The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Jan 20, 2011

Daniel of Beccles

I first came across Daniel of Beccles, writer of the Book of the Civilised Man, a 13th century guide to manners, in Danny Danziger and John Gillingham's 1215: The Year of Magna Carta. Daniel was a man much taken by social hierarchy, the ins and outs of behaviour before one's superiors, and (naturally, in that ribald time) by matters sexual. He was also, for some reason, obsessed with ceilings. For example:
When you are a cuckold, learn to stare at the ceiling...
If you want to belch, be mindful to look at the ceiling...
I've noticed among many Englishmen a predilection to dig into their noses, and then, having carefully examined their fingernails, to pop the snot into their mouths. The sister-in-law once saw a friend do this, and, aghast, she challenged him. 'Everybody does it,' was his nonchalant reply. An ex-boss of mine, too, was wont to do the same. Valuing my job, I never excoriated him - either in private or in public. In retrospect, I should have mentioned Daniel of Beccles' admonition, which I had come across at the same time:
In front of grandees, do not openly excavate your nose, twisting your fingers.
Other notable tips included: feign illness if your lord's wife makes sexual advances to you; do not piss in the hall (unless it's your hall, in which case by all means feel free); do not fart indoors; and, for crying out loud, don't attack a man when he's taking a dump. I mean, really, where is your sense of chivalry?

[I'm on a bit of a trudge through medieval English history, and you won't believe the amount of filth and ribaldry and bodily function that was bandied about in this country. At least, I suspect you won't believe me, and hence these posts.

First: London Tales]


Post a Comment