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.

These were not much affected by the occupancy of the Romans for about four hundred and fifty years, although, doubtless, Latin words, expressive of things and notions of which the British had no previous knowledge, were adopted by them, and many of the Celtic inhabitants who submitted to these conquerors learned and used the Latin language.

When the Romans departed, and the Saxons came in numbers, in the fifth and sixth centuries, the Saxon language, which is the foundation of English, became the current speech of the realm; adopting few Celtic words, but retaining a considerable number of the Celtic names of places, as it also did of Latin terminations in names.

Before the coming of the Normans, their language, called the Langue d’oil, or Norman French, had been very much favored by educated Englishmen; and when William conquered England, he tried to supplant the Saxon entirely.  In this he was not successful; but the two languages were interfused and amalgamated, so that in the middle of the twelfth century, there had been thus created the English language, formed but still formative.  The Anglo-Saxon was the foundation, or basis; while the Norman French is observed to be the principal modifying element.

Since the Norman conquest, numerous other elements have entered, most of them quietly, without the concomitant of political revolution or foreign invasion.

Thus the Latin, being used by the Church, and being the language of literary and scientific comity throughout the world, was constantly adding words and modes of expression to the English.  The introduction of Greek into Western Europe, at the fall of Constantinople, supplied Greek words, and induced a habit of coining English words from the Greek.  The establishment of the Hanoverian succession, after the fall of the Stuarts, brought in the practice and study of German, and somewhat of its phraseology; and English conquests in the East have not failed to introduce Indian words, and, what is far better, to open the way for a fuller study of comparative philology and linguistics.

In a later chapter we shall reconsider the periods referred to, in an examination of the literary works which they contain, works produced by historical causes, and illustrative of historical events.

CHAPTER II.

LITERATURE A TEACHER OF HISTORY.  CELTIC REMAINS.

   The Uses of Literature.  Italy, France, England.  Purpose of the Work. 
   Celtic Literary Remains.  Druids and Druidism.  Roman Writers.  Psalter of
   Cashel.  Welsh Triads and Mabinogion.  Gildas and St. Colm.

THE USES OF LITERATURE.

Before examining these periods in order to find the literature produced in them, it will be well to consider briefly what are the practical uses of literature, and to set forth, as a theme, that particular utility which it is the object of these pages to inculcate and apply.

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