Amazing articles on just about every subject...



Libraries And Book Clubs

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

Report of M. Francisque Michel on his Researches in the English Libraries.

SINCE his return to his native country, M. Francisque Michel has made the following report to M. Guizot, the Minister of Public Instruction, who sent him to England ; and it has appeared in all the leading French journals. We have thought it sufficiently interesting to our readers to merit a translation :

MONSIEUR LE MINISTRE,

In August, 1833, you did me the honour to send me to England, for the purpose, 1st, of making a complete transcript of the Chronicle of Benoît de Sainte-More, and of Geoffrey Gaimar's " History of the Anglo-Saxon Kings"; 2nd, of searching the manuscripts of the British Museum, of the libraries of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and the different literary depôts into which I could penetrate, in order to take note or immediate copy of everything which I might think important for the history and ancient literature of France. After a residence of two years in a foreign land, I return to my country, and my first care shall be to give you a detailed account of the manner in which I have performed the mission you entrusted to me.

On my first visit to the British Museum, I immediately asked for the Harleian Manuscript 1717, which contains " l'Estoire et la Genealogie des Ducs qui ont esté par ordre en Normandie," by Benôit de Sainte-More, an Anglo-Norman trouvère of the twelfth century. It was immediately placed in my hands, as well as the Royal Manuscript, 16 E. VIII., which contains an ancient poem on the supposed expedition of Charlemagne to Jerusalem and Constantinople, a work of 87o lines in assonante rimes, which M. de la Rue considers to be the most ancient French poem known, but which M. Raynouard, as well as some other scholars, persist in attributing to the twelfth century. I made a careful copy, which I immediately sent to you ; and yourself; Monsieur le Ministre, placed it in the hands of M. Raynouard, who made it the subject of a succinct report to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. Afterwards I requested of you the authorization to publish this poem, and you had the goodness to grant me that authorization, indicating at the same time the points which I should endeavour to clear up in my introduction.

This volume, which is still in the press at London, to be published by William Pickering, will contain, 1st, a dissertation on the tradition which forms the foundation of the poem; and, an examination of the opinion of M. l'Abbé de la Rue on the antiquity which he gives it; 3rd, a detailed description of the manuscript 16 E. VIII.; 4th, a description of the Royal MS. 15 E. VI., which contains a poem on the adventures of certain paladins of the court of Charlemagne, whom that prince had sent to the East; 5th, an analysis of this poem; 6th, an indication of the other romances, or passages of romances, relative to the pretended pilgrimage of the great emperor to Jerusalem and to Constantinople; 7th, the text of the poem contained in the manuscript 16 E. VIII. ; 8th, a very extensive glossverdana index, and conceived on a new plan—at all events new in France—in which I have endeavoured, above all, to seek in the Gothic, the Anglo-Saxon, and the other northern tongues, the roots of certain words employed by the old rimer, words of which the greater part are now preserved in the French language, and of which the Greek and Latin furnish no probable etymology. Moreover, when a word which occurs in this poem can be found in a form that can be recognised in any of the ancient or modern languages of Europe, I have considered it a duty to place it in my index under all its different physiognomies. [See Note 12.]

At the same time, Monsieur le Ministre, I occupied myself actively in the transcription of the chronicle of Benoît de Sainte-More, which was only known to us by what had been said by M. de la Rue in the " Archaeologia " [see Note 13], and by the fragments which had been published by MM. de la Fresnaye and Depping. I soon found that, with some slight differences, Benoît followed closely Dudon de Saint-Quentin and William de Jumiéges up to the epoch when the last of these chroniclers concludes—that is, to the commencement of the reign of Stephen. After this period he is his own authority, and gives valuable details on the events which occurred during the reign of Stephen and that of Henry II., under whom he flourished. Here he ends his work, which contains about 48,000 lines, to which we must award a certain degree of literary merit. I cannot, therefore, M. le Ministre, but thank you in the name of all scholars for your resolution to put immediately to the press the whole of this chronicle, of which I have already published, with your authorization, all which relates to the battle of Hastings and the conquest of England.

