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Jewett's Sources for The Story of the Normans


            Read in isolation from other contributions to the series of which it is a part, The Story of the Nations, Jewett's The Story of the Normans may appear to be more amateurish than it is, mainly because she seems so lax about identifying her sources.  Repeatedly one encounters unattributed quotations  and references such as "an old writer says." We expect a historian to be careful and consistent about identifying her sources. However, when one considers the stated purpose of the series, it seems clear that G. P. Putnam's Sons and T. Fisher Unwin did not intend for the volumes to be histories, but "stories," which probably is the reason that a number of the volumes were assigned to successful writers, like Jewett, who were not trained historians.  The description of the series appearing in each volume reads, in part:

            In the story form the current of each National life is distinctly indicated, and its picturesque and noteworthy periods and episodes are presented for the reader in their philosophical relation to each other as well as to universal history.
            It is the plan of the writers of the different volumes to enter into the real life of the peoples, and to bring them before the reader as they actually lived, labored, and struggled – as they studied and wrote, and as they amused themselves.  In carrying out this plan, the myths, with which the history of all lands begins, will not be overlooked, though these will be carefully distinguished from the actual history, so far as the labors of the accepted historical authorities have resulted in definite conclusions.

Though the series originally was conceived as directed toward younger readers, this publicity description seems aimed at any reader who would enjoy a form of historical narrative that emphasizes the qualities of story-telling, with attention to the daily lives and interests of individuals, and that traces meaningful patterns within the narrative, patterns that connect in turn with the experiences of readers – universal history.  (For more on the series see: The Story of the Normans and The Story of the Nations).

            Given these aims, it is not surprising that the publisher would recommend minimizing the usual apparatus of footnotes and source lists of professional historical writing. I have not been able to learn what Putnam told authors about its expectations for scholarly apparatus, but one may infer from other volumes in the series.  Edward A. Freeman, author of The History of the Norman Conquest of England, Its Causes and Its Results (6 volumes; 1867-1876), was Jewett's most authoritative historical source.  His contribution to the "Nations" series was The Story of Sicily (1892).  Like Jewett's volume, Freeman's contains no formal bibliography; I found no quotations or footnotes in a cursory examination.  Freeman opens each chapter with a discussion of his sources, but he implies in an 1888 letter to Jewett that he would prefer more definite citations and that his solution is an accommodation with the publisher.  Another professional historian, Stanley Lane-Poole, produced several volumes in the series, including The Story of the Moors in Spain (1886), which looks rather like The Normans, though he is perhaps more careful about identifying his sources and, especially, in providing page numbers.  Still his documentation is minimal and, at one point, he quotes extensively from a Walter Scott poem, "The Vision of Don Roderick," without identifying it or the author, perhaps assuming reader familiarity with the popular poet.

            It would appear, then, that the publishers allowed authors to manage documentation as they pleased, but probably requested that it be minimal.  In this context, Jewett's use of source material differs less than one might expect from those writers with professional training and experience.  Still, scholars wishing to understand how Jewett developed her ideas about the Normans and their contributions to later European and American culture would be interested in knowing all of her sources.  I have undertaken this task, but with only moderate success.  I have tried to locate Jewett's probable sources and to identify her numerous quotations.  A main problem for this effort turns out to be that there often are minor differences, usually of punctuation, between the source and Jewett's quotation.  This could mean that she misquoted, or it could mean that I have not yet found the exact source.  Or, perhaps more likely, that she freely adapted her quotations, much as she freely paraphrased sources.  For example, much of her account of Rolf the Ganger in Chapter 2 paraphrases Augustin Thierry's narrative in Book 2 of the Hazlitt translation of History of the Conquest of England by the Normans (1825, 1871).

    Some information about Jewett's sources turns up in what appears to be a draft of an unused acknowledgments and dedication that appears in transcriptions from mixed repositories in the Maine Women Writer's Collection, University of New England, Letters from Sarah Orne Jewett, 1875-1890, Folder 74, Burton Trafton Jewett Research Collection. For more information about this transcription, contact the Maine Women Writers Collection. The document is labeled: (one sheet of paper, property of Burton W. F. Trafton, Jr., South Berwick, Maine).  It reads: 

In writing this history I have tried to emphasize the growth and supremacy of the Normans as one of the great advances and uplifts of civilization a wave of advance, a higher tide rather, that makes new coastlines along the shore of time.

