Waverley Novels — Volume 12 eBook: Page1

Walter Scott (2004)

  Produced by Karl Hagen, Dan Moynihan, Charles Franks, andthe Online Distributed Proofreading Team.









  Tales of my Landlord.


  The European with the Asian shore-- Sophia's cupola with golden gleam The cypress groves--Olympus high and hoar-- The twelve isles, and the more than I could dream, Far less describe, present the very view That charm'd the charming Mary Montagu. DON JUAN.


  Sir Walter Scott transmitted from Naples, in February, 1832, anIntroduction for CASTLE DANGEROUS; but if he ever wrote one for asecond Edition of ROBERT OF PARIS, it has not been discovered among hispapers. Some notes, chiefly extracts from the books which he had beenobserved to consult while _dictating_ this novel, are now appended toits pages; and in addition to what the author had given in the shape ofhistorical information respecting the principal real personsintroduced, the reader is here presented with what may probably amusehim, the passage of the Alexiad, in which Anna Comnena describes theincident which originally, no doubt, determined Sir Walter's choice ofa hero.

  May, A.D. 1097.--"As for the multitude of those who advanced towardsTHE GREAT CITY, let it be enough to say that they were as the stars inthe heaven, or as the sand upon the sea-shore. They were, in the wordsof Homer, _as many as the leaves and flowers of spring_. But for thenames of the leaders, though they are present in my memory, I will notrelate them. The numbers of these would alone deter me, even if mylanguage furnished the means of expressing their barbarous sounds; andfor what purpose should I afflict my readers with a long enumeration ofthe names of those, whose visible presence gave so much horror to allthat beheld them?

  "As soon, therefore, as they approached the Great City, they occupiedthe station appointed for them by the Emperor, near to the monastery ofCosmidius. But this multitude were not, like the Hellenic one of old,to be restrained and governed by the loud voices of nine heralds; theyrequired the constant superintendence of chosen and valiant soldiers,to keep them from violating the commands of the Emperor.

  "He, meantime, laboured to obtain from the other leaders thatacknowledgment of his supreme authority, which had already been drawnfrom Godfrey [Greek: Gontophre] himself. But, notwithstanding thewillingness of some to accede to this proposal, and their assistance inworking on the minds of their associates, the Emperor's endeavours hadlittle success, as the majority were looking for the arrival ofBohemund [Greek: Baimontos], in whom they placed their chiefconfidence, and resorted to every art with the view of gaining time.The Emperor, whom it was not easy to deceive, penetrated their motives;and by granting to one powerful person demands which had been supposedout of all bounds of expectation, and by resorting to a variety ofother devices, he at length prevailed, and won general assent to thefollowing of the example of Godfrey, who also was sent for in person toassist in this business.

  "All, therefore, being assembled, and Godfrey among them, the oath wastaken; but when all was finished, a certain Noble among these Countshad the audacity to seat himself on the throne of the Emperor. [Greek:Tolmaesas tis apo panton ton komaeton eugenaes eis ton skimpoda tonBasileos ekathisen.] The Emperor restrained himself and said nothing,for he was well acquainted of old with the nature of the Latins.

  "But the Count Baldwin [Greek: Baldoninos] stepping forth, and seizinghim by the hand, dragged him thence, and with many reproaches said, 'Itbecomes thee not to do such things here, especially after having takenthe oath of fealty. [Greek: douleian haeposchomeno]. It is not thecustom of the Roman Emperors to permit any of their inferiors to sitbeside them, not even of such as are born subjects of their empire; andit is necessary to respect the customs of the country.' But he,answering nothing to Baldwin, stared yet more fixedly upon the Emperor,and muttered to himself something in his own dialect, which, beinginterpreted, was to this effect--'Behold, what rustic fellow [Greek:choritaes] is this, to be seated alone while such leaders stand aroundhim!' The movement of his lips did not escape the Emperor, who calledto him one that understood the Latin dialect, and enquired what wordsthe man had spoken. When he heard them, the Emperor said nothing to theother Latins, but kept the thing to himself. When, however, thebusiness was all over, he called near to him by himself that swellingand shameless Latin [Greek: hypsaelophrona ekeinon kai anaidae], andasked of him, who he was, of what lineage, and from what region he hadcome. 'I am a Frank,' said he, 'of pure blood, of the Nobles. One thingI know, that where three roads meet in the place from which I came,there is an ancient church, in which whosoever has the desire tomeasure himself against another in single combat, prays God to help himtherein, and afterwards abides the coming of one willing to encounterhim. At that spot long time did I remain, but the man bold enough tostand against me I found not.' Hearing these words the Emperor said,'If hitherto thou hast sought battles in vain, the time is at handwhich will furnish thee with abundance of them. And I advise thee toplace thyself neither before the phalanx, nor in its rear, but to standfast in the midst of thy fellow-soldiers; for of old time I am wellacquainted with the warfare of the Turks.' With such advice hedismissed not only this man, but the rest of those who were about todepart on that expedition."--_Alexiad_, Book x. pp. 237, 238.

  Ducange, as is mentioned in the novel, identifies the church, thusdescribed by the crusader, with that of _Our Lady of Soissons_, ofwhich a French poet of the days of Louis VII. says--

  Veiller y vont encore li Pelerin Cil qui bataille veulent fere et fournir. DUCANGE _in Alexiad_, p. 86.

