tical influence; and we are not surprised that his long and active reign should be considered as the commencement of an important era in the history of Scotland, distinguished by a very considerable change in the manners and language of its inhabitants.

What was the precise nature and extent of this change, can now only be conjectured. Perhaps it was merely such as tended to diminish the difference between the English and Scotish dialects of the Saxon, and was occasioned by the numerous emigrations from England. At least it does not seem probable, hat Malcolm and Edgar Atheling should have introduced into Scotland the language of their bitterest enemies. Mr. Pinkerton, indeed, contends that the Norman was the universal speech of the English nobles, during the reign of Edward the Confessor: and it is certain that there existed at his court a strong Norman party; and that he employed a foreign language in preference to his own, and delighted in the conversation of Norman favourites. Yet it is rather improbable that the whole body of Saxon nobles,--that the great council of the nation, who in 1052 decreed the banishment of all those foreigners, and who, for the purpose of securing their country against the dominion of a Norman, raised to the throne a Saxon nobleman, distinguished by his hátred to® that nation,--should have imitated the phraseology of Edward, a sovereign whom they generally and justly despised.

But, be this as it may, the Saxon party in England having been annihilated, even before the death of Malcolm, his successors had no motive for continuing an unsuccessful struggle against a power now firmly established. His three sons, Edgar, Alexander, and David, who after the short reign of their uncle, Donald Baan, successively mounted the throne of Scotland, united themselves as closely as possible with the Norman kings of England. Their sister Matilda was married to Henry I. Alexander to Sybilla, a natural daughter of the same Henry; David to the heiress of Northumberland : and, during these three reigns, in cluding a period of 56 years, from 1097 to 1153, the intercourse between the two kingdoms appears to have been as uninterrupted, as if they had been governed by a common sovereign, David, indeed, who passed many years at the court of his brotherin-law, acquired such an affection for Norman customs, that he was considered by his subjects as a Frenchman. He seems to have adopted the whole system of Norman jurisprudence: he promoted the marriage of his female wards with

Norman barons : he encouraged, by numerous privileges, the settlement of English and Norman artisans and merchants in the Scotish towns;* and so far increased the commerce of his kingdom, that in the reign of his grandson, William the Lion, the burghs were enabled to furnish three-eighths of the whole national contribution.f I should therefore be tempted to ascribe to this reign, and to the concurrence of the above-mentioned causes, that change of language, which is generally attributed to the policy of Malcolm III.

If it were proved that the Norman-French was, at any time, the usual language of the court of Scotland, I should think it must have been so, at this period. But it is to be considered that, in these early times, the courts of princes were, during great part of the year, composed solely of their

The army of William the Lion in 1173 is said to have contained a considerable number of English: and William of Newborough observes that, at this time, they formed the bulk of the inhabitants in all the towns of Scotland. By English, the historian probably meant people who talked a language composed of Saxon and French; for it is not credible that the towns of Scotland were peopled with natives of England. :+ See Stowe's Annals, A. D. 1905. VOL. III,


own families and immediate attendants; their plenar courts, that is to say, the general councils 01 assemblies of their nobles, were only periodical; and I should much doubt whether, in such assemblies of Scotish barons, the French language was ever universal or even general. It is not easy to assign any motive, which could have induced these independent chieftains, to undergo the drudgery of learning a new phraseology. Besides, in estimating the relative efficacy of the causes, which may be supposed to corrupt or change the speech of nations, I should attribute much less to the influence of kings and nobles, who must be comparatively few, than to the active intercourse produced, among the more numerous classes of mankind, by the relations of commerce.

It is well known, that in Cornwall the Celtic dialect has been, almost within our own memory, completely obliterated : in Wales it has been evidently diminished : and the distinctions of dialect in our English provinces, are daily becoming less conspicuous. The reason seems to be that, in poor countries, the price of mere manual labour is usually lower, and that of ingenuity often much higher, than among their richer neighbours. The Cornish and Welsh labourers, therefore, have a constant inducement to emigrate, in search of a more plentiful subsistence; while English miners and mechanics are tempted, by the hope of higher wages, to settle in Wales and Cornwall. A similar transfer and circulation of inhabitants, has taken place, in our English provinces, by the natural operation of the towns; whose constantly decreasing population is supplied from the country, while a certain number of small traders and artizans are driven into the villages, where the profits of their trade or ingenuity, are free from the danger of competition. By such a process, all peculiarities of dialect must be ultimately, though slowly and imperceptibly, extinguished.

Now it is evident that the unreserved communication between the Scots and English, during the twelfth century, could not fail of greatly increasing among the former the catalogue of their artificial wants; and that this must augment their vocabulary by a large importation of foreign words. And if, to all the articles of luxury, parade, and magnificence, multiplied as they were by the variations of fashion, we add the terms of chicane, and war, and hunting, for all of which our islanders were indebted to Norman ingenuity, we may perhaps find sufficient grounds to believe that a

« ElőzőTovább »