Madame Cottin's The Saracen, or Matilda and Malek Adhel

[1] The 1810 edition of this novel, which I consult here, includes four separate volumes and paginates each individually.  My citations of this volume indicate both the volume number (before the colon) and the page within the volume to which I am referring (after the colon).
 
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Madame Cottin's The Saracen, or Matilda and Malek Adhel


Sophie Cottin (1770-1807), like many of the authors considered in this study of nineteenth-century crusades romances, enjoyed considerable popularity in her day.  Indeed, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, her words circulated widely; they were translated into multiple languages and many, including The Matilda and Malek Adhel, appeared in multiple editions. Although Matilda and Malek Adhel's French origins would ordinarily place it outside of this study’s scope, the combination of its early date (the French edition was published nearly fifteen years before Ivanhoe, the earliest of Sir Walter Scott's crusades-related works) and wide circulation position it a critical predecessor of the nineteenth-century British crusades romances discussed in this project.  It is also worth noting that, according to the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Cottin's novel Elizabeth: or the Exile of Siberia became so popular in England that it was published as a "British Pocket Classic" in the same volume Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield. This easy adoption of a French novel as a British classic indicates a certain amount of flexibility in critics' perceptions of textual nationality. Matilda and Malek Adhel, although less popular than Elizabeth, appears to have circulated widely as well. Originally published in four volumes, this novel contains a wealth of themes, social sentiments, characters, and issues that cannot adequately be addressed within a short essay. Instead, I have chiefly focused on the passages which appear most central to nineteenth-century conceptualizations of the crusades. 
 
Mr. D. Boileau's "Memoir of the Life of the Authoress," which appears as a preface to the 1810 edition of this work, suggests that Matilda and Malek Adhel functions as an autobiographical text. This work underwent several changes in name in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Although the original French title of this work was Mathilda, the advertisement to the English 1809 edition informs its readers that "This work was originally published under the title of the SARACEN, which it was conceived was more descriptive of its character and locality than that given by Mad. Cottin" (xxv).  In and of itself, this act of renaming is suggestive: it indicates an attempt to attract a readership through its exotic character and eroticized relationship between the eastern Other and the European heroine.  In the 1809 edition, however, the work's title changed once again.  Boileau reports that both popular sentiment, which titled the work "Matilda," and respect for the decisions of the now-deceased authoress played a role in this decision.  Boileau's final statement on the changed title offers further insight into their motivations in reverting to the original title.  He indicates that the editors' choice "convey(s) that preference which gallantry would rather pay to the heroine than the hero" (xxv).  Consequently, the full title of the 1809 edition appears as Matilda and Malek Adhel, The Saracen.  This phrasing invites the largely female readership to focus its attention and imaginative identification on the female European heroine and her ongoing erotic temptation by Malek Adhel, whose parenthetical descriptor—The Saracen—clearly marks him as an Other, even if the reader misses the racialized implications of his name.
 
Like a number of other nineteenth-century crusades romances, including H. Rider Haggard's The Brethren and Gertrude Hollis' Slave of the Saracen, this novel begins with a kidnapping.  Matilda, the young sister of Richard the Lionheart, postpones her commitment to the convent in which she has been raised in order to directly experience the wonders of the Holy Land. She, the Bishop of Tyre, and Bérengère, Richard's consort, are kidnapped by Saladin's brother, Malek Adhel, who instantly succumbs to the conjoined charms of Matilda's beauty and virtue.  Matilda, who has also engineered Bérengère's restoration to Richard, finds her resolve slipping and her virtue imperiled. She flees through a desert to seek the counsel of a hermit. Adhel, fearing for her safety, pursues her and arrives just in time to save her from an attacking band of Bedouins.  On the return journey, Adhel's army mutinies and leaves the lovers stranded in the desert.  Believing themselves dying, both lovers make solemn commitments: Matilda promises to take no husband other than Malek Adhel, and Adhel promises to become a Christian. Miraculously, both are rescued, and shortly thereafter, circumstances compel Adhel to return Matilda to Richard.  Meanwhile, Saladin, believing Adhel to be a traitor to both his faith and his country, raises an army against him.  The Christian armies likewise believe that Adhel may be converted to their cause. Religious leaders, including the Bishop of Tyre, argue that if Adhel can be secured to the Christian cause through Matilda, both religious and military aims would be accomplished. 
 
