monastery at Eynsham in Oxfordshire, of which he was first abbot. This turns out to be a cardinal document for an understanding of the English Monastic Revival in its secondgeneration (that is, c. 1000) aspects, as well as of the Latin liturgy in that period.

All this has been provided by C.A. Jones in his expansion of what must have been an exemplary doctoral dissertation. The professionalism evidenced throughout the present work would put many a veteran scholar to shame. One is reduced to wondering whether he has used "fulsomely" quite correctly (p. 36) or whether continue should not be translated "consistently" rather than "repeatedly" (pp. 114-115) to have anything to cavil at. The introduction is a model of informativeness, not only answering obvious questions as to the nature of the work presented but subtly making a case for it as not just a reworking of the Regularis Concordia of AEthelwold (AElfric's teacher)-which is the way this letter has in the past been regarded-but as a quite full statement of views that have political as well as cultural significance. The implications of AElfric's divergences from the Concordia as conveying the view that (to paraphrase a modern political epigram) Ethelred Unraed is no Edgar-the two being respectively Elfric's and AEthelwold's monarchs-are deftly drawn out and give AElfric's work some of the topicality of that of his great contemporary, Wulfstan of York. …

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