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son should inherit the fathers house, making a proper
compensation to the other co-heirs for the pri\41ege.
Among the Northern Tchuds, although the chief of the
family can delegate his power to the eldest or youngest
son, or even to a stranger if he so pleases, yet the house
in which he lives must go to the youngest son at his

We find traces among the same peoples of a worship of
ancestors connected ^vith a respect for the family hearth.-
The following extract from the French report on the
peoples of Central Asia relates to the Northern Tchuds,
who maintain the pri^-ilege of the youngest son in its
simplest and most usual form. ''''L' esprit de la maison est
ini farfadetj liitin hienfaisant qui se tient derriere Ic
poele. Si on laisse toniber du feu dans le foiii, il teteint.
Ouand on construit unc 4ioircelle maison^ on T invite a
demeurer avec vous. On prend a cet effet de la cendre
dans le poele et on I' emporte dans la nonvelle maison.
Ouand on ouvre la parte de la nouvelle maison^ on doit
entrer du pied droit etjeter un pain noir dans la chamhre.
Ensuite on fait entrer un coq^ et si le coq chante c est un
bon signe^ cela signifie que le liitin est la et qiiil prendra
soin des nouveaux arrives.''^

1 See the Report of ]M. De Mezo-Kovesd to the French Government {Les
Bachkirs, les Fepses, iii. 8i, 82). " Le grand-pere ou Vaieul est le chefabsolu
de la famille. II pent se faire succeder comme chef de famille par le cadet de
sesjils, si Vaine ou les autres lui deplaisent pour une raison ou une autre . . .
Le pere de famille a le droit d'instituer comme son heritier qui Ion lui semlle
parmi sa famille, mais la maison quil halite doit apparfenir au plus jeune des
fils." For the Hungarian law, see Kovy, Summa Juris Hungarici. 351.

' Keightley, Fairy Mythol. 48S. Compare Burton, Anat. Melanch. i. pt. 2,

^ De !Mez6-Kovesd {Les Bachkirs, les Fespes, &c.) iii. 84. Compare
Mr. Langs Essay on the Folk-lore of France, Folk-lore Record^, i. 101.

Origins of English History. 215

When further information is obtained about the obscure
history' of the Finns and their influence upon Western
Europe, it may become possible to prove that the custom
of descent to the youngest flowed as naturally from their
primitive institutions as the old custom of primogeniture
from the position which was given to the eldest in the
service of the family religion.

Meanwhile it should not be forgotten that there was
one magical possession, an idol of domestic superstition
in mediaeval German households, which is said to have
passed at the father's death to the youngest son upon
condition that he performed certain heathenish rites in
relation to the father's funeral. The " mandrake," a plant
with broad leaves and bright yellow flowers and with a
root which grew in a semi-human form, was found beneath
the public gallows and was dragged from the ground and
carried home with many extraordinars' ceremonies. When
secured, it became a familiar spirit, speaking in oracles if
properly consulted and bringing good luck to the house-
hold in which it was enshrined.^ We are not concerned
with the mystical powers of Mandragoras, which was the
Fee Magloire and "Hand ofGlor}'" of the later magicians
who mistook the meaning of the word. But it is very-

" The beliefs connected with the dead are of the ordinary kind. The
mattress on which any one dies is to be burned. ... In some places in
the Department of the Yosges the ashes are allowed to lie on the groiind
all nighty and if in the morning the trace of a footstep is found among
them it is supposed that the dead has returned. T\Tien one adds to these
beliefs the custom of sacrificing a cock when a family takes possession of
a new house, it is plain that remains of very early 'animistic' and
religious ideas survive among the peasantry."

^ Grimm, Deutsch. Mythol. 1153; Rechts-Alterth. 475; Deutsche
Sagen, No. 83 ; Roth, De Imagunciolis Germanorum. 1737. The nature
of the worship of the mandrake appears very clearly in Keysler's account

2l6 Origins of English History.

important for our purpose to observe, that the idol, or
"Galgen-mannlein," became the property of the youngest
son on condition that he buried with the body a morsel
of bread and a piece of money according to the old pagan
practice. If the youngest son died in his father's lifetime,
the question arose whether the eldest son could take the
" Alraun" or mandrake ; and it was said that the domestic
idol would fall into his share, if he had fulfilled the
ceremony of the bread and money on the occasion of his
younger brother's funeral.

