« VorigeDoorgaan »
LETTERS OF JUNIUS..
IF NOTE.—In using the “Compendium" with less advanced classes I have
SIR JOHN MANDEVILLE. 1300—1371.
The first prose writer which occurs in the annals of English Literature, is the ancient and renowned traveller, Sir John Mandeville. He was born at St. Albans, about the year 1300. Stimulated by an unconquerable curiosity to see foreign countries, he departed from England in 1322, and continued abroad for thirty-four years; during which time his person and appearance had so changed, that, on his return, his friends, who had supposed him dead, did not know him. But so fixed was his habit of roving, that he set out a second time from his own country, and died at Leige, (Belgium,) November 17, 1371. John Bale, in his catalogue of British writers, gives him the following fine character, as translated by Hakluyt:
6 John Mandevil Knight, borne in the Towne of S. Albans, was so well given to the study of Learning from his childhood, that he seemed to plant a good part of his felicitie in the same: for he supposed, that the honour of his Birth would nothing availe him, except he could render the same more honourable, by his knowledge in good letters. Having therefore well grounded himselfe in Religion, by reading the Scriptures, he applied his Studies to the Art of Physicke, a Profession worthy a noble Wit: but amongst other things, he was ravished with a mightie desire to see the greater parts of the World, as Asia and Africa. Having therefore provided all things necessary for his journey, he departed from his Countrey in the yeere of Christ 1322; and, as another Ulysses, returned home, after the space of thirty-four yeeres, and was then knowen to a very fewe. In the time of his Travaile he was in Scythia, the greater and lesse Armenia, Egypt, both Libyas, Arabia, Syria, Media, Mesopotamia, Persia, Chaldæa, Greece, Illyrium, Tartarie, and divers other Kingdomes of the World: and having gotten by this meanes the knowledge of the Languages, least so many and great varieties, and things miraculous, whereof himself had bene an eie witnes, should perish in oblivion, he committed bis whole Travell of thirty-four yeeres to writing, in three divers tongues, English, French, and Latine. Being arrived again in England, and having seene the wickednes of that age, he gave out this Speech: In our time, (said he) it may be spoken more truly then of olde, that Vertue is gone, the Church is under foote, the Clergie is in errour, the Devill raigneth, and Simonie beareth the sway.'"
1 A town of Hertfordshire, about twenty miles north of London.
John Mandeville was indeed a remarkable man; and though England has since distinguished herself above all other nations for the number and the character of her voyagers and travellers, who, for the sake of enlarging the bounds of geographical knowledge, have pushed their way into every part of the world, yet, considering the time and circumstances in which he wrote, to none must Sir John Mandeville give place. We must bear continually in mind that he wrote nearly five hundred years ago—one hundred years before printing was introduced into England—in an age of great ignorance, and eager for the marvellous and the wonderful in relation to other lands so little known. That he has told many ridiculous stories is no doubt true; but such he generally prefaces with “thei seyn," or "men seyn but I have not sene it." But if we charge these against him, we must also give him credit for those accounts which, for a long time, rested on his single and unsupported authority, but which later discoveries and inquiries have abundantly confirmed ;—such as the cultivation of pepper-the burning of widows on the funeral pile of their husbands--the trees which bear wool, of which clothing is made-the carrier pigeons—the gymnosophists—the Chinese predilection for small feetthe artificial egg-hatching in Egypt—the south pole star, and other astronomical appearances, from which he argues for the spherical form of the earth the crocodile—the hippopotamus—the giraffe, and many other singular productions of nature. “ His book," says an elegant writer, “is to an Englishman doubly valuable, as establishing the title of his country to claim as its own, the first example of the liberal and independent gentleman, travelling over the world in the disinterested pursuit of knowledge; unsullied in his reputation, and honored and respected wherever he went for his talents and personal accomplishments.” 1
FROM THE PROLOGUE.2 And for als inoches as it is longe tyme passed, that ther was no generalle Passage ne Vyage over the See ; and
Men desiren for to here speke of the holy Lond, and han' thereof gret Solace and Comfort ; I John Maundevylle, Knyght, alle be it I be not worthi, that was born in Englond, in the Town of Seynt Albones, passed the See, in the Zeer of our Lord Jesu Crist MCCCXXII, in the Day of Seynt Michelle ; and hidre to have been longe tyme over the See, and have seyn and gon thorghe manye dyverse Londes, and many Provynces and Kingdomes and Iles, and have passed thorghe Tartarye, Percye, Ermonye the litylle and the grete; thorghe Lybye, Caldee and a gret partie of Ethiope ; thorghe Amazoyne, Inde the lasse and the more, a
1 Read-an interesting article on his travels in the Retrospective Review, iii, 269: also, No. 254 of the Tatler, in which Addison has ridiculed, with infinite humor, the propensity of Sir John towards the marvellous.
2 In printing these extracts from Mandeville, the edition of J. O. Halliwell, London, 1839, published from a manuscript about three hundred years old, has been carefully followed. The language, therefore, is such as our ancestors used more than three centuries ago, and it is here given not only as a curiosity, but from the belief that it will be read with more satisfaction, and convey a much better idea of the progress which the English language has since made, than if it were modernized, Before the art of printing was discovered, there was no settled method of spelling; the same word therefore, will be found spelled different ways. 3 As much
gret partie ; and thorghe out many othere Iles, that ben abouten Înde; where dwellen many dyverse Folkes, and of dyverse Maneres and Lawes, and of dyverse Schappes of men. Of whiche Londes and Iles, I schalle speke more pleynly hereaftre. And I schalle devise zou sum partie of thinges that there ben, whan time schalle ben, aftre it may best come to my mynde ; and specyally for hem, that wylle and are in purpos for to visite the Holy Čitee of Jerusalem, and the holy Places that are thereaboute. And I schalle telle the Weye, that thei schulle holden thidre. For 1 have often tymes passed and ryden the way, with gode Companye of many Lordes : God be thonked.
