Froissart's vivacity and picturesqueness blind us to the inaccuracy of his details; as an historical authority he is of little value. The incidental mention of Crecy and the later English expeditions by Villani in his great Florentine Chronicle are important. The best modern account of this period is that by Mr. W. Longman, "History of Edward III." Mr. Morley (" English Writers ") has treated in great detail of Chaucer].
[Dr. Stubbs' "Constitutional History" (vol. ii.), published since this chapter was written, deals with the whole period. - Ed].
[Authorities. - The concluding part of the chronicle of Walter of Hemin-burgh or Hemingford seems to have been jotted down as news of the passing events reached its author; it ends at the battle of Crécy. Hearne has published another contemporary account by Robert of Avesbury, which closes in 1356. A third account by Knyghton, a canon of Leicester, will be found in the collection of Twysden. At the end of this century and the beginning of the next the annals that had been carried on in the Abbey of St. Albans were thrown together by Walsingham in the " Historia Anglicana " which bears his name, a compilation whose history is given in the prefaces to the " Chronica Monasterii S. Albani " (Rolls Series). Rymer's Fcedera is rich in documents for this period, and from this time we have a storehouse of political and social information in the Parliamentary Rolls. For the French war itself our primary authority is the Chronicle of Jehan le Bel, a canon of S. Lambert of Liege, who had himself served in Edward's campaign against the Scots, and spent the rest of his life at the court of John of Hainault. Up to the Treaty of Brétigny, where it closes, Froissart has done little more than copy this work, making however large additions from his own inquiries, especially in the Flemish and Breton campaigns and the account of Crécy. A Hainaulter of Valenciennes, Froissart held a post in Queen Philippa's household from 1361 to 1369; and under this influence produced in 1373 the first edition of his well-known Chronicle. A later edition is far less English in tone, and a third version, begun by him in his old age after long absence from England, is distinctly French in its sympathies.
In the middle of the fourteenth century the great movement towards national unity which had begun under the last of the Norman Kings seemed to have reached its end, and the perfect fusion of conquered and conquerors into an English people was marked by the disuse, even amongst the nobler classes, of the French tongue. In spite of the efforts of the grammar schools, and of the strength of fashion, English was winning its way throughout the reign of Edward the Third to its final triumph in that of his grandson. "Children in school," says a writer of the earlier reign, "against the usage and manner of all other nations, be compelled for to leave their own language, and for to construe their lessons and their things in French, and so they have since Normans first came into England. Also gentlemen's children be taught to speak French from the time that they be rocked in their cradle, and know how to speak and play with a child's toy; and up-landish (or country) men will liken themselves to gentlemen, and strive with great busyness to speak French for to be more told of." " This manner," adds a translator of Richard's time, " was much used before the first murrain (the plague of 1349), and is since somewhat changed; for John Cornwal, a master of grammar, changed the lore in grammar school and construing of French into English; and Richard Pencrych learned this manner of teaching of him, as others did of Pencrych. So that now, the year of our Lord, 1385, and of the second King Richard after the Conquest nine, in all the grammar schools of England children leaveth French, and construeth and learneth in English." A more formal note of the change is found when English was ordered to be used in courts of law in 1362 "because the French tongue is much unknown;" and in the following year it was employed by the Chancellor in opening Parliament. Bishops began to preach in English, and the English tracts of Wyclif made it once more a literary tongue.
This drift towards a general use of the national tongue told powerfully on literature. The influence of the French romances everywhere tended to make French the one literary language at the opening of the fourteenth century, and in England this influence had been backed by the French tone of the court of Henry the Third and the three Edwards. But at the close of the reign of Edward the Third the long French romances needed to be translated even for knightly hearers. " Let clerks indite in Latin," says the author of the " Testament of Love," " and let Frenchmen in their French also indite their quaint terms, for it is kindly to their mouths; and let us show our fantasies in such wordes as we learned of our mother's tongue." But the new national life afforded nobler material than " fantasies" now for English literature. With the completion of the work of national unity had come the completion of the work of national freedom. Under the first Edward the Parliament had vindicated its right to the control of taxation, under the second it had advanced from the removal of ministers to the deposition of a King, under the third it gave its voice on questions of peace and war, controlled expenditure, and regulated the course of civil "administration. The vigour of English life showed itself socially in the wide extension of commerce, in the rapid growth of the woollen trade, and the increase of manufactures after the settlement of Flemish weavers on the eastern coast; in the progress of the towns, fresh as they were from the victory of the craft-gilds; and in the developement of agriculture through the division of lands, and the riso of the tenant farmer and the freeholder.
It gave nobler signs of its activity in the spirit of national independence and moral earnestness which awoke at the call of Wyclif. New forces of thought and feeling, which were destined to tell on every age of our later history, broke their way through the crust of feudalism in the socialist revolt of the Lollards, and a sudden burst of military glory threw its glamour over the age of Crécy and Poitiers.