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The Project Gutenberg EBook of A Literary History of the English People, by Jean Jules Jusserand
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Title: A Literary History of the English People  From the Origins to the Renaissance
Author: Jean Jules Jusserand
Release Date: July 11, 2007 [EBook #22049]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
Produced by Stacy Brown and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/Million Book Project)
A Literary History of the English People
ENGLISH WAYFARING LIFE IN THE MIDDLE AGES (XIVth Century). Translated T. Sby L. MITH. Revised and Enlarged by the Author. 4th Edition. 61 Illustrations. Large crown 8vo, cloth, 7s. 6d. "An extremely fascinating book."—Times. THE ENGLISH NOVEL IN THE TIME OF SHAKESPEARE. Translated by E. LEE. Revised and Enlarged by the Author. Illustrated by 6 Heliogravures by DUJARDIN, and 21 full-page and many smaller illustrations. 3rd Edition. Large crown 8vo, cloth, 7s. 6d. "One of the brightest, most scholarly, and most interesting volumes of literary history."—Speaker. A FRENCH AMBASSADOR AT THE COURT OF CHARLES II.: Le Comte de Cominges, from his unpublished correspondence. 10 Portraits. Second Edition. Large crown 8vo, cloth, 7s. 6d. "The whole book is delightful reading."—Spectator. PIERS PLOWMAN: A Contribution to the History of English Mysticism. Translated by M. E. R. Revised and Enlarged by the Author. Illustrated. Demy 8vo, cloth, 12s.
"This masterly interpretation of an epoch-making book." Standard.
A Literary History of The English People
from the Origins To the Renaissance
J. J. Jusserand
London T. Fisher Unwin Mdcccccv
PREFACE Many histories have preceded this one; many others will come after. Such is the charm of the subject that volunteers will never be lacking to undertake this journey, so hard, so delightful too. As years go on, the journey lengthens: wider grows the field, further advance the seekers, and from the top of unexplored headlands, through morning mists, they descry the outlines of countries till then unknown. They must be followed to realms beyond the grave, to the silent domains of the dead, across barren moors and frozen fens, among chill rushes and briars that never blossom, till those Edens of poetry are reached, the echoes of which, by a gift of fairies or of muses, still vibrate to the melody of voices long since hushed. More has been done during the last fifty years to shed light on the origins than in all the rest of modern times. Deciphering, annotating, printing, have gone on at an extraordinary pace and without interruption; the empire of letters has thus been enlarged, according to the chances of the explorers' discoveries, by gardens and deserts, cloudy immensities, and boundless forests; its limits have receded into space: at least so it seems to us. We laugh at the simplicity of honest Roberts on, who in the last century wondered at the superabundance of historical documents accessible in his time: the day is not far distant when we shall be laughed at in the same way for our own simplicity.
The field of literary history widens in another manner yet, and one that affects us more nearly. The years glide on so rapidly that the traveller who started to explore the lands of former times, absorbed by his tas k, oblivious of days and months, is surprised on his return at beholding how the domain of the past has widened. To the past belongs Tennyson, the laureate; to the past belongs Browning, and that ruddy smiling face, manly and kind, which the traveller to realms beyond intended to describe from nature on his coming back among living men, has faded away, and the grey slab of Westminster covers it. A thing of the past, too, the master who first in France taught the way, daring in his researches, straightforward in his judgments, unmindful of consequences, mindful of Truth alone; whose life was a model no less than his work. The work subsists, but who shall tell what the life has been, and what there was beneficent in that patriarchal voice with its clear, soft, and dignified tones? The life of Taine is a work which his other works have not sufficiently made known.
The task is an immense one; its charm can scarcely be expressed. No one can understand, who has not been there himself, the delight found in those far-off retreats, sanctuaries beyond the reach of worldly troubles. In the case of English literature the delight is the greater from the fact that those silent realms are not the realms of death absolute; daylight is perceived in the distance; the continuity of life is felt. The dead of Westminster have left behind them a posterity, youthful in its turn, and life-giving. Their descendants move around us; under our eyes the inheritors of what has been prepare what shall be. In this lies one of the great attractions of this literature and of the French one too. Like the French it has remote origins; it is ample, beautiful, measureless; no one will go the round of it; it is impossible to write its complete history. An attempt has been made in this line for French literature; the work undertaken two centuries ago by Benedictines, continued by members of the Institute, is still in progress; it consists at this day of thirty volumes in quarto, and only the year 1317 has been reached. And with all that immense past and those far-distant origins, those two literatures have a splendid present betokening a splendid future. Both are alive to-day and vigorous; ready to baffle the predictions of miscreants, they show no sign of decay. They are ever ready for transformations, not for death. Side by side or face to face, in peace or war, both literatures like both peoples have been in touch for centuries, and in spite of hates and jealousies they have more than once vivified each other. These actions and reactions began long ago, in Norman times and even before; when Taillefer sang Roland, and when Alcuin taught Charlemagne.