If I have dwelt much longer upon some men's stories than others in themselves equally interesting it has been in accordance with the wise suggestion of Guizot. [Quote]

I must acknowledge my debt to the histories of Freeman and Guizot and Palgrave Thierry & Laing as well as to Mr. Green[,] Prof. Guest & Prof. Johnson also my personal gratitude to my friends Mrs. Fields of Boston and Miss Ticknor to whom I dedicate my book although with a painful sense of its difficiencies [so transcribed].  I would be most glad if it could mark my deep sense of her generous work for America in her plan and deboled [so transcribed].  Carrying forward of the Society for the Encouragement of (American Authors?)

            Finding exact sources for specific quotations and paraphrases is further complicated by there being multiple editions of some.  I have not taken the time, in each case, to check all editions available to Jewett to determine which specific edition she consulted.  Should this prove important in any particular case, I hope my guidance will help future scholars to complete this work.  In the notes to the individual chapters, where I have found discrepancies between a Jewett quotation and the source I have identified, I have tried to be consistent in noting that there are such discrepancies.

            Below, is a list of the sources I believe Jewett used.  I have noted those cases where I am persuaded the edition I am using differs from the one Jewett used.  I have provided links when an edition of the volume is available on-line.

            As with all materials in the Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project, you are encouraged to contact the editor/manager with corrections, comments and suggestions


Jewett's Main Source


Freeman, Edward Augustus (1823-1892).
The History of the Norman Conquest of England, Its Causes and Its Results

    (6 volumes; 1867-1876).

            This comprehensive historical account was the source to which all contemporary authors and historians turned for authoritative information about the Normans in England and France.  Jewett drew upon it continuously and quoted frequently, but without specifying her edition and often without naming the source.
            For notes to the chapters, I use the Revised American Edition of 1873-1879.  I believe this is the edition Jewett used; however, her quotations often vary slightly from this text.  I am guessing these are transcription errors, but they may be free adaptations, or I may be mistaken about the edition she used.
             For a biographical sketch of Freeman, see


Google books volumes of Freeman, partially available on-line, various editions.

 Volume 1 ( 2nd edition revised, 1870)

 Volume 2  (1868)

 Volume 3 (Revised American Edition, 1873)

 Volume 4 (Second edition revised, 1876)

 Volume 5  (Revised American edition, 1876)

 Volume 6: Index (1879)


Jewett's Other Sources

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle according to the several original authorities (1861), Edited, with a translation by Benjamin Thorpe.

            Jewett drew often upon a translation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.  I have not located the exact translation she used.  Her quotations from the Chronicle never exactly duplicate the contemporary Thorpe translation to which there is easy Internet access:

         She also apparently did not use the following translation, though it was available to her:

 The Venerable Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England: Also the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ; with Illustrative Notes, a Map of Anglo-Saxon England And, a General Index (1847).  Saint Bede (the Venerable), John Stevens, Anna Gurvey, Henry Petrie.

Blackburn, Henry (1830-1897). Normandy Picturesque (1870).

Bruce, John Collingwood (1805-1892)  The Bayeux Tapestry Elucidated (1856).

Cotman, John Sell (1782-1842).  Architectural Antiquities of Nor¬mandy  (1822).

Depping, Georges-Bernard (1784-1853). Histoire des expéditions maritimes des Normands et de leur etablissement en France au dixième siècle (“History of the sea voyages of the Normans and their settlement in France during the 10th century,” 1826). 
    Jewett notes this as: Depping: "Maritimes Voyages des Normands."  Since WorldCat indicates no English translation available, Jewett almost certainly read this in French and translated her quotation from it.  WorldCat also locates only a few copies locally available to Jewett at Dartmouth, Mt. Holyoke and Smith Colleges, as well as at universities in New York.  It appears this would have been a somewhat difficult book to access, unless an acquaintance had a personal copy.
    Furthermore, Jeannine Hammond, a French-speaking helper, and I have not been able to locate the passage Jewett quotes in the available, searchable Internet edition.  We suspect that Jewett developed a sort of summary of several items from this text and presented this as a quotation.  But there are other alternatives.  For example, the link below is to a second, revised edition.  Perhaps Jewett's quotation is from the first edition.

