Robert Henry.

The history of Great Britain : from the first invasion of it by the Romans under Julius Cæsar. Written on a new plan (Volume 2) online

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put an end to all difputes with the Pi£ls for fome time,
' by marrying Spondana, daughter lO their king (68).
Fordun, the moil ancient of the Scotch hifcorians, gives
an excellent charafter of this prince -, and feems to have
known nothing of the ftrange improbable tale, of his
havinr^ been tried by his nobles for the murder of his
queen, which is fo formally related by more modern
writers (69). Murdoch, the fon of Armkelleth, fuc-
ceeded his uncle Heatagan A. D. 715, and reigned fif-
teen years in the mod profound peace (70).

Anuniver- The former part of the eighth century appears to have

fai peacf in {^qqti the moft peaceful period of the ancient hiftory of
ncain. j^y-itain (ince the arrival of the Saxons. At that time
the long and violent ftorms winch had agitated all the
nations inhabiting this illand, for feveral ages, with very
little intermilFion, fubiided into an univerfal calm, v/hich
is thus def bribed by the venerable hillorian Bede, in the
conclufion of his moft valuable work : " At this time
*« the Pi^LS are in a ftate of friendfnip with the Englifh,
<♦ and of conformity with the univerfal church in truth
«' and peace. The Scots too, contented with their own
»« territories, are forming no plots againft the Englifh.
«* Nav, even the Britons themfelves, though animated
«f wdth hereditary hatred againil the Englifh, and at
" variance with the Catholic church about the time of
" keeping Eafter, finding themfelves baffled both in
*' their civil and religious contefts, have funk into a
*f ftate of tranquillity, fome under their own princes,
«' and fome under the dominion of the Englifli. This
" is the prefent ftate of all the nations of Britain in this
*^ year 731. V\^hat will be the confequence of this
<' tranquillity, which hath made fo many, both of the
" nobility and common people, in this kingdom of
*< Northumberland, abandon the ufe of arms, and crowd
" into monafteries, time alone can difcover (71)." —
With extreme regret, we muft here take our leave of
this venerable hiftorian, who hath hitherto been our

(67) Fordun. 1. 3-c. 43. 44- i^^O I^- c- 45-

{(q) Qoet. Hift. Scot. 1. 9. Buchan. Scot. Hift. 1. 5.
(70; Fordun. 1. 3. c. 45. (71) Beas iiift.Ecclef. I. 5. c. 23.



chief companion and guide through the intricate mazes A. D 600,

of the Anglo-Saxon hlftory. But it is now time to to 801.

turn our attention towards the fouth. s-p«v-ifc>

Ina, king of the Weft-Saxons, at his departure for rj-n £
Rome, A. D. 729, left his throne and kingdom to Ethel- Weffex,
hard, brother to his queen Ethelburga, and a prince of Mercia,
the royal family ; who having defeated Ofwald, another ^."^ \^^;"
prince of the blood, and pretender to the crown, reign- i^nd.
ed in profound peace to the time of his death A. D.
741 (72). Ceolwlf king of Northumberland had in the
mean time refigned his crown, and retired into the
monaftery of Lindesfarne, A. D. 737, and was fucceed-
ed by his couiin Eadbert, the laft king of the Northum-
brians who made any confiderablc figure (73). He de-
fended the fouthern frontiers of his kin<ydom ao-ainfl

o o

fome attempts of Ethelbald king of Mercia, with fpirit
and fuccefs, and reduced the Strath-Cluyd Britons to
their former fubjeftion (74). This great prince, after
having triumphed over all his enemies," and gained the
love and admiration of his fubjefts, was unfortunately
feized with the epidemic madnefs of thofe times, re-
figned his crown to his fon Ofulf, and retired into a
monaftery, A. D. 758 ; where he lived to fee the ruin
which this unwarrantable ftep brought upon his family
and country (75). Cuthred, who fucceeded Ethelhard
in the throne of Weffex, had an unquiet reign, being
almoft continually engaged in vv^ar, either againft Ethel-
bald king of Mercia, or, in conjundt ion with that prince,
againft the Britons (76). In the ninth year of his reign,
his fon Cenric, a yOung prince of great courar^e, was
flain in a military tumult. About a year after this great
misfortune, he defeated, and generouily pardoned, Ethel-
hun, a nobleman of an ambitious and undaunted fpirit^
who had raifed a rebellion ; and it v/as not lons^ before
he reaped the reward of his generofity. For his great
rival Ethelbald, having colle^^ed all his forces, in order
to decide their quarrel by one great blow, the two mo-
narchs met, at the head of two great armies, A. D.
752, at Burford, where a long and bloody battle was
fought, in which Cuthred obtained the vi6lory, chiefly

(71") Chron. Saxon, p. 53. 55. (73) Sim. Duneim. c 16.