The duty of the traveller visiting already visited countries is to not limit himself to general descriptions, but to make with particular care the kind of observations for which circumstances have fitted him best. If he has the eye of the painter, he will trace and colour with unfailing accuracy hues and outlines; if he has the mind of the scientist, he will study the formation of the ground and classify the flora and fauna. If he has no other advantage but the fact that circumstances have caused him to live in the country, at various times, for a number of years, in contact with the people, in calm days and stormy days, he will perhaps make himself useful, if, while diminishing somewhat in his book the part usually allowed to technicalities and æsthetic problems, he increases the part allotted to the people and to the nation: a most difficult task assuredly; but, whatever be his too legitimate apprehensions, he must attempt it, having no other chance, when so much has been done already, to be of any use. The work in such a case will not be, properly speaking, a "History of English Literature," but rather a "Literary History of the English People."
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Not only will the part allotted to the nation itself be greater in such a book than habitually happens, but several manifestations of its genius, generally passed over in silence, will have to be studied. The ages during which the national thought expressed itself in languages which were not the national one, will not be allowed to remain blank, as if, for complete periods, the inhabitants of the island had ceased to think at all. The growing into shape of the people's genius will have to be studied with particular attention. The Chapter House of Westminster will be entered, and there will be seen how the nation, such as it was then represented, became conscious, even under the Plantagenets, of its existence, rights and power. Philosophers and reformers must be questioned concerning the theories which they spread: and not without some purely literary advantage. Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke are the ancestors of many poets who have never read their works, but who have breathed an air impregnated with their thought. Dre amers will be followed, singers, tale-tellers, and preachers, wherever it pleases them to lead us: to the Walhalla of the north, to the green dales of Erin, to the Saxon church of Bradford-on-Avon, to Blackheath, to the "Tabard" and the "Mermaid," to the "Globe," to "Will's" coffee house, among ruined fortresses, to cloud-reaching steeples, or along the furrow sown to good intent by Piers the honest Plowman.
The work, the first part of which is now published, is meant to be divided into three volumes; but as "surface as small as possible must be offered to the shafts of Fortune," each volume will make a complete whole in itself, the first telling the literary story of the English up to the Renaissance, the second up to the accession of King Pope, the last up to our own day. The present version has been prepared with the help of M. E. R., who have once more lent me their most kind and valuable assistance. I beg them to accept the expression of my heartfelt gratitude.
No attempt has been made to say everything and be complete. Many notes will however allow the curious to go themselves to the sources, to verify, to see with their own eyes, and, if they find cause (absit omen!), to disagree. In those notes most of the space has been filled by references to originals; little has been left for works containing criticisms and appreciations: the want of room is the only reason, not the want of reverence and sympathy for predecessors.
To be easily understood one must be clear, and, to be clear, qualifications and attenuations must be reduced to a minimum. The reader will surely understand that many more "perhapses" and "abouts" were in the mind of the author than will be found in print; he will make, in his benevolence, due allowance for the roughness of that instrument, speech, applied to events, ideas, theories, things of beauty, as difficult to measure with rule as "the myst on Malverne hulles." He will know that when Saxons are described as having a sad, solemn genius, and not numbering among their pre-eminent qualities the gift of repartee, it does not mean that for six centuries they all of them sat and wept without intermission, and that when asked a question they never knew what to answer. All men are men, and have human qualities more or less developed in their minds; nothing more is implied in those passages but that one quality wasmoredeveloped in one particular race of men and that in another.
