- Jean de Saintré: A Late Medieval Education in Love and Chivalry by Antoine de La Sale
This new translation of a famous fifteenth-century prose romance by two eminent scholars in the field of French medieval literature is most welcome. It is based on the edition of Jean de Saintré produced by Jean Misrahi and Charles A. Knudson (Geneva: Ambilly-Annemasse,) which transcribes the manuscript Bib. Vat., Reg. Lat. 896, a version that adheres closely to the corrections the author himself set out in an autograph manuscript. The translation flows very well, Krueger and Taylor having taken great care to recreate in modern English the various different registers employed by the author in a text incorporating material taken from a multitude of sources (moral teachings, crusade [End Page 233] accounts, works of heraldry, courtly romance and verse, and non-courtly fiction such as the nouvelle). Given the complexity of much of the technical language used in the text to describe costume, combat, and coats of arms, the inclusion of a number of reproductions of images from two illuminated manuscripts of the text helpfully illustrates for the reader much of its intricate detail. Krueger and Taylor’s translation is accompanied by an erudite scholarly apparatus that aims to familiarize audiences with this work and its context, since it comprises an Introduction, extensive notes on the text, a glossary, and selected bibliography. Indeed, at times, one would have liked even more of this kind of help, particularly for the student relatively new to the field. For example, it might have been useful in the Introduction, where the translators set out some of the key elements of the plot, to explain why the eponymous hero’s lady-love, Mme des Belles Cousines, turns against her erstwhile protégé when he undertakes a chivalric exploit on his own initiative and looks for amorous consolation in the arms of an ignoble lover. Similarly, more notes could have been provided on some of the other fictional heroes with whom Jean de Saintré is compared, for example, Ponthus and Guiron Le Courtois, these being far less familiar figures than Tristan or Lancelot who need no such explanation; on the conventions governing the names of heralds, for example, ‘King of Arms’; or on the reasons why, of all the classical and medieval authorities cited in the text, it is Aristotle who is referred to as ‘The Philosopher’. The glossary might also usefully have contained more entries on fabrics such as damask, clothing such as hose, colours such as carmine, and military accoutrements such as pennons. However, these quibbles aside, this is a volume presented in exemplary, error-free fashion, the only typographical errors being those found on p. 47 (‘He felt no embarrassment — as many would have been done — in thanking him publicly’; emphasis mine), and in notes 126 and 141 where the punctuation is slightly awry. As the translators suggest, this work will indeed be of great use, not only to undergraduate and postgraduate students, but also to non-specialists in the field who are being given the chance to acquaint themselves with a work that has been hailed as one of the forerunners of the modern novel.