During this period, from time to time, I addressed to you, Monsieur le Ministre, detailed reports on the manuscripts of the British Museum which I thought worthy of your attention. In this manner I transmitted to you, 1st, a description of the Royal MS. 16 F. II., which contains the works of Charles, Duke of Orleans, as well as a table of its contents; and, a notice of the Additional Manuscript 7103, which contains an inedited French chronicle of the thirteenth century, which is found again at Paris in the manuscript Sorbonne 454, and is founded on the Royal MS., British Museum, 15 E. VI.

I also called your attention, Monsieur le Ministre, to the Cottonian Manuscript, Nero, c. iv., which without doubt was executed in England in the twelfth century, and which contains a Latin psalter, with a French version of the same epoch, if not more ancient. I have in like manner informed you of my fruitless researches, as well after the "Descriptio utriusque Britanniæ" of Conrad, Conradinus, or Conradianus of Salisbury, as the relation of the pilgrimage of Richard I. of England, which, if we believe the learned compilers of the " Gallia Christiana," was composed by Gautier de Coutances ; and also after any ancient manuscript of the French laws of William the Bastard.

I took advantage of the days when the Museum was closed to pursue my researches on Tristan, whose romantic history, as you know well, was spread over the whole of Europe, of which it was the favourite theme from the twelfth to the fifteenth century. I was more particularly anxious to discover the poem of Chrestien de Troyes, and it is with grief that I am obliged to believe it irrecoverably lost. My researches in this instance have not been crowned with success. Still, I have succeeded in collecting three complete poems, two fragments of two others, a long piece relating to Tristan extracted from a large work, two Spanish ballads, a Greek fragment of 306 versus politici, and an Icelandic ballad ; and I have accompanied them by an introduction, notes, and a glossary of the more difficult words. This collection, of which you have condescended to accept the dedication, is now in the press in London, in two volumes 8vo, and will be speedily published.

I was also anxious to know what romances of the Anglo and Dano-Saxon cycles had escaped the scythe of Time. Besides " The Lay of Havelok," which I have republished at Paris, and the " Romance of King Ada," which exists in French in the library of the late Richard Heber, and of which there is a Latin version in the collection of manuscripts which was left by Archbishop Parker to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, I knew that there was a "Romance of Horn and Rimel," in two manuscripts of the thirteenth century, the one among the Harleian MSS. (No. 527, vellum, double columns, small folio), the other belonging to my late learned friend, Mr. Francis Douce. I obtained the loan of this manuscript, and made a complete copy of it; to which I added the variantes of the Harleian Manuscript, which is defective at the beginning and end, but which nevertheless contains in the middle of the poem a part which is wanting in the manuscript of Mr. Douce. Afterwards I found at Cambridge a third manuscript of this work, equally defective in beginning and end ; but, besides excellent readings, it furnished me the means of diminishing, if not of filling up, the lacunae of the manuscript of Mr. Douce. This work, to which I have added the Scotch ballads on the same hero, taken from the collections of Cromek and Motherwell, is ready for the press, with the English versions from the manuscripts in the Harleian Library, in the Bodleian, in the University Library at Cambridge, and in that of the Advocates at Edinburgh.' [See Note 16.]

I had just published the " Roman de la Violette," my work on Hugh of Lincoln, and the " Roman d'Eustache le Moine," which I had enriched with a great number of historical documents* and charters taken from the British Museum, the Tower of London, and the archives of the Chapter House at Westminster, when I received from you, Monsieur le Ministre, the order to examine the manuscripts of the "Travels in the East of the Monk William de Rubruquis," whom our King Louis IX. sent, in 1253, as ambassador to the Khan of the Tartars. I transcribed the Royal MS. 14 C. XIII., which only contained the half of it. After this I went to Cambridge, where, aided by a young and learned Englishman, member of that University, I transcribed the manuscript of Corpus Christi College,

No. lxvi., which contains a complete copy of this relation. To this I added, with the assistance of the same coadjutor, the various readings of the manuscripts of the sanie collection, Nos. ccccvii. and clxxxi., of which the one is incomplete, like the manuscript of London, and that of Lord Lumley, which was published by Hakluyt. Our work was afterwards, with your authorization, Monsieur le Ministre, offered, through the learned M. de Larenaudiére, to the Society of Geography of Paris, who immediately ordered it to be printed in one of the volumes of its Mémoires. Moreover, the society placed at our disposal the manuscript of Vossius, preserved at Leyden, of which we shall give the variantes.* We shall place at the end of our edition of the relation of W. de Rubruquis that of the monk Sawulf, and the whole of the " Voyage to the Holy Land" of Bernard the Wise, which Mabillon has already published from a manuscript at Reims, that contained but the half, and afterwards it will be followed by the relation of John du Plan Carpin. [See Note i7.]