And zee schulle3 undirstonde, that I have put this Boke out of Latyn into Frensche, and translated it azent out of Frensche into Englyssche, that every Man of my Nacioun may undirstonde it. But Lordes and Knyghtes and othere noble and worthi Men, that conne5 Latyn but litylle, and han ben bezonde the See, knowen and undirstonden, zif I erre in devisynge, for forzetynge, or elles ;; that thei mowe redresse it and amende it. For thinges passed out of longe tyme from a Mannes mynde or from his syght, turnen sone in forzetynge: Because that Mynde of Man ne may not ben comprehended ne witheholden, for the Freeltee of Mankynde.
The gret Kyng hathe every day, 50 fair Damyseles, alle Maydenes, that serven him everemore at his Mete. And whan he is at the Table, thei bryngen him hys Mete at every tyme, 5 and 5 to gedre. And in bryngynge hire10 Servyse, thei syngen a Song. And aftre that, thei kutten his Mete, and putten it in his Mouthe: for he touchethe no thing ne handlethe nought, but holdethe evere more his Hondes before him, upon the Table. For he hathe so longe Nayles, that he may take no thing, ne handle no thing. For the Noblesse of that Contree is to have longe Nayles, and to make hem growen alle weys to ben as longe as men may. And there ben manye in that Contree, that han hire
7 Else. 2 Ridden. 8 Should. 4 Again. 5 Know. 6 Forgetting.
8 May. 9 At a period when Europe could hardly boast of three leisurely wayfarers stealing over the face of the universe; when the Orient still remained but a Land of Fairy, and the map of the world" was yet unfinished; at a time when it required a whole life to traverse a space which three years might now terminate, Sir John Mandeville, the Bruce of the fourteenth century, set forth to enter unheard of regions. His probity remains unimpeached, for the accuracy of what he relates from his own personal observation has been confirmed by subsequent travellers. But when he had to describe the locality of Paradise, he fairly acknowledges that he “cannot speak of it properly, for I was not there: it is far beyond, but as I have heard say of wise men, it is on the highest part of the earth, nigh to the circle of the moon.” So popular were his travels, that of no book, with the exception of the Scriptures, can more manuscripts of that time be found. Read-an article in D'Israeli's Amenities of Literature, vol. i., and Halliwell's Introduction to Mundeville's Travels.
Nayles so longe, that thei envyronne alle the Hond : and that is a gret Noblesse. And the Noblesse of the Women, is for to haven smale Feet and litille : and therfore anon as thei ben born, they leet bynde hire Feet so streyte, that thei may not growen half as nature wolde: And alle weys theise Damyseles, that I spak of beforn, syngen alle the tyme that this riche man etethe: and when that he etethe no more of his firste Cours, thanne other 5 and 5 of faire Damyseles bryngen him his seconde Cours, alle weys syngynge, as thei dide beforn. And so thei don contynuelly every day, to the ende of his Mete. And in this manere he ledethe his Lif. And so dide thei before him, that weren his Auncestres ; and so schulle thei that comen aftre him, with outen doynge of ony Dedes of Armes: but lyven evere more thus in ese, as a Swyn, that is fedde in Sty, for to ben made fatte.
THE SPHERICAL FORM OF THE EARTH.1 In that Lond, ne in many othere bezonde that, no man may see the Sterre transmontane, that is clept the Sterre of the See, that is unmevable, and that is toward the Northe, that we clepen the Lode Sterre. But men seen another Sterre, the contrarie to him, that is toward the Southe, that is clepts Antartyk. And right as the Schip men taken here Avys here, and governe hem be the Lode Sterre, right so don Schip men bezonde the parties, be the Sterre of the Southe, the whiche Sterre apperethe not to
And this Sterre, that is toward the Northe, that wee clepen the Lode Sterre, ne appearethe not to hem. For whiche cause, men may wel perceyve, that the Lond and the See ben of rownde schapp and forme. For the partie of the Firmament schewethe in o7 Contree, that schewethe not in another Contree. And men may well preven be experience and sotyles compassement of Wytt, that zif a man fond passages be Schippes, that wolde go to serchen the World, men myghte go be Schippe alle aboute the World, and aboven and benethen. And zif I hadde had Companye and Schippynge, for to go more bezonde, I trowel wel in certeyn, that wee scholde have seen alle the roundnesse of the Firmament alle aboute.
But how it semethe to symple men unlerned, that men ne mowelo not go undre the Erthe, and also that men scholde falle toward the Hevene, from undre! But that may not be, upon
1 This, it seems to me, is a most curious and remarkable passage, for we must remember that it was written nearly one hundred and fifty years before the discovery of America. It proves, beyond a doubt, that Mandeville had a distinct idea of the rotundity of the earth, and probably of the New World, and that, if he had had the means, he would undoubtedly have anticipated, by more than a century, the brilliant discovery of Columbus.
2 Africa. 3 The pole star. 4 That is, the star to which the loadstone or magnet points. 6 Called. 6 Advice. 7 One. 8 Subtle. 9 Think. 10 May not, that is, cannot.