Jean Froissart: a sexcentenary reappraisal<nobr>Peter Ainsworth</nobr>
University of Sheffield
Each summer the daily and Sunday newspapers offer their readers a fresh crop of suggestions for an absorbing read by the pool or on the beach. June 2004 was no exception, but one suggestion for a thumping good read might have raised an eyebrow or two. Writing in The Guardian Review for 19 June, Claire Tomalin, author of the prize-winning biography of Samuel Pepys, counselled her readers to while away their hours in the sun with a copy of Jean Froissart's Chronicles (composed c. 1356c. 1399): Jean Froissart was the first great war reporter and his Chronicles of the Hundred Years war and the peasants' revolt are not only great historical source books but spell-binding story-telling. Try the Penguin Classic, translated from the French and boiled down'.1
One could have anticipated such a recommendation two hundred years ago, from the pen of Sir Walter Scott perhaps, with his enthusiasm for chivalric heroes and tales of moral courage; but coming from one of our finest contemporary biographers the endorsement is a little less expected. Yet it is arguably a symptom (others will be discussed below) pointing to a sea-change in the fortunes of the chronicler-poet of Valenciennes. A second is the beautifully written and, of necessity, wide-ranging reassessment offered by Michael Jones in the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography published in October 2004.
Speaking of dates, 1337 is the year still most commonly assigned to the writer's birth, whilst he is thought by most critics to have died shortly after 1400, and possibly as late as 1404 the year chosen by the French Government to commemorate his achievements as a representative of the patrimoine national.
One of the earliest medieval writers to benefit from the Gutenberg revolution,2 translated into English by Lord Berners3 at the behest of Henry VIII, and studied from the late eighteenth century onwards as a source of material for the history of chivalry and medieval military activity, Froissart has become more familiar in France and the English-speaking world thanks to Sir Walter Scott's endorsement in the early nineteenth century4 and to the great national editions of Froissart's works subsequently undertaken by Buchon, Kervyn de Lettenhove and Auguste Scheler (Académie Royale de Belgique), Siméon Luce, Gaston Raynaud, Léon and Albert Mirot (Société de l'Histoire de France),5 not forgetting Thomas Johnes's translation into English.6 Much more recently a handful of paperback editions have appeared, by Geoffrey Brereton (Penguin Classics, 1968), Marie-Thérèse de Medeiros (Livre de Poche, 1988), and George T. Diller, Peter Ainsworth and Alberto Varvaro (Lettres Gothiques, 200104). However, notwithstanding Humphreys's and Coulton's studies of the Harley and Royal manuscripts (1844, 1845 and 1930),7 or F. S. Shears's important biographical study and critical reading of the works (also published in 1930),8 little of any real moment appeared in print until the mid 1960s to 1970s, when a series of articles by Armel Diverres9 explored Froissart's geography and sense of space in the Meliador and Chroniques. First-rate editions of the dits by Fourrier, Baudouin, McGregor and Dembowski appeared between 1972 and the 1980s,10 and the writer's contribution to the French lexicon and language was explored by Picoche11 and Price.12 Patronage, warfare and historiographical issues were covered in J. J. N. Palmer's excellent 1981 symposium Froissart: Historian,13 whilst Georg Jäger and George T. Diller concentrated respectively on the depiction of warfare and chivalry.14 Peter Dembowski's monograph on the pre-Arthurian romance of Meliador broke new ground,15 as perhaps did Peter F. Ainsworth's 1990 study of literarity and narrative technique.16 The 1990s and earliest years of the new century have seen the publication of penetrating studies on Froissart and the female audience,17 manuscripts and illumination,18 musical and metrical issues,19 and much more besides. An important symposium at Amherst in 1993 celebrated Froissart Across the Genres,20 and was responsible for bringing to light a whole range of issues that had not hitherto been perceived. Marie-Thérèse de Medeiros's Hommes, terres et histoire des confins: les marges méridionales et orientales de la chrétienté dans les Chroniques de Froissart (Paris, Champion, 2003) has added significantly to our knowledge, whilst Michel Zink has ploughed up the fallow ground in abundance with his shrewdly original Froissart et le temps (Paris, PUF, 1998). All of this scholarly and critical endeavour would suggest that Froissart is ripe for reassessment, and no longer to be viewed rather narrowly as the chronicler of chivalry. The work of Jacqueline Cerquiglini-Toulet and others has shown how rich and sophisticated he is as a poet, able to hold his own alongside a Deschamps or a Machaut.21
This important body of work deserves to be studied afresh; justice cannot be done here to the numerous fresh readings of both Chroniques and Poésies that have appeared over the past generation.22
Recent editions of the Chroniques TOP
Recent editions of the...
