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viction. But in this, as in almost every thing else which was exposed to the reprobation of Mr. Ritson, there was a secondary design in the back-ground, of more importance than the original proposition; and an unqualified denial of Geoffrey's Armorican original was an indispensable step towards advancing a favourite theory of his own. The substance of this theory may be given in the language of its author : “ That the English acquired the art of romance-writing from the French seems clear and certain, as most of the specimens of that art in the former language are palpable and manifest translations of those in the other: and this too may serve to account for the origin of romance in Italy, Spain, Germany and Scandinavia. But the French romances are too ancient to be indebted for their existence to more barbarous nations 169." With the truth or fallacy of this hypothesis we are not at present concerned. But it will be obvious that its success must at any time have depended upon the degree of credit assigned to the repeated declarations of Geoffrey, and the claims possessed by Armorica to an original property in the British Chronicle. A sweeping contradiction therefore, without the
169 Metrical Romances, i. p. c. It the Norman minstrels could thus demay be as well to subjoin the succeed- scend to poach upon Armorican ground, ing paragraph in Mr. Ritson's disserta- they might also have gleaned their intion, for the benefit of those who can telligence relative to Bevis of Hampton reconcile the contradiction it contains, and Guy of Warwick on an English to the doctrine avowed in the passage soil. But this again would destroy the cited above: “It is, therefor, a vain and sneer against the “historian of English futile endeavour to seek for the origin Poetry," who has called these redoubtof romance : in all ageës and countrys, ed champions “ English beroes.". where literature has been cultivateëd, “Wis” is a genuine Saxon name ocand genius and taste have inspire'd, curring in the Chronicle, and Beo-wis whether in India, Persia, Greece, Italy might be formed on the analogy of or France, the earlyest product of that Beo-wulf. That the Norman minstrels, cultivation, and that genius and taste, like their brothers of Germany and has been poetry and romance, with re- Scandinavia, should have sought in every ciprocal obligations, perhaps, between direction for subjects of romantic ad one country and another. The Ara- venture, will be considered no dispa bians, the Persians, the Turks, and, in regement to their genius, except by tha short, almost every nation in the globe rentle band of critics who believe tha abound in romanceës of their own inven- the dramatist who borrows bis plot 1 tion." Ib. ci.
inferior to the play-wright who invent 170 There are those who will say, If one.
shadow of proof—as if proof in such a case would have been an insult to the reader's understanding—was to destroy every belief in the former; while a constant call for proof, a most vehement "iteration” for the original documents, and an unmeaning speculation upon the physical inabilities of the whole Armorican nation, from the ruggedness of their language, to cultivate poetry, was to silence every pretension of the latter. A more candid spirit of criticism has at length conceded, that a general charge of imposture unsupported by testimony, or even a showing of some adequate motive for the concealment of the truth, is not to overrule the repeated affirmations of a writer no ways interested in maintaining a false plea; and that, however much the tortuous propensities of one man's mind might incline him to prefer the crooked policy of fraud to the more simple path of plain-dealing, the contagion of such a disease was not likely to extend itself to a long list of authorities, all of whom must have been injured rather than benefited by the confession, who could have had no common motives with the first propounder of the deceit, and who were divided both by time and situation from any connexion with him, and generally speaking from any intercourse with each other. The concurrent testimony of the French romancers is now admitted to have proved the existence of a large body of fiction relative to Arthur in the province of Brittany: and while they confirm the assertions of Geoffrey in this single particular, it
equally clear they have neither echoed his language, nor borrowed his materials. Every further investigation of the subject only tends to support the opinion pronounced by Mr. Douce; that “the tales of Arthur and his knights which have appeared in so many forms, and under the various titles of the St. Graal, Tristan de Leonnois, Lancelot du Lac, &c. were not immediately borrowed from the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth, but from his Armoric originals 17."
in See below, p. xvi.
The great evil with which this long-contested question appears to be threatened at the present day, is an extreme equally dangerous with the incredulity of Mr. Ritson--a disposition to receive as authentic history, under a slightly fabulous colouring, every incident recorded in the British Chronicle. An allegorical interpretation is now inflicted upon all the marvellous circumstances; a forced construction imposed upon the less glaring deviations from probability; and the usual subterfuge of baffled research,-erroneous readings, and etymological sophistry,—is made to reduce every stubborn and intractable text to something like the consistency required. It might have been expected that the notorious failures of Dionysius and Plutarch in Roman history would have prevented the repetition of an error, which neither learning nor ingenuity can render palatable; and that the havoc and deadly ruin effected by these ancient writers (in other respects so valuable) in one of the most beautiful and interesting monuments of traditional story, would have acted as a sufficient corrective on all future aspirants. The favourers of this system might at least have been instructed by the philosophic example of Livy,—if it be lawful to ascribe to philosophy a line of conduct which perhaps was prompted by a powerful sense of poetic beauty,—that traditional record can only gain in the hands of the future historian, by one attractive aid, the grandeur and lofty graces of that incomparable style in which the first Decade is written; and that the best duty towards antiquity, and the most agreeable one towards posterity, is to transmit the narrative received as an unsophisticated tradition, in all the plenitude of its marvels, and the awful dignity of its supernatural agency. For however largely we may concede that real events have supplied the substance of any traditive story, yet the amount of absolute facts, and the manner of those facts, the period of their occurrence, the names of the agents, and the locality given to the scene-are all combined upon principles so wholly
