In the development of literature, prose generally comes rather late. Verse is more effective for oral delivery and more easily retained in memory. It is therefore a rather remarkable fact, and one well worthy of note, that English possessed a considerable body of prose literature in the ninth century, at a time when most other modern languages in Europe had scarcely developed a literature in verse. This unusual accomplishment was due to the inspiration of one man, the Anglo-Saxon king who is justly called Alfred the Great (871-899). Alfred’s greatness rests not only on his capacity as a military leader and statesman but on his realisation that greatness in a nation is no merely physical thing.
In an effort to restore England to something like its former state he undertook to provide for his people certain books in English, books that he deemed most essential to their welfare. With this object in view he undertook in mature life to learn Latin and either translated these books himself or caused others to translate them for him.
King Alfred was the founder of English Prose.
[From Baugh and Cable – A History of the English Language]
Alfred The Great’s Reading List:
Pope Gregory – Pastoral Care
Bede – Ecclesiastical History of the English People
Orosius – Seven Books of History Against the Pagans
Boethius – The Consolations of Philosophy
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle [PDF]