Richard, however, has promised Matilda's hand to Guy de Lusignan, his sworn brother in arms and, out of pride, refuses to entertain any other possibility.  The situation is further complicated when Richard and Adhel meet in battle and Adhel, out of love for Matilda, spares Richard's life. Richard consequently feels himself to be shamed; his jealous feelings build.  Malek Adhel and Saladin are reconciled, and as a sign of their reconciliation, Saladin offers Adhel the kingdom of Jerusalem, which he may hold jointly with Matilda. "Accept the throne of Jerusalem," Saladin tells his brother, "place the Princess of England by thy side; let her bring thee Ptolemais for her dowry; and let the crusaders, contented with seeing a Princess of their blood reigning in Judea, return at last to Europe.—Thou wilt still remain the servant of Mahomet, the friend of thy brother" (3:116-117).[1] The council of bishops is initially tempted to accept this treaty, which would end the crusade, but the Bishop of Tyre convinces them that permitting a marriage between Matilda and the unconverted Adhel would be heretical indeed.  When Richard attempts to force the marriage with Lusignan, Matilda flees to a convent. The Bishop belatedly approves her design, and even Richard consents to leave her there unmolested. Through Lusignan's treachery, however, Matilda is unseated from her abbey refuge and Malek Adhel is stabbed in the back. On his deathbed, Adhel converts and is buried in the Mt. Carmel Abbey; his entombment is simultaneous with Matilda's retreat—equated with burial--into the Abbey. The combined ceremony sparks a mass conversion in the Muslims who witness it. Cottin relates that "The speech of the Prelate, the sparks of glory and happiness darting from the eyes of the virgin [Matilda], those celestial sounds in the air, those Christians who dared to call heaven down amongst them, and that divine charity which condescends to visit them,—all struck, confounded, and subdued the Infidels" (4: 258). Thus, even though the novel concludes with the departure of the defeated Richard, the text's romance and conversion narratives ultimately merge to allow Cottin, without revising history, to portray a successful crusade.
 
Like later nineteenth-century crusades romances, the novel engages with the national tensions that undermine the European crusade.  Although the novel is written by a Frenchwoman, its relative portrayals of Richard and Philip differ only slightly from those of her English contemporaries. "Philip Augustus," according to Cottin, "as great and magnanimous as he was provident and wise, aspired to more solid than brilliant victories" (1:23).  By contrast, although Cottin attributes the traditional "candour and sincerity" to Richard, she places far more emphasis upon his pride and recklessness than do the majority of English authors. She documents the quarrels among English and French forces and the seduction of the Christian armies to the ways of the East. The Bishop of Tyre, recounting the history of the crusade to Matilda and Bérengère, reports the King of Jerusalem's words to him:
"[I]f we were still in the times of the first crusade, in those happy times when the Christians, obeying only one chief, sacrificing with joy their private advantage to the public good, were worthy of the heavenly cause they were called upon to defend, notwithstanding the valour and the numbers of our enemies, I should not fear them . . . but . . . since the wealth of the East has corrupted the Christians, since they have preferred gold, perfumes, and the pleasures of this climate . . . the empire, in dividing thus its forces, has lost them irrecoverably. (1:97)
Notwithstanding, the Bishop of Tyre suggests that this new crusade, led as it is by Richard, re-injects zeal and fervor into the crusading enterprise. During their captivity, he tells Bérengère and Matilda that "[A] greater ardour did not animate their ancestors at the first crusade; none were then fired with a more noble and holy zeal, and better disposed to shed all their blood for the recovery of the sepulchre of their God." This zeal, he indicates, will collapse national rivalries and permit the formation of a coherent crusade: "[W]e shall see the dissensions of Conrad and Lusignan expire before the magnanimous example they behold in Richard and Philip Augustus . . . who, for the interest of religion, abandon their vast and flourishing states, and through the perils of a stormy sea come to meet their death in a foreign clime" (1:145-146). This idealized vision of a West united by its crusading zeal is not, however, borne out by the text, which documents a myriad of fractures—frequently triggered by the heroine herself—within the European community. 
 
