A TALE OF THE CRUSADERS
The ``Betrothed'' did not greatly please one or two friends, who thought
that it did not well correspond to the general title of ``The Crusaders.''
They urged, therefore, that without direct allusion to the manners of the
Eastern tribes, and to the romantic conflicts of the period, the title of
a ``Tale of the Crusaders'' would resemble the play-bill which is said to
have announced the tragedy of Hamlet, the character of the Prince of Denmark
being left out. On the other hand, I felt the difficulty of giving a vivid
picture of a part of the world with which I was almost totally unacquainted,
unless by early recollections of the ``Arabian Nights' Entertainments;''
and not only did I labour under the incapacity of ignorance, in which, as
far as regards Eastern manners, I was as thickly wrapped as an Egyptian
in his fog; but my contemporaries were, many of them, as much enlightened
upon the subject, as if they had been inhabitants of the favoured land of
Goshen. The love of travelling had pervaded all ranks, and carried the subjects
of Britain into all quarters of the world. Greece, so attractive by its
remains of art, by its struggles for freedom against a Mahomedan tyrant,
by its very name, where every fountain had its classical legend;---Palestine,
endeared to the imagination by yet more sacred remembrances, had been of
late surveyed by British eyes, and described by recent travellers. Had I,
therefore, attempted the difficult task of substituting manners of my own
invention, instead of the genuine costume of the East, almost every traveller
I met, who had extended his route beyond what was anciently called ``The
Grand Tour,'' had acquired a right, by ocular inspection, to chastise me
for my presumption. Every member of the Travellers' Club, who could pretend
to have thrown his shoe over Edom, was, by having done so, constituted my
lawful critic and corrector. It occurred, therefore, that where the author
* [Thomas Hope.]
as well as he of Hadji Baba,<*> had described the manners and vices
* [James Morier.]
of the Eastern nations, not only with fidelity, but with the humour
of Le Sage and the ludicrous power of Fielding himself, one who was a
perfect stranger to the subject must necessarily produce an unfavourable
contrast. The Poet Laureate also, in the charming tale of ``Thalaba,''
had shown how extensive might be the researches of a person of acquirements
and talent, by dint of investigation alone, into the ancient doctrines,
history, and manners of the Eastern countries, in which we are probably
to look for the cradle of mankind; Moore, in his ``Lallah Rookh,'' had
successfully trod the same path; in which, too, Byron, joining ocular
experience to extensive reading, had written some of his most attractive
poems. In a word, the Eastern themes had been already so successfully
handled by those who were acknowledged to be masters of their craft, that
I was diffident of making the attempt.
These were powerful objections, nor did they lose force when they became
the subject of anxious reflection, although they did not finally prevail.
The arguments on the other side were, that though I had no hope of rivalling
the contemporaries whom I have mentioned, yet it occurred to me as possible
to acquit myself of the task I was engaged in, without entering into competition
The period relating more immediately to the Crusades, which I at last
fixed upon, was that at which the warlike character of Richard I, wild
and generous, a pattern of chivalry, with all its extravagant virtues,
and its no less absurd errors, was opposed to that of Saladin, in which
the Christian and English monarch showed all the cruelty and violence
of an Eastern Sultan; and Saladin, on the other hand, displayed the deep
policy and prudence of a European sovereign, whilst each contended which
should excel the other in the knightly qualities of bravery and generosity.
This singular contrast afforded, as the Author conceived, materials for
a work of fiction possessing peculiar interest. One of the inferior characters
introduced, was a supposed relation of Richard Cur de Lion; a violation
of the truth of history, which gave offence to Mr. Mills, the author of
the History of Chivalry and the Crusades, who was not, it may be presumed,
aware that romantic fiction naturally includes the power of such invention,
which is indeed one of the requisites of the art.
Prince David of Scotland, who was actually in the host, and was the
hero of some very romantic adventures on his way home, was also pressed
into my service, and constitutes one of my _dramatis person._
It is true I had already brought upon the field Him of the Lion Heart.
But it was in a more private capacity than he was here to be exhibited
in the Talisman; then as a disguised knight, now in the avowed character
of a conquering monarch; so that I doubted not a name so dear to Englishmen
as that of King Richard I. might contribute to their amusement for more
* [Mr. J. G. Lockhart informs us that ``the brightness of the Talisman
* the eyes of the public as to the defects of its twin story the Betrothed;
and that a
* new burst of applause attended the brilliant procession of Scott's Saladin
* Cur de Lion.'']
I had access to all which antiquity believed, whether of reality or
fable, on the subject of that magnificent warrior, who was the proudest
boast of Europe and their chivalry, and with whose dreadful name the Saracens,
according to a historian of their own country, were wont to rebuke their
startled horses. ``Do you think,'' said they, ``that King Richard is on
the track, that you stray so wildly from it!'' The most curious register
of the history of King Richard, is an ancient romance, translated originally
from the Norman; and at first certainly having a pretence to be termed
a work of chivalry, but latterly becoming stuffed with the most astonishing
and monstrous fables. There is, perhaps, no metrical romance upon record,
where, along with curious and genuine history, are mingled more absurd
and exaggerated incidents. We have placed in the Appendix to this Introduction
(see end of Volume) the passage of the romance in which Richard figures
as an Ogre, or literal cannibal.
A principal incident in the story, is that from which the title is derived.
Of all people who ever lived, the Persians wore perhaps most remarkable
for their unshaken credulity in amulets, spells, periapts, and similar
charms, framed, it was said, under the influence of particular planets,
and bestowing high medical powers, as well as the means of advancing men's
fortunes in various manners. A story of this kind, relating to a Crusader
of eminence, is often told in the West of Scotland, and the relic alluded
to is still in existence, and even yet held in veneration.
Sir Simon Lockhart of Lee and Cartland made a considerable figure in
the reigns of Robert the Bruce and of his son David. He was one of the
chief of that band of Scottish chivalry, who accompanied James, the Good
Lord Douglas, on his expedition to the Holy Land, with the heart of King
Robert Bruce. Douglas, impatient to get at the Saracens, entered into
war with those of Spain, and was killed there. Lockhart proceeded to the
Holy Land with such Scottish knights as had escaped the fate of their
leader, and assisted for some time in the wars against the Saracens.
The following adventure is said by tradition to have befallen him:---
He made prisoner in battle an Emir of considerable wealth and consequence.
The aged mother of the captive came to the Christian camp, to redeem her
son from his state of captivity. Lockhart is said to have fixed the price
at which his prisoner should ransom himself; and the lady, pulling out
a large embroidered purse, proceeded to tell down the ransom, like a mother
who pays little respect to gold in comparison of her son's liberty. In
this operation, a pebble inserted in a coin, some say of the Lower Empire,
fell out of the purse, and the Saracen matron testified so much haste
to recover it, as gave the Scottish knight a high idea of its value, when
compared with gold or silver. ``I will not consent,'' he said, ``to grant
your son's liberty, unless that amulet be added to his ransom.'' The lady
not only consented to this, but explained to Sir Simon Lockhart the mode
in which the Talisman was to be used, and the uses to which it might be
put. The water in which it was dipt, operated as a styptic, as a febrifuge,
and possessed several other properties as a medical talisman.
Sir Simon Lockhart, after much experience of the wonders which it wrought,
brought it to his own country, and left it to his heirs, by whom, and
by Clydesdale in general, it was, and is still, distinguished by the name
of the Lee-penny, from the name of his native seat of Lee.
The most remarkable part of its history, perhaps, was, that it so especially
escaped condemnation when the Church of Scotland chose to impeach many
other cures which savoured of the miraculous, as occasioned by sorcery,
and censured the appeal to them, ``excepting only that to the amulet,
called the Lee-penny, to which it had pleased God to annex certain healing
virtues which the Church did not presume to condemn.'' It still, as has
been said, exists, and its powers are sometimes resorted to. Of late,
they have been chiefly restricted to the cure of persons bitten by mad
dogs; and as the illness in such cases frequently arises from imagination,
there can be no reason for doubting that water which has been poured on
the Lee-penny furnishes a congenial cure.<*>
* [=The Lee-penny.=---At a meeting of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries
* April 1861), an interesting communication ``On some Scottish Magical
* or Curing-Stones,'' was read by the late Professor Sir James Y. Simpson,
* Bart., when the _Lee-penny_ was among the articles exhibited. In his
* eminent writer observes, that ``In the present century this ancient
* has acquired a world-wide reputation as the original of the `Talisman'
* Sir Walter Scott, though latterly its therapeutic reputation has greatly
* and almost entirely ceased.''---See the _Proceedings,_ vol. iv. p. 223.]
Such is the tradition concerning the Talisman, which the Author has
taken the liberty to vary in applying it to his own purposes.
Considerable liberties have also been taken with the truth of history,
both with respect to Conrade of Montserrat's life, as well as his death.
That Conrade, however, was reckoned the enemy of Richard, is agreed both
in history and romance. The general opinion of the terms upon which they
stood may be guessed from the proposal of the Saracens that the Marquis
of Montserrat should be invested with certain parts of Syria, which they
were to yield to the Christians. Richard, according to the romance which
bears his name, ``could no longer repress his fury. The Marquis, he said,
was a traitor, who had robbed the Knights Hospitallers of sixty thousand
pounds, the present of his father, Henry; that he was a renegade, whose
treachery had occasioned the loss of Acre; and he concluded by a solemn
oath, that he would cause him to be drawn to pieces by wild horses if
he should ever venture to pollute the Christian camp by his presence.
Philip attempted to intercede in favour of the Marquis, and throwing down
his glove, offered to become a pledge for his fidelity to the Christians;
but his offer was rejected, and he was obliged to give way to Richard's
impetuosity.''---_History of Chivalry._
Conrade of Montserrat makes a considerable figure in those wars, and
was at length put to death by one of the followers of the Sheik, or Old
Man of the Mountain; nor did Richard remain free of the suspicion of having
instigated his death.
It may be said, in general, that most of the incidents introduced in
the following tale are fictitious; and that reality, where it exists,
is only retained in the characters of the piece.
=Abbotsford,= 1_st July_ 1832.
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