of an idol of this kind which was preserved in his time in the collection of
Dr. Heinsius. Antiqu. Septent. 506. A specimen may be seen in this
country in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. Keysler prints
a letter from a citizen of Leipzig to his brother in Livonia, dated in 1575,
in which after discussing his brother's bad fortune in every matter of
his household he proceeds as follows : — " So habe ich mich nu von
deinetwegen ferner bemuhet und bin zu den Leuten gangen, die solches
gehabt haben, als bey unsern Scharff-Richter, und ich habe ihn daflir geben
als nehmlich mit 64 Thaler und des Budels Knecht ein Engels-Kleidt zu
Drinckgeldt solches soil dir nu lieber Bruder aus Liebe und Treue
geschencket sein, und so soltu es lernen wie ich dir schreib in diesen
Brieve wen du den Erdman in deinen Hause oder Hofe iiberklimmest so
lass es drey Tage ruhen ehe du darzu gehest, nach den 3 Tagen so hebe es
uff und bade es in warmen Wasser, mit dem Bade soltu besprengen dein
Vieh und die Sullen deines Hauses do du und die deinen libergehen so
wird es sich mit dir woll bald anders schicken, und du wirst woll wiederum
zu den deinen kommen wen du dieses Erdmanneken wirst zu rade halten
und du solt es alle Jahr viermahl baden und so offte du es badest so solt
du es wiederum in sein Seiden Kleidt winden und legen es bey deinen
besten Kleidern die du hast so darffstu Ihnen nicht mehr thun u.s.w. Nun
lieber Bruder dis Erdmanneken schicke ich dir zu einem glLkkseeligen
neuen Jahr und lass es nicht von dir kommen das es magk behalten dein
Kindes-kind hiemit Gott befohlen."

Origins of English History. 217



Physical condition of the country — Misrepresented by Roman orators — Its state under
Agricola, the Plantagenets and Elizabeth — Absence of genuine early descriptions
— Sources of the statements of Bede — Notice of British pearl-fisheries — Com-
parison of the accounts of Ireland — The picture of Britain by Gildas — True
sources of information — Special records — Allusions of writers on general history
— Giraldus, Aneurin, Pliny — The Celtic races of Northern and Western Britain
— Little affected by the English invasions — The evidence from language of
uncertain value— The tribes of the South-West — Their superior culture — Their
foreign trade — Description of their ships — Western tribes of low civilisation and
mixed blood — The Silures — The Dobuni of the Cotswolds — The Cornavians —
The Ordovices of North Wales — Their mixed descent — The Central Tribes — The
name " Coritavi " applied to several distinct races — Notices by Strabo and Caesar
— The ruder tribes migratory— The confederated tribes of the North — Their
success in war — The story of Queen Cartismandua — She rules a Brigantian tribe
— Commands the Brigantian army — The Brigantians compared with the Irish by
Tacitus — Their life at home and in the field.

WE turn from the speculation on the origm of these
ancient customs to collect what is known about
the Britons of the Interior before they adopted the Gaulish
fashions, or were drawn by Agricola's policy, step by step,
to "the lounge, the bath, and the banquet" and all that
provincial refinement which w^as but a disguise of their
servitude. We shall endeavour to describe their manners
and habits of life ; but it will be necessary in the first
place to take some general view of the physical condition
of the country.

It was a land of uncleared forests, with a climate as yet
not mitigated by the organised labours of mankind. The
province in course of time became a flourishing portion of

21 8 ■ Origins of English History.

the Empire ; the court-orators dilated on the wealth of
"Britannia Felix" and the heavy corn-fleets arriving from
the granaries of the North ; and they wondered at the
pastures almost too deep and rich for the cattle, and hills
covered with innumerable flocks of sheep " with udders
full of milk, and backs weighed down with wool." The
picture was too brightly coloured, though drawn in the
Golden Age. It is certain that the island, when it fell
under the Roman power, was little better in most parts
than a cold and watery desert. According to all the
accounts of the early travellers the sky was stormy and
obscured by continual rain, the air chilly even in summer,
and the sun during the finest weather had little power to
disperse the steaming mists. The trees gathered and con-
densed the rain; the crops grew rankly, but ripened slowly,
for the ground and the atmosphere were alike overloaded
with moisture. The fallen timber obstructed the streams,
the rivers were squandered in the reedy morasses, and
only the downs and hill-tops rose above the perpetual
tracts of wood.

