I just heard that Alfred the Great, the famous 9th-century king of Wessex who is sometimes said to be the first founder of "England" as a country, was also a translator of literature. Reading his Wikipedia page gives some mixed information:

There were few "books of wisdom" written in English. Alfred sought to remedy this through an ambitious court-centred programme of translating into English the books he deemed "most necessary for all men to know". It is unknown when Alfred launched this programme but it may have been during the 880s when Wessex was enjoying a respite from Viking attacks. Alfred was, until recently, often considered to have been the author of many of the translations but this is now considered doubtful in almost all cases. Scholars more often refer to translations as "Alfredian" indicating that they probably had something to do with his patronage but are unlikely to be his own work.

Apart from the lost Handboc or Encheiridio, which seems to have been a commonplace book kept by the king, the earliest work to be translated was the Dialogues of Gregory the Great, a book greatly popular in the Middle Ages. The translation was undertaken at Alfred's command by Wærferth, Bishop of Worcester, with the king merely furnishing a preface. Remarkably, Alfred – undoubtedly with the advice and aid of his court scholars – translated four works himself: Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care, Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, St. Augustine's Soliloquies and the first fifty psalms of the Psalter.

The first paragraph claims it's now (since recently) supposed that Alfred probably didn't translate stuff himself "in almost all cases", but the second paragraph lists four works that he supposedly did translate himself. Are those four the exceptions to the "almost all", or does the second paragraph reflect a previous state of knowledge from before the "recent" doubts that he really translated much stuff himself?

According to the current state of scholarly knowledge, which works did Alfred really translate himself? Or what's the evidence supporting that he did or didn't? And from which languages - were all his translations Latin to English, or did he master other languages too?

  • Have you checked the references for the Wikipedia article? Godden (2007) covers this, although I'm not sure what you mean by "now" or "current state of scholarly knowledge" - it seems customary for people when writing a paper to say "the consensus is X but I'm going to argue something different".
    – Stuart F
    Jan 18, 2022 at 14:36
  • 1
    @StuartF: A summary of Godden would make a good answer. Jan 18, 2022 at 21:50


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