John W. Baldwin

title.none: Shopkow, trans, The History of the Counts of Guines and Lords of Ardres (John W. Baldwin)

identifier.other: baj9928.0110.007 01.10.07

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: John W. Baldwin, Johns Hopkins University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2001

identifier.citation: Lambert of Ardres. Shopkow, Leah, trans. The History of the Counts of Guines and Lords of Ardres. The Middle Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000. Pp. v, 279. 49.95. ISBN: 0-812-23568-1.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 01.10.07

Lambert of Ardres. Shopkow, Leah, trans. The History of the Counts of Guines and Lords of Ardres. The Middle Ages. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000. Pp. v, 279. 49.95. ISBN: 0-812-23568-1.

Reviewed by:

John W. Baldwin
Johns Hopkins University

Between 1198 and 1206 Master Lambert, chaplain of Ardres, set about to write the history of the counts of Guines from their mythical origins in the tenth century to his own day. A little more than half way through he interpolated a parallel history of the lords of Ardres by another chaplain, Master Walter Le Clud, under the pleasant conceit that Walter had narrated the account during a prolonged rainstorm. Lambert then returned to Guines and continued the story to the time of Arnold II, count of Guines, to whom he offered the history. By combining these two histories Lambert was, in effect, celebrating the marriage of Arnold's parents, Baldwin II, count of Guines, with Christine, heiress of Ardres, that brought the two principalities together.

Although the text was critically edited by Johannes Heller in 1879 and widely circulated in the Scriptores of the MGH, it has not received much attention from scholars. Ernest A. Warlop used it extensively for the light it shed on the Flemish nobility, and most recently Georges Duby devoted to it a celebrated chapter in his treatment of medieval marriage, but most other scholars have skimmed it for specific points without treating it in its entirety. The reason for this neglect may lie in the difficulty of Lambert's latinity, whose convoluted syntax has discouraged sustained interest.

Leah's Shopkow's translation into English is therefore the first into a modern language. It reads clearly and smoothly; from the samples I have compared with the Latin text, I have been able to uncover no serious disagreements. As a tour de force she also pleasantly translates the Latin verse into English rhyme which is, of course, freer than a literal rendering and thereby requires referral to the original text for full understanding. The translation is preceded by a short introduction to the historiography and historical context which concisely sums up the significance of the text. My only reservation here is Shopkow's penchant for the most recent bibliography over the most useful. R. I. Moore, for example, is no substitute for the rich literature on lepers. Clifford Lawrence and R. W. Southern cannot replace the older Ernest W. McDonnell on the beguines, and Bryce Lyon, not Gabrielle Spiegel, remains the authority on fief-rentes.

Since Lambert's history of Guines and Ardres is, along with the "Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal," one of the most illuminating texts on aristocratic life of its day, its riches have not yet been exhausted. Fundamentally, of course, it contains the materials for a genealogical history of the two families which remains to be written. (Guines was outside Warlop's purview, and for Ardres, he was content to state: "See Lambert".) The task is not merely to construct the family tree, however, but to pose the questions devised by recent historians and encapsulated most recently by Constance Brittain Bouchard ( Those of my Blood, 2001) as family consciousness, including strategies for forming alliances, naming patterns, deployment of females, awareness of consanguinity, and political ambitions.

Georges Duby used the family of Guines to illustrate his model of the aristocratic family and its accommodation to the ecclesiastical model, but Lambert's text remains remarkable in demonstrating the complacency of the clergy in reporting the flagrant breaches by the aristocracy of the church's rules. Like the parallel narratives of Galbert of Bruges for Flanders and Gislebert of Mons for Hainaut, to which Lambert should always be compared, the prevalence of illegitimacy and of extramarital activity is in no way concealed; neither are the clerics Lambert and Walter ashamed of their own progeny.

Lambert and Walter, to be sure, do report that the families of Guines and Ardres engendered legitimate children, founded churches, and departed on crusades, enterprises deemed laudable by churchmen, but they continue to reveal in Latin those activities of which the clergy disapproved. Again like Galbert and Gislebert, they announce numerous tournaments, but allow no details, except to note when a nobleman was killed. Likewise, they acknowledge festivities and celebrations of knighthood, for example, where their competitors, the jongleurs, provided doubtful entertainment, but they limited themselves to terse bulletins. The mania for hunting is barely noticed, but when it is mentioned, Lambert places it in direct competition with the ministrations of the clergy whose bells are ignored just as it happened in Jean Renart's Roman de la rose or Guillaume de Dole (vv.218-227).

The underlying problem of Lambert of Ardres, therefore, remains that of language: How does a cleric writing in Latin represent an aristocratic world that was lived in the vernacular? Each time Lambert quotes a Latin charter, which is rendered (at least, at first glance) in impeccable diplomatic form, he raises the difficulty of translating it perfectly into French. Since the linguistic issue is pervasive, who then is the audience envisaged for Lambert's Latin history? Nominally, it is Arnold II of Guines who requested the text, but most probably the count was "illiteratus", that is, he could not read Latin. Since Lambert was careful to note whether a noble person was "literatus", silence on Arnold surely eliminates him. Rather, Lambert turns his attention to Arnold's father, Count Baldwin II of Guines and devotes two chapters (80 and 81) to Baldwin's truly remarkable collection of books, containing works in both French and Latin. Among the former were the standard vernacular genres of secular lyrics [?] ("in neniis gentilium"), chansons de geste ("in cantilenis gestoriis"), aristocratic romances ("in eventuris nobilium"), and popular fabliaux ("in fabellis ignobilium), all of which the count could understand. Equally important were the Latin works in theology, philosophy, and classical tales, including perhaps even polyphonic music ("organica instrumenta"). Some of the Biblical texts, such as "Canta canticorum", were translated into the vernacular, but most were left in Latin. At this point Lambert is utterly clear: Although Baldwin was fully a layman and ignorant of Latin ("omnino laicus esset et illiteratus"), he nonetheless discussed and debated these works at length with clerics, treating not only the literal meanings but probing the mystical depths of the texts. He was considered an Augustine in theology, a Dionysius in philosophy, and a Thales in literature. How did he know these letters which he had never studied? Again, Lambert's reply is unequivocal: "Because he kept masters and clerics with him, asking many questions and listening carefully to their answers." Now there can be no doubt that Baldwin, Arnold, and most other aristocrats could learn from Lambert's history by keeping clerics close at hand to mediate between the Latin of the clerical world and the vernacular of the lay. These two chapters on Baldwin's library, like many of Lambert's other passages, deserve to be read, reread and caressed by modern scholars. At this section Shopkow's footnotes need to be updated because she relies heavily on the references provided by Heller a century ago. These passages should also be reread by those who argue for lay literacy by simply counting laymen who owned Latin books or handled Latin documents. We cannot assume any general literacy among the aristocratic laity until we can uncover an educational system broadly receptive to this class; this did not happen until the end of the thirteenth century. If aristocrats around 1200 were "literate", they were in Michael Clanchy's sense of "pragmatic literacy" ("quasi literatus" is Lambert's term) whereby laymen like Baldwin of Guines and William the Marshal relied on the services of clerics like Master Lambert of Ardres. Leah Shopkow's useful translation of the history of the counts of Guines and the lords of Ardres is especially welcome as a new text not only accessible to students but, equally important, an encouragement to scholars to revisit this remarkable venue to aristocratic life.