READERS of Old Mortality will perhaps remember that when Graham of Claverhouse escorts Henry Morton as a prisoner to Edinburgh, he asks that estimable and unfortunate young non-conformist if he has ever read Froissart. Morton, who was probably the last man in Scotland to derive any gratification from the Chronicles, answers that he has not. “ I have half a mind to contrive you should have six months’ imprisonment,” says the undaunted Claverhouse, “ in order to procure you that pleasure. His chapters inspire me with more enthusiasm than even poetry itself. And the noble canon, with what true chivalrous feeling he confines his beautiful expressions of sorrow to the death of the gallant and high-bred knight, of whom it was a pity to see the fall, such was his loyalty to his king, pure faith to his religion, hardihood towards his enemy, and fidelity to his lady-love ! Ah, benedicite ! how he will mourn over the fall of such a pearl of knighthood, be it on the side he happens to favor or on the other ! But truly, for sweeping from the face of the earth some few hundreds of villain churls, who are born but to plough it, the high-born and inquisitive historian has marvelous little sympathy.”
I should like, out of my affection for the Chronicles, to feel that Sir Walter overstated the case, when he put these cheerful words into the mouth of Dundee ; but it is vain to deny that Froissart, living in a darkened age, was as indifferent to the fate of the rank and file as if he had been a great nineteenth-century general. To be sure, the rank and file were then counted by the hundreds rather than by the thousands, and it took years of continuous warfare to kill as many soldiers as perished in one of our modern battles. Moreover, the illuminating truth that Jack is as good as his master — by help of which we all live now in such striking brotherhood and amity — had not then dawned upon a proud and prejudiced world. Fighting was the grand business of life, and that Jack did not fight as well as his master was a fact equally apparent to those who made history and to those who wrote it. If the English archers, the French men-at-arms, and the Breton lances could be trusted to stand the shock of battle, the “ lusty varlets,” who formed the bulk of every army, were sure to run away; and the “ commonalty ” were always ready to open their gates and deliver up their towns to every fresh new-comer. When Philip of Navarre was entreated to visit Paris, then in a state of tumult and rebellion, and was assured that the merchants and the mob held him in equal affection, he resolutely declined their importunities, concluding that to put his faith in princes was, on the whole, less dangerous than to confide it in the people. “ In commonalties,” observed this astute veteran, “ there is neither dependence nor union, save in the destruction of all things good.” “ What can a baseborn man know of honor ? ” asks Froissart coldly. “ His sole wish is to enrich himself. He is like the otter, which, entering a pond, devours all the fish therein.”
Now, if history, as Professor Seeley teaches us, should begin with a maxim and end with a moral, here are maxims and morals in abundance, albeit they may have lost their flavor for an altruistic age. For no one of the sister Muses has lent herself so unreservedly to the demands of an exacting generation as Clio, who, shorn of her splendor, sits spectacled before a dusty table strewn with Acts of Parliament and Acts of Congress, and forgets the glories of the past in the absorbing study of constitutions. She traces painfully the successive steps by which the sovereign power has passed from the king to the nobles, from the nobles to the nation, and from the nation to the mob, and asks herself interesting but fruitless questions as to what is coming next. She has been divorced from literature, — “ mere literature,” as Professor Seeley contemptuously phrases it, — and wedded to science, that grim but amorous lord whose harem is tolerably full already, but who lusts perpetually for another bride. If, like Briseis, she looks backward wistfully, she is at once reminded that it is no part of her present duty to furnish recreation to grateful and happy readers, but that her business lies in drawing conclusions from facts already established, and providing a saddened world with wise speculations on political science, based upon historic certainties. Her safest lessons, Professor Seeley tells her warningly, are conveyed in “ Blue Books and other statistics,” with which, indeed, no living man can hope to recreate himself ; and her essential outgrowths are “ political philosophy, the comparative study of legal institutions, political economy, and international law,” a witches’ brew with which few living men would care to meddle. It is even part of his severe discipline to strip her of the fair words and glittering sentences with which her suitors have sought for centuries to enhance her charms, and “ for the beauty of drapery to substitute the beauty of the nude figure.” Poor shivering Muse, with whom Shakespeare once dallied, and of whom great Homer sang ! Never again shall she be permitted to inspire the genius that enthralls the world. Never again shall “ mere literature ” carry her name and fame into the remotest corners of the globe. She who once told us in sonorous sentences “ how great projects were executed, great advantages gained, and great calamities averted,” is now sent into studious retirement, denied the adornments of style, forbidden the companionship of heroes, and requested to occupy herself industriously with Blue Books and the growth of constitutions. I know nothing more significant than Professor Seeley’s warning to modern historians not to resemble Tacitus, — of which there seems but little danger, — unless, indeed, it be the complacency with which a patriotic and very popular American critic congratulates himself and us on the felicity of having plenty of young poets of our own, who do not in the least resemble Wordsworth, or Shelley, or Keats.