(74) Id.c. i8. Coiitinuatio Beds?. (7JJ) Sim. Duneim. c. 18.
(76) W. Malmf. 1. I. c. i. Hen. Him:. 1, 4.


A. D. 600, by the prodigies of valour performed by the grateful
to 801. Ethelhun. This nobleman, after killing great numbers of

*" ■ • "*^ the Mercian foldiers, encountered Ethelbald, and oblig-
ed him to fly, in which he was foon followed by his
whole army (77). Cuthred did not very long furvive
this vi6lory, and another v/hich he obtained over the
Britons; but dying A. D. 754, was fucceeded by his
coufm Segebert ; who by his folly, pride, and cruelty,
foon forfeited the efteem, and incurred the hatred of his
fubjeds ; who, A. D. 755, rebelled againft him, and
drove him from his throne and country. The v/orthlefs
and wretched Segebert, being forfaken by all the world,
took fhelter in the great foreft of Anderida ; where he
was difcovered, and put to death by a fwine-herd (78).
Cynewlf, a prince of the royal family, who had headed
the infurreclion againft Segebert, fucceeded him in the
throne of Weflex (79). About the fame time, Ethelbald,
king of Mercia, after a long reign of forty-one years,
was killed in battle at Seckington in Warwickfhire (80).
Beornred, who fucceeded him, appears to have been an
ufurper, and probably a commander of the army which
defeated and flew him. If this was really the cafe, he
had no great reafon to rejoice in the fuccefs of his am-
bitious fchemes; for before the end of the year 755, he
was dethroned, and expelled, by a general infurrecfion
of the nobility and people of Mercia, under the com-
mand of Offa, a brave young prince of the royal family,
who was by univerfal confent raifed to the throne (81).

Continued. Offa v.'as by far the greateft and moft powerful prince
that ever fdled the throne of Mercia, and raifed that
kingdom to a degree of greatnefs and profperity, which
feemed to threaten ail the other kingdoms of the heptai-
chy with fubje£lion. His firft attempt was againft the
kingdom of Northumberland, from which he difmem-
bered the county of Nottingham, and annexed it to his
ov/n dominions (82). The kings of Kent had for acon-
fiderable time been in a ftate of dependence, fometimies
on the king-s of WeiTe::, and fometimies on thofe of Mer-
cia. Oifa invaded that little kingdom A. D.774; and
having obtained a great victory at Otford, reduced it to

(77) Hen. Hunt. I.-.4. (78) Id ibid. Chron. Saxon, p. 56.
(tq) Id. ibid. (80) Chron. Saxon, p. 59. -^ '

(R: ) Id. ibil W. Malm". 1, i. c. 4. Ingulph. Hilt. Cmy. I. 4.
(82) Bromptou, p. 776.

a ftatc

Ch. i.§2. CIVIL AND MILITARY. ' 33.

a ftate of fubjedion to his authority (83). Cynewlf A. D, 600,
king of Weffex obferving thefe fiiccefies of his moll ^° ^°^-
powerful rival with a jealous eye> raifed a great army ^■— ~>^*— ^
with a defign to obftru61: his progrefs ; but was defeated
by OiFa at Benfmgton in Oxfordihire, A. D. 775 (84).
After this victory, Offa enlarged his dominions on that
fide, by the reduftion of the counties of Oxford and
Gloucefter, which had long made a part of the kingdom
of Weffex. The Britons feem to have taken advantage
of this war between the two greatefl of the Anglo-Saxon
princes, and made incurfions into both their territories ;
which brought about a peace between them, and the
union of their arms againft their common enemy. The
unhappy Britonsj unable to relift two fuch powerful
adverfaries, were every where defeated, and obliged to
take (belter among the mountains of Wales, abandoning
all the low countries to the conquerors (85). To fecure
his acquifitions on that fide, OlFa commanded abroad
and deep ditch to be made from the mouth of the river
Wye on the fouth, to the river Dee in Flintfhire on
the north ; of which fome veftiges are ftill vifible (86).
Gynewlf king of Weflex, after he had reigned tv/enty-
nine years, was furprifed and llain, A. D. 784, by Cyne- ^'

heard, a pretender to his crown, at Merton in Surry,
whither he had gone with a few attendants to pay a pri- •'

