According to Mandeville's Travels, a spring in the very centre of the Garden of Paradise gives rise to four great rivers from which all the fresh water in the world ultimately comes. This chapter contextualises Mandevillian geography within the still- authoritative, though increasingly problematic, geography of scripture. Even the most intrepid of readers would thus be discouraged from setting out to find the source of any of the four rivers of Paradise, since they would be no more likely to succeed in the attempt than the author himself was. Before turning to the Bible to examine the origin of the belief in an Earthly Paradise, the chapter makes another remark about the English text of Mandeville's Travels. The Book of Genesis, with its image of the Earthly Paradise and the four rivers, is clearly a major source of inspiration for the same i.e. in the Book of Sir John Mandeville.
Sir Edward Hastings expected immediate understanding of the term 'gentilman', and sympathy for his claim that gentle status and imprisonment were radically incompatible. In Latin, 'generositas' seems to have signified nobility by birth in the early thirteenth century, but by 1295 it also signified gentility bestowed by royal title. The breadth of meanings that came to be associated with gentility may itself have encouraged extended usage of the terms, making them peculiarly applicable to women as well as men. Dress and material circumstances were certainly two common makers of reputation and markers of gentility. Virtues such as truthfulness, courage and courtesy were also taken to be concomitants of gentility. Claimants to gentility were involved in a world of fluid social meanings, where their social status was continually being tested and negotiated by peers and neighbours in their community of honour.
After many years at the margins of historical investigation, the late medieval English gentry are widely regarded as an important and worthy subject for academic research. This book aims to explore the culture of the wide range of people whom we might include within the late medieval gentry, taking in all of landed society below the peerage, from knights down to gentlemen, and including those aspirants to gentility who might under traditional socio-economic terms be excluded from the group. It begins by exploring the origins of, and influences on, the culture of the late medieval gentry, thus contributing to the ongoing debate on defining the membership of this group. The book considers the gentry's emergence as a group distinct from the nobility, and looks at the various available routes to gentility. Through surveys of the gentry's military background, administrative and political roles, social behaviour, and education, it seeks to provide an overview of how the group's culture evolved, and how it was disseminated. The book offers a broad view of late medieval gentry culture, which explores, reassesses and indeed sometimes even challenges the idea that members of the gentry cultivated their own distinctive cultural identity. The evolution of the gentleman as a peer-assessed phenomenon, gentlemanly behaviour within the chivalric tradition, the education received by gentle children, and the surviving gentry correspondence are also discussed. Although the Church had an ambivalent attitude toward artistic expression, much of the gentry's involvement with the visual arts was religious in focus.
The four poems of MS Cotton Nero A.x, Art. 3, are untitled in the manuscript, but titled by modern editors, in manuscript order Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The poems testify that he was cultivated, with an appreciation of the finer points of chivalric life, and also deeply religious - a cleric, no doubt, given the poet's biblical knowledge, his interest in Christian doctrine, and his understanding of sermon style. This chapter considers these poems, taking account of relevant literary and intellectual contexts where the poems signpost them, especially the Bible. Between them they see God, implicitly, in terms of the traditional opposition between his justice and his mercy, an opposition often expressed in literature by the motif of the debate of the four daughters of God, which has the personified Justice and Truth arguing for divine justice, Mercy and Peace for divine mercy.
This introduction presents some of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book is an examination of the themes and approaches employed by historians in their discussions of the medieval English peasant, and most particularly in the period from the end of the eleventh to the beginning of the sixteenth century. It offers an overview and assessment of the development of work on medieval peasants since the close of the nineteenth century. Much of the early twentieth-century discussion of the medieval economy was located within and was explained by institutional structures. The book presents a sketch of the key historiographical phases in this area of research and writing. This sketch is also supported by a discussion of a range of possible causes of changes and developments in writing on the medieval English peasantry. The book considers historical reflection upon the term 'peasant' and its appropriateness.