Manuscripts and their modes...
The last forty years have seen a renewal of intensive editorial activity around the Chroniques. In addition to the SHF's completion of their four-volume edition of Book III, second redaction (1975), George T. Diller has enriched Froissart scholarship with his complete editions for Droz of Book I, Amiens MS redaction, and of the chronicler's fin de carrière rewrite of the opening section of Book I (based largely on the B redaction) as preserved in the Vatican Library MS.23 A Sheffield thesis by Valentina Mazzei is exploring the so-called A redaction of Book I, starting with Besançon MS 864, collated against Stonyhurst College MS 1 and other A manuscript witnesses. A shortened version of the Book II text, based on New York PML MS M.804 was published by the author of this essay in 2001 (tome 1 of the Lettres Gothiques Froissart); a complete new online transcription of the Vossius manuscript is in preparation, in collaboration with Godfried Croenen and Leiden University Library. The Online Froissart project (SheffieldLiverpool) has been inaugurated by Croenen's online text for the Chronique de Flandre, a shorter version of Book II dealing solely with the wars between Louis de Male and his Ghentish subjects, preserved in one complete and two fragmentary witnesses (Paris BnF 5004, and the two Cambrai MSS). Marked up in TEI Lite, the text is accessible via the Arts and Humanities Data Service.24 Another important electronic project brought to fruition by the group is Rob Sanderson's innovative on-screen collation of Morgan MS M.804's Book I text (A redaction) with transcription, edited text and concordance, using multivalent document technology.25 A complete edition of the first redaction of Book III, based on Besançon MS 865 and complementing the second edited by the SHF team, is about to appear in the Droz TLF series. The first quarter of the text was also published in the Lettres Gothiques series in October 2004, and launched at the Paris conference described below. It contains an extensive introduction, bibliography, index and glossary. It is anticipated that the SHF team will eventually complete its analysis of the Book IV manuscripts and publish an authoritative text; meanwhile, Alberto Varvaro has begun to publish an entirely new edition of Book IV based on the Brussels manuscript. Key sections from this edition appeared in October 2004 as a complement to Ainsworth's Lettres Gothiques text for the first quarter of Book III. A Concordat Studentship awarded jointly by the University of Sheffield and the British Library, entailing joint supervision by Scot McKendrick and the author, is supporting a study and edition of another important Book IV manuscript, Harley 43794380, by Katariina Närä.
Manuscripts and their modes of production TOP
Recent editions of the...
Manuscripts and their modes...
On the basis of all that has been said so far, one might be forgiven for imagining that there was little left for scholars to do. But exciting opportunities are there to be grasped, opened up by recent advances in technology. Sanderson's work (to be published in due course, we trust, as part of the Online Froissart project) has shown how ingeniously conceived software tools can open up a text of some 200 000 words to rapid search and scrutiny. The municipal library in Froissart's home town of Valenciennes has recently put online, free of charge, its entire microfilmed manuscript holdings (including their fragment of a text related to the Amiens redaction of the Chroniques). But perhaps the most exciting prospect in view is furnished by a kind of cross-disciplinary teamwork recalling, mutatis mutandis, the purposive coming together in the early fifteenth century of stationarius, parchmenter, scribe, manuscript painter, goldsmith and commissioning patron, as explored in the forthcoming Patrons, Authors and Workshops: Books and Book Production in Paris around 1400, ed. by Godfried Croenen and Peter Ainsworth (Leuven, Peeters).
