25 December 2010

Anglo-Saxons:- "Lumbering about in pot-bellied equanimity"?

Guiscard, a member of my website (and who runs his own, Norman, message board)started off an interesting thread on his forum, which set me thinking- who uttered the infamous phrase that the Anglo-saxons would have been "Pot-bellied, amiable and drunk" as Michael Wood described in his 'In Search of the Dark Ages' series (1981)?

Some have suggested elsewhere that it was none other than Monty (General), whose disdain for the Anglo-Saxons was exceeded only by his ironic praise of the British fighting man.

But I think it was, inaccurately anyway in my view, uttered by Thomas Carlyle (d.1881), echoing John Milton's "The History of Britain" 1670 (in which he saw no Anglo-Saxon Golden Age, but just another unworthy people like the ancient Britons, who were "Progenitors not to be glori'd in"), saying;-

"A gluttonous race of Jutes and Angles, capable of no great combinations; lumbering about in pot-bellied equanimity; not dreaming of heroic toil and silence and endurance, such as leads to the high places of this Universe, and the golden mountain-tops where dwell the Spirits of the Dawn.

The most weighty adherent of the cataclysmic view was John Horace Round, who published his Feudal England in 1892. He approached the subject with all the apparatus of scholarship, and tackled it with profound learning.

In general, he believed that the Anglo-Saxons contributed little or nothing to Anglo-Norman England"

As I posted on Guiscard's forum;-

"I believe that this quote is way inaccurate historically and evidentially (is that a word?).

There was a hightly-efficient and complex system of Government and taxation in place long before 1066, which is why William kept the admin fellas in position.

As for the 'pot bellied/drunk', hinting at lazy, such an intricate and well-run society with a proud history of successful military Anglo-Saxon kings does not spring forth from indolent people."