CHARLES WILLIAM PREVITÉ-ORTON (1877–1947)
Political Satire In English Poetry (1910)
The Early History Of The House Of Savoy (1000–1233) (1912)
"DURING the first part of the nineteenth century, when the seven-fold censorship in Piedmont forbade the writing of any history which might refer, even remotely, to contemporary issues, the origins and early expansion of the House of Savoy were favorite topics of investigation. Archives were collected and the appointment of an official historiographer ensured their being put in order. The general revival of interest in medieval civilization touched Piedmontese students also, and they turned their attention to feudal not less than to dynastic concerns. The result was that, by the time that historians could write without restraint, a large body of material had been assembled, and from this material several general histories and many monographs and special studies have been drawn.
The latest of these monographs, by Mr. Previté-Orton, of St. John's College, Cambridge, is a fine specimen of minute, patient, and thorough research. He examines the documents of each town or institution, and by the cumulation of the facts thus obtained he impresses the reader with the feeling that the subject is exhausted. This method has the disadvantage at times of seeming to he merely a catalogue of details, which Mr. Orton himself admits are tedious; but any of these details may serve another scholar as the missing link in an important chain of demonstration.
Mr. Orton opens his study with a brief review of the decay of the Burgundian kingdom, on which followed the springing up of several rival families that aspired to the Burgundian possessions. Most important among these, if we measure by later history, were the Humbertines, the founders of the House of Savoy. Humbert Whitehands, count of Aosta (a Burgundian fief), was apparently the earliest leader of the Humbertinies, and Mr. Orton narrates how he and his kinsmen, throwing in their lot with the Emperor Conrad, established themselves in French Burgundy before 1040. In 1046 Humbert was Count of Maurienne; whence he bestrode the Alps like a saddle, and could hand on to his successors the two-fold inheritance in France and in Italy. Though Humbert Whitehands is the first distinct personage to emerge in the chronicles of the House of Savoy, the fact that historians have argued plausibly that there must have been two Humberts warns us that certainty is not attainable. Mr. Orton, after subjecting this theory to more than thirty pages of searching criticism, concludes by "accepting the view of one Count Humbert Whitehands and one main Humbertine line".
"Critical" is the word which best describes his work from end to end. Thanks to this faculty, he disentangles many of the facts from the legends in which they are embedded-whether these concern the rise of the Ardoinids at Turin, or the fortunes of Humbert's sons and grandsons, or the problem of the two Adelaides (Mr. Orton decides in favor of one). The marriage of Adelaide, countess of Turin, with Oddo I., count of Savoy, established the family in Piedmont and made obvious for it the "policy of the artichoke", by pursuing which it became under Victor Emanuel II., sovereign of United Italy.
With the marriage of Adelaide's daughter, Bertha, to the Emperor Henry IV. Mr. Orton's story expands into the current of European politics. It deals at considerable length with Henry's quarrel with the papacy and his submission at Canossa; and thenceforth it keeps constantly in view the relations between Savoy-Piedmont and the Empire. Humbert III. allied himself with Frederick Barbarossa, but discreetly held aloof, busied with his own private affairs, during the Emperor's campaign which ended in the disaster at Legnano.
The narrative of these episodes supplies the easiest reading in the volume. But the occasional page or two of generalization and summing up, in which Mr. Orton interprets the significance of medieval life, surpasses the rest in interest, and proves to us that, having mastered his details, he has grasped the whole period. He confirms his statements in abundant foot-notes; adds in an appendix sixteen early documents; and supplies two carefully prepared maps by which the dominions of the House of Savoy are shown in c. 1080 and c. 1189." (William Roscoe Thayer, The American Historical Review, 10/1913)
Outlines Of Medieval History (1916)
"IN writing an outline of European history, much of the labour of the writer must be employed in brevity of statement and in rigorous selection of matter, in omissions of what is interesting in itself and valuable for the science of humanity. In the choice of events to narrate I have been guided by their far-off results, rather than by their immediate eclat in their own time, and have tried to indicate how in the Middle Ages were accomplished the growth of modern man and the life and attitude to life of modern times. A sketch, too, must of necessity be sketchy, on the one side positive and over-clear where discreet shadows should be infused in a larger picture, on the other summary where the complexities of character or institution deserve a minuter etching. I trust, however, that the story has not wholly lost the interest of its theme, of the human strivings and the wild but purposeful convulsions by which modern Europe was made." (Preface)
Suggest and discuss books to read (all languages welcome!)
1 post • Page 1 of 1