A History of English Literature

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bishopric and the capital of Wessex and of England: work in metal and gems, book
production, manuscript illumination, embroidery, architecture and music. But there
was disunity and Danish invasion. Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury, martyred by
Vikings in 1012, and Wulfstan, Archbishop of York in the early 11th century, were
better leaders of the English than their king. In Sermo Lupi ad Anglos(‘The Word of
Wulf to the English’), Wulfstan raised his voice against the evils flourishing in the
social breakdown caused by the Danish invasions. His denunciations ring with the
conviction that he spoke for the whole community.
The conquest of England by Danish and then by Norman kings disrupted
cultural activity, and changed the language of the rulers. Latin remained the
language of the Church, but the hierarchy was largely replaced by Normans, and
English uses were done away with. William the Conqueror made his nephew
Osmund the first bishop in the new see of Salisbury. Osmund seems, however, to
have been persuaded to keep one English usage, which has survived. The words in
the wedding service in the Book of Common Prayer – ‘I take thee for my wedded
wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse’ and so forth –
employ Old English doublets. Like the names of the parts of the body and the days
of the week, they are an instance of the survival of Old English at a level so basic that
it is taken for granted.

nFurther reading

Alexander, M.,Old English Literature(Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1983; Peterborough, Ontario:
Broadview, rev. edn 2001). A simple introduction with translations.

Bede,Ecclesiastical History of the English People, trans.L.Shirley-Price, rev. R. E. Latham, ed.
D. H. Farmer (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990). The primary source for early Anglo-Saxon

Campbell, J. (ed.), The Anglo-Saxons (Oxfor d:Oxford University Press, 1982;
Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991). An outstanding historical conspectus, very well illustrated.

Mayr-Harting, Henry,The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England(London: Batsford,
1972).A fine scholarly intro duction.

Mitchell, B. and F. C. Robinson,A Guide to Old English, 8th edn (Oxford: Blackwell, 2011). A
gr ammar, reader and study-guide for students.

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