The Lineage of Lady Meed: The Development of Mediaeval Venality Satire

The Lineage of Lady Meed: The Development of Mediaeval Venality Satire

The Lineage of Lady Meed: The Development of Mediaeval Venality Satire

The Lineage of Lady Meed: The Development of Mediaeval Venality Satire

Excerpt

The type of thematic study which follows has seemed to me the most fruitful and practicable way of dealing with a centuries-long literary tradition whose individual contributors only rarely achieved distinction. Many of the most characteristic examples of medieval venality-satire are difficult to date and written by authors unknown, whose very nationalities cannot always be guessed. They probably reached the eyes of most medieval readers thus anonymously, divested of the historical contexts which produced their protests, simply as faceless representatives of a familiar and gratifying moral-satirical tradition and diverting expressions of an ancient theme.

The Middle Ages were enormously rich in venality-satire. Fortunately much of it has gradually found its way into print, especially during the past century. I have quoted from this material with great freedom: though I have worked almost wholly from printed sources, these are so scattered and often so inaccessible that I have tried thus to provide the reader with a small anthology of venality-satire. For many this may be the most useful part of the study. The texts themselves best suggest the true flavor and mood of the satire, as well as its conventionality and sense of tradition. Usually I have cited the most easily available editions of texts, even when these are not the best. Textual variations rarely affect the broad sense or even the detailed imagery of this satire, and in the growth of a literary tradition the corrupt texts which circulated are quite as significant as the author's own. I have translated all prose quotations, but have preferred to leave verse passages from the Latin and medieval French in the original. Too much disappears in translation.

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