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

XVI. Later Transition English

§ 8. Characteristics of Mannyng’s style

Of William of Wadington, the author of the Manuel des Pechiez very little is known. In the prologue to his work, however, he begs his readers to excuse his bad French, because he was born and bred in England and took his name from a town in that country. The apology is not altogether superfluous, for his grammar is loose, and forms that were archaic even in the thirteenth century are of frequent occurrence. His versification is also poor, and, though his normal form is the octosyllabic couplet, he does not hesitate to introduce lines of six, or even of ten syllables. His English audience, however, was not critical, and the popularity of the manual is attested by the number of manuscripts, fourteen in all, which have survived. Most of these belong to the thirteenth century, and Mannyng’s translation, as we have seen, was begun in 1303.

The English version begins with an introduction of the usual style, setting out the plan of the work, and stating the object of the author in making the translation. He has put it into English rime for the benefit of ignorant men, who delight in listening to stories at all hours, and often hearken to evil tales which may lead to their perdition. Therefore, he has provided them in this book with stories of a more edifying description.