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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/723

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LITERARY NOTICES.

Normans—who at various epochs have found their way into the British Islands; their idioms and forms of religion, their social and political differences, and their relative progress in the arts of civilized life. If we go back to the beginning of this history, we must take notice of the palæolithic and neolithic men, whose part in the formation of the British people is a totally unknown factor. Still, they have left their marks on the land, and may have contributed more than we know toward shaping its future destiny. The Celts were a factor of more recognized importance, and exerted an influence which is still potent in the character of various populations and in the language. From them arc inherited numerous local names; and, "although the Druids committed nothing to writing, the religion of the British tribes has exercised an important influence upon literature. The mediæval romance?, and the legends, which for a long time stood for history, are full of the 'fair humanities' and figures of its bright mythology." The Romans contributed a quota, which must have been very considerable at the time, but the outward effects of which were to a large extent washed out by subsequent revolutions and invasions. So that, while English is full of what has been derived from Roman influences transmitted through factors operating intermediately in later times, it is doubtful whether any Latin word in modern English is traceable to that remote period. The visible building up of the English people and their language begins with the institution of the Saxon dominion. When Charlemagne had been crowned emperor, and was aspiring to revive the ancient Roman Empire, it was desirable to avoid complications which might arise from a supposed identity with the continental Saxons who had fallen before the great chief; and the names of English and England were adopted, in part, it may have been, "as more suitable to proclaim to the world at large a distinct nationality for all the inhabitants of England, possibly divided on minor questions, but having nothing in common with the Saxons of continental Europe." The earliest Anglo-Saxon literature originated in the conflict of Christianity with Anglo-Saxon paganism, in which not the heathen practices and ceremonies were the most formidable impediments to the progress of the Christian faith, but the kind of heathen poetry still current, by means of which the memory and practice of the ancient rites and ceremonies were kept alive in the songs at wakes and festivals. "It was to counteract this influence that the clergy composed Christian hymns and songs in the national language, which, to be effective, had to conform to the taste of the age, and to be made equal to the best poems then extant and admired by the most intelligent of those who had embraced the new religion." Among these works was the great poem of Cædmon. The Danes left their impress in local names and in changes in pronunciation, but the whole influence of their sojourn, owing to the disorders and divisions which it produced, was detrimental; and "it was impossible that in such circumstances the national character should not have become deteriorated, and that the country should not have lagged behind in the career of wealth, the arts, of literature, and of every other line of public prosperity and greatness. Accordingly, at the era of the Norman invasion, England was still a country of no account on the political map of Europe." This event, marking a new departure in the career of the English nation, is, with all that relates to it, treated with fullness of detail in its historical, linguistic, and literary aspects. The earlier history of the Normans is given. The conquest is related. The growth of the Norman-French language in England was followed, after the separation of Normandy, by its decline. Then occurred the fusion of the Anglo-Norman French and Anglo-Saxon English, the progress of which is carefully recorded. The last chapter in this department of the work is upon "The English Language and its Vocabulary"—that is, the development of the language as a self-contained entity—which is treated in a manner similar to that in which the other subjects are considered. The history is illustrated by collections, in separate chapters, of specimens of Anglo-Norman French and of early English, both arranged chronologically to show the changes that took place consecutively in the two languages during the course of the evolution. It is supplemented by an appendix treating of "French