Samuel Pepys in Paris and Other Essays

By Urban Tigner Holmes Jr. | Go to book overview

III
A TWELFTH-CENTURY SCHOOLMASTER

IN THIS PRESENT ESSAY we seek to bring the reader to a peaceful contemplation of the daily routine of a lector or clerc lisant in the schools of Paris in the last quarter of the twelfth century. He will be the equivalent of our contemporary undergraduate teacher. We have chosen Paris because its schools were the most prominent in all of Europe and always had a considerable colony of English masters and students. All educated people in England of that date bemoaned their misfortune if they had not studied at Paris. A certain nun who wrote the life of Saint Edward the Confessor, around 1160, apologizes because her Anglo-Norman French is defective in the use of verb and noun inflexions. After all, she says, she has not had the privilege of studying on the continent.1

Before we find our way to the home of the schoolmaster we shall visit, we shall glance briefly at the city itself. Our earliest extant map of Paris dates from about 1530, but the first one of useful size and detail is the one prepared by Olivier Truschet and Germain Hoyau towards 1551. Not until the plan by Jacques Gomboust in 1652 do we have a map drawn to scale. This is very valuable in presenting the history of the early French theaters. The Truschet-Hoyau map is usually reproduced in sections by those who desire to illustrate the career of François Villon and other fifteenth century characters. There is nothing to give us the mediaeval picture of the great city except the undetailed drawing prepared by M. Halphen, and a slightly more detailed sketch which I have presented by combining Halphen, the streets to scale from the Gomboust, and the information on streets and buildings drawn from cartularies and other twelfth century sources. This last is the city such as I shall now describe it, as it could have been in 1175-89.2

There was a stockade of some kind on the right bank. Probably this was made with huge wooden pales, sharpened at the top. The two or three gateways leading into this suburban en-

1 La vie d’Edouard le confesseur, ed. Södergard (Uppsala, 1949), vv 1 ff.

2 The material on mediaeval Paris and daily life in the Middle Ages which now follows in this essay is founded on many sources, which are indicated in my Daily Living in the Twelfth Century (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1952, 1953). The map of Paris is printed as an endsheet in this book.

-41-

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Samuel Pepys in Paris and Other Essays
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • A Preface vii
  • I Samuel Pepys in Paris 1
  • II- Mediaeval Gardens 25
  • III- A Twelfth-Century Schoolmaster 41
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