Yet when we take from history all that gives it color, vivacity, and charm, we lose, perchance, more than our mere enjoyment, —though that be a heavy forfeiture, — more than the pleasant hours spent in the storied past. Even so stern a master as Mr. Lecky is fain to admit that these obsolete narratives, which once called themselves histories, “gave in-, sight into human character, breathed noble sentiments, rewarded and stimulated noble actions, and kindled high patriotic feeling by their strong appeals to the imagination. ” This was no unfruitful labor, and until we remember that man does not live by parliamentary rule nor by accuracy of information, but by the power of his own emotions and the strength of his own self-control, we can be readily mistaken as to the true value of his lessons. “ A nation with whom sentiment is nothing,” observes Mr. Froude, “ is on its way to become no nation at all;” and it has been well said that Nelson’s signal to his fleet at Trafalgar, that last pregnant and simple message sent in the face of death, has had as much practical effect upon the hearts and the actions of Englishmen in every quarter of the globe, in every circumstance of danger and adventure, as seven eighths of the Acts of Parliament that decorate the statute-book. Yet Dr. Bright, in a volume of more than fourteen hundred pages, can find no room for an incident which has become a living force in history. He takes pains to omit, in his lukewarm account of the battle, the one thing that was best worth the telling.
It has become a matter of such pride with a certain school of modern historians to be gray and neutral, accurate in petty details, indifferent to great men, cautious in praise or blame, and as lifeless as mathematicians, that a gleam of color or a flash of fire is apt to be regarded with suspicion. Yet color is not necessarily misleading : and that keen, warm grasp of a subject which gives us atmosphere as well as facts, interest as well as information, comes nearer to the veiled truth than a catalogue of correct dates and chillingly narrated incidents. It is easy for Mr. Gardiner to denounce Clarendon’s “well-known carelessness about details whenever he has a good story to tell; ” but what has the later historian ever said to us that will dwell in our hearts, and keep alive our infatuations and our antipathies, as do some of these condemned tales ? Nay, even Mr. Gardiner’s superhuman coldness in narrating such an event as the tragic death of Montrose has not saved him from at least one inaccuracy. “ Montrose, in his scarlet cassock, was hanged at the Grassmarket,” he says, with frigid terseness. But Montrose, as it chances, was hanged at the city cross in the High Street, midway between the Tolbooth and the Tron Church. Even the careless and highly colored Clarendon knew this, though Sir Walter Scott, it must be admitted, did not; but, after all, the exact point in Edinburgh where Montrose was hanged is of no vital importance to anybody. What is important is that we should feel the conflicting passions of that stormy time, that we should regard them with equal sanity and sympathy, and that the death of Montrose should have for us more significance than it appears to have for Mr. Gardiner. Better Froissart’s courtly lamentations over the death of every gallant knight than this studied indifference to the sombre stories which history has inscribed for us on her scroll.