beyond our knowledge, that it becomes impossible to fix with certainty upon any single point better authenticated than its fellow. Probability in such decisions will often prove the most fallacious guide we can follow; for, independently of the acknowledged historical axiom, that "le vrai n'est pas toujours le vraisemblable,” innumerable instances might be adduced, where tradition has had recourse to this very probability, to confer a plausible sanction upon her most fictitious and romantic incidents 172. It will be a much more useful labour, wherever it can be effected, to trace the progress of this traditional story in the country where it has become located, by a reference to those natural or artificial monuments which are the unvarying sources of fictitious events 173; and, by a strict
199 The story of the doves at Dodo own country. (Vid. Paus, ix.c. 36.) This na and the origin of the oracle there, is strong predilection for Egyptian marvels too well known to require a repetition. did not escape the notice of Heliodorus. There is a connexion and propriety in Αιγύπτιον γαρ άκουσμα και διήγημα σαν, the solution given by Herodotus, which 'Enamuixas åxons isayératov. Lib. ii. on a first perusal carries conviction to p. 92. ed. Coray. A desire of tracing the reader's mind. Yet nothing can be every thing to an Egyptian origin is as more questionable than the whole re- conspicuous in the whole body of Grecital. The honours of the sacred oak cian story, as the propensity of the midwere shared in common with Jupiter, dle ages to trace their institutions and by Dione, whose symbol, a golden dove, genealogic stock to king Priam. Aclike the golden swallows on the brazen cording to Sir Stamford Raffles, the roof of Apollo at Delphi, (Pind. Frag. Malays universally attempt to trace vol. iii. p. 54.) was seen suspended from their descent from Alexander and his the branches of the venerable tree. (Phi- followers. Pamphleteer, vol. 8. lostrat. Icon. ii. 34. p. 858–9.) Hence 173 Higden will inform us how busily the tradition. The explanation of the tradition works in this way: “ There is a Egyptian priesthood is rendered intel- nother sygne and token before ye Popes ligible by a passage in the Horapollo palays, an horse of bras, and a man (ii. 92.), where it is stated that a black syttyng theron, and holdeth his right dove was the sacred symbol, under honde as though he spake to the peple, which these people expressed a woman and holdeth his brydell in his lyfte maintaining her widowhood till death. honde, and hath a cucko bytwen his That this obvious source of the Dodo- hors heres. And a seke dwerf under næan fable should have yielded to the his feet. Pylgryms callen that man improbable dictum of the Theban priest- Theodericus. And the comyns call hood, will not appear remarkable, when him Constantinus; but clerkes of the we remember that the same class of men courte calle hym Marcus and Quintus had told Solon, “ You Greeks are al. Curtius. .... They that calle hym Mar, ways children" (Plato Tim. p. 22.): and cus, telle this reson and skyll. There that the Greeks, who believed every tale was a dwerf of the kynred of Messenis, these artful foreigners chose to impose his craft was Nygromancye. Whan he upon them, were proverbial for their had subdewed kynges that dwelled admiration of the wondrous out of their nyghe hym, and made hem subgette to
comparison of its details with the analogous memorials of other nations, to separate those elements which are obviously of native growth, from the occurrences bearing the impress of a foreign origin". We shall gain little perhaps by such a course for the history of human events; but it will be an important accession to our stock of knowledge on the history of the human mind. It will infallibly display, as in the analysis of every similar record, the operation of that refining principle which is ever obliterating the monotonous deeds of violence that fill the chronicle of a nation's early career; and exhibit the brightest attribute in the catalogue of man's intellectual endowments—a glowing and vigorous imagination,
-bestowing upon all the impulses of the mind a splendour and virtuous dignity, which, however fallacious historically considered, are never without a powerfully redeeming good, the ethical tendency of all their lessons.
The character of the specimens interspersed throughout hym, thenne he wente to Rome, to warre braunce of this dede." Then follows with the Romayns. And with his craft the account of those who called it Q. he benam the Romayns power and Curtius. Trevisa's Translation, p. 24. might for to smyte, and beseged hem 174 The manner in which national longe tyme iclosed within the cyte. fable swelled its mass of incident in the This dwerf went every day tofore the ancient world, by having recourse to sonne rysyng in to the felde for to do this practice, has been already noticed at his crafte. Whan the Romayns had page (29). With the Greeks and Roespyed that maner doynge of the dwerf, mans, every hero whom they found they spake to Marcus, a noble knyght; celebrated in a foreign soil for his and behyght hym lordshyp of the cyte, prowess against wild beasts, robbers or and a memoryall in mynde for ever- tyrants, was their own divinity Hermore, yf he wolde defende hem and cules; and every traveller who had save the cyte. Thenne Marcus made touched on a distant coast, Ulysses. an hole thrugh the walle, longe er it This system of appropriating the native were daye, for to abyde his crafte to traditions of their neighbours was not cache this dwerf. And whan it was confined to the ancients. The followers tyme, the cucko sange, and warned hym of King Sigurd Iorlafar, who visited of the daye. Thenne Marcus reysed Constantinople in the year 1111, on to, and bycause he myght not hytte the their return from the holy land, brought dwerf with wepen, he caught hym with an account to Norway, that they had his honde, and bare hym into the cyte. seen the images of their early kings And for drede leste he sholde helpe the Asæ, the Volsungæ, and the Giuhymselfe with his craft yfhe myght speke, kings erected in the Hippodrome of the he threwe hym undir the hors feet, and Imperial city. Heimskringla, vol. iii. the horse al to-trade hym. And ther- p. 245. for that ymage was made in remem