Map (sometimes wrongly written MAPES), WALTER, Archdeacon of Oxford, b. at, or in the vicinity of, Hereford, c. 1140; d. between 1208 and 1210. Belonging by birth to the Welsh Marches, he was in all probability Welsh by extraction, though the two languages through which he has become known in literature are medieval church Latin, and the so-called Norman-French spoken at the Court of Henry II of England as well as in the law courts of that age and country. At the age of fourteen Walter went to the University of Paris where he studied until 1160 under Girard la Pucelle. In 1162 he was at the Court of England. Henry made him a clerk of his household, which implies that Map had received, or was about to receive, Holy orders. After this the road to other preferments was open to him. He was the King’s representative at the Third Lateran Council (1179), where he was appointed to dispute with the Waldensians. He held various benefices and at last, in 1197, he was made Archdeacon of Oxford. An unsuccessful effort to obtain the See of Hereford brought him into contact with St. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln.
The place of Walter Map, however, is rather in the history of profane, literature than in ecclesiastical history. As a churchman, though his life must have been respectable enough, his conversation can hardly have tended to edification, and he was the avowed enemy of the White Monks. Giraldus Cambrensis, his friend and admirer, states that in his oath as a king’s justice, to do justice to all men, Map made a distinct exception of Jews and Cistercians, “who were just to none”. Only one literary work can be attributed to him with certainty: “De Nugis curialium” (Courtiers’ Triflings), a book of gossip, anecdote, and observation, written, regardless of form, on the suggestion of one Geoffrey, to set down his (Map’s) sayings and doings that had not been committed to writing. It is also implied by Map that he wrote at the wish of Henry II, at whose court the work was composed. Besides this work in Latin, there is good reason to believe that the earliest prose “Lancelot” was based on a French poem of Walter Map (see Legends. Arthur). Lastly, much of the “Goliardic” Latin satire on the clergy of that period has without sufficient reason been ascribed to him, the most noted among that class of writing being the “Confessio Goliae” from which is taken the famous bacchanalian lyric beginning “Mihi est propositum in taberna mori”.