A Medieval Home Companion
Amie gave me this book when she was in high school because she was sure it was something I'd love to read. I am positive she read it herself before passing it on to me because that was usually what she did, read and then give to me with the recommendation that I read it as well.
This little book is quaint in some ways and quite wise in many others. For the month of May, I decided to start my charm school with the chapter on Worship, Dress, Deportment and Speech and within a few pages I found wise advice.
For a little background, the manuscript the book is based upon is a sort of lengthy letter written in book form by an elder man to his very young bride. It is believed he was in his 50's or 60's and she but 15. I am touched at the beginning by his introduction in which she asked him in their bedchamber to never criticize her before the servants or friends but to wait until they were alone each evening and then to instruct her how she might better conduct herself.
I think this alone is worth taking to heart on all accounts, because it is very obvious that she is not keen to 'air their dirty laundry' nor for him nor herself to appear in a bad light before anyone. As well it is certainly an unspoken promise on her own part to do the same if she has anything to criticize about him. No telling all of her friends and neighbors why she finds him less than dashing on any given day. In the day and age of tell all 'real' television in which couples argue about paternity and who cheated upon whom and facebook reveals of discord...Yes. This is wise advise and most certainly meant for those who wish to appear mannerly and charming.
Her husband addresses both worship and laziness in the same section. First that a wise woman says her prayers at Matins. He mentions that it is 'morning' but from his statement that she is to say her prayers and then go back to sleep, I took it to mean quite early in the morning. From my research I find this probably would have been about 2am, but it was deemed the first prayers of the morning and her husband encourages her to acknowledge the time for prayer. Oddly enough it is often about this hour I awaken and I start saying my prayers at that time.
May I just say that I think this will likely not be in any of the other books I'll be reading on this matter, but the peace of a good relationship with God and our Savior Jesus can only show on the face of any woman and what could be more lovely? And what better strengthen her each day to face any troubles that might come?
Upon the matter of dress, not only is the young woman urged to dress modestly but he urges her to dress as is due her social rank, which was neither low nor high. He was concerned that she be attired as she ought to be for her social level, neat in all things, not showy, nor poorly dressed. He points out that those women who went about without taking this care and then wondered why they do not receive the respect due them, shouldn't wonder at it at all, since they had shown themselves to be less than respectable toward the mores of their social standing.
This first chapter ends with his urging her to be discreet in actions as well as appearance, and to not share confidences that belong only between husband and wife. My gracious! That is sound advice in the 21st century just as it was in the 14th!
The rest of the chapters on personal conduct are really about the matters between husbands and wives. I don't feel they apply to my study of Charm but I do feel they are important chapters for at married woman to take to heart.
So as a summing up of what I learned from this book: I'd say most assuredly that charm does come in the form of discretion in both dress and actions, never giving a suspicion that one is anything other than a modest and lovely woman and that a discreet woman never shares things meant for discussion solely between a husband and wife. As well, a peaceful countenance goes far in promoting the true charm of any woman and that is gotten by not giving oneself over to worldly pleasures but through the offices of a spiritual relationship with Christ.