It is difficult to measure the slow advance of agriculture.
We know that at one time the wolves swarmed in Sher-
wood and Arden, the wild boar roamed in Groveley, and
the white-maned Urus was hunted in the northern forests.
The work of reclaiming the wilderness began in the days
of Agricola. The Romans felled the woods along the
lines of their military roads; they embanked the rivers and
threw causeways across the morasses, and the natives
complained that their bodies and hands were worn out in
draining the fens and extending the clearings in the
forests. In the course of centuries the woodlands shrank
to a mere fraction of their former extent. The ground

Origins of English History. 2 1 9

was required for corn and pasture, the trees were consumed
for fuel, or used in building or in making the charcoal
required for the mineral furnaces ; and the hill-sides were
kept bare, as sheep-farming increased, by the neglect to
fence and protect the coppices. The area of cultivation
was continually increasing ; yet even under the later Plan-
tagenets there were no less than sixty-eight royal forests,
besides thirty which had been converted into private
chases ; in each was included " a territory with great woods
for the secret abode of wild beasts"; and it is estimated
that even in the reign of Queen Elizabeth one-third of
England was in waste.

The trees grew so thickly that some districts could
hardly be traversed or penetrated. The Forest of Dean
was described as "very dark and terrible " by reason of its
shades and cross-ways. Sherwood, said Camden, was
ancientlv set with trees whose entangled branches were so
twisted together that they hardly left room for a man to
pass. In the Warwickshire Arden it was said even in
modern times, that a squirrel might leap from tree to tree
for nearly the whole length of the county. Denbighland
in the 15th century was one immense forest from the Dee
to the wilds of Arvon ' among the Snowdonian Hills.'
And great districts in all parts of the country are shown by
mediaeval records to have produced no profit to their
owners, except a little herbage, a few hawks' nests, " honey
nuts and hips," (for to such small matters do the foresters'
accounts extend,) " hares, cats and badgers, and vermin of
that kind."

There is no trustworthy account of the ancient condition
of the inland districts. It is possible indeed that large
tracts of land may have long remained unexplored. The

220 Origins of English History.

original settlements would of course be clustered round
thci^estuaries, and the later colonists would occupy the
interior.valleys, following as much as possible the course
of the^rivers, and avoiding the thick woods and the
'' watery lengths " of moor.

The general statements on this point of Bede and his
mediaeval imitators appear to be based upon no original
authority. They are evidently founded on a few allusions
in the classical writings, and these in their turn upon the
reports of merchants who were only familiar with the
coast. A part of Bede's description^ relates only to the
relics of the Roman dominion, the vineyards and baths at
the Hot Wells, the remains of cities and scattered forts,
the iron-works, and mines of copper and mixed silver and
lead. The rest would be more useful for our purpose if
we had reason to believe it correct. Some parts of the
picture, however, are true enough. Britain was rich in
corn and trees, and fit for the pasturing of herds and flocks ;
it abounded with birds, and the rivers were covered with
waterfowl and well-stored with eels and salmon. He added
that whales seals and dolphins were continually taken ; but
the statement is probably a mere reminiscence of Juvenal's
simile.' We are told of a great abundance of shells.
Among them were "the clams and mussels, producing not
only the pure white pearls, but others of the finest quality
in all kinds of colours, some pink or purple, some as blue
as jacinth, and others as green as grass." The truth seems
to be that the pearl-fishery was a thorough failure, so that

1 Bede, Hist. Eccles. i. c. i.

- Compare Henry of Huntingdon : " Capiuntur et saepe delphines et
balenee : unde Juvenalis (Sat. x. 14), Quantum delphinis balaena Britannica
major." Hist. Angl. i. c. i.

Origins of English History. 221

men hardly believed in the British origin of the corslet
which Caesar suspended in the Temple of Venus/ " The
British Ocean," said Tacitus, "produces pearls, but they are
of a dusky and livid hue : some think that those who collect
them have not the requisite skill, since in the Red Sea the
living animal is torn from the rocks, while in Britain they
are gathered just as they are thrown upon the shore. I
would rather believe that the pearls have a natural defect
than that Romans were wanting in keenness for gain.""

According to Bede there was almost too great an
abundance of the whelk, or miirex^ which produced the
scarlet dye ; " and the lovely tint never fades in the sun or
the rain, but becomes more beautiful with age." But it is
not known that the shell-purple was ever made in Britain,
'' nor is it likely that the simple blood of a shell-fish, how-
ever beautiful at first, could have proved a lasting dye."
It has been thought that both the purple and the scarlet
dyes were fixed by a preparation of tin in grains'^ ; and
there may have been some manufacture of this kind in
Roman Britain.

