Notes and Queries, Number 42, August 17, 1850 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 42 pages of information about Notes and Queries, Number 42, August 17, 1850.


Alfred’s Orosius.

The two exceedingly valuable elucidations which the geography of King Alfred relating to Germany (intercalated in the royal author’s translation of Orosius), has received from your learned contributors Mr. R.T.  Hampson (Vol. i., p. 257.) and Mr. S.W.  Singer (Vol. i., p. 313.) induce me to offer some new views on the same subject.  From my having passed a long series of years in the countries described, and read and examined all that continental authors, as well as Englishmen, have written or conjectured on the subject, I trust that my opinions, though differing from all hitherto received, may not be unworthy the attention of these gentlemen, and of your other numerous subscribers.  I shall, however, at present, not to exceed the necessary limitation of your articles, restrict myself to a consideration of the very disputed Cwenas and the Cwen-sae, which both the gentlemen have not alluded to.

The universal agreement amongst the commentators (with the two solitary exceptions I shall hereafter mention), by which this sea is taken for the White Sea, is diverting, and has been the primary source of many of their errors, and of that most monster one, by which Othere’s narrative has been made the relation of a voyage round the North Cape to Archangel.  It is difficult to say who may have first broached the brilliant idea.  Spelmann’s annotators, his alumni Oxonienses of University College, seem to have left the matter without much consideration, in which they were pretty servilely followed by Bussaeus, though not so much so as to justify Professor Ingram’s remark, “that his notes were chiefly extracted thence.” (Pref. viii.) Professor Murray of Goettingen (1765), and Langebeck, in his Scriptores Rerum Danicarum (1773), make no mention of these arctic discoveries; and the latter is satisfied that the Cwenas are the Amazons of Adam of Bremen:—­

“De Quenorum priscis Sedibus et Quenlandiae situ, vide Torfaeus, Hist.  Norweg. i. 140.  Adamus Bremens, pp. 58, 59. 61., per Amazones et terram Foeminarum voluit Queuones et Quenladiam intelligi.”

and it remains, therefore, to the next commentator, John Reinhold Forster (the companion navigator with Sir Joseph Banks), to have been the first to whom we owe the important error.  He was praised by Daines Barrington, for whose edition he gave the notes afterwards reproduced in his Northern Voyages of Discovery; but still with certain reservations.  The honourable translator found some negative evidences which seemed to militate against the idea that the voyage could have extended into the arctic circle; for, in such a case, Othere would hardly have refrained from mentioning the perpetual day of those regions; the northern lights, which he must have experienced; to which {178} we add, the perpetual snows, and many other very striking peculiarities, so new and seemingly inexplicable to a southern traveller or listener.

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Notes and Queries, Number 42, August 17, 1850 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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