A Medieval Household Book
Publisher: Cornell University Press
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"You said that you would not fail to improve yourself according to my teaching and correction, and you would do everything in your power to behave according to my wishes." [Prologue] "I urge you to bewitch and bewitch again your future husband, and protect him from holes in the roof and smoky fires, and do not quarrel with him, but be sweet, pleasant and peaceful with him. Make certain that in winter he has a good fire without smoke and let him slumber, warmly wrapped, cozy between your breasts, and in this way bewitch him. In summer take care that there are no fleas in your bedroom or bed." "If just once you displease him you will have a difficult time ever appeasing him enough so that the stain of his anger does not remain engraved and written on his heart. Although he may not show it or mention it, your misdeed cannot soon be smoothed over and erased. Should a second act of disobedience occur, watch out for his vengeance... " "Gardeners say that rosemary seeds do not ever grow in French soil, but if you pluck little branches from a rosemary plant, strip them from the top downwards, take them by the ends and plant them, they will grow. If you want to send them far away, you must wrap the branches in waxed cloth, sew them up and then smear the outside with honey; then powder with wheat flour and you may send them wherever you wish." "But as soon as you arrive home, be diligent that you yourself or your men ahead of you, feed the dogs well, then give them fresh clean water in a basin to drink. Next have them put to bed on nice straw in a warm place, in front of the fire if they are wet or muddy, and let them always be held subject to the whip. If you act this way, they will not pester people at the table or sideboard and they will not get into the beds." "Since you must send Master Jehan to the butcher's shop, a list follows of the names of all the butchers' shops in Paris and the meats that they supply: At the Porte-de-Paris there are nineteen butchers who by common estimate sell weekly, if you average the busy season with the slow season: 1,900 sheep, 400 beefcattle, 400 pigs and 200 calves." —from The Good Wife's Guide In the closing years of the fourteenth century, an anonymous French writer compiled a book addressed to a fifteen-year-old bride, narrated in the voice of her husband, a wealthy, aging Parisian. The book was designed to teach this young wife the moral attributes, duties, and conduct befitting a woman of her station in society, in the almost certain event of her widowhood and subsequent remarriage. The work also provides a rich assembly of practical materials for the wife's use and for her household, including treatises on gardening and shopping, tips on choosing servants, directions on the medical care of horses and the training of hawks, plus menus for elaborate feasts, and more than 380 recipes. The Good Wife's Guide is the first complete modern English translation of this important medieval text also known as Le Ménagier de Paris (the Parisian household book), a work long recognized for its unique insights into the domestic life of the bourgeoisie during the later Middle Ages. The Good Wife's Guide, expertly rendered into modern English by Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose, is accompanied by an informative critical introduction setting the work in its proper medieval context as a conduct manual. This edition presents the book in its entirety, as it must have existed for its earliest readers. The Guide is now a treasure for the classroom, appealing to anyone studying medieval literature or history or considering the complex lives of medieval women. It illuminates the milieu and composition process of medieval authors and will in turn fascinate cooking or horticulture enthusiasts. The work illustrates how a (perhaps fictional) Parisian householder of the late fourteenth century might well have trained his wife so that her behavior could reflect honorably on him and enhance his reputation.