Social Life in Britain from the Conquest to the Reformation

Social Life in Britain from the Conquest to the Reformation

Social Life in Britain from the Conquest to the Reformation

Social Life in Britain from the Conquest to the Reformation

Excerpt

Though this book is primarily intended to supply that background of social history which is necessary to a sympathetic comprehension of our own literature in the Middle Ages, it is hoped that it may appeal also to the general public; and that, in these extracts, our forefathers may be found speaking for themselves on all the main questions which interest intelligent people to-day.

A large proportion are translated (and many for the first time) from Latin or Old French. The rest are presented unmodernized (though sometimes, as the reader is warned, with some abridgment) in their medieval garb. To this end the compiler has made specially free use of such old translations as those of Trevisa, Lord Berners, and the Alphabet of Tales. Even where the episode was given more fully by a first-rate chronicler like Matthew Paris, it seemed preferable to reproduce it in Trevisa's naïve rendering of Higden's compilation; since here we have the actual English that Chaucer heard.

A very few of these illustrations have been chosen from other countries and from earlier or later dates. This, however, is only in cases where the thing described, though it happens to be recorded most clearly in such a foreign document, is also characteristic of medieval England, and could be inferred, though more laboriously, from genuine English sources. The story of Froissart's youth, for instance, may be applied without much modification to Chaucer and many others among our own youth at that day.

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