1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Froissart, Jean
FROISSART, JEAN (1338–1410?), French chronicler and raconteur, historian of his own times. The personal history of Froissart, the circumstances of his birth and education, the incidents of his life, must all be sought in his own verses and chronicles. He possessed in his own lifetime no such fame as that which attended the steps of Petrarch; when he died it did not occur to his successors that a chapter might well be added to his Chronicle setting forth what manner of man he was who wrote it. The village of Lestines, where he was curé, has long forgotten that a great writer ever lived there. They cannot point to any house in Valenciennes as the lodging in which he put together his notes and made history out of personal reminiscences. It is not certain when or where he died, or where he was buried. One church, it is true, doubtfully claims the honour of holding his bones. It is that of St Monegunda of Chimay.
“Gallorum sublimis honos et fama tuorum,
Hic Froissarde, jaces, si modo forte jaces.”
It is fortunate, therefore, that the scattered statements in his writings may be so pieced together as to afford a tolerably connected history of his life year after year. The personality of the man, independently of his adventures, may be arrived at by the same process. It will be found that Froissart, without meaning it, has portrayed himself in clear and well-defined outline. His forefathers were jurés (aldermen) of the little town of Beaumont, lying near the river Sambre, to the west of the forest of Ardennes. Early in the 14th century the castle and seigneurie of Beaumont fell into the hands of Jean, younger son of the count of Hainaut. With this Jean, sire de Beaumont, lived a certain canon of Liège called Jean le Bel, who fortunately was not content simply to enjoy life. Instigated by his seigneur he set himself to write contemporary history, to tell “la pure veriteit de tout li fait entièrement al manire de chroniques.” With this view, he compiled two books of chronicles. And the chronicles of Jean le Bel were not the only literary monuments belonging to the castle of Beaumont. A hundred years before him Baldwin d’Avernes, the then seigneur, had caused to be written a book of chronicles or rather genealogies. It must therefore be remembered that when Froissart undertook his own chronicles he was not conceiving a new idea, but only following along familiar lines.
Some 20 m. from Beaumont stood the prosperous city of Valenciennes, possessed in the 14th century of important privileges and a flourishing trade, second only to places like Bruges or Ghent in influence, population and wealth. Beaumont, once her rival, now regarded Valenciennes as a place where the ambitious might seek for wealth or advancement, and among those who migrated thither was the father of Foissart. He appears from a single passage in his son’s verses to have been a painter of armorial bearings. There was, it may be noted, already what may be called a school of painters at Valenciennes. Among them were Jean and Colin de Valenciennes and Andrè Beau-Neveu, of whom Froissart says that he had not his equal in any country.
The date generally adopted for his birth is 1338. In after years Froissart pleased himself by recalling in verse the scenes and pursuits of his childhood. These are presented in vague generalities. There is nothing to show that he was unlike any other boys, and, unfortunately, it did not occur to him that a photograph of a schoolboy’s life amid bourgeois surroundings would be to posterity quite as interesting as that faithful portraiture of courts and knights which he has drawn up in his Chronicle. As it is, we learn that he loved games of dexterity and skill rather than the sedentary amusements of chess and draughts, that he was beaten when he did not know his lessons, that with his companions he played at tournaments, and that he was always conscious—a statement which must be accepted with suspicion—that he was born
“Loer Dieu et servir le monde.”
In any case he was born in a place, as well as at a time, singularly adapted to fill the brain of an imaginative boy. Valenciennes was then a city extremely rich in romantic associations. Not far from its walls was the western fringe of the great forest of Ardennes, sacred to the memory of Pepin, Charlemagne, Roland and Ogier. Along the banks of the Scheldt stood, one after the other, not then in ruins, but bright with banners, the gleam of armour, and the liveries of the men at arms, castles whose seigneurs, now forgotten, were famous in their day for many a gallant feat of arms. The castle of Valenciennes itself was illustrious in the romance of Perceforest. There was born that most glorious and most luckless hero, Baldwin, first emperor of Constantinople. All the splendour of medieval life was to be seen in Froissart’s native city: on the walls of the Salle le Comte glittered—perhaps painted by his father—the arms and scutcheons beneath the banners and helmets of Luxembourg, Hainaut and Avesnes; the streets were crowded with knights and soldiers, priests, artisans and merchants; the churches were rich with stained glass, delicate tracery and precious carving; there were libraries full of richly illuminated manuscripts on which the boy could gaze with delight; every year there was the fête of the puy d’Amour de Valenciennes, at which he would hear the verses of the competing poets; there were festivals, masques, mummeries and moralities. And, whatever there might be elsewhere, in this happy city there was only the pomp, and not the misery, of war; the fields without were tilled, and the harvests reaped, in security; the workman within plied his craft unmolested for good wage. But the eyes of the boy were turned upon the castle and not upon the town; it was the splendour of the knights which dazzled him, insomuch that he regarded and continued ever afterwards to regard a prince gallant in the field, glittering of apparel, lavish of largesse, as almost a god.
