Memoirs of the Crusades

Memoirs of the Crusades

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Memoirs of the Crusades

Memoirs of the Crusades

Read FREE!

Excerpt

Powerful and rich as English literature is, it has little to place in line against the superb array of French memoirs. Englishmen enough have done great things, or taken part in the doing of them, or seen them done; but only a scanty few have been moved to write--even fewer to write with any approach to style--of what they had done and seen. Among the French it has been otherwise. The French statesman, or leader, his life's greater battle being fought, has more often betaken himself to his pen, either--to use Guizot's image-- for the purpose of fighting the old fights once more, with that weapon, in the smaller arena of letters, or simply for pure indulgence in the pleasures of memory. Villehardouin, Joinville--I exclude Froissart, beautiful as his work is, because he was a chronicler pure and simple and not an actor in the world's affairs--Commines, Sully, Retz, the "Grande Mademoiselle," Saint-Simon, Chateaubriand, Guizot,--here is a fine list of examples.

Of these French memoirs, the Memoirs of Villehardouin and Joinville, here reproduced in an English form, are certainly not the least interesting. They are the first in date, those of Villehardouin having been written, probably, in the days of our King John, early in the thirteenth century; while those of Joinville were completed, about a century later, in October 1309, shortly after our Edward II. had begun to reign. Both are monuments of the French language, and of French prose, at an early stage of development--giant lispings, as one may say. Both are written by eye-witnesses who had taken an important part, in the case of Villehardouin a very important part, in what they describe. Both deal with stirring episodes in one of the most stirring chapters in human history, the chapter that tells how, for some three centuries, Christendom put forth its power to capture, and again recapture . . .

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