Reference > Cambridge History > From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance > Alfred and the Old English Prose of his Reign > Works attributed to Alfred
  Gregory’s Dialogues His Literary Achievement  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

VI. Alfred and the Old English Prose of his Reign.

§ 10. Works attributed to Alfred.


Alfred’s literary reputation caused a number of other works to be ascribed to him for which there is no trustworthy evidence. Of these the most important is the so-called Psalter William of Malmesbury makes a statement to the effect that Alfred began a translation of the Psalms, but was unable to complete it—Psalterium transferre aggressus vix prima parte explicata vivendi finem fecit.  11  Curiously enough, an eleventh century MS. in the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris contains an Old English prose version of the first fifty psalms, followed by an alliterative version of the remainder (psalms li-cl). Wülker conjectures that the prose portions were based on the work of Alfred referred to by William of Malmesbury. Each psalm is preceded by an introduction, in which are set forth the circumstances under which the psalm was written. The translation is free, and the method of rendering one word by two is frequently resorted to. In this latter respect the prose Psalter resembles Alfred’s Bede and Pastoral Care  12  The alliterative portions in the Paris MS. were probably introduced to supplement the deficiencies of the prose version; there can be no doubt that a complete alliterative version of thePsalms was in existence when the prose was undertaken.   26
  Alfred has been credited with a collection of Proverbs in metrical form. In favour of this there is not the slightest evidence. For centuries he must have had some reputation as a philosopher, and an anonymous collection of maximum would naturally be associated with his name. A treatise on Falconry and a translation of Aesop’s Fables have also been attributed to him, but for neither of these is there any evidence.   27

Note 11Gesta Regum Anglorum II /??/ 123. [ back ]
Note 12. But see Bruce’s Anglo-Saxon Version of the Book of Psalms. [ back ]

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  Gregory’s Dialogues His Literary Achievement  
 
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