Such might naturally be expected to be the characteristics of historians of an early age. Nothing that we have said, however, is incompatible with the supposition of great honesty, great diligence, and to a certain degree, correctness on the part of such writers. This, paradoxical as it may appear, we hope in the sequel satisfactorily to establish.

Herodotus and Froissart are both remarkable specimens of the species of historians whose characteristics we have been illustrating. They perhaps resemble one another as much as any two writers, one ancient and the other modern, that could be selected for comparison. It is true, indeed, that the Frenchman has not the charm of style, and the graces of language and composition, which are found in the Greek. In truth, the same marked inferi. ority of taste seems to characterize all the early efforts of the moderns, in every species of literature, as compared with those of the ancients. But the points in which the two writers agree are far more striking and numerous than those in which they differ. In both, the imagination is throughout predominant; both have the same passion for speciality and minuteness of description; both seem to look at history as a species of the romance, and present the same ignorance of its philosophic character, and its true purpose; both regard their materials with the eye of poets, and select and reject them rather with a view to their picturesque effect than to their historic value; both write as much or more to amuse than to instruct; both were indefatigable in the collection of materials, and roamed the world over to fill their scrap-books with whatever was rare and marvellous; both manifested the same laudable diligence in endeavouring to obtain information, and both the same general honesty of purpose. Gray, no mean critic, well states the general resemblance in a letter to a friend. • I rejoice' says he, you have met with Froissart; he is the He

rodotus of a barbarous age: had he but had the luck of writing 'in as good a language, he might have been immortal! His lo

comotive disposition, (for then there was no other way of learn• ing things) his simple curiosity, his religious credulity, were 6 much like those of the old Grecian. The Herodotean charm of ample and minute description, of relating not only what was done, but how it was done, not only who were the actors and speakers, but the very words they uttered, nay, the looks and gestures which accompanied them; all this charm, we say, is found as much in the pages of Froissart as in those of Herodotus. It is a charm, however, which is greatly impaired the moment we consider the works of these great writers as designed for more than amusement, since the style of narrative in which it resides, altogether confounds the limits of history and fiction, and prevents us from knowing exactly what to keep or what to throw away. The historic basis in such narratives is doubtless true, as is the VOL. VI.

0 0

historic basis of Ivanhoe and Kenilworth, but with such additions and embellishments, that it is impossible to discriminate exactly between truth and the fictitious ornaments in which she is clothed. What has been said of Herodotus may well be said of Froissart, that his work is not properly a history, though it is probably more delightful than the very best history.'

We have said that both are distinguished by honesty of purpose, and indefatigable diligence in collecting their materials and verifying their observations. This, as already said, may at first seem at variance with the statements previously made. Nevertheless, paradoxical as the assertion may appear, those statements may be easily reconciled. The faults of both are great, we readily admit; so great as in a considerable degree to deprive their works of their historic value, and to reduce them to the level of the historical romance. But their faults are not those of dishonesty of purpose, or of indolence and carelessness. They are such as might be expected from the age in which they lived, from its easy credulity where the marvellous was concerned, from its love of whatever appealed to the imagination, from the character of those works which, in the absence as yet of all genuine history, were the favourites of the people, and which naturally gave a tone to the first attempts in this species of composition. They might both almost be called the fathers of history in their respective eras, and necessarily wrote in comparative ignorance of those principles on which all just criticism ought to be founded. Hence the imaginative dress which they gave to facts, and their selection and disposition of materials with reference to graphic effect, all which, as we have so often said, makes history in their hands wear almost the appearance of romance. But all this may be admitted without compromising either their honesty or their diligence. Though Herodotus may perhaps be suspected here and there of some natural partialities for his countrymen, his general integrity and unwearied diligence in collecting facts have never been questioned, while recent researches have shown in many points a far greater approximation to accuracy than had before been suspected. Froissart is equally entitled to the praise of diligence, while his honesty and impartiality are still more conspicuous. Though a Frenchman himself, and compelled to record events most humiliating to his country, he has spoken with the utmost frankness and honesty. He has been accused indeed by some French writers, of a want of fairness to his native country. Considering that whatever bias he had must have been in its favour, this very accusation is perhaps the highest testimony which could be given to his fidelity ; not to add that the best French critics, -especially M. St. Palaye, who has favoured the world with an elaborate critique on Froissart's life and writings,-have defended him from this accusation, and have acknowledged that he has expressed himself,

even on occasions on which some partiality might have been expected and palliated, with the most exemplary fairness. The same observations apply to his relations of other events and transactions besides those which affected England and France.

Froissart was an ecclesiastic, but far, very far from a strict one, and, if truth must be spoken, did but little honour to the cloth. He was indeed thoroughly a man of the world, as fond of gaiety and dissipation as any Frenchman of modern times; nor are many things more amusing than the naïveté and frankness with which he acknowledges his passion for every species of courtly and fashionable amusement then in vogue; for the banqueting-hall, and the tournament; for the active exercises of chivalry, for the amusements of the chase and the dangerous pastime of war. Little does he seem to have been troubled by matins or vespers, by prayer or penance. He was rarely found in his cell, and still more rarely at his devotions. A jolly roundelay seems to have suited him far better than singing or hallooing of • anthems, and the tinkling of the lute than the sound of the or

He was, in truth, in many respects, a very fac-simile of the jolly monk so well described by Chaucer:

A monk there was, a fair* for the mastery,
Ant out-rider, that loved venery ;*
A manly man to ben an abbot able;
Full many a dainty horse had he in stable ;
And when he rode men might his bridle hear
Gingling in a whistling wind, as clear
And eke as loud as doth the chapel bell,
Theres as this lord was keeper of the cell.'

