Page images
PDF
EPUB

is no proof that he was older, though he had two children living in the last mentioned year.

The Memoirs of Joinville are read with exceeding pleasure, from their interesting subject, as well as the peculiar simplicity and liveliness of the narration. They do not impress the mind, however, with any high notion of the writer's talents. Joinville is naïf in an eminent degree; but it is the naïveté of a child, recommended only by innocence and sprightliness; not that which is mixed with archness or sagacity. It is just to allow something for the advanced age at which he wrote; but, with all candour on this score, it must be confessed, that the biographer of St Louis, like his master, shone much more in the virtues of the heart, than in strength of understanding. He has precisely what the French term bonhommie. His goodness of disposition, fidelity and openness, show themselves in every page; and no one ever can have risen from his Memoirs without loving the man, though many may smile at his odd simplicity, which makes him confess what few soldiers would, the chattering of his teeth with fear, when he was first made prisoner, and felt the Saracen scymitars at his throat. With all Joinville's natural goodness, he had some curious morality of his times and condition. Witness the surprize he plainly felt at Louis's never violating his word, even with infidels! Witness, too, his praise of Henry the Generous, Count of Champagne, whose right to that epithet he clinches, by the story of a certain distressed gentleman, whom he relieved at the expense of a wealthy citizen, and friend of his own, who, with well-intended awkwardness, had interfered to rid the Count of his importunate suitor. No objection to this cheap species of liberality seems to have entered the mind of our worthy Seneschal.

Besides the merits of the historian, there is a great deal to engage attention in his subject. What indeed can be more interesting than the fortune of an army of such surpassing bravery as that which Louis IX. led to Egypt, the flower of French chivalry,-while individual courage was easily conspicuous, not yet. checked by tactical plans, or lost in the confusion of modern warfare? How pathetic is the story of their disasters, when we follow their steps, defeated, retreating, unnerved by sickness, and bowed down even to pusillanimous despondency, till all is ended in captivity and massacre! There is no parallel to this melancholy story, except the retreat of the Athenian army from Syracuse, in the seventh book of Thucydides-the most beautiful and highly wrought narration of antiquity. Nor is that part of Joinville which describes the private life and the administration of St Louis, destitute of interest ;-it gives so thorough an insight into the

man,

man, and acquaints us so intimately with perhaps the very best, though not the most enlightened, sovereign that ever reigned in Europe. Even the strange and chiefly fabulous anecdotes of the East, which he has introduced in many places, are often curious as well as amusing.

[ocr errors]

Though Joinville has long been known, it is not long that his features have been undisguised. After the invention of printing, a custom long prevailed, excusable enough in popular works, however repugnant to strict notions of accuracy, of reforming the language of early writers according to that of the age in which the editor gave them to the world. Thus Dante, if we are not mistaken, has never yet been printed from any authentic manuscript: the orthography, at least of his time, had grown obsolete before the close of the 15th century. But the change of French during the corresponding period, was much greater than that of Italian; though Joinville wrote in the langue d'Oil, which most resembled the modern dialect. Hence, when the Memoirs of Joinville were first printed at Poitiers in 1547, the editor, Antoine Pune, followed the fashion of his time in rectifying the obsolete idiom and mode of spelling. Claude Menard, who, from a different manuscript, as it appears, gave another edition in 1617, made use of the same liberty. But this liberty became license, when both Pune and Menard presumed to interpolate, as well as interpret; and made an infinite number of petty alterations in the text, which, though commonly of no great importance, could never be justifiable; and the existence of which, when it is known, diminishes the pleasure arising from any peculiarity or naturalness of expression. Meanwhile, no manuscript of Joinville was supposed to be extant. Those used by the former editors could not be traced; and P. Hardouin, in his usual way, set down the whole work as a forgery of the 11th century. Hardouin's reasons for this, it must be owned, were not without acuteness, and grounded on the modern cast of language, and some other anachronisms, such as justly to induce, in critics of less temerity, the suspicion of interpolation, which is certainly akin to forgery, though of a younger branch.