The moon, he says, rules the first four years of life; Mercury the next ten; Venus follows. He was fourteen when the last goddess appeared to him in person, as he tells us, after the manner of his time, and informed him that he was to love a lady, “belle, jone, et gente.” Awaiting this happy event, he began to consider how best to earn his livelihood. They first placed him in some commercial position—impossible now to say of what kind—which he simply calls “la marchandise.” This undoubtedly means some kind of buying and selling, not a handicraft at all. He very soon abandoned merchandise—“car vaut mieux science qu’argens”—and resolved on becoming a learned clerk. He then naturally began to make verses, like every other learned clerk. Quite as naturally, and still in the character of a learned clerk, he fulfilled the prophecy of Venus and fell in love. He found one day a demoiselle reading a book of romances. He did not know who she was, but stealing gently towards her, he asked her what book she was reading. It was the romance of Cleomades. He remarks the singular beauty of her blue eyes and fair hair, while she reads a page or two, and then—one would almost suspect a reminiscence of Dante—
“Adont laissames nous le lire.”
He was thus provided with that essential for soldier, knight or poet, a mistress—one for whom he could write verses. She was rich and he was poor; she was nobly born and he obscure; it was long before she would accept the devotion, even of the conventional kind which Froissart offered her, and which would in no way interfere with the practical business of her life. And in this hopeless way, the passion of the young poet remaining the same, and the coldness of the lady being unaltered, the course of this passion ran on for some time. Nor was it until the day of Froissart’s departure from his native town that she gave him an interview and spoke kindly to him, even promising, with tears in her eyes, that “Doulce Pensée” would assure him that she would have no joyous day until she should see him again.
He was eighteen years of age; he had learned all that he wanted to learn; he possessed the mechanical art of verse; he had read the slender stock of classical literature accessible; he longed to see the world. He must already have acquired some distinction, because, on setting out for the court of England, he was able to take with him letters of recommendation from the king of Bohemia and the count of Hainaut to Queen Philippa, niece of the latter. He was well received by the queen, always ready to welcome her own countrymen; he wrote ballades and virelays for her and her ladies. But after a year he began to pine for another sight of “la très douce, simple, et quoie,” whom he loved loyally. Good Queen Philippa, perceiving his altered looks and guessing the cause, made him confess that he was in love and longed to see his mistress. She gave him his congé on the condition that he was to return. It is clear that the young clerk had already learned to ingratiate himself with princes.
The conclusion of his single love adventure is simply and unaffectedly told in his Trettie de l’espinette amoureuse. It was a passion conducted on the well-known lines of conventional love; the pair exchanged violets and roses, the lady accepted ballads; Froissart became either openly or in secret her recognized lover, a mere title of honour, which conferred distinction on her who bestowed it, as well as upon him who received it. But the progress of the amour was rudely interrupted by the arts of “Malebouche,” or Calumny. The story, whatever it was, that Malebouche whispered in the ear of the lady led to a complete rupture. The damoiselle not only scornfully refused to speak to her lover or acknowledge him, but even seized him by the hair and pulled out a handful. Nor would she ever be reconciled to him again. Years afterwards, when Froissart writes the story of his one love passage, he shows that he still takes delight in the remembrance of her, loves to draw her portrait, and lingers with fondness over the thought of what she once was to him.
