A year and a half later, and I still can’t get a good handle on what I actually achieved in my time studying for a PhD (not that I even got as far as completing the MPhil bit, but hey, that’s crippling anxiety for you). One thing I do know is that the literary uses of Old English (OE) singular -ing and plural -ingas name formations were the only topic I ended up writing about properly (i.e. 1000s of words with full referencing etc.). Which in a way was/is an achievement in itself, because there’s been an unhealthy tendency in past scholarship to keep toponymic and non-toponymic instances separate and analyse them without much reference to the “other” type. I remain steadfast in my belief that you really can’t hope to understand one without the other, or to get a true grasp of some plural -ingas place-names without knowing the significance of singular -ing name formations first. And on a not-unrelated note…
I bought Ted Johnson South’s 2002-published edition of the Historia de Sancto Cuthberto (hereafter HSC) last year as a Christmas present to myself, mainly to have it as a point of reference for a couple of bits of research I have in mind to do in the coming years. For those who don’t know much/anything about it, the HSC is a Latin-language history interweaving tales from the life (and indeed Lives) of St Cuthbert, his cult, and records of the benefactions of land made to the ecclesiastical community that took his name and that moved around Northumbria before ultimately setting up shop at Durham. Three medieval manuscripts of the HSC survive. South (2002, 14-22) uses the following reference schema for them: O for the late 11th-century Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 596 (folios 203r-206v); C for the later 12th-century Cambridge, University Library, Ff. 1. 27 (pages 195-202); and L for the 15th-century London, Lincoln’s Inn, Hale 114 (folios 153r-159r).
None of the aforementioned manuscripts represents the original HSC text. Indeed, one of the most prominent issues concerning the HSC is when it was first written. There are three schools of thought on the matter. Up until 15 years ago, either it was argued that the HSC was commenced in the 10th century with additions made at two points in the 11th century, or that it was a single-phase piece of work started and finished in the later 11th century (see South 2002, 25-36, who came down in favour of the latter; the main proponent of the former was Edmund Craster in a 1954 English Historical Review article I’ve not read). Then, in 2004, Dr Sally Crumplin introduced the ‘composite text model’, arguing for the earliest portions of the HSC perhaps having originated as far back as the late 8th century, and being followed thereafter by multiple episodes of additions and reworking. These might be roughly grouped sequentially into a “pre-West Saxon” part, a “West Saxon” part, and a handful of late 10th/early 11th-century chapters to round it off (Crumplin 2004, 41-69). What is clear whichever interpretation is preferred is that the HSC draws its information from an array of extant and lost texts of the Anglo-Saxon period (South 2002, 4-8; Crumplin 2004, 62, 66).
It transpired upon reading the HSC over the festive seasons that it contains a remarkable quantity of evidence for OE singular -ing formations. They rapidly became of more immediate interest to me because of the way they appear in the text, even more so when it became clear that they have received precious little in the way of scholarly discussion. Hence this blog post!
I’ll begin with the following passage, as it’s the most unequivocal instance of the obvious error that lies at the heart of what this blog post is about (all texts and translations are as per South’s published edition unless otherwise stated).
Chapter 8: succesit in regnum Ceowulf filius Cuthwining (‘Ceowulf son of Cuthwining succeeded to the kingship’: South 2002, 48, 49)
We know from other sources that Ceolwulf’s father’s name was Cuthwine, not Cuthwining, and that the -ing ended spliced onto the end of his name was an OE ending that had patrilineal significance, i.e. it signified that the first-named person was the son of the second-named one. This is a feature of OE genealogical texts, such as those of the so-called Anglian group edited and analysed by David Dumville (1976). As per the classification of OE -ing name-formation endings by AH Smith, this patronymic type is -ing3 (1956, 290-91; the 3 is meant to be superscript but I don’t know how you do that on WordPress). I’ve blogged about the type before as, well, I find them enormously interesting from both an onomastic and an historical perspective.
The tautological, bilingual phrasing here and, as will be shown below, elsewhere in the HSC suggests that either the author/s knew the significance of the -ing suffix but forgot to remove it from the name of Cuthwine etc., or did not know what it meant but worked out the relationships between the men in question nonetheless (or found out by using another source). Other, more complex scenarios might also be countenanced, too.
