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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

XVIII. Political and Religious Verse to the Close of the Fifteenth Century—Final Words

§ 1. Anglo-Norman Writings

IN a previous chapter, something was said of the changes in language and in thought which accompanied the Norman conquest of England, and it was pointed out how short a time, comparatively speaking, was needed for the fusion of race with race. The incorporation of a French vocabulary into the vernacular was, inevitably, a more prolonged operation; or, to speak more precisely, it was longer before that fusion became apparent and was reflected in the literature of the people, the literary of fashionable language being, for many a long year, the tongue of the conquerors. The influence of the courtly literature of the ruling caste in more than one direction has already been pointed out. It is no part of the scope of this work to encroach upon what more properly belongs to the earlier literature of a modern language other than our own, or to tell over again what has already been dealt with in the pages of Gaston Paris, in the volumes of Petit de Julleville and elsewhere; but our interest in medieval French letters must always be more than that of mere neighbours. Thus, the period now reached in the history of our own literature, when the death of Gower points, approximately, to the end of French letters in England, offers an opportunity for mentioning, in the course of a very brief summary, the work of one or two Anglo-Normans whose writings either are intimately connected with English historical events and personages, or have left their impression on the form and matter of the rapidly growing body of vernacular literature. To some of these, special reference has already been made—Philippe de Thaon, whose Bestiary belongs to a popular and fascinating type of didactic literature, and helped to furnish material for early English writers on similar themes, and whose guide to the ecclesiastical calendar, Li Cumpoz, sets forth what the ignorant clerk ought to know; Geoffrey Gaimar and Wace, who became the mediums by which earlier English and Latin histories provided material for the work of Layamon; William of Wadington, whose Manuel was written, probably, for Normans in Yorkshire, and another “Yorkshire Norman,” Peter of Langtoft, who were the literary god-fathers of Mannyng of Brunne.