Literature of England

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The literature of England is literature written in what is now England or by English writers. It mainly consists of English literature, i.e. literature written in the English language, but there are notable examples of literature from England in other languages.

Latin literature

This consists of a number of ecclesiastical and historical works, spanning a period of over a thousand years. Notable examples include Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum written by Bede.

Several more recent examples exist of English works written originally in Latin. Utopia, for example by Bacon, and the New Atlantis which is a utopian novel by Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626), published in Latin (as Nova Atlantis) in 1624 and in English in 1627.

Isaac Newton also produced some of his earlier works in Latin.

Anglo-Norman literature

This consists of medieval literature in the Anglo-Norman tongue, and also in French.

The French epic came over to England at an early date. It is believed that the Chanson de Roland was sung at the battle of Hastings, and some Anglo-Norman manuscripts of chansons de geste have survived to this day. The Pélérinage de Charlemagne (Eduard Koschwitz, Altfranzösische Bibliothek, 1883) was, for instance, only preserved in an Anglo-Norman manuscript of the British Museum (now lost), although the author was certainly a Parisian. The oldest manuscript of the Chanson de Roland that we possess is also a manuscript written in England, and amongst the others of less importance we may mention La Chançun de Willame, the MS. of which has (June 1903) been published in facsimile at Chiswick (cf. Paul Meyer, Romania, xxxii. 597–618).


Anglo-Jewish literature was written in the Middle Ages, and ended when the Edict of Expulsion took effect. It resumed again, as part of an entirely new tradition, with the return of Judaism to England. In the thirteenth century, however, only a few authorities, like Moses of London, Berechiah de Nicole, Aaron of Canterbury, and Elias of London, are known, together with Jacob ben Judah of London, author of a work on the ritual, Etz Chaim, and Meïr of Norwich, a liturgical poet.