Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the faults which I attribute to others, or from faults which

may

be worse, and more peculiarly my own. The actual works of men will not bear to be measured by their ideal standards in any case; and I may observe, in reference to my own, that my critical views have rather resulted from composition than directed it. If, however, I have been unable to avoid the errors which I condemn, or errors not less censurable, I trust, that, on the other hand, I shall not be found to have deprived myself, by any narrowness or perversity of judgment, of the advantage which the study of these writers, exceptionable though they be, may undoubtedly afford to one who, whilst duly taking note of their general defects, shall not have closed his mind to a perception of their particular excellences. I feel and have already expressed, a most genuine and I hope not an inadequate admiration for the powers which they respectively possess ; and wherever it might occur to me that the exercise of those powers would be appropriate and consistent, I should not fail to benefit by their example to the extent of my capabilities. To say, indeed, that I admire them, is to admit that I owe them much; for admiration is never thrown away upon the mind of him who feels it, except when it is misdirected or blindly indulged. There is perhaps nothing which more enlarges or enriches the mind than the disposition to lay it genially open to impressions of pleasure from the exercise of every species of talent ; nothing by which it is more impoverished than

the habit of undue depreciation. What is puerile, pusillanimous, or wicked, it can do us no good to admire ; but let us admire all that can be admired without debasing the dispositions or stultifying the understanding.

LONDON, May, 1834.

INTRODUCTION.

In the fourteenth century the Flemish towns were the most opulent and considerable in Europe ; and of these, Ghent and Bruges were, in size, wealth, and population, perhaps scarcely inferior even to Venice. They were of right subject to the Earl of Flanders, and in ordinary times he exercised by his bailiffs the powers of sovereignty in them: but they had secured various franchises and immunities, which they guarded with jealousy, and which, when need was, they rose in arms to defend. On such occasions they were seldom all joined in a league together; for the trading interests of several of them were in some respects opposite, and some would generally remain subject to the Earl, and at war, therefore, with those which leagued against him.

These towns were not only asunder one from another, but each one was commonly divided by parties within itself. The towns consisted each of various crafts or guilds, as the weavers, the fullers, the clothiers, the mariners, &c., and some of these crafts were occasionally well affected towards the Earl, at

the same time that others were disposed to rebellion. But the chief opposition was between the rich inhabitants and the poor.

The rich wished for peace and repose ;

the

poor were eager for war, which, in that age, when most men were warlike, was perhaps the best trade that a poor man could follow. When therefore any of these towns was in rebellion, there was generally a peace-faction within it, which rose or fell in importance according to the varying circumstances of military success or failure.

In the year 1381, the inhabitants of Bruges made themselves friends with Lois, Earl of Flanders, and under the countenance of his authority, which they purchased, began to cut a channel which would have opened to them a direct communication with the river Lis, the navigation of which was otherwise only accessible to them by passing through Ghent. Ghent was, however, by no means willing to lose her exclusive possession or control of the navigation up the Lis. Like the “ Crowning City" of more ancient days, “ the harvest of the river was her revenue.

“There was at this time in Ghent a burgess called John Lyon, a sage man, cruel, hardy, subtle, and a great enterpriser, and cold and patient enough in all his works.” This John Lyon (the Flemish name is Heins, but it is thus Englished) was a dismissed officer of the Earl, and he took the opportunity of the discontent occasioned by the proceedings of the Earl and the people of Bruges, to revive an old usage of Ghent, by which all the disaffected were accustomed to form themselves into a corps, distinguished by white hoods, and subordinated to one ruler. Such a corps was now formed, and John Lyon, being chosen their chief, conducted a party of them to attack the pioneers from Bruges who were digging at the Lis. But the pioneers retreated, and desisted without fighting

The professed object of forming the corps was accomplished therefore; “but notwithstanding that, John Lyon did not abandon his office, but the WhiteHoods went daily up and down the town, and John Lyon kept them still in that state, and to some he would say secretly, ‘Hold you well content; eat and drink, and make merry, and be not concerned at any thing you spend; for hereafter such shall pay you as will not now give you one penny.

For men thus organised and thus disposed, a fresh cause of quarrel was easily to be found.

• In the same week that John Lyon had been thus at Deinse, to have met with the pioneers of Bruges, there came many out of the Franc of Ghent, to complain to them that had then the rule of the law, and said, “Sirs, at Erclo, near here, which is within the Franchise of Ghent, there is one of our burgesses in the Earl's prison, and we have desired the Earl's bailiff there to deliver him ; but he hath plainly answered that he will not deliver him, which is evidently against the privilege of this town of Ghent; and so thereby your privileges will be by degrees broken, which have hitherto been so nobly and so highly praised, and besides that, so well kept and maintained that none durst break them, and that the most noble Knight

« AnteriorContinuar »