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The Goodman of Paris, 1392/4


The Goodman, or "Menagier" of Paris, was a text writte between 1392 and 1394 by an elderly Parisian merchant for his new, and much younger, wife. It is both a cookbook and a statement of the writer's ideal of marriage.

DEAR SISTER,

You being the age of fifteen years and in the week that you and I were wed, did pray me to be indulgent to your youth and to your small and ignorant service, until you had seen and learned more; to this end you promised me to give all heed and to set all care and diligence to keep my peace and my love, as you spoke full wisely, and as I well believe, with other wisdom than your own, beseeching me humbly in our bed, as I remember, for the love of God not to correct you harshly before strangers nor before our own folk, but rather each night, or from day to day, in our chamber, to remind you of the unseemly or foolish things done in the day or days past, and chastise you, if it pleased me, and then you would strive to amend yourself according to my teaching and correction, and to serve my will in all things, as you said. And your words were pleasing to me, and won my praise and thanks, and I have often remembered them since. And know, dear sister, that all that I know you have done since we were wed until now and all that you shall do hereafter with good intent, was and is to my liking, pleaseth me, and has well pleased me, and will please me. For your youth excuses your unwisdom and will still excuse you in all things as long as all you do is with good intent and not displeasing to me. And know that I am pleased rather than displeased that you tend rose-trees, and care for violets, and make cl-raplets, and dance, and sing: nor would I have you cease to do so among our friends and equals, and it is but good and seemly so to pass the time of your youth, so long as you neither seek nor try to go to the feasts and dances of lords of too high rank, for that does not become you, nor does it sort with your estate, nor mine. And as for the greater service that you say you would willingly do for me, if you were able and I taught it you, know dear sister, that I am well content that you should do me such service as your good neighbours of like estate do for their husbands, and as your kinswoman do unto their husbands. Take counsel privily of them, and then follow it either more or less as you please. For I am not so overweening in my attitude to you and your good intent that I am not satisfied with what you do for me therein, nor with all other services, provided there be no disorder or scorn or disdain, and that you are careful. For although I know well that you are of gentler birth than I, nathless that would not protect you, for by God, the women of your lineage be good enough to correct you harshly themselves, if I did not, and they learnt of your error from me or from another source; but in you I have no fear, I have confidence in your good intent. Yet although, as I have said, to me belongs only the lesser service, I would that you know how to give good will and honour and service in great measure and abundance more than is fit for me, either to serve another husband, if you have one, after me, or to teach greater wisdom to your daughters, friends, or others, if you list and have such need. For the more you know the greater honour will be yours and the greater praise will therefore be unto your parents and to me and to others about you, by whom you have been nurtured. And for your honour and love, and not for my service (for to me belongs but the common service, or less,) since I had pity and loving compassion on you who for long have had neither father nor mother, nor any of your kinswoman near you to whom you might turn for counsel in your private needs, save me alone, for whom you were brought from your kin and the country of your birth, I have often wondered how I might find a simple general introduction to teach you the which, without the aforesaid difficulties, you might of yourself introduce into your work and care. And lastly, me-seems that if your love is as it has appeared in your good words, it can be accomplished in this way, namely in a general instruction that I will write for you and preto you, in three sections containing nineteen principal articles....

***

The first section of the three is necessary to gain the love of God and the salvation of your soul, and also to win the love of your husband and to give you in . this world that peace which should be in marriage. And because these two things, namely the salvation of your soul and the comfort of your husband, be the two things most chiefly necessary, therefore are they here placed first. And this first section contains nine articles.

***

The fifth article of the first section telleth that you ought to be very loving and privy towards your husband above all other living creatures, moderately loving and privy towards your good and near kinsfolk in the flesh and your husband's kinsfolk, and very distant with all other men and most of all with overweening and idle young men, who spend more than their means, and be dancers, albeit they have neither land nor lineage; and also with courtiers or too great lords, and with all those men and women that be renowned of gay and amorous and loose life....

For to show what I have said, that you ought to be very privy and loving with your husband, I set here a rustic ensample, that even the birds and the shy wild beasts, nay the savage beasts, have the sense and practice of this, for the female birds do ever follow and keep close to their mates and to none other and follow them and fly after them, and not after others. If the male birds stop, so also do the females and settle near to their mates; when the males fly away they fly after them, side by side. And likewise wild birds, be they ravens, crows, jackdaws, nay, birds of prey such as hawks, falcons, tercels and goshawks and the like, that be nurtured by persons strange to them in the beginning, after that they have taken food from those strangers, they love them more than others So likewise is with domestic and field animals, as with wild beasts. Of domestic animals you shall see how that a greyhound or rnastiff or little dog, whether it be on the road, or at table, or in bed, ever keepeth him close to the person from whom he taketh his food and leaveth all the others and is distant and shy with them; and if the dog is afar off, he always has his heart and his eye upon his master; even if his master whip him and throw stones at him, the dog followeth, wagging his tail and lying down before his master to appease him, and through rivers, through woods, through thieves and through battles followeth him.