When a book is just finished, there is always for the author a most doleful hour, when, retracing his steps, he thinks of what he has attempted, the difficulties of the task, the unlikeliness that he has overcome them. Misprints taking wrong numbers by the hand, black and thorny creatures, dance their wild dance round him. He is awe-stricken, and shudders; he wonders at the boldness of his undertaking; "Qu'allait-il faire dans cette galère?" The immensity of the task, the insufficience of the means stand in striking contrast. He had started singing on his journey; now he looks for excuses to justify his having ever begun it. Usually, it must be confessed, he finds some, prints them or not, and recovers his spirits. I have published other works; I think I did not print the excuses I found to explain the whys and the wherefores; they were the same in all cases: roadway stragglers, Piers Plowman, Count Cominges, Tudor novelists, were in a large measure left-off subjects. No books had been dedicated to them; the attempt, therefore, could not be considered as an undue intrusion. But in the present case, what can be said, what excuse can be found, when so many have written, and so well too? The author of this book once had a drive in London; when it was finished, he offered the cabman his fare. Cabman glanced at it; it did not look much in his large, hollow hand; he said: "I want sixpence more." Author said: "Why? It is the proper fare; I know the distance very well; give me a reason." Cabman mused for a second, and said: "I should like it so!" I might perhaps allege a variety of reasons, but the true one is the same as the cabman's. I did this because I could not help it; I loved it so. J. All Souls Day, 1894.
I. FUSIONOFRACESINFRANCEANDINENGLAND.—First inhabitants—Celtic realms—The Celts in Britain —Similitude with the Celts of Gaul—Their religion —Their quick minds—Their gift of speech II. CELTICLITERATURE.—Irish stories—Wealth of that literature—Its characteristics—The dramatic gift —Inventiveness—Heroic deeds—Familiar dialogues—Love and woman—Welsh tales III. ROMANCONQUEST.—Duration and results—First coming of the Germanic invader
CHAPTER II. THE GERM ANIC INVASION. The mother country of the Germanic invader—Tacitus —Germans and Scandinavians—The great invasions—Character of the Teutonic nations —Germanic kingdoms established in formerly Roman provinces. Jutes, Frisians, Angles, and Saxons—British resistance and defeat—Problem of the Celtic survival—Results of the Germanic invasions in England and France
CHAPTER III. THE NATIONAL POETRY OF THE ANGLO-SAXONS. I. THEPOETRYOFTHENORTH.—The Germanic period of English literature—Its characteristics—Anglo-Saxon poetry stands apart and does not submit to Celtic influence—Comparison with Scandinavian literature—The Eddas and Sagas; the "Corpus Poeticum Boreale"—The heroes; their tragical adventures—Their temper and sorrows II. ANGLO-SAXONPOEMS.—War-songs—Epic tales —Waldhere, Beowulf—Analysis of "Beowulf" —The ideal of happiness in "Beowulf" —Landscapes—Sad meditations—The idea of death—Northern snows
CHAPTER IV. CHRISTIAN LITERATURE AND PROSE LITERATURE OF THE ANGLO-SAXONS. I. CONVERSION.—Arrival of Augustine—The new teaching —The imperial idea and the Christian idea —Beginnings of the new faith—Heathen survivals —Convents and schools—Religious kings and princes—Proselytism, St. Boniface II. LATINCULTURE.—Manuscripts—Alcuin, St. Boniface, Aldhelm, Æddi, Bede—Life and writings of Bede —His "Ecclesiastical History"—His sympathy for the national literature III. CHRISTIANPOEMS.—The genius of the race remains nearly unchanged—Heroical adventures of the saints—Paraphrase of the Bible—Cædmon —Cynewulf—His sorrows and despair—"Dream of the Rood"—"Andreas"—Lugubrious sights —The idea of death—Dialogues—Various poems —The "Physiologus"—"Phœnix" IV. PROSE—ALFREDTHEGREAT.—Laws and charters —Alfred and the Danish invasions—The fight for civilisation—Translation of works by St. Gregory, Orosius (travels of Ohthere), Boethius (story of Orpheus)—Impulsion given to prose—Werferth —Anglo-Saxon Chronicles—Character of Alfred. V. ST. DUNSTAN—SERMONS.—St. Dunstan (tenth century) resumes the work of Alfred—Translation of pious works—Collections of sermons—Ælfric, Wulfstan, "Blickling" homilies—Attempt to reach literary dignity. End of the Anglo-Saxon period
