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Mary Tudor's French Tutors: Renaissance Dictionaries and the Language of Love Deanne Williams John Palsgrave's English-French dictionary, Lesclarcissement de b bnguefrancoyse (1530) opens with a wedding. He writes: "I nave . . . assayde so to mary our tongue & the french togider" (A.iiir) . Figuring the project of bilingual lexicography as a marriage of tongues, Palsgrave's nuptial metaphor also has a more literal referent. Palsgrave was the tutor of Henry VHI's sister Mary, and he travelled with the princess as her secretary when she moved to France, in 1514, to marry Louis XII.1 Palsgrave's trope memorializes the royal wedding which inspired his own lexicographic marriage of tongues; however, it also reflects an intimate knowledge of his sovereign's agenda. Attempting to "reduce" the French tongue by bringing it "under rules" (A.vir), Palsgrave enacts, linguistically, the English mastery over France that Henry VIII, addressed in this text as "King of England and of France" (A.iir), hoped to enjoy. By joining his lively 18 year-old sister to the fragile and gouty 52 year-old French king, Henry planned to expedite the passing of the aged monarch, and, hence, to have a reasonable chance at placing a Tudor nephew in line to the French throne. Generally considered to be the first bilingual vernacular dictionary (or, to use Palsgrave's own term, vocabulist) , as well as the first extensive, systematic analysis of French grammar, Palsgrave's Lesclarcissement constitutes a characteristically Tudor response to the history of conquest, conflict, and rivalry that complicated the study of French 1On Palsgrave's life and work see Stein (1997). Dictionaries:fournal ofthe Dictionary Society ofAmerica 21 (2000) 38Deanne Williams in sixteenth-century England.2 Having neither shaken off fully the mentality of subjecthood, nor achieved permanently the long-awaited victory over France, English students of French were required to come to terms, literally and figuratively, with the pervasive presence of French language and culture in England that was the legacy of the Norman Conquest.3 At first glance, Palsgrave's account of his instruction of the young princess in the terms of her wifely obedience to the French king appears to draw upon the gender hierarchy implied by heterosexual marriage in order to reinforce the continuing supremacy of the French language. Although the predominance of French in England, which had remained the language of royalty and religion, of Parliament and of public records, throughout the Middle Ages, had diminished by the time Palsgrave composed his dictionary, knowledge of French nevertheless remained a crucial marker of education and social class, and was beginning to replace Latin as the language of international diplomacy.4 However, by teaching Mary Tudor to "speke any sentence truely and parfitly to endyte any matter in the french tongue" and to "understand any authour that writeth in the sayd tong" (A.iiiv), Palsgrave also supplies his student with the verbal tools of English domination over France. Mastered by Palsgrave and his reader, French is placed fully under English control, utterly demystified. Mary's French lessons are thus pressed into the service of Tudor ascendancy: her fluency in French is less an expression of submission to her French husband than an extension of the political will of her English brother. Printed shortly after Palsgrave's Lesclarcissement, Giles du Wes's Introductorie for to lerne to rede to pronounce and to speke Frenche trewely (1532-3?) also emerges out of the experience of giving French lessons to an English princess named Mary Tudor to prepare her for marriage .5 Composed for the daughter of Catherine of Aragon and Henry 2As Stein observes (1996, 1) the term dictionary was first used by Sir Thomas Elyot to name his Latin-English Dictionary (1538), although Palsgrave's work is of a similar scale and comprehensive nature. 3On French language instruction in England, see Lambley (1920), Orme (1973), and Kibbee (1991). 4On the linguistic situation in England in the Middle Ages, see Clanchy (1979). 'The dating of this text is the subject of some debate. Based on internal evidence , F. Génin proposes a composition date of 1527-30 (1852, 16-17). Following Lambley, Kibbee argues for the earlier date of 1524-7 (1991,194...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 37-50
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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