At laft a manufcript, in the original purity of text, was difcovered in the Royal Library, and publifhed at the Louvre prefs in 1761. It was then that the unfaithfulness of the two former editions, which alfo differ much from each other, was brought to light. But the French of the 13th century was not legible by any native;" and Voltaire had truly predicted, that the real Joinville would not be understood. There were, indeed, as we have men tioned, feveral writings of that age extant; the Affizes de Jerufa Am, the Etabliffements de St Louis, Beaumanoir's Coutumes de Beauyoils

[ocr errors]

Beauvoifis, and a good deal of metrical romance, and smaller poetry. But these were in the hands of few but antiquaries; while Joinville feemed to intereft the general reader. Hence, in the large collection of Memoires relatifs à l'histoire de France, it was thought expedient to reprint Renard's edition, to which Du Cange had affixed his excellent notes and differtations. The editors fupport their choice, fur la difficulté, nous ofons dire meme l'impof fibilité, de lire le texte de l'edition de 1761. A moins d'être très verfé dans notre vieux langage François, elle fatigue & degoute.'

[ocr errors]

Mr Johnes's tranflation is made altogether from the edition reprinted in this collection of Memoirs. He has prefixed two dif fertations by M. de Baftie, from the Academie des Infcriptions, and fubjoined a verfion of all Du Cange's obfervations, and his twenty-feven differtations. Two memoirs by Meffrs Falconet & Ravaillere, on the affaffins of Syria, conclude the work; but there is not a single line from the tranflator himself by way of introduction or commentary. His learning is fo clofely concealed, that, according to Horace, paullum sepultæ distat inertiæ; and we cannot help faying, that the meaneft drudge, who knew a little of French, was as competent to have produced this publication as the proprietor of the Hafod prefs. We have not remarked three places in which he has even ventured fo far as a word or two in a note: and whatever value may be fet on these attempts from their rarity, their usefulness will not be prized greatly by those who find (p. 190.) Poulains defined to be offspring of a Syrian father and and French mother.' It would be as correct to fay, that the Mulattoes of Jamaica are fprung from a black father and white mother. The Poulains were a mixed race, derived from the intera course of the Crufaders with Eastern wonen. It is true that Mr Johnes quotes the gloffary of the Louvre Joinville for this interpretation; but it is fo plainly abfurd (fince the Poulains formed a confiderable part of the people in the Chriftian kingdoms of the Eaft, which the defcendants of European women alone could never have done), that we cannot think him juftified in taking it up. 'Pullani dicuntur,' fays Du Cange (Glofs. ad voc.) from an old writer,qui de patre Francigenâ & matre Syrianâ, vel de patre Sys riano & matre Francigenâ generati erant.' In 150 years poffeffion of Palestine, it is eafy to believe, that the Crusaders flocking thither in great armies without women, had caufed this hybrid population to multiply very much accordingly, Joinville calls the Syrian peasants indifcriminately by the name of Poulains. They were, however, fubjected to that contempt which is always attached to difference of colour; and deemed, by the real Franks, little Better than Pagans.

In the next place, we think there is just reason to complain of VOL. XIII. NO 26.

H h

Mr

Mr Johnes's negligence in never making ufe of the Louvre edition. After a genuine work is retrieved, it is fomewhat ftrange to perfevere in an adherence to the interpolated copy. Though the uncouth phrafe of the original old French might juftify an editor in adopting a rifaccimento which would be more eafily understood, yet what apology can be pleaded by a tranflator? We are not bigotted antiquarians, and will not lay as much ftrefs as that clafs of people are apt to do, on minute points of accuracy; but the public fhould know, that the real Joinville differs from that which Mr Johnes has tranflated, not only in every page, but almost in every fentence. The very beft and the very worst manufcript of any Greek or Latin author, have not fuch effential variances: and what would be faid of a claffical tranflator, who should mould his verfion on the worst edition he could find? Befides, it was the more incumbent on Mr Johnes to have given us the true Joinville, because its obfolete language is not read without fome difficulty. But what credit does Mr Johnes expect to gain,-what benefit does he confer upon letters, by turning a common French book into Englifh? Is it imaginable that any man, who does not understand French, will trouble himself about the Memoirs of Joinville? and, if there were fuch a man, would he be anxious to read the differtations of Du Cange, which relate entirely to feudal and chivalrous ufages, which cannot intereft any one who has not already gone fome way in that line of literature?

