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ORIGIN OF ROMANTIC FICTION
THAT peculiar and arbitrary species of Fiction which we
. [“ It cannot be true," says Ritson, of learning in the middle ages (says Gib-
Romans, who has discussed this
origin has not been hitherto perhaps examined or ascertained with a sufficient degree of accuracy. It is my present design, by a more distinct and extended inquiry than has yet been applied to the subject, to trace the manner and the period of its introduction into the popular belief, the oral poetry, and the literature, of the Europeans.
It is an established maxim of modern criticism, that the fictions of Arabian imagination were communicated to the western world by means of the Crusades. Undoubtedly those expeditions greatly contributed to propagate this mode of fabling in Europe. But it is evident, (although a circumstance which certainly makes no material difference as to the principles here established,) that these fancies were introduced at a much earlier period. The Saracens, or Arabians, having been for some time seated on the northern coasts of Africa, entered Spain about the beginning of the eighth century. Of this country they soon effected a complete conquest : and imposing their religion, language, and customs, upon the inhabitants, erected a royal seat in the capital city of Cordova *.
That by means of this establishment they first revived the sciences of Greece in Europe, will be proved at large in another placeb: and it is obvious to conclude, that at the same time they disseminated those extravagant inventions which were so peculiar to their romantic and creative genius. A manuscript cited by Du Cange acquaints us, that the Spaniards, soon after the irruption of the Saracens, entirely neglected the study of the Latin language; and, captivated with the novelty of the oriental books imported by these strangers, suddenly adopted an unusual pomp of style, and an affected elevation of
See ALMAKIN, edit. Erpenius, p. 72. J. C. Murphy.) “ But there is evidence, • (The conquest of Spain by the Ara- though not the most satisfactory," says bians becomes one of the most curious Mr. Douce, “that the fabulous stories of and important events recorded in history, Arthur and his Knights existed either when it is considered as having in a great among the French or English Britons, degree contributed to the progress of ci- before the conquest of Spain by the Ara vilization in Europe, and to the diffusion bians." --PARE.] of science and art. (See this illustrated • See the second Dissertation. in the Arabian Antiquities of Spain, by
diction. The ideal tales of these Eastern invaders, recommended by a brilliancy of description, a variety of imagery, and an exuberance of invention, hitherto unknown and unfamiliar to the cold and barren conceptions of a western climate, were eagerly caught up, and universally diffused. From Spain, by the communications of a constant commercial intercourse through the ports of Toulon and Marseilles, they soon passed into France and Italy *.
In France, no province, or district, seems to have given these fictions of the Arabians a more welcome or a more early reception, than the inhabitants of Armoricat or Basse-Bretagne, now Britanyf; for no part of France can boast so great a number of antient romances. Many poems of high antiquity, composed by the Armorican bards, still remain", and
• “ Arabico eloquio sublimati,” &c. p. 332. In his Dissertation on Romance Du Cang. Gloss. Med. Inf. Latinitat. and Minstrelsy (p. xxiv.) Ritson adds tom. i. Præf. p. xxvii. . 31.
two other Armoric poems to the predic* (Ritson avers, that there is not one tions of Gwinglaff, viz. the life of Gwesingle French romance now extant, and nolé, abbot of Landevenec, one of their but one mentioned by any ancient writer, fabulous saints; and a little dramatic which existed before the first Crusade, piece on the taking of Jerusalem. Thus, under Godfrey earl of Bologne, after. our doughty critic, from being too poward king of Jerusalem, in 1097.- sitive and too peremptory, had cause to Park.]
correct his own hallucinations as well as † (From Ar y-môr ucha', i. e. on the those of others. -Park.] upper sea.
