THE GENUINE ASSER (The Stenton Lecture, 1967). By D. Whitelock University of Reading, 1968. Pp. 21. 7s. 6d. In a stimulating paper read at the Anglo-American Conference in 1963 and published in 1964 in An Introduction to the Study of History, V. H. Galbraith attempted with great vigour to show that the Life of King Alfred by Asser was not the work of a ninth-century Welshman at the West Saxon court but a forgery by Leofric, bishop of Crediton and then of Exeter (1046-72). Some of Professor Galbraith's points were clearly very weak, and the paper as a whole showed a certain failure to appreciate the nature of historical evidence for the ninth century. Nevertheless, Professor Whitelock's Stenton Lecture is the first full-scale reply: it should be read together with her comments on the Life in the 1959 impression of W. H. Stevenson's edition. For Professor Whitelock, the Life was written at the court of Alfred by Asser of the church of St. David's in Alfred's forty-fifth year, 893 (should this not be 893-94?). She systematically demolishes Professor Galbraith's arguments one by one, but the necessity for dealing briefly with a whole range of controversial points leads to a little abruptness and it is possible to criticize the arrangement of subject matter. It might have been more satisfactory, for example, to emphasize that St. Gueriir is a very obscure saint (p. 20) when discussing Alfred's illness and alleged cure at his shrine (p. 16), and then to consider whether or not any church stood to gain by the Life (p. 20), rather than to separate these points by an account of palaeographic and textual criticism which should perhaps have been dealt with at the outset. Whatever we may think about Bishop Leofric or how far Asser's account of Alfred agrees with what we would otherwise deduce about the king from Alfred's own writings, there are two preliminary fundamentals to the study of the Life and to any attack on Galbraith's position. Firstly, the only manuscript to survive into modern times is dated to 1000 or 1001, and, secondly, the compiler of the Historia Regum, attributed to Symeon of Durham, used a still more archaic text. There certainly should be no assumption that it does not really matter whether the Life is genuine or not. As Professor Whitelock observes, 'without the Life there are many things we should not have known, or only have dimly glimpsed'. The Life was written in part at least for readers in Wales. Though its shapelessness has been exaggerated, it reads as a draft version only, but it is clear that a later forger would have needed a remarkable number of ninth-century sources (English, Welsh, and continental) and great skill in avoiding any material later than 893-94. This paper represents the first of a series of annual Stenton Lectures to be given at the University of Reading in honour of Sir Frank Stenton, who died in 1967. D. P. KIRBY Aberystwyth