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violence of our first studies; the torture of learning a language which had ceased to be spoken, by the medium of another equally unknown. Perhaps it was from this favourable circumstance that among the inferior classes of society in the two great nations, those slaves who discovered an aptitude for study, became eminent as skilful scribes, and even as original writers. One of the earliest prose writers in our language, when style was beginning to be cultivated, aptly described by a domestic but ingenious image, the effect of our youth gathering their burthens of grammatical faggots in the sylva of antiquity.
It is Sir Thomas Elyot, who speaks in "The Boke of the Governor," which was first printed in 1531: "By that time the learner cometh to the most sweet and pleasant reading of old authors, the sparks of fervent desire are extinct with the burthen of grammar, like as a little fire is soon quenched with a great heap of small sticks, so that it can never come to the principal logs where it should burn in a great pleasant fire."
V. It is evident, since the Christian era, that to the people at large, throughout Europe, all knowledge was inaccessible, because the first steps to approach the foreign idiom exacted a labour and a leisure which only a cloistered student could bestow.
It is not, therefore, surprising that except the libraries of the monks, whose preserving hands have conveyed to us the treasures of ancient literature, there was a time when probably there neither existed a Royal nor a private collection in the kingdom. Even Glastonbury Abbey, one of the most extensive in England in 1248, possessed no more than four books in English, and those on religious topics; nor could Leland, in the reign of Henry VIII., when he ransacked the monasteries and other libraries, find more than two or three books written in English, Dr. Dibdin has expressed his surprise that Sir Thomas More, among the books he introduced into his "Utopia," has mentioned no English authors, and that Roger Ascham is equally sparing of his notice of English writers. Our bibliographer did not recollect that at the time that More and Ascham wrote, we did not possess a single vernacular writer in prose whom a scholar would quote. When Sir Thomas Elyot published his elaborate treatise "The Governor," in that work, after a critical enumeration of the Greek and the Roman authors, he is at a stand for "the best garden plots out of which to gather English language," and in fact no English writer is specified. Yet, though without writers, there were those who felt the ambition or the love to cultivate their native English; and about this time, when Lord Berners gave his Froissart, it is described as "translated out of Frenshe into our maternal English tongue;" an expression which indicates all the filial affection of literary patriotism.
Accident has handed down to us two or three catalogues of books in the libraries of noblemen, one in the fourteenth century, and the other in the sixteenth. In the fourteenth century the volumes consisted, for the greater part, of those romances which, during that long period, from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, formed the reading of the Noble, the Dame, and the Damosel, and all the courtly loungers in the Baronial castle. There is an intermixture of many legendary lives of Saints, and apocryphal adventures of "Notre Seigneur," in Egypt, with a volume or two of physic and surgery. The library in
the sixteenth century, in the reign of Henry VIII. was greatly improved-volumes of Divinity in Latin-a few classical authors of antiquity, chiefly of a secondary order. In French, the same multitude of romances of chivalry, some ancient chronicles, and a Froissart, some translations of St. Austin, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, Irish legends of saints. In English, a Gower, a Chaucer, Trevisa's "Polychronicon," "The Order of the Garter," "The Shepherd's Calendar," and "The Feats and Arms of Chivalry," by Christina of Pisa. Books on husbandry, surveying, on hawking, and hunting, and herbals. Of contemporaneous English authors, we only find "The Castle of Health," a favourite treatise on medicine, by Sir Thomas Elyot, who was, however, no physician, and a single treatise of Sir Thomas More, of " Dialogues concerning Heresies and Matters of Religion," which this bibliographer of the sixteenth century has erroneously indicated against the new opinions that held against pilgrimages." Sir Thomas. More has written no express treatise on "Pilgrimages," but in the Dialogues on Heresies," More has incidentally noticed the antiPapal objections against pilgrimages then rising in those days of early Reformation. Among such important topics, how came the catalogue-writer to fix on one of minor interest to describe the volume ? To him, indeed, it might not have seemed so had the bibliographer himself ever trudged in one of those toilsome peregrinations, and now had lived to witness the validity of all those holy sufferings questioned, when, with a conscience as tender as his toes,
"Le vœu qu'il avoit fait
D'aller au grand Saint Jacques,
At a still later period, in 1580, the Royal Library, at Whitehall, in the reign of Elizabeth, was visited by Hentzner, the German traveller. He found it well furnished with Greek, Latin, Italian, and French books, but no English author is noticed! The shelf of native writers must have appeared vacant to the German's eyes. At that time there was no English author whose name was sufficiently conspicuous to attract a foreigner's notice. The massive folio of Sir Thomas More's works probably did not show itself in the library of Elizabeth, for we know that even the life of this illustrious man, written by his son-in-law Roper, in the reign of Mary, no one would venture to print in that of her successor. This biography first appeared at Paris so late as in 1626, when a Roman Catholic Princess had ascended the English throne. The writings of Sir Thomas Elyot and Roger Ascham were the only ones which might have obtained a place in the Royal Library. A language which had not yet produced a Dictionary, and whose writers hardly exceeded the dignity of pamphleteers, could not be supposed to possess any native literature to attract the attention of a foreigner.
