Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dame Juliana Berners

Was Dame Juliana Berners Real?

“Good myths die hard, and despite the fact that most historians find evidence of Dame Juliana’s existence sketchy at best, many sources still treat her authorship of Treatyse of fysshynge wyth an Angle, a 1496 addendum to the Boke of St. Albans, as fact.” 

Dame Juliana Berners, supposed author. The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Heraldry. St. Albans: Schoolmaster Printer, 1486

St. Albans Book

Angling Advice From Beyond: Part I, Dame Juliana Berners

With Halloween coming up I thought I’d get into the spirit of things, by providing some fishing advice from beyond the grave!
treatise cover
This first bit of historical writing comes from THE TREATISE ON FISHING WITH AN ANGLE (first printed in 1486 as part of the Book of St. Albans). It is generally attributed to Dame Juliana Berners (b 1388?), prioress of the nunnery of Sopwell, near St. Alban’s, England. Though there is some doubt as to whether she was the actual author or whether she existed at all. At any rate I found this passage interesting and also pretty sound advice.
…I charge you, that you break no man’s hedges in going about your sports: nor open any man’s gates but that you shut them again. Also, you must not use this aforesaid artful sport for covetousness to increasing or saving of your money only, but principally for your solace and to promote the health of your body and specially of your soul. For when you propose to go on your sports in fishing, you will not desire greatly many persons with you, which might hinder in letting you at your game. And then you can serve God devoutly by earnestly saying your customary prayers. And thus doing, you will eschew and avoid many vices, such as idleness, which is the principal cause to induce man to many other vices, as is right well known. Also, you must not be too greedy in catching your said game as taking too much at one time, which you may easily do if you do in every point as this present treatise shows you in every point. Which could easily be the occasion of destroying your own sport and other men’s also. As when you have a sufficient mess you should covet no more as at that time.
Dame Juliana Berners

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