This post contains a number of extracts from a text called The Goodman of Paris. It was written between 1392-4 by an elderly merchant from Paris to his new much younger wife. The author has very kindly included his ideals of marriage and has even thrown in a few recipes for her - lucky girl!
'You being the age of fifteen years and in the week that you and I were wed, did pray me to be indulgent to your youth and to your small and ignorant service, until you had seen and learned more; to this end you promised me to give all heed and to set all care and diligence to keep my peace and my love, as you spoke full wisely, and as I well believe, with other wisdom than your own, beseeching me humbly in our bed, as I remember, for the love of God not to correct you harshly before strangers nor before our own folk, but rather each night, or from day to day, in our chamber, to remind you of the unseemly or foolish things done in the day or days past, and chastise you, if it pleased me, and then you would strive to amend yourself according to my teaching and correction, and to serve my will in all things, as you said.'
'I have often wondered how I might find a simple general introduction to teach you the which, without the aforesaid difficulties, you might of yourself introduce into your work and care. And lastly, me-seems that if your love is as it has appeared in your good words, it can be accomplished in this way, namely in a general instruction that I will write for you and preto you, in three sections containing nineteen principal articles....'
'The first section of the three is necessary to gain the love of God and the salvation of your soul, and also to win the love of your husband and to give you in . this world that peace which should be in marriage. And because these two things, namely the salvation of your soul and the comfort of your husband, be the two things most chiefly necessary, therefore are they here placed first. And this first section contains nine articles.'
'The fifth article of the first section telleth that you ought to be very loving and privy towards your husband above all other living creatures . . . I set here a rustic ensample, that even the birds and the shy wild beasts, nay the savage beasts, have the sense and practice of this, for the female birds do ever follow and keep close to their mates and to none other and follow them and fly after them, and not after others. If the male birds stop, so also do the females and settle near to their mates; when the males fly away they fly after them, side by side . . . Of domestic animals you shall see how that a greyhound or rnastiff or little dog, whether it be on the road, or at table, or in bed, ever keepeth him close to the person from whom he taketh his food and leaveth all the others and is distant and shy with them; and if the dog is afar off, he always has his heart and his eye upon his master; even if his master whip him and throw stones at him, the dog followeth, wagging his tail and lying down before his master to appease him, and through rivers, through woods, through thieves and through battles followeth him.'
'The sixth article of the first section saith that you shall be humble and obedient towards him that shall be your husband, the which article containeth in itself four particulars.
The first particular saith that you shall be obedient: to wit to him and to his commandments whatsoever they be, whether they be made in earnest or in jest, or whether they be orders to do strange things, or whether they be made concerning matters of small import or of great; for all things should be of great import to you, since he that shall be your husband hath bidden you to do them . . . The third particular is to understand that if he that shall be your husband shall forbid you to do anything, whether he forbid you in jest or in earnest or whether it be concerning small matters or great, you must watch that you do not in any manner that which he has forbidden.
The fourth particular is that you be not arrogant and that you answer not back your husband that shall be, nor his words, nor contradict what he saith, above all before other people.'
'Certes, fair sister, such services make a man love and desire to return to his home and to see his goodwife, and to be distant with others. Wherefore I counsel you to make such cheer to your husband at all his comings and stayings, and to persevere therein; and also be peaceable with him, and remember the rustic proverb, which saith that there be three things which drive the goodman from home, to wit a leaking roof, a smoky chimney and a scolding woman. And therefore, fair sister, I beseech you that, to keep yourself in the love and good favour of your husband, you be unto him gentle, and amiable, and debonnair.'
'Have a care that in winter he have a good fire and smokeless and let him rest well . . . And in summer take heed that there be no fleas in your chamber, nor in your bed'
The author then wrote a number of ways of dealing with fleas, and other such insects which might displease a husband. He finished off his guide with a few recipes
Break up your poultry or other meat and stew it in water, putting wine therewith, and [then] fry it; then take raw dried almonds in their shells unpeeled and great plenty of cinnamon and bray them very well and moisten them with your broth or with beef broth and boil them with your meat; then bray ginger, cloves and grain [of Paradise] etc., and let it be thick and red....'
'Soringue of Eels
Skin and then cut up your eels; then have onions cooked in slices and parsley leaves and set it all to fry in oil; then bray ginger, cinnamon, clove, grain [of Paradise] and saffron, and moisten with veruice and take them out of the mortar. Then have toasted bread brayed and moistened with pur6e and run it through the strainer, then put in the purse and set all to boil together and flavour with wine, verjuice and vinegar; and it must be clear....'
Let the pig be killed by cutting his throat and scalded in boiling water and then skinned; then take the lean meat and throw away the feet and entrails of the pig and set him to boil in water; and take twenty eggs and boil them hard and chestnuts cooked in water and peeled. Then take the yolks of the eggs, the chestnuts, some fine old cheese and the meat of a cooked leg of pork and chop them up, then bray them with plenty of saffron and ginger powder mixed with the meat; and if your meat becometh too hard, soften it with yolks of eggs. And open not your pig by the belly but across the shoulders and with the smallest opening you may; then put him on the spit and afterwards put your stuffing into him and sew him up with a big needle; and let him be eaten either with yellow pepper sauce or with cameline in summer....'
The source that has been quoted in this post is from
"The Goodman of Paris" translated by Eileen Power in The Goodman of Paris, (London: Routledge, 1928), and reprinted in Richard M. Golden and Thomas Kuehn, eds., Western Societies: Primary Sources in Social History, Vol I, (New York: St Martins, 1993)
It can be found on-line at the Internet Medieval Sourcebook