Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Alfred Anglicus

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ALFRED, surnamed Anglicus and also Philosophus, an English writer, who probably flourished towards the close of the twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth centuries. Considerable obscurity rests over his career and works. Roger Bacon, in his reference to translators of Aristotle, mentions one Alfred, an Englishman (R. B. Op. Ined., by Brewer, 1859, p. 471), and speaks of him as a contemporary. The work in which the reference is made doubtless was not prior to 1270. A translation of the pseudo-Aristotelian work, ‘De Vegetabilibus et de Plantis,’ passes under the name of Alfred de Sarchel or Sereshel, and appears to have been dedicated to Roger of Hereford, who is said to have flourished towards the close of the twelfth century (Bréchillet-Jourdain, Recherches sur les Traductions d'Aristote, 2nd ed., 1843, pp, 105–6). A somewhat remarkable little work, ‘De Motu Cordis,’ also by Alfred de Sarchel, is dedicated by the author to his friend and teacher, Alexander Neckham, who died 1227 (C. S. Barach, Excerpta e libro Alf. Ang. de Motu Cordis, 1878, pp. 1–18.) Other works are ascribed to the same Alfred by Bale, Leland, and Pits (see list in Jourdain and Barach, as above). There is difficulty in reconciling what Bacon says with the other facts regarding Alfred, but it is to be remembered that the precise date of Bacon's reference is not known, and that its minute accuracy is not to be rashly assumed. On the other hand, it is not clear that Roger of Hereford is referred to by the translator and annotator of the ‘De Plantis.’ The most satisfactory evidence as to Alfred seems to be that contained in the dedication to Alexander Neckham, and one would therefore assign to the ‘De Motu Cordis’ the date about 1220. This little work expounds, with much that is fantastic, the doctrine that in the heart is to be found the seat of the soul—a doctrine that is repeated in Neckham's ‘De Naturis Rerum’ (ed. by Brewer in Rolls Series). A summary of its contents is given by Barach in his preface to the ‘Excerpta,’ already referred to.

[Authorities: besides Bale, Pits, and Leland, whose notices are summed up in Wright's Biographia Litteraria, sub voce, Jourdain and Barach as above; Hauréau, in Philos. Scolastique, ii. i. pp. 65–72, and in Mémoires de l'Acad. des Inscriptions, xxviii. pt. 2.]

R. A.