The Babees' Book Medieval Manners for the Young_ Done into Modern English
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The School of Aristotle.
See page 9.
Manners for the
Young Now first
done into Modern
English from The
Dr. F. J. Furnivall:~
THE BABEES’ BOOK:
|THE BABEES’ BOOK||1|
|THE A B C OF ARISTOTLE||9|
|THE LITTLE CHILDREN’S LITTLE BOOK||16|
|THE YOUNG CHILDREN’S BOOK||21|
|STANS PUER AD MENSAM||26|
|HOW THE GOOD WIFE TAUGHT HER DAUGHTER||31|
|HOW THE WISE MAN TAUGHT HIS SON||43|
|JOHN RUSSELL’S BOOK OF NURTURE||47|
|THE BOOK OF COURTESY||79|
|SYMON’S LESSON OF WISDOM FOR ALL MANNER CHILDREN||122|
|HUGH RHODES’S BOOK OF NURTURE||126|
|FRANCIS SEAGER’S SCHOOL OF VIRTUE||141|
|RICHARD WESTE’S SCHOOL OF VIRTUE, THE SECOND PART, OR THE YOUNG SCHOLAR’S PARADISE||157|
|THE SCHOOL OF ARISTOTLE Cotton, MS. Aug. A. 5, fol. 103.||Frontispiece|
|“DE LA DISPUTATION Q’ FIST CATHON A SOY MESMES ET CONTRE SON CORPZ A SA MORT” Royal MS. 16 G. viii., fol. 324.||44|
|“CY PARLE DUNE GRANT FESTE QUE LE ROY RICHARD DENGLETERRE FIST A LONDRES” Royal MS. 14 E. iv., fol. 265b.||54|
|“IF THOU BE A YOUNG INFANT” Harl. MS. 621, fol. 71.||85|
|JOHN OF GAUNT RECEIVES A CIVIC DEPUTATION Royal MS. 14 E. iv., fol. 169b.||112|
|“WHO SPARETH THE ROD, THE CHILD HATETH” B.M. Add. MS. 31240, fol. 4.||126|
NEARLY forty years ago, Dr. Furnivall collectedfor the Early English Text Society “diverstreatises touching the Manners and Meals of Englishmenin former days.” Some of these were published in1868, under the title The Babees’ Book, and others,chiefly of later date, in 1869, under the title QueeneElizabethes Achademy.
These two volumes, with their introductions andillustrative matter, to my mind present the most vividpicture of home life in medieval England that wehave. Aside from their general human interest, theyare valuable to the student of social history, and almostessential to an understanding of the literature of theirtime. The whole fabric of the romances was basedupon the intricate system of “courtesy” as here setforth, and John Russell furnishes an interesting commentxiion Chaucer and his school, as do Rhodes andSeager and Weste on the writers of the sixteenthcentury. Finally, among these treatises, there is manya plum by the way for the seeker of proverbs, curiouslore, superstitions, literary oddities. And as comparativelyfew people have time or inclination to worrythrough antiquated English, Dr. Furnivall has longwished that the substance of his collections mightbe presented in modern form. Therefore this littlevolume has been undertaken.
Doubtless unwritten codes of behaviour are coevalwith society; but the earliest treatises that we possessemphasize morals rather than manners. Even the lateLatin author known as Dionysius Cato (fourth century?),whose maxims were constantly quoted, translated,imitated, and finally printed during the lateMiddle Ages, does not touch upon the niceties of conductthat we call manners; wherefore one John Garland,an Englishman educated at Oxford, who livedmuch in France during the first half of the thirteenthcentury, felt bound to supplement Cato on thesepoints. His work, entitled Liber Faceti: docens moreshominum, precipue iuuenum, in supplementum illorum quixiiia moralissimo Cathone erant omissi iuuenibus utiles, isalluded to as Facet in the first piece in this volume,and serves as basis for part of the Book of Courtesy.
But, earlier than this, Thomasin of Zerklaere, about1215, wrote in German a detailed treatise on mannerscalled Der Wälsche Gast. And in 1265, Dante’steacher, Brunetto Latini, published his Tesoretto,which was soon followed by a number of similartreatises in Italian.
While we need not hold with the writer of the LittleChildren’s Little Book, that courtesy came down fromheaven when Gabriel greeted the Virgin, and Maryand Elizabeth met, we must look for its origin somewhere;and inasmuch as, in its medieval form at least,it is closely associated with the practices of chivalry, wemay not unreasonably suppose it to have appeared firstin France. And although most of the extant Frenchtreatises belong to the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries,a lost book of courtesy, translated by Thomasin ofxivZerklaere, is sometimes held, on good grounds, to havebeen derived from French, rather than from Italian.
In any case, such of the English books as were nottaken immediately from Latin, came from Frenchsources. To be sure, there is a Saxon poem, based itwould seem on Cato, though by no means a translation,called A Father’s Instructions to his Son; but this,although it is greatly exercised about the child’s soul,takes no thought for his finger-nails or his nose.
It is not, therefore, surprising to find that nearly allEnglish words denoting manners are of French origin—courtesy,villainy, nurture, dignity, etiquette, debonaire,gracious, polite, gentilesse, &c., while to balance them Ican, at this moment, recall only three of Saxon origin—thew(which belongs rather to the list of moral wordsin which Old English abounds), churlish and wanton(without breeding), both of which, significantly enough,are negative of good manners.
The reason for the predominance of the Frenchterms is simply that “French use these gentlemen,” asone old writer puts it; that is, from the Conquest untilthe latter part of the fourteenth century the languageof the invaders prevailed almost entirely among thexvupper classes, who, accordingly, learned their politenessout of French or Latin books; and it was only with thegrowth of citizenship and English together, that thesematters came to be discussed in this latter tongue forthe profit of middle-class children, as well as of the“bele babees” at Court.
We must suppose, from numerous hints and descriptions,that an elaborate system of manners and customsprevailed long before it was codified. The Bayeuxtapestry (eleventh century) shows a feast, with a serverkneeling to serve, his napkin about his neck, as JohnRussell prescribes some four hundred years later.
The romances again, alike in French and in English,describe elaborate ceremonies, and allude constantly todefinite laws of courtesy. Now and again we find apassage that sets forth the ideal gentleman. YoungHorn, for example, was taught “skill of wood andriver” (hunting and hawking), carving, cup-bearing,and harping “with his nails sharp.” Child Florentshowed his high birth by his love of horse, hawk, andarmour, and by his contempt of gold; but he was notthought ill-mannered to laugh when his foster-fatherand mother fell down in their attempt to draw a rustyxvisword from its scabbard! Chaucer’s Squire mightwell have been brought up on a treatise similar to thoseincluded in this volume:
But the Prioress outmatched him, having possiblylearned her manners in the French of “Stratford-atte-Bowe,”in Les Contenances de la Table, or some suchthing: