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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.

XI. The Middle Scots Anthologies: Anonymous Verse and Early Prose

§ 16. Early Scottish Prose

An additional interest, philological rather than literary, attaches to the Asloan collection from the fact that it contains a number of prose passages, which are among the earliest remains of Scots prose, other than legal and official documents. That there should be any vernacular prose, whether official or quasi-literary, at the beginning of the fifteenth century is almost surprising, when we consider the place held by Latin in the intellectual life, even in the commercial ralationship of renascence Scotland. The plea for a native medium is hardly urged before the middle of the sixteenth century; and then it is only occasional, and, as in Lyndsay’s Exclamatioun to the Redar, apologetic, because of the stress of reformation conflict. It was probably but rarely that a Scot excused his “Ynglis” on the grounds stated by the earl of March in his letter to Henry IV of England. We know that Scots was used in public documents in the late fourteenth century. In the Bute MS. of Laws six of the twenty-five pieces are in the vernacular; so too are the parliamentary records from the reign of the first James. But neither in these nor in the texts represented in the Asloan MS. can we discover any half-conscious effort of style, such as marks the beginnings of fifteenth century prose in England.