  The Princess Anna Comnena, it may be proper to observe, was born on thefirst of December, A.D. 1083, and was consequently in her fifteenthyear when the chiefs of the first crusade made their appearance in herfather's court. Even then, however, it is not improbable that she mighthave been the wife of Nicephorus Bryennius, whom, many years after hisdeath, she speaks of in her history as [Greek: ton emon Kaisara], andin other terms equally affectionate. The bitterness with which sheuniformly mentions Bohemund, Count of Tarentum, afterwards Prince ofAntioch, has, however, been ascribed to a disappointment in love; andon one remarkable occasion, the Princess certainly expressed greatcontempt of her husband. I am aware of no other authorities for theliberties taken with this lady's conjugal character in the novel.

  Her husband, Nicephorus Bryennius, was the grandson of the person ofthat name, who figures in history as the rival, in a contest for theimperial throne, of Nicephorus Botoniates. He was, on his marriage withAnna Comnena, invested with the rank of _Panhypersebastos_, or _OmniumAugustissimus_; but Alexius deeply offended him, by afterwardsrecognising the superior and simpler dignity of a _Sebastos_. Hiseminent qualities, both in peace and war, are acknowledged by Gibbon:and he has left us four books of Memoirs, detailing the early part ofhis father-in-law's history, and valuable as being the work of aneye-witness of the most important events which he describes. AnnaComnena appears to have considered it her duty to take up the taskwhich her husband had not lived to complete; and hence theAlexiad--certainly, with all its defects, the first historical workthat has as yet proceeded from a female pen.

  "The life of the Emperor Alexius," (says Gibbon,) "has been delineatedby the pen of a favourite daughter, who was inspired by tender regardfor his person, and a laudable zeal t
o perpetuate his virtues.Conscious of the just suspicion of her readers, the Princess repeatedlyprotests, that, besides her personal knowledge, she had searched thediscourses and writings of the most respectable veterans; and thatafter an interval of thirty years, forgotten by, and forgetful of theworld, her mournful solitude was inaccessible to hope and fear: thattruth, the naked perfect truth, was more dear than the memory of herparent. Yet instead of the simplicity of style and narrative which winsour belief, an elaborate affectation of rhetoric and science betrays inevery page the vanity of a female author. The genuine character ofAlexius is lost in a vague constellation of virtues; and the perpetualstrain of panegyric and apology awakens our jealousy, to question theveracity of the historian, and the merit of her hero. We cannot,however, refuse her judicious and important remark, that the disordersof the times were the misfortune and the glory of Alexius; and thatevery calamity which can afflict a declining empire was accumulated onhis reign by the justice of Heaven and the vices of his predecessors.In the east, the victorious Turks had spread, from Persia to theHellespont, the reign of the Koran and the Crescent; the west wasinvaded by the adventurous valour of the Normans; and, in the momentsof peace, the Danube poured forth new swarms, who had gained in thescience of war what they had lost in the ferociousness of theirmanners. The sea was not less hostile than the land; and, while thefrontiers were assaulted by an open enemy, the palace was distractedwith secret conspiracy and treason.

  "On a sudden, the banner of the Cross was displayed by the Latins;Europe was precipitated on Asia; and Constantinople had almost beenswept away by this impetuous deluge. In the tempest Alexius steered theImperial vessel with dexterity and courage. At the head of his armies,he was bold in action, skilful in stratagem, patient of fatigue, readyto improve his advantages, and rising from his defeats withinexhaustible vigour. The discipline of the camp was reversed, and anew generation of men and soldiers was created by the precepts andexample of their leader. In his intercourse with the Latins, Alexiuswas patient and artful; his discerning eye pervaded the new system ofan unknown world.

  "The increase of the male and female branches of his family adorned thethrone, and secured the succession; but their princely luxury and prideoffended the patricians, exhausted the revenue, and insulted the miseryof the people. Anna is a faithful witness that his happiness wasdestroyed and his health broken by the cares of a public life; thepatience of Constantinople was fatigued by the length and severity ofhis reign; and before Alexius expired, he had lost the love andreverence of his subjects. The clergy could not forgive his applicationof the sacred riches to the defence of the state; but they applaudedhis theological learning, and ardent zeal for the orthodox faith, whichhe defended with his tongue, his pen, and his sword. Even the sincerityof his moral and religious virtues was suspected by the persons who hadpassed their lives in his confidence. In his last hours, when he waspressed by his wife Irene to alter the succession, he raised his head,and breathed a pious ejaculation on the vanity of the world. Theindignant reply of the Empress may be inscribed as an epitaph on histomb,--'You die, as you have lived--a hypocrite.'

  "It was the wish of Irene to supplant the eldest of her sons in favourof her daughter, the Princess Anna, whose philosophy would not haverefused the weight of a diadem. But the order of male succession wasasserted by the friends of their country; the lawful heir drew theroyal signet from the finger of his insensible or conscious father, andthe empire obeyed the master of the palace. Anna Comnena was stimulatedby ambition and revenge to conspire against the life of her brother;and when the design was prevented by the fears or scruples of herhusband, she passionately exclaimed that nature had mistaken the twosexes, and had endowed Bryennius with the soul of a woman. After thediscovery of her treason, the life and fortune of Anna were justlyforfeited to the laws. Her life was spared by the clemency of theEmperor, but he visited the pomp and treasures of her palace, andbestowed the rich confiscation on the most deserving of hisfriends."--_History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_, chap.xlviii.

  The year of Anna's death is nowhere recorded. She appears to havewritten the _Alexiad_ in a convent; and to have spent nearly thirtyyears in this retirement, before her book was published.

  For accurate particulars of the public events touched on in _Robert ofParis,_ the reader is referred to the above quoted author, chaptersxlviii. xlix. and l.; and to the first volume of Mills' History of theCrusades.

  J. G. L. London, _1st March_, 1833.