« ZurückWeiter »
name of the new knight by that of Pierre. It is only declared in the register, that the canons, as an especial favour, on the 6th of July, permitted. Enguerrand de Monstrelet, esquire, to have his son invested with the order of St. John of Jerusalem, on Sunday the 19th of the same month, in the choir of their church.
"The respect and consideration which ho had now acquired, gained him the dignity of governor of Cambray, for which he took the usual oath on the 9th of November; and on the 12th of March, in the following year, he was nominated bailiff of Wallaincourt. He retained both of these places until his death, which happened about the middle of July, in the year 1453. This date cannot be disputed: it was discovered in the seventeenth century by John le Carpentier, who has inserted it in his 'History of the Cambresis.' But in consequence of little attention being paid to this work, or because the common opinion has been blindly followed, that Monstrelet had continued his history to the death of the duke of Burgundy in 1467, this date was not considered as true until the publication of an extract from the register of the Cordeliers in Cambray, where he was buried *. Although this extract fully establishes the year and month when Monstrelet died, I shall insert here what relates to it from the 'Memoriaux' of John le Robert, before mentioned, because they contain some circumstances that are not to be found in the register of the Cordeliers. When several years of his history are to be retrenched from an historian of such credit, authorities for so doing cannot be too much multiplied. This is the text of the abbot of St. Aubcrt, and I have put in italies the words that are not in the register :—
"'The 20th day of July, in the year 1453, that honourable and noble man Enguerrand de Monstrelet, esquire, governor of Cambray, and bailiff of Wallaincourt, departed this life, and was buried at the Cordeliers of Cambray, according to his desire. He was carried thither on a bier covered with a mat, clothed in the frock of a Cordelier friar, his face uncovered: six flambeaux and three chirons, each weighing three-quarters of a pound, were around the bier, whereon was a sheet thrown over the Cordelier frock. II fut nez de bat, and was a very honourable and peaceable man. He chronicled the wars which took place in his time in France, Artois, Picardy, England, Flanders, and those of the Gantois against their lord duke Philip. He died fifteen or sixteen days before peace was concluded, which took place toward the end of July, in the year 1453.'
"I shall observe, by the way, that the person who drew up this register assigns two different dates for the death of Monstrelet, and in this he has been followed by John le Robert. Both of them say, that Monstrelet died on the 20th of July; and, a few lines farther, add, that he died about sixteen days before peace was concluded between duke Philip and Ghent, which was signed about the end of the month: it was, in fact, concluded on the 31st. Now, from twenty to thirty-one, we can only reckon eleven days; and I therefore think, that one of these dates must mean the day of his death, and the other that of his funeral;—namely, that Monstrelet died on the 15th and was buried on the 20th. The precise date of his death is, however, of little importance: it is enough for us to be assured that it took place in the month of July, in 1453, and consequently that the thirteen last years of his history, printed under his name, cannot have been written by him. I shall examine this first continuation of his history, and endeavour to ascertain the time when Monstrelet ceased to write;—and likewise attempt to discover whether, during the yeare immediately preceding his death, some things have not been inserted that do not belong to him.
• "This extract was published by M. Villaret in the xiith vol. of bis 'Uistoire de France, edition in 12iuo. p. 119."
"Before I enter upon this discussion of his work, I shall conclude what I have to say of him personally, according to what the writer of the register of the Cordeliers and the abbot of St. Aubert testify of him. He was, says each of them, 'a very honourable and peaceable man;' expressions that appear simple at first sight, but which contain a real euloginm, if we consider the troublesome times in which Monstrelet lived, the places he held, the interest he must have had sometimes to betray the truth in favour of one of the factions which then divided France, and caused the revolutions the history of which he has published during the life of the principal actors. I have had more than one occasion to ascertain that the two above-mentioned writers, in thus painting his character, have not flattered him.
