Walter Scott, The Talisman, the Crusades, Richard I of England and Saladin: Myths, Legends and History
by Ibn Warraq
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7 / Part 8 / Part 9 / Part 10 / Part 11 / Part 12 / Part 13 / Part 14 / Part 15 / Part 16 / Part 17 / Part 18 / Part 19 / Part 20 / Part 21 / Part 22 / Part 23 / Part 24 / Part 25
“Setting aside these natural licences of the romancer, the portrait of Saladin is drawn with remarkable insight and accuracy. His gentleness, courtesy, and nobility of character, his justice, truthfulness, and generosity, which “The Talisman” has made familiar to so many readers who know nothing else in Mohammedan history, are set forth in every contemporary record. His rare bursts of passion, which Scott has finely rendered, were also historically part of his disposition. Unfortunately he seems to have never heard of Saladin’s knighthood, and thereby we have probably lost a magnificent chapter. The general manner, dress, and so on are sufficiently Eastern, but show no minute study of the subject. The hatred of the Templars is another true touch. The two Military Orders were the only Christians to whom, as a class, Saladin showed no mercy: and he had his reasons. On the other hand, Scott is altogether wrong when he says that the Sultan “has been ever found” in “the front of battle,” “nor is it his wont to turn his horse’s head from any brave encounter.” Saladin revelled in the sight of battle; “there was nothing he loved so much as a good knight,” says Ernoul””witness his hearty admiration of the Green Knight of Spain””but he did not fight in person. He would fearlessly expose himself between the lines of battle, attended only by a groom with a spare horse, whilst the bolts and arrows whistled about his head; he would even make his chaplains read prayers under fire; and he would be seen in all parts of the field. But his duty as general, he conceived, was to lead, encourage, restrain, and order the disposition of the troops, not to engage in personal encounters; and so far as fighting went, a marshal’s bÃ¢ton, or Gordon’s cane, would be his proper weapon. Conversing with the Bishop of Salisbury, after peace was made, he censured the rashness of the ” Inkitar” Richard in mixing personally in the fray. That Scott played tricks with history is really nothing to the point; but that he was able, through the confused and imperfect records he used, to see and depict the true character of Saladin with remarkable accuracy, is but another proof of his genius.”
To be continued.