The accounts of Ireland were of the same vague and
inaccurate kind ; and on this point we may fairly adopt
the criticism of Giraldus.* " The island is rich in meadows

1 "Uniones . . in Britannia parvos atque decolores nasci certum
est: quoniam Divus Julius thoracem quem Veneri Genetrici in templo
ejus dicavit ex Britannicis margaritis factum voluerit intelligi." Pliny,
Hist. Nat. ix. c, 57. Compare Suetonius, Jul. Cses. 47. The story begins
to be exaggerated in Solinus, Polyhist. c. ^0^. TElian calls the British
pearls " golden -coloured, and with a dull and dusky surface." Hist. xv. 8.

^ Tac. Agric. c. 12.

^ Hawkins, Tin Trade of the Ancients, 24.

* Girald. Cambr. Topogr. Hibern. i. c. 6. He adds, that in Bede's time
there were possibly a few vineyards there, and that St. Dominic of Ossory,

222 Origins of English History.

and pastures, in milk and honey, and also in wine though
not in vineyards. Bede indeed says that it does not lack
vineyards, while Solinus and Isidore affirm that there are
no bees. But with all respect for them they might have
written just the contrary, that vineyards do not exist there,
and that bees are found in the island. . . . Bede also
affirms that Ireland is famous for the hunting of stags and
wild goats, whereas it is a fact that it did not anciently
possess any wild goats and is still without them."

Another very old account of Britain may be read in the
History of Gildas ; but its details are quite inconsistent
with the actual historical evidence. " The island of
Britain lies in almost the utmost corner of the earth :
it is poised in the divine balance in which the world is
weighed, and stretches from the south-west towards the

pole It is enriched by the mouths of two noble

rivers, the Thames and the Severn, two great arms by
which foreign luxuries were of old brought in, and by
other rivers of less importance. . . . The plains are
spacious : the hills set pleasantly and adapted for the best
of tillage : the mountains are admirably fitted for the
seasonable pasturing of the cattle. The many-coloured
flowers spread like a beautiful carpet beneath the feet of
men. Britain stands like a bride adorned in her jewels,
decked with bright springs and full rivulets wandering
over snow-white sands, and the clear rivers, as they
murmur by, offer rest and slumber to the travellers
reclining on their banks." The passage is interesting so
far as it discloses the method of the writer, who appears to

as some said, introduced bees long after the time of Solinus. They were
probably very scarce until the disappearance of the yew-forests, which would
have been prejudicial to bee-culture.

Origins of English History. 223

have strung together the "jewels five-words-long" which
Ausonius had thought to be appropriate to his Idyll on the
scenery of the Moselle.^ But as a picture of Ancient
Britain it is clearly of no practical use.

To gain a clear notion of the primitive condition of
Britain we should study the history of embanking and
inclosure, the records of the monasteries, and especially
those of the Benedictine monks who ''swarmed like bees"
in every desert, and the descriptions by mediaeval
witnesses of the unreclaimed regions in Scotland, Wales,
and Ireland. The subject can only be made clear by
minute local research ; but one may learn much meantime
by observing the slight allusions made by old writers
while dealing with a more (reneral kind of historv. From
Asser, for example, we hear something of the great forest
in Somerset^ which the Britons called " Coet Mawr^'
of that wood of Berroc, "where the box-tree grows in

^ Gildas, De Excidio Britanniae, s. i. Compare Ausonius,
"Telluris medio quae pendet in aere Libra est,
Et Solis Lunaeque vias sua libra coercet.
Libra die somnique pares determinat horas.
Libra Caledonios sine litore continet aestus."

De Ratione Librae, 29.
And for a great deal of the imagery which Gildas has applied to Britain, see
his Idyll on the Moselle.

" Lucetque latetque
Calculus, et viridem distinguit glarea museum.
Nota Caledoniis talis pictura Britannis,
Quum virides algas et rubra corallia nudat
iEstus, et albentes concharum germina baccas,
Delicias hominum locupletum, quaeque sub undas
Assimulant nostros imitata monilia cultus."