I had an opportunity of examining, in the library of Trinity College, a superb manuscript of the twelfth century, which contains a triple version—Latin, Anglo-Saxon, and French—of the Psalter. I found that the latter was the same as that which is contained in the celebrated manuscript known as the " Manuscript of Carbie." I found also in the same library a manuscript of the " Romance of Roncevaux,"§ but I thought it too modern to merit transcribing. I also confined myself to taking a note of the manuscript O. 2, 14, of the same college, which contained a French metrical translation of the sermons of Maurice de Sully, Bishop of Paris—a translation unknown to the learned compilers of the " Histoire Littéraire de la France "; and I also took notes of the French songs of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk ; of the " Riote du Monde"; of the " Roman de toute Chevalerie," by Thomas of Kent ; of the French and English Grammar of Walter de Biblesworth; and of a collection of Contes Dévots in French verse of the thirteenth century.

In my researches in the public library of the university, I met with the fragment of the " Romance of Horn,"* of which I have already, Monsieur le Ministre, had the honour to speak; `Le Romanz du reis Yder," which belongs to the cycle of the round table; and "La Estoire de Seint Aedward le rei," translated from the Latin into French rhymes of the twelfth or thirteenth century. I extracted from it the part relating to the battle of Hastings and the conquest of England, which I have printed in a collection which I shall have the honour to describe to you presently.

On my return to London I made a careful search after a manuscript of a history of Lisieux, composed by a monk named Picard, a volume which M. l'Abbé de la Rue asserts that he saw in the British Museum, but I could not succeed in finding it. At the same time I learnt with grief that the manuscript which contained the chronicle of Frodoard was burnt, with so many others, in the fire which, on the 3rd of November, 1731, injured the Cottonian Library while it was deposited at Westminster. As all the copies of this chronicle which we possess in France begin with the year 919, although originally it contained forty-two years more, as Frodoard began his recital with the year 877, it would have been a matter of great interest to know at what year this manuscript began.

During the time while I continued the transcription of the chronicle of Benoît de Sainte-More, I took a copy of the "Treytiz que moun sire Gauter de Bibelesworthe fist à ma dame Dyonisie de Mounchensy pur aprise de Langwage," § and of the Harleian manuscript 4334 (vel. of the end of the twelfth century), which contains a long fragment of the "Romanace" of Gérard de Roussillon, in the langue d'oïl, and of a part of the Burneau manuscript 553, which contains " Patriarchae Hierosolymitani Epistola ad Innocentium Papam III. de statu Terrae Sanctae." I examined also the Cottonian manuscript, Claudius, B. ix. (2 col. vel. of fifteenth century), which contains "prima pars chronicorum Helinandi monachi ordinis Cisterciensis," which is not contained in the manuscripts of these chronicles pre-served in France ; and I collated, with Mr. William Henry Black, the manuscripts of the life of Merlin, composed in Latin verse in the twelfth century by the famous Geoffrey of Monmouth. I collected, also, materials for the historical collection on William the Conqueror and his sons, which I shall now have the honour of describing to you.