This chapter presents the concepts discussed in this book, which is a collection of scholarly essays related to John Mandeville's Travels by scholars in England and France who produce a complex and sometimes contradictory view of the book as an important object of early modern attention, as well as a feature of early modern literary context. The first part of the book provides accounts of the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century travels of the Travels' variable text in its English or 'Insular' versions, along with some account of the epistemological considerations that accompanied its travel to the more pragmatic economic and colonial concerns of the Tudor and Jacobean periods. The second examines the historical discourse on the Turks and Islam in early modern England, Mandevillian geography, and the importance of medieval culture to the understanding of a European Renaissance. The last section is concerned with the invented medium of the commercial theatre.
It is surprising, at this point in the story of the rich and strange rediscovery of a text so important to French and English literary and social history, that no collection of scholarly essays related to Mandeville's Travels yet exists in English or French. This book is a collection of essays by scholars in England and France, who produce a complex and sometimes contradictory view of Mandeville's book as an important object of early modern attention, as well as a feature of early modern literary context. The chapters range in emphasis from textual and bibliographic studies of Mandeville's late medieval and early modern Nachleben to studies of 'Mandevillian ideologies', to readings of romances and especially theatrical productions, illuminated by understandings of the new life in print of the Travels and its excerpted account of the Levant. Part I of the book makes clear that there were profound changes in motives for publication, anthologisation and readerly reception of the text(s) from the time of the incunabula, through its use by explorers Columbus, Frobisher and Ralegh, to its appearance as a children's book in the Enlightenment. These changes underscore alterations of economies and geographical experience in the mostly post-medieval 'Age of Discovery'. Part II is on Mandevillian ideologies and examines the Nachleben of the Travels through a historical discourse on the Turks and Islam in early modern England, development and geography of scripture. Part III is on Mandevillian and focuses on the drama of the newly invented medium of the commercial theatre.
This book is an open-ended critical account of the Gawain-poems. The four poems of MS Cotton Nero A.x, Art. 3 are untitled in the manuscript, but titled by modern editors, in manuscript order: Pearl, Cleanness (or Purity), Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The poems testify that he was cultivated, with an appreciation of the finer points of chivalric life, and also deeply religious - a cleric, no doubt, given his biblical knowledge, his interest in Christian doctrine, and his understanding of sermon style. Pearl is a religious dream-vision in which the dream is largely taken up by dialogue between the narrator or dreamer, as a figure in his dream, and a woman who is a fount of divine wisdom. Cleanness combines discussion of a religious virtue with retelling of stories from the Bible. Its three main stories are from the Old Testament, and they centre on Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Belshazzar's feast. Patience is a poem that combines discussion of a moral quality with biblical narrative, in the case of Patience, one narrative only, the story of Jonah.Sir Gawain is a record of, and tribute to, the beauties and pleasures of chivalric life. Pearl, Cleanness, and Patience suggest that for the poet national events may have merged with events in his own life to challenge his faith. With Gawain too it is possible that the public and the personal intermingle to shake his faith in chivalry and the feudal model of social order.
Mindful of the need to avoid generalisations, and to approach the available evidence cautiously, this chapter draws on the surviving letter collections of the late medieval English gentry in an attempt to gain insight into the writers' literacy. It focuses on the gentry's command of the English language and deals predominantly with writing skills. Of all the late medieval social groups, evidence of the reading and writing skills of the gentry is the most accessible. The advantages of acquiring developed literacy skills grew throughout the late medieval period, as the gentry's involvement in local and national bureaucracy, as well as in commercial activities, increased. The concept of 'being literate' changed considerably throughout the Middle Ages, and to confuse matters modern scholars have defined literacy in many different ways. The late medieval gentry put their increasingly sophisticated literacy to use for the purpose of strengthening their group identity.
Since romances were read alongside other literary, historical, political and religious texts, and since their audience was both noble and gentle, this chapter aims to identify gentry concerns in the different texts available to them. Among the most well-known Middle English texts dealing with the topic of gentility are Chaucer's poem 'Gentilesse' and his 'Wife of Bath's Tale'. The portraits of the Knight and the Franklin in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales have also been used by literary critics and historians when discussing fourteenth-century society and its stratification in relation to Chaucer's own reflections on this topic. Instructional texts appear in miscellaneous manuscripts alongside romances, religious tracts and other items, including recipes and medical remedies. In the composite manuscripts many copies survive of the Brut chronicle, Thomas Hoccleve's Regiment, John Lydgate's Secrets, chronicles, genealogical chronicles and advice literature alongside romances.