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‘And He, That Did it Out of French Translait’: Cleriadus in France, England and Scotland, c. 1440–1550

Abstract

The Older Scots romance Clariodus survives uniquely in a manuscript written in the second half of the sixteenth century (Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates’ MS 19.2.5). The romance itself was composed in the first half of the sixteenth century, most probably during the reign of King James V of Scotland. It is a remarkably close translation into decasyllabic couplets of the French prose romance, Cleriadus et Meliadice, estimated to have been composed between 1440 and 1444. Recent years have seen an increasing scholarly interest in the French Cleriadus, particularly concerning its focus on kingship, moral conduct and the presentation of Clariodus’ rise to power. By contrast, the Scottish romance has received regrettably little attention. This essay focuses on the poem’s authorship and sources. It interrogates a passage unique to the Scots translation in which Clariodus’ unknown author claims to have used two sources—the original French Cleriadus and a previous prose translation, commonly assumed to be in English. The plausibility of this assertion is tested via an examination of the fifteenth-century manuscripts and early reception of the original French romance at the court of Queen Marie d’Anjou. The predominantly female readers of Cleriadus are shown to provide both a ‘Scottish link’ which anticipates the sixteenth-century Scots translation and an ‘English link’ which provides a plausible context for an English prose translation.

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Wingfield, E. ‘And He, That Did it Out of French Translait’: Cleriadus in France, England and Scotland, c. 1440–1550. Neophilologus 95, 649–660 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11061-010-9239-8

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Keywords

  • Older Scots literature
  • Medieval romance
  • Medieval authorship and sources
  • Translation
  • Anglo-French relations