Mosella, 66.
"" " In the seventh week after Easter Alfred rode to the Stone of Egbert in
the eastern part of the wood that is called Selwood, which in Latin is Silva
Magna and in British Coet Mawr. Here he was met by all the neighbouring

224 Origins of English History.

abundance," from which Berkshire was thought to derive
its name, and of the Cave-houses of Nottingham which the
Welsh called ^'■Tig-ogobaiic^ Whoever, again, may have
been the author of the chronicle attributed to Ingulf, no
doubt has been cast on the story of Richard of Deeping,
who made a "garden of delight" out of the "horrible fens
of Croyland." The History of Ely tells of the great meres
which " begirt the island like a wall." Two thousand
square miles of fen were given up to wild beasts and birds,
stags, roes, and goats in the groves, and "geese, coots,
didappers, ducks and water-crows more than man could
number, especially in the winter and at the moulting-time."
Lesley speaks of the hunting of the mountain-bull in the
vast Caledonian Forest. Giraldus describes the great
herds of wild hogs in Ireland, the abundance of caper-
cailzies, or "wild peacocks," as they were called from the
brightness of their plumage, the immense flights of snipe
and woodcock, " multitudes of quails and clouds of larks
singing praises to God."^

The wildness of the country is shown by many slighter
signs, as by the occurrence of beaver-dams, where the
beavers " defended their castles " in vain against the sharp
poles of the well-armed hunters:^ it is implied in Aneurin's
picture of the British chief in his coat of the speckled skins
of young wolves, and in Pliny's story of the fondness of
the Britons for the meat of the sheldrake, which is now
rather an unfrequent visitor of our coasts.^

folk of Somerset, Wilts, and Hampshire, who had not for fear of the pagans
fled beyond the sea." Asser, Life of Alfred, under the year 878.

^ Girald. Cambr. Topog. Hibern. i. c. 10.

^ Girald. Cambr. Itin. Camb. ii. c. 3.

^ Aneurin, Gododin. St. 90. Pliny describes the bustard, capercailzie.

Origins of English History. 225

This part of the subject may be appropriately closed
with a sketch from a work in which all the descriptions are
based on the authority of the ancient writers. The time
of year is the end of the summer, when the oats and rye
were reaped and the lawns and meadows round the home-
steads had been mown, "The cattle are on the downs or
in the hollows of the hills. Here and there are wide beds
of fern or breadths of gorse, and patches of wild raspberry
with gleaming sheets of flow^ers. The swine are roaming
in the woods and shady oak-glades, the nuts studding the
brown-leaved bushes. On the sunny side of some cluster
of trees is the herdsman's round wicker house with its
brown conical roof and blue wreaths of smoke. In the
meadows and basins of the sluggish streams stand clusters
of tall old elms waving with the nests of herons : the
bittern, coot, and water-rail, are busy among the rushes and
flags of the reedy meres. Birds are ' churming ' in the
wood-girt clearings, wolves and foxes slinking to their
covers, knots of maidens laughing at the water-spring,
beating the white linen or flannel with their washing-bats:
the children play before the doors of the round straw-
thatched houses of the homestead, the peaceful abode of
the sons of the oaky vale. On the ridges of the downs
rise the sharp cones of the barrows, some glistening in
white chalk or red with the mould of a new burial, and
others green with the grass of long years. ''^

We have endeavoured to give a general description of
the physical aspect of the country, and we may now
proceed to consider the manners and institutions of the

and sheldrake in the same chapter. " Quibus lautiores epulas non novit
Britannia, chenerotes fere ansere niinores." Hist. Nat. x. c. 29.
^ Barnes, Notes on Ancient Britain, 53.


226 Origins of English History.

Celtic tribes of the interior districts. The story of these
Gaelic peoples more nearly concerns ourselves than the
scanty traditions of Picts and Silurians, or even the fuller
history which we possess of the civilised Gaulish settlers.
The Gauls lived mostly in the south-eastern half of
England/ and their posterity must have been expelled or
destroyed with comparatively few exceptions in the later
wars of massacre. The English may be credited with
turning out their enemies "as completely as it has ever
been found possible for invaders to do." Some of the
natives must have remained in the cities and fortified
places, which long continued undisturbed : a few of the
greater chiefs may have purchased security for their
people, " especially in the districts appropriated by the
smaller bands of adventurers": and multitudes of the
Celtic women must have been retained in marriage or
servitude.- But it is admitted that to the north of the
Trent, and throughout the Western Counties, the character
of the population suffered no such overwhelming change.
The signs of the Celtic element in the nation are apparent
in the tone and even in the idiom of some of the provincial
dialects, in the names of our rural geography, and in the
words of daily life used for common and domestic things ;

1 Professor Rhys has estimated that about one-half of what is now
England belonged in the time of Julius Caesar to tribes of Gaulish origin,
"that is, all east of the Trent, the Warwickshire Avon, the Parret, and
the Dorsetshire Stour, excepting a Brythonic peninsula reaching as far as

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