For the old French chronicler would have agreed cordially with Landor: “ We might as well, in a drama, place the actors behind the scenes, and listen to the dialogue there, as, in a history, push back valiant men.” Froissart is enamored of valor wherever he finds it; and he shares Carlyle’s reverence not only for events, but for the controlling forces which have moulded them. “ The history of mankind,” says Carlyle, about whose opinions there is seldom any room for doubt, “ is the history of its great men ; ” and Froissart, whose knowledge is of that narrow and intimate kind which comes from personal association, finds everything worth narrating that can serve to illustrate the brilliant pageant of life. Nor are his methods altogether unlike Carlyle’s. He is a sturdy heroworshiper, who yet never spares his heroes, believing that when all is set down truthfully and without excuses, those strong and vivid qualities which make a man a leader among men will of themselves claim our homage and admiration. What Cromwell is to Carlyle, what William of Orange is to Macaulay, what Henry VIII. is to Froude, Gaston Phœbus, Count de Foix, is to Froissart. But not for one moment does he assume the tactics of either Macaulay or Froude, coloring with careful art that which is dubious, and softening or concealing that which is irredeemably bad. Just as Carlyle paints for us Cromwell, — warts and all, — telling us in plain words his least amiable and estimable traits, and intimating that he loves him none the less for these most human qualities, so Froissart tells us unreservedly all that has come to his knowledge concerning the Count de Foix. Thus it appears that this paragon of knighthood virtually banished his wife, kept his cousin, the Viscount de Châteaubon, a close captive until he paid forty thousand francs ransom, imprisoned his only son on a baseless suspicion of treason, and actually slew the poor boy by his violence, though without intention, and to his own infinite sorrow and remorse. Worse than all this, he beguiled with friendly messages his cousin, Sir Peter Arnaut de Béarn, the commander and governor of Lourdes, to come to his castle of Orthès, and then, under his own roof-tree, stabbed his guest five times, and left him to die miserably of his wounds in a dungeon, because Sir Peter refused to betray the trust confided to him, and deliver up to France the strong fortress of Lourdes, which he held valiantly for the king of England.
Now, Froissart speaks his mind very plainly concerning this cruel deed, softening no detail, and offering no word of extenuation or acquittal; but none the less the Count de Foix is to him the embodiment of knightly courtesy and valor, and he describes with ardor every personal characteristic, every trait, and every charm that wins both love and reverence. “ Although I have seen many kings and princes, knights and others,” he writes, “I have never beheld any so handsome, whether in limbs and shape or in countenance, which was fair and ruddy, with gray, amorous eyes that gave delight whenever he chose to express affection. He was so perfectly formed that no one could praise him too much. He loved earnestly the things he ought to love, and hated those which it was becoming him to hate. He was a prudent knight, full of enterprise and wisdom. He had never any men of abandoned character about him, reigned wisely, and was constant in his devotions. To speak briefly and to the point, the Count de Foix was perfect in person and in mind ; and no contemporary prince could be compared with him for sense, honor, or liberality.”
In good truth, this despotic nobleman illustrated admirably the familiar text, “ When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things which he possesseth are in peace.” If he ruled his vassals severely and taxed them heavily, he protected them from all outside interference or injury. None might despoil their homes, nor pass the boundaries of Béarn and Foix without paying honestly for all that was required. At a time when invading armies and the far more terrible “ free companies ” pillaged the country, until the fair fields of France lay like a barren land, the Count de Foix suffered neither English nor French, Gascon nor Breton, to set foot within his territories until assurance had been given that his people should suffer no harm. He lived splendidly, and gave away large sums of money wherever he had reason to believe that his interests or his prestige would be strengthened by such generosity; but no parasite, male or female, shared in his magnificent bounty. Clear-headed, cold-hearted, vigilant, astute, liberal, and inexorable, he guarded his own, and sovereigns did him honor. His was no humane nor tranquil record, yet, judging him by the standards of his own time and place, by the great good as well as by the lesser evil that he wrought, we are fain to echo Froissart’s rapturous words, “ It is a pity such a one should ever grow old and die.”