BOOK II. THE FRENCH INVASION. CHAPTER I. BATTLE. I. THEINVADERSOFTHEYEAR1066.—England between two civilisations—The North and South—The Scandinavians at Stamford-bridge. The Normans of France—The army of William is a French army—Character of William—The battle —Occupation of the country II. ENGLANDBOUNDTOSOUTHERNCIVILISATIONS.—Policy of William—Survey of his new domains—Unification —The successors of William—Their practical mind and their taste for adventures—Taste for art —French families settled in England—Continental possessions of English kings—French ideal —Unification of origins—Help from chroniclers and poets—The Trojan ancestor
CHAPTER II. LITERATURE IN THE FRENCH LANGUAGE UNDER THE NORM AN AND ANGEVIN KINGS. I. DIFFUSIONOFTHEFRENCHLANGUAGE.—The French language superimposed on the English one—Its progress; even among "lowe men"—Authors of English blood write their works in French116 II. THEFRENCHLITERATUREOFTHENORMANSANDANGEVINS.—It is animated by their own practical and adventurous mind—Practical works: chronicles, scientific and pious treatises120 III. EPICROMANCES.—The Song of Roland and the Charlemagne cycle—Comparison with "Beowulf" —The matter of Rome—How antiquity is translated—Wonders—The matter of Britain —Love—Geoffrey of Monmouth—Tristan and Iseult—Lancelot and Guinevere—Woman—Love as a passion and love as a ceremonial125 IV. LAYSANDCHANSONS.—Shorter stories—Lays of Marie de France—Chansons of France—Songs in French composed in England141 V. SATIRICALANDIRONICALWORKS.—Such works introduced in England—The pilgrimage of Charlemagne —The "Roman de Renart," a universal comedy —Fabliaux—Their migrations—Their aim—Their influence in England146
CHAPTER III. LATIN. I. THETIESWITHROME.—William I., Henry II., John—Church lands—The "exempt" abbeys—Coming of the friars—The clergy in Parliament—Part played by prelates in the State—Warrior prelates, administrators, scavants, saints II. SPREADINGOFKNOWLEDGE.—Latin education—Schools and libraries—Book collectors: Richard of Bury —Paris, chief town for Latin studies—The Paris University; its origins, teaching, and organisation —English students at Paris—Oxford and Cambridge—Studies, battles, feasts—Colleges, chests, libraries III. LATINPOETS.—Joseph of Exeter and the Trojan war —Epigrammatists, satirists, fabulists, &c.—Nigel Wireker and the ass whose tail was too short —Theories: Geoffrey of Vinesauf and his New Art of Poetry IV. LATINPROSATORS—TALESANDEXEMPLA.—Geoffrey of Monmouth—Moralised tales—"Gesta
Romanorum"—John of Bromyard—"Risqué" tales, fables in prose, miracles of the Virgin, romantic tales—A Latin sketch of the "Merchant of Venice" —John of Salisbury; Walter Map—Their pictures of contemporary manners V. THEOLOGIANS, JURISTS, SCIENTISTS, HISTORIANS.—The "Doctors"; Scot, Bacon, Ockham, Bradwardine, &c.—Gaddesden the physician—Bartholomew the encyclopædist—Roman law and English law —Vacarius, Glanville, Bracton, &c. History —Composition of chronicles in monasteries —Impartiality of chroniclers—Their idea of historical art—Henry of Huntingdon, William of Malmesbury, Matthew Paris—Observation of manners, preservation of characteristic anecdotes, attempt to paint with colours—Higden, Walsingham and others
CHAPTER IV. LITERATURE IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. I. PIOUSLITERATURE.—A period of silence—First works (pious ones) copied, translated or composed in English after the Conquest—Sermons—Lives of saints—Treatises of various sort—"Ancren Riwle" —Translation of French treatises—Life and works of Rolle of Hampole II. WORLDLYLITERATURE.—Adaptation and imitation of French writings—The "Brut" of Layamon —Translation of romances of chivalry—Romances dedicated to heroes of English origin—Satirical fabliaux—Renard in English—Lays and tales —Songs—Comparison with French chansons
BOOK III. ENGLAND TO THE ENGLISH. CHAPTER I. THE NEW NATION. I. FUSIONOFRACESANDLANGUAGES.—Abolition of the presentment of Englishery, 1340—Survival of the French language in the fourteenth century—The decline—Part played by "lowe men" in the formation of the English language—The new vocabulary—The new prosody—The new grammar—The definitive language of England an outcome of a transaction between the Anglo-Saxon and the French language II. POLITICALFORMATION.—The nation coalesces—The ties with France and Rome are loosening or breaking —A new source of power, Westminster —Formation, importance, privileges of Parliament under the Plantagenets—Spirit of the Commons —Their Norman bargains—Comparison with France III. MARITIMEPOWER; WEALTHANDARTS.—Importance of the English trade in the fourteenth century—The great traders—Their influence on State affairs—The English, "rois de la mer"—Taste for travels and adventures. Arts—Gold, silver and ivory—Miniatures and enamels—Architecture—Paintings and tapestries —Comparative comfort of houses—The hall and table—Dresses—The nude—The cult for beauty
