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The History of Chivalry, by G. P. R. James, Esq., Second Edition; Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, London; 1830, pp. v-xvi.




IN writing the pages which follow this preface, I have had to encounter the difficulty of compressing very extensive matter into an extremely limited space. As the subject was, in my eyes, a very interesting one, and every particular connected with it had often been food for thought and object of entertainment to myself, the task of curtailing was the more ungrateful: nor should I have undertaken it, had I not been convinced by my publisher that one volume would be as much as the public in general would be inclined to read. I wished to write upon Chivalry and the Crusades, because I fancied that in the hypotheses of many other authors I had discovered various errors and misstatements, which gave a false impression of both the institution and the enterprise; and I have endeavoured, in putting forth my own view of the subject, to advance no one point, however minute, which cannot be justified by indisputable authority. A favourite theory is too often, in historical writing, like the bed of the ancient Greek; and facts are either stretched or lopped away to agree with it: but to ensure as much vi accuracy as possible, I have taken pains to mark in the margin of the pages, the different writers on whose assertions my own statements are founded, with a corresponding figure, by which each particular may be referred to its authority.

In regard to these authors themselves, it seems necessary here to give some information, that those persons who are inclined to inquire beyond the mere surface, may know what credit is to be attached to each.

On the first crusade we have a whole host of contemporary writers, many of whom were present at the events they describe. Besides these, there are several others, who, though they wrote at an after-period, took infinite pains to render their account as correct as possible. The authors I have principally cited for all the earlier facts of the Holy War, are William of Tyre, Albert of Aix, Fulcher of Chartres, Raimond of Agiles, Guibert of Nogent, Radulph of Caën, and Robert, surnamed the Monk.

William of Tyre, is, beyond all doubt, the most illustrious of the many historians who have written on the crusades. Born in Palestine, and though both educated for the church and raised step by step to its highest dignities, yet mingling continually in the political changes of the Holy Land — the preceptor of one of its kings — frequently employed in embassies to Europe, and ultimately Archbishop of Tyre and Chancellor of the kingdom of Jerusalem, William possessed vii the most extensive means of gathering materials for the great work he has left to posterity. He brought to his task, also, a powerful mind, as well as considerable discrimination; and was infinitely superior in education and every intellectual quality to the general chroniclers of his age. He was not born, however, at the time of the first crusade; and consequently, where he speaks of the events of that enterprise, we may look upon him as an historian, clear, able, elegant, and not extremely credulous; but we must not expect to find the vivid identity of contemporaneous writing.

In regard to the history of his own days he is invaluable, and in respect to that of the times which preceded them, his work is certainly superior, as a whole, to any thing that has since been written on the subject. Of course he was affected by the prejudices of his age, but in a much less degree than any of his contemporaries, and those very prejudices served to show the spirit of the time. Most of those who have written since, have been equally influenced, though in a different way, and their prejudices have only served to obscure all, instead of displaying any thing.

A much more vivid and enthusiastic picture of the first crusade is to be found in Albert of Aix, from whom William of Tyre borrowed many of his details; but the Syrian archbishop living long after, saw the events he recounted as a whole; rejected much as false, that Albert embraced as true, and softened the zealous fire which the passions and feelings of the moment viii had lighted up in the bosom of the other. Albert himself was not one of the crusaders; but living at the time, and conversing continually with those who returned from the Holy Land, he caught, to an extraordinary extent, the spirit of the enterprise, and has left behind him a brilliant transcript of all the passed-by dreams and long-extinguished enthusiasms of his day.

Thus, as a painting of manner and customs, the Chronicon Hierosolymitanum is one of the most valuable records we possess, and the account there given of Peter the Hermit and Gautier sans avoir is in many points more full and comprehensive than any other.

Fulcher of Chartres set out for the Holy Land with Stephen, Count of Blois, one of the first crusaders. He soon after became chaplain to Baldwin, the brother of Godfrey de Bouillon, and ended his days a canon of the Holy Sepulchre. His relation is useful in many respects, especially in regard to the march of the crusaders through Italy — the proceedings of Baldwin at Edessa, and the history of Jerusalem for several years after its conquest. His style, however, is tumid and circumlocutory, and his credulity equal to that of Raymond d’Agiles. Many of the latter pages of his work are filled with dissertations on the natural productions of Syria and Egypt; from amongst the numerous errors and absurdities of which, much information might be gleaned in regard to the history of science.


