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Of the power of fiction, especially as it affects the young, we have already spoken. The question of the present race of novelists and novel-readers is at once too wide and too intricate a topic to be now even touched on; but the indisputable fact remains that the worst of modern novels are too often among the most popular. Pure, healthy fiction is indeed to be had, and in fair abundance, but public taste seems to devour unhealthy trash, of every kind, with a higher relish than it can find for the good gifts of the most gifted artists. There is no possible lack of good work, and they who choose trash do so of their own free will and choice. But the case of those for whom this article pleads is wholly different. To them no choice whatever is allowed. They must be content with the garbage of the 'Penny Dreadfuls' or nothing. Yet the fancy and the imagination, the innate thirst for novelty and excitement, for a touch of mystery or of tender passion, are as potent and as true in the heart of the street Arab or the shopgirl as in the fiercest devourer of romance on Mudie's list. But their desire can be gratified in one way alone. The feast spread for them is ready and abundant; but every dish is poisoned, unclean, and shameful. Every flavour is a false one, every condiment vile. Every morsel of food is doctored, every draught of wine is drugged; no true hunger is satisfied, no true thirst quenched; and the hapless guests depart with a depraved appetite, and a palate more than ever dead to every pure taste, and every perception of what is good and true. Thus entertained and equipped, the wide army of the children of the poor are sent on their way to take part in the great battle of life, with false views, false impressions, and foul aims. The pictures of men and women to which they have been introduced are unreal and untrue. The whole drama of life, as they see it, is a lie from beginning to end, and in it they can play none but a vicious and unhappy part.

VOL. CLXV. NO. CCCXXXVII.

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ART. III.-Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales attributed to Howel the Good. Translated and edited by ANEURIN OWEN, and published by Royal Authority. Folio. Oxford: 1841.

TE HE question whether the British people under the name of the Cymry or Welsh had any influence in the formation of the English Constitution has recently been mooted in the principality, and is certainly entitled to a careful answer. It invites attention to a comparatively unexhausted field of research. The learned historians who have laboured to throw new light upon the origin of our constitutional customs have paid little attention to the Roman influence in Britain, and even less to that of the population which was in possession when the Anglo-Saxon descents took place. Historical investigations have started at once from the Anglo-Saxon conquest. It is true that the circumstances surrounding Welsh literature have been singularly unfavourable to historical enquiry. The Celtic and Anglo-Saxon languages refused to be amalgamated into one national tongue, or even to combine at all, and there was a consequent failure of literary intercommunication. The districts into which the British tribes were gradually, after very protracted resistance, compressed, were less accessible than most other parts of the country, and the line of demarcation between the advancing and retiring peoples became at last very sharply defined. There had been great colleges, with thousands of students, at Llantwit, Bangor, Llancarvan, and Caerleon in earlier centuries, but they had dwindled away during protracted wars, and historical literature was utterly neglected. English students of history have been one and all deterred by the language in which British literature was composed from investigating, or even recognising the existence of, the records of bygone centuries in the Welsh language. They lay, like the fine Welsh coal-seams, unknown, unsought for, and useless. It is unfortunate that no great bilingual scholar, with a gift for historical research and for digesting the products into a readable narrative, has as yet dedicated a life to the elucidation of Welsh history. The erudition of modern historians has thrown floods of light upon the history, laws, and society of Greece, Rome, modern Italy, India, and England, but they have left undone a work the performance of which, though beset by difficulties, would hare entitled them to the gratitude of every Welshman. In fact, as Mr. Matthew Arnold has truly remarked,

the Saxon will have nothing to do with the Welsh literature ' and language on any terms;' and yet he adds, 'they have no notion of the volume of Welsh literature.' The Myvyrian manuscripts alone in the British Museum amount to 67 volumes of poetry, 53 volumes of prose, in about 15,000 pages, besides other vast collections of Welsh manuscripts. So long, indeed, as the Celtic literature existed only in the original language, it is conceivable that students of history might shrink from spending years in learning Welsh, and poring over manuscripts which might prove to be of no historical value. But it is strange that when a vast body of the laws and customs of the Britons has been translated into English with care and learning, and can be examined in a folio volume to be found in the great libraries, such a treasure should have been overlooked.