CHAPTER II. CHAUCER. The Poet of the new nation I. YOUTHOFCHAUCER.—His London life—London in the fourteenth century—Chaucer as a page—His
French campaigns—Valettus cameræ Regis —Esquire—Married life—Poetry à la mode —Machault, Deguileville, Froissart, Des Champs, &c.—Chaucer's love ditties—The "Roman de la Rose"—"Book of the Duchesse" II. PERIODOFTHEMISSIONSTOFRANCEANDITALY.—The functions of an ambassador and messenger —Various missions—Chaucer in Italy, 1372-3, 1378-9—Influence of Italian art and literature on Chaucer—London again; the Custom House; Aldgate—Works of this period—Latin and Italian deal—The gods of Olympus, the nude, the classics —Imitation of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio—"Hous of Fame" III. TROILUSANDCRISEYDE.—Plot derived from Boccaccio but transformed—A novel and a drama—Life and variety—Heroism and vulgarity—Troilus, Pandarus, Cressida—Scenes of comedy —Attempt at psychological analysis—Nuancesin Cressida's feelings—Her inconstancy —Melancholy and grave ending—Difference with Boccaccio and Pierre de Beauveau IV. ENGLISHPERIOD.—Chaucer a member of Parliament —Clerk of the king's works—"Canterbury Tales" —The meeting at the "Tabard"—Gift of observation—Real life, details—Difference with Froissart—Humour, sympathy—Part allotted to "lowe men." The collections of tales—The "Decameron"—The aim of Chaucer and of Boccaccio—Chaucer's variety; speakers and listeners—Dialogues —Principal tales—Facetious and coarse ones —Plain ones—Fairy tales—Common life—Heroic deeds—Grave examples—Sermon. The care for truth—Good sense of Chaucer—His language and versification—Chaucer and the Anglo-Saxons—Chaucer and the French V. LASTYEARS.—Chaucer, King of Letters—His retreat in St. Mary's, Westminster—His death—His fame
CHAPTER III. THE GROUP OF POETS. Coppice and forest trees I. METRICALROMANCES.—Jugglers and minstrels—Their life, deeds, and privileges—Decay of the profession towards the time of the Renaissance —Romances of the "Sir Thopas" type—Monotony; inane wonders—Better examples: "Morte Arthure," "William of Palerne," "Gawayne and the Green Knight"—Merits of "Gawayne"—From (probably) the same author, "Pearl," on the death of a young maid—Vision of the Celestial City II. AMOROUSBALLADSANDPOPULARPOETRY.—Poetry at Court—The Black Prince and the great —Professional poets come to the help of the great —ThePuiof London; its competitions, music and songs—Satirical songs on women, friars, fops, &c. III. PATRIOTICPOETRY.—Robin Hood—"When Adam delved"—Claims of peasants—Answers to the peasants' claims—National glories—Adam Davy —Crécy, Poictiers, Neville's Cross—Laurence Minot—Recurring sadness—French answers —Scottish answers—Barbour's "Bruce"—Style of Barbour—Barbour and Scott IV. JOHNGOWER.—His origin, family, turn of mind—He belongs to Angevin England—He is tri-lingual —Life and principal works—French ballads—Latin poem on the rising of the peasants, 1381, and on the vices of society—Poem in English, "Confessio
Amantis"—Style of Gower—His tales and exempla—His fame
CHAPTER IV. WILLIAM LANGLAND AND HIS VISIONS. Langland first poet of the period after Chaucer I. LIFEANDWORKS.—A general view—Birth, education, natural disposition—Life at Malvern—His unsettled state of mind—Curiosities and failures—Life in London—Chantries—Disease of the will —Religious doubts—The faith of the simple—His book a place of refuge for him II. ANALYSISOFTHEVISIONS.—The pilgrims of Langland and the pilgrims of Chaucer—The road to Canterbury and the way to Truth—Lady Meed; her betrothal, her trial—Speech of Reason—The hero of the work, Piers the Plowman—A declaration of duties —Sermons—The siege of hell—The end of life III. POLITICALSOCIETYANDRELIGIOUSSOCIETY.—Comparison with Chaucer—Langland's crowds—Langland an insular and a parliamentarian—The "Visions" and the "Rolls of Parliament" agree on nearly all points —Langland at one with the Commons —Organisation of the State—Reforms—Relations with France, with the Pope—Religious buyers and sellers—The ideal of Langland IV. ARTANDAIM.—Duplication of his personality—"Nuit de Décembre"—Sincerity—Incoherences —Scene-shifting—Joys forbidden and allowed—A motto for Langland—His language, vocabulary, dialect, versification—Popularity of the work —Fourteenth and fifteenth centuries—Time of the Reformation
