« PreviousContinue »
Bellum est in eos, qui judiciis coerceri non possunt.
Printed, for the PROPRIETORS, by B. M'MILLAN, Bow-Street, Covent-Garden.
Review and Magazine,
&c. &c. &c.
For MAY, 1806.
"Non ego, cum scribo, si forte quid aptius exit,
Sir John Froissart's Chronicles of England, France, and Spain, and the adjoining Countries, from the latter Part of the Reign of Edward II. to the Coronation of Henry IV. Newly translated from the French Editions, with Variations and Additions from many celebrated MSS. By Thomas Johnes. The Second Edition. To which is prefixed, a Life of the Author, an Essay on his Works, a Criticism on his History, and a Dissertation on his Poetry. 3 vols. 8vo. Pr. 1363. Accompanied with a small volume quarto, containing Plates, relating to Scenes described in the Chronicles.
HE name of Froissart is familiar to every one at all acquainted with the history of England, France, Spain, and the Netherlands; for he is quoted or referred to by every historian, of the period and places to which his Chronicles relate. But it is only a very few, at least in this country, who have had opportunities of perusing Froissart himself. Copies of Froissart, in the original French, are confined to the best libraries; and the old English translation, made by order of Henry VIII. has not only become exceedingly scarce, but the language of it obsolete, and, in some places, particularly those relating to proper names, almost unintelligible. The present publication, therefore, by the generality of readers, is to be considered, if not as a creation of something new, and before altogether unknown, yet as a revival and resurrection of what had passed into oblivion; and a very valuable and acceptable present it is, to all who are capable of deriving entertain
NO. XCV. VOL. XXIV.
entertainment from any other books than novels or romances; which require not any exertion of thought, but tickle the imagination throughout with whatever is most fitted, in the easiest manner, to excite various emotions. Nay, even the readers of novels and romances, if ever they have in the course of their lives read any thing of real history, must be gratified, and even charmed with Froissart: for there is as much gallantry, love and adventure in the Chronicles of Froissart, as in any romance, Don Quixote scarcely excepted; with this difference, that in the history, the gallantry, love, and enterprises, were real. A refined gallantry, and delicate sense of honour, are the great moving principles of the various scenes described; scenes, which take faster hold on the imagination than fictitious scenes, however pompous and splendid, because they are described with the circumstantiality of truth and nature. It was predicted by Lord Bacon, and it has been fully verified, "that when physics shall be grounded on experiment, their effects will as far excel the pretended powers of magic, as the actions of Cæsar, or Alexander, sutpassed the fabulous achievements of Arthur of Britain, or Amadis de Gaul." In like manner, and on the same grounds, it may be truly affirmed, that the heroism, gallantry and enterprise pourtrayed by Froissart, are more fitted to awaken, move, and agitate the soul, than any of the vague and flimsy, though extravagant, conceits of novellists, who spin labyrinthical threads of love, incident, and adventure, out of their own brains, in their own closets. Froissart's Chronicles absolutely afford more amusement of this kind, were the instruction to be derived from matter of fact and truth entirely out of the question. He wrote in times, and of times, when all the world was persuaded that love was the incentive to the most brilliant actions of courage and virtue.
Froissart exhibits scenes as passing before our eyes, in a style and manner easy, familiar and colloquial, like that of Bishop Burnet, who, in the History of His own Times, introduces us into the company, and to the fire-sides, as it were, of the persons whose counsels and actions he relates. He relates what he saw or heard from the persons themselves, or those who were well acquainted with them, or who had otherwise the best means of knowing the truth. His descriptions are picturesque and lively. He tells you not only the substance of what was said on such and such an occasion, but the very words in which it was said. We have a very just criticism, or judgment, of the characteristic style and manner of Froissart, in the quotation from Chaucer, which Mr. Johnes has prefixed to this publication as a motto, on the title page:
Who so shall telle a tale after a man,
He moste reherse as neighe as ever he can,
It is this manner of "telling a tale," as nearly as possible, that the law requires in evidence given before courts of justice.
It may be questioned whether the truth and general interests of history have, in every respect, been promoted by the invention of printing. Books are so multiplied, and so easy to be come at, that the historian makes the world, as it were, come to him, instead of his going out into the world. Before the invention of printing, from Herodotus to Froissart, we find historians travelling into different countries, conversing with men distinguished by offices and rank in life, with philosophers and men of letters, and by all other means in their power exploring the truth, for long courses of time, and sometimes for their whole lives. For the information they received, they gave information in return. They were welcome guests, and very much caressed by nobles, princes and kings. They were the great intelligencers on all subjects. If a gentleman has a mind, in our day, to know what is going on in the world, he sits down in his elbow chair, in his slippers and night gown, and calls for a newspaper, a magazine, a review, or an annual register. It was not so before the invention of printing. Before this, literary men were entertained in the houses of the great, and even at the courts of sovereign princes, in Italy, France, England, and every country of Europe, in proportion to its civilization. Thus Froissart, who was a man of unbounded curiosity respecting the history of the times, and the state of the world, and who was a great traveller, was well received by the first circles, or rather the very first circle, of society wherever he went. He lived, particularly, a long time in the court of Queen Philippa, wife of Edward III. King of England. The ardour for study, countenanced and patronized by the court, was at this time so great in England, that there were then, as we are informed by Speed, in his Chronicle, not fewer than 30,000 students in the University of Oxford only *.
During Froissart's residence in Great Britain, he not only made many excursions in England and Wales, but penetrated even into the Highlands. In Holland he remained for six months.
He has been accused, both by the French and some Scotch writers, of partiality for the English; but, on the whole, his candour, as well as his unwearied industry, and the exquisite charm of his manner, are generally acknowledged. To these observations, preliminary to what we have farther, and more particularly to notice, in reviewing the publication before us, it may be proper for the information, or for prompting the recollection of some of our readers, here to mention that Froissart was a Canon, and Treasurer of a Collegiate Church in Hainault; that he was not only an eminent historian, but also a great poet; GREAT, at least, if we reckon by the number of his verses,
* What was the occupation of all these young men ? To learn very bad Latin, and still worse logic.
HUME'S HIST. EDWARD III. very