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In the reign of Joam I. says Manuel de Faria y Sousa, the Infante Don Pedro wrote the sonnets Bom Vasco, &c., Vinha Amor, 8c., in praise of Vasco Lobeyra, the inventor of the Books of Chivalry by that of Amadis. I know not where the second of these sonnets is to be found, neither of them are among the Infante Dom Pedro's Poems, published by Joseph Soares da Sylva at the end of his Memorias para a Historia del Rey Dom Joam I. as copied from the Cancioneiro of Resendé; nor do I recollect them in that very rare and valuable collection, to which I cannot now refer. But it is impossible that this sonnet should have been written by either of the princes to whom it has been ascribed. The Infante Dom Pedro was but in his eleventh year when Vasco Lobeira died, and Lobeira himself must have been a boy at the time of Affonso the IVth's death. Montalvo and Manuel de Faria and the Portugueze Editor are in this point all in the wrong. If it be the composition of a royal or of a princely author, it must be King Pedro. This, however, must remain uncertain. But we may believe what Montalvo tells us that the story had been altered in compliance with the taste of some noble Portugueze. The language of this sonnet is certainly as old as the time of Joam I. It agrees with the opinion of the person whom Montalvo calls the Infante Alfonso, and it addresses Vasco Lobeira by name as the author of Amadis of Gaul.
This evidence is sufficiently decisive. It is incontrovertibly confirmed by Gomes Eannes de Zurara, in his Chronica do Conde Dom Pedro de Menezes ; a work written in 1463, and first published in the Collecçao de Livros Ineditos de Historia Portugueza, 1792. He expressly says that Vasco Lobeira wrote the book of Amadis, and that the whole was his own invention. Could he have foreseen that it would have ever become a subject of controversy, his testimony could not have been more decisive. “Jaa seja, que muitos Autores cobiçosos d'allargar suas obras, forneciam seus Livros recontando tempos que os Principes passavam em convites, e assy de festas, e jogos, e tempos allegres, de bue se nom seguia outra cousa, se nom a deleitaçao delles mesmos, assy como som os primeiros feitos de Ingraterra, que se chamava Gram Bretanha, e assy o Livro d'Amadis como quer que soomente este fosse feito a prazer de hum homen, que se chamava Vasco Lobeira, em tempo d'El Rey Dom Fernando, sendo toda-las cousas do dito Livro fingidas do Autor.” T. 2. p. 422.
Therefore it can be no longer doubted, that Vasco Lobeira is the author of Amadis of Gaul. The romance was written towards the close of the fourteenth century; if in Fernando's reign, before 1383, but certainly after Edward III. had laid claim to the crown of France, and when the Court of Windsor was the most splendid in Europe. This is evident from the work itself. Had it been written later, even by one generation, Montalvo could not have complained of its rude and ancient style.
Barboza says the original work was preserved in the family of the Aveiros. If this copy has escaped the earthquake, it may probably be traced from the wreck of that family; and it is greatly to be wished that the Royal Academy of Lisbon would publish it for the honour of Portugueze Literature, to which that Academy has already rendered such essential services, and which by other nations is little valued, only because it is little known.
TRESSAN claims for his countrymen only the three first books; in the fourth, he says, the Spanish taste begins to predominate ; but the ridiculous anachronisms which he particularizes, are all interpolated by D'Herberay. King Lisuarte's train of artillery, his powder, his bullets, his bombs and his culverines, are not to be found in the Spanish version. Cannon are once mentioned, as they are in Hamlet; but as in Hamlet it is a casual absurdity, the effect of carelessness, not of an ignorance which would have infected the whole work. The beginning of the fourth book is indeed very inferiour in interest to what precedes it: the business and bustle of adventure are succeeded by long speeches, and a needless detail of the different embassies. How much of this prolixity is to be attributed to what Montalvo calls his more polished and elegant style, it is now impossible to ascertain. Yet this prolixity has its effect; if it provokes impatience, it also heightens expectation ; it is like the long elm avenues of our forefathers, we wish ourselves at the end, but we know that at the end there is something great.
The Comte was of opinion that the original romance concluded with the rescue of Oriana. This would have been an unsatisfactory conclusion, nor would it have compleated the author's design. Amadis is not safe, and cannot be happy while King Lisuarte is his enemy; the preeminence of Oriana above all her sex is not proved, till she has atchieved the adventure of the Forbidden Chamber. The reconciliation of her husband and her father, and this triumph which proves that, as the best and fairest of women, she alone is worthy to be the wife of the best and bravest of men, must be the work of the original author, unless he left the story incompleat. But there is no reason to suspect that the work of Vasco Lobeira was not compleated. That, as well as the rudeness of the language, would have been mentioned by Montalvo; he would have claimed the merit of finishing the story, as well as of polishing the style.
With the celebration of the marriage, the story obviously concludes. I have ended here, and left the reader to infer that Amadis and Oriana, like the heroes of every nursery tale, lived very happy after. The chapters which follow in the Spanish are evidently added to introduce the fifth book, or what Montalvo, in something like a Quack's Greek, calls the Sergas of Esplandian. It is one romance growing out of another as clumsily as a young oyster upon the back of its parent. The episode of the Queen of Dacia has been introduced for the same purpose. This has been here retained, that if any person should hereafter continue these volumes upon the plan of the Bibliotheque des Romans, everything necessary to render the after stories intelligible may be found in this, though this is in itself compleat. The patchwork of Montalvo's imagination is in many places distinguishable : the letters upon Esplandian's breast, the most foolish fiction in the book, are his invention, for the interpretation is in the Sergas. Probably he has lengthened the period between the quarrel of Amadis and the king, and their reconciliation. Oriana has no spell to preserve her charms, when she wins the prize of beauty, and yet her son is at the age of manhood; it was convenient for the continuation of the history, that Esplandian should be of age to follow arms when his father retired. If the faults inserted by the Spaniard, with reference to his own supplement, were weeded out, the skilful structure of the original story would not be less admirable, than the variety and beauty of its incidents.