against the king of Manzi; had been among rocks of adamant in the Indian Ocean; had been through a haunted valley, which he places near “Milstorak” (i.e. Malasgird in Armenia); had been driven home against his will in 1357 by arthritic gout; and had written his book as a consolation for his “wretched rest.” The paragraph which states that he had had his book confirmed at Rome by the pope is an interpolation of the English version.
Part at least of the personal history of Mandeville is mere invention. Nor is any contemporary corroboration of the existence of such a Jehan de Mandeville known. Some French MSS., not contemporary, give a Latin letter of presentation from him to Edward III., but so vague that it might have been penned by any writer on any subject. It is in fact beyond reasonable doubt that the travels were in large part compiled by a Liége physician, known as Johains à le Barbe or Jehan à la Barbe, otherwise Jehan de Bourgogne.
The evidence of this is in a modernized extract quoted by the Liége herald, Louis Abry (1643-1720), from the lost fourth book of the Myreur des Hystors of Johans des Preis, styled d'Oultremouse. In this “Jean de Bourgogne, dit à la Barbe,” is said to have revealed himself on his deathbed to d'Oultremouse, whom he made his executor, and to have described himself in his will as “messire Jean de Mandeville, chevalier, comte de Montfort en Angleterre et seigneur de l'isle de Campdi et du château Pérouse.” It is added that, having had the misfortune to kill an unnamed count in his own country, he engaged himself to travel through the three parts of the world, arrived at Liége in 1343, was a great naturalist, profound philosopher and astrologer, and had a remarkable knowledge of physic. And the identification is confirmed by the fact that in the now destroyed church of the Guillelmins was a tombstone of Mandeville, with a Latin inscription stating that he was otherwise named “ad Barbam,” was a professor of medicine, and died at Liége on the 17th of November 1372: this inscription is quoted as far back as 1462.
Even before his death the Liége physician seems to have confessed to a share in the composition of the work. In the common Latin abridged version of it, at the end of c. vii., the author says that when stopping in the sultan's court at Cairo he met a venerable and expert physician of “our” parts, that they rarely came into conversation because their duties were of a different kind, but that long afterwards at Liége he composed this treatise at the exhortation and with the help (hortatu et adiutorio) of the same venerable man, as he will narrate at the end of it. And in the last chapter he says that in 1355, in returning home, he came to Liége, and being laid up with old age and arthritic gout in the street called Bassesauenyr, i.e. Basse Savenir, consulted the physicians. That one came in who was more venerable than the others by reason of his age and white hairs, was evidently expert in his art, and was commonly called Magister lohannes ad Barbam. That a chance remark of the latter caused the renewal of their old Cairo acquaintance, and that Ad Barbam, after showing his medical skill on Mandeville, urgently begged him to write his travels; “and so at length, by his advice and help, monitu et adiutorio, was composed this treatise, of which I had certainly proposed to write nothing until at least I had reached my own parts in England.” He goes on to speak of himself as being now lodged in Liége, “which is only two days distant from the sea of England”; and it is stated in the colophon (and in the MSS.) that the book was first published in French by Mandeville, its author, in 1355, at Liége, and soon after in the same city translated into “the said” Latin form. Moreover, a MS. of the French text extant at Liege about 1860 contained a similar statement, and added that the author lodged at a hostel called “al hoste Henkin Levo”: this MS. gave the physician's name as “Johains de Bourgogne dit ale barbe,” which doubtless conveys its local form.
There is no contemporary English mention of any English knight named Jehan de Mandeville, nor are the arms said to have been on the Liége tomb like any known Mandeville arms. But Dr G. F. Warner has ingeniously suggested that de Bourgogne may be a certain Johan de Bourgoyne, who was pardoned by parliament on the 20th of August 1321 for having taken part in the attack on the Despensers, but whose pardon was revoked in May 1322, the year in which “Mandeville” professes to have left England. And it should now be added that among the persons similarly pardoned on the recommendation of the same nobleman was a Johan Mangevilayn, whose name appears closely related to that of “de Mandeville” which is merely a later form of “de Magneville.”