The purpose of the medieval team was to produce accurately transcribed and richly illuminated manuscripts for sale to aristocratic patrons. Some of the finest (and earliest extant) of these, as far as the Chroniques are concerned, are those identified by Godfried Croenen and Richard and Mary Rouse as having been produced often as twins by teams overseen by stationarius Pierre de Liffol.26 They antedate the luxurious manuscripts produced in Bruges for Philippe le Bon by some forty or fifty years, and were copied in Paris. Besançon MSS 864865 (respectively Book I, A redaction, and Book IIIII, the latter a particularly fine Book III first redaction exemplar) show two teams collaborating on a commission. MS 864 was decorated by artists or maybe apprentices associated with the Master of the Rohan Hours, whilst MS 865 was decorated by craftsmen associated with the workshop of the Boethius Master. Other manuscripts overseen by Pierre de Liffol include Stonyhurst College MS 1, British Library Arundel MS 67 and Additional MSS 3865838659, Toulouse Municipal Library MS 511, Brussels Royal Library MS II 88, New York PML MS M.804, and Paris BnF MSS 26632664.
The Online Froissart
The Online Froissart project at Sheffield and Liverpool aims to use several codices from this coherent group as the basis for an online edition, to be complemented by a public exhibition scheduled for 2007 to be hosted by Besançon's civic museum, the British Library's Treasures Gallery, and a museum or gallery in Yorkshire. A selection of manuscripts from the Pierre de Liffol group will be displayed in cases, together with complementary audio and visual material delivered via plasma screens and other electronic media. The exhibition project, initial funding for which has come from a Leverhulme Trust Fellowship, is born of an unusually fruitful nexus of partnerships, starting with an Arts and Humanities Research Board Institutional Fellowship awarded to Ainsworth and Croenen in 1997. The editions funded by this initial award are now either in print or going to press serially; there are plans afoot for online versions of each of Books I to IV, based in large part on the printed versions. Book III alone comprises more than 300 000 words, and there is a need for software that will permit precise searches and comprehensive exploration of the base manuscript's codicological and iconographic features. Sheffield's Humanities Research Institute (a key player in the Arts and Humanities Research Council's (AHRC) recently established ICT for the Arts and Humanities methods network, and moving into new, purpose-built accommodation in 200607) will assist with the development of appropriate software, and applications have been submitted to the AHRC's Resource Enhancement programme and the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships scheme of the Department of Trade and Industry.
In its earliest guise, the project team already included editors, scholars, graduate students and technicians. But an equally significant dimension is being brought to the partnership by a growing body of enthusiastic curators and archivists at Stonyhurst College (Jan Graffius and David Knight, respectively), the British Library (Scot McKendrick) and the Bibliothèque d'Étude et de Conservation, Besançon (Marie-Claire Waille, Karine Rebmeister and technical support officer Marie Ménie). Amongst modern avatars of the medieval patron one should include the Yorkshire Universities Gift Aid fund, the Higher Education Innovation Fund, the White Rose Consortium and the Worldwide Universities Network. Thanks to a generous grant from YUGAF, Besançon MS 865 was photographed on site in late 2002 by David Cooper and Colin Dunn, whilst a HEIF Knowledge Exchange award in 200304 funded a similar operation in AugustSeptember 2004 at Stonyhurst and Besançon (MS 1 and MS 865 respectively), launching Scriptura Ltd upon the wider world.27 Software tools derived from high-quality digital photography can deliver images that can be manipulated much more flexibly than ektachrome slides or spooled microfilm. A partnership involving a medium-sized research library, its curators, an experienced digital photographer with a fondness and respect for manuscripts, complemented by input from the project principal investigator, can be especially rewarding. The speed of throughput imposed on larger libraries does not have to operate in such circumstances, and mutually advantageous relationships can be fostered. Curator, principal investigator and photographer can all make their unique contribution to the ways in which the images are captured.