gan. He

A sketch of the biography of so singular a divine would not be uninteresting. But, unhappily, there is comparatively little that is known respecting him. Considering the ample details which he gives us of his movements, how frequently he makes mention of himself as present at the scenes he describes, or conversing with the actors in them, it is astonishing how very little we know of his personal history. Incessantly travelling as he was, his own adventures, especially in such an age, must have been singular; yet almost the only personal incident that he has recorded, was the unpleasant one of being robbed in one of his long journies. This adventure is celebrated in a long poem which contains also some other incidents in his life. In this poem,' says M. de St. Palaye, ‘he paints himself as a man of much expense : besides the revenue of the living of Lestines, which was considerable, he

[blocks in formation]

# Hunting

[ocr errors]

had received since he was twenty-five years, two thousand franes, of which nothing remained. The composition of his works had cost him seven hundred francs; but he regretted not this ex

pense ; for, as he says, ' I have composed many a history, which

will be spoken of by posterity. The remainder was spent among the tavern-keepers at Lestines, and in his travels, which he always performed with a good equipage, well-mounted, welldressed, and living well wherever he went. This last observation is very characteristic of Froissart, who is never at the slightest trouble to disguise his passion for a merry and jolly life.

His curiosity and his restlessness, his thirst for information and his love of locomotion, seem to have been perfectly insatiable: and he was, in all probability, by far the greatest traveller of his age. He visited more than once most of the countries of Europe, and found a friend and patron in almost every court, whether of king, petty prince, or noble. During his first residence in England, he spent six months in Scotland, and pushed his way as far as the Highlands, travelling on horseback, with his portmanteau

behind him, followed by a greyhound. The king of Scotland, as well as many nobles of whose names he has made honourable mention, courteously entertained him, more especially William, earl of Douglas, who treated him so hospitably, that he says he should have much liked to pay him another visit. He also made an expedition about the same time into North Wales.

But the most extraordinary instance recorded, both of the promptness with which he undertook long journies, and of his honest diligence in procuring the most authentic information for his • Chronicles,' is as follows. While in France in 1390, being engaged in the continuation and completion of his history, he felt dissatisfied with the relation he had given of the war between the Spanish and Portuguese. He had heard only one side, and he thought it but right to hear what the Portuguese had to say. While in this state of doubt, he was informed that many of that nation were to be found at Bruges, and off he at once set to relieve his scruples. On his arrival there, he heard that there was a knight of Portugal, by name Juan Fernando Portelet, who had lately come to Middleburg, in Zealand, and who was on his road to Prussia, to take a part in the war against the infidels.' Without a moment's hesitation, Froissart sets off in search of him, accompanied by a friend of the knight's; repairs to Sluys, embarks there, reaches Middleburg, gets an introduction to the Portuguese, enjoys a hearty six days' gossip with him, returns home, and compiles a new book, which constitutes the third of his Chronicles.'

Even in advanced age, the same restlessness and thirst of information still possessed him. He was deterred neither by dangers nor fatigues; and he seems to have been quite a stranger to that


love of repose which is usually the appropriate and supreme gratification of age. In his last visit to England, which took place in 1395, when King Richard had just returned from his successful campaign in Ireland, he expressed his great regret that he had not come to England a year sooner, (as was his original intention,) in order that he might have accompanied the expedition to Ireland, and, as he expressed it, 'seen every-thing for himself.'

To his patrons, Froissart seems to have stood in somewhat of a nondescript relation; sometimes acting as secretary, (a post which few could fill in those days,) sometimes commissioned to transact important negociations, and sometimes appearing to be a sort of companion. Of Queen Philippa, wife of Edward III., to whose service he was attached for five years, he says, that in youth • he was her secretary, and amused her with handsome ditties, and madrigals of love, and that through affection to the service of that noble and puissant lady to whom he belonged, all the other great lords, dukes

, earls, barons, and knights, of whatever na* tion they might be, loved him, saw him with pleasure, and were of the greatest utility to him.' His principal patrons, after Queen Philippa, who died in 1369, and who was his earliest and one of his fastest and most beneficent friends, were Winceslaus de Luxembourgh, duke of Brabant; Guy de Chatillon, Count de Blois; and Gaston, Count de Foix, one of the most accomplished and valiant nobles of the age. Froissart died about the year 1400, at the

age of about sixty years, having spent about forty of them in one incessant round of gossip and travelling.

Froissart's Chronicles were naturally great favourites with our warlike ancestors, to whom an amusing book on their favourite subjects must have been an invaluable rarity, and a most welcome guest both in hall and bower. So diligently were manuscripts multiplied, that M. de St. Palaye says, that after the • bible and the fathers, he does not believe there is any work of • which there have been so many copies.' In France, of course, they are most numerous; but there is also a considerable number in foreign countries. In England alone they exist to a far greater extent than, according to Mr. Johnes, M. de St. Palaye was apprised.

They have, of course, been translated into several languages. In English alone, there are two versions; one very old, the other comparatively recent. The former is that of Lord Berners, who undertook the task at the express command of Henry VIII.; the latter is that of Mr. Johnes, published we believe somewhat more than thirty years ago, at that gentleman's private press, and, if we have been correctly informed, at his sole cost, in several expensive volumes. This is the translation selected for the present edition, and is here presented to the public in two handsome volumes, royal octavo, at an exceedingly moderate price.

« 前へ次へ »