Billeder på siden
[ocr errors]

dispute may also be met with in the eleventh volume of the "Conservateur Suisse," a periodical publication, printed some years ago at Lausanne; which, amid much purely local and now useless information, contains many articles of national interest. Several historians, both German and Swiss, have also mentioned this singular contest between the monks and nuns of Little Bâsle. "The Abbots' War," was likewise derived from many authentic authorities Müller's History of the Swiss Confederation— the Conservateur Suisse-Gibbon's and Sismondi's History of the Fall of the Roman Empire Hallam's View of the Middle Ages, and several other works. "Bertha, Queen of the Transjurane," has been compiled from an immense number of detached histories and notices laboriously collated - some obtained in Switzerland, others picked up at Arles in Provence, and at Milan, where the spindle of the good queen is yet remembered, and the same proverb exists as in Helvetia, "The time is passed when Bertha spun."

With the accurate and conscientious Müller, historic fidelity requires from the author the declaration that in these sketches all the most essential facts are derived from documents of unquestioned authenticity; but the reflections and turn of expression belong to

[blocks in formation]

herself; nevertheless, in strict conformity to circumstances recorded by chroniclers and historians. Some few incidents indeed, of minor moment, have been derived from oral tradition, without which, in many instances, it would be difficult to unravel and then link together the tangled and broken chronicles of remote ages. Traditions commonly repose on a true foundation, altered in part by popular additions or suppressions; and in Switzerland they often prove safer guides than in less romantic lands, because it is in the very essence of her children to treasure up the legendary lore of their forefathers. In the absence of printed memorials the mountaineer of the Alps, and the denizen of the city, had each the same desire to transmit to their children the records of the past with the exactitude which the lettered scribe employed when he wrote for the patron who paid him, or for the future, whose posthumous applause was to be his reward for the penury of the present; and these oral recitations, proceeding from a gifted or beloved tongue, poured into the unworn ear of childhood, would doubtless leave a deeper mark on the memory than the skill of the printer could ever impress. There is a beautiful allusion to this simple method of transmitting the history of by-gone times in the

memoir of the learned Henry Bullinger, the correspondent of lady Jane Grey; who in relating some past scene says, "there also was present my grand-mother, Gertrude Küffer, at the age of eighty." She died when he was in his eighteenth year, so that he could learn, as he stated, many details from her with as much fidelity and precision as from a written book.* Neither must it be imagined that the omission, or the registration of any particular fact by contemporary writers, is any evidence of the infidelity, or incorrectness of either. The chroniclers of Switzerland were often the chaplains of noble families; and peculiar circumstances occasionally chained their pens, so that some pass over what others carefully record. In the lovely churchyard of Montreux, scarcely a mile from the immortalised castle of Chillon, stands a very plain but antique building, now appropriated to the double purposes of a school, and public library. The solemn interior architecture is similar to that of the beautiful church, and its original destination might have remained a mystery, had not the chronicle of the neighbouring château of Chatelarde certified that

* Là se trouvait aussi ma grand'-mère, Gertrude Küffer, agée de quatre-vingts ans.

[blocks in formation]

it was built over the bodies of four thousand men of various nations, nobles, serfs, and hirelings, who fell at Chillon when surprised by the valiant Duke Peter, of Savoy, uncle of our own queen Ellenor wife of Henry III.; and tradition has preserved the remembrance of a daily mass, instituted for the repose of their souls. Of the foundation of this expiatory chantry there was no mention in the chronicle kept at the castle of Blonay, though only three miles from its site, probably, because one of the lords thereof having fallen in that disastrous battle, which insured the dominion of the Pays-de-Vaud to the house of Savoy, to which he was in opposition, his humbled successors would not register the event in their family archives, either from wounded pride or cautious policy; as, at Genoa, the historian of the republic was forbidden by the Doge to allude to the dreadful quarrel of two noble families, the Argovadi, and the Marquis de Volta, lest the atrocities it produced might injure the city in the estimation of the world. The destination of the chapel at Montreux has thus descended stamped with legitimacy to posterity; but had the chronicler of Chatelarde pursued the same course, or had the parchment folio perished by fire or neglect, after the last baron of Chate

larde, Peter of Gingins, was killed defending his castle walls against Berne, its origin would have come down to the 19th century as a mere unsupported tradition, to be rejected or received at the will of the hearer. Mr. Hallam in, his "View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages," the most interesting work of the present, to the lovers of the past, expresses some astonishment at the minute details of Müller's History of the Swiss, as compared with the meagre annals of England and France. Had the accomplished historian resided, like the writer of these rough sketches, two years in various cantons of Switzerland, that surprise would not have been excited. Almost every village had its castle, and nearly every castle its accredited chronicler. Destitute of the modern luxuries of books, newspapers, and letters, excepting, indeed, such important epistles as were deemed of sufficient consequence to be expedited by a special messenger from one baron's castle to another - and usually imprisoned during many months of the year, by roads often impassable from snow and torrents, the most trivial events in the narrow circle were circumstantially and scrupulously recorded for the amusement or future information of the family, as old Froissart naïvely tells us he penned down at

« ForrigeFortsæt »