Handlyng Synne by Robert Manning of Brunne is a Middle English verse devotional work, intended for the use of both learned and unlearned men, dealing with the theory and practice of morality, and illustrating this doctrine with stories drawn from ordinary life. It was begun in the year 1303. It is valued today for its simple and entertaining style, and for the light it throws on English life in the Middle Ages.
Handlyng Synne was adapted from, and improves upon, an Anglo-Norman work attributed to William of Waddington, the Manuel de Pechiez. It consists of more than 12,000 lines of verse, arranged in four-stress couplets. It is a discussion of the ten commandments, the seven deadly sins, the seven sacraments, and the elements of confession, illustrated throughout by exempla, or moral anecdotes, thirteen of which do not appear in the Manuel. Handlyng Synne has been described as "a reduction of the world's experience to a comprehensive moral scheme". It trenchantly criticizes the mores of the time, saying of tournaments, for example, that they promote all seven deadly sins and could not exist in a world in which each knight loved his fellow man.
Manuscripts and editions Edit
Handlyng Synne survives in whole or part in nine manuscripts. It was edited for the Early English Text Society by Frederick J. Furnivall (2 vols., 1901, 1903). A more recent edition by Idelle Sullens was published in 1983.
It is one of the sources of a mid-15th century work called Peter Idley's Instructions to his Son. Michael Malone's 1986 comic novel Handling Sin used Mannyng's title for a widely different treatment of the seven deadly sins.
Critical reception Edit
Handlyng Synne is considered a work of greater literary merit than Mannyng's only other known poem, the Chronicle. Richard Newhauser has drawn attention to the subtlety of its analysis of its subject, "alive to the difficulties of treating sin without becoming mired in sin itself, and aware of the ways in which sins constantly undo the borders between each other or disguise themselves as virtues". But for many critics the most interesting aspect of Handlyng Synne is its collection of exempla. Comparison has been made with John Gower's Confessio Amantis: "The octosyllabic couplets of Handlyng Synne may lack Gower's smoothness, but several of the tales, if cruder, are more vigorous and vivid than most of Gower's". Derek Pearsall called Mannyng "a born story-teller", who "displays plenty of vigour, though his professional role allows little sophistication". Antony Gibbs wrote that "his gusto conveys itself readily to his reader". Kenneth Sisam believed that "in the art of linking good teaching with entertainment he is a master", and called Handlyng Synne "the best picture of English life before Langland and Chaucer".
- Sisam 1964, pp. 2–3.
- Pearsall 1977, p. 108.
- Wilkinson 2013, p. 224.
- Ousby, Ian (1996) . The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 598–599. ISBN 0521440866. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
- Shepherd 1970, pp. 102–103.
- Shepherd 1970, p. 103.
- "Robert Mannyng of Brunne, Handling Sin [Mannyng HS]". Middle English Compendium HyperBibliography. University of Michigan Library. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
- Woods, Marjorie Curry; Copeland, Rita (2002) . "Classroom and Confession". In Wallace, David (ed.). The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 395. ISBN 0521890462. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
- Hawkins, Peter S. (2012). "The Religion of the Mountain: Handling Sin in Dante's Purgatorio". In Newhauser, Richard G; Ridyard, Susan J. (eds.). Sin in Medieval and Early Modern Culture. York: York Medieval Press. p. 225. ISBN 9781903153413. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
- Gibbs 1971, p. 347.
- Sisam 1964, p. 2.
- Newhauser, Richard (2009). "Religious Writing: Hagiography, Pastoralia, Devotional and Contemplative Works". In Scanlon, Larry (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Literature, 1100-1500. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 51. ISBN 9780521841672. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
- Dolan, T. P.; Scattergood, V. J. (1982) . "Middle English Prose". In Ford, Boris (ed.). Medieval Literature: Chaucer and the Alliterative Tradition. The New Pelican Guide to English Literature, Volume 1, Part 1. Harmondsworth: Penguin. p. 81. ISBN 0140222642. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
- Gibbs 1971, pp. 347–348.
- Sisam 1964, p. 3.
- Gibbs, Antony (1971). "Mannyng of Brunne, Robert". In Daiches, David (ed.). The Penguin Companion to Literature. Volume 1: Britain and the Commonwealth. Harmondsworth: Penguin. ISBN 0140510346.
- Pearsall, Derek (1977). Old English and Middle English Poetry. The Routledge History of English Poetry, Vol. 1. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 0710083963.
- Shepherd, G. T. (1970). "Early Middle English Literature". In Bolton, W. F. (ed.). The Middle Ages. The Sphere History of Literature in the English Language, Vol. 1. London: Sphere.
- Sisam, Kenneth, ed. (1964) . Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Sullens, Idelle, ed. (1983). Robert Mannyng: Handlyng Synne. Binghamton: Medieval and Renaissance Texts & Studies.
- Wilkinson, B. (2013) . The Later Middle Ages in England, 1216–1485. London: Longman. ISBN 9780582480322.