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THE language of the Channel Islands is essentially that of the opposite coast of Normandy; being which, it is, in the eyes of a Frenchman, French. In England, however, from the fact of its being a clear and lineal descendant of not only the French, but of the French which was introduced into England by the Norman Conquest, we are more inclined to call it Anglo-Norman. Nor is the name an improper one, even from a continental point of view. The tongue took deep root in England and flourished well. It was, until the time of the kings of the house of Lancaster, or for upwards of three centuries, the language of the English court, and the English nobility. It was, to a great extent, the language of the church and cloister; and, until the time of Edward I., the language of the most important portion of our literature. That its encroachments upon the native English have been exaggerated by able writers and high authorities, is true; but this only shows that its use was less exclusive than is generally believed. When all deductions from its influence and importance, that can fairly be supported, have been made, it was still essentially the chief language of England.

More than this. Notwithstanding the fact that the French of England was but an offset from that of the Continent, it was in England that it was most especially cultivated. It is scarcely too much to say that it was in England that it took the form of

the mother-tongue of the present French; i.e., that in England (if not first reduced to writing) it was first made the vehicle of any compositions which made even a distant approach to any literary merit. Whatever was written in it before the Conquest, belongs, of course, to the soil of France alone, and by France alone can be claimed. But it surprises us to find how little there is of this that even the most acute industry of the French antiquaries have discovered. The earliest works of either merit or magnitude, are of English origin; and it was in London, rather than in Paris, that the literary French of the present time took its origin. The start, so to say, was on British ground; though, after a time, a concurrent literature arose on the other side of the Channel as well.

The cultivation of the early Norman began in England, not only when compared with Parisian, but with Norman, France. But little was written in Rouen; though many of the writers of England were of Norman birth and education. The French, then, of Normandy, was Norman French; of which that great moiety which was transplanted into England, and flourished in England so successfully, was Anglo-Norman-i. e., the French of Normandy on English soil.

As the true French of the parts more immediately around Paris grew into cultivation, the French of England, against which the original English was steadily effecting a reaction, waned both in purity and importance, and by the time of Edward III. there was a notable difference between the two. During that reign English had so far re-asserted its original rights, that French, even to the sons of the nobility, had to be taught so far was it from coming naturally to them. A wellknown passage in Chaucer tells us how the nun of the Canterbury Pilgrimage spoke French :

"After the schole of Stratford at-le-Bow,

For French of Paris was to her unknowe."

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and an equally curious but less known passage of Walter de Biblesworth, who lived under Edward I., and composed a tract, at the request of the Lady Dionysia de Monchensi, a Kentish heiress, for the use of her children (of whom, by the way, she had none), although he recommends that French should be learnt first and English afterwards, suggests the notion that, even for the French, the niceties of gender required special teaching. The pupils were to be taught when to say mon and when ma, when je and when moi. "Et tut issi troveret-vus tot le ordre en parler e respondre ke checun gentyshomme covent saver; dount touzdis troverez-vus primes les Fraunsoys et pus le Engleys suaunt; e ke les enfanns pussunt saver les propretez dire des choses ke veyunt, et kaunt devunt dire moun et ma soun et sa, le et la, moy et jo."*

That French, even in the widest sense of the word, meant only the language to the north of the Loire, need scarcely be added. To the south of that river, the language which now passes for little more than a mass of French dialects, was, in the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, (as well as both earlier and later) a distinct tongue, with a separate name, an independent and earlier literature, and a well-marked grammar. It was the Provençal, which, in Languedoc, graduated into the Spanish of Catalonia. Indeed, it was a language which, though common to both France and Spain, was different in all the points which raise a language above a dialect from both the ordinary French and the Castilian Spanish. At one period, this second language intruded itself, in a slight degree, into England; perhaps, in a slighter degree, into the Channel Islands. This was during the English possession of Aquitaine; and we must remember that, with the exception of Calais, a portion of Aquitaine was retained by us longer than any part of Northern France. Nevertheless, no one has succeeded in finding any Provençal elements in the Norman. Geographical contact

* T. Wright, Volume of English Vocabularies, p. 143.


between it and the Norman of Normandy, there was none, inasmuch as the Keltic duchy of Britany lay between the two districts. Even where there was a common frontier, there was a definite line of distinction. The French had no love for the Provençals; and the Provençals considered themselves as distinct from the French as an Italian or a Spaniard might have done.

Respecting the earliest author, we know but little; more, perhaps, about the man himself than about his name. Waice, Gace, Huistace, Extasse-all these are varieties of it. The initial of his Christian name was R—, but whether this meant Robert or Richard, is uncertain. The Abbé de la Rue decides in favour of Richard; and that on reasonable grounds. He finds a charta of the year 1120, in which the names of Richard Wace, and Richard de St. Helier's are associated, and as the charta relates to the property of the bishop of Coutances, it points decidedly towards Jersey and as decidedly connects the Wace family with that island.

That the poet's father left Jersey, and fought under the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings, that after the Conquest he had lands assigned to him in Nottinghamshire, may or may not have been the case. The argument here is entirely inferential; and as the name was a common one, and as the family was a large one, it is by no means unexceptionable. The poet, however, was undoubtedly a native of Jersey.

He studies at Caen, devotes himself to the composition of romances, and seeks for patronage in England.

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That Wace was what he was because he was a Channel Islander no one, however much he may be steeped in local patriotism, can maintain. Still, he was a Channel Islander in the way that Shakespear was a Warwickshire man; and

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those who have watched with either sympathy or sarcasm, the spasmodic efforts made and making to identify Shakespear with a small plot of land and an equivocal tenement in Stratford-. upon-Avon, may contrast the comparative apathy of the Jerseymen concerning one of the great lights of literature to which their island gave birth. A fair amount of literary credit and importance has been claimed for him; but if we go closely into the matter it is utterly incommensurate with his high merits. He was not, it is true, the first writer in the old Norman French. He is not the greatest writer of a national epic. As he called himself a romance writer, epic is, perhaps, too high a term. Still, as epics go, when we look at the Henriade of Voltaire, or even the greater, but not less national, poem of Camoens, the word may pass muster. The claimant for one of the highest places in the literary Pantheon on behalf of Wace, may fairly urge that of all the poems in the Anglo-Norman which have come down to us, with the definite facts of authorship, time, and place beyond dispute, his is as early as any; if not the earliest. More certain still is it, that of great national poems delivering narratives of what struck the mind and temper of the nation to which they were addressed as true and touching history, it is the earliest in any language of modern Europe. There were poems in the language of some part of what now constitutes France earlier. There were some poems in even the northern Norman, or Parisian, part of France; in the Langue d'Oc as opposed to the Langue d'Oil; in the Romance as opposed to the Provençal; in the French proper as opposed to the Catalonian of Spain and its allied dialects to the south of the Loire. But these were, at best, satires, love-poems, and Lives of the Saints; all beyond them being of uncertain date and disputed authorship.

The first writer in the Norman dialect is said to have been Richard I., Richard Sanspeur, the second duke, or the third from Rollo, who was no true duke, but only the founder of a ducal dynasty. He is said to have been sent to Bayeux to learn

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