A NEW ENGLISH VERSION
E. P. DUTTON AND COMPANY 31 WEST TWENTY-THIRD STREET 1906
Six hundred years ago, when the histories of Europe still lay buried among the Latin Charter Rolls of great abbeys, before Piers Plowman had yet voicedthe English conscience in the English tongue, and when Dante was just turning to look back on half his life's journey, John, Lord of Joinville, full of days and honours, began to write for his liege lady his recollections of her husband's grandfather, St. Louis.
Like many others of that line of great French memoir-writers which he heads, such, for instance, as Commines, Sully, and Marbot,Joinville was first of all a man of action, and only in the second place a man of letters; and for this very reason his book has that directness and simplicity which appeals to the common humanity of all ages. He is no skilled chronicler, like his compatriot the warrior and statesman Villehardouin; he is no born
story-teller, like Villani or Froissart; but a hardheaded, plain-mindedman to whom penmanship is no art, and who writes simply because he loved his friend and believes that he has a duty to his posterity.
John, Lord of Joinville, was hereditary Seneschal of Champagne and head of a family already illustrious for its Crusaders. By blood and old family friendship he was closely united with the great house of Brienne, and could claim cousinship with its famouscadet, John, King of Jerusalem, father-in-law to two emperors, and himself an emperor.' Born in 1225, Joinville was only twenty-three when he joined King Louis in the disastrous Seventh Crusade; and before he was thirty he was settled again on his estates, having escaped every conceivable peril by land and sea, to which nineteen out of every twenty men had succumbed. For the rest of his life he stayedat home, managing his estate and taking such part in public affairs as his position required. When, at nearly eighty years old, he began his Memoirs, he had lived beyond the
' For what is known of the life of John of Joinville and the history of his family, see Delaborde's delightful book, "Jean de Joinville."
reigns of three kings, and saw France, through the selfishnessof her rulers, well advanced on that downward road that led to the coarse vice and brutality of the Hundred Years War, and to the corruption and luxurious bestiality of the last Valois kings. But Joinville, old, still keeps untainted the spirit of his youth. He writes in the mood of that golden age, the reign of the "Holy King," when still ' from Courts men Courtesy did call "; and his book is alasting witness to the influence of that master who thought it "a vile thing for a gentleman to get drunk," and who punished foul words as a crime.
His book brings us into some of the best company in the world. Joinville himself, as he appears through his narrative, is a fine sample of the great baron of feudal times. True to his word, firm in his justice, shrewd in business, intellectuallylimited, he approaches closely to the modern popular idea of an English squire. He is pious, not with the exalted visionary piety of the King, but with the practical morality that recognizes his duty to God in his duty to his own subjects. The King, seen through Joinville's record, is
a far nobler character than he is represented by his extravagant monkish eulogists, Geoffrey deBeaulieu, Guillaume de Nangis, and the rest; and that he was a hero to his own commonplace intimates is a much greater testimony to his personality than any enumeration of his qualifications for saintship.
And of the rest of that circle of gallant and pious gentlemen of whom Joinville was the friend and comrade, there are many who deserve a lasting fame. Peter of Brittany, gashed and...