Mangeuilain occurs in Yorkshire as early as 16 Hen. I. (Pipe Roll Soc., xv. 40), but is very rare, and (failing evidence of any place named Mangeville) seems to be merely a variant spelling of Magnevillain. The meaning may be simply “of Magneville,” de Magneville; but the family of a 14th century bishop of Nevers were called both “Mandevilain” and “de Mandevilain” — where Mandevilain seems a derivative place-name, meaning the Magneville or Mandeville district. In any case it is clear that the name “'de Mandeville” might be suggested to de Bourgogne by that of his fellow-culprit Mangevilayn, and it is even possible that the two fled to England together, were in Egypt together, met again at Liége, and shared in the compilation of the Travels.
Whether after the appearance of the Travels either de Bourgogne or “Mangevilayn” visited England is very doubtful. St Albans Abbey had a sapphire ring, and Canterbury a crystal orb, said to have been given by Mandeville; but these might have been sent from Liége, and it will appear later that the Liége physician possessed and wrote about precious stones. St Albans also had a legend that a ruined marble tomb of Mandeville (represented cross-legged and in armour, with sword and shield) once stood in the abbey; this may be true of “Mangevilayn” or it may be a mere myth.
It is a little curious that the name preceding Mangevilayn in the list of persons pardoned is “Johan le Barber.” Did this suggest to de Bourgogne the alias “à le Barbe,” or was that only a Liége nickname? Note also that the arms on Mandeville's tomb were borne by the Tyrrells of Hertfordshire (the county in which St Albans lies); for of course the crescent on the lion's breast is only the “difference” indicating a second son.
Leaving this question, there remains the equally complex one whether the book contains any facts and knowledge acquired by actual travels and residence in the East. Possibly it may, but only as a small portion of the section which treats of the Holy Land and the ways of getting thither, of Egypt, and in general of the Levant. The prologue, indeed, points almost exclusively to the Holy Land as the subject of the work. The mention of more distant regions comes in only towards the end of this prologue, and (in a manner) as an afterthought.
By far the greater part of these more distant travels, extending in fact from Trebizond to Hormuz, India, the Malay Archipelago, and China, and back again to western Asia, has been appropriated from the narrative of Friar Odoric (written in 1330). These passages, as served up by Mandeville, are almost always, indeed, swollen with interpolated particulars, usually of an extravagant kind, whilst in no few cases the writer has failed to understand the passages which he adopts from Odoric and professes to give as his
own experiences. Thus (p. 209), where Odoric has given a most
- Quoted again from him by the contemporary Liége herald, Lefort, and from Lefort in 1866 by Dr S. Bormans. Dr J. Vogels communicated it in 1884 to Mr E. W. B. Nicholson, who wrote on it in the Academy of April 12, 1884.
- See Dr G. F. Warner's edition (Roxburghe Club), p. 38. In the Bull. de l'Institut archéologique Liégeois, iv. (1860), p. 171, M. Ferd. Henaux quotes the passage from “MSS. de la Bibliothèque publique de Liége, à l'Université, no. 360, fol. 118,” but the MS. is not in the 1875 printed catalogue of the University Library, which has no Old French MS. of Mandeville at present. It was probably lent out and not returned.
- The de Mandevilles, earls of Essex, were originally styled de Magneville, and Leland, in his Comm. de Script. Britt. (CDV), calls our Mandeville himself “Joannes Magnovillanus, alias Mandeville.”
- Page indications like this refer to passages in the 1866 reissue of Halliwell's edition, as being probably the most ready of access. But all these passages have also been verified as substantially occurring in Barrois's French MS. Nouv. Acq. Franç. 4515 in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, mentioned below (of A.D. 1371), cited B, and in that numbered xxxix. of the Grenville collection (British Museum), which dates probably from the early part of the 15th century, cited G.