Dickens, Charles (1812-1870).  A Child's History of England (1851-54).

Duncan, Jonathan (1799-1865). The Dukes of Normandy (1839).

Freeman, Edward A. (1823-1892) The Story of Sicily: Phoenician, Greek, and Roman (1892).
            Jewett refers to this book in her Chapter 7, but clearly it was only in prospect as a volume in the Story of the Nations series as she was working on The Normans in 1885-6.  As he was completing this volume, which appeared the year of his death, he presumably also was working with his son-in-law on his four volume The History of Sicily from the Earliest Times, 1891-1894,

 Green, John Richard (1837-1883).  A Short History of the English People, 4 volumes (1880).
            Volume 1 of the 1899 edition:

Montague John.  Lectures on the History of England (1879).

Guizot, François, M. (1787-1874) and Witt, Henriette Elizabeth, Madame de (1829-1908).  The History of France from the Earliest times to 1848, Volume 1 (1885).

Hare, Augustus J. C. (1834-1903).  Cities of Southern Italy and Sicily (1883).

Johnson, Arthur Henry (1845-1927). The Normans in Europe (1877, original edition 1869).

Keyser, Rudolph (1803-1864). The Private Life of the old Northmen (1868).

, Charles (1819-1875)   Hereward, The Last of the English, originally published as Hereward the Wake (1865).  In Kingsley's Works 
Volume 3 (1883).

Knight, Richard Payne (1750-1824). The Normans in Sicily: Being a Sequel to "An Architectural Tour in Normandy (1838).

Malcolm. The history of Scotland: From the union of the crowns on the accession of James VI. to the throne of England, to the union of the kingdoms in the reign of Queen Anne. By Malcolm Laing, Esq. With two dissertations, historical and critical, on the Gowrie conspiracy, and on the supposed authenticity of Ossian's poems. (1800, two volumes).

, Edward Bulwer (1803-1873). Harold: The Last of the Saxon Kings, (1848),

            Volume 1:

            Volume 2:

Orderic Vitalis (1075 - c.1143). Historia Ecclesiastica (c. 1109-1141)

            Jewett may have had access to the following 1853 translation by Thomas Forester, which appears to be the only English translation available to her, but the passages she quotes vary considerably from their appearance in this text.

            Volume 1:

            Volume 2:

Palgrave, Sir Francis (1788-1861). The History of Normandy and of England, 1851-1864.

     Volume 1: General relations of mediaeval Europe, the Carolovingian Empire, the Danish expeditions in the Gauls, and the establishment of Rollo.  1851.

     Volume 2:  The three first dukes of Normandy: Rollo, Guillaume-Longue-Épée, and Richard-Sans-Peur. The Carlovingian line supplanted by the Capets. 1857

     Volume 3: Richard-Sans-Peur. Richard Le-Bon. Richard III. Robert Le-Diable. William the Conqueror. 1864.

Palgrave, Sir Francis (1788-1861). History of the Anglo-Saxons, 1831.

Symonds, John Addington (1840-1893). Sketches in Italy (1883).
            Jewett identifies her source in Chapter 7 as "Studies in Southern Italy."  This title does not appear among his books, but the material Jewett quotes does appear in the above listed volume, in the section, "Sketches and Studies in Italy."

Thierry, Augustin (1795-1856).  History of the Conquest of England by the Normans: Its Causes, and Its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, & on the Continent  (1871, original English publication in 1825).

            Volume 1:

            Volume 2:

Wace (Master Wace, c. 1100 – c. 1175)
A contemporary translation available to Jewett was: Master Wace his chronicle of the Norman conquest from the Roman de Rou. Tr. with notes and illus. by E. Taylor, 1837.  WorldCat indicates that this was the only translation in print during Jewett's lifetime.  However, it seems clear that Jewett did not quote from this translation.  Usually, her quotations vary significantly from the passages as presented here.

Yonge, Charlotte Mary (1823-1901), The Little Duke: Richard the Fearless (1864).

Terry Heller
Coe College

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