It is curious to discover, that some time before this period an English Grammar had been actually printed at Rouen in 1563, by Gabriel Meurier, who, however, acknowledges that the English language was held in little estimation by Foreigners, except for commercial purposes, and was not regarded at home, since French was usually spoken by the English Court; and the Learned communicated in Latin. This literary curiosity of so early an English Grammar is noticed by
La Croix du Maine and Du Verdier, old French bibliographers. This Meurier published other similar pedagogical volumes, which may be found at the British Museum. An Englishman, John Palsgrave, who resided so long in France that he became ambidextrous in both idioms, accompanied the sister of Henry VIII. when she married Louis XII. as her language-master. Palsgrave published his "Esclaircissemens de la Langue Françoise" in 1530, one of the most precious volumes in English philology; and as a monument of our language, its rarity is much to be regretted, since this treasure of English words and phrases has been overlooked by our lexicographers.
Nearly thirty years after Hentzner's view of the Royal Library at Whitehall, about 1610, when we discover English authors in number, Edmund Bolton, a judicious critic, in his "Hypercritica," a treatise on the composition of History, in his strictures on "the proper graces of style," adds-"the books out of which we gather the most warrantable English, are not many to my remembrance." Already this refined critic censured Sir Thomas More for "some few antiquated words;" Sir Philip Sidney is admired for "rich conceit and splendour of courtly expression," but too florid for the historical style; the preface of Hooker is described as "a choice parcel of our vulgar language;" Sir Walter Rawleigh's preface to his great work, as full of "clear and courtly graces of style;" Sir Francis Bacon's writings are pronounced (the Essays, doubtless) "to have the freshest and most savoury form, and aptest utterances, that, as I suppose, our tongue can bear." The Jesuit Father Parsons' style, and Cardinal Alan's apology, are commemorated for "natural and exquisite English." The critic was a Romanist, but the commendation of Father Parsons' style was not awarded without justice. In this style, a primitive critic decided on our primitive authors.
VI. The state of literature in England, from the reign of Henry VIII. to Elizabeth, is remarkable.
The taste for classical learning and philological studies was fervid among certain classes in society; it even became fashionable, and distinguished females were familiar both with Greek and Roman writers. Our Grammar Schools had succeeded to the dissolved monasteries in initiating our youth in their early studies. We had eminent grammarians; and Henry VIII. had lent his royal name, if not his hand, to the compilation of a Latin Grammar, which, according to his despotic edict, was to be the established Grammar of England.
But the native language was abandoned and left to itself; as yet it had neither school, nor grammar, nor dictionary. Education was then in its infancy; and there was none for the luxurious nobles and gentry, who were occupied by hunting and hawking; more select in their cook and their falconer than in their domestic tutor, generally a degraded menial in their household, usually chosen for the smallness of his stipend and his patient suppleness to his seigneur, and not less to his boy-lord. Their reading was usually restricted to some French tome of chivalry, or to "a merrie tale in Boccace;" and their science advanced not beyond the "Shepherds' Calendar," or the "Secrets of Albert the Great." The people, with no other knowledge of languages than their uncultivated English, seem to have possessed a flying literature of their own. The tales of minstrels still lingering in our nursery, traditional proverbs, and Æsopian fables, were faithfully
transmitted from father to son, among those who never read. The Germans have a term to designate this class of traditional literature, if so it may be considered, and call these volumes Volksbücher, or the People's books. The memories of the people had their stores of a short narrative poem or a startling tale, and all the fragmentary wisdom of sage antiquity, so daily useful, or so apt and delightful in the extensive scene of human life and manners. That these were handed down from generation to generation appears probable, from the circumstance, that hardly had the printing-press been in use when a multitude of "the People's books" spread through Europe their rude instruction and their national humour. In France, their Bibliothèque Bleue preserves the remains of this literature of the people. In Germany, some patriotic antiquaries have been delighted to collect this household literature of the illiterate; and in our own country, the chap-books sold on the stalls of fairs, or mixed with the wares of "the chapman," were these books of the People. The courtly favourites of one age, descended in another, from the oriel window to the cottage lattice. They took, indeed, a different appearance. The folio metrical romance, erst bound in crimson velvet, studded with bosses, and clasped in silver, now shrunk into a sixpenny-tale in prose; and the "lays" of minstrelsy were re-echoed in the doggrel of the balladmonger. The political satire of Reynard the Fox mixed with the Fables of Æsop; and the "gestes" of Guy of Warwick, Sir Bevis of Hampton, and such other heroes of Chivalry, have been detected in the Tom Thumb and Thomas Hickathrift of the people.
