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seen, writing before this change had taken place, tells us that French was still in his day the language which the children of gentlemen were taught to speak from their cradle, and the only language that was allowed to be used by boys at school; the effect of which was, that even the country people generally understood it and affected its use. The tone, however, in which this is stated by Higden indicates that the public feeling had already begun to set in against these customs, and that, if they still kept their ground from use and wont, they had lost their hold upon any firmer or surer stay. Accordingly about a quarter of a century or thirty years later his translator Trevisa finds it necessary to subjoin the following explanation or correction :—“ This maner was myche yused tofore the first moreyn [before the first murrain or plague, which happened in 1349], and is siththe som dele [somewhat] ychaungide; for John Cornwaile, a maister of gramer, chaungide the lore [learning] in gramer scole and construction of [from] Frensch into Englisch, and Richard Pencriche lerned that maner teching of him, and other men of Pencriche; so that now, the zere of owre Lord a thousand thre hundred foure score and fyve, of the secunde King Rychard after the Conquest nyne, in alle the gramer scoles of England children leveth Frensh, and construeth and lerneth an [in] Englisch, and haveth thereby avauntage in oon [one] side and desavauntage in another. Her [their] avauntage is, that thei lerneth her gramer in lasse tyme than children were wont to do; desavauntage is, that now children of gramer scole kunneth [know] no more Frensch than can her lifte [knows their left] heele; and that is harm for hem [them], and [if] thei schul passe the see and travaile
in strange londes, and in many other places also: also gentilmen haveth now mych ylefte for to teche her [their] children Frensch.”* A few years before this, in 1362 (the 36th of Edward III.), was passed the statute ordaining that all pleas pleaded in the king's courts should be pleaded in the English language, and entered and enrolled in Latin; the pleadings till now having been in French, and the enrolments sometimes in French, sometimes in Latin. The reasons assigned for this change in the preamble of the act are, "because it is often showed to the king by the prelates, dukes, earls, barons, and all the commonalty, of the great mischiefs which have happened to divers of the realm, because the laws, customs, and statutes of this realm be not commonly holden and kept in the same realm, for that they be pleaded, showed, and judged in the French tongue, which is much unknown in the said realm, so that the people which do implead, or be impleaded, in the king's court, and in the courts of other, have no knowledge nor understanding of that which is said for them or against them by their sergeants and other pleaders; and that reasonably the said laws and customs the rather shall be perceived and known, and better understood, in the tongue used in the said realm, and by so much every man of the said realm may the better govern himself without offending of the law, and the better keep, save, and defend his heritage and possessions; and in divers regions and countries, where the king, the nobles, and other of the said realm have been, good governance and full right is done to every person, because that their laws and customs
* As quoted by Tyrwhitt, from Harl. MS. 1900, in Essay on Language, &c. of Chaucer.
be learned and used in the tongue of the country." Yet, oddly enough, this very statute (of which we have here quoted the old translation) is in French, which, whatever might be the case with the great body of the people, continued down to a considerably later date than this to be the mother tongue of our Norman royal family, and probably also that generally spoken at court and at least in the upper house of parliament. Ritson asserts that there is no instance in which Henry III. is known to have expressed himself in English. "King Edward I. generally," he continues, "or, according to Andrew of Wyntoun, constantly, spoke the French language, both in the council and in the field, many of his sayings in that idiom being recorded by our old historians. When, in the council at Norham, in 1291-2, Anthony Beck had, as it is said, proved to the king, by reason and eloquence, that Bruce was too dangerous a neighbour to be king of Scotland, his majesty replied, Par le sang de dieu, vous aves bien eschanté, and accordingly adjudged the crown to Baliol; of whom, refusing to obey his summons, he afterward said, A ce fol felon tel folie fais? S'il ne voult venir à nous, nous viendrons à lui.* There is but one instance of his speaking English; which was when the great sultan sent ambassadors, after his assassination, to protest that he had no knowledge of it. These, standing at a distance, adored the king, prone on the ground; and Edward said in English (in Anglico), You, indeed, adore, but you little love, me. Nor understood they his words, because they spoke to him by an inter
* For these two speeches, the latter of which, by the by, he points as if he did not understand it, Ritson quotes the Scotichronicon (Fordun), ii. 147, 156.
preter.* King Edward II., likewise, who married a French princess, used himself the French tongue. Sir Henry Spelman had a manuscript, in which was a piece of poetry entitled De le roi Edward le fiz roi Edward, le chanson qu'il fist mesmes, which Lord Orford was unacquainted with. His son Edward III. always wrote his letters or dispatches in French, as we find them preserved by Robert of Avesbury; and in the early part of his reign even the Oxford scholars were confined in conversation to Latin or French.† . . . . There is a single instance preserved of this monarch's use of the English language. He appeared in 1349 in a tournament at Canterbury with a white swan for his impress, and the following motto embroidered on his shield :—
Hay, hay, the wythe swan!
Lewis Beaumont, Bishop of Durham, 1317, understood not a word of either Latin or English. In reading the bull of his appointment, which he had been taught to spell for several days before, he stumbled upon the word metropolitice, which he in vain endeavoured to pronounce; and, having hammered over it a considerable time, at last cried out, in his mother tongue, Seit pour dite! Par Seynt Lowys, il ne fu pas curteis qui ceste parole ici escrit.§ The first instance of the English lan
* For this anecdote Ritson quotes Hemingford (in Gale), p. 591.
†The authority for this last statement is a note in Warton's Hist. of Eng. Poet. i. 6 (edit. of 1824).
See Warton's Hist. of Eng. Poet. i. 251 (ii. 86, in edit. of 1824). He had another, It is as it is;' and may have had a third, Ha St. Edward! Ha St. George.'
§ Robert de Graystanes, Anglia Sacra, i. 761—" Take it
guage which Mr. Tyrwhitt had discovered in the parlia mentary proceedings was the confession of Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, in 1398. He might, however, have met with a petition of the mercers of London ten years earlier (Rot. Parl. iii. 225). The oldest English instrument produced by Rymer is dated 1368 (vii. 526); but an indenture in the same idiom betwixt the abbot and convent of Whitby, and Robert the son of John Bustard, dated at York in 1343,* is the earliest known." †
ANGLO-NORMAN POETS-MARIE DE FRANCE.-DENYS PYRAM.-GROSSE-TETE.-WADINGTON.
French metrical romances and other poetry, accordingly, continued to be written in England, and in many instances by Englishmen, throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Of the Anglo-Norman poets of this period one of the most famous is a lady, Marie, who describes herself as of France, but who appears to have resided in England in the time of Henry III. Her poems-consisting principally of 'Lais,'‡ or lays, the subjects of which she professes to have found in the Bas Breton, or Celtic tongue of Britany, and of Fables in the manner of sop, translated, she says, from an English
as said! By St. Lewis, he was not very civil who wrote this word here."
* Charlton's History of Whitby, 247.
+ Dissertation on Romance and Minstrelsy, pp. lxxv.lxxxvi. We have not thought it necessary to preserve Ritson's peculiar spelling, adopted, apparently, on no principle except that of deviating from the established usage.
The derivation of this word remains an unsolved puzzle, or at least a subject of dispute, among the etymologists. It has been conjectured to be the same word with lie (a falsehood).