In the case of the above instance, a probable source can be suggested; the top line of the Bernician II-III genealogy on folio 65v of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 183 (Ceowulf Cuþwining: edited by Dumville 1976, 32):
What makes this manuscript the probable source is the fact that it is one with a known connection to the community of St Cuthbert (South 2002, 6). Comparison can be made between this and the phrase Wulfhere filium Pendici (‘Wulfhere son of Penda’: South 2002, 48, 49) found in the preceding chapter of the HSC. It may have been adapted from a combination of the Mercian royal genealogy and regnal list in the same manuscript (Dumville 1976, 33), although again supplemented or confirmed by recourse to another text. Or, rather more straightforwardly, it was based on a different source altogether.
We may perceive use of the same source earlier in the HSC text, but one that has its attendant complications as well. The passage in question is:
Chapter 3: tempore Pendae regis filii Pybbindti [O, C] / Pybbindri [L] regis, quibus successit rex Osuingius [O, C] / Osuigius [L] (‘in the time of King Penda, son of Pybba, whom King Oswin succeeded’: South 2002, 44, 45)
Arguably the first half of the sentence is an adaptation of the phrase Penda Pybbing in the Mercian genealogy in Corpus Christi College MS. 183 fol. 66r (Dumville 1976, 33). This assumes the -d- represents an original -g-; the significance of the -ti, -ri endings is not clear to me at the time of writing (might there be an analogy to be drawn with the spellings Suthgedling [L] / Suthgedluit [O, C] in chapter 6? South 2002, 48, 49, 81, 138; Pickles 2009, 322 inc. footnote 60).
The second half is not so easily traced. The name form(s) must be set alongside the forms Osuingius [O, C], Osuigius [L] found near the start of the same chapter. South did pass comment on these name spellings (South 2002, 72-74). He noted that there appears to be a level of confusion between the name of Oswine and Oswiu in this chapter of the HSC, but that this doesn’t necessarily account for the above name spellings. Significantly, he introduced the possibility of a patronymic ending explaining the above forms, highlighting how Oswiu’s name is on record suffixed by -ing. The example he chose to illustrate this particular point was Ecgfrið Osuing found in ‘the earliest surviving version of the Anglian collection’, i.e. London, British Library, Cotton Vespasian B. vi (South 2002, 74 footnote 4; Dumville 1976, 30). Curiously, he did not reference the equivalent name in what would seem to be a more obvious source, albeit with a different spelling – the St Cuthbert’s community-linked CCCC MS 183 (Ecgfrið Osweoing: Dumville 1976, 32).
The obvious explanation would be that the source was a lost text; South suggested ‘an authentic charter of King Oswiu’ (2002, 74). If Osuingius is an -ing3 elaboration of the name, then it must have been taken from a different genealogy, one not part of the ‘Anglian collection’ tradition, as neither Penda nor Pybba were Oswine’s son! However, I guess it’s not wholly inconceivable that, dealing with names from what even by the later Anglo-Saxon period was long ago, the author of this bit of the HSC was all at sea with working out the name of Oswine, and hence assumed a king of the mid-7th century, be he Bernician or Mercian, was more likely than not to have had a name ending in -ing. All in all, the origin of Osui(n)gius remains something of a mystery, and would merit further investigation.
Chapter 6: bonus abbas Cineferth filius Cygings [O] / Cygincg [C, L] (‘The good abbot Cyneferth son of Cygincg’: South 2002, 48, 49)
Whatever the source of this phrase, the context alone shows that it did not come from a royal genealogy. The ‘good abbot’ in question may be the Cynefrith who appears thrice in the anonymous Life of Ceolfrith (aka Historia abbatum: South 2002, 81-82), two times as the brother of the main man, and who was the abbot of Gilling (for a more extensive discussion of the identity of the abbot in the HSC, offering four possibilities but no judgement on which is the most likely, see Pickles 2009, 322-23). That text includes an anecdote about Ceolfrith’s father (and mother) organising a banquet at which the king was due to be in attendance, suggesting he was a someone of high social standing (Plummer 1896, 401). Maddeningly, however, it does not give the father’s name!