Another ensample may be taken from the dog Macaire, that saw his master slain within a wood, and when he was dead left him not, but lay down in the wood near to the dead man, and by day went to find food afar off and brought it back in his mouth and there returned without eating it, but lay down and drank and ate beside the corpse of his master, all dead within the wood. Afterwards this dog several times fought and attacked the man that had slain his master, and whenever he found him did assail and attack him; and in the end he overbore the man in the fields on the island of Notre Dame at Paris, and even to this day there be traces there of the lists that were made for the dog and for the field [of battle]....

Now have you see divers strange ensamples, which be true and visible to the eye, by the which ensamples you see that the birds of the sky and the shy wild beasts and even the ravening beasts have the sense perfectly to love and be privy with their owners and those that be kind to them, and to be strange with others; wherefore for a better and stronger reason women, to whom God has given natural sense and who are reasonable, ought to have a perfect and solemn love for their husbands; and so I pray you to be very loving and privy with your husband who shall be.

***

The sixth article of the first section saith that you shall be humble and obedient towards him that shall be your husband, the which article containeth in itself four particulars.

The first particular saith that you shall be obedient: to wit to him and to his commandments whatsoever they be, whether they be made in earnest or in jest, or whether they be orders to do strange things, or whether they be made concerning matters of small import or of great; for all things should be of great import to you, since he that shall be your husband hath bidden you to do them. The second part or particular is to understand that if you have some business to perform concerning which you have not spoken to him that shall be your husband, nor hath he bethought him concerning it, wherefore hath he nothing ordered nor forbidden, if the business be urgent and it behoves to perform it before he that shall be your husband knoweth it, and if you be moved to do after one fashion and you feel that he that shall be your husband would be pleased to do after another fashion, do you act according to the pleasure of your husband that shall be, rather than according to your own, for his pleasure should come before yours.

The third particular is to understand that if he that shall be your husband shall forbid you to do anything, whether he forbid you in jest or in earnest or whether it be concerning small matters or great, you must watch that you do not in any manner that which he has forbidden.

The fourth particular is that you be not arrogant and that you answer not back your husband that shall be, nor his words, nor contradict what he saith, above all before other people.

Taking the first of the four particulars, which biddeth you to be humble and obedient to your husband, the Scripture bids it .... That is to say, it is the command of God that wives be subject to their husbands as their lords, for the husband is the head of the wife, even as our Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. Thus it followeth that even as the Church is subject and obedient to the commandments, great and small, of Jesus Christ, as to her head, even so wives ought to be subject to their husbands as to their head and obey them and all their commandments great and small....

***

The seventh article of the first section showeth how you should be careful and thoughtful of your husband's person. Wherefore, fair sister, if you have another husband after me, know that you should think much of his person, for after that a woman has lost her first husband and marriage, she commonly findeth it hard to find a second to her liking, according to her estate, and she remaineth long while all lonely and disconsolate and the more so still if she lose the second. Wherefore love your husband's person carefully, and I pray you keep him in clean linen, for that is your business, and because the trouble and care of outside affairs lieth with men, so must husbands take heed, and go and come, and journey hither and thither, in rain and wind, in snow and hail, now drenched, now dry, now sweating, now shivering, ill-fed, ill-lodged, ill-warmed and ill-bedded. And naught harmeth him, because he is upheld by the hope that he hath of the care which his wife will take of him on his return, and of the ease, the joys and the pleasures which she will do him, or cause to be done to him in her presence; to be unshod before a good fire, to have his feet washed and fresh shoes and hose, to be given good food and drink, to be well served and well looked after, well bedded in white sheets and nightcaps, well covered with good furs, and assuaged with other joys and desports, privities, loves and secrets whereof I am silent. And the next day fresh shirts and garments .