The earlier part of the Chronicles is compiled from the Vrayes Chroniques of Jean le Bel, Canon of St. Lambert’s at Liège. Froissart tells us so plainly, and admits that he made free use of the older narrative as far as it could serve him ; afterwards relying for information on the personal recollections of knights, squires, and men-at-arms who had witnessed or had taken part in the invasions, wars, battles, skirmishes, treaties, tournaments, and feasts which made up the stirring tale of fourteenth-century life. To gain this knowledge, he traveled far and wide, attaching himself to one court and one patron after another, and indefatigably seeking those soldiers of distinction who had served in many lands, and could tell him the valorous deeds he so ardently loved to hear. In long, leisurely journeys, in lonely castles and populous cities, in summer days and winter nights, he gathered and fitted together — loosely enough — the motley fabric of his tale. This open-air method of collecting material can hardly be expected to commend itself to modern historians ; and it is surely not necessary for Mr. Green or any other careful scholar to tell us seriously that Froissart is inaccurate. Of course he is inaccurate. How could history passed, ballad fashion, from man to man be anything but inaccurate ? And how could it fail to possess that atmosphere and color which students are bidden to avoid, — lest, perchance they resemble Tacitus, — but which lovers of “ mere literature ” hail rapturously, and which give to the printed page the breath of the living past? Froissart makes a sad jumble of his names, which indeed, in that easy-going age, were spelt according to the taste and discretion of the writer ; he embellishes his narrative with charming descriptions of incidents which perhaps never went through the formality of occurring ; and he is good enough to forbear annoying us with dates. “About this time King Philip of France quitted Paris in company with the king of Bohemia;” or, “The feast of St.John the Baptist now approaching, the lords of England and Germany made preparations for their intended expedition.” This is as near as we ever get to the precise period in which anything happened or did not happen, as the case may be; but to the unexacting reader names and dates are not matters of lively interest, and even the accuracy of a picturesque incident is of no paramount importance. If it were generally believed to have taken place, it illustrates the customs and sentiments of the age as well as if it were authentic; and the one great advantage of the old over the new historian is that he feels the passions and prejudices of his own time, and reflects them without either condemnation or apology. The nineteenth - century mind working on fourteenth-century material is chilly in its analysis and Draconian in its judgment. It can and does enlighten us on many significant points, but it is powerless to breathe into its pages that warm and vivid life which lies so far beyond our utmost powers of sympathy or comprehension.
Now, there are many excellent and very intelligent people to whom the fourteenth century or any other departed century is without intrinsic interest, Mr. John Morley has emphatically recorded his sentiments on the Subject. “ I do not in the least want to know what happened in the past,” he says, “except as it enables me to see my way more clearly through what is happening now.” Here is the utilitarian view concisely and comprehensively stated ; and it would be difficult to say how Froissart, any more than Tacitus or Xenophon, can help us efficaciously to understand the Monroe doctrine or the troubles in the Transvaal. Perhaps these authors yield their finest pleasures to another and less meritorious class of readers, who are well content to forget the vexations and humiliations of the present in the serener study of the mighty past. The best thing about our neighbor’s trouble, says the old adage, is that it does not keep us awake at night; and the best thing about the endless troubles of other generations is that they do not in any way impair our peace of mind. It may be that they did not greatly vex the sturdier race who, five hundred years ago, gave themselves scant leisure for reflection. Certain it is that events which should have been considered calamitous are narrated by Froissart in such a cheerful fashion that it is difficult for us to preserve our mental balance, and not share in his unreasonable elation. “ Now is the time come when we must speak of lances, swords, and coats of mail,” he writes with joyous zest. And again, he blithely describes the battle of Auray : “ The French marched in such close order that one could not have thrown a tennis-ball among them but it must have stuck upon the point of a stiffly carried lance. The English took great pleasure in looking at them.” Of course the English did, and they took great pleasure in fighting with them half an hour later, and great pleasure in routing them before the day was past; for in this bloody contest fell Charles of Blois, the bravest soldier of his time, and the fate of Brittany was sealed. Invitations to battle were then politely given and cordially accepted, like invitations to a ball. The Earl of Salisbury, before Brest, sends word to Sir Bertrand du Guesclin: “We beg and entreat of you to advance, when you shall be fought with, without fail.” And the French, in return, “could never form a wish for feats of arms but there were some English ready to gratify it.”