"The Chronicles of Monstrelet commence on Easter-day *, in the year 1400, when those of Froissart end, and extend to the death of the duke of Burgundy in the year 1467. I have before stated, that the thirteen last years of his chronicle were written by an unknown author, —and this matter I shall discuss at the end of this essay. In the printed as well as in the manuscript copies, the chronicle is divided into three volumes, and each volume into chapters. The first of these divisions is evidently by the author: his prologues at the head of the first and second volumes, in which he marks the extent of each conformable to the number of years therein contained, leave no room to doubt of it.
"His work is called Chronicles; but we must not, however, consider this title in the sense commonly attached to it, which merely conveys the idea of simple annals. The chronicles of Monstrelet are real history, wherein, notwithstanding its imperfections and omissions, are found all the characteristies of historical writing. He traces events to their source, develops the causes, and traces them with the minutest details; and what renders these chronicles infinitely precious is, his never-failing attention to report all edicts, declarations, summonses, letters, negotiations, treaties, &e. as justificatory proofs of the truth of the facts he relates.
"After the example of Froissart, he does not confine himself to events that passed in France: he embraces, with almost equal detail, the most remarkable circumstances which happened during his time in Flanders, England, Scotland, and Ireland. He relates, but more succinctly, whatsoever he had been informed of .s having passed in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Poland: in short, in the different European states. Some events, particularly the war of the Saracens against the king of Cyprus, are treated at greater length than could have been expected in a general history.
"Although it appears that the principal object of Monstrelet in writing this history, was to preserve the memory of those wars which in his time desolated Franco and the adjoining countries, to bring into public notice such personages as distinguished themselves by actions of valour in battles, assaults, skirmishes, duels and tournaments, and to show to posterity that his age had produced as many heroes as any of the preceding ones,—he does not fail to give an account of such great political or ecclesiastical events as took place during the period of which he seemed only inclined to write the military history. He relates many important details respecting the councils of Pisa, Constance, and of Basil, of which the authors who have written the history of these councils ought to have availed themselves, to compare them with the other materials of which they made use.
• "Toe text of Monstrelet ie Piques Communiaux. p. 224. It is a receipt from Anthony de Waevrans,
This expression has Kerned to some learned men to be esquire, chatclain of Lille, with this date, —' the 2d of
eqnally applicable to Palm as to Easter Sunday. M. April, on the vigil of Pdques communiaur avant la
Secousde, in a note on these words, which he has added to eier^* benit, in the year 1490.' The circumstance of
page 480 of the ninth volume of Ordinances, reports both the paschal taper clearly shows it to havo been written on
opinions, withouf deciding on either. But tho sense is Holy Saturday, which fell that year on the 2d of April,
absolutely determined as to Easter-day in this passage of since Easter-day of 1491 was on the 3d of the same
Monstrelet, and in a paper quoted by Du Chesnc, among month.—See l'Artdo Vender los Dates. • tie proofs to the genealogy of the house of Montmorend,
"There is no historian who does not seek to gain the confidence of his readers, by first explaining in a preface all that ho has done to acquire the fullest information respecting the events he is about to relate. All protest that they have not omitted any possible means to ascertain the truth of facts, and that they have spared neither time nor trouble to collect the minutest details concerning them. Without doubt, great deductions must be made from such protestations: those of Monstrelet, however, are accompanied with circumstances which convince us that a dependence may be placed on them. Would he have dared to tell his contemporaries, who could instantly have detected a falsehood had he imposed on them, that he had been careful to consult on military affairs those who, from their employments, must have been eye-witnesses of the actions that he describes? that on other matters he had consulted such as, from their situations, must have been among the principal actors, and the great lords of both parties, whom he had often to address, to engage in conversation on these events, at divers times, to confront them, as it were, with themselves? On objects of less importance, such as feasts, justs, tournaments, he had made his inquiries from heralds, pursuivants, and kings-at-arms, who, from their office, must have been appointed judges of the lists, or assistants, at such entertainments and pastimes. For greater security, it was always more than a year after any event had happened, before he began to arrange his materials and insert them in his chronicle. He waited until time should have destroyed what may have been exaggerated in the accounts of such events, or should have confirmed their truth.
