The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).>br>Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

VIII. The Norman Conquest

§ 5. Anselm

Lanfranc’s successor in the see of Canterbury was his fellow-countryman and pupil, Anselm; perhaps less of a statesman, but a greater genius, a kindlier-natured and larger-hearted man and a more profound thinker. As one of the greatest of English churchmen, who fought for the purity and liberty and rights of the English church, we may claim Anselm as English, and we may rejoice at the place given him in the Paradiso in the company of Bonaventura and John Chrysostom and Peter “the devourer” of books, but the consideration of his writings, also, falls rather to the historian of religious philosophy. Inasmuch, however, as the result of Anselm’s fight against kingly tyranny led to the charter of Henry I and so prepared the way for the Great Charter that followed a century later he must be mentioned among those who took part in the making of England.

The reflection in English literature of the gradual construction of this new England will be seen more clearly when we have passed through the interval of quiescence that prevailed in vernacular letters after the Conquest. The literature of church and state and scholarship was for those who knew Latin; and the literature that followed the invaders was for those who taught French; the struggle for supremacy between native and alien tongues was fought out; and, when the first writers of Transition English appear, it is seen that the beaten Romance has modified the conquering Teutonic. The early days appear to be days of halting steps and curious experiment; and, naturally, the imitation of foreign models seems greater at first than later, when the naturalisation, or, rather, the blending, is nearer completion. Even the manuscripts of these early days, in their comparatively simple character, show that the vernacular is in the condition of a “poor relation”. Writers in English were at school under the new masters of the land, whose cycles of romance, including much that was borrowed from the adopted country, and, therefore, much that was easily assimilated, afforded, both in respect of form and of matter, excellent material for translation for many a year until, in fact, the clipped wings had had time to grow again.