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Jean Froissart

French historian and poet, b. at Valenciennes, about 1337, d. at Chimay early in the fifteenth century

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Froissart, JEAN, French historian and poet, b. at Valenciennes, about 1337, d. at Chimay early in the fifteenth century. The exact dates of his birth and death are unknown, as well as the family from which he sprang. In 1361, after receiving ecclesiastical tonsure, he went to England to present to Queen Philippa of Hainault an account in verse of the battle of Poitiers. This marked the beginning of the wandering life which led him through the whole of Europe and made him the guest of the chief personages of the end of the fourteenth century. His sojourn in England lasted till 1367. Queen Philippa received him well and inspired him with the idea of writing his chronicles. He travelled through England and visited Scotland where he met David Bruce. In 1367 he accompanied the Black Prince to Bordeaux, returned to London, and in 1368 accompanied the Duke of Clarence to Milan where the duke was to wed the daughter of Galeazzo Visconti. From Italy Froissart returned to Valenciennes where he learned of the death of Queen Philippa in 1369. He was then successively under the protection of Duke Wenceslaus of Brabant (1369-1381), and Comte Guy de Blois, seigneur of Beaumont, who bestowed-on him the parish of Lestinnes-au-Mont and a canonicate at Chimay (1384). Froissart accompanied Count Guy into Flanders and to Blois. Then, to secure information concerning the Spanish wars, he visited the court of Gaston Phebus, Comte de Foix, and quitted it in 1389 in the company of Jeanne de Boulogne, the affianced bride of the Duc de Berry. In 1390 and 1391 he wrote his history at Valenciennes. He was at Paris in 1392, whence he went again to London, where he offered his poems to Richard II. Having quarrelled with Guy de Blois he found a new protector in Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Little is known of his latter years, which were possibly passed at Chimay.

Froissart composed many poems of love and adventure, such as “l’Epinette Amoureuse”, in which he relates the story of his own life, and “Meliador”, a poem in imitation of the Round Table cycle, etc. His chief work is the “Chroniques de France, d’Angleterre, d’Ecosse, de Bretagne, de Gascogne, de Flandre et lieux circonvoisins”, an account of European wars from 1328 till 1400. In the numerous manuscripts of the “Chronicles” three recensions of the first book are recognizable. The first, written between 1369 and 1379 brings the narrative to 1378 (the beginning is borrowed from the “Chronicle” of Jean le Bel, a canon of Liege). The tone of this recension is favorable to the English. The second recension, represented by the Amiens and Valenciennes MSS., was written under the inspiration of Guy de Blois and is favorable to the French. The third recension (Vatican MS.), written after 1400, is frankly hostile to England, but the MS. stops with the year 1340. The second, third, and fourth books of the “Chronicles” were written between 1387 and 1400.

The “Chronicles” contain many errors and are very partial, but despite these faults no work conveys so lively an impression of the men and things of the fourteenth century as this history of Froissart. His graceful and naive style and the picturesque turn which he gives to his recollections make him the king of chroniclers. The “Chronicles” were much copied; one of the most beautiful manuscripts of Froissart is at Breslau, copied in 1469 by Aubert de Hesdin, and admirably illustrated with miniatures (S. Reinach, Gazette des Beaux Arts, May, 1905). Among the modern editions are those of: Buchon, “Pantheon litteraire”, 3 vols. (Paris, 1835 and 1846), defective in the first book; Kervyn de Lettenhove, 29 vols. (Brussels, 1867-1877), gives the various recensions of each chapter; Simeon Luce began to publish in 1869 the edition of the Societe de l’Histoire de France, 8 vols. (Paris, 1869-1888); G. Raynaud, commissioned to continue this undertaking, published volumes IX to XI, which contain part of Book II (Paris, 1897-1899). The poem “Meliador” was edited by A. Longnon for the Societe des Anciens Textes Francais (Paris, 1895).



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