Perhaps to get healed of his sorrow, Froissart began those wanderings in which the best part of his life was to be consumed. He first visited Avignon, perhaps to ask for a benefice, perhaps as the bearer of a message from the bishop of Cambray to pope or cardinal. It was in the year 1360, and in the pontificate of Innocent VI. From the papal city he seems to have gone to Paris, perhaps charged with a diplomatic mission. In 1361 he returned to England after an absence of five years. He certainly interpreted his leave of absence in a liberal spirit, and it may have been with a view of averting the displeasure of his kind-hearted protector that he brought with him as a present a book of rhymed chronicles written by himself. He says that notwithstanding his youth, he took upon himself the task “à rimer et à dicter”—which can only mean to “turn into verse”—an account of the wars of his own time, which he carried over to England in a book “tout compilé,”—complete to date,—and presented to his noble mistress Philippa of Hainaut, who joyfully and gently received it of him. Such a rhymed chronicle was no new thing. One Colin had already turned the battle of Crécy into verse. The queen made young Froissart one of her secretaries, and he began to serve her with “beaux dittiés et traités amoureux.”
Froissart would probably have been content to go on living at ease in this congenial atmosphere of flattery, praise and caresses, pouring out his virelays and chansons according to demand with facile monotony, but for the instigation of Queen Philippa, who seems to have suggested to him the propriety of travelling in order to get information for more rhymed chronicles. It was at her charges that Froissart made his first serious journey. He seems to have travelled a great part of the way alone, or accompanied only by his servants, for he was fain to beguile the journey by composing an imaginary conversation in verse between his horse and his hound. This may be found among his published poems, but it does not repay perusal. In Scotland he met with a favourable reception, not only from King David but from William of Douglas, and from the earls of Fife, Mar, March and others. The souvenirs of this journey are found scattered about in the chronicles. He was evidently much impressed with the Scots; he speaks of the valour of the Douglas, the Campbell, the Ramsay and the Graham; he describes the hospitality and rude life of the Highlanders; he admires the great castles of Stirling and Roxburgh and the famous abbey of Melrose. His travels in Scotland lasted for six months. Returning southwards he rode along the whole course of the Roman wall, a thing alone sufficient to show that he possessed the true spirit of an archaeologist; he thought that Carlisle was Carlyon, and congratulated himself on having found King Arthur’s capital; he calls Westmorland, where the common people still spoke the ancient British tongue, North Wales; he rode down the banks of the Severn, and returned to London by way of Oxford—“l’escole d’Asque-Suffort.”
In London Froissart entered into the service of King John of France as secretary, and grew daily more courtly, more in favour with princes and great ladies. He probably acquired at this period that art, in which he has probably never been surpassed, of making people tell him all they knew. No newspaper correspondent, no American interviewer, has ever equalled this medieval collector of intelligence. From Queen Philippa, who confided to him the tender story of her youthful and lasting love for her great husband, down to the simplest knight—Froissart conversed with none beneath the rank of gentlemen—all united in telling this man what he wanted to know. He wanted to know everything: he liked the story of a battle from both sides and from many points of view; he wanted the details of every little cavalry skirmish, every capture of a castle, every gallant action and brave deed. And what was more remarkable, he forgot nothing. “I had,” he says, “thanks to God, sense, memory, good remembrance of everything, and an intellect clear and keen to seize upon the acts which I could learn.” But as yet he had not begun to write in prose.
At the age of twenty-nine, in 1366, Froissart once more left England. This time he repaired first to Brussels, whither were gathered together a great concourse of minstrels from all parts, from the courts of the kings of Denmark, Navarre and Aragon, from those of the dukes of Lancaster, Bavaria and Brunswick. Hither came all who could “rimer et dicter.” What distinction Froissart gained is not stated; but he received a gift of money, as appears from the accounts: “uni Fritsardo, dictori, qui est cum regina Angliae, dicto die, VI. mottones.”
After this congress of versifiers, he made his way to Brittany, where he heard from eye-witnesses and knights who had actually fought there details of the battles of Cocherel and Auray, the Great Day of the Thirty and the heroism of Jeanne de Montfort. Windsor Herald told him something about Auray, and a French knight, one Antoine de Beaujeu, gave him the details of Cocherel. From Brittany he went southwards to Nantes, La Rochelle and Bordeaux, where he arrived a few days before the visit of Richard, afterwards second of that name. He accompanied the Black Prince to Dax, and hoped to go on with him into Spain, but was despatched to England on a mission. He next formed part of the expedition which escorted Lionel duke of Clarence to Milan, to marry the daughter of Galeazzo Visconti. Chaucer was also one of the prince’s suite. At the wedding banquet Petrarch was a guest sitting among the princes.
