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Mandeville's Travels

One of the most popular prose works of the Middle English period was the Travels of Sir John Mandeville. The book actually contains some engaging accounts of travels supposed to be undertaken by the author himself. Once the work was considered genuine, an original one. But subsequently it was found to be a rate literary fraud. The whole work appeared to be a mere record of an imaginary knight's extraordinary adventures in some unknown lands. Actually no Sir John Mandeville ever lived. His travels had never taken place at all. The personal experiences recorded in the book, seem to have compiled from different records of travels.

Mandeville's Travels, despite its fraudulent character, remains an interesting work for its actual purpose and significance. The book may look apparently a guide and itinerary for pilgrims to the Holy Land. But it actually turns out to be a collection of tales and legends as also the oddities of natural history. All such matters, gathered from different sources, are arranged together admirably in a comprehensive network.    

The theme of the work is quite simple. One John Mandeville, a knight of St. Albans, set out to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1322. He made an extensive tour and travelled all over the world. On his return in 1343, he fell seriously ill, and was advised by his attending physician to write an account of his travels in order to forget his physical pains. So the account of his travels is given.      

There are controversies about the authorship of the work. Whoever the author might be, he had made a genuine contribution to English literature. The subject-matter of the book is kept all through delightful and the prose-style has a steady and smooth flow, without any undue colloquialism or ecclesiastical solemnity. 

Indeed, in Mandeville's Travels is found a new literary venture to turn a manual for pilgrims into an entertaining story-book. This definitely marks well the advancement of English prose in the middle ages.


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