It remains to inquire how this tranflation has been executed. We think it not unfuccefsful in point of expreffion, which is generally free and idiomatic, without too much affectation of antiquity. The notes of Du Cange, however, are rendered very fliffly. Thus, p. 304, I have already amply fpoken of nocaires; it remains only that I fay a few words refpecting drums. The following is an indifferent fpecimen of the tranflation.

'After we had remained some time in this city of Damietta, the sultan laid siege to it, on the land side, with a numerous army. The king and his men at arms were soon properly drawn out. In order to prevent the Turks from taking possession of the camp we had on the plain, I went to the king fully armed, whom I found in the same state of preparation, as well as all the knights seated around him on benches, and most humbly requested that he would permit me and my people to make a course against the Saracens. But the moment Sir John de Belmont heard me, he cried out with a loud voice, commanding me, in the king's name, not to dare to quit my quarters, until I should be so ordered by the king.

• You must know, that there were with the king eight good and valiant knights, who had several times won the prize of arms, as well on this side of the sea as on the other; and they were usually alled the good knights. Among them were, Sir Geoffrey de Sar

gines, Sir Mahom de Marly, Sir Philip de Nantriel, and Sir Ymbert de Beaujeu, constable of France. But these were not present when I made my request, being on the plain without the city, as well as the master of the cross-bows, with a large body of men at arms, to prevent the Turks from approaching our main army. It happened that Sir Walter d'Entrache, having caused himself to be well armed, and his lance and shield to be given to him, mounted his horse; and one of the sides of his pavilion being raised, struck spurs into his horse, and rode full gallop against the Turks. He thus quitted his pavilion, attended by only one of his people, named Castillon; but his horse flung him to the ground, and ran off, covered with his arms, full speed to the enemy; for the greater part of the Saracens were mounted on mares, which caused the horse to play these tricks and run away. I heard, from those who said they had witnessed it, that while the Lord d'Entrache lay on the ground, four Turks came to him, and, as they crossed him backward and forward, gave him heavy blows with their clubs, and would have killed him, if the constable of France had not gone to his succour with a body of the king's troops which were under him. He was led back to his pavilion, but so much bruised by the blows he had received, that he was speechless. He was soon attended by the physicians and surgeons; and, because they did not think him in any danger of death, they bled him in the arm, from which fatal consequences ensued.

Towards evening, Sir Aubert de Nancy desired I would accompany him on a visit to him, for that he was a man of great renown and valour: this I very willingly did, and we went together. On our entering his tent, one of his squires came to us, and desired we would tread softly, lest we might awaken him. We followed this advice, and found him lying on his mantle of mineon, which covered him; but, on approaching his face, we saw he was dead.

We, and several more, were much grieved at the loss of such a man; but when it was told the king, he replied, that he did not wish for any one's service who would not attend to him, and obey his orders better than the Lord d'Entrache had done; and that through his own fault he had caused his death.

I must inform you, that the sultan gave for every head of a Christian that was brought him, a besant of gold; and these Saracen traitors entered our camp during the night, and, wherever they found any asleep, they cut off their heads. They once surprised the watch of the Lord de Courtenay, and cut off his head, leaving the body lying on a table. They were likewise well informed of the manner of our encampment; for the engagements between us brought each party near to the other in the evenings; and the Saracens, in consequence of this knowledge, entered the camp as soon as the guard had made its round, and committed many disorders and murders.

The king, when he heard of this, gave orders for those who were wont to go the rounds on horseback, henceforward to do so on Hh 2

foot:

« PreviousContinue »