CHAPTER V. PROSE IN THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY. The "father of English prose" I. TRANSLATORSANDADAPTATORS.—Slow growth of the art of prose—Comparison with France; historians and novelists—Survival of Latin prose—Walsingham and other chroniclers—Their style and eloquence —Translators—Trevisa—The translation of the Travels of "Mandeville"—The "Mandeville" problem—Jean de Bourgogne and his journey through books—Immense success of the Travels —Style of the English translation—Chaucer's prose II. ORATORICALART.—Civil eloquence—Harangues and speeches—John Ball—Parliamentary eloquence —A parliamentary session under the Plantagenet kings—Proclamation—Opening speech—Flowery speeches and business speeches—Debates —Answers of the Commons—Their Speaker —Government orators, Knyvet, Wykeham, &c. —Opposition orators, Peter de la Mare—Bargains and remonstrances—Attitude and power of the Commons—Use of the French language —Speeches in English III. WYCLIF. HISLIFE.—His parentage—Studies at Oxford —His character—Functions and dignities—First difficulties with the religious authority—Scene in St. Paul's—Papal bulls—Scene at Lambeth—The "simple priests"—Attacks against dogmas—Life at Lutterworth—Death IV. LATINWORKSOFWYCLIF.—His Latin—His theory of the Dominium—His starting-point: the theory of Fitzralph—Extreme, though logical, consequence of the doctrine: communism—Qualifications and attenuations—Tendency towards Royal supremacy
V. ENGLISHWORKSOFWYCLIF.—He wants to be understood by all—He translates the Bible —Popularity of the translation—Sermons and treatises—His style—Humour, eloquence, plain dealing—Paradoxes and utopies—Lollards—His descendants in Bohemia and elsewhere
CHAPTER VI. THE THEATRE. I. ORIGINS. CIVILSOURCES.—Mimes and histrions —Amusements and sights provided by histrions —How they raise a laugh—Facetious tales told with appropriate gestures—Dialogues and repartees—Parodies and caricatures—Early interludes—Licence of amusers—Bacchanals in churches and cemeteries—Holy things derided —Feasts of various sorts—Processions and pageants—"Tableaux Vivants"—Compliments and dialogues—Feasts at Court—"Masks" II. RELIGIOUSSOURCES.—Mass—Dialogues introduced in the Christmas service—The Christmas cycle (Old Testament)—The Easter cycle (New Testament). The religious drama in England—Life of St. Catherine (twelfth century)—Popularity of Mysteries in the fourteenth century—Treatises concerning those representations—Testimony of Chaucer William of Wadington—Collection of Mysteries in English. Performances—Players, scaffolds or pageants, dresses, boxes, scenery, machinery—Miniature by Jean Fouquet—Incoherences and anachronisms III. LITERARYANDHISTORICALVALUEOFMYSTERIES.—The ancestors' feelings and tastes—Sin and redemption—Caricature of kings—Their "boast" —Their use of the French tongue—They have to maintain silence—Popular scenes—Noah and his wife—The poor workman and the taxes—A comic pastoral—The Christmas shepherds—Mak and the stolen sheep IV. DECAYOFTHEMEDIÆVALSTAGE.—Moralities —Personified abstractions—The end of Mysteries —They continue being performed in the time of Shakespeare
CHAPTER VII. THE END OF THE M IDDLE AGES. I. DECLINE.—Chaucer's successors—The decay of art is obvious even to them—The society for which they write is undergoing a transformation—Lydgate and Hoccleve II. SCOTSMEN.—They imitate Chaucer but with more freedom—James I.—Blind Harry—Henryson—The town mouse and the country mouse—Dunbar —Gavin Douglas—Popular ballads—Poetry in the flamboyant style III. MATERIALWELFARE; PROSE.—Development of the lower and middle class—Results of the wars—Trade, navy, savings. Books of courtesy—Familiar letters; Paston Letters—Guides for the traveller and trader —Fortescue and his praise of English institutions —Pecock and his defence of the clergy—His style and humour—Compilers, chroniclers, prosators of various sort—Malory, Caxton, Juliana Berners, Capgrave, &c. IV. THEDAWNOFTHERENAISSANCE.—The literary movement in Italy—Greek studies—Relations with Eastern men of letters—Turkish wars and Greek exiles —Taking of Constantinople by Mahomet II.