"An infinite number of traits throughout his work proves the fidelity of his narration. He marks the difference between facts of which he is perfectly sure and those of which he is doubtful: if he cannot produce his proof, he says so, and does not advance more. When he thinks that he has omitted some details which he ought to have known, he frankly owns that he has. forgotten them. For instance, when speaking of the conversation between the duke of Burgundy and the Pucelle d'Orleans, at which he was present, he recollects that some circumstances have escaped his memory, and avows that he does not remember them.
"When, after having related any event, he gains further knowledge concerning it, he immediately informs his readers of it, and cither adds to, or retrenches from, his former narration, conformably to the last information he had received. Froissart acted in a similar manner; and Montaigne praises him for it. 'The good Froissart,' says he, 'proceeds in his undertaking with such frank simplicity that having committed a mistake he is no way afraid of owning it, and of correcting it at the moment he is sensible of it *. We ought certainly to feel ourselves obliged to these two writers for their attention in returning back to correct any mistakes; but we should have been more thankful to them if. they had been pleased to add their corrections to the articles which had been mis-stated, instead of scattering their amendments at hazard, as it were, and leaving the readers to connect and comparo them with the original article as well as they can.
"This is not the only defect common to both these historians. The greater part of the chronological mistakes, which have been so ably corrected by M. de Sainte Palaye in Froissart, are to be found in Monstrelet; and what deserves particularly to be noticed, to avoid falling into errors, is, that each of them, when passing from the history of one country to another, introduces events of an earlier date, without ever mentioning it, and intermix
• " Esaais de Montaigne," liv. xl. chap. 10.
them in the same chapter, as if they had taken place in the same period; but Monstrelet has the advantage of Froissart in the correctness of counting the years, which he invariably begins on Easter-day and closes them on Easter-eve.
"To chronological mistakes must be added the frequent disfiguring of proper namesmore especially foreign ones, which are often so mangled that it is impossible to decipher them. M. du Cange has corrected from one thousand to eleven hundred on the margin of his copy of the edition of 1572, which is now in the imperial library at Paris, and would be of great assistance should another edition of Monstrelet bo called for *. Names of places are not more clearly written, excepting those in Flanders and Picardy, with which, of course, he was well acquainted. We know not whether it be through affectation or ignorance that he calls many towns by their Latin names, Frenchifying the termination: for instance, Aix-la-chapelle, Aquisgranie; Oxford, Oxonie; and several others in the like manner.
"These defects are far from being repaid, as they are in Froissart, by the agreeableness of the narration: that of Monstrelet is heavy, monotonous, weak, and diffuse. Sometimes a whole page is barely sufficient for him to relate what would have been better told in six lines; and it is commonly on the least important facts that he labours the most.
"The second chapter of the first volume, consisting of thirteen pages, contains only a challenge from a Spanish esquire, accepted by an esquire of England, which, after four years of letters and messages, ends in nothing. The ridiculousness of so pompous a narration had struck Rabelais, who says, at page 158 of his third volume;—' In reading this tedious detail, (which be calls a little before le tant long, curieux etfachcux conte) we should imagine that it was the beginning, or occasion, of some severe war, or of a great revolution of kingdoms; but at the end of the tale we laugh at the stupid champion, the Englishman, and Enguerrand their scribe, plut baccux qu'un pot d moutarde t.'
"Monstrelet employs many pages to report the challenges sent by the duke of Orleans, brother to king Charles VI., to Henry IV. king of England,—challenges which are equally ridiculous with the former, and which had a similar termination. When he meets with any event that particularly regards Flanders or Picardy, he does not omit the smallest circumstance: the most minute and most useless seem to him worth preserving,—and this same man, so prolix when it were to be wished he was concise, omits, for the sake of brevity, as he says, the most interesting details. This excuse he repeats more than once, for neglecting to enlarge on facts far more interesting than the quarrels of the Flemings and Picards. When speaking of those towns in Champagne and Brie which surrendered to Charles VII. immediately after his coronation, he says 'As for these surrenders, I omit the particular detail of each for the sake of brevity.' In another place, he says, 'Of these reparations, for brevity sake, I shall not make mention.' These reparations were the articles of the treaty of peace concluded in 1437, between the duke of Burgundy and the townsmen of Bruges.