This cheerful, accommodating spirit, this alacrity in playing the dangerous game of war, is difficult for us peaceloving creatures to understand ; but we should remember the “ desperate and gleeful fighting” of Nelson’s day, and how that great sailor wasted his sympathy on the crew of the warship Culloden, which went ashore at the battle of the Nile, “while their more fortunate companions were in the full tide of happiness.” Du Guesclin or Sir John Chandos might have written that sentence, had they been much in the habit of writing anything,1 and Froissart would have subscribed cordially to the sentiment. “ Many persons will not readily believe what I am about to tell,” he says with becoming gravity, “ though it is strictly true. The English are fonder of war than of peace.” “ He had the courage of an Englishman ” is the praise continually bestowed on some enterprising French knight; and when the English and Scotch met each other in battle, the French historian declares, “ there was no check to their valor as long as their weapons endured.” Nothing can be more vivacious than Froissart’s description of the manner in which England awaited the threatened invasion of the French under their young king, Charles VI. : “The prelates, abbots, and rich citizens were panic-struck, but the artisans and poorer sort held it very cheap. Such knights and squires as were not rich, but eager for renown, were delighted, and said to each other: ‘ Lord ! what fine times are coming, since the king of France intends to visit us ! He is a valiant sovereign, and of great enterprise. There has not been such a one in France these three hundred years. He will make his people good men-atarms, and blessed may he be for thinking to invade us, for certainly we shall all be slain or grow rich. One thing or the other must happen to us.’ ”
Alas for their disappointment, when adverse winds and endless altercations kept the invaders safe at home ! There was a great deal of solid enjoyment lost on both sides, though wealthy citizens counted their gains in peace. War was not only a recognized business, but a recognized pleasure as well, and noble knights relieved their heavy lighting with the gentler diversions of the tournament and the chase. When Edward III. entered France for the last time, he carried with him thirty falconers laden with hawks, sixty couples of strong hounds, and as many greyhounds, “ so that every day he had good sport, either by land or water. Many lords had their hawks and hounds as well as the king,” A merry life while the sun shone ; and if it set early for most of these stout warriors, their survivors had but little leisure to lament them. It is not easy to read Froissart’s account of certain battles, serious enough in their results, without being strangely impressed by the boyish enthusiasm with which the combatants went to work ; so that even now, five centuries later, our blood tingles with their pleasurable excitement. When France undertook to support the Earl of Flanders against Philip van Arteveld and the rebellious citizens of Ghent, the Flemish army entrenched themselves in a strong position on the river Lys, destroying all bridges save one, which was closely guarded. The French, in the dead of night, crossed the river in rickety little boats, a handful of men at a time, and only a mile or so distant from the spot where nine thousand of the enemy lay encamped. Apparently they regarded this hazardous feat as the gayest kind of a lark, crowding like schoolboys around the boats, and begging to be taken on board. “ It was a pleasure to see with what eagerness they embarked,” says the historian ; and indeed, so great was the emulation that only men of noble birth and tried valor were permitted to cross. Not a single varlet accompanied them. After infinite labor and danger some twelve hundred knights — the flower of French chivalry — were transported to the other side of the river, where they spent the rest of a cold and stormy November night standing kneedeep in the marshes, clad in complete armor, and without food or fire. At this point the fun ceases to sound so exhilarating ; but we are assured that “the great attention they paid to be in readiness kept up their spirits, and made them almost forget their situation.” When morning came, these knights, by way of rest and breakfast, crossed the intervening country, fell upon the Flemish ranks, and routed them with great slaughter; for what could a mass of untrained artisans do against a small body of valiant and accomplished soldiers ? A few days later the decisive battle of Rosebecque ended the war. Van Arteveld was slain, and the cause of democracy, of “ the ill intentioned,” as Froissart for the most part designates the toiling population of towns, received its fatal blow.
