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I trust the reader may have formed some idea from the abstracts already given. In many of those points that have been laid down, as constituting excellence in the materials of fictitious narrative, they will be found extremely defective. The novelty of adventure is not great, as most of the events related were drawn from those metrical romances, by which the prose ones were preceded. But, if we at one view consider the originals and imitations, the incidents are of such a nature as were never before presented in combination to the world, and form in every particular a complete contrast to the Greek romances. As the fictions concerning the Round Table, in common with all other tales of chivalry, are full of stories of giants and enchanters, they have no claim to probability of incident in one sense of the term, and even that species of verisimilitude, which we expect in the actions and machinations of unearthly beings, is more often violated than preserved.
A modern reader, too, is shocked by the glaring ana
enabled to decide which of them has deserved her crown. The writer performs this task with many divergences, however, from the records of sacred and profane history. Differently to the account in Lancelot (p. 183), Arthur is here made to commit incest knowingly with his sister, the consort of Lot, King of Orcania, she, however, being innocent. Brunet gives the titles and editions of the original as ostensibly a translation from the Spanish. The nine heroes of this romance are not infrequently mentioned in the earlier English literature. Shakespeare alludes in Love's Labour's Lost (act v. sc. 2), to the Nine Worthies (Douce, Illustrations of Shakespeare, p. 149. Cf. also the Provençal Roman de Flamenca, in Raynouard's “ Lexique Roman,” vol. i. p. 10, etc.) Further, they appear in the verses which precede the Low-German history of Alexander the Great (Brun's “Altplattdeutsche Gedichte," p. 336, etc. See also Warton, vol. iv. p. 151, note a, Lond. 1824). They figure also in tapestry and paintings (Warton, ii. p. 44, note 9). This selection of thrice three heroes may very likely have originated in the Welsh Triads, where (see San Marte, Arthursage, p. 46) the three Pagan, Jewish, and Christian Trinities are enumerated as follows: Hector, Alexander, and Julius Cæsar; Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabæus; Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey de Bouillon. For Godfrey is sometimes substituted Guy of Warwick. (See Douce, loc. cit., p. 170, etc., and Graesse, Literärg, Bd. 2, § 3, p. 255).–LIEB. In the Histoire Littéraire de la France, t. xix., are given abstracts, p. 678, of the Philippide d'Aymes de Varannes, of which there are both verse and prose romances in the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale, p. 681, of the Romance of Julius Cæsar, by J. Forrest; p. 735, of the Romance of Trubert, by Doins de Laverne.
chronisms and geographical blunders which deform the romances of chivalry. These and other absurdities have been happily ridiculed by Butler in his Hudibras:
Some writers make all ladies purloined, .
The story is invariably told in the person of the author, and in this the writers of romance have perhaps acted judiciously. As the exploits of so many knights were to be related, it would not have suited to put the account of them in the mouth of the principal character, as he could not be minutely acquainted with adventures, in which, for the most part, he had no concurrence. The story is never carried on, as in the Greek romances, in the form of an epic poem, commencing in the middle of the action, but truly begins with the egg of Leda—the adventures of the father or grandsire of the hero. After being protracted through a period of twenty or thirty years, the romance concludes with the death of the principal character, or his retirement into a hermitage; or drags us through a long list of descendants. The interest, also, is too much divided, and the part of the titular hero is not always the most considerable. He appears and vanishes like a spirit, and we lose sight of him too soon to regard him as the most important character in the work. In the Greek romances, all the adventures accelerate or impede the solution of the fable; but in the tales of chivalry there is a total want of unity of design, which prevents our carrying on the story in our mind, and distracts the attention. Indeed, I believe that in the metrical romances, and those few that were originally written in prose, the author had no idea where he was to stop ; he had formed no skeleton of the story, nor proposed to himself a conclusion to which his insulated adventures should lead.
With respect to those excellencies which have been termed the ornaments of fictitious narrative : the characters
of the heroes are not well shaded nor distinguished. The knight, however, is always more interesting than the heroine, which must appear strange when we reflect that these romances were composed in an age when devotion to the ladies formed the essence of chivalry, and that it is quite the reverse in the Greek romances, though, at the time in which they were written, women acted a very inferior part in society. In the romance of Perceval, he appears a great deal, and Blanchefleur very little. Some romances, as Meliadus, have no heroine at all, and the mistresses of Lancelot and Tristan are women of abandoned character,
In all these works the sentiments are thinly scattered, and perhaps a greater number would not have been appropriate in that species of composition. During the chivalrous ages, as Madame de Staël has well remarked, “L'hon. neur et l'amour agissoient sur le coeur de l'homme comme la fatalité chez les anciens, sans qu'on reflechit aux motifs des actions, ni que l'incertitude y fut admise.'
The charm of style and beauty of description form the most pleasing features of the romances of chivalry. There is something in the simplicity of the old French tongue which surpasses that of all other nations, and, from an assiduous perusal of romances, where it is exhibited in its greatest richness and beauty, we may receive much additional insight into the etymology of our own language.
