Persistent identifier:
image: of 194
horse Arundel is found dead in the stable, and Bevis and Josian die in each other's arms.
The story, as a story, is of French origin. Whether any early Saxon hero, any Hengist or Horsa or Oedric, or any Viking leader or Norse Captain, any Hardraada or Rollo, was ever by some great passing exploit connected with Southampton in such a way as to give rise to the first form of this legend, cannot now be known; nor whether (as is more likely) adventures, real and fictitious, gathered from the old wanderings of Frank or Northman or Crusader, were merely grouped about an imaginary figure placed at Southampton as a suitable and well-known spot : nor, indeed, does this matter very much. The story, though French in its origin, is not presented here as a mere translation. While the 'transformation may not be ranked with e.g., Shakspere's transformation of the tragedy of the Prince of Denmark, or of his adaptation of the story which was the basis of " As you like it " : yet it is a bit of English Literature and not of translated French: and in the opinion of its Early English Text Society Editor was certainly composed in the South of England, and on the borders of the West and East parts of South England. This brings its origin right into the neighbourhood of Southampton itself. Let us make the most of the possibility.
And let us not dismiss the story simply as an idle tale for an idle hour. It has something of the allegorical in its nature. This it was, doubtless, which attracted Bunyan. The hero throughout stands for Christianity, as against paganism, Mahommedanism, sorcery, and powers demoniacal: for faith and justice as against falsehood and tyranny and wrong. " The strain in which the work is written is serious, even severe." " Love (the really animating element in other departments of fiction) makes its appearance indeed, but in a very simple way. It always originates from the woman, being the effect of her hero's great deeds: it is in most cases continued with extraordinary faith and chastity." The whole work is pure and inoffensive. Loyalty to King and lord, close and faithful friendships, strong family ties, all have full play in its action, and help to give something of nobility to its rather stereotyped sentiment.
Such then is this poetical Romance of the Middle Ages, as, may be, some Southampton bard sung it 600 or 700 years ago. If indeed it was produced at Southampton, it was, if not the greatest, certainly the longest bit of " literature " to which the Town ever gave birth.
But coming from the possible to the actual, the most illustrious name which in pure literature is attached to Southampton is that of Jane Austen, to whom we owe the inimitable masterpieces of " Pride and Prejudice," and " Sense and Sensibility." Miss Austen was born in a Hampshire country parsonage—that of Steventon—in 1775, and except for a short time spent at Bath, in 1801, her abode was never outside the county. She lived in Castle Square for four years after the death of her father in 1805 ; removed then to Chawton
Facebook Twitter Stumbleupon Delicious Digg RSS