These fractures within the Christian army appear most clearly in the novel's designation of its villains. Like Hollis' Slave of the Saracen and Haggard's The Brethren, Matilda and Malek Adhel positions a European rather than an Eastern knight as the text's chief villain. Whereas Malek Adhel consistently behaves with honor and nobility, Guy de Lusignan secures Richard's affections through deception in order to secure Matilda's hand.  Moreover, he ultimately concocts a plot that compels Adhel to enact the stereotypical role of the Muslim abductor. Lusignan causes a rumor to reach Malek Adhel that he (Lusignan) has attacked the convent and will force Matilda to marry him.  In response, Adhel, thinking that he is saving Matilda from a marriage which she abhors, "[tears] the affrighted Matilda from the altar she held in her embrace" (4:149). Matilda scornfully condemns the Christian knight's motives: "[I]f the sacred asylum, where I had sought shelter from you, has been violated by the Saracens, you alone are the cause of it . . . [W]ho is the more guilty, the Mussulman who gave the blow, or the Christian who guided it?" (4:172). To further reinforce her point, she later cries, "O Lusignan, I have lived for a long time among the Infidels, but never saw I any capable of the mean cowardice the King of Jerusalem has just stamped on his character!" (4:173). The crusade romance's consistent reliance on a European villain reflects post-colonial fears associated with the expansion of nineteenth-century empires. These fears stemmed not from the supposed vices and dissolution of the East, but from the transfer of those vices to European citizens.
 
Richard himself plays a surprisingly antagonistic role in this narrative. His opposition to the proposed marriage between the Muslim prince and the Christian princess receives scant sympathy from the novel's narrative. This narrative is grounded in Malek Adhel's conversion and Matilda's liberation from holy orders, both accomplished through romance; Richard and Philip, who oppose these goals, both become ant-heroes. Richard, once it becomes clear that Matilda has abjured her religious vocation, wishes his sister to marry Guy de Lusignan. The Bishop of Tyre chastises him for his focus on secular allegiances rather than a religious conversion (which, not incidentally, would also secure an important ally for the crusaders). The conversation between Richard and the bishop highlights these tensions. Richard demands, "Do you suspect my sister of having had the weakness of loving a Mussulman?" (3:85). The bishop responds, "Would it be one, sire . . . to have acknowledged Malek Adhel's great virtues?  to have wished to bring him over to your cause, in opening his eyes to the light of Christianity?" (3:85). As this quotation suggests, Richard's envy of Adhel places him in opposition to the Christian army as a whole. Cottin relates that:
Richard wondered at the impression the news had produced; it raised Malek Adhel's glory so high, that his own pride was wounded.  His chief hope was to be looked upon as the greatest captain of the age: in disputing with him that title, Phillip Augustus had incurred his aversion, and was he to yield to a Saracen that pre-eminence he would not grant the monarch of the first Christian empire? (3:95)
Richard recognizes and deplores the substitution of romance for warfare as the driving narrative of the crusade: he tells Matilda: "The Christians' attention has been more taken up with your amours than with the sacred cause that has torn them from their homes and families. Did the half of Europe carry war into Asia merely to witness the uncertainties and the follies of your heart?" (4: 86). Later the Bishop of Tyre, seeing the tumult and controversy that Matilda's refusal of Guy de Lusignan has caused in the Christian camp, echoes these sentiments: "[I]t is time to forget both the existence and the beauty of the virgin. What, was it for her you girded on your swords? Was it to obtain her hand you crossed the seas? Are you not afraid lest the Son of Mary, incensed at your neglect, abandon you in your weakness, and deny you his assistance?" (4:110). Ultimately, however, the novel demonstrates that Matilda is indeed key to the novel's crusading ideology: although military conquests fail to secure Jerusalem, the Muslim armies fall before Matilda's influence.
 
Romantic and imperial imagery consistently overlap within Matilda and Malek Adhel. A messenger tells Saladin that, "The princess Matilda of England, the sister of King Richard, a girl of sixteen years of age, is the beauty who holds at her feet in chains, like a vile slave, the lion of war, the thunder of the east" (2:34).  Saladin, although maintaining that his brother cannot be so enslaved as to betray his country, admits that "[I]t is said that the women of Europe possess to a supreme degree the art of enlivening, by a feigned reserve[,] the most unconquerable warriors" (2:36). This suggestion that women—particularly European women—interfere with the manly goals of warfare is a familiar trope in nineteenth-century crusades romances.  As Adhel struggles to obey Saladin's command in relation to Matilda, his conflict appears clearly: "for while he was taken up with Matilda, he could not forget his brother—that brother who expected him, who would not fight without him; the fate of the empire perhaps depended on  it. . . . No, the brother of Saladin ought not to permit the lover of Matilda to show such weakness" (2:141). The split between brother and lover that is dramatized in this quotation exemplifies the essential conflict between the novel's romance and martial plots. Similar, although less martial, imperial imagery is associated with Adhel's sway over Matilda, the narrator nonetheless asserts that, in attempting to overcome her love for the Muslim prince, "Matilda was yet struggling against the empire she had in detestation" (1:168).  Despite the novel's obvious advocacy of conversion and Christianity, however, it consistently insists upon the virtues of its Muslim heroes and the possibility of amiable coexistence. In the third volume of the novel, during a tournament in which Muslim and Christian forces amicably compete, Cottin describes the symbolic merging of Christian and Muslim religious symbols:
[F]lags and oriflambs of various colours, bearing the arms of the Crescent, were majestically waving above; and the breeze that fanned them seemed to direct their soft undulations towards the banners of the cross which hung around them; and thus, by intermixing them together, to set an example of peace and amity to the different powers they represented." (3:208-209)
It is, of course, significant that Saladin's banners are fanned towards the Christian standards, symbolically representing the potential conversion of the Islamic states. Nevertheless, the translator employs the term "intermixing" to indicate a mingling of national identities rather than the collapse of Muslim identity into Christian. 
 