M. de Sainte Palaye talks in high terms of the light which these works are calculated to throw on the labours of the genealogist, and of the information which they afford with regard to the progress of arts among our ancestors. That writer was an enthusiast for this species of lore; and, like other enthusiasts, was disposed to exaggerate its importance and value: It may indeed be granted, that the romances of chivalry are curious as a picture of manners, and interesting as efforts of the imagination, in a certain stage of the progress of the human mind; but with this exception, and the pleasure occasionally afforded by the naiveté of the language, the most insipid romance of the present day equals them as a fund of amusement, and is not much inferior to them as a source of instruction.
Those, too, who have been accustomed to associate the highest purity of morals with the manners of chivalry, will be greatly deceived. Indeed, in their moral tendency, many of the romances are highly reprehensible. In some, as Perceforest, particular passages are exceptionable, and the general scope in others, where the principal character is a knight, engaged, with the approbation of all, in a love intrigue with the wife of his friend or his sovereign. In one of the best of these romances, Tristan carries on an amour through the whole work with the queen of his benefactor and uncle. I need not mention the gallantries of Lancelot and Geneura, nor the cold hard-hearted infidelity of Artus de la Bretagne. “The whole pleasure of these bookes," says Ascham, with some truth and naïveté, “standeth in two specyall poyntes, in open mans slaghter and bolde bawdrie, in which bookes those be counted the noblest knights that doe kill most men without any quarrell, and commit fowlest adoulteries by sutlest shifts, as Syr Launcelott with the wife of Kyng Arthure his maister ; Syr Tristram with the wife of Kyng Marke his vncle ; Syr Lamerocke with the wife of Kyng Lote, that was his own aunte. This is good stuffe for wise men to laugh at, or honest men to take pleasure at.”
1 Much of the morality blamed by Ascham is doubtless derived from semi-historical material, which the romancer could not suppress any more than Lord Tennyson in his Idylls of the King, without ceasing to embody in his work a mass of received legend which it must be remembered was current and to a large extent believed. In many episodes there seems an attempt to mitigate prior records in accordance with a higher standard. “If it were to be conceded that Wace, Layamon, and the whole cycle of romances of the Round Table, might have been consigned to oblivion without any serious injury to the cause of literature, we may be reminded that Don Quixote certainly, and Ariosto’s Orlando most probably arose out of them. Perhaps Gorboduc, and Ferrex, and Porrex, might not be much missed from the dramatic literature of Europe; but what should we think of the loss of Lear and Cymbeline ? Let us, then, thankfully remember Geoffrey of Monmouth, to whom Shakespeare was indebted for the groundwork of those marvellous productions, and without whose Historia Britonum we should probably never have had them.”—Quarterly Review, March, 1848, Rev. R. Garnett
. Other romances evolved from or connected with Celtic or British traditions, would naturally find a place here, but the limits of our work would be unduly extended by notice of them. It will be sufficient to refer the reader for the most recent information upon them to Mr. Ward's “ Catalogue of Romances,"in the Department of Manuscripts, British Museum, 1883, etc., where he will find ample indications for the further pursuit of the subject.
ROMANCES OF CHIVALRY RELATING TO CHARLEMAGNE AND
HIS PEERS.-CHRONICLE OF TURPIN.- HUON DE BORDEAUX. -GUERIN DE MONGLAVE. -GALLIEN RHETORÉ. -MILLES ET AMYS.-JOURDAIN DE BLAVES.- OGIER LE DANOIS, ETC.
Arthur and the knights of the Round Table were in a great measure derived from the History of Geoffrey of Monmouth. It now remains for us to investigate what influence the chronicle falsely attributed to Turpin, or Tilpin, archbishop of Rheims, the contemporary of Charlemagne, exercised over the fabulous stories concerning that prince and his paladins.
The chronicle of Turpin is feigned to be addressed from Viennes, in Dauphiny, to Leoprandus, dean of Aquisgranensis (Aix la Chapelle), but was not written, in fact, till the end of the eleventh or beginning of the twelfth century. Its real author seems not to be clearly ascertained, but is supposed by some to have been a Canon of Barcelona, who attributed his work to Turpin."
1 Tilpinus, or Turpinus, said by Flodoardus (ob. 966) in his Historia Ecclesiæ Remensis, lib. ii. c. 16, to have been Archbishop of Rheims from about 753 to 800. The writers of Gallia Christiana say that he died in 794. He was archbishop in 778, when Charlemagne made his only recorded expedition into Spain,
when the French rearguard was defeated in the Pyrenees, and, as Eginhart says, “ Hruodlandus, Brittanici limitis præfectus," was slain. It is therefore quite possible that Tilpinus pronounced a funeral oration over Roland at Roncesvaux, an event which forms the climax of the present work, but no one now supposes that there is any real connection between the chronicler and the archbishop.
R. P. A. Dozy (Recherches sur l'histoire de la littérature de l'Espagne pendant le moyen âge, Paris, 1881, ii. pp. 372-431) has shown that the