From Milan Froissart, accepting gratefully a cotte hardie with 20 florins of gold, set out upon his travels in Italy. At Bologna, then in decadence, he met Peter king of Cyprus, from whose follower and minister, Eustache de Conflans, he learned many interesting particulars of the king’s exploits. He accompanied Peter as far as Venice, where he left him after receiving a gift of 40 ducats. With them and his cotte hardie, still lined we may hope with the 20 florins, Froissart betook himself to Rome. The city was then at its lowest point: the churches were roofless; there was no pope; there were no pilgrims; there was no splendour; and yet, says Froissart sadly,
“Ce furent jadis en Rome
Li plus preu et li plus sage homme,
Car par sens tons les arts passèrent.”
It was at Rome that he learned of the death of his friend King Peter of Cyprus, and, worse still, an irreparable loss to him, that of the good Queen Philippa, of whom he writes, in grateful remembrance—
“Propices li soit Diex à l’âme!
J’en suis bien tenus de pryer
Et ses larghesces escuyer,
Car elle me fist et créa.”
Philippa dead, Froissart looked around for a new patron. Then he hastened back to his own country and presented himself, with a new book in French, to the duchess of Brabant, from whom he received the sum of 16 francs, given in the accounts as paid uni Frissardo dictatori. The use of the word uni does not imply any meanness of position, but is simply an equivalent to the modern French sieur. Froissart may also have found a patron in Yolande de Bar, grandmother of King René of Anjou. In any case he received a substantial gift from some one in the shape of the benefice of Lestines, a village some three or four miles from the town of Binche. Also, in addition to his cure, he got placed upon the duke of Brabant’s pension list, and was entitled to a yearly grant of grain and wine, with some small sum in money.
It is clear, from Froissart’s own account of himself, that he was by no means a man who would at the age of four or five and thirty be contented to sit down at ease to discharge the duties of parish priest, to say mass, to bury the dead, to marry the villagers and to baptize the young. In those days, and in that country, it does not seem that other duties were expected. Preaching was not required, godliness of life, piety, good works, and the graces of a modern ecclesiastic were not looked for. Therefore, when Froissart complains to himself that the taverns of Lestines got 500 francs of his money, we need not at once set him down as either a bad priest or exceptionally given to drink. The people of the place were greatly addicted to wine; the taverniers de Lestines proverbially sold good wine; the Flemings were proverbially of a joyous disposition—
“Ceux de Hainaut chantent à pleines gorges.”
Froissart, the parish priest of courtly manners, no doubt drank with the rest, and listened if they sang his own, not the coarse country songs. Mostly he preferred the society of Gerard d’Obies, provost of Binche, and the little circle of knights within that town. Or—for it was not incumbent on him to be always in residence—he repaired to the court of Coudenberg, and became “moult frère et accointé” with the duke of Brabant. And then came Gui de Blois, one of King John’s hostages in London in the old days. He had been fighting in Prussia with the Teutonic knights, and now, a little tired of war, proposed to settle down for a time in his castle of Beaumont. This prince was a member of the great house of Chatillon. He was count of Blois, of Soissons and of Chimay. He had now, about the year 1374, an excellent reputation as a good captain. In him Froissart, who hastened to resume acquaintance, found a new patron. More than that, it was this sire de Beaumont, in emulation of his grandfather, the patron of Jean le Bel, who advised Froissart seriously to take in hand the history of his own time. Froissart was then in his thirty-sixth year. For twenty years he had been rhyming, for eighteen he had been making verses for queens and ladies. Yet during all this time he had been accumulating in his retentive brain the materials for his future work.