Despite the novel's frequent insistence upon Malek Adhel's virtues, however, Matilda faces a nearly non-narratable dilemma within this nineteenth-century context.  She must retain her faith and chastity, and yet simultaneously achieve romantic fulfillment with Malek Adhel. With the notable exception of Major John Richardson's The Monk Knight of St. John, which unabashedly explores the erotic potential of miscegenetic relationships, no other nineteenth-century crusades romance considered in this study advocates the continued relationship between a Muslim man and a Christian woman; typically, the Muslim man appears solely to threaten the woman's chastity and showcase the valor of the Christian hero. In Cottin's novel, however, Malek Adhel himself is the hero.  Consequently, the novel consistently presents the possibility of slippage between Christian and Muslim identities. Initially, Matilda reacts with horror to the very sight of Malek Adhel; she appears convinced that any contact with him is a sin. Early in the first volume of the novel, Adhel's supposed marking by sin positions him as the object of Matilda's curious, exoticizing gaze. Matilda ruminates, “How is it . . . [that] I did not perceive in him any signs of the evil spirit to whom he is abandoned? Without doubt the disturbance, into which his impious discourse had thrown my mind, must have been the cause” (1:61).  The effect of Matilda's inability to perceive any physical markers of sin transforms Adhel into an object of exotic desire in the princess' eyes: "In musing thus, the beauteous princess experienced a kind of secret curiosity to see the young Arab again, in order to discover that distinguishing sign which the Lord must have stamped on the reprobate" (1:61). The term "Arab" focuses the reader's attention on Adhel's race, suggesting that the barrier to the hero and heroine's union may be physical as well as spiritual. Far from revealing this "distinguishing sign," however, Matilda's further acquaintance with Adhel suggests that faith, rather than race, is the cause of the lovers' disharmony. Initially, William, Bishop of Tyre, remarkable for his crusading zeal throughout the novel, offers a sweeping condemnation of Saracen "virtue." In response to Matilda's enquiry about the possibility of such virtue, he responds,
[Y]ou will meet, in many Saracens, and particularly in Malek Adhel, sincerity, disinterestedness, and nobleness of soul; but all these virtues are like a smooth bark, hiding within a source of corruption, similar to those fruits we read of in the Scriptures, that charm the eye by their beauty, and leave in the mouth a bitter and poisonous substance. (91-92)
However, upon discovering that Adhel has expressed his willingness to convert to Christianity—provided that it can be done without betraying his honor and his obligations to his brother—the Bishop entirely reverses his position. "If, through my cares, I could ever see the word of life descent and thrive in the soul of that Prince . . .  I would ask of God no other glory and comfort than to bless your nuptials and to die" (3:79). The romance between Muslim and Christian is still, to some degree, non-narratable: he dies immediately after his conversion to Christianity. 
 
