Page 4, 28th May 1937

28th May 1937
Page 4
Page 4, 28th May 1937 — Autobiography

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Locations: Rome


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The Autobiography of Giraldus Cambrensis. Edited and translated by H. E. Butler. (Cape. 15s.)

Reviewed by J. ALBAN EVANS

To most people, Giraldus is known as the author of the delightful Itinerary Through Wales; one of the first, and certainly one of the best, of travel books. Professor Butler has now provided a fulllength portrait to supplement the stray sketches we have hitherto known. The appearance of the Autobiography must rank as a major literary occasion, for it is an entirely successful collation of hitherto untranslated extracts from the voluminous works of Giraldus.

The Archdeacon is revealed in all his astonishing diversity; a profound scholar, an amusing commentator, a stern castigator of clerical abuses, and-7most of all-a perfervid Welsh patriot. The Autobiography is necessarily dominated by the epic struggle of Giraldus to secure the independence of the See of Mynyw and with the fate that.three.times prevented his election to it.

The struggle has for its background the crowded pageant of twelfth-century Europe -Consistories at Rome, excommunications at home, the simony of Archbishops, the pride of kings, and always the discomforts of travel. And it is ever enlivened by the studied wit of the Archdeacon. He strikes often, and never without success.

Of monastic " silence " he says : "It would therefore he more consonant with good order and decency to speak modestly in human speech than with signs and whistlings thus jocosely to indulge in dumb garrulity." of English bishops in Wales: "dunzb dogs that cannot bark, since they are ignorant of our language."

It would be invidious to praise the scholarship of Professor Butler's book. But one must explain that this is not merely a distinguished historical monograph. It is a fascinating narrative, which must have required for its presentation the sort of skill that goes to reconstruct the primeval skeletons in the Natural History Museum, but with this difference: Professor Butler has discovered a way of re-creating flesh and blood as well.

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