"I have observed an omission of another sort, but which must be attributed solely to the copyists,—for I suspect them of having lost a considerable part of a chapter J in the second volume. The head of this chapter is, 'The duke of Orleans returns to the duke of Burgundy,' —and the beginning of it describes the meeting of the two princes in the town of Hedin in 1441 (1442). They there determine to meet again almost immediately in the town of
• I hara a copy of these correction!, which are intra- t "More slobbering than a muatard-pot;" but Cot doeed either Into the body of the text or at the bottom of grave translates this, "Foaming at the mouth like a boar." the page. % Chap. 262.
Nevers, 'with many others of the great princes and lords of the kingdom of Fiance,' and at the end of eight days they separate; the one taking the road through Paris toe Blois, and the other going into Burgundy.
"This recital consists of ahout twenty lines, and then we read, 'Here follows a copy of the declaration sent to king Charles of France by the lords assembled at Nevers, with the answers returned thereto by the members of the great council, and certain requests made by them*.' This title is followed by the declaration he has mentioned, and the answer the king made to the ambassadors who had presented it to him.—Now, can it be conceived that Monstrelet wonld have been silent as to the object of the assembly of Nobles? or not have named some of those who had been present? and that, after having mentioned Nevers as the place of meeting, he should have passed over every circumstance respecting it, to the declarations and resolutions that had there been determined upon? There are two reasons for concluding that part of this chapter must be wanting: first, when Monstrelet returns to his narration, after having related the king's answer to the assembled lords, he speaks as having before mentioned them, ' the aforesaid lords;' and I have just noticed that he names none of them : secondly, when in the next chapter he relates the expedition to Tartas, which was to decide on the fate of Guienne, as having before mentioned it, ' of which notice has been taken in another place,' it must have been in the preceding chapter,—but it is not thero spoken of, nor in any other place.
"If the numerous imperfections of Monstrelet are not made amends for, as I have said, by the beauty of his style, we must allow that they are compensated by advantages of another kind. His narration is diffuse, but clear,—and his style heavy, but always equal. Ho rarely offers any reflections,—and they are always short and judicious. The temper of his mind is particularly manifested by the circumstance that we do not find in his work any ridiculous stories of sorcery, magic, astrology, or any of those absurd prodigies which disgrace the greater part of the historians of his time.t The goodness of his heart also displays itself in the traits of sensibility which he discovers in his recitals of battles, sieges, and of towns won by storm: he seems then to rise superior to himself,—and his style acquires strength and warmth. When he relates the preparations for, and the commencement of, a war, his first sentiment is to deplore the evils by which he foresees that the poorer ranks will soon be overwhelmed. Whilst he paints the despair of the wretched inhabitants of the country, pillaged and massacred by both sides, we perceive that he is really affected by his subject, and writes from his feelings. The writer of the cordelier register and the abbot of St. Aubert have not, therefore, said too much, when they called him 'a very honest and peaceable man.' It appears, in fact, that benevolence was the marked feature of his character, to which I am not afraid to add, the love of truth.
"I know that in respect to this last virtue, his reputation is not spotless, and that he has been commonly charged with partiality for the house of Burgundy, and for that faction. Lancelot Voesin do la Popeliniere is, I believe, the first who brought this accusation against him. 'Monstrelet,' says he, 'has scarcely shown himself a better narrator than Froissart— but a little more attached to truth, and less of a party man.' Denis Godefroy denies this small advantage over Froissart which had been conceded to him by La Popelifliere. 'Bpth of them,' he says, 'incline toward the Burgundians.'
* The title of the next chapter, 263, but given rather work by subsequent chronicles, which form the third booh differently by Mr. Jolmes.—Eo. of the present edition.—Ed.
t These are plentiful in the additions made to his