VII. The people, however, did not advance much in intelligence, even after the discovery of printing; for new works, which were designed for popular purposes, were still locked up in a language which none spoke and only the scholar read. And this, notwithstanding that the Italians had set a noble example to the other nations of Europe, as we shall shortly see. "Il Cortegiano" of Castiglione, and the "Galateo" of La Casa, were great and original efforts to strike at the follies, or reclaim the popular errors of social life, in their vernacular idiom. But in other countries, those who were treading in the same path of ethical instruction, and refining the manners of their nation, dared not yet emancipate themselves from the golden manacles of their Latinity. Erasmus, whose amusing colloquies, and whose satirical panegyric on folly were so happily directed to open the minds of men; and Sir Thomas More, in his "Utopia," that philosophical model of an ideal society, were confined to the lettered circles. At a still later period, the genius of Verulam, whose prescient views had often anticipated the institutions and the discoveries of succeeding times, appears never to have contemplated the future miracles of his maternal tongue. Lord Bacon did not foresee that the English language would one day be capable of embalming all that philosophy can discover or poetry can invent; that his country at length would possess a national literature, and exult in classical compositions of its own. So little did Lord Bacon esteem the language of his country, that his favourite works are composed in Latin; and what he had written in English he was anxious to have preserved, as he expresses it, in "that universal language which may last as long as books last." It would have surprised Lord Bacon to have been told that the learned in Europe would one day study English authors to learn to think
and write, and prefer his own "Essays" in their living pith to the colder transfusions of the Latin versions of his friends. The taste of the philosophical Chancellor was inferior to his invention.
VIII. The progress of the vernacular idiom among the nations of Europe was long impeded by the very circumstances which, in the due course of events, terminated in creating it. Two splendid incidents in literary history long occasioned the neglect of every native literature-the emigration of the fugitive Greeks into Italy, and the researches for the recovery of ancient manuscripts before the era of Printing.
The modern Greeks charmed the Italians when they disclosed their Hellenistic stores; and though the Greeks proudly triumphed that they alone possessed the great originals, yet the Italians often infused into the supple Greeks a sympathy for their old Latin favourites. The Romans, in their rivality, by the very act of their imitation, at least, had conceded an eternal homage to the genius of their masters. This period has been termed the Restoration of Letters. It struck a fresh impulse into literary pursuits. The occupation of disinterring manuscripts, which had long been buried in dungeon-darkness, was carried on with an enthusiasm of which, perhaps, it would be difficult for us at this day to form an adequate conception. Many exhausted their fortunes in distant journeys, or in importations from the East; and the possession of a manuscript was considered not to have been dearly purchased by the transfer of an estate, since only for the loan of one, the pledge was nothing less. The recovery of a complete author, known only by fragments, or the discovery of one, perhaps heard of for the first time, was tantamount to the acquisition of a province. When a copy of Quinctilian was discovered, the news circulated throughout Europe. The rapture of collation, the restoration of a corrupt text, or the perpetual commentary, was the ambition of a life.
This was the useful age of critical erudition. It furnished the studious with honours and avocations, reserved only for themselves, but it withdrew them from the cultivation of all vernacular literature. They courted not the popular voice when a professorial chair, or a dignified secretaryship, offered the only profit or honour the literary man contemplated. Accustomed to the finished compositions of the ancients, they depreciated their maternal language, too rude and unworthy of a scholar's regard. More than two centuries were ardently consumed in these studies of antiquity and of critical learning.
The Latin language thus became the literary language of Europe. It was even employed on incompatible subjects, in contradiction to good taste and common sense. Although Machiavel and Guicciardini had exhibited to Europe models of historical composition in their vernacular idiom, England and France remained without a classical historian of their affairs in their native language.
The native rude chroniclers of both these nations in their confused pages, were but crude and childlike collectors of events; their indiscriminate narratives seem never to have passed through their minds by any intellectual process. When these simple recorders occasionally fall on some important incident, they make it small by their meagreness, or perplex by their trivial abundance. They are still the prolonged torture of the philosophical historian whenever