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perceptible features. The fact now appears singular; but it is placed out of doubt by the direct attestation of Chalcondyles'; and, indeed, it is by no means unaccountable, when the Norman origin of our nobility is considered, and the comparatively short time, little more than a century, since the great western provinces of France had been severed from the English crown.
Of the two translations of the work, the MS, of the Harleian Library is unquestionably the earliest ; and from internal evidence appears to have been executed in the reign of Henry the Sixth. It is occasionally disfigured by French idioms, but is, upon the whole, a beautiful specimen of the language of the period; and has an ease and fluency which mark a hand practised in composition. The version of Caxton, though probably forty or fifty years later, is in most respects more rude. The venerable typographer confesses, in his preface, that he was but an indifferent translator ; “ though he had emprysed him heretofore to smattre in such translations;" and his performance occasionally needs this apology. It displays far more frequent instances of harshness and obscurity than the former work; and in some places manifests a total disregard of all grammatical rules. Like many modern authors, however, he pleads the importunity of friends; and especially of a noble lady, who had educated many fair daughters, and was so impressed with the excellence of the work, that she desired to make it generally understood. Of course, Caxton was not aware of the existence of the earlier translation ; and indeed, even in these days of bibliography, so little are either works known”, that the identity of their origin has, we believe, never before been suspected. The MS. from its greater antiquity and beauty, will chiefly supply the quotations of the following pages.
The occasion which suggested the composition of the treatise is thus related. At the end of the month of April, 1371, the knight was reflecting, under the shadow of some trees in his garden, on various passages of his life, and on the memory of a wife, whose early death had left him to a long widowhood of sorrow; when, in the midst of his reverie, he sees his three daughters coming to him. Their appearance diverts his thoughts to the condition of females in society, and particularly leads him to reflect on the dangers to which they were exposed in an age of such licentiousness. As an illustration of these dangers, he calls to mind an adventure characteristic of the times, of his riding, when young, “ with his fellows through Poictou and other places," making love to all the handsome women they encountered. “And whether they had good answere or evell, they cared never, for they hadde in them no shame nor drede. And so they did both deceyve ladyes and gentel-women, and bere forth diverse languages on them, some true and some fals, of which there came diverse grete defames and sclaundres.” In a state of society in which such gay adventures were countenanced, a father might well tremble for the purity and happiness of his daughters : and as an antidote he resolves to compose this treatise, to enforce on them the importance of virtue, by "examples both of good and evil.” With this design, he continues, “ y parted' and yede oute of the gardein, and founde in my waye ij prestes and ij clerkes that y had, and y saide to hem, that y wold make a boke of ensaumples, for to teche my doughtres, that thei mighte understonde how thei shulde governe hem and knowe good from evell. And so, y made hem extraie me ensaumples of the bible and othir bokes that y had; as the gestes of kinges, the cronicles of ffraunce, grece, of Inglond, and of mani other straunge londes; and y made hem rede me everi boke, and ther that y founde a good ensample, y made [them] extraie it oute: and thanne y made this boke. But y wolde not sette it in ryme, but in prose, for to abbregge it, and that it mighte be better and more plainly understode.”
1 De Rebus Turcicis, lib. ii. p. 48. Chalcondyles visited England in 1400.
2 Caxton's work has almost the scarcity of a MS.; not more than three or four perfect copies of it are known to be in existence. One of them, in the dog days of bibliomania, is said (Dibdin's ed. of Ames) to have sold at Mr. Brand's sale for 105 guineas. Volumes purchased at such a price are seldom read by those who buy them ; but from professed bibliographers, something more might be expected. The following, however, is a spe. cimen of their researches. “ This singular work,” says Mr. Dibdin, “ from its title, would lead the reader to expect an account of tilts and tournaments, and all the peril and pomp attending chivalrous adventures; but although there may be some amusing and instructive stories in it (pone of which, however, it has been my good fortune on a casual glance to discover), it is a didactic work," &c.
The accomplishments of the young ladies who were the objects of this paternal counsel may be tolerably imagined from what is known of the state of female education at the time. In the upper ranks, this was generally conducted in the monastéries, or in the family of some relative or friend, if possible, of superior rank. It was less common to educate daughters at home, partly perhaps from its trouble, and partly because it was thought ihat abroad they would be more likely to form advantageous connexions. Under all its forms, however, its character seems to have been nearly the same. It consisted of needlework, confectionary, surgery, and the rudiments of church-music; to which, in the case of a monastic education, was perhaps generally added, the art of reading. The prejudices of the times, and particularly of the male sex, were opposed to any higher degree of mental cultivation ; arising probably from a suspicion, which was certainly not ill founded, that it might render women an over-match for their admirers. In this spirit, even the accomplishment of reading, as has just been hinted, was by no means universally conceded ; nor is it certain that, where it was so, its effects were beneficial, from the absurd and corrupting works in which young persons were taught. “ Instead of reading bokes of wisdom and science,” says the knight, “ they studye in nought but the bokes that speke of love fables, and other wordlie vanities. Howbeit, there ben suche men, that have opinion, that they wolde not that their wyves ne doughtres shulde knowe nothinge of the scripture; as touching the holy scripture, it is no force (matter] though women medill not, ne knowe but littel thereof." This idea, however, he stoutly combats, being, in his way, quite a champion of female education. He thinks it good that women should be taught to read their bibles; though he does not extend the same liberality to writing. The latter accomplishment he regards as dangerous and unnecessary; and thinks it better “ if women can nought of it.” We may conclude, therefore, that the young ladies to whom this volume was addressed, though almost of the highest rank, were, like others of their station, ignorant of this perilous art.