Malek Adhel's conversion, however, is not the only shift in faith within the text. Although Matilda must covert Malek Adhel to Christianity, and thus save him from certain damnation, his role in saving her from the "entombment" that awaits her in a nunnery is equally crucial.  Unlike Emily Sarah Holt, whose Lady Sybil's Choice valorizes renunciation of the secular world in favor of a proto-protestant religious community, Cottin suggests that love and desire are natural components of the religious life.  It is the Archbishop of Tyre's crusading narratives that initially prompt Matilda to delay her original intention to take immediate vows: "At the name of Jerusalem, they saw his eyes filled with tears, as he related the loss of the holy places. . . . [T]hese accounts awakened in Matilda's soul new, but no less pious, thoughts: her devotion, hitherto so mild, assumed a more ardent character" (1:34). Consequently, Holt allows serious condemnations of the Catholic modes of Christianity to come through the lips of Malek Adhel, whose romantic designs are inhibited by Matilda's vows.  Weighing the relative "cruelties" of Islam and Catholicism, he says,
‘I perceive the effects of the fanatic religion when you name the most holy, while you accuse our own of being impious and cruel; yet, cruel as it is, it never commanded warriors to go and ravage your country, nor young and heavenly beauties to quit the world and its joys to go and bury themselves alive in a tomb.’ (1:74-75)
In a move typical of the nineteenth-century crusades romance, Cottin shifts her focus from religion to imperialism to romance: the dominion of the Catholic Church causes both an imperialist invasion of the East, which, according to Malek Adhel's interpretation, is equivalent to Matilda's prospective entombment. 
 
Nor is the reader meant to disagree with the "Saracen's" assessment: the narrator consistently reproduces the language of entombment which characterizes Malek Adhel's perceptions of Catholicism. Like the later Charlotte Yonge and Emily Sarah Holt, Cottin combines considerable interest in the Crusades, which took place in the Catholic European Middle Ages, with Protestant religious zeal.  Thus, Holt and Cottin's heroines must liberate themselves from the strict Catholic beliefs which have characterized their upbringing. Consequently, the religious salvation experienced by Matilda and Malek Adhel is mutual.  Initially, Matilda expresses her determination to seclude herself in a nunnery.  Repeatedly, however, Cottin associates Matilda's desire to take vows in a nunnery with the act of being buried alive. She introduces the relationship between Matilda and Richard by indicating that Richard "wished to assist at the sacrifice of his youngest sister;" she equates Richard's potential death in battle with Matilda's decision to take vows by saying that "[b]efore she took leave of the world, or in case he might perish by the hands of the Infidels, he wished to know her" (1:31).  In further support of this vilification of the convent system, Cottin reports that, “not supposing the existence of any other happiness than that which she enjoyed in her environment, she looked with joy on the approach of that august ceremony which was to entomb her forever” (1:39-40).
 
Cottin presents Matilda as the desiring innocent: she experiences a desire which is clearly revealed to the reader, but of which she herself is ignorant. Consistently throughout this text, the English translator (presumably drawing upon a French word of similar meaning, originally employed by Cottin) refers to Matilda as "the virgin," creating two parallel sets of meaning that connect religious and erotic imagery within the novel.  On one level, of course, Matilda's religious devotion and intention to present herself as a Bride of Christ connect her to the Virgin Mary.  For instance, Cottin, using imagery that directly connects the young woman with Mary, indicates that Matilda's chastity renders her utterly inaccessible in the eyes of most of Richard's knights: "[A]t the sight of the virgin, with downcast eyes, her hands crossed on her bosom, half concealed by a long linen veil, and all beauteous in her primitive innocence, every one, struck with a religious admiration, retired a few paces, as unworthy to approach her" (1:62). The narrator, however, most frequently uses the term "virgin" when documenting Matilda's erotic reaction to unfamiliar sights, faiths, and people.  For instance, during Richard's wedding, the narrator describes Matilda's reactions:
Covered with her long veil, she entered the church in the train of Bérengère, and, for the first time, saw nuptial pomp and the joys of the world under their most seducing aspect: this oath of an eternal love, addressed to another than God, astonished her innocence; and the passionate expressions of Richard, together with the voluptuous looks of his bride, disturbed the heart of the young virgin. (1:45)
Cottin's translator employs the term "virgin" to signal Matilda's potential vulnerability to the advances of Malek Adhel.  As he pursues her through the gardens of one of his palaces, the untenability of her position is clear: "the swiftness of a timid virgin, who has passed all her life in the confinement of a cloister, could not save her long from the pursuit of a warrior like Malek Adhel" (168). Moreover, her flight, occasioned by her excessive modesty, simply renders her an object of erotic display, made more attractive by the unfamiliarity of her resistance. Cottin writes, "Sure to overtake her when he chose, [Malek Adhel] stopped to see her run . . . such a resistance, which he had never yet met with, inflamed him still more . . . he came near the Princess,—touched her—took hold of her garment; he would fain have pressed her in his arms" (1:168-9). This passage presents the modestly-fleeing Matilda as a figure of erotic display, as vulnerable to the gaze of the reader as to that of her pursuer.
 
