« PreviousContinue »
profession at Caen, and, after passing some years in other parts of France, and also, it appears, visiting England, he returned and settled in that city, where he spent the rest of his life in writing his various romance poems. In his latter years he was, on the recommendation of Henry II., made a canon of Bayeux, and one work that has been usually attributed to him must have been written at so late a date as 1174, when he would be a very old man. The Waces, probably descendants of the poet's father, obtained large possessions in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire; and another branch continued to flourish for some ages in Normandy. The first of Wace's chronicles is entitled the 'Brut d'Angleterre,'* and is in the main a translation into romance verse of eight syllables of the British History of Geoffrey of Monmouth, although it contains also a good many things which are not in Geoffrey. After finishing his work Wace presented it to Henry II.'s queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Many manuscripts of it exist both in England and in France;
*The British Chronicles are generally supposed to have been called Bruts from Brutus, the great-grandson of Eneas, who is represented in them as the first king of the Britons; but the author of Britannia after the Romans' has lately announced a new interpretation of the term. "Brud," he says (p. xxii.), “in construction Brut, is reputation, or rumour, and in the secondary sense, a chronicle, or history. It retains that original sense in the French and English word bruit; and, though it is curious that all the Welsh Chronicles begin with the reign of Brutus, we must not be seduced by that accident into etymological trifling." We may note by the by, that this writer, in the next sentence, goes on to repeat the common mistake that Walter, otherwise called Calenius, from whom Geoffrey of Monmouth received his Armorican manuscript, was the same person with Walter Mapes.
and it has recently been printed, but, we apprehend, not from the oldest or most genuine text, under the title of ‘Le Roman de Brut, par Wace; avec un Commentaire et des Notes par Le Roux de Lincy;' 2 vols. 8vo. Rouen, 1836, 1838. Wace's other great work is that commonly called the Roman de Rou,' that is, the Romance of Rollo. It is a chronicle of the Dukes of Normandy, in two parts; the first, in Alexandrine verses, extending only to the beginning of the reign of the third duke, Richard Sans-peur; the second, in eight-syllable rhymes, coming down to the year 1170, the sixteenth of Henry II. The composition of the first part is stated to have been commenced in 1160, and it appears to have been published by itself; but some years after, on learning that the charge of writing the history of the Dukes of Normandy in verse had been confided by King Henry to another poet named Benoît, Wace, as M. de la Rue supposes, resumed his pen, and, adopting for expedition the easier octosyllabic verse, hastened to complete his task before his rival.* The entire work was printed for the first time in 1827 at Rouen, in 2 vols. 8vo., under the title of Le Roman de Rou et des Ducs de Normandie, par Robert Wace; avec des Notes par Frédéric Pluquet ;' but, although M. Pluquet, who had in 1824 published a short notice about Wace (Notice sur la Vie et les Ecrits de Robert Wace), mostly copied from the Abbé de la Rue's paper in the Archæologia, was assisted in the preparation of his edition by M. Auguste le Prevost, whose
*M. Le Roux de Lincy, however, denies that this latter part of the Roman des Ducs de Normandie' is by Wace, or that he ever really attempted in his old age to compete with Benoît.
notes are often learned and curious, it is evident that very little knowledge or critical judgment has been employed in settling the text, which is often manifestly corrupt either from mistranscription or reliance on a faulty original. Some of its errors have been pointed out, with sufficient gentleness, by M. Raynouard in a small tract entitled 'Observations Philosophiques et Grammaticales sur le Roman de Rou,' 8vo. Rouen, 1829; which ought always to accompany M. Pluquet's edition. Mr. Edgar Taylor (author of the volume entitled 'Lays of the Minnesingers or German Troubadours,' and other works) has translated so much of the Roman de Rou as relates to the Conquest of England into English prose, with notes and illustrations, 8vo. Lond. 1837. The interest that has been lately excited by this old Norman poet is further evinced by the publication of two others of his supposed works; his Shorter Chronicle of the Dukes of Normandy, in Alexandrine verse, from Henry II. back to Rollo, which is printed in the first volume (Par. ii. pp. 444-447) of the 'Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de Normandie,' 8vo. 1824;* and his poem, in verse of eight syllables, on the establishment by William the Conqueror of the Festival of the Conception of the Virgin, which was printed in 8vo. at Rouen, in 1842, under the title of 'L'Etablissement de la Fête de la Conception Notre Dame, dite la Fête aux Normands; publié pour la première fois d'après les MSS. de la Bibliothèque du Roi,
* Both M. Le Roux de Lincy, however, and M. Francisque Michel, a much higher authority (in the Preface to his Chronique des Ducs de Normandie par Benoît,' 1836, p. xv.), agree in holding this to be the production of a later writer than Wace.
par MM. Mancel et Trebutien.' A very limited impression, also, of another of his romances, entitled ‘La Vie de St. Nicholas,' in about 1500 lines, of which there are several manuscripts in existence, and some extracts from which are given by Hickes in his Thesaurus Linguarum Septentrionalium,' is stated by M. Le Roux de Lincy to have been produced by M. Monmerqué for the Société des Bibliophiles Français, and to be contained in the seventh volume of their privately printed 'Mélanges,' 8vo. Paris, 1820-1834. Wace is besides commonly held to be the author of a romance about the Virgin, extending to 1800 verses, and comprising a full account of her life and death, which is still in manuscript.
Wace's contemporary and rival, Benoît, also completed his Chronicle of the Norman Dukes, though not till some years after Wace had finished his. Benoît's performance consists, according to De la Rue, of nearly 46,000 octosyllabic verses, and begins at the first irruption of the Normans under their leaders Hastings and Bier Ironside, but comes down no farther than to the end of the reign of Henry I. It is preserved only in one MS., which is in the Harleian collection, in the British Museum; but it has been lately printed at Paris, under the care of M. Francisque Michel, with the title of 'Chronique des Ducs de Normandie, par Benoît, Trouvère Anglo-Normand du 12me siècle," 2 vols. 4to. 1836-8.* It is, from its fulness and minuteness, one of the most curious monuments we possess
* As here given, however, the work consists of only 31,776 verses. The promised completion of M. Michel's publication has not yet appeared.
of early Norman history, and contains many details nowhere else to be found. This Benoît has also been commonly supposed to be the same with the Benoît de St. More, or St. Maure, by whom we have another long romance of nearly 30,000 verses, entitled the Roman de Troye,' being a legendary history of the Trojan war, founded on the favourite authorities of the middle ages, the fictitious Dares Phrygius and Dictys of Crete; but their identity is disputed or doubted by M. Michel, and he also dissents from De la Rue's notion that Benoît is the author of a song or canticle on the subject of the Crusades, which is found at the end of the manuscript of his Chronicle of the Dukes of Normandy, and which, on this supposition, is the most ancient piece of AngloNorman lyrical poetry that has come down to us. It consists of six stanzas, each of seven decasyllabic verses, and is printed entire by De la Rue. On the other hand, M. Michel is inclined to attribute to Benoît a Life of Becket, which appears to have been written in this age; but the impression of this poem, which was to accompany the Chronicle, has never appeared.
EVRARD.-FRENCH LANGUAGE IN SCOTLAND.
It will probably surprise the reader to encounter a Scotchman among these early romance poets, one Evrard, who, after having been a monk of Kirkham in Yorkshire, was in 1150 appointed by David I. of Scotland—that
sore saint to the crown," as he was called by his successor, the first James-the first abbot of his newly-founded abbey of Ulme or Holme-Cultraine in Cumberland. He is the author of a French metrical translation of what are called the Distichs of Cato, which affords the first known