He began by editing, so to speak, that is, by rewriting with additions, the work of Jean le Bel; Gui de Blois, among others, supplied him with additional information. His own notes, taken from information obtained in his travels, gave him more details, and when in 1374 Gui married Marie de Namur, Froissart found in the bride’s father, Robert de Namur, one who had himself largely shared in the events which he had to relate. He, for instance, is the authority for the story of the siege of Calais and the six burgesses. Provided with these materials, Froissart remained at Lestines, or at Beaumont, arranging and writing his chronicles. During this period, too, he composed his Espinette amoureuse, and the Joli Buisson de jonesce, and his romance of Méliador. He also became chaplain to the count of Blois, and obtained a canonry of Chimay. After this appointment we hear nothing more of Lestines, which he probably resigned.In these quiet pursuits he passed twelve years, years of which we hear nothing, probably because there was nothing to tell. In 1386 his travels began again, when he accompanied Gui to his castle at Blois, in order to celebrate the marriage of his son Louis de Dunois with Marie de Berry. He wrote a pastourelle in honour of the event. Then he attached himself for a few days to the duke of Berry, from whom he learned certain particulars of current events, and then, becoming aware of what promised to be the most mighty feat of arms of his time, he hastened to Sluys in order to be on the spot. At this port the French were collecting an enormous fleet, and making preparations of the greatest magnitude in order to repeat the invasion of William the Conqueror. They were tired of being invaded by the English and wished to turn the tables. The talk was all of conquering the country and dividing it among the knights, as had been done by the Normans. It is not clear whether Froissart intended to go over with the invaders; but as his sympathies are ever with the side where he happens to be, he exhausts himself in admiration of this grand gathering of ships and men. “Any one,” he says, “who had a fever would have been cured of his malady merely by going to look at the fleet.” But the delays of the duke of Berry, and the arrival of bad weather, spoiled everything. There was no invasion of England. In Flanders Froissart met many knights who had fought at Rosebeque, and could tell him of the troubles which in a few years desolated that country, once so prosperous. He set himself to ascertain the history with as much accuracy as the comparison of various accounts by eye-witnesses and actors would allow. He stayed at Ghent, among those ruined merchants and mechanics, for whom, as one of the same class, he felt a sympathy never extended to English or French, perhaps quite as unfortunate, and he devotes no fewer than 300 chapters to the Flemish troubles, an amount out of all proportion to the comparative importance of the events. This portion of the chronicle was written at Valenciennes. During this residence in his birthplace his verses were crowned at the “puys d’amour” of Valenciennes and Tournay.
This part of his work finished, he considered what to do next. There was small chance of anything important happening in Picardy or Hainault, and he determined on making a journey to the south of France in order to learn something new. He was then fifty-one years of age, and being still, as he tells us, in his prime, “of an age, strength, and limbs able to bear fatigue,” he set out as eager to see new places as when, 33 years before, he rode through Scotland and marvelled at the bravery of the Douglas. What he had, in addition to strength, good memory and good spirits, was a manner singularly pleasing and great personal force of character. This he does not tell us, but it comes out abundantly in his writings; and, which he does tell us, he took a singular delight in his book. “The more I work at it,” he says, “the better am I pleased with it.”
On this occasion he rode first to Blois; on the way he fell in with two knights who told him of the disasters of the English army in Spain; one of them also informed him of the splendid hospitalities and generosity of Gaston Phoebus, count of Foix, on hearing of which Froissart resolved to seek him out. He avoided the English provinces of Poitou and Guienne, and rode southwards through Berry, Auvergne and Languedoc. Arrived at Foix he discovered that the count was at Orthez, whither he proceeded in company with a knight named Espaing de Lyon, who, Froissart found, had not only fought, but could describe.
The account of those few days’ ride with Espaing de Lyon is the most charming, the most graphic, and the most vivid chapter in the whole of Froissart. Every turn of the road brings with it the sight of a ruined castle, about which this knight of many memories has a tale or a reminiscence. The whole country teems with fighting stories. Froissart never tires of listening nor the good knight of telling. “Sainte Marie!” cries Froissart in mere rapture. “How pleasant are your tales, and how much do they profit me while you relate them! And you shall not lose your trouble, for they shall all be set down in memory and remembrance in the history which I am writing.” Arrived at length at Orthez, Froissart lost no time in presenting his credentials to the count of Foix. Gaston Phoebus was at this time fifty-nine years of age. His wife, from whom he was separated, was that princess, sister of Charles of Navarre, with whom Guillaume de Machault carried on his innocent and poetical amour. The story of the miserable death of his son is well known, and may be read in Froissart. But that was already a tale of the past, and the state which the count kept up was that of a monarch. To such a prince such a visitor as Froissart would be in every way welcome. Mindful no doubt of those paid clerks who were always writing verses, Froissart introduced himself as a chronicler. He could, of course, rhyme, and in proof he brought with him his romance of Méliador; but he did not present himself as a wandering poet. The count received him graciously, speedily discovered the good qualities of his guest, and often invited him to read his Méliador aloud in the evening, during which time, says Froissart, “nobody dared to say a word, because he wished me to be heard, such great delight did he take in listening.” Very soon Froissart, from reader of a romance, became raconteur of the things he had seen and heard; the next step was that the count himself began to talk of affairs, so that the notebook was again in requisition. There was a good deal, too, to be learned of people about the court. One knight recently returned from the East told about the Genoese occupation of Famagosta; two more had been in the fray of Otterbourne; others had been in the Spanish wars.