Vate vifitto a lady. But Gyneheard (who was brother to
the wicked and unfortunate Segebert) did not reap that
advantage from this atchievement which he expefted ;
for the nobility and people of the country having heard
of the flaughter of their king, flew to arms, and cut him
and all his followers in pieces (87). Upon this Brihtric,
a prince of the royal family, mounted the throne of
Weffex -, though Egbert, defcended from Ingeld, bro-
ther to kinglna, had a preferable title (88).

The kingdom of Northumberland, which in the reign Hiftory of
of Eadbert had been the largeft and moft flouriihing flate Northum-'
in Britain, after the retreat of that prince from the world ^ -nana,
became a fcene of inceffant broils, and frequent revolu-

(85) Brompton, p. 776. Hen. Hunf. 1. 4.

(84) Hen. Hunt. 1. 4. Chron. Saxon, p. 6:.

(85) Hen. Bunt. I. 4. Powel's Hill. Wales, p, 19,

(86) Id. ibid. Speed's Chron. p. 344.

(87) Chron, Saxon, p. 57. 63.

(88) W. Malmf.!. u c.2. 1. 2. c. r.

Vol. IL D tion§.



A. D. 6go, tions, which at length ended in a total anarchy and con-
to So i. fufion. Ofulf, the fon and fucceffor of Eadbert, was
killed by his own doniellics, July 4, A. D. 750 ; and
Ethelwold, the fon of Moll, a nobleman who feems not
to have been related to the royal family, advanced to tha
throne by the favour of the people (89). Ofwin, a prince
of the blood, attempted to pull him down from this ele-
vation, but was defeated and flain at Eldem near Meirofs ;
though Ethelwold was, not long after, A. D. 765, oblig-
ed to refign his crown in favour of Alchred, the fon of
Ofulf j who was in his turn "expelled, A. D. 774, by
Ethelred, the fon of Ethelwold (cx)). This ufurper did
not long enjoy his precarious dignity, being driven out,
A. D 779, by Elfwold, the brother of Alchred (91).
The juft title, and m.any virtues of this prmce, could not
preferve him from the fate of his predeceiTors ; for he
was barbaroufiy murdered A. D. 788, by one of his
own generals, and fucceeded by his nephew Ofred, the
fon -of Alchred (92). Ofred had hardly been feated one
year in this tottering throne, when he was pulled down
and thrufi: into a monaftery by the nobility, v/ho recalled
Ethelred, who had been expelled about- t^n years be-
fore (9^). Etlielred took every poffible precaution to
preferve himfelf from a fecond expulfion. He put to
death Eardulf, a powerful nobleman, whole deligns he
fufpe6ied; and Jiaving got the two young princes. Elf
and Elfwene, the fons of the late king Elfwold, into
his hands, he murdered them -both {94). Ofred alfo,
his predeceiTor, being taken prifoner in an attempt he
made to recover his crown, iliared the fame fate (95).
Still further to fecure him.felf againll all his enemies, he
married ElUeda, daughter of OiFa, the powerful king of
Mercia. But all thefe precautions proved in vain : for
he was murdered by his own fubjecls about four years
after his reftoration, A. D. 794 (96). So long a fuccelhon
of fudden and fanguinary revolutions (of which there is
hardly a parallel to be found in hiitory) ilruck terror
into the boldeft and moft ambitious hearts, and deterred

{^9) S'.m. Dunelrn, c. 19. Chron. Saxon, p. 5 9.

(90) Id. p. 60, 61.

(91) Id. p. 62. Chron. de Mailrof. ad A. t*;?.

