The influence of dictaminal treatises in England was weak throughout the Middle Ages and largely restricted to a limited number of royal clerks and a few academics. Most practitioners were royal chancery clerks who dealt with foreign and ecclesiastical powers. This article focuses chiefly on the use of dictaminal letters by middle class English citizens in the fifteenth and earlier sixteenth centuries. These letters show little significant influence of continental or English dictaminal theory but are chiefly either sprawling news bulletins like the Paston letters or, more commonly, imitations of the royal missives from the Signet or Privy Seal offices. As the fifteenth century ended even these vestigial dictaminal forms were replaced among the middles classes by business formats, such as the letter of credit, although they retained some use among the upper classes into the sixteenth century and in some royal missives into the eighteenth century. The article concludes with suggestions on ways contemporary genre theory might be usefully applied to analyze the rise and decline of the ars dictaminis.
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