THE following lectures were delivered in French at the Sorbonne, and in English at the University of Copenhagen, during the spring of 1911. They have been revised and enlarged for publication. Part of the last lecture appeared in the Revue de Paris (July 1, 1911) under the heading Le Gentleman dans Shakespeare.
I take this opportunity to express publicly my high appreciation of the honour done me by the great institutions of learning above mentioned in their invitations to address them, and also of the generous courtesy with which I was received by their officers and students.
The proofs of the volume have been read by my colleagues, Professors Wendell, Kittredge, and Neilson. I am much indebted to them for this service, and for their friendly criticism.
W. H. S. East Hill. Peterborough, N. H. October, 1912
Chivalry less an institution than an ideal: Different from feudalism: Fashioned to further Christian principles: Its sway due largely to men of letters: Chaucer's attitude towards chivalry, pragmatic; Malory's, romantic; Spenser's, esoteric; and Shakespeare's, historic.
Chaucer's character, training, and environment: Queen Philippa and the Duchess Blanche: The idealistic nature of the poet's early work: His growing seriousness and exaltation of Truth: The Knight, a "preud- 'omme," like Gauchierde Chatillon: The realism of the Knight's Tale: Edward III and the Black Prince: "Sir Thopas": The Yeoman: Chivalric love: The Squire and his Tale: The Franklins Tale: " Troilus and Cressida": Chaucer's attitude towards women: His views of "gentilesse": His democracy.: His chivalry, the best of his own time, and the best of his own life.
The nature and style of the "Morte d'Arthur": The author: His association with the Earl of Warwick: His imprisonment and death: Caxton's statements regarding the book: Its contemporaneousness: Conditions of the time: Malory's portraits of knights: Ideals applauded: Presentation of love: Tristram as a hunter: The repentance of Launcelot and Guinevere Merry England: Sir Gawain: Robin Hood: Sir Gareth: Malory's views of lineage and gentleness: His aristocracy: "Noblesse oblige."
The new age: Means of Spenser's influence: His life and aspirations: Cambridge friends: Sidney: Raleigh: Comparison with Chaucer: Moral purpose of the "Faery Queen": Chivalric ideals fundamental in the author's system of conduct, but combined with Renaissance conceptions: His eagerness for fame: Exaltation of "virtuous and gentle discipline": Emphasis on "mind": Appeal to "gentle and noble persons": Influence of Castiglione: Spenser's idea of the courtier: His views on love: Platonism and Puritanism: Characters in the "Faery Queen" Braggadochio, Sir Calidore: New combination of learning and chivalry: The scholar and the gentleman: Sidney a true model of "worth": "Abeunt studia in mores"
Shakespeare and Spenser: Shakespeare's character and view of himself: Mediaeval sentiment in "The Rape of Lucrece": Outer aspects of chivalry in various works: Lord Herbert of Cherbury and Hector: Fair play: The poet's emphasis on "honour": Brutus: Knightly figures in historical plays: Hotspur and Prince Hal: Falstaff: The " Order of Chivalry" and the "Law of Arms": Degenerate knights: Hamlet and Laertes: Court versus country: "As You Like It": Shakespeare's joy in gentleness: Chivalric love prefigured that which he exalted: His presentation of love similar to Chaucers, unlike Bacons: Some of his heroines: "Romeo and Juliet": His thoughts on the relations of blood and virtue, fortune and merit, art and nature, honour and goodness: The characteristics of gentlemen: A summary comparison of the attitudes of Chaucer, Malory, Spenser, and Shakespeare towards chivalry.
Contrast of French and English chivalry: The English ideal of the gentleman: "English history is aristocracy with the doors open": Washington and America: Chivalry and Christianity: Chivalry today.
CHIVALRY is less an institution than an ideal.