This collection, which you have allowed me to publish at Rouen under your auspices, will form two volumes 8vo., of which the first, which is ready for publication, will contain, 1st, half the Anglo-Norman metrical chronicle of Geoffrey Gaimar,* a poet of the twelfth century ; and, a part of the life of St. Edward already mentioned ; 3rd, the continuation of Wace's Brut, by an anonymous poet of the thirteenth century; 4th, a part of the chronicle of Peter de Langtoft, Canon of Bridlington, in Yorkshire, and a rhymer of the fourteenth century; 5th, a considerable portion of the chronicle of Benoît de Sainte-More; 6th, the dit de Guillaume d'Angleterre, by Chrestien de Troyes. The second volume will contain, 1st, the Latin life of Hereward, edited from a manuscript at Cambridge, with introduction and notes, by Mr. Thomas Wright; and, the Latin life of Earl Waltheof and of Judith his wife, from a manuscript of the public library of Douai ; 3rd, a Latin poem by one Guido on the battle of Hastings, published from a unique manuscript in the public library of Brussels; 4th, the Latin life of Harold, the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, which I have transcribed from a manuscript formerly belonging to Waltham Abbey, in the county of Essex, where Harold, its founder and benefactor, was buried, which manuscript now belongs to the Harleian Library; 5th, notes, a double glossary, and index.

As from time to time, Monsieur le Ministre, the Museum is closed for a week or two, 1 employed this time in making researches into other public or private libraries. On one of these occasions I examined, in the library of the palace of Lambeth, which belongs to his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, an old and incomplete Anglo-Norman poem on the conquest of Ireland by Henry II. I immediately, with the permission of the learned prelate to whom it belongs, transcribed it, and I have put it in the press in London, where it will be published by William Pickering.

I pass in silence researches undertaken with the object of clearing certain points, on which, for want of documents, the learned were not agreed, to the journey which I made to Oxford to labour in the libraries of the colleges of that university, and more particularly in the Bodleian.

This, Monsieur le Ministre, was in the beginning of July, 1835. I began my labours by transcribing the " Song of Roland, or the Romance of Roncevaux," which is contained in the manuscript Digby, of the twelfth century, No. 23. I recognised this version as that of which we have later remains in the manuscript of the royal library at Paris, No. 72275, in which about 1500 verses of the beginning are wanting; in that of M. Bourdillon, formerly belonging to M. le Comte Garnier, peer of France ;`' in a manuscript of the library of the town of Lyons ; and in that of the library of Trinity College, which I have already had the honour to mention to you. I also remarked with astonishment that nearly all the couplets of this poem, which are in assonante rhyme, often rude, end with the word aoi. I said to myself, and I still say, may not this be a manner of hourra, or cry of battle? It is a curious question, which perhaps I shall have the good fortune to solve in my introduction to this poem, which, with your authorization, Monsieur le Ministre, I have just put in the press at Paris, to be published by the bookseller Silvestre.

I afterwards transcribed an Icelandic ballad upon Tristan, which will appear in my collection ; a part of the " Romance of Gérard de Roussillon, and some other pieces, which it would be too long to mention here. Then leaving, though with regret, the Bodleian library, I examined those of the colleges of Oxford. The only thing of importance which I found is a manuscript of vellum, of the fourteenth century, containing a complete copy of the travels in the East of the French monk Bernard the Wise,$ of which I have already had the honour of speaking, when mentioning our edition of William de Rubruquis.

Need I mention here, Monsieur le Ministre, that (desirous of furnishing to my countrymen, who might wish to study the Anglo-Saxon and Gothic, a special bibliography which might guide their first steps) I have composed, with Mr. John Kemble, a catalogue of all the printed works in Anglo-Saxon and Gothic, which I have been able to find ? Permit me to add that this catalogue, which I have reason to think as complete as possible, is now, with your authorization, in the press at Paris, to be published also by Silvestre. [See Note 20.]

I think it right that I should indicate to you two works, whose importance cannot be doubted, but of which I was unable, for want of time, to take copies. I allude to a Latin chronicle of occurrences in France from 683 to 820 ; and more particularly to a poem in Anglo-Norman verses, of twelve syllables, composed by Jordan Fantome, a trouvère of the twelfth century, on the war which Henry the Younger raised against his father Henry II. of England ; two manuscripts which are preserved in the library of the cathedral of Durham. I was equally unable to visit Lincoln, where are also preserved some curious manuscripts in the Anglo-Norman language ; among others, a copy of the chronicle of Geoffrey Gaimar, which has been already mentioned in this report. Another will be more fortunate than I, and will, I sincerely hope, soon publish the work of Jordan Fantome. May the editor be a Frenchman !



Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com