—Consequences felt in Italy, France, and England
I. The people that now occupies England was formed, li ke the French people, by the fusion of several superimposed races. In both countries the same races met and mingled at about the same period, but in different proportions and under dissimilar social conditions. Hence the striking resemblances and sharply defined contrasts that exist in the genius of the two nations. Hence also the contradictory sentiments which mutually animated them from century to century, those combinations and recurrences of esteem that rose to admiration, and jealousy that swelled to hate. Hence, again, the unparalleled degree of interest they offer, one for the other. The two people are so dissimilar that in borrowing from each other they run no risk of losing their national characteristics and becoming another's image; and yet, so much alike are they, it is impossible that what they borrowed should remain barren and unproductive. These loans act like leaven: the products of English thought during the Augustan age of British literature were mixed with French leaven, and the products of French thought during the Victor Hugo period were penetrated with English yeast. Ancient writers have left us little information concerning the remotest period and the oldest inhabitants of the British archipelago; works which would be invaluable to us exist only in meagre fragments. Important gaps have fortunately been filled, owing to modern Science and to her manifold researches. She has inherited the wand of the departed wizards, and has touched with her talisman the gate of sepulchres; the tombs have opened and the dead have spoken. What countries did thy war-ship visit? she inquired of the Scandinavian viking. And in answer the dead man, asleep for centuries among the rocks of the Isle of Skye, showed golden coins of the caliphs in his skeleton hand. These coins are not a figure of speech; they are real, and may be seen at the Edinburgh Museum. The wand has touched old undeciphered manuscripts, and broken the charm that kept them dumb. From them rose songs, music, love-ditties, and war-cries: phrases so full of life that the living hearts of to-day have been stirred by them; words with so much colour in them that the landscape familiar to the eyes of the Celts and Germans has reappeared before us.
Much remains undiscovered, and the dead hold secrets they may yet reveal. In the unexplored tombs of the Nile valley will be found one day, among the papyri stripped from Ptolemaic mummies, the account of a journey made to the British Isles about 330B.C., by a Greek of Marseilles named Pytheas, a contemporary of [1] Aristotle and Alexander the Great, of which a few sentences only have been preserved. But even now the darkness which enveloped the origin has been partly cleared away.
To the primitive population, the least known of all, that reared the stones of Carnac in France, and in England the gigantic circles of Stonehenge and Avebury, succeeded in both countries, many centuries before Christ, the Celtic race.
The Celts (κελται) were thus called by the Greeks from the name of one of their principal tribes, in the same way as the French, English, Scottish, and German nations derive theirs from that of one of their principal tribes. They occupied, in the third century before our era, the greater part of Central Europe, of the France of to-day, of Spain, and of the British Isles. They were neighbours of the Greeks and Latins; the centre of their possessions was in Bavaria. From there, and not from Gaul, set out the expeditions by which Rome was taken, Delphi plundered, and a Phrygian province rebaptized Galatia. Celtic cemeteries abound throughout that region; the most remarkable of them was discovered, not in France, but at Hallstadt, near Salzburg, in [2] Austria.
The language of the Celts was much nearer the Latin tongue than the Germanic idioms; it comprised several dialects, and amongst them the Gaulish, long spoken in Gaul, the Gaelic, the Welsh, and the Irish, still used in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The most important of the Celtic tribes, settled in the main island beyond the Channel, gave itself the name of Britons. Hence the name of Britain borne by the country, and indirectly that also of Great Britain, now the official appellation of England. The Britons appear to have emigrated from Gaul and established themselves among the other Celtic tribes already settled in the island, about the third century before Christ.
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