THE HEIRS OF CHAUCER
IN the fifteenth century that vision of the renaissance which Chaucer glimpsed began to fade, leaving to English literature scarcely more than the momentum of his advance. There were but few added impulses, and these were all Scotch. Indeed, we must broaden our use of English to include this northern language or leave out almost all that is really valuable in short narrative between Chaucer and the Elizabethans. For from England proper came nothing but the Chaucerian echoes of the few writers capable of carrying on his tradition, and a prodigious amount of vulgar, or, at least, unliterary, narrative in the pre-Chaucerian fashion, with neither novelty nor freshness to recommend it.
With this last we may well begin, since to discuss it is to hark backward rather than forward. Owing nothing to Chaucer, it represents the ever-flowing stream of story for popular consumption, always conservative, and often unaffected by literary movements above it. In this current, fabliaux and short romances were abundant, and, judging from their degenerate character, are evidently marching into desuetude, or to vulgar chap-book and broadside. There are new legendaries, both in England and in Scotland, but with nothing new in them for this