The Wandering Knight

The Wandering Knight

The Wandering Knight

The Wandering Knight

Excerpt

Recently, while studying certain romance materials of the sixteenth century, I discovered in The Henry E. Huntington Library the slender quarto which is here reprinted. A glance was sufficient to arouse my interest in the story for its own sake, but a careful reading persuaded me that the book was of considerable importance to students of English literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Wandering Knight is a chivalric moral allegory, remarkably similar in plan and import to one of the most famous of all such allegories, Spenser's story of Una and the Red Cross Knight. The fact that the English translation of Cartigny's work came at approximately the moment when Spenser was sitting down at last to serious work on The Faerie Queene suggested that the resemblances between the two stories might not be entirely accidental.

But Cartigny's romance is also of broader interest to students of Elizabethan and Jacobean literature, for it is an expression of the tradition of Catholic thought flowing from St. Augustine and the Benedictines through the writings and teachings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and his followers. The English translation brought to English readers of The Wandering Knight a contemporary example of this tradition. They found in it the same medieval thought and the same devices of storytelling with which they were familiar; it was another of those books which linked the past with the new temper of the Renaissance. To the degree that Spenser's Book I of The Faerie Queene impinges upon this religious tradition in Cartigny, it too is a religious link between the Middle Ages and the post-Reformation era in England. For students of this period, and especially for students of Edmund Spenser's work, the evidence of such an influence operating on a popular reading public has implications of great interest.

The Wandering Knight was very popular. Bibliographic evidence alone will support the statement. The twenty-four known editions between 1557 and 1889; the number of translations, in five languages, made in the fifty years after 1557; the recorded prices of some copies; the existence of several manuscripts of the relatively early Welsh translation--all of these facts testify to . . .

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