Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles  

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French Renaissance literature, Heptameron

The Cent Nouvelles nouvelles is an anonymous collection of nouvelles supposed to be narrated by various persons at the court of Philippe le Bon, and collected by Antoine de la Sale in the 1456-1457. The work borrowed from Boccaccio's Decameron (1350-1353) and has in fact been subtitled the French Decameron (a title which has also been given to the Heptameron (1558)). It is similar to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1390s), the Contes et nouvelles en vers (1665-66) by Fontaine and Brantôme's Les Vies des Dames galantes (1665-1666).

The nouvelle as genre is considered the first example of literary prose in French, the first text in this category is generally cited as Les Cent Nouvelles nouvelles.


Plot and context

More than thirty-two noblemen or squires contributed the stories, with some 14 or 15 taken from Giovanni Boccaccio, and as many more from Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini or other Italian writers, or French fabliaux, at least one by Rutebeuf, but about 70 of them appear to be original.

The stories are bawdy, ribald and burlesque, with titles such as The Monk-Doctor, The Armed Cuckold, The Drunkard In Paradise, The Castrated Clerk and the The Husband As Doctor.

Antoine de la Sale is supposed to have been the "acteur" in the collection of the licentious stories. One only of the stories is given in his name, but he is credited with the compilation of the whole, for which Louis XI was long held responsible. A completed copy of this was presented to the Duke of Burgundy at Dijon in 1462.

The stories give a curious glimpses of life in the 15th Century, providing a genuine view of the social condition of the nobility and the middle classes. Charles Lenient, a French critic, says in La satire en France au moyen age: "Generally the incidents and characters belong to the bourgeoisie; there is nothing chivalric, nothing wonderful; no dreamy lovers, romantic dames, fairies, or enchanters. Noble dames, bourgeois, nuns, knights, merchants, monks, and peasants mutually dupe each other. The lord deceives the miller's wife by imposing on her simplicity, and the miller retaliates in much the same manner. The shepherd marries the knight's sister, and the nobleman is not over scandalized. The vices of the monks are depicted in half a score tales, and the seducers are punished with a severity not always in proportion to the offense."

History of the book

It was first translated into English in 1899 by Robert B. Douglas, though an edition was edited in French by an English scholar Thomas Wright in 1858. It can hardly have been the coarseness of some of the stories which prevented the Nouvelles from being presented to English readers when there were by that time half a dozen versions of the Heptameron, which is quite as coarse as the Nouvelles.

In addition to this, there is the history of the book itself, and its connection with one of the most important people in French history — Louis XI. Indeed, in many older French and English works of reference, the authorship of the Nouvelles has been attributed to him, and though in recent years, the writer is now believed — and no doubt correctly — to have been Antoine de la Salle, it is tolerably certain that Prince Louis heard all the stories related, and very possibly contributed several of them.

The circumstances under which these stories came to be narrated revolve the period from 1456-1461, when Louis was estranged from his father, Charles VII of France, and was being kept by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy. It was during these five years that these stories were told to amuse his leisure. Probably there were many more than a hundred narrated — perhaps several hundreds — but the literary man who afterwards "edited" the stories only selected those which he deemed best, or, perhaps, those he heard recounted. The narrators were the nobles who formed the Dauphin's Court. Much ink has been spilled over the question whether Louis himself had any share in the production. In nearly every case the author's name is given, and ten of them (Nos. 2, 4, 7, 9, 11, 29, 33, 69, 70 and 71) are described in the original edition as being by "Monseigneur." Publishers of subsequent editions brought out at the close of the 15th, or the beginning of the 16th, Century, jumped to the conclusion that "Monseigneur" was really the Dauphin, who not only contributed largely to the book, but after he became King personally supervised the publication of the collected stories.

For four centuries Louis XI was credited with the authorship of the tales mentioned. The first person to throw any doubt on his claim was Thomas Wright, who edited an edition of the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, published by Jannet, Paris, 1858. He maintained, with some show of reason, that as the stories were told in Burgundy, by Burgundians, and the collected tales were "edited" by de la Salle, it was more probable that "Monseigneur" would mean the Duke than the Dauphin, and he therefore ascribed the stories to Philippe le Bel. Later French scholars, however, appear to be of opinion that "Monseigneur" was the Comte de Charolais, who afterwards became famous as Charles le Téméraire, the last Duke of Burgundy.

Some thirty-two noblemen or squires contributed the other stories, with some 14 or 15 taken from Giovanni Boccaccio, and as many more from Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini or other Italian writers, or French fabliaux, but about 70 of them appear to be original.