Ths fact is set forth clearly by Leon Gautier in his distinguished book, La Chevalerie. An eminent English critic, John Addington Symonds, has written to the same effect:
"Chivalry is not to be confounded with feudalism. Feudalism was a form of social organization based upon military principles. Chivalry was an ideal binding men together by participation in potent spiritual enthusiasms. Feudalism was the bare reality of mediaeval life. Chivalry was the golden dream of possibilities which hovered above the eyes of mediaeval men and women, ennobling their aspirations, but finding its truest expression less in actual existence than in legend and literature. The pages of feudal history tell a dismal tale of warfare, cruelty, oppression, and ill-regulated passions. The chivalrous romances present sunny pictures of courtesy and generosity and self-subordination to exalted aims. It is always thus. The spirit wars against the flesh, the idea against the fact, in the lives of nations as well as of individuals. Christianity itself, in theory, is far different from the practice of the Christian commonwealths. Yet, who shall say that the spirit in this warfare is not real, or that the idea is impotent? that Christianity, though never practised in its whole integrity, is not the very salt and essence of the life of modern nations? Even so chivalry, though rarely realized in its pure beauty, though scarcely to be seized outside the songs of poets, and the fictions of romancers, was the spiritual force which gave its value to the institutions and the deeds of feudalism. Whatever was most noble in the self-devotion of Crusaders; most beneficial to the world in the foundation of the knightly orders; most brilliant in the lives of Richard, the Edwards, Tancred, Godfrey of Bouillon; most enthusiastic in the lives of Rudel, Dante, Petrarch; most humane in the courtesy of the Black Prince; most splendid in the courage of Bayard; in the gallantry of Gaston de Foix; in the constancy of Sir Walter Manny; in the loyalty of Blondel; in the piety of St. Louis may be claimed by the evanescent and impalpable yet potent spirit which we call chivalry.
"Regarding chivalry, not as an actual fact of his tory, but as a spiritual force, tending to take form and substance in the world at a particular period, we find that its very essence was enthusiasm of an t unselfish kind. The true knight gave up all thought himself. At 'the moment of investiture he swore to renounce the pursuit of material gain; to do nobly for the mere love of nobleness; to be generous of his goods ; to be courteous to the vanquished to redress wrongs; to draw his sword in quarrel but a just one; to keep his word; to respect oaths; and, above all things, to protect the helpless and to serve women. The investiture of a knight was no less truly a consecration to high unselfish aims for life than was the ordination of a priest."
The precepts of mediaeval chivalry were never kept distinct from those of mediaeval Christianity; on the contrary, the former were carefully fashioned to make the latter prevail. As a result, early writers on chivalry strongly insisted that a knight should possess certain virtues,such as mercy, meekness, and pity, in addition to loyalty faithfulness, and truth, which are an essential part of any Christian code. They called upon the "brave conquerors" of past days to wage as fierce an inward war on the Seven Deadly Sins and "the huge army of the world's de sires," as to oppose with all their might the enemies of the Faith. "The history of chivalry," said Baron Kervyn de Lettenhove, "is naught else but the picture of the admirable influence exercised by literature, in the name of religion and civilization, on the violent and brutal passions encouraged and propagated by war. If Froissart and the other chroniclers the poets of his time admire and exalt chivalry so highly, it is because they perceive that in subjecting kings themselves to the duties of chivalry, and in placing the whole career of a knight between the two extreme limits of the romance which was read to him in his youth, and the chronicle by which his life was judged at its end, they succeeded in giving to letters in the feudal world a more exalted place than that which they had ever attained in Greece or Rome." Chivalry owed its first sway to the wisdom of those mediaeval writers who grasped the opportunity it provided to soften the hearts of rough warriors and restrain any addiction on their part to cruelty, revenge, and boast. Happily, they had power to make the watchword "In the Name of Honour" seem coincident with "In His Name," and were able to perform miracles of regeneration by grafting Christ-like tenderness on man-like force. In England, later, chivalry, like Orpheus' lute, was "strung with poets' sinews." There, from the fourteenth century to our own, it has been effectively advanced by men of letters with moral design.
My object in these lectures is to show, if I can, by an examination of the life and works of four celebrated English writers, how the ideal of French chivalry entered into English literature and thereby affected the attitude of the English-speaking world. I shall endeavour to explain why this ideal under went certain modifications in its adopted home, so that it led to a somewhat different conception of aristocratic conduct from that to which it owed its origin, and how, thus modified, it still determines pur standards for a "Gentleman."
The four writers to whom I have referred are Chaucer, Malory, Spenser, and Shakespeare the chief writers of their times who have had a permanent influence on the sentiments of the English race. They are as unlike as could well be in style and temperament; but they have this in common, to the advantage of our grouping, that they all loved chivalry sincerely, with glad recognition of its noble aim.
Chaucer's attitude towards chivalry one may define as pragmatic, Malory's as romantic, Spenser's as esoteric, and Shakespeare's as historic. If these distinctions are just, they imply a large variety in the presentation of the theme, a striking diversity in emphasis on its salient features, a splendid manifestation of its power of appeal.