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.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

One blog I think I mentioned before is aladyscode.com that seals with 'being a lady'. Someone told me they went to the new Golden Coral restaurant here in town and saw a whole family there in their pajamas.!!
My daughter said she saw a women walk her daughter to school in her very thin long nightgown and slippers! What are people thinking?!! I remember how naked I felt the first day my mother and sisters went out without a hat and gloves. Then much later the first women I saw in church wearing a polyester pant suit!! How revolutionary. :) Still sans hat and gloves we were clean, neat and acted and dressed properly ... And anyone still can easily. Clothes don't have to be the latest style {and what doe that mean anymore..there are so many many styles! :-). We are not supposed to stand out so we are stared at. Just modest and our personal style.
I love the idea of the box suppers. I started to comment on that post but got interrupted and never went back. I keep a list I imagine I have already mentioned. I list every meat cut we buy and what I can make from it and all the casserole we like and such. Then also a list of the same things but under Mexican ideas, Italian, barbecue etc. It is my go to list when I am mind numb on menu ideas. Yet to have a box all ready with measured out spices even!! ..how great is that!! Some days anything that makes cooking even easier is a wondrous thing! Especially hot summer days! You got my attention when you talked about these helpers! I know how having some pie crusts and such made already help..but a meal is even better!!! Thank you very much!
I haven't been on the internet for a few days so I read several posts at this sitting to catch up. I am sorry I am commenting on more than this particular post.
It took me so long to find used copes of Grace Livingston Hills books at our used stores. I loved some too but not others so much. Ot was hard to thin them out though. But I am glad I did so others might start to read her books. I like Beverly Lewis's Amish themed books. i never thought I would love them. Her's are so sweet and innocent. I have learned not just more about the different Amish sects but also olden ways and manners. It is the homemaking things that are extra fun to read about.
I watch several of the Alaskan tv shows about the different families. They do so much but the relatives and people that came before them worked even harder. They did not have ATVs and propane stoves or freezers. They had to walk their trap line or hunt for game or ride an animal. So many differences between our life now if we tried to go back to a simpler time and way of doing things. Then too they grew up with skills being passed down by example or teaching and doing with others as a way of learning. We haven't a clue about a lot of the old ways. My grandparents could live without electricity. We are so used to it and all it entails. Now the Bush family on tv lives a simple life but uses a generator for many things. Not our older relatives. So much education is being lost as each older person dies. ..and on another note why do I feel peaceful just thinking of my grandparents and their children? A calmness. There s a lesson there ..enough for a full sermon I am sure. :-) I better go. Thanks again Terri. Sarah

Anonymous said...

My best friend just stunned me yesterday on the topic of discretion.
She works with several 25-30 yr. olds and she overheard them talking as they shared pictures from their phones. She was sure she misheard what they were saying so she later asked one of them privately about it. To sum it up, they were showing each other pictures of their boy/girl friends' privates. I kid you not. She asked him why on earth they would do that and he said to her, "You mean, you and your friends don't do that?" And she said he was truly surprised when she told him that we absolutely did not and would not.

Yup, times are a'changing.

I am still the woman that never wears pants to church. On the occasion (like a blizzard lol) that someone asks me about it, I tell them that my Grandma won't let me. They always seem taken aback that my G'ma is alive since I'm in my 50's so I have to tell them that she's not here, but with Jesus....and she would know if I wore pants to church lol.

Debby in KS

Karla Neese said...

What an interesting book this sounds to be!

Though not medieval in origin, several of Emilie Barnes books from the early 90s remind me of the same - faith-based in every way and an education in the ways of a woman/wife's home and self-work. Hers are the books I hang on to. (https://www.amazon.com/Emilie-Barnes/e/B000APEODY)

The other ones it reminds of are the trio of books by Anne Ortlund from the Gentle Ways of the Beautiful Woman. (https://www.amazon.com/Gentle-Ways-Beautiful-Woman-Practical/dp/0884863417)

If you haven't read any of these, I think you'd really like them!

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