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Sancho and his master, where it is gravely debated, whether he should not turn saint or archbishop.
There were several causes of this strange jumble of nonsense and religion. As first, the nature of the subject, which was a religious war or crusade; secondly, the quality of the first writers, who were religious men; and thirdly, the end of writing many of them, which was to carry on a religious purpose. We learn that Clement V. interdicted justs and tournaments, because he understood they had much hindered the crusade decreed in the council of Vienna.
“6 Torneamenta ipsa & hastiludia sive juxtas in regnis Franciæ, Angliæ, & Almanniæ, & aliis nonnullis provinciis, in quibus ea consuevere frequentiùs exerceri, specialiter interdixit." Extrav. de Torneamentis C. unic temp. Ed. 1. Religious men, I conceive, therefore, might think to forward the design of the crusades by turning the fondness for tilts and tournaments into that chan, nel. Hence we see the books of knight-errantry so full of solemn justs and tournaments held at Trebi. zonde, Bizance, Tripoly, &c. Which wise project, I apprehend, it was Cervantes's intention to ridicule, where he makes his knight propose it as the best means of subduing the Turk, to assemble all the knights-errant together by proclamation.
WARBURTON. It is generally agreed, I believe, that this long note of Dr. Warburton's is, at least, very much mis. placed. There is not a single passage in the character of Armado, that has the least relation to any story in
any romance of chivalry. With what propriety therefore a dissertation upon the origin and nature of those romances is here introduced, I cannot see ; and I should humbly advise the next editor of Shakspere to omit it. That he may have the less scruple upon that head, I shall take this opportunity of throwing out a few remarks, which, I think, will be sufficient to shew, that the learned writer's hypothesis was formed upon a very hasty and imperfect view of the subject.
At setting out, in order to give a greater value to the information which is to follow, he tells us,
that no other writer has given any tolerable account of this matter; and particularly that Monsieur Huet, the bishop of Avranches, who wrote a formal Treatise of the Origin of Romances, has said little or nothing of these [books of chivalry) in that superficial work." The fact is true, that Monsieur Huet has said very little of Romances of chivalry; but the imputation, with which Dr. W. proceeds to load him, of “ putting the change upon his reader,” and “ dropping his proper subject" for another " that had no relation to it more than in the name," is unfounded.
It appears plainly from Huet's introductory address to De Segrais, that his object was to give some account of those romances which were then popular in France, such as Astrée of D'Urfe, the Grand Cyrus of De Scuderi, &c. He defines the Romances of which he means to treat, to be “ fillions des avantures Ginourcuses;" and he excludes epick poems from the
number, because". Enfin les poëmes ont pour suject une action militaire ou politique et ne traitent d'amour que par occasion; les Romans au contraire ont l`amour pour suje£t principal, et ne traitent la politique et la guerre que par incident. Je parle des Romans réguliers ; car la plupart des vieux Romans, François, Italiens, et Espagnols sont bien moins amoureux que militaires.” After this decla. ration, surely no one has a right to complain of the author for not treating more at large of the old romances of chivalry, or to stigmatise his work as superficial, upon account of that omission. I shall have occasion to remark below, that Dr. Warburton, who, in turning over this superficial work (as he is pleased to call it), seems to have shut his eyes against every ray of good sense and just observation, has condescended to borrow from it a very gross mistake.
Dr. W.'s own positions, to the support of which his subsequent facts and arguments might be expected to apply, are two; 1. That Romances of chivalry being of Spanish original, the heroes and the scene were generally of ihat country. 2. That the subject of these Romances were, the crusades of the European Christians against the Sara.. cens of Asia and Africa. The first position, being complicated, should be divided into the two follow. ing ; 1. That romances of chivalry were of Spanish oria ginal. 2. That the heroes and the scene of them were generally of that country.
Here are therefore three positions, to which I shall şay a few words in their order; but I think it proper to premise a sort of definition of a Romance of Chi,
vairy. If Dr. W. had done the same, he must have seen the hazard of systematizing in a subject of such extent, upon a cursory perusal of a few modern books, which indeed ought not to have been quoted n the discussion of a question of antiquity.
A romance of chivalry therefore, according to my notion, is any fabulous narration, in verse or prose, in which the principal characters are knights, conducting themselves, in their several situations and adventures, agreeably to the institutions and customs of chivalry. Whatever names the characters may bear, whether historical or fictitious; and in what. ever country, or age, the scene of the action may be laid, if the actors are represented as knights, I should call such a fable a romance of Chivalry.
I am not aware that this definition is more comprehensive than it ought to be: but, let it be narrowed ever so much ; let any other be substituted in its room ; Dr. W.'s first position, that romances of chivalry were of Spanish original, cannot be maintained. Monsieur Huet would have taught him better. He says very truly, that “ les plus vieux," of the Spanish romances, sont posterieurs à nos Tristans et à nos Lancelots, de quelques centaines d'années." Indeed the fact is indisputable. Cervantes, in a passage quoted by Dr. W. speaks of Amadis de Gaula (the first four books) as the first book of chivalry printed in Spain, Though he says only printed, it is plain that he means written. And indeed there is no good reason to believe that Amadis was written long before it was printed. It is unnecessary to enlarge upon a system, which places the original of romances of chivalry in a nation which has none to produce older than the art of printing.
Dr. W.'s second position, that the heroes and the scene of these romances were generally of the country of Spain, is as unfortunate as the former. Whoever will take the second volume of Du Fresnoy's Bibliotheque des Romans, and look over his lists of Romans de Chevalerie, will see that not one of the celebrated heroes of the old romances was a Spaniard. With respect to the general scene of such irregular and capricious fiction, the writers of which were used, literally, to “ give to airy nothing, a local habitation and a name," I am sensible of the impropriety of asserting any thing positively, without an accurate examination of many more of them than have fallen in my way. I think, however, I might venture to assert, in direct contradićtion to Dr. W. that the scene of them was not generally in Spain My own notion is, that it was very rarely there; except in those few romances which treat expressly of the affair at Roncesvalles.
His last position, that the subject of these romances were the crusades of the European Christians, against the. Saracens of Asia and africa, might be admitted with a small amendment. If it stood thus ; the subject of some, or a few, of these romances were the crusades, &c. the position would have been incontrovertible ; but then it would not have been either new, or fit to support a system.