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OF VOLUME EIGHTEENTH.
NOVELS AND ROMANCES.
AMADIS OF GAUL,
Amadis de Gaul: By Vasco LOBEIRA. From the Spanish version of Garciordonez de Montalvo. By ROBERT SOUTHEY. And Amadis de Gaul: A poem, in Three Books. Freely Translated from the French of Nicolas DĚ HERBERAY, by WiLLIAM STEWART POSE.-Fron Edinburgh Review for Oct. 1803.]
THE fame of Amadis de Gaul has reached to the present day, and has indeed become almost provincial in most languages of Europe. But this distinction has been attained rather in a mortifying manner : for the hero seems much less indebted for his present renown to his historians, Lobeira, Montalvo, and Herberay, than to Cervantes, who select
ed their labours, as one of the best known books of chivalry, and therefore the most prominent object for his ridicule. In this case, as in many others, the renown of the victor has carried down to posterity the memory of the vanquished; and, excepting the few students of black letter, we believe no reader is acquainted with Amadis de Gaul, otherwise than as the prototype of Don Quixote de la Mancha. But the ancient knight seems now in a fair way
of being rescued from this degrading state of notoriety, and of once more resuming a claim to public notice upon his own proper merits ; having, with singular good fortune, engaged in his cause two such authors as Mr Southey and Mr Rose. As the subject of the two articles before us, is in fact the same, we shall adopt the prose version of Mr Southey, as forming the fullest text for the general commentaries which we have to offer ; reserving till the conclusion, the particular remarks which occur to us upon Mr Rose's poem.
The earliest copy of Amadis de Gaul, now known to exist, is the Spanish edition of Garcia Ordognez de Montalvo, which is used by Mr Southey in his translation. Montalvo professes, in general terms, to have revised and corrected this celebrated work from the ancient authorities. He is supposed principally to have used the version of Vasco de Lobeira, a Portuguese knight, who died in the beginning of the 15th century. But a dispute has arisen, whether even Lobeira can justly claim the merit of being the original author of this famous and interesting romance. Nicolas de Herberay, who translated Montalvo's work into French in 1575, asserts positively, that it was originally written in that language ; and adds this remarkable passage: “ J'en ay trouvé encores quelques reste d'un vieil livre escrit à la main en langage Picard, sur lequel j'estime que les Espagnols ont fait leur traduction, non pas de tout suyvant le vrai original, comme l'on pourra veoir par cesluy, car ilz en ont obmis en aucuns endroits et augmenté aux autres.” Mr Souhey, however, setting totally aside the evidence of Herberay, as well as of Monsieur de Tressan, who also affirms the existence of a Picard original of Amadis, is decidedly of opinion, that Vasco de Lobeira was the original author. It is with some hesitation that we venture to differ from Mr Southey, knowing, as we well know, that his acquaintance with the Portuguese literature entitles him to considerable deference in such an argument : yet, viewing the matter on the proofs he has produced, and considering also the general history and progress of romantic composition, we incline strongly to think with Mr Rose, that the story of Amadis is originally of French extraction.
The earliest tales of romance which are known to us, are uniformly in verse ; and this was very natural ; for they were in a great measure the composition of the minstrels, who gained their livelihood by chanting and reciting them. This is peculiarly true of the French minstrels, as appears from the well-known quotation of Du Cange from the Romance of Du Guesclin, where the champions of