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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 183



VII.] VERNACULAR WRITERS. 177 I have not said much in these lectures about the vernacular writers of the reign, whether of the Norman or English race ; for indeed they can hardly as yet be said to be literary people. But I must not finish without a word about them, lest I should be thought to undervalue them. The • poem of Jordan Fantosme, on the rebellion of the sons of Henry in 1173 and 1174 ; the poem on the Conquest of Ireland ; the original, French poem of Ambrose, on which the Gesta Ricardi are founded ; the Life of S. Thomas of Canterbury, by Gamier of Pont S. Maxence ; the valuable poetic chronicle of Benedict of S. Maur, are the beginnings of a new literature the value of which is prospective ; predecessors of Villehardouin and Joinville and the Chronique d'Outremer, after the law, if there be such a law, that in the development of a vernacular literature poetry takes precedence of prose. I sometimes think that the growth of this school or schools of composition was owing to the increased interest taken by women in the history of their country; certainly the spread and strengthening of it tends to show that the classes to whom the use of Latin, except in the Church services, was becoming less and less familiar, were beginning to care to have a literature of their own. It shows, moreover, taken in connexion with that deadly liveliness of the Latin poetry which I have adverted to, that, whilst Latin was still a ready enough medium for serious writing, it was necessary to find something better and freer than Latin verse to interest people. Medieval Latin prose never dies out ; medieval Latin verse continues to live only as a pedantic and attenuated survival from the moment that either Norman French or medieval English poetry comes into fashion. Into these fields of investigation I do not now propose to intrude. I shall have done something to reconcile myself with the perfunctory and superficial way in which alone my irksome duty on these occasions can be discharged, if I have called your attention Ν


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