Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Living and Dying in Medieval Paris: The Household of a Fourteenth-Century French Knight

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Living and Dying in Medieval Paris: The Household of a Fourteenth-Century French Knight

Article excerpt

Nicole Crossley-Holland, Living and Dying in Medieval Paris: The Household of a Fourteenth-Centugy French Knight (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, i996). xii + z44 pp.; 24 illustrations. ISBN o-7o83-1368-x. 35.00. The Menagier de Paris is one of a number of didactic works from the decades around and following the Black Death. It is unusual in the breadth and detail of instruction that it provides and differs from that other well-known French aristocratic text of similar date, The Book of the Knight de Tour Landay, in its concern with the minutiae of household management and the preparation of foodstuffs. These differences disguise common elements. Both claim to have been written by a knight for his immediate family, and implicitly not for general circulation, both contain 'autobiographical' references, and both reflect a knowledge of a substantial body of literature, including the scriptures. These observations beg questions. Did the authors really intend their texts solely for their own family (and if so, why write a text)? Are the 'autobiographical' passages reflections of the intensely personal nature of these works or are they there to lend the writing authority? Do the literary references reflect the authors' own reading or do they hide a collective enterprise in which household priests or other professional household staff participated? These questions are not asked. Indeed the Mena`gier is treated unproblematically as the `intensely autobiographical' work of a `cultured and modest, gentle and discreet and, above all, a devout Christian' knight (pp. …

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