Nigel de Longchamps, Speculum Stultorum

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Nigel de Longchamps, Speculum Stultorum, edited and translated by Jill Mann, Oxford, 2023.

Éditeur : Oxford University Press
Collection : Oxford Medieval Texts
CLXX-475 pages
ISBN : 978-0-19-285771-2
£ 190

An edition and English translation of the Speculum Stultorum (The Mirror for Fools), a long Latin beast epic written near the end of the twelfth century by a monk of Christ Church, Canterbury. This was one of the most popular works of the Middle Ages, a favourite of Chaucer, Gower, and Henryson, and was copied for over three centuries, with a circulation extending as far as eastern Europe. It is not only a milestone in the history of medieval beast epic, but a rich source of information about contemporary life and events at Canterbury. The work is dedicated to William Longchamp, who was Richard I's chancellor, and the significance of this fact is shown.

This is a highly entertaining narrative about a donkey who longs to have a longer tail and journeys to Salerno to buy some (imaginary) medicines which will provide it. When his medicines are destroyed in an accident, he decides to become learned instead, and goes off to study at the university of Paris for seven years, but can still say only 'heehaw'. Interwoven into this simple narrative are other stories and long rhetorical set-pieces which satirise the distorted values of contemporary religious life or the corruption of the papal curia, and describe the qualities of an ideal bishop (which the donkey hopes to become).



Source : Oxford University Press