The circumstances under which this fine translation appeared are as follows:-In 1822 a royal order was given to the Commissioners on Public Records to publish a complete edition of the ancient histories of the realm. As a component part of the plan of the commissioners it was determined to print separately such documents as related wholly to Wales. The task of collating manuscripts and editing the translation devolved on Mr. Aneurin Owen, who performed it with great ability. His researches extended to the manuscripts possessed by Colonel Vaughan, of Hengwrt, and Sir W. W. Wynn, of Wynnstay and Llanfoida. The sources from which the edition was finally drawn were the manuscripts in the British Museum, the Bodleian Library, at Merton College, and Trinity College, Cambridge, at Hengwrt and Wynnstay; that is, the same which were used by Dr. William Wotton more than one hundred and fifty years ago, with some additions of the existence of which he was probably not aware. As to the age of these manuscripts, the editor was of opinion that the manuscript in the British Museum, which formed the basis of Dr. Wotton's edition and Latin translation, was transcribed about the end of the twelfth century. Many of the manuscripts are believed to have been transcribed in the fifteenth century. Various tests enable experts to approximate almost to certainty as to the century in which manuscripts were written. After years of learned toil the new edition was published in 1841, in folio, with the Welsh and English in parallel columns. Thus the contents of a large body of historical manuscripts were made accessible to every reader, and the Celtic laws, as they prevailed in Wales in the tenth

century, were presented in an English form to English students. The work is entitled The Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales, comprising Laws supposed to be enacted by Howel the Good,* modified by subsequent 'Regulations under the Native Princes prior to the Conquest by Edward the First.' But as yet we seem to be no nearer to the possession of a complete history of Wales.

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The purpose of this article is to supply a brief account of the collection of Celtic laws and customs with which the name of Howel the Good is always associated. In order to introduce him and explain his position it is necessary to point out that after Britain was finally severed from the Roman Empire the materials for the construction of Welsh history during several succeeding centuries are scanty and bare. It concerns the students of Prince Howel's laws to be satisfied that long before that ruler's epoch there were monarchical institutions in certain parts of the present principality, and little British states which had an organisation enabling them to act with power against the incessant advances of their German assailants. A recent and learned writer on early English history † says, 'In the midst of the sixth century the pettier British states were being forced to group themselves before the stranger. West of the Severn, Maelgwn, a Prince of what we now know as North Wales, 'towered above his brother rulers.' In the time of his descendants a long and hard struggle was sustained between the Cymry and the Anglo-Saxons, in which the former were slowly worsted, and finally Southern Cambria, with our present Monmouthshire, shrank into the Wales of the present day. It lay to the west of Offa's Dyke, which that chief of Mercia caused to be thrown up (like the lines of Torres Vedras) from the mouth of the Wye to that of the Dee, or, as we should now say, from Chepstow to Chester. This dyke, of which the direction and some remains can still be traced, determined for ages the frontier between England and Wales. Offa is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as having succeeded to the throne of the Mercians in A.D. 755, and having had a reign of forty years. About the same period Rhodri is mentioned in the Welsh Chronicle as King of the Brythous, or Rex Brittonum.' His grandson was Rhodri the Great,' and Howel Dda was the grandson of that prince. His name is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon

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Chronicle in the following terms:- Anno 926: this year 'King Athelstane obtained the Kingdom of the Northhumbrians and he ruled all the Kings who were in this island; first Howel King of the West Welsh--and Owen King of the Monmouth people.'

Two peoples-the Anglo-Saxons and the Cymry-of different race, customs, and language, were then living under different governments, in conterminous districts, being only separated by the visible boundary of Offa's Dyke. Howel Dda is said to have succeeded his father in A.D. 909 as prince of certain portions of Wales, to which he subsequently added Gwynedd. There is in the Harleian collection in the British Museum a manuscript (3859) which, says Mr. Aneurin Owen, has every appearance of having been written in Dimetia (West Wales) during the government of Owain, the son of Howel Dda, or is a transcript of one of that date. It contains a chronicle of events from A.D. 444 to A.D. 954, and amongst other matters it records this fact: A.D. 928: King Hywel made a journey to Rome.' Thus the evidence

furnished by these and some other early allusions to the collections of Howel Dda, the great antiquity of the earliest manuscript, the unbroken tradition, and the existence of the entire work itself, form a body of circumstances which exclude any reasonable supposition except that Howel was no mythical personage, but a genuine historical prince. King Alfred died forty-seven years before Howel Dda, in the year A.D. 901. The two princes had been for a short time contemporaries in life, though not in their government. King Howel has a place in that admirable work, the New Uni'versal Biography,' in which we are told that he succeeded to power in A.D. 910, died in the year A.D. 948, and is celebrated as the author of a new code of laws still extant,' with some other particulars. No doubt his admission into that biographical work is not conclusive evidence that he was a real prince, and that the incidents of his legislation are historical. But it does show that the editors of that dictionary completely trusted the story of this king, and deemed themselves justified in giving him a niche of fame. In fact, it may most reasonably be assumed that Howel Dda really ruled over parts of Wales in the first half of the tenth century, and that tradition rightly associates the collection

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Bohn's edition, p. 375. † Professor Rhys's Celtic Britain,' p. 140.

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