Certes, fair sister, such services make a man love and desire to return to his home and to see his goodwife, and to be distant with others. Wherefore I counsel you to make such cheer to your husband at all his comings and stayings, and to persevere therein; and also be peaceable with him, and remember the rustic proverb, which saith that there be three things which drive the goodman from home, to wit a leaking roof, a smoky chimney and a scolding woman. And therefore, fair sister, I beseech you that, to keep yourself in the love and good favour of your husband, you be unto him gentle, and amiable, and debonnair. Do unto him what the good simple women of our country say hath been done to their sons, when these have set their love elsewhere and their mothers cannot wean them there from. Sure it is that when fathers and mothers be dead and stepfathers and stepmothers that have stepsons rail at them and scold them and repulse them and take no thought for their sleeping, nor for their food and drink, their hose and their shirts, nor for their other needs or affairs, and these same children find elsewhere a good refuge and counsel from s me other woman, that receiveth them unto herself and taketh thought to warm them by some poor gruel with her, to give them a bed and keep them clean and mend their hosen, breeches, shirts and other clothes, then do these same children follow her and desire to be with her and to sleep and be warmed between her breasts, and they be altogether estranged from their mothers and fathers, that before took no heed of them, and now be fain to get them back and have them again; but it may not be, for these children hold more dear the company of strangers that think and care for them, than of their kinsfolk that care no whit for them. Then they lament and cry and say that these same women have bewitched their children and that the lads be spell bound and cannot leave them and are never at ease save when they are with them. But, whatever they may say, it is no witchcraft, but it is for the sake of the love, the care, the intimacies, joys and pleasures that these women show unto them in all things and, on my soul, there is none other enchantment. For whoever giveth all its pleasure to a bear, a Wolf, or a lion, that same bear, wolf, or lion will follow after him, and so the other beasts might say, could they but speak, that those thus tamed must be bewitched. And, on my soul, I trow that there is none other witchcraft than well doing, and no man can be better bewitched than by giving him what pleaseth him.

Wherefore, dear sister, I beseech you thus to bewitch and bewitch again your husband that shall be, and beware of roofless house and of smoky fire, and scold him not, but be unto him gentle and amiable and peaceable. Have a care that in winter he have a good fire and smokeless and let him rest well and be well covered between your breasts, and thus bewitch him. And in summer take heed that there be no fleas in your chamber, nor in your bed, the which you may do in six ways, as I have heard tell. For I have heard from several that if the room be strewn with alder leaves, the fleas will be caught thereon. Item I have heard tell that if you have at night one or two trenches [of bread] slimed with glue or turpentine and set about the room, with a lighted candle in the midst of each trencher, they will come and be stuck thereto. The other way that I have tried and 'tis true: take a rough cloth and spread it about your room and over your bed, and all the fleas that shall hop thereon will be caught, so that you may carry them away with the cloth wheresoe'er you will. Item, sheepskins. Item, I have seen blanchets [of white wool] set on the straw and on the bed, and when the black fleas hopped thereon, they were the sooner found upon the white, and killed. But the best way is to guard oneself against those that be within the coverlets and the furs, and the stuff of the dresses wherewith one is covered. For know that I have tried this, and when the coverlets, furs or dresses, wherein there be fleas, be folded and shut tightly up, as in a chest tightly corded with straps, or in a bag well tied up and pressed, or otherwise put and pressed so that the aforesaid fleas be without light and air and kept imprisoned, then will they perish forthwith and die. Item I have sometimes seen in divers chambers, that when one had gone to bed they were full of mosquitoes, which at the smoke of the breath came to sit on the faces of those that slept, and stung them so hard, that they were fain to get up and light a fire of hay, in order to make a smoke so that they had to fly away or die, and this may be done by day if they be suspected, and likewise he that hath a mosquito net may protect himself therewith.

And if you have a chamber or a passage where there is great resort of flies, take little sprigs of fern and tie them to threads like to tassels, and hang them up and all the flies will settle on them at eventide; then take down the tassels and throw them out. Item, shut up your chamber closely in the evening, but let there be a little opening in the wall towards the east, and as soon as the dawn breaketh, all the flies will go forth through this opening, and then let it be stopped up. Item, take a bowl of milk and hare's gall and mix them one with another and then set two or three bowls thereof in places where the flies gather and all that taste thereof will die. Item, otherwise, have a linen rag tied at the bottom of a pot with an opening in the neck, and set that pot in the place where the flies gather and smear it within with honey, or apples, or pears; when it is full of flies, set a trencher over the mouth and then shake it. Item, otherwise, take raw red onions and bray them and pour the juice into a bowl and set it where the flies gather and all that taste thereof will die. Item, have whisks wherewith to slay them by hand. Item, have little twigs covered with glue on a basin of water. Item, have your windows shut full tight with oiled or other cloth, or with parchment or something else, so tightly that no fly may enter, and let the flies that be within be slain with the whisk or otherwise as above, and no others will come in. Item, have a string hanging soaked in honey, and the flies will come and settle thereon and at eventide let them be taken in a bag. Finally meseemeth that flies will not stop in a room wherein there be no standing tables, forms, dressers or other things whereon they can settle and rest, for if they have naught but straight walls whereon to settle and cling, they will not settle, nor will they in a shady or damp place. Wherefore meseemeth that if the room be well watered and well closed and shut up, and if nought be left lying on the floor, no fly will settle there.

