The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).>br>Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

IX. Latin Chroniclers from the Eleventh to the Thirteenth Centuries

§ 18. Walter Map

A greater renown, however, in literary history generally has been enjoyed by Gerald’s friend, and, probably, fellow-country-man, Walter Map. Were it possible to prove to demonstration Map’s authorship of the great Arthurian romances so commonly associated with his name, there could be no question about his claim to rank as the greatest literary genius who appeared in England before Chaucer. But the claim made on behalf of Map to the authorship of these imaginative works rests on very slender evidence. Even the authenticity of his equally celebrated Goliardic poems is open to grave question. The De Nugis Curialium, or book Of Courtiers’ Trifles, is, undoubtedly, his. It was probably composed by instalments, and forms a sort of common-place book in which Map seems to have jotted down from time to time, both shrewd reflections upon men and things, and pleasant anecdotes to divert the vacant mind. Of the strictly historical portions of the work, the most valuable are the accounts, in the first book, of some of the heretical sects which had sprung up in the twelfth century, and the reflections, which take up the whole of the fifth book, upon the character and achievements of the Anglo-Norman kings. The fourth book includes, in company with some lively tales, the celebrated letter, well known to the Wife of Bath’s fifth husband, from Valerius to Rufinus, upon the folly of marrying a wife. The whole work is a medley of such diverse and curious ingredients—satire, gossip, fairy-lore, folk-tales and snatches of serious history—as to make us easily believe that its author was, as Gerald hints, one of the most versatile and witty talkers in the court circles of that eager and inquisitive age.