See Jones's Relicks of the · The reason on which this conclusion Welsh Bards.-Park.]
is founded, will appear hereafter. [“ It is + [“ The lays of this country,” says Rit- difficult,” says Mr. Douce, “to conceive, son, “ were anciently very celebrated, al- that the people of Britany could have though not one, nor even the smallest been influenced by the Arabians at any vestige of one, in its vernacular language period.”—Park.] (a dialect of the Britanno-Celtic) is d In the British Museum is a set of known to exist. The Bretons have but old French tales of chivalry in verse, one single poem, of any consequence, in written, as it seems, by the bards of Bretheir native idiom, ancient or modern : tagne. MSS. Harl. 978. 107. the predictions of a pretended prophet, (These tales were not written by the named Gwinglaff, the MS. whereof is bards of Bretagne, but by a poetess of dated 1450." Notes to Metric. Rom. iii. the name of Marie de France, of whom 329. Ritson afterwards expresses his nothing is known. In one of these lais belief, that by Bretagne and Bretons she names herself, and says that most of were meant the island and inhabitants of her tales are borrowed from the old BriGreat Britain. At the same time, it tish lais, The scenes of several of these does not (he thinks) appear, that any stories are laid in Bretagne, which appears such lays are preserved in Wales any sometimes to mean Brittany in France, more than in Basse-Bretagne, if, in fact, and sometimes Great Britain'.--Douce.) they ever existed in either country. Ibid. (Marie is not mentioned in Le Grand's
See Note B. at the end of this Dissertation,
are frequently cited by Father Lobineau in his learned history of Basse-Bretagne. This territory was, as it were, newly peopled in the fourth century by a colony or army of the Welsh, who migrated thither under the conduct of Maximus, a Roman
.catalogue, though he has modernised Under LAUNVAL, f. 154. b.
Under GUIGEMAR, f. 141.
Venus le dieuesse d'amur, Archæol. xiij. 42. They are twelve in Fu tres bien mis en la peinture, number, and one of them contains 1184 Les traiz mustrez è la nature, She also wrote a history or tale
Cument hum deit amur tenir, in French verse, of St. Patrick's Pur.. E léalment è bien servir. gatory, two copies of which are in the Le livre Ovide ù il ensegne, &c. British Museum. This was early translated into English under the title of with Venus and the three mysteries of
This description of a chamber painted Owayne Miles (Sir Owen). Mr. Ellis, nature, and the allusion to Ovid, prove in his Specimens of early English me the tales before us to be of no very high trical Romances, has introduced an abs- antiquity. But they are undoubtedly tract or analysis of the lays of Marie, taken from others much older, of the which he informs us that Ritson either
same country. neglected to read, or was unable to un
[Mr. Douce observes that Warton has derstand ; since he denied their Armo- totally misunderstood these lines, in rican origin. See his observations, vol. i. which there is nothing about the mystep. 137. Mr. Way published an elegant ries of nature; and they mean no more version of the first of these lays (Guige- than that the chamber exhibited the demar) in his Fabliaux; and Mr. Ellis scription and manner how a man should printed an early translation of the third fall in love, &c. Mustrez is put for mon(Lai le Fresne) from the Auchinleck MS. in his Romance Specimens.-Park.]
At the end of EliDuc's tale we have “ Tristram a Wales" is mentioned, these lines. f. 181. f. 171. b.
Del aventure de ces treis, Tristram ki bien saveit HARPEIR.
Li auncien BRETUN curteis In the adventure of the knight Eli Firent le lai pour remembrer DUC, f. 172. b.
Que hum nel’ deust pas oublier. En Bretaine ot un chevalier
[EQUITAN?] Pruz, è curteis, hardi, è fier. And under the tale of FRESNE, f. 148, Again, under the same champion, f. 173. Li BRETUN en firent un lai. Il tient sun chemin tut avant.
At the conclusion of most of the tales it A la mer vient, si est passez,
is said that these Lars were made by the En Toteneis est arrivez ;
poets of Bretaigne. Another of the tales Plusurs réis ot en la tere,
is thus closed, f. 146.
De cest conte k'oï avez
Fu Gugemer le lai trovez
Qui hum dist en harpe è en rote TOTENEIS is Totness in Devonshire.
Bone en est a oïr la note. Under the knight Milun, f. 166.
e HISTOIRE DE BRETAGNE, ii. tom. fol. Milun fu de Suthwales nez.
(Mr. Ritson says he repeatedly, but unHe is celebrated for his exploits in Ire- successfully, examined Lobineau for these land, Norway, Gothland, Lotharingia, citations, and that Mr. Douce had equally Albany, &c.
failed in discovering them.--EDIT.]