De Nugis Curialium: Courtiers' Trifles

De Nugis Curialium: Courtiers' Trifles

De Nugis Curialium: Courtiers' Trifles

De Nugis Curialium: Courtiers' Trifles

Excerpt

Walter Map has been moderately well known from his own day to this; but the grounds of his fame have shifted in a curious way. In the centuries following his death, indeed down to the 19th century, he was regarded as the author of scurrilous Latin verse and French romances. In recent generations all his Latin verse and his French prose have been stripped from him; but he has been provided in their place with that enchanting jumble which we know as the De nugis curialium, 'Courtiers' trifles', which was hardly known at all before the 19th century.

Walter Map was a secular clerk who lived from c. 1130 X 5 to the first decade of the 13th century, prospered in a moderate way in the service of Gilbert Foliot, bishop of Hereford and London, and of King Henry II, and rose to be archdeacon of Oxford. He came from the border of England and Wales; he was a marcher by descent; he was a Welshman. This has been doubted on the ground that Gerald of Wales describes him as 'ab Anglia oriundus' and on account of the low opinion he seems to hold of the Welsh. But he himself says that they were his fellow-countrymen and his name 'Map' is a version of the Welsh 'Vab' or 'Mab' or 'Ap' meaning 'son of'; Map was very likely a nickname which was attached by the English to some of their Welsh friends on the border. His own phrases seem indeed to make it clear that he was a Welshman living on the English side of the border, in the march: he speaks slightingly of the Welsh but calls them . . .

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