Anglo – Saxon Prose Writers: King Alfred, Aelfric, Wulfstan are So Famous? But Why?



Until the 9th century literary prose did not develop in England. Before this Anglo – Saxon prose started in the form of some laws, and historical records. Basically with Alfred The Great Anglo – Saxon prose marks the true beginning. The three great prose writers of this period are King Alfred, Aelfric and Wulfstan.


He is known as the ‘father of English Prose’. He became the king of Wessex in 871 A. D. the successive raids of the Danes made the English miserable. The Danes burnt the books, destroyed the monasteries and ever destroyed the mental peace.

He translated the five great works.




(A) Gregory’s –Pastoral Care’ :It is a religious works which discusses the essentials of Christianity. It is to be noted that in the preface of it Alfred said by the laity, to know the history of their country.

(B) Bede’s – ‘Ecclesiastical History of the England’ – It is about the religious development in England , Here Alfred , wished his people , not just clergy but the laity , to know the history of their country.

(C) Orosius – ‘History of the World' – It is a study of the world from various aspects, His accounts of geography. The language and places of Germany make the reading interesting Alfred is desire was to see people acquainted not only with the country history but also was that of the world beyond.

(D) Boethius’s – De Consolation Philosophic’ – It is a fine study of the sorrow’s and suffering of human title and the way of their consolation. It is written in the form of dialogue between Boethius and philosophy. Boethius also has written it in prison in order to console his sole in the dire hour of dejection and isolation. Here we find Alfred deep faith in Christianity finding reflection in his translation.

(E) St. Augustine’s – ‘Soliloquia’ – It is a highly philosophic work. Its preface overflow’s with emotions at the prospect of his departure from this world. Here he recall all his good work done as a writer and educator and exhorts his for being to carry on the work he had began. A part his translation Alfred wrote - Hand book – and Law book 



Aelfric was a scholar of the monastic school founded by Aethelwold at Abingdon. He then became an abbot of Eynsham in 1005. Among his writing ‘colloquium’ and ‘Catholic Homilies’ deserve particular mention. These work basically has given him the position of prose writers. 

Culloquime: - It is meant for teaching Latin by means of conversation. There is a teacher in one side and on the other side there are a Number of Person coming from the different fields and a Novi through the interesting conversation the way of learning slowly comes.

Catholic Homilies: - Alfric write sermon’s in vernacular. The first two Series of these sermons are known as ‘Catholic Homilies and the third are known as ‘lives of the saints’, ‘catholic Homilies’ two series of forty Sermon’s suitable for delivery by the clergy.

The first seven books of the Old Testament are supposed to be translated by Aelfric and that is why he can be called as the first English Bible translator.

Aelfric’s prose has a rhymed charm and shares the element of poetry. He writes in a conventional style full of impulse and sonority.

To W. P. Ker – “Aelfric is the great master of prose in all its forms."



He was the Archbishop of York from 1002 to 1023. He had witnessed the Danish invasion which perhaps has started the patriotic zeal in him. Homilies are extant, but his fame mainly rests on a single homily – “Sernwlupiad – Angles’.


Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert     
     2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature    

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