Knowledge Transfer and the intelligent dissemination of research outcomes are increasingly high on the agendas of both the AHRC and the Leverhulme Trust. The feasibility of identifying other key partners in control and data management systems, via Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (funded by the UK Department of Trade and Industry) is being explored at the time of writing.
2004 année du patrimoine
Accurately or otherwise, 2004 chosen for celebrations in France to celebrate and commemorate the poet-chronicler's achievements was truly Froissart's year. An international conference held at Lille and Valenciennes on 30 September and 1 October 2004 (organized by the Centre d'Études Médiévales et Dialectales, équipe Analyses littéraires et histoire de la langue, the Société de Langue et de Littérature d'Oc et d'Oïl, the Université de Valenciennes and the Université du Littoral), featured a wide range of inspirational papers, including: the melancholic paradox in Froissart's lyric and narrative poetry (Jacqueline Cerquiglini-Toulet), the dramatization of the moi in the dits (Annelise Bloem), a dictionary of the Chroniques within the Dictionnaire du moyen français (Jacqueline Picoche), the depiction of the Flemish and Ghentish conflicts of the 1380s (Jean Devaux), the tragedy of Richard II and the depiction of the murder of Thomas of Gloucester (Laurence Harf), the drame d'Orthez (Véronique Lamazou-Duplan), Froissart and Walter Scott (Fiona McIntosh-Varjabedian), les jeunes in the Chroniques (Marie-Thérèse de Medeiros), poetic composition in the Meliador and the Dits (Sylvère Menegaldo) and aspects of Froissart's (subtler) sub-texts in Book IV (Alberto Varvaro).
Early November brought together a second wave of specialists at a prestigious event hosted by Professor Michel Zink of the Collège de France, at the Collège and the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. The papers were recorded for broadcast on France Culture, and the new edition by Ainsworth and Varvaro (Lettres Gothiques) was launched at a reception held at France's Musée National du Moyen Âge. Extracts from the Lettres Gothiques edition were read in performance at the Hôtel de Cluny by Denis Podalydès and Françoise Gillard, sociétaires of the Comédie Française. This French Government-sponsored conference also covered many of the more intriguing aspects of Froissart's work, and brought together front-rank historians and literary scholars, as evidenced by the titles of the papers read: Bernard Guenée (Froissart au Panthéon?), Philippe Contamine (Le menu peuple dans les Chroniques), Colette Beaune (Les femmes guerrières), Françoise Autrand (Froissart et la paix), Laurence Harf (Froissart et Jean le Bel: les Anglais et leurs rois), Michel Stanesco (Froissart et le songe), Jacqueline Cerquiglini-Toulet (Démembrement et dévoration: une structure de l'imaginaire poétique de Jean Froissart). Also present were Alberto Varvaro (Aspects littéraires du livre IV des Chroniques), George Diller (Alexandre Dumas lecteur de Froissart), Peter Dembowski (Ancien et moderne dans l'Orloge amoureus), Peter Ainsworth (Pour un Froissart électronique), as well as Godfried Croenen (Froissart et ses patrons: quelques problèmes biographiques), Michael Schwarze (Héros sans âge: la réduction de l'anthropologie chevaleresque dans le Meliador), and not forgetting digital photographer Colin Dunn and graduate students Katariina Närä and Valentina Mazzei.
The sexcentenary year provided scholars with an ideal opportunity for taking stock of the extent to which Froissart studies have evolved, and understanding of his work has developed, over several centuries culminating with the exciting work produced over the past four decades. Jacqueline Cerquiglini-Toulet has revealed new subtleties in the dits. As for the Chroniques, Michel Zink has renewed our perception of Froissart's complex handling of time and reminiscence. It falls here, however, to Alberto Varvaro to have the final word. As he put it with characteristic pithiness at the 2004 LilleValenciennes conference, modern historians need to learn afresh how to read Froissart productively. For it is precisely when the chronicler is at his most ambiguous and literary that he is weaving the textual web in which inhere the most penetrating of his political insights.