1 We have not ventured to alter the orthography, though it is often extremely irregular. The reader who is unpractised in black-letter lore, will observe, that the imperative mood terminates in the M$. in ithe, as goithe for go; that the pronoun I is invariably written y; that hem and her are used for them and their ; yef' for if ; ther for where, &c.
“ A knight wynnithe worshippe and vaillaunce by grete payne and laboure, in hete and colde: and puttithe his body in so many adventures of dethe, and all for to wynne worshippe and good name; as by straunge viages, by harde assautes, by diverse grete batailes, and by many other grete perilles in armes ... Right it is of a good woman, that atte all tymes, puttith her payne in travaile, to kepe her body undefouled and in clennesse, and refusithe the delites of youth and of foule plesaunces.”
The religious duties which the knight prescribes to his daughters savour of this spirit of severity. Excepting, however, what is peculiarly catholic in them, they are far from being irrational, and discover some sound views of the subject. After stipulating for the punctual performance of their matins or orisons, he continues :
“ Moreover, ye aught to praie God for the soules that ben dede, everi day or ye slepe: for yef ye do, the dede praiethe for you. And forgete not to praie to the blessed Virgine Marie, that day and night praieth for us; and to recomaunde you to the seintes and santas. And whanne this is done, thanne ye may slepe the beter. And also
ye aught to praie everi tyme that ye wake, and ye aught not to forgete it. ....... And saie your matenis and your service with good herte, and thinke not on none other worldly ocupaciones; for ye may not go two waies at onis, as the wise man saithe, as good is he that herithe and understondithe not, as he that huntithe and takithe not. And therefore he that saithe a pater noster and praiers, and thinkithe of worldly thinges and ocupaciones, his praiers profiteth not ; for praiers ben celestiall thinges, and holy writte saith, better were a short orisoun said with good devoute herte, thanne grete long matenis said without devocion. But the more ye saie devoutly and with good herte, the more merite ye have. And as holy writte makithe mencion like as the dewe of Aprill temperithe the erthe and makithe it fructify, so praiers to God makithe man and woman to be enhaunsed; as ye may see in holy legendis of seintes, confessours, virgines and holy wemen, that made her beds of cuttings of vynes and other thinges, that shulde cause hem the lasse to slepe ...... And therefore good doughtres, saithe your matenis and praiers without thinking save only of God, devoutly and with good herte ; and that ye saie hem fasting, for a full stomake may not be holy and perfitly humble and devoute: and after herithe all the masses that ye may, for grete profit and good ye shall have thereof of God. ..... Moreover my faire doughtres ye aught to faste, as long as ye be to wedde [are unwed] iij dayes a-weke, for to holde lowe your flesshe, to kepe you chaste and clene in Goddes service. And yf ye faste not [on] brede and water, etithe no thinge that received dethe."
He then directs his attention to the state of female manners; and here we come more sensibly into contact with the age. One of the first faults which he takes occasion to correct, and which was natural to ignorant and uneducated girls, was that of levity. Among other points, he fixes on their conduct at mass; at which the grossest irreverence and disorder is known to have prevailed. The graphic description of Barklay proves that the abuse continued uncorrected down to the Reformation. The church during the celebration of the service seems to have been an established scene of gossip and flirtation. The men came with their hawks and dogs, walking to and fro to converse with their friends, to make bargains and appointinents, and to show their guarded coats.
“ And while the priest his mass or mattins sings,
This picture enables us to appreciate the necessity of the following advice :
“ In saieng your praiers at mass, or in other place, be not like the crane or the turtu, that turnithe her hede and face backward, and lokithe over the shuldre, and ever staringe with the hede like a wesell. Havithe your loke, and holdithe your hede firme, as a beste that is called a lymer lookithe ever afore hym without turning his hede hedir or thedir. And if ye luste to loke asyde, turnithe youre bodi and visage togedre; and so youre countenance shall be moste ferme and sure."
To illustrate the importance of this advice, he tells them of the daughter of a king of Denmark, who lost her marriage with a king of England, because she was observed by his ambassadors not to “ hold her hede and porte sure; but looked smalle and winked ofte, and spoke afore she understode what was said to her.” To the same effect he relates to them an anecdote of the failure of a matrimonial design of his youth, occasioned by the levity of the lady:
“ It happed my frendes spake to me to be maried unto a noble place; and my fader brought me to see her that y shulde have. And there we hadde gret chere; and my fader sette me in language with her, that y shulde have knowlech of her speche and language: And 80 we fell in wordes of prisoners: and y saide, dame, seth it were beter to fall to be your prisoner, than to mani other; for y trow youre prison shulde not be so harde to me as it shulde be, and y were take with staken by] Englishemen. And she answered, y have sen some not long sethe, that y wolde were my prisoner. And y asked her, yef she wolde putte hym in evel prison; and she saide nay, she wolde kepe hym as she wolde her own body: and y saide he was happi that might come into so noble a prison. What shall y saie; she loved me ynough and hadde a quicke yee and light, and there was mani wordes. And so atte the last, she waxe right familier with me; for she praied me ij or iij tymes that y shulde not abyde long, but that y shulde come and see her, however it were. Of the whiche y hadde marvaile, seeing that y was never aqueinted with her nor hadde spoken nor seen her afore that tyme; and she knew wel that folke were aboute to marie us togedre. Whanne we were parted, my fader asked me, how likithe you, tell me youre avys. And y saide, she was both good and faire, but she shulde be to me no nerer than she was. And y tolde my fader, how me liked of her estate and language, and so y saide y wolde not of her for she was so pert and so light of maners, that caused me to be discoraged from her; of the whiche, y have thanked God sethe divers tymes, for in sothe it was not half a yeere after that she was blamed.”
Another foible, which had its origin in the same want of mental cultivation, was an extravagant passion for dress. This was the epidemic of all Europe during the middle ages; but