Leaving Gaston at length, Froissart assisted at the wedding of the old duke of Berry with the youthful Jeanne de Bourbon, and was present at the grand reception given to Isabeau of Bavaria by the Parisians. He then returned to Valenciennes, and sat down to write his fourth book. A journey undertaken at this time is characteristic of the thorough and conscientious spirit in which he composed his work; it illustrates also his restless and curious spirit. While engaged in the events of the year 1385 he became aware that his notes taken at Orthez and elsewhere on the affairs of Castile and Portugal were wanting in completeness. He left Valenciennes and hastened to Bruges, where, he felt certain, he should find some one who would help him. There was, in fact, at this great commercial centre, a colony of Portuguese. From them he learned that a certain Portuguese knight, Dom Juan Fernand Pacheco, was at the moment in Middelburg on the point of starting for Prussia. He instantly embarked at Sluys, reached Middelburg in time to catch this knight, introduced himself, and conversed with him uninterruptedly for the space of six days, getting his information on the promise of due acknowledgment. During the next two years we learn little of his movements. He seems, however, to have had trouble with his seigneur Gui de Blois, and even to have resigned his chaplaincy. Froissart is tender with Gui’s reputation, mindful of past favours and remembering how great a lord he is. Yet the truth is clear that in his declining years the once gallant Gui de Blois became a glutton and a drunkard, and allowed his affairs to fall into the greatest disorder. So much was he crippled with debt that he was obliged to sell his castle and county of Blois to the king of France. Froissart lays all the blame on evil counsellors. “He was my lord and master,” he says simply, “an honourable lord and of great reputation; but he trusted too easily in those who looked for neither his welfare nor his honour.” Although canon of Chimay and perhaps curé of Lestines as well, it would seem as if Froissart was not able to live without a patron. He next calls Robert de Namur his seigneur, and dedicates to him, in a general introduction, the whole of his chronicles. We then find him at Abbeville, trying to learn all about the negotiations pending between Charles VI. and the English. He was unsuccessful, either because he could not get at those who knew what was going on, or because the secret was too well kept. He next made his last visit to England, where, after forty years’ absence, he naturally found no one who remembered him. Here he gave King Richard a copy of his “traités amoureux,” and got favour at court. He stayed in England some months, seeking information on all points from his friends Henry Chrystead and Richard Stury, from the dukes of York and Gloucester, and from Robert the Hermit.
On his return to France, he found preparations going on for that unlucky crusade, the end of which he describes in his Chronicle. It was headed by the count of Nevers. After him floated many a banner of knights, descendants of the crusaders, who bore the proud titles of duke of Athens, duke of Thebes, sire de Sidon, sire de Jericho. They were going to invade the sultan’s empire by way of Hungary; they were going to march south; they would reconquer the holy places. And presently we read how it all came to nothing, and how the slaughtered knights lay dead outside the city of Nikopoli. In almost the concluding words of the Chronicle the murder of Richard II. of England is described. His death ends the long and crowded Chronicle, though the pen of the writer struggles through a few more unfinished sentences.
The rest is vague tradition. He is said to have died at Chimay; it is further said that he died in poverty so great that his relations could not even afford to carve his name upon the headstone of his tomb; not one of his friends, not even Eustache Deschamps, writes a line of regret in remembrance; the greatest historian of his age had a reputation so limited that his death was no more regarded than that of any common monk or obscure priest. We would willingly place the date of his death, where his Chronicle stops, in the year 1400; but tradition assigns the date of 1410. What date more fitting than the close of the century for one who has made that century illustrious for ever?
