Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 36.djvu/116

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Map
Map
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in the archdeaconry of Oxford, Walter Calenius [q. v.], with whom he has been often confused.

Walter Map's undoubted literary remains are scarcely commensurate with the reputation which he has almost continuously enjoyed. A man of the world, with a large circle of courtly acquaintances—he bears witness himself to his familiarity with the two Henrys of England, Henry II and his son, with Louis of France, and Henry of Champagne—actively engaged in public affairs from his youth up, he was probably more familiar to his contemporaries as a wit than as a writer; to this Giraldus Cambrensis bears witness in the record that he has preserved of his friend's ‘courtly jests’ (Opera, iii. 145, iv. 219, &c.) It is possible also that this is all that Giraldus alludes to in his repeated references to Map's French ‘dicta,’ though this is susceptible of another explanation. Map himself says expressly to Giraldus, ‘Nos multa diximus; vos scripta dedistis et nos verba,’ and that his ‘dicta’ had brought him a considerable reputation (Giraldus, Opera, v. 410–411). However, Giraldus is also our witness that Map was a scholar, well versed in law and theology, and a man of poetic taste, well read in literature (ib. i. 271–89, iv. 140). Much of this might be inferred from his one undoubted work, the ‘De Nugis Curialium’ (Courtiers' Triflings). This curious book, although devoid of any visible arrangement, made up largely of legends from his native county, gossip and anecdotes of his court life, also displays his interest in and acquaintance with the ancient classics, the Christian fathers, and contemporary history. In its form hardly more than the undigested reminiscences and notes of a man of the world with a lively sense of humour, there is yet a deeper purpose underlying it; it is, indeed, in some sense a keen satire on the condition of church and state in the writer's own day. It incorporates much historical information, chiefly of a traditional and anecdotal character, but of considerable interest; especially noticeable are his accounts of the Templars and Hospitallers, and his sketch of the English court and kings from the reign of William II to his own time. To the ‘De Nugis’ we also owe nearly all our knowledge of Map's own life. The work appears to have grown out of a request made by a friend called Geoffrey, that he would write a poem on ‘his sayings and doings that had not been committed to writing’ (De Nugis, pp. 14, 19). Elsewhere he implies that he wrote at the wish of Henry II, and tells us that the book was composed in the court by snatches (ib. p. 140). It is sufficiently clear from the work itself that it was composed at various times between 1182 and 1192 (ib. pp. 176 and 230; see also pp. 20, 22, 39, 209, 228, 232). Moreover, the same stories or incidents are sometimes related more than once. The only manuscript of the ‘De Nugis Curialium’ is Bodl. MS. 851, a manuscript of the fifteenth century, once the property of John Wellys, monk of Ramsey and sometime student of Gloucester Hall, Oxford (inscription in Bodl. MS. 851, and Wood, City of Oxford, ii. 260, Oxf. Hist. Soc.) There is a transcript made from this manuscript by Richard James [q. v.] in James MSS. 31 and 39, in the Bodleian Library. It was edited by Mr. T. Wright for the Camden Society in 1850. A discussion of some of the folk-tales contained in the ‘De Nugis’ will be found in ‘Germania,’ v. 47–64. In the ‘De Nugis’ (Distinctio, iv. c. iii.) is incorporated a little treatise, ‘Dissuasio Valerii ad Rufinum ne uxorem ducat,’ which seems to be a work of Map's earlier years, and of which many anonymous copies exist (e.g. Bodl. MS. Add. A 44, early thirteenth century with a fourteenth-century commentary, and Arundel MS. 14, and Burney MS. 360 in the British Museum). It is printed among the supposititious works of St. Jerome in Migne's ‘Patrologia,’ xxx. 254.

In the ‘De Nugis Curialium’ there are incorporated various stories of a romantic character. But there is nothing which, for its style or matter, would lead us to attribute to Map that share in the composition of the Arthurian romances with which he has in varying proportions been credited. The manuscripts of the great prose romance of ‘Lancelot’ commonly ascribe the authorship to Map. Of the four parts of this work the first two compose the ‘Lancelot’ proper, the other two being the ‘Quest of the S. Graal,’ and the ‘Morte Arthur.’ All four parts are in several manuscripts, attributed specifically to Walter Map (e.g. Royal, 19 C xiii. thirteenth century, in the British Museum). But in Egerton MS. 989—which is a copy of the ‘Tristram’—the writer, who passes under the name of Hélie de Borron, tells us that Map wrote ‘le propre livre de M. lancelot du lac.’ The same writer in the ‘Meliadus’ (cf. Add. MS. 12228) gives the usual ascription of the ‘Lancelot’ to Map, with the significant addition ‘qui etoit le clerc le roi henri.’ The constancy of the tradition would in itself point to there being some foundation of fact; it is therefore interesting to find Hue of Rotelande, who was himself a native of Herefordshire, and wrote about 1185, after describing the threefold appearance of