Paris and Vienne

Paris and Vienne

Paris and Vienne

Paris and Vienne

Excerpt

Towards the end of the Middle Ages a new kind of story appeared in western Europe. These new stories show both a reaction against earlier romance and a reflection of new culture patterns that were replacing those of the Middle Ages. They are more realistic, more local, more circumstantial in detail, and closer to actual life. They are of the here and now rather than of the far away and long ago. Most of them are in prose. Often psychological motivation integrates character and action. Paris and Vienne is one of the most charming of these stories.

The difference between these and earlier romance is admirably put by Pierre de la Cypede, one of the translators of Paris and Vienne, in his preface to the early French version. He remarked that he found the old stories, such as those of Launcelot, Tristan, Florimond, and Guy of Warwick, 'very impossible to believe'; accordingly he turned, he said, to Paris and Vienne because 'the matter is reasonable and tolerably credible and the story is pleasing'. All of which says that the old stories are no longer reasonable or credible and perhaps not so pleasing.

Paris and Vienne was brought into English in 1485 by William Caxton, who translated it from French and printed it. It was re-issued by another press in 1492, reprinted by the Caxton press in 1502, and again by a third press in 1510. Only one complete copy of the Caxton 1485 printing has survived. It is now in the British Museum. In 1868 it was transcribed and edited by W. C. Hazlitt for the Roxburghe Club. The Hazlitt edition contains an accurate text, but its editorial apparatus is meagre and the book has long been out of print. I have endeavoured in this edition to provide a letter-perfect transcription of the Caxton text, with adequate introduction, notes, and glossary.

I am indebted to the authorities of the British Museum, of the Bibliothèque Nationale, of the Bodleian, and of the . . .

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