In onomastic terms, an OE personal name *Cyging is otherwise unattested but far from impossible. A nobleman named Cyga is on record in the early 9th century (S 159) and *Cyging would be a perfectly credible -ing variant of that name. The terminal -s of the O and C MSS could further act as supporting the idea of a name ending -ing (for which the genitive singular inflection would be *Cyginges). But this very fact Cyga is an attested OE personal name, when taken in combination with the HSC‘s recurrent formula of OE name + filius + OE name ending -ing strongly suggests that here again we are looking at a reinterpreted genealogical phrase.
The source of such a phrase is not easy to identify. A handful of charters show sub-royal, aristocratic/elite sorts deploying the -ing3 formula. So, for example, we find Eadbyr’h’t Eadgaring and Æðelheh Esning in S 1187 (dated 804; this charter also includes the name Berclingas as a reference to the community of Berkeley minster – but that’s another story for another day) and Mucele Esninge in the OE bit of S 190 (dated 836). Perhaps we have a case of reuse of a similar tidbit of information extracted from a lost charter. This would be pretty inspired, and displays a level of attention to detail that’s not exactly a hallmark of the HSC. Therefore, it’s probably safer to conclude that it came from some other type of text. My next two examples may offer some clues in this regard:
Chapter 22: Elfred [O, C] / Alfred [L] filius Birihtulfinci (‘Elfred son of Brihtwulf’: South 2002, 60, 61)
Chapter 24: Edred filius Rixinci [O, C] / Riuxinci [or Rinxinci L] (‘Eadred son of Ricsige’: South 2002, 62-63)
Elfred/Alfred is the star of chapter 22 of the HSC, and Eadred of chapter 24; neither of their fathers play any further part in their stories. You would imagine the relatively late date in which the events described took place would mean it would be straightforward to find out more about the men and their fathers using other sources. Not so. South, who in his commentary on the chapter correctly emends his recorded name to ‘Elfred Brihtwulfing’, observed that nothing else is known about him, and this seems to check out even with a resource like PASE to draw upon (South 2002, 104).
I’m not entirely happy with identifying Rix(i)– < OE *Rīcsige, but can make no better suggestion (other than to opine that the spelling in the L manuscript might be more authentic to the original – as could be argued in respect of Cygincg above). Eadred’s father was suggested by a 19th-century author to have been Ricsig(e), reputedly king of Northumbria 873-76 (South 2002, 106 inc. footnote 108), and this seems like a not-unreasonable conjecture given the geographical and chronological context. He is directly attested only in much later sources, including Symeon of Durham’s so-called Historia Dunelmensis ecclesiæ, a work of the early 12th century that repeats and elaborates on ‘virtually every episode from the HSC‘ (South 2002, 9; also Grey 2013). We might expect the phrase to have been suffixed by Latin regis in this case, but Symeon described him as ‘a person’ who was ‘appointed’ by the Northumbrians as their king, which hardly suggests he was born to rule (Grey 2013). Thus, while he could merit citation under my above-mentioned royal examples, there are more immediate reasons for discussing him or rather his son here.
South (2002, 106-107) was probably not the first to point out that the two narratives about Elfred and Eadred share enough commonalities of theme and detail as to suggest their author confused two separate stories, albeit not to the extent that he invented one of them. Both men came over ‘the mountains’ from the west to rock up at and prevail upon the community of St Cuthbert. Elfred was fleeing from piratas (‘pirates’), whereas Eadred took a more indirect route, stopping to kill a princeps named Eardwulf and seize his wife/widow! Obscure as they might be to us now, Elfred and Eadred must have been men of some consequence back in the day, as both were able to persuade Bishop Cutheard, head of the community of St Cuthbert, to present them with substantial tracts of land. They received these in return for faithfulness and all due renders, and perhaps made good on this by participating in the battle of Corbridge against King Rægnald. Unfortunately they were on the losing side: Eadred lost his life, and Elfred was put to flight once more.
