Gast, Luce de (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 21
Gast, Luce de

by Charles Lethbridge Kingsford
The ODNB regards the identification as without secure foundation.

GAST, LUCE de (fl. 1199?), knight and lord of the castle of Gast, near Salisbury, is mentioned in preambles to many manuscripts of the great prose romance of Tristan. It is stated that he wondered that no one had translated into French the Latin book containing the history of the Saint Graal, and at length decided to do so himself, although in language he belonged rather to England, where he was born (MSS. 6768 and 6771 in Bibliothèque, and Add. MS. 23929 in Brit. Mus.) Only the first part of Tristan is ascribed to Gast, the second being assigned to Hélie de Borron. It is at least questionable whether either writer ever existed. Gast professes, and in this Hélie de Borron supports him, to have been the first to make use of the records of the Round Table, and to have chosen Tristan for his hero, as being the most puissant knight that was ever in Britain before King Arthur, or afterwards, save only for Lancelot and Galahad. But whereas the Tristan is full of allusions to the Saint Graal and to Lancelot, these romances never mention Tristan as an Arthurian hero; the romance of Tristan was therefore probably the later composition. Nor is there any proof of the existence of a Latin original. In all probability the prose romance of Tristan was founded on the lost poem of Chrétien de Troyes, which must have been written about 1160. It is also noticeable that in the Quest of the Saint Graal, the Records (of the Quest, at all events) are said to be kept ‘en l'aumoire de Salebères.’ It looks as if the whole story of the knight, his castle, and the Latin book were an invention intended to give an appearance of authority to the romance. The Tristan was first printed at Rouen in 1489, and afterwards at Paris by Antoine Verard in two editions without date; again at Paris in 1514, 1520, 1533 (Brunet, Manuel du Libraire, vol. v. col. 955). These printed copies follow the version as it was rearranged by writers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and differ greatly from the original work. One manuscript (Bibliothèque 6976) ascribes to Gast the ‘Roman de Guyron le Courtois,’ which is more commonly assigned to Hélie de Borron. The name is variously spelt Gast, Galt, Gant, or Gay. It has been endeavoured to identify it with one of two castles called Gât in Normandy, but all the manuscripts clearly describe Gast as ‘voisin prochain de Salebères.’

[Paulin Paris' Manuscrits François de la Bibliothèque du Roi, vols. i. and iii.; Ward's Cat. of Romances in the Brit. Mus. vol. i.; Gaston Paris' Littérature Française au Moyen Age. The writer has also to thank Mr. Ward for some additional information.]

C. L. K.