Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose

By Kenneth Sisam | Go to book overview

IX
MANDEVILLE'S TRAVELS

Mandeville's Travels were originally written in French, perhaps in 1356 or 1357. Their popularity was immediate, and Latin and English translations soon appeared. The English texts published show three forms. The first, imperfect, is the text of the early prints. The second, from Cotton MS. Titus C xvi (about 1400-25), was first printed in 1725, and is followed in the editions by Halliwell, 1839 and 1866, and by Hamelius, 1919. The third, from Egerton MS. 1982 (about 1400-25), has been edited for the Roxburghe Club by G. F. Warner, with the French text, and an excellent apparatus. Our selections follow the Cotton MS.

The Travels fall into two parts: (i) a description of the routes to the Holy Land, and an account of the Holy Places; (ii) a narrative of travel in the more distant parts of Asia. Throughout the author poses as an eyewitness. But in fact the book is a compilation, made without much regard to time or place. For the first part William de Boldensele, who wrote in 1336 an account of a visit to the Holy Land, is the main source. The second part follows the description of an Eastern voyage written by Friar Odoric of Pordenone in 1330. Other materials from the mediaeval encyclopaedists are woven in, and there is so little trace of original observation that it is doubtful whether the author travelled far beyond his library.

In the preface he claims to be Sir John Mandeville, an Englishman born at St. Albans. The people of St. Albans were driven to desperate shifts to explain the absence of his tomb from their abbey; but until 1798 it was actually to be seen at the church of the Guillemins, Liège, with this inscription:

'Hic iacet vir nobilis Dom Ioannea de Mandeville, alias dictus

-94-

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Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • The Texts xlv
  • Select Bibliography xlvi
  • I - Robert Mannyng of Brunne's Handlyng Synne Begun 1303 1
  • II - Sir Orfeo 13
  • III - Michael of Northgate's Ayenbyte of Inwyt 32
  • IV - Richard Rolle of Hampole 36
  • V - Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight About 1350-75. 43
  • VI - The Pearl 57
  • VII - The Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy 68
  • VIII - Piers Plowman (1362-1400) 76
  • IX - Mandeville's Travels 94
  • Epilogue. 104
  • X - The Bruce Written in 1375 by John Barbour. 107
  • XI - John Wiclif 115
  • XII - John Gower D. 1408. 129
  • XIII - John of Trevisa's Translation of Higden's Polychronicon 1387. 145
  • XIV - Political Pieces 151
  • XV - Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse 162
  • XVI - The York Play 'Harrowing of Hell' 171
  • Xvii the Towneley Play of Noah 185
  • Notes 204
  • Appendix the English Language in the Fourteenth Century 265
  • A Middle English Vocabulary 293
  • Glossary 297
  • Index of Names. 455
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