(92) Chron. deMailrof. ad An. 788. (^^3) Id. ad An. 789.
(9-5.) Id. ibid. (95)^ Id. ibid. (96) id. ibia.



them from afpiring to fuch a dangerous dignity. This A.D.600,
occafioned, if we may believe Wiiliam of Mahnfbury, ^o 801.
a total diflblution of government in Northumberland for '^•-'-v-*^
more than thirty years ; which rendered the people of
that country unhappy at home, and odious and contemp-
tible among ether nations (97). <« Charles the Great -•
«^' (fays Aicwinus, in a letter preferved by Malmibury)
<f is fo enraged againil the people of Northumberland,
« that he calls them a perfidious and perverfe people,
" the murderers of their own princes, and worfe than
^« heathens ; and if I, who am a native of that country,
" had not interceded for them, he would have done
<< them all the mifchief in his power (98)."

OiFa king of Mercia, not contented with all the ad- Wicked
ditions which he had made to his dominions by the a6lion of
force of arms, increafed them flill further, by an a6l of f i -t ^'"^
the mod horrid treachery and cruelty, towards the
conclufion of his reign, A. D. 792. Though the kings
of the Eafl- Angles, who had never been powerful, had
long been in a ftate of dependence on the Mercian mo-
narchs ; yet they ftill continued to enjoy the title, and
many of the prerogatives of royalty. Ethelred, v/ho at
this time governed that fmall ftate, was a young prince
of the moft amiable perfon and charad:er, beloved bv
his fubjecSts^ and efteemed by ail the world. By the
advice of his council, he made propofals of marriage to *
Althrida, daughter of Ofra; which were favourably
received, and he was invited to the court of Mercia to
conclude the match. When he arrived there, attended
by the chief nobility of his kingdom, he was bafely
jnurdered, and his dominions annexed to thofe of Mer-
cia (99). OfFa did not long furvive this inhuman deed,
for which he endeavoured to make {ome atonement by
an expenfive journey to Rome, and many liberal donati-
ons to the church.' He died A. D. 794, and was fuc-
ceeded by his fon Egfrith; who died in lefs than five "
months after his father (100). This made room for
Kenv/If, a prince of the ^ royal family, who is greatly
celebrated by our monkifh hiftorians for his valour and
religion. He was the laft of the kings of Mercia who
made a confiderabie figure. For after his death, which

(97) W. Malmf. 1. c. i. 3. (98) Id. ibid,

(99) Chron. Saxon, p. 65. W. Malmf. 1. i.e. 4.
(leo) W. Malmf. l.i.c. 5.

D 2 happened


A. D. 600, happened A. D. 819, that kingdom became a fcene
to 801. q£ almofl annual revohitions, which foon brought on

^**'*'"*^'-^ its rum (loi).

Hiftory of I^i*ihtric, who became king of Weflex on the murder

Weffex. of Cynewlf, A. D. 784, being confcious that his title
was difputable, took every precaution he could think of
to fecure the poffeffion of his throne. With this view
he married Eadburga, daughter to Offa king of Mercia,
who was by far the moll powerful prince in Britain in
thofe times (102). V/ith the fame view^ he endeavour-
ed, by various means, to get Egbert, his dangerous
competitor, into his hands *, which obliged that young
prince to abandon his country, and take'fhelter in the
court of Charles the Great ; by whom he was kindly
received and effecSlually protefted. In the court and ar-
mies of that renowned prince, Egbert acquired thofe ac-
eom.plifliments which laid the foundation of his future
greatnefs, and rendered him the greateft politician and
general of the age in which he li-ved (lo^). Brihtric
was very unhappy in his marriage with Eadburga, who
was wanton, cruel, and perfidious, and ftuck at nothincj
to accomplifh the deftru6lion of thofe who had incurred
her difpleafure. Amongft others (he had conceived an
implacable anim.cfity againfb a young nobleman (who
was a favourite of her hufband), and refolved upon his
death. For this purpofe, fhe prepared a cup of poifon ;
of which Brihtric having inadvertently tafhed, loft his
life, at the fame time, and by the fame means, with his
favourite, A. D. 800 (104). Upon this event the no-
bility of Weflex recalled Egbert from his exile, and
placed him, amidft the joyful acclamations of the peo-
ple on the throne of his anceftors ; which he filled with
great dignity thirty-fix years, and became the firil mo-
narch of the Englifli nation, by thofe fteps which we (hall
trace in the beginning of the next fe£l:ion. — In the mean
time it may be proper to bring down the hiftory of
Wales and North-Britain, from where we left it, to this


(toi) W. Ma1mf. 1. i. c 5. (102) Chron. Saxon, p. (^4.

(105) W. Mcilmf. 1. 2.C. I.

(104) R. Ilovedeii Ann. pars prior.



The Britons to the fouth of the Briflol channel had A. D 600,
been in a kind of fubjeftion to 'the Weft-Saxon kings, ^° ^'^'*
from about the beginning of the eighth century, though ^^-^"V^^^
their own chieftains Hill retained fome degree of autho- S,-'',""^^
rity, till they were reduced to the condition of fubjefts
by Egbert. Thofe who lived between the Briftol chan-
nel and the river Dee were expelled from the low coun-
tries, by OrFa king of Mercia, and connned to the moun-
tains of Wales ; where they were governed by feveral
petty princes, who, according to the cuftom of thofe
times, were honoured with the title of kings (105).
The moft confiderable of thefe princes were Caradoc
king of North Wales, and Conan Tendaethwy king 01
South Wales, who flourifhed in the eighth century (106).
The Cumbrian and Strathcluyd Britons, who lived along
the weft coafts, from the river Dee to the frith of Clyde,
were in fubje£tion to the Northumbrian princes during
the ilouriftiing ftate of that kingdom ; and upon its de-
cline, they recovered their liberty ; which they did not
long enjoy, the one half of them being reduced to the
fame ftate of fubje£lion by the Scots and Pidls, and the
other half by Egbert (107).

Before we leave the fouth, it may be neceflary to take Flrft ap-
notice, that the fouth and eaft. coafts of Britain began to pearance
be infeiled by new and ftrange enemies towards the end 2f ^^®
of the eighth century. Thefe were the Norwegian and the coafts
Danifti pirates, who made a very diftinguilhed figure In of Britain,
the hiftory of Europe for more than two centuries.
The firft appearance of thefe ferocious and deftru£live
rovers was on the coaft of Wellex, A. D. 787, where
they murdered one of the king's officers, who went
.amongft them without fear or fufpicion, to inquire who
they were, and whence they came (108). About fix
years after, another crew of thefe pirates (for as yet they
deferved no other name) landed on the coaft of North-
umberland, killed many of the inhabitants, and plun-
dered the fam.ous monaftery of Lindesfarne, or Holy-
Mand (109). The very next year, another fleet of
thefe rovers appeared upon the fame coafts, and plun-
dered the mxonaftery of Weremouthj but a ftorm arifing,

(105) Povvel's Hift. Wales, p. 19, 20. (io5) Id. ibid.

(107) Innes, v. i. p. i6r.

(to?) Chron.Saxon. p. 64. Hen. Hunt. 1. 4.

(109) id. ibid,



A. D. 600, feveral of their fhips were wrecked, many of themfelves
to Bo I. drowned, . and a confiderable number of them taken pri-

^*^''^'>r'''*>^ foners, and beheaded on the fhore, by the cr.untry-peo-
ple (no). This difafler deterred them for fome time
from making any attempts upon the Britifh coafts.

Hiftory of On the death of Murdoch king of Scots, A. D.

Scotland. 730, his fon Ewen mounted the throne, and reigned
tliree years, according to the two mod ancient catalogues
of the kings of Scotland (m). But our later hillori-
ans chanp-e the order of fuccefiion, and introduce
Ethfine, or Eth the White, immediately after Murdoch.
They differ too from the catalogues concerning the fa-
ther 01 EthRne, who, according to them, was Heata-
gaUj or Eugene Vi. who died A. D. 715 •, but, accord-
ing to tiie catalogues, Eochol Crooked-nofe, or Eugene
IV. who died A. D. 687 (112). But in whatever or-
der thefe two princes reigned, we know very little with
certainty of their tranfaftions. Fergus, the fon of
Ethfine, mounted the throne of Scotland A. D. 7^3 j
but being a profligate and libidinous prince, he was
murdered by his queen, in a fit of jealoufy, in the third
year of his reign (113). Oengus king of the Pi£ls, who
reigned over that nation from A. D. 730 toA.D.
761, is reprefented, by the anonymous continuator of
Bede's hiftory, to have been a cruel and fanguinary ty-
rant, from the beginning to the end of his reign (114).
Selvac, the fon of Ewen, fucceeded Fergus II. in the
throne of Scotland A. D. 766. What credit is due to
the ftory told by Boethius and Buchanan, concerning a
rebellion raifed againll this prince by one Donald Bane,
"who, afluming the title of King of the Ijlcs, invaded the
continent of Scotland, where he was defeated and llain,
it is difficult to determine (115). Selvac dying A. D.
787, was fucceeded by Eochol, the fon of Ethfine, who
is named Achahis by the later Scotch hiftorians. From
the fall of the Roman empire to this period, the Bri-
tifh princes feem to have had little or no connexion or
intercourfe with thofe ^:iX\ the continent. But Charle-
magne king of France having, by his great policy and
many viclorieo, revived the Weflern empire, began to
from alliances with foreign princes, and particularly