Raimond d’Agiles accompanied the Count of Toulouse on the first crusade, in quality of chaplain. Superstitious to the most lamentable degree, and as bigoted in party politics as in religion, he wrote as he lived, like a weak and ignorant man. Nevertheless there is, in his account, much excellent information, detailed with simplicity; and very often, through the folly of the historian, we arrive at truths which his prejudices concealed from himself.

Guibert of Nogent did not visit the Holy Land, but he lived during the first crusade, and, in common with all Europe, felt deeply interested in the fate of that expedition. He examined and noted with accuracy all the anecdotes which reached Europe, and painted with great vivacity scenes that he had not himself witnessed. As a priest, Guibert was superstitious, and as a man, he was enthusiastic; but he seems to have possessed quick parts and great intelligence. He was learned, also, and somewhat pedantic; and, though an ancient monk, he had nearly as much vanity as a modern philosopher. In his account of the crusade many circumstances, evincing strongly the spirit of the age, are to be met with which do not appear elsewhere; and, as we have every reason to feel sure of his general accuracy, it is but fair to suppose that these are well founded.

Radulph, or Raoul, of Caën, is inflated in style, and often inexact; but he is perhaps less superstitious than any other chronicler of the crusades. By poetical exaggeration, he often renders his narrative doubtful; x yet, as the biographer of Tancred, he tends to elucidate much that would otherwise have remained in darkness. Robert, called the Monk, was present at the council of Clermont, at which the first crusade was determined; and, though he did not immediately take the cross, he set out for the Holy Land not long after, and was present at the siege of Jerusalem. He is in general accurate and precise; and, though not a little credulous in regard to visions, apparitions, and other imaginations of the day, he is on the whole more calm, clear, and exact, than any other contemporary writer.

Besides these writers, I have had occasion to cite several others of less authority. Of these, Baldric bears the highest character; and, notwithstanding the fact of his not having been present at the crusade, he is in general accurate. Tudebodus is both brief and imperfect. Matthew of Edessa deserves little or no credit; and the part of the Alexiad which refers to the first crusade is far more likely to mislead than to assist. The most important part of the whole work as it is published at present, consists in the notes of Ducange. William of Malmsbury is more useful, but still his account is merely a repetition of what we find in other sources. For all the affairs of Normandy, I have consulted Orderic, Vital, and William of Jumieges.

The history of William of Tyre was afterwards continued by several writers, the chief of whom is an author taking the title of Bernard the Treasurer. A Latin version of his book was published by Muratori: Martenne, xi however, has since printed a work from an old French manuscript, the identity of which with the account of Bernard the Treasurer, has been proved by Mansi. This work is one of the most interesting extant; for although it wants entirely both the power and the grace of William of Tyre’s composition, and is full of errors, in respect to every thing beyond the immediate limits of the Holy Land, yet there is a simple and interesting minuteness — an individuality of tone through the whole, where it relates the affairs of Syria, which could not have been given but by an eyewitness. Even the old French in which it is written, slightly different from the exact language of France at the same period, gives it a peculiar character, and stamps it as the work of a Syrian Frank. Another continuation of William of Tyre is extant, by a Suabian of the name of Herold. This, however, is a much later composition, and possesses few of the qualities of the other. The Cardinal de Vitry also wrote an abbreviated history of the Crusades, bringing it down to his own time, A. D. 1220. His work is principally to be consulted for the account it gives of the events which passed under the author’s own eyes, while Bishop of Acre, and for a great many curious particulars concerning the manners and customs of the Saracens, which are to be found in no other work. The second book of the Cardinal de Vitry’s History has been omitted, I cannot conceive why, in the Gesta Dei per Francos. It is, nevertheless, extremely valuable xii as showing the horrible state of the Christians of Palestine, and displaying those vices and weaknesses which eventually brought about the ruin of the Latin kingdom.

The authorities for the second crusade are lamentably few, and by their very paucity show what a change had come over the spirit of the age, in the short space of fifty years. The only eyewitnesses who have written on the subject, as far as I can discover, are Odo, a priest of Deuil, or Diagolum, in the neighbourhood of Paris, and Otho, Bishop of Freysinghen. The first of these authors followed Louis VII. to the Holy Land as his chaplain, and his account is, more properly speaking, an epistle to the famous Suger, Abbot of St. Denis, than a chronicle.

