Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Le Menagier de Paris

Le Menagier de Paris — an online translation of the advice and household hints book.

In this booklet from about 1393, a Parisian husband (“le menagier”) addresses his 15-year-old wife concerning her duties, but the tone and contents are generally humane. We find the early modern (and modern) concern about public appearance and self-commodification. He obviously likes giving the impression that his household is of higher than bourgeois status, but there’s nothing very machiavellian about his advice nor about his manner of advising.

The husband trots out the standard biblical sexism — mostly Genesis — but at least does not seem misogynistic.

Household hints include keeping fleas out of your bed and room, selecting the best eel and cheese, creating invisible ink, turning white wine red. After several elaborate techniques for fly removal, all of which seem spurious, he adds, “Have paddles for killing them by hand” (67). When shopping for rabbit, “You can tell if he is tender by breaking one of his back legs” (117). There are at least two good reasons for keeping a nice warm pot of urine simmering on a back burner (99, 139).

Works Cited

A Medieval Home Companion: Housekeeping in the Fourteenth Century. Trans. Tania Bayard. NY: HarperCollins Pub., 1991.