I’m drawn to South’s conclusion (2002, 105-106) that the inconsistencies surrounding the date of the battle at Corbridge are the fault of the author in terms of how they understood the source material, and that this might have arisen because he was working well over a century after the events described in the chapters. Naturally, it doesn’t work as well for Crumplin’s interpretation of these chapters being written much closer to the events in question. Even so, it need not preclude the supposition that at least one of the sources utilised was relatively long and detailed (at least when compared to a line in a genealogy!) given all the little bits of information provided about Elfred and Eadred.
By way of possible analogues, I’ve been reminded of some of the lengthy OE memoranda of the later 10th century, some of which survive as single sheets, e.g. S 1447 of circa 968, which reports all manner of background details in addition to the “real” business of the tenure of the estates of Sunbury and Send (Surrey). Even if equivalent lost documents did provide most of the information for chapters 22 and 24, could they have contained the OE phrases *Elfred Brihtwulfing and *Eadred Ricsiging? This is unknowable, of course, but conceivable. A comparable memorandum from Kent, S 1458 of circa 995, includes reference to a man named Ælfstan Heahstaninc, showing -ing3 name constructions were used in 10th-century vernacular memoranda. Interestingly, other elite father-and-son combos are mentioned in both chapters in phrases lacking any sign of -ing3 endings: Aldredi filii Eadulfi (‘Ealdred son of Eadwulf’) and Esbrido filio Edred (‘Esbrid, the son of Eadred’: South 2002, 60-63, 106). It need not follow from this that means more than one source was used; S 1458 also includes multiple examples of a man being identified as the son of another man through use of OE sunu.
My final example is much briefer. Also from the reign of Edward the Elder (899-924), and found in the same chapter as the story of the murderous Eadred, it is as follows:
Chapter 24: Wulfheardus filius Hwetreddinci [O] / Hwetorddinci [C] / Huecreddinci [L] (‘Wulfheard son of Hwetredinc’: South 2002, 62, 63)
The above excerpt of text shows the scribe of the C manuscript in fact made a further error, misunderstanding and/or miswriting the latinised name-form Wulheardus as Wulfear dux (“duke Wulfear”). Whatever the faults in its textual transmission, there can be little doubt following the previous five examples that we have here yet another instance of the same formula, pointing to the same origin as an OE phrase *Wulfheard Hwetred(d)ing. If the attribution to Edward the Elder’s reign is accurate, this would place it just beyond the latest attested men of the name Hwætred (according to the PASE database).
It is worth adding that this final example forms part of a single sentence, effectively a self-contained statement which goes on to record that Wulfheard gave to (the community of) St Cuthbert uillam quae uocatur Bynnewalle (‘the vill which is called Benwell’: South 2002, 63). Short and sweet it may be, but it provides all of the essential details: names of king at the time, donor, and holding in question. The record is pithy enough for me to think that it was drawn from an inscription in a book of the St Cuthbert’s community. South (2002, 6-8, building upon earlier work by Simon Keynes) posited that ‘it was the practice of the community to preserve its important “business records” by inscribing them in gospels and other treasured books’. Not all of these survive. Some do, and contain textual insertions of 10th- and 11th-century dates, while in other cases the books are lost but their secondary contents are known.
The -ing3 styling evidenced in the HSC is the same as adopted by secular elite witnesses in the 9th century, so why not do the same in the context of the written record (in the vernacular) of a benefaction? Perhaps in the cases of Elfred and Eadred, the information came not from single-sheet memoranda but extended narrative notes, a little like the famous note added to folio 11r of the Stockholm Codex Aureus (shown above) to record how Ealdorman Ælfred (of Surrey!), his wife Werburg and daughter Alhthryth paid a ransom to the “heathens” (i.e. vikings) who had stolen the gospel book and maybe others besides, and then gave them to Christ Church, Canterbury, receiving monthly prayers for their souls thereafter (S 1204a). All of this is squeezed into the top, bottom and (much more sparsely) right-hand side margins of the richly decorated page.
There can be no doubt that the HSC represents an at-times clumsy synthesis of a multitude of sources, some but by no means all of which can be identified. It’s impossible to know if other “son of” phrases in the text represent translated or fully corrected original OE -ing3 constructions present in an earlier version (or even versions) of the HSC, but, given their distribution across different chapters pertaining to different centuries, I’d wager the six instances present in the extant text are the sum total.