Among his friends were Guillaume de Machault, Eustache Deschamps, the most vigorous poet of this age of decadence, and Cuvelier, a follower of Bertrand du Guesclin. These alliances are certain. It is probable that he knew Chaucer, with whom Deschamps maintained a poetical correspondence; there is nothing to show that he ever made the acquaintance of Christine de Pisan. Froissart was more proud of his poetry than his prose. Posterity has reversed this opinion, and though a selection of his verse has been published, it would be difficult to find an admirer, or even a reader, of his poems. The selection published by Buchon in 1829 consists of the Dit dou florin, half of which is a description of the power of money; the Débat dou cheval et dou levrier, written during his journey in Scotland; the Dittie de la flour de la Margherite; a Dittie d’amour called L’Orlose amoureus, in which he compares himself, the imaginary lover, with a clock; the Espinette amoureuse, which contains a sketch of his early life, freely and pleasantly drawn, accompanied by rondeaux and virelays; the Buisson de jonesce, in which he returns to the recollections of his own youth; and various smaller pieces. The verses are monotonous; the thoughts are not without poetical grace, but they are expressed at tedious length. It would be, however, absurd to expect in Froissart the vigour and verve possessed by none of his predecessors. The time was gone when Marie de France, Rutebœuf and Thibaut de Champagne made the 13th-century language a medium for verse of which any literature might be proud. Briefly, Froissart’s poetry, unless the unpublished portion be better than that before us, is monotonous and mechanical. The chief merit it possesses is in simplicity of diction. This not infrequently produces a pleasing effect.
As for the character of his Chronicle, little need be said. There has never been any difference of opinion on the distinctive merits of this great work. It presents a vivid and faithful drawing of the things done in the 14th century. No more graphic account exists of any age. No historian has drawn so many and such faithful portraits. They are, it is true, portraits of men as they seemed to the writer, not of men as they were. Froissart was uncritical; he accepted princes by their appearance. Who, for instance, would recognize in his portrait of Gaston Phoebus de Foix the cruel voluptuary, stained with the blood of his own son, which we know him to have been? Froissart, again, had no sense of historical responsibility; he was no judge to inquire into motives and condemn actions; he was simply a chronicler. He has been accused by French authors of lacking patriotism. Yet it must be remembered that he was neither a Frenchman nor an Englishman, but a Fleming. He has been accused of insensibility to suffering. Indignation against oppression was not, however, common in the 14th century; why demand of Froissart a quality which is rare enough even in our own time? Yet there are moments when, as in describing the massacre of Limoges, he speaks with tears in his voice.
Let him be judged by his own aims. “Before I commence this book,” he says, “I pray the Saviour of all the world, who created every thing out of nothing, that He will also create and put in me sense and understanding of so much worth, that this book, which I have begun, I may continue and persevere in, so that all those who shall read, see, and hear it may find in it delight and pleasance.” To give delight and pleasure, then, was his sole design.
As regards his personal character, Froissart depicts it himself for us. Such as he was in youth, he tells us, so he remained in more advanced life; rejoicing mightily in dances and carols, in hearing minstrels and poems; inclined to love all those who love dogs and hawks; pricking up his ears at the uncorking of bottles,—“Car au voire prens grand plaisir”; pleased with good cheer, gorgeous apparel and joyous society, but no commonplace reveller or greedy voluptuary,—everything in Froissart was ruled by the good manners which he set before all else; and always eager to listen to tales of war and battle. As we have said above, he shows, not only by his success at courts, but also by the whole tone of his writings, that he possessed a singularly winning manner and strong personal character. He lived wholly in the present, and had no thought of the coming changes. Born when chivalrous ideas were most widely spread, but the spirit of chivalry itself, as inculcated by the best writers, in its decadence, he is penetrated with the sense of knightly honour, and ascribes to all his heroes alike those qualities which only the ideal knight possessed.
The first edition of Froissart’s Chronicles was published in Paris. It bears no date; the next editions are those of the years 1505, 1514, 1518 and 1520. The edition of Buchon, 1824, was a continuation of one commenced by Dacier. The best modern editions are those of Kervyn de Lettenhove (Brussels, 1863–1877) and Siméon Luce (Paris, 1869–1888); for bibliography see Potthast, Bibliotheca hist. medii aevi, i. (Berlin, 1896). An abridgment was made in Latin by Belleforest, and published in 1672. An English translation was made by Bouchier, Lord Berners, and published in London, 1525. See the “Tudor Translations” edition of Berners (Nutt, 1901), with introduction by W. P. Ker; and the “Globe” edition, with introduction by G. C. Macaulay. The translation by Thomas Johnes was originally published in 1802–1805. For Froissart’s poems see Scheler’s text in K. de Lettenhove’s complete edition; Méliador has been edited by Longnon for the Société des Anciens Textes (1895–1899). See also Madame Darmesteter (Duclaux), Froissart (1894). (W. Be.)