English Fiction From the Fifth to the Twentieth Century

Cover of book English Fiction From the Fifth to the Twentieth Century
Categories: Fiction » Poetry

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Earliest Fiction Of Christian England In the previous study of the beginning of English Fiction I endeavored to make plain the longing of our heathen ancestors for stories and legends, and I endeavored also to show the character of fiction they demanded. We found that the principal figure had to be a physical hero, a man mighty in strength, powerful as a leader, clean of life, fearless, decisive, liberal, aspiring to fame. Gentleness was not an essential trait, though sometimes attributed to the character. Battle was the theme, and war was his occupation. The forest, the waters, and the things of Nature in general were enemies, elements to be feared, hated, and vanquished. Virility and not love was the motive or theme of all narrative. CHRISTIAN CHANGES Now, with the coming of Christian missionaries in 597, certain aspects of old English fiction began to undergo a decided change. Latin literature and the Bible, with their gentler touches, affected the national character; teachers from among the Irish, who had before this become converts to Christianity, entered with their Celtic sentiment and lyrical love of Nature; and the Anglo-Saxon, without at once losing his native sturdiness, stubbornness, and bravery, acquired in addition a susceptibility to the lovable things of field and forest, and a meditativeness, a considerateness, and a sweetness of spirit not known to his pagan ancestors. Strange to say, his native tinge of fatalism, or pessimism, did not disappear under the new religion, but, instead, developed at times among the writers into almost a melancholia. Wyrd, the former all-conquering Fate, which had made them so reckless in battle, now became the unchanging Will of God; and fatalism of the most flagrant character tinged their songs and stor...

English Fiction From the Fifth to the Twentieth Century
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