Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sir John Mandeville

—I will lay my foundations better than on quick-sands —I will rear my structure of better materials than painted cards ;—in a word, I will write History."
There was a tumult of surprise, amid which our reporter detected the following expressions :—" The devil you will !"—" You, my dear sir, you ?"—" The old gentleman forgets that he is the greatest liar since Sir John Mandeville."
" Not the worse historian for that," said Oldbuck, " since history, you know, is half fiction."

According to “Chambers’ Book of Days”, English traveler Sir John Mandeville died in Liege on November 17th, 1372.  As Sir Walter Scott characterizes him in “The Betrothed” (text above), Mandeville may be a great fictionalist.  He may not even exist under the name given by history.  But he is known for his stories of travel to exotic places, which according to more recent investigation appear to have been taken from the journals of other travelers. Mandeville's work is titled "The Travels of Sir John Mandeville".  From that work:


IN the name of God, Glorious and Almighty!

He that will pass over the sea and come to land [to go to the city
of Jerusalem, he may wend many ways, both on sea and land], after
the country that he cometh from; [for] many of them come to one
end.  But troweth not that I will tell you all the towns, and
cities and castles that men shall go by; for then should I make too
long a tale; but all only some countries and most principal steads
that men shall go through to go the right way.

First, if a man come from the west side of the world, as England,
Ireland, Wales, Scotland, or Norway, he may, if that he will, go
through Almayne and through the kingdom of Hungary, that marcheth
to the land of Polayne, and to the land of Pannonia, and so to

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