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Anglo-Latin literature to 1847


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Bede (c. 673—735) monk, historian, and theologian

John Gower (c. 1330—1408) poet

Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100—1155) bishop of St Asaph and historian

Aldhelm (c. 639—709) abbot of Malmesbury, bishop of Sherborne, and scholar

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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From the 7th to the mid‐19th cents, thousands of English writers produced Latin writings in great quantity, both in prose and in verse, addressed to a Latin‐reading public in continental Europe and in England. Bede, Aldhelm, and Alcuin are prominent authors in the period before the Norman Conquest. From the 12th cent. onwards many Anglo‐Latin writers achieved European renown. Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain, c.1138) was a principal source which disseminated the Arthurian legends, and is extant in almost 300 manuscripts. Chroniclers such as William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon were historians also renowned for their literary qualities. Virtually every literary genre is found, including hymns, letters, saints' lives, and poetry of all kinds in both quantitative and stressed metres. Epic is represented by Joseph of Exeter's De Bello Troiano (On the Trojan War, c.1185), satire against the religious orders by Nigel Wireker's Speculum Stultorum (The Mirror of Fools, c.1180), lyric and occasional poetry by Peter of Blois. Gervase of Tilbury and the Anglo‐Welshman Walter Map shared a taste for folklore narratives, for stories, and for wonders. Among works of literary criticism are Geoffrey de Vinsauf's Poetria Nova (New Poetics, c.1210) and John of Garland's Parisiana Poetria (Parisian Poetics, c.1235).

A great deal of Latin continued to be written in the 13th and 14th cents, culminating in John Gower's 10, 000‐line Vox Clamantis (The Voice of One who Cries out, c.1385), of which the first book is on the Peasants' Revolt. The 15th cent. represents a low point for the Latinate tradition, but it revives in the 16th cent. under the impact of humanism and the regeneration of the universities. Thomas More wrote Latin epigrams and other poems, as well as the classic Utopia (1516). Roger Ascham produced the most elegant Latin letter‐book to appear from 16th‐cent. England. The Latin poetic tradition in particular was regenerated. Thomas Campion's love elegies, first published in 1595, exceed in sensuous frankness his English poems, and many major English poets of the 16th and 17th cents such as Milton, Herbert, Crashaw, Marvell, and Cowley also wrote much Latin poetry. The much‐admired and reprinted Parthenicon (Writings of a Maid) (Prague, c.1606) of Elizabeth Jane Weston was the first substantial volume of collected poetry by a female British writer to appear under her own name. In the 18th cent. Dr Johnson, Addison, and T. Gray all wrote Latin verses. After 1750 the Latin tradition declines into literary trifling, except for the productions of Walter Savage Landor, the last significant English poet to write in Latin. The publication of his extensive Poemata et Inscriptiones (Poems and Inscriptions, 1847) may be said to bring the Anglo‐Latin tradition to a close.

Subjects: Literature — Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).


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