1 My thanks to Valentina Mazzei for bringing this item to my attention.
3 The first volume of Sir Johan Froyssart of The chronycles of Englande, Fraunce, Spayne, 2 vols (London, Richarde Pynson, 152325). Subsequent editions and modern adaptations of the Berners translation are described in Croenen's bibliography, infra.
5 Les Chroniques de sire Jean Froissart qui traitent des merveilleuses emprises, nobles aventures et faits d'armes advenus en son temps en France, Angleterre, Bretaigne, Bourgogne, Escosse, Espaigne, Portingal et ès autres parties, nouvellement revues et augmentées d'après les manuscrits, ed. by J. A. C. Buchon (Paris, 182426); uvres de Froissart, ed. by Baron Kervyn de Lettenhove, 26 vols (Bruxelles, 186777); Chroniques, ed. by S. Luce, G. Raynaud, Léon Mirot and Albert Mirot, 15 vols (Paris, Société de l'histoire de France, 18691975); Books IIII; in progress.
6 Chronicles of England, France, and the adjoining countries, from the latter part of the reign of Edward II to the coronation of Henry IV, ed. by T. Johnes, 5 vols (s.l., Hafod Press, 180310; second printing, 1806, reprinted 1839).
7 Illuminated Illustrations of Froissart: Selected from the MS. in the British Museum, by H. N. Humphreys, Esq. (London, William Smith, 1844); Illuminated Illustrations of Froissart: Selected from the MS. in the Bibliothèque Royale, Paris, and from other sources, by H. N. Humphreys, Esq. (London, William Smith, 1845). Both volumes printed at London by Bradbury and Evans, Printers, of Whitefriars. G. G. Coulton, The Chronicler of European Chivalry (London, The Studio, 1930).
9 Beginning with A. H. Diverres, Jean Froissart's Journey to Scotland, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 1 (1965), 5463; see also Froissart's Travels in England and Wales, Fifteenth-Century Studies, 15 (1989), 10722, together, of course, with his splendid Voyage en Béarn (Manchester University Press, 1953).
10 L'Espinette amoureuse, ed. by A. Fourrier (Paris, Klincksieck, 1963; second edition, 1972); La Prison amoureuse, ed. by A. Fourrier (Paris, Klincksieck, 1974); Le Joli Buisson de jonece, ed. by A. Fourrier (Geneva, Droz, 1975); The Lyric Poems of Jean Froissart: A Critical Edition, ed. by R. R. McGregor (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1975); Ballades et rondeaux, ed. by Rae S. Baudouin (Geneva, Droz, 1978); Dits et débats, ed. by A. Fourrier (Geneva, Droz, 1979); Le Paradis d'amour L'Orloge amoureus, ed. by Peter F. Dembowski (Geneva, Droz, 1986).
11 See the following important publications by Jacqueline Picoche: Le Vocabulaire psychologique dans les Chroniques de Froissart, 2 vols (Paris, Klinksieck, 1976; Amiens, Université de Picardie, 1984); "Douter" et "se douter"; ou, l'unité historique et synchronique du mot polysémique, in XIV congresso internazionale di linguistica e filologia romanza: Napoli, 1520 aprile 1974 Atti, ed. by Gaetano Macchiaroli and John Benjamins (Amsterdam, Benjamins, 197677), pp. 4556; Humilité et modestie: histoire lexicale et histoire des mentalités, in Mélanges de littérature du Moyen Âge au XXe siècle offerts à Mademoiselle Jeanne Lods (Paris, École Normale Supérieure de Jeunes Filles, 1978), pp. 48594; "Grevé", "constraint", "abstraint" et "apressé" dans les Chroniques de Froissart: recherches des critères de la subjectivité, in Du mot au texte: actes du IIIème colloque international sur le moyen français, ed. by P. Wunderli, special issue of Tübinger Beiträge zur Linguistik, 175 (1982), 11523; Le verbe aimer et sa famille dans les Chroniques de Froissart, in Mélanges de langue et de littérature mediévales offerts à Alice Planche, ed. by M. Accarie and A. Queffelec, special issue of Annales de la Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines de Nice, 48 (1984), 37178; La grâce hier et aujourd'hui, in De plume d'oie à l'ordinateur: études de philologie et de linguistique offertes à Hélène Naïs (Presses universitaires de Nancy, 1985), pp. 13339; À propos du vocabulaire affectif dans les Chroniques de Froissart: quelques principes de lexicologie historique, in Le Moyen Français: actes du Ve colloque international sur le Moyen Français. Milan, 68 mai 1985 (Milan, Vita e pensiero Pubblicazioni della Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, 1986), II, 15362; La grâce et la merci, Cahiers de lexicologie, 50 (1987), 19199.
