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Whatever mystery may attach to the causes by which the revolution in the language was effected, we may speak with confidence of some by which it was not effected. It was certainly not by the influence of literary composition. The language, till long after the date at which, as stated, the change may be supposed to have been nearly complete, was very little written at all; certainly in no compositions likely to affect its development. The higher classes exclusively spoke French, from the conquest to the reign of Edward III. Brompton relates that as Henry II. was returning from Ireland, through Pembrokeshire, and was addressed as the gode olde Kynge, he was obliged to ask his squire the meaning of the words; and Hovden mentions that Longchamp, Bishop of Ely and Chancellor to Richard I., did not know a word of English: though, as Hallam remarks, 'it seems probable that the higher classes were generally acquainted with English, at least in the latter part of that period.' All letters, including those of a merely private nature, were written in Latin till 1270, after which French was used. There is in Rymer a dispatch in French as late as Henry V., which he, while Prince, addressed to his father notwithstanding Thierry's criticism upon it, the fair Katharine would have understood it better than, according to Shakspeare, she afterwards understood his English. The fact that French was long the language of power, rank, wealth, and fashion, had naturally led to its more sedulous cultivation, and as naturally to the neglect of the vernacular,— which, though the language of the mass, must have been subject during all that period to manifold depravations from its not being critically studied.

The preference given to French on the part of the noble and opulent, naturally for a time encouraged its extensive adoption on the part of that numerous

class — numerous in every age and country-who are led by fashion, and who would of course ape the phraseology and manners of their masters. These would be likely of course to lend their aid in the corrupting or the slighting of that native speech, of which they had so little manliness as to feel ashamed. Trevisa, writing in the early part of the reign of Richard II., has given us,- in a passage too often quoted to need more than reference here, an amusing account of this silly ambition on the part of even many country-folk' of his time. It also furnishes us with an entertaining proof that, however language and all other things appertaining to man may change, man himself remains much the same. 'Also uplondissche men' [country-folk], says he, 'will liken himself [themselves] to gentlemen, and fondeth [affect] with great besynesse to speak French for to be told of. He also tells us the exact date at which English began to be systematically taught in grammar schools; and the gentry to desist from teaching their children French. 'Children in scole,' says he, against the usage and manir of all other nations, beeth compelled for to leve hire own langage, and for to construe hire lessons in Frenche; and so they haveth sethe the Normans came first into Engelond.' He goes on to say that this 'manir' had since 'some dele changed,' and that, in the year 1385, in all the grammar scoles of England,' children were taught English; though he thinks it a disadvantage attending the change that 'now they learn no French, ne con none; which is hurt to them that shall pass the sea. And also gentlemen have much left to teach their children to speak French.' The two schoolmasters, John Cornwaile and Richard Pencriche, to whose instrumentality the salutary revolution above referred to is, according to our author, to be mainly

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ascribed, deserve to be held in lasting remembrance.

Since, however, up to the reign of Edward III., French was the language of the sovereign and the nobility, and the courts of law,- since it was the universal practice up to that time (clearly shown in the extract above referred to), to construe.Latin into French, and since, as we learn from the statutes of Oriel College, Oxford, so late as 1328, students were ordered to converse either in French or Latin, of course as being the two polite languages, we may be sure that the new language, if we must call it so, which had been forming in silence and obscurity, could have been little written; and the revolution, therefore, is in no degree to be ascribed to any literary cause. Even in the reign of Henry VIII., when Leland had the pillaging of all the great libraries in the kingdom, he found only two or three books in English.

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A long passage from Sir John Mandeville's Travels' is quoted among the chronologically arranged specimens in the introduction to Johnson's Dictionary,' and has since been copied into many other works. It is a fair specimen of Mandeville's usual style, and is still interesting for far other than philological reasons.* In this respect, however, it


* A cheap edition of Mandeville's Travels has been lately published. With all his extravagant credulity (and be it recollected that in one place he describes the site of Paradise as exactly as if he had been employed to take a trigonometrical survey thereof the day after our first parents had left it), Sir John must have had great powers of observation and much sagacity. He vehemently contends, in the passage quoted by Johnson, for the sphericity of the earth. As he travelled south he noticed that the circumpolar stars gradually set; that in a certain latitude the pole-star appeared on the horizon, and that as he still travelled south, new constellations and a south lode-star, as he expresses it,

serves to show how completely the language was formed; and, relatively to the change from AngloSaxon, how little its character has been altered even to the present day. Most of the differences are those of orthography, on which account it is better understood by the ear than by the eye. The chief other differences consist in the retention of a few inflections of the verbs, since dropped, certain antique forms of some of the nouns and pronouns, the double negative, and the usual prolix use of conjunctions and prepositions. The diction is every where English, and as incontestably Anglo-Saxon. In the passage referred to, and which consists of many hundred words, very few are even in appearance of French extraction; and perhaps some of these might, with greater reason, be referred immediately to the Latin.

The writer, however, who at this earliest epoch of our literature exerted the greatest influence on the language, was unquestionably Chaucer; and he certainly introduced a large number of words from the French, as might be expected from his early familiarity with the metrical romances, and his extensive translations from them. He also endeavoured, though unsuccessfully, to introduce innovations of accent and pronunciation in his attempt at a more unexceptionable harmony. But though the importations from the French are large, relatively to the like element in

came into view. He is not indeed altogether successful in replying to the wise objections of those who proved the absurdity of his doctrine, from the fact that our Antipodes must live with their heads downwards. But he has one answer which is still very powerfully applicable to all prejudices, philosophical and otherwise-In fro what partie of the earth that men dwell, outher aboven or benethen, it seemeth always to hem that dwellen there, that they gon more right than any other folk.'

such writers as Mandeville and Wickliffe, they are not such as to defraud his works of the praise of Spenser's celebrated eulogy, that in them is to be found the well of English undefiled;' nor such therefore as to justify the nickname that was given him of the French Brewer.'

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We must bear in mind that, when it is said that at this period of our language there were many words introduced from the French, the word many is relative: there were many compared with what there had been before, just as was the case with Latin words in the reigns of Elizabeth and James. But neither in the one instance nor in the other were they so numerous as greatly to disturb the ratio of the elements of the language. Five hundred are many in relation to a thousand, but not to a million. Now we think it might be maintained that throughout our whole literary history our most idiomatic writers have never admitted more than a tenth that is not AngloSaxon; our least never less of Anglo-Saxon than two thirds. Of course the language of common life has ever exhibited the vernacular in far larger proportion.

Chaucer will more than bear the latter test, even in those writings in which the foreign element might be expected to be found in the greatest excess, both as being translations, and as having been produced when his mind was most deeply imbued with the language of the originals. Take his 'Romaunt of the Rose' for example. Let the French and AngloSaxon words in any passage of five hundred words be counted; we question whether there is any in which the former are one third of the whole. If so, even these unfavourable specimens contain less of the foreign element than the writings of Johnson, Hume, or Gibbon. At the same time, the class of words in

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