And thus shall you preserve and keep your husband from all discomforts and give him all the comforts whereof you can bethink you, and serve him and have him served in your house, and you shall look to him for outside things, for if he be good he will take even more pains and labour therein than you wish, and by doing what I have said, you will cause him ever to miss you and have his heart with you and your loving service and he will shun all other houses, all other women, all other services and households. All will be as naught to him save you, who think for him as is aforesaid, and who ought so to do, by the ensample that you see of horsemen riding abroad, for you see that as soon as they be come home to their house from a journey, they cause their horses to be given fresh litter up to their bellies; these horses be unharnessed and made comfortable, they be given honey and picked hay and sifted oats, and they be better looked after in their own stables on their return than anywhere else. And if the horses be thus made comfortable, so much the more ought the persons, to wit the lords, to be so at their own expense on their return. Hounds returning from the woods and from the chase be littered before their master and he maketh their fresh litter himself before the fire; their feet be greased at the fire with soft grease, they be given sops and be well eased, for pity of their labour; and likewise, if women do thus unto their husbands, as men do unto their horses, dogs, asses, mules, and other beasts, certes all other houses, where they have been served, will seem to them but dark prisons and strange places, compared with their own, which will be then a paradise of rest unto them. And so on the road husbands will think of their wives, and no trouble will be a burden to them for the hope and love they will have of their wives, whom they will be fain to see again with as great longing as poor hermits and penitents are fain to see the face of Jesus Christ; and these husbands, that be thus looked after, will never be fain to abide elsewhere nor in other company, but they will withhold, withdraw and abstain therefrom; all the rest will seem unto them but a bed of stones compared with their home; but let it be unceasing, and with a good heart and without pretence.

But there be certain old hags, which be sly and play the wise woman and feign great love by way of showing their heart's great service, and naught else; and wot you, fair sister, that the husbands be fools if they perceive it not; and when they perceive it, if the husband and wife be silent and pretend one with another, it is an ill beginning and will lead to a worse end. And some women there be, that in the beginning serve their husbands full well, and they trow well that their husbands be then so amorous of them and so debonnair that, trow they, those husbands will scarce dare to be wroth with them, if they do less, so they slacken and little by little they try to show less respect and service and obedience, but-what is more-they take upon themselves authority, command and lordship, at first in a small thing, then in a larger, and a little more every day. Thus they essay and advance and rise, as they think, and they trow that their husbands, the which because they be debonnair or peradventure because they set a trap, say nought thereof, see it not because they suffer it thus. And certes, it is an ill thought and deed, for when the husbands see that they cease their service, and mount unto domination, and that they do it too much and that by suffering ill good may come, then those women be all at once, by their husband's rightful will, cast down even as Lucifer was....

 

Recipes

CINNAMON BREWET....
Break up your poultry or other meat and stew it in water, putting wine therewith, and [then] fry it; then take raw dried almonds in their shells unpeeled and great plenty of cinnamon and bray them very well and moisten them with your broth or with beef broth and boil them with your meat; then bray ginger, cloves and grain [of Paradise] etc., and let it be thick and red....

 

SORINGUE OF EELS....
Skin and then cut up your eels; then have onions cooked in slices and parsley leaves and set it all to fry in oil; then bray ginger, cinnamon, clove, grain [of Paradise] and saffron, and moisten with veruice and take them out of the mortar. Then have toasted bread brayed and moistened with pur6e and run it through the strainer, then put in the purse and set all to boil together and flavour with wine, verjuice and vinegar; and it must be clear....

 

STUFFED PIGLING....
Let the pig be killed by cutting his throat and scalded in boiling water and then skinned; then take the lean meat and throw away the feet and entrails of the pig and set him to boil in water; and take twenty eggs and boil them hard and chestnuts cooked in water and peeled. Then take the yolks of the eggs, the chestnuts, some fine old cheese and the meat of a cooked leg of pork and chop them up, then bray them with plenty of saffron and ginger powder mixed with the meat; and if your meat becometh too hard, soften it with yolks of eggs. And open not your pig by the belly but across the shoulders and with the smallest opening you may; then put him on the spit and afterwards put your stuffing into him and sew him up with a big needle; and let him be eaten either with yellow pepper sauce or with cameline in summer....

 

SWAN.
Pluck him like a chicken or a duck and scald or do again [in hot water]; put him on a spit skewered in four places and roast him whole with beak and feet and pluck not his head; eat with yellow pepper sauce.

 

 


"The Goodman of Paris" translated by Eileen Power in The Goodman of Paris, (London: Routledge, 1928), and reprinted in Richard M. Golden and Thomas Kuehn, eds., Western Societies: Primary Sources in Social History, Vol I, (New York: St Martins, 1993). This text is indicated as being without copyright on p. 330 of the Golden/Kuehn book.

 


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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(c)Paul Halsall Mar 1996
halsall@murray.fordham.edu