12 See Glanville Price, Aspects de l'ordre des mots dans les Chroniques de Froissart, Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie, 77 (1961), 1548; Negative Particles in French, in De mot en mot: Aspects of Medieval Linguistics Essays in Honour of William Rothwell, ed. by Stewart Gregory and D. A. Trotter (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1997), pp. 17390; The Pronoun "soi" in Jean le Bel and Froissart, Studia neophilologica, 33 (1961), 3.
14 Georg Jäger, Aspekte des Krieges und der Chevalerie im XIV. Jahrhundert in Frankreich. Untersuchungen zu Jean Froissarts Chroniques (Bern, Peter Lang, 1981); George. T. Diller, Attitudes chevaleresques et réalités politiques chez Froissart: microlectures du premier livre des Chroniques (Geneva, Droz, 1984).
17 P. E. Bennett, The Mirage of Fiction: Narration, Narrator, and Narratee in Froissart's Lyrico-Narrative "Dits", Modern Language Review, 86 (1991), 28597; Female Readers in Froissart: Implied, Fictive and Other, in Women, the Book and the Worldly: Selected Proceedings of the St. Hilda's Conference 1993, ed. by Lesley Smith and Jane H. M. Taylor (Cambridge, Brewer, 1995), pp. 1323.
18 Marie-Thérèse Le Guay, Les Princes de Bourgogne lecteurs de Froissart: les rapports entre le texte et l'image dans les manuscrits enluminés du livre IV des Chroniques (Paris, CNRS Éditions Turnhout, Brepols, 1998).
22 For a full bibliography see the Ainsworth and Varvaro edition cited above, though this should be complemented by Croenen's regularly updated online resource at: www.liv.ac.uk/gcroenen/biblio.htm. A critical bibliography for Éditions Memini is in preparation.
23 Chroniques, livre I: le manuscrit d'Amiens, Bibliothèque municipale no 486, ed. by George T. Diller, 5 vols (Geneva, Droz, 199198); Chroniques: dernière rédaction du premier livre Édition du manuscrit de Rome Reg. lat. 869, ed. by George T. Diller (Geneva, Droz, 1972).
24 See Godfried Croenen, A Digital Edition of Jean Froissart, Chronique de Flandre: An Electronic Edition of the only Complete Textual Witness of Jean Froissart's Chronique de Flandre, Paris, BnF, MS fr. 5004. The edition follows Mario Roques, Règles pratiques pour l'édition des anciens textes français et provençaux, Bibliothèque de L'École des Chartes, 87 (1926), 45359, and Établissement de règles pratiques pour l'édition des anciens textes français et provençaux, Romania, 52 (1926), 24349. The electronic edition forms the basis of a printed critical edition which is forthcoming.
27 Scriptura has since secured commissions across the UK. The photographic team and principal investigator were able to contribute digital images photographed at Besançon by kind permission of the library authorities (MS 423: Livre du Corps de Policie) to the AHRB-funded Christine de Pizan project. A CD-Rom presentation of Stonyhurst College MS 1, using high-resolution TIFF files captured in August 2004, jointly authored by Ainsworth and Dunn, contributed to the formal reopening of Stonyhurst's More Library in September of that year. Discussions are underway with a view to future co-operation between the College, Sheffield's University Library, the British Library and, not least, Scriptura.
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