Modesty, ironically, is both Matilda's protection and her greatest allurement: her virtue compels Adhel to stop short of the seduction that frequently seems inevitable, but it also renders her unconscious desires visible to both the Prince and the reader. Cottin relates that Matilda "could not conceal from him that modesty spread all over her person and countenance; that modesty the most captivating of all the graces, the most powerful of the weapons that heaven has endowed the sex with, and which inspires respect at the same time that it increases love" (1:174). Through statements such as these, Cottin builds erotic tension in the text. Even as she incorporates the possibility of Adhel's conversion, she titillates the reader with the potential of Matilda's fall into wanton sexuality: "O chaste virgin, what will become of thee!—Can the enemy have vanquished thy courage? And has that love, against which thou struggledst, increased to such a degree, that thou canst no longer find in thy modesty a veil to hide it from thee?" (1:139). The constant tension between faith and eroticism eventually effects Malek Adhel's conversion. In a passionate scene in the dessert, whence Matilda has fled to consult a holy hermit, Matilda, after much prayer, promises to wed Malek Adhel in the hopes that this promise will bring him to Christianity. Despite the considerable erotic tension of this scene, her chastity is nonetheless preserved:
Matilda was his! Matilda was his wife! But, in calling God into the Desert, in making him the witness of their august union, in placing him between her and Adhel, the virgin had surrounded herself with so much majesty, that, in presence of the veneration she inspired, passion became silent, and every image of pleasure and voluptuousness was wholly effaced from the mind of Malek Adhel. (2:272)
In this scene, Cottin transforms the bonds between Matilda and Malek Adhel into a religious, rather than an erotic, attraction. 
 
Matilda's attempt to conquer Malek Adhel through chaste romantic love replaces Richard and Saladin's martial conflicts as the text's true crusade. Early in the first volume of this novel, Matilda sets the tone for her crusade by informing Malek Adhel that "[t]he empire of the demon, that extends itself with the help of your arm, would make room for that of Christ, if your eyes could be opened to the proper light" (110).  In his own person, Malek Adhel becomes responsible for the spread of Islam.  By extension, then, his conversion will achieve the primary aims of the crusade. Through the imaginative overlap between the arm of a single man and the extent of an entire empire, Malek Adhel becomes the embodiment of the entire Islamic empire; if Matilda can convert him, she will have successfully spread the Christian empire into the East. In the third volume of this novel, Cottin directly articulates the terms of this collapse between crusade and individual conversion:
The bishops, supported by the Pope's legate, maintained, that Malek Adhel's conversion being of infinitely more importance to the Christians than the conquest of several kingdoms, whoever should oppose the granting of any conditions that the Prince might demand, ought to be looked upon as criminal before God and man. (3:90-91)
Hence, according to the logic of this passage, any project that separates Malek Adhel from Matilda, the agent of his conversion, essentially defeats the crusade. Cottin thus offers religious justification for her consistent advocacy of the romance between Christian and Saracen. Conversion is accomplished through romantic love rather than through warfare; Adhel, unconquerable in battle, must instead succumb to Matilda's virtues. The conversion scene that concludes the text bears out this premise. The Bishop, witnessing the mass conversion that takes place at the scene of Adhel's entombment, cries:
'Noble hero, shake off the dust wherein thou sleepest. Arise, and assist at thy noblest victory.  From the abode of death hast thou spoken to their hearts, for the voice that issues from the grave is that which persuades the deepest. Father of thy people, thou hast opened heaven before them, and their salvation is the price of their blood!' (260) 
By conflating Malek Adhel's death with that of Christ, Cottin thus secures the ultimate success of her crusading narrative. Earlier in the text, Matilda's adoration of Adhel interfered with her religious devotion: "But, alas! She prayed in vain; for, if she invoked heaven, she still thought of the Prince; and the sight of the Redeemer, stretched on the cross before her, moved her less than the remembrance of the blood Malek Adhel had lost for her" (2:162). As religious faith and romantic love become indistinguishable in the novel's final scene, which traces Matilda's voluntary entombment in the abbey: "the idea of Malek Adhel surrounded itself with so much religion and purity, that it soon was blended in her soul with that of God himself" (4:263).
Bibliography
Primary Source:

Cottin, Madame.  The Saracen, or Matilda and Malek Adhel, A Crusade-Romance from the French of Madame Cottin, with an Historical Introduction by J. Michaud, the French Editor.  Vol. 1-4. New York: Isaac Riley, 1810.

Secondary Sources:

Call, Michael J. Infertility and the Novels of Sophie Cottin. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2002.

Sykes, Leslie. Madame Cottin. Oxford: Blackwell, 1949.