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Library of the World's Best Literature, Ancient and Modern — Volume 2
written by "Mabie, Hamilton Wright, 1846-1916"
...to us through his writings, following Alfred's example, wrote not from personal ambition, but for the betterment of his fellow-men. His style is eminently lucid, fluent, forcible, and of graceful finish. Earle observes of it:--"The English of these Homilies is splendid; indeed, we may confidently say that here English appears fully qualified to be the medium of the highest learning." This is high praise, and should be well considered by those disposed to consider the Anglo-Saxon as a rude tongue, incapable of great development in itself, and only enabled by the Norman infusion to give expression to a deep and broad culture. Alfric's works in Anglo-Saxon--for he wrote also in Latin--were very numerous, embracing two series of homilies, theological writings of many kinds, translations of portions of the Bible, an English (Anglo-Saxon) grammar, adapted from a Latin work, a Latin dictionary, and many other things of great use in their day and of great interest in ours. The names of other writers and of other single works might well be added here. But enough has been said, perhaps, to show that a great and hopeful development of prose took place among the West Saxons. It must be admitted that the last years of the Anglo-Saxon nationality before the coming of the Normans show a decline in literary productiveness of a high order. The causes of this are to be found chiefly in the political and ecclesiastical history of the time. Wars with the Northmen, internal dissensions, religious controversies, the greater cultivation of Latin by the priesthood, all contributed to it. But hopeful signs of a new revival were not wanting. The language had steadily developed with the enlightenment of the people, and was fast becoming fit to meet any demands that might be made upon it, when the great catastrophe of the Norman Conquest came, and with it practically the end of the historical and distinctive Anglo-Saxon literature. FROM 'BEOWULF' [T...

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