(lie) Chron. Saxor>. p. 64. Hen. Hunt. i. 4.

i(iii), Append. No. 4, 5.

(rii) Id. ibid. Fordun, 1. 3. c 45.

(113) Forcun, 1. 3. c.46. (114) Eedae Kift. Ecclef. p. ^^\>

(115) Btjct. 1. 9. Buchah. 1. 5.



with fome of the Britiih kings. That this illuRrious prince A. D. <?oo,
kiept up a friendly correfponclence,^ and entered into a to 801.
treaty of alliance and commerce, with Ofla king of Mer- "
cia, v/e have the moil undoubted evidence (ii<5). It is
alfo certain^ that there fubfifbed a friendly intercourfe^
by letters and meiTengers betvv''een that great prince and
the kings of Scots, his cotemporaries ; but whether
that intercourfe amounted to a forma] alliance^ as iome
French and. Scotch hiftorians have affirmed (117)? may-
be juftly doubted. Achaius married Fergufiana, frlte-r
to Hungus king of the Picts ; by whom he had a fon,
named Alpine^ who became heir to the Pi£lifli crov/n,
on the failure of the male line of that royal faxnily (118).
Though Achaius furvived the period of this fe61:ionj it
may not be improper to mention his death, which hap-
pened in the thirty fecond year of his reign, A. D. 819.
Though the Pittifh monarchy appears to have been
in a iiourifning ftate in the latter part of the eighth cen-
tury, the particulars of its hiftory v»rhich have been pre-^
fcrved are fo few^ that they cannot be formed into any
thing like a continued narration.



The civil and military hijlory of Great Britain^ from the
acceffton of Egbert, the firfi monarch of England^ A. D.
801, to the accefpon of Edward the Elder y A. D. 901.

A. D. Sor,

to 901.

H O U G PI Brihtric king of Weflex died A. D.
800, it was not till the year after that his fuccelTor
Egbert arrived from the continent, and took poiTefiion
oi the vacant throne. At that period all the other king- State of
doms of the Heptarchy Avere in a dependent or unfettled England
ttate. The little kingdom of SufTex had been fome time ^'•J-^*^ ^^
before annexed to Y/eiTex, and that of the Eaft- Angles Egbert,
to Mercia ; and the petty kings of Kent and ElTex were ^nd the

"^ conquefts

/ ^x TXT -Kir M- -1 ofthat

(ii6) W. Malfm. 1. i. c. 4; ^ • ^^.^^

(117) See Fordun, 1. 3. c. 48. Buchan. I, 5. Meze.ay Kift. ^

Pranc.i. 9. p, 412. Egluhard Vit. Car. Mag. 1. 16. p. 79.

• (iiB) Boet. 1. 10.




A. D. Toi,
to 901.

inent of
the Eng-
lifh mo-

tributaries to the Mercian monarchs. The two remain-
ing kingdoms of Mercia and Northumberland, though
naturally powerful, were greatly weakened by the un-
fettled (tate of their government, and contefts about the
fucceffion. Thefe circumftances afforded Egbert, who
was a wife and valiant prince, at the head of an united
people, a very fair profpedl of enlarging his dominions,
and extending his authority. This prince, however,
fpent the firll years of his reign in gaining the affefti-
ons, by promoting the profperity, of his fubjefts, and in
reducing the Britifh chieftains of Devon and Cornwall

Online LibraryRobert HenryThe history of Great Britain : from the first invasion of it by the Romans under Julius Cæsar. Written on a new plan (Volume 2) → online text (page 4 of 54)