There are grounds for seeing them as deriving from more than one source. The royal instances are unproblematically associated with the genealogies reproduced in CCCC MS 183 and maybe other works available to the author of the host chapters. The non-royal counterparts are harder to place. I’m not even sure they all derive from the same sort of source: Cineferth filius Cygings occurs a more overtly historical chapter, whereas the remaining three are at their cores records of changes in land tenure affecting the community one way or another. In this case, the former may derive from a vernacular history or hagiography, and the latter from memorandum documents or notes entered into blank spaces in a manuscript.
The trio of examples from chapters 22 and 24 relating to events that took place early in the 10th century might be telling in terms of the production of some kind of new manuscript or standardised recording procedure in an existing one that informed the author of this part of the HSC. Here again, the inability to understand a pretty basic bit of OE and hence to knock off the -ing ending as part and parcel of converting them to Latin phrases is conducive to thinking these chapters of the HSC as we have them were either composed or reworked a considerable length of time after the early 900s.
What the above has shown most clearly is that the distortion of the OE patronymic formula has meant a number of personal names have been misidentified by scholars. Thus, the PASE entries for Cygincg and Hwetreddinc are in effect “ghosts”, and the underlying evidence should be treated instead as pertaining to further bearers of the names Cyga and Hwætred respectively. The name spellings have also got me wondering if there might be some chronological significance to the -inc- as opposed to -ing- spellings, one being earlier than the other. BUT… I’ve also started to think that some of those -inci endings, when rendered with the final downward stroke, might actually stand for distortions of -ing ones found in earlier manuscripts of the HSC. Of course, to have any degree of confidence in such as suspicion would require much greater competence with palaeography than I can ever hope to possess, so I’ll let the matter rest here (unless those who know about such things would like to offer their opinions).
Revisiting the dating(s) and textual history of the HSC
And what might all of this signify in terms of the dating of the compilation of the HSC? To follow South’s reading of the HSC as a complete work by one author and one writing campaign, could the repeated misunderstanding of -ing3 constructions indicate it was written after the formula had fallen out of active use? On the other hand, if we accept Crumplin’s arguments for multiple stages of writing and reworking, with two major “pre-West Saxon” and “West Saxon” parts, the former earlier than the latter, a different question must be posed. This is because the name constructions occur in both parts (three in each, in fact). Could this betoken a late episode of emendation across the entire text?
Tengvik (1938, 140-46) traced a large number of OE patronymic bynames ending in -ing, although favoured many in fact to be nicknames. He was probably wrong on this point, at least in the majority of cases – as was often the case in Swedish names scholarship of the 1930s, most of the names are seen to have meant “fat, corpulent” (make of that what you will). Tengvik’s earliest example came from the 8th century, his latest from the 12th century. In other words, the period in which such name formations can be demonstrated to have been in use overlaps with the period during which the HSC was composed. However, none of his examples comes from any further north than Nottinghamshire (he did cite Cineferth filius Cygings/Cygincg but as one using Latin filius in place of OE sunu: Tengvik 1938, 147). The sample is too small to be confident whether this is a factor of patterned regional usage, relevant documentary survival, or the scope of Tengvik’s research.
The misunderstood -ing3 patronymic constructions are common to all extant copies of the HSC. South presents the justification for his observation that ‘none of the three surviving texts has been copied from either of the others’ (2002, 26). He also highlights that the texts display some issues with correctly identifying certain insular letter-forms (2002, 25-26, 38-39), but in general OE personal and place-name spellings are reproduced competently. Crumplin’s postulated multiple-authored “non-West Saxon” and “West Saxon” parts of the HSC must also be factored in here. The fact that the texts that we have, and the lost final form we can perceive behind them, show such trouble with these names, even the examples pertaining to events in the reign of Edward the Elder, does to my mind count against ascribing any of the received wordings/phrasings to the early to mid-10th century.
