English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History eBook

Henry Coppée
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 540 pages of information about English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History.

The popular philosophy of Geoffrey’s work is found in the fact, that while in Bede and in the Saxon Chronicle the Britons had not been portrayed in such a manner as to flatter the national vanity, which seeks for remote antecedents of greatness; under the guise of the Chronicle of Brittany, Geoffrey undertook to do this.  Polydore Virgil distinctly condemns him for relating “many fictitious things of King Arthur and the ancient Britons, invented by himself, and pretended to be translated by him into Latin, which he palms on the world with the sacred name of true history;” and this view is substantiated by the fact that the earlier writers speak of Arthur as a prince and a warrior, of no colossal fame—­“well known, but not idolized....  That he was a courageous warrior is unquestionable; but that he was the miraculous Mars of the British history, from whom kings and nations shrunk in panic, is completely disproved by the temperate encomiums of his contemporary bards."[14]

It is of great historical importance to observe the firm hold taken by this fabulous character upon the English people, as evinced by the fact that he has been a popular hero of the English epic ever since.  Spenser adopted him as the presiding genius of his “Fairy Queen,” and Milton projected a great epic on his times, before he decided to write the Paradise Lost.


Ingulphus, Abbot of Croyland, 1075-1109:  History of Croyland.  Authenticity disputed.

William of Poictiers, 1070:  Deeds of William the Conqueror, (Gesta Gullielmi Ducis Normannorum et Regis Anglorum.)

Ordericus Vitalis, born about 1075:  general ecclesiastical history.

William of Jumieges:  History of the Dukes of Normandy.

Florence of Worcester, died 1118:  (Chronicon ex Chronicis,) Chronicle from the Chronicles, from the Creation to 1118, (with two valuable additions to 1141, and to 1295.)

Matthew of Westminster, end of thirteenth century (probably a fictitious name):  Flowers of the Histories, (Flores Historiarum.)

Eadmer, died about 1124:  history of his own time, (Historia Novorum, sive sui seculi.)

Giraldus Cambrensis, born 1146, known as Girald Barry:  numerous histories, including Topographia Hiberniae, and the Norman conquest of Ireland; also several theological works.

Henry of Huntingdon, first half of the twelfth century:  History of England.

Alured of Rievaux, 1109-66:  The Battle of the Standard.

Roger de Hoveden, end of twelfth century:  Annales, from the end of Bede’s history to 1202.

Matthew Paris, monk of St. Alban’s, died 1259:  Historia Major, from the Norman conquest to 1259, continued by William Rishanger to 1322.

Ralph Higden, fourteenth century:  Polychronicon, or Chronicle of Many Things; translated in the fifteenth century, by John de Trevisa; printed by Caxton in 1482, and by Wynken de Worde in 1485.

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