Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book report: Six Medieval Men & Women

I haven't done a book report in months. In the spirit of this being a world-building-heavy blog, I'll talk about this one, though.

Six Medieval Men & Women, by H.S. Bennett, is a collection of information originally presented in university lectures during the 1950s. At the University College of Wales, for what that's worth. This isn't an easy book to find -- I got mine through

The book presents daily-life information about four men and two women living the late-14th to early-15th century, all in England. It was all gleaned from official records, letters and other sources.

When I heard of it, someone was describing it as dry and sort of dull. I've read worse, to be honest. It's not that difficult to get through, and of course I wish there was more personal detail about the people described but there's enough here to get me thinking.

He starts with the Duke of Gloucester, about whom there is the most information. However, he's the least interesting to me. I found the portrait of Thomas Hoccleve, scribe, minor functionary, and part-time poet, more interesting. Maybe because his travails sound familiar. :)

The sketch of Margery Kempe, who was described as a "minor mystic" was also intriguing -- "minor mystic" being a polite term for a pious (and/or mentally troubled) lady of modest means who led a rather gypsy life. And the most interesting, but also shortest, is the account of one Richard Bradwater who was an ordinary farmer that spent most of his time getting into arguments with his neighbors and filling up the local court records with the results of those disagreements.

These are only glimpses into a very different world from ours, but there are also clear parallels. The little excerpt where Hoccleve complains about his day job sounds far too familiar. Writers have been trying to cram their art in next to their "real life" for centuries.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...