Yet this courtly chronicler of battles and deeds of chivalry is not without a sense of justice and a noble compassion for the poor. He disapproves of “ commonalties ” when they assert their claims too boisterously ; he fails to detect any signs of sapience in a mob ; and he speaks of “ weavers, fullers, and other ill-intentioned people ” as though craftsmen were necessarily rebellious,—which perhaps was true, and not altogether a matter for surprise. But the grievous taxes laid upon the French peasantry fill him with indignation; the distress of Ghent, though brought about, as he believes, by her own pride and presumption, touches him so deeply that he grows eloquent in her behalf; and he records with distinct approbation the occasional efforts made by both the French and the English kings to explain to their patient subjects what it was they were fighting about. Eloquent bishops, he tells us, were sent to preach “ long and fine sermons,” setting forth the justice of the respective claims. “ In truth, it was but right that these sovereigns, since they were determined on war, should explain and make clear to their people the cause of the quarrel, that they might understand it, and have the better will to assist their lords and monarchs.” Above all, he gives us a really charming and cheerful picture of the French and English fishermen, who went quietly about their daily toil, and bore each other no ill will, although their countries were so hard at war. “ They were never interrupted in their pursuits,” he says, “nor did they attack each other ; but, on the contrary, gave mutual assistance, and bought or sold, according as they had more fish or less than they required. For if they were to meddle in the national strife, there would be an end of fishing, and none would attempt it unless supported by men-at-arms.” So perhaps there is one lesson of common sense and forbearance we may learn, even now, from those barbarous days of old.
As for the personal touches which give such curious vitality to Froissart’s pages, they belong naturally to an unscientific age, when history, — or what passed as such, — biography, court gossip, and legendary lore were all mingled together, with no vexatious sifting of material. The chronicler tells us in ample detail every separate clause of an important treaty, and then breaks off to recount, at great length and with commendable gravity, the story of the Lord de Corasse and his familiar demon, Orthon, who served him out of pure love, and visited him at night, to the vexation and lasting terror of his lady wife. We hear in one chapter how the burghers of Ghent spoiled all the pleasure of the Lord d’Estournaz’s Christmas by collecting and carrying away his rents, “ which made him very melancholy,” as well it might; and in the next we are told in splendid phrases of the death of Duke Wenceslaus, of Bohemia, “ who was, in his time, magnificent, blithe, prudent, amorous, and polite. God have mercy on his soul ! ” It is hard to see how anything could be better described, in fewer words, than the disastrous expedition of William of Hainault against the Frieslanders : “ About the feast of St. Rémy, William, Earl of Hainault, collected a large body of men-at-arms, knights, and squires, from Hainault, Flanders, Brabant, Holland, Gueldres, and Juliers, and, embarking them on board a considerable fleet at Dordrecht, made sail for Friesland ; for the earl considered himself as lord thereof. If the Frieslanders had been people to listen to the legality and reasonableness of the claim, the earl was entitled to it. But as they were obstinate, he exerted himself to obtain it by force, and was slain, as well as a great many other knights and squires. God forgive them their sins ! ”
Surely that line about the unreasonable Frieslanders is worthy of Carlyle, — of Carlyle, whose grim and pregnant humor lurks beneath sentences that, to the unwary, seem as innocent as the sheathed dagger before the blade is sprung. He it was who hated with a just and lively abhorrence all constitutional histories and all philosophy of history, as likewise “ empty invoice lists of Pitched Battles and Changes of Ministry,” — as dead, he declared, as last year’s almanacs, “ to which species of composition they bear, in several points of view, no inconsiderable affinity.” He it was, moreover, who welded together history and literature, and gave us their perfect and harmonious union in the story of