To go the other way, it’s not impossible to believe that one or more member of the Cuthbertine community involved in the production of the lost final form of the HSC from which the O manuscript was copied was not an OE speaker. They may have been a skilled and faithful copyist of Norman origin, caught out only by a handful of OE idioms and insular letter-forms. Addition of filius could have been done by a OE speaker ironing out any non-Latin “inconsistencies” in the text, but it would be expected (particularly given the temporal spread of Tengvik’s aforementioned name data) that the -ing endings would be deleted as they were redundant. South (2002, 8-9) identifies a marked upswing in the production of ‘historical and hagiographical’ works at Durham in the 50 years after the Norman Conquest, also coinciding with the commencement of the rebuilding of the cathedral church under the new Norman bishop, William of St Calais.
In these circumstances, it’s conceivable that an earlier manuscript of the HSC was glossed with Latin filius to aid comprehension by any non-OE-speaking reader, all instances of which were subsequently misunderstood as corrections of errors whereby the word explaining the father-son relationship of the two named men had been left out. Maybe I’m being naive as someone who’s not a manuscripts person, but the fact six such glosses made it through into text as we have it might indicate these were then accepted and copied into a lost late 11th-century manuscript that was the exemplar for the earliest extant copy of the HSC. Alternatively, it could even be the case that the glosses were accepted without question by the scribe of the O manuscript. Thanks to the great kindness of Dr Charlie Rozier, I have been able to see images of some of the folios of MS Bodley 596, and the way in which the texts of the relevant passages are written displays no stylistic differentiation whatsoever between the Latin and (originally) OE words that might support either of these scenarios.
A simpler alternative would be that filius was added in-text at the time a new exemplar copy was being produced in the post-Conquest period, i.e. the final third of the 11th century. Indeed, this could be taken a stage further, by positing that the first such copy was the earliest extant HSC manuscript. Things becomes all the more interesting so far as the latter suggestion is concerned when it is acknowledged that there seems to be widespread acceptance of the identification of the scribe of the oldest surviving copy as Symeon of Durham (see South 2002, 15, 16). Unfortunately, I’m not equipped to explore the implications of this, and this post has gone on for far too long already, so maybe this is something I’ll revisit one day.
Contrary to what I thought when I began writing this blog post, the six mangled examples of the OE -ing3 patronymic formula in the HSC probably tell us nothing about its date or dates of composition. They do reveal, or at least hint at, the types of vernacular sources used by the author(s) of the relevant chapters. One of these sources may survive (CCCC MS 183), whereas for others even the basic type of text (e.g. genealogy, charter, memorandum) can only be guessed at. More to the point, regardless of the date when the HSC was commenced and the sources used in writing it, the recurrence of the OE name + filius + OE name ending -ing formula has all the hallmarks of a late introduction to the text. They point towards a more complicated history of textual annotation and/or transmission in the later 11th century, almost certainly in the post-Conquest period. Therefore, rather than proving that use of OE patronymic -ing formations was on the wane in these decades, they may reflect a shift in the make-up of the St Cuthbert’s community, and the linguistic knowledge of its new Norman members.
REFERENCES (hyperlinked when available for free online)
Dumville, David N., ‘The Anglian collection of royal genealogies and regnal lists’, Anglo‑Saxon England, 5 (1976), 23-50
Grey, A. H., ‘Historical figure profile: King Ricsige of Northumbria’, A H Grey (2013), online at <https://ahgray.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/historical-figure-profile-king-ricsige-of-northumbria/> (accessed 11th March 2019)
Pickles, Thomas, ‘Locating Ingetlingum and Suthgedling: Gilling West and Gilling East’, Northern History, 46:2 (2009), 313-25 [pre-publication version without published pagination available here]
Plummer, Charles, Venerabilis Baedae: Historiam ecclesiasticam gentis Anglorum, Historiam abbatum, Epistolam ad Ecgberctum, una cum Historia abbatum auctore anonymo (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1896)
Smith, A. H., English Place-Name Elements, Part 1 (Á–Īw), English Place-Name Society, 25 (Cambridge: University Press, 1956)
South, Ted Johnson, ed., Historia de Sancto Cuthberto, Anglo-Saxon Texts, 3 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2002)
Tengivk, Gösta, Old English Bynames, Nomina Germanica, 4 (Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksells Boktryckeri-A-B, 1938)