Otho of Freysinghen, was nearly related to the emperor Conrad, whom he accompanied on his unfortunate expedition. Both these authors, therefore, had the best means of obtaining information; and, in the writings of each, there is an air of truth and sincerity, which does much towards conviction. I have had occasion in speaking of this crusade to cite casually a number of authors, of whom it is not necessary to give any very detailed account. Their works are to be found in the admirable collections of Dom Bouquet, Duchesne, Martenne, or Muratori.

Wherever I have been obliged to quote from any of the Arabian writers, I am indebted to the extracts of Monsieur Reinaud.


In regard to the crusade of Richard Cœur de Lion and Philip Augustus; for the history of the first, I have borrowed from Benedict of Peterborough, from Hovedon, and especially from Vinesauf, whose work is inestimable. These, with the other English authorities I have cited, are too well known to need comment. Having some time ago written a romance, not yet published, on the history of Philip Augustus, I had previously studied almost all the old chroniclers who speak of that monarch. The most important treatise on his reign is the work of Rigord, who was at once monk, physician, and historiographer at the court of Philip. William the Breton, one of the king’s chaplains, continued his history in prose, from the period where Rigord abandoned the task. He also wrote a bombastic poem on the reign of his patron, which, however exaggerated and absurd, is useful as an historical document, and a painting of the manners and customs of the time. On the taking of Constantinople by the French, I have found no want of authorities. Villehardouin, one of the principal actors in the scenes he describes, has been my chief source of information. I have also met with much in Nicetas, who was present; and I have confirmed the evidence of other writers, by the chronicle in the Rouchy dialect, published by Monsieur Buchon, and by the metrical chronicle of Philippe Mouskes in the same collection. I need hardly say that the works of Ducange have proved invaluable in every part of my inquiry, and that his xiv history of Constantinople under its French monarchs, both gave me facts and led me to authorities.

Joinville is the principal writer on the crusade of St. Louis. He was an eyewitness, a sufferer, and a principal actor in the scenes he describes. Of all old chroniclers, with the exception, perhaps, of Froissart, Joinville offers the most original, simple, and delightful paintings of times and manners long gone by. With the notes of Ducange, his work is an erudite repertory for antique manners and usages, and may be read and re-read with gratification, and studied deeply with advantage.

The folio edition in my own library, comprises the Observations and Dissertations of Ducange, and the Commentaries of Claud Menard; together with the Establishments of St. Louis, and a curious treatise upon the ancient law of France, by Pierre de Fontaines. All these works afford a great insight into the spirit of the day; and many other particulars are to be found in the Branche aux royaux Lignages, and in the Sermon of Robert de Sainceriaux. Besides the authors I have here particularized, I have had occasion to cite casually a great number of others, whose names, with some account of the works of each, may be found in the Manuel of Brunet. Vertot also has furnished us with much information concerning the Knights of St. John; and Dupuy, Raynouard, &c., have spoken largely of the Templars. I cannot close the enumeration of authors to xv whom I am under obligations for information or instruction, without mentioning M. Guizot, one of the most clearsighted and unprejudiced of all modern historians. His views of causes I have often adopted, sometimes with very slight modifications, and sometimes with none; and, in all instances to which his writings extend, I have been indebted to him for light to conduct me through the dark sanctuary of past events, to the shrine of Truth, even where he has not unveiled the deity herself. I can only regret that his essays did not embrace more of the very comprehensive subject on which I was called to treat.

Several motives have impelled me to give this long account of my authorities; one of which motives was, that often, in reading works on history, I have myself wished that the sources from which facts were derived had been laid open to my examination; but still, my principal view in the detail, was to show the ground on which I had fixed opinions directly opposed to those of several other authors. In many cases, the aspect under which I have seen the events of the crusades, has been entirely different from that under which Mills has regarded them, and I felt myself called upon not to attack any position of a clever writer and a learned man, without justifying myself as completely as possible.

In regard to my own work I shall say nothing, but that I have spared neither labour nor research to make it as correct as if it had appeared under a much xvi more imposing form. In space, I have been confined; and in time, I have been hurried: but I have endeavoured to remedy the one inconvenience, by cutting off all superfluous matter; and to guard against evil consequences from the other, by redoubling my own exertions. Whether I have succeeded or not the world must judge; and if it does judge with the same generous lenity which it has extended to my other productions, I shall have every reason to be both satisfied and grateful.


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