the Diamond Necklace. The past was enough for Carlyle, when he worked amid her faded parchments, and made them glow with renewed color and fire. That splendid pageant of events, that resistless torrent of life, that long roll - call of honored names, which we term comprehensively history, had for him a significance which needed neither moral nor maxim to confirm it. If we can believe with him that it is better to revere great men than to belittle them, better to worship blindly than to censure priggishly, better to enlarge our mental vision until it embraces the standards of other centuries than to narrow it in accordance with the latest humanitarian doctrine, then we may stray safely through the storied past, until even Froissart, writing in a feudal chimney-corner strange tales of chivalry and carnage, will have for us a message of little practical service, but of infinite comfort in hours of idleness and relaxation. It is an engaging task to leave the present, so weighted with cumbersome enigmas and ineffectual activity, and to go back, step by step, to other days, when men saw life in simpler aspects, and moved forward unswervingly to the attainment of definite and obvious desires.
One voice has been recently raised with modest persistence in behalf of oldfashioned history,—history which may possibly be inaccurate here and there, but which will give to the present generation some vivid insight into the lives of other generations which were not without importance in their day. Now that we are striving to educate every class of people, whether they respond to our advances or not, it is at least worth while to make their instruction as pleasant and as profitable as we can. Mr. Augustus Jessopp, whose knowledge of the agricultural classes is of that practical and intimate kind which comes of living with them for many years in sympathy and friendship, has a right to be heard when he speaks in their behalf. If they must be taught in scraps and at the discretion of committees, he believes that the Extension lecturers who go about dispensing small doses of Ruskin and water, or weak dilutions of Mr. Addington Symonds, or teaspoonfuls of disconnected Egyptology, would be better employed in telling the people something of their own land and of their rude forefathers. And this history, he insists, should be local, full of detail, popular in character, and without base admixture of political science, so that the rustic mind may accustom itself to the thought of England, in all Christian ages, as a nation of real people ; just as Tom Tulliver woke gradually, under the stimulating friction of Maggie’s questions, to the astonishing conviction that the Romans were once live men and women, who learned their mother tongue through some easier medium than the Latin grammar. Again and again Mr. Jessopp has tried the experiment of lecturing on local antiquities and the dim traditions of ancient country parishes; and he has always found that these topics, which carried with them some homely and familiar flavor of the soil, awoke a deep and abiding interest in minds to which abstract ethics and technical knowledge appealed alike in vain. School boards may raise the cry for useful information, and fancy that a partial acquaintance with chlorides and phosphates is all that is necessary to make of a sulky yokel an intelligent agriculturist and a contented citizen ; but a man must awaken before he can think, and think before he can work, and work before he can realize his position and meaning in the universe. And it needs a livelier voice than that of elementary chemistry to arouse him. “ The Whigs,” said Sir Walter Scott, “ will live and die in the belief that the world is ruled by pamphlets and speeches ; ” and a great many excellent people in every country will live and die in the belief that the world is ruled by printed books, full of proven and demonstrable truths. But we, the world’s poor children, sick, tired, and fractious, know very well that we never learn unless we like our lesson, and never behave ourselves unless inspired by precept and example. The history of every nation is the heritage of its sons and daughters ; and the story of its struggles, sufferings, misdeeds, and glorious atonements is the story that keeps alive in all our hearts that sentiment of patriotism, without which we are speeding swiftly on our path to national corruption and decay.
- Du Guesclin never knew how to write.↩