Story The First —The Reverse Of The Medal. [1]

  • Story The Second — The Monk-Doctor.
  • Story The Third — The Search For The Ring. [3]
  • Story The Fourth — The Armed Cuckold. [4]
  • Story The Fifth — The Duel With The Buckle-Strap. [5]
  • Story The Sixth — The Drunkard In Paradise. [6]
  • Story The Seventh — The Waggoner In The Bear.
  • Story The Eighth — Tit For Tat. [8]
  • Story The Ninth — The Husband Pandar To His Own Wife. [9]
  • Story The Tenth — The Eel Pasties. [10]
  • Story The Eleventh — A Sacrifice To The Devil. [11]
  • Story The Twelfth — The Calf. [12]
  • Story The Thirteenth — The Castrated Clerk. [13]
  • Story The Fourteenth — The Pope-Maker, Or The Holy Man. [14]
  • Story The Fifteenth — The Clever Nun.
  • Story The Sixteenth — On The Blind Side. [16]
  • Story The Seventeenth — The Lawyer And The Bolting-Mill.
  • Story The Eighteenth — From Belly To Back. [18]
  • Story The Nineteenth — The Child Of The Snow
  • Story The Twentieth — The Husband As Doctor.
  • Story The Twenty-First — The Abbess Cured [21]
  • Story The Twenty-Second — The Child With Two Fathers. [22]
  • Story The Twenty-Third — The Lawyer's Wife Who Passed The Line. [23]
  • Story The Twenty-Fourth — Half-Booted. [24]
  • Story The Twenty-Fifth — Forced Willingly. [25]
  • Story The Twenty-Sixth — The Damsel Knight. [26]
  • Story The Twenty-Seventh — The Husband In The Clothes-Chest. [27]
  • Story The Twenty-Eighth — The Incapable Lover. [28]
  • Story The Twenty-Ninth — The Cow And The Calf.
  • Story The Thirtieth — The Three Cordeliers
  • Story The Thirty-First — Two Lovers For One Lady. [31]
  • Story The Thirty-Second — The Women Who Paid Tithe. [32]
  • Story The Thirty-Third — The Lady Who Lost Her Hair.
  • Story The Thirty-Fourth — The Man Above And The Man Below. [34]
  • Story The Thirty-Fifth — The Exchange.
  • Story The Thirty-Sixth — At Work.
  • Story The Thirty-Seventh — The Use Of Dirty Water.
  • Story The Thirty-Eighth — A Rod For Another's Back. [38]
  • Story The Thirty-Ninth — Both Well Served. [39]
  • Story The Fortieth — The Butcher's Wife Who Played The Ghost In The
  • Story The Forty-First — Love In Arms.
  • Story The Forty-Second — The Married Priest. [42]
  • Story The Forty-Third — A Bargain In Horns.
  • Story The Forty-Fourth — The Match-Making Priest.
  • Story The Forty-Fifth — The Scotsman Turned Washerwoman
  • Story The Forty-Sixth — How The Nun Paid For The Pears. [46]
  • Story The Forty-Seventh — Two Mules Drowned Together. [47]
  • Story The Forty-Eighth — The Chaste Mouth.
  • Story The Forty-Ninth — The Scarlet Backside.
  • Story The Fiftieth — Tit For Tat. [50]
  • Story The Fifty-First — The Real Fathers.
  • Story The Fifty-Second — The Three Reminders. [52]
  • Story The Fifty-Third — The Muddled Marriages.
  • Story The Fifty Fourth — The Right Moment.
  • Story The Fifty-Fifth — A Cure For The Plague.
  • Story The Fifty-Sixth — The Woman, The Priest, The Servant, And The
  • Story The Fifty-Seventh — The Obliging Brother.
  • Story The Fifty-Eighth — Scorn For Scorn.
  • Story The Fifty-Ninth — The Sick Lover. [59]
  • Story The Sixtieth — Three Very Minor Brothers. [60]
  • Story The Sixty-First — Cuckolded—And Duped. [61]
  • Story The Sixty-Second — The Lost Ring.
  • Story The Sixty-Third — Montbleru; Or The Thief. [63]
  • Story The Sixty-Fourth — The Over-Cunning Curé. [64]
  • Story The Sixty-Fifth — Indiscretion Reproved, But Not Punished.
  • Story The Sixty-Sixth — The Woman At The Bath.
  • Story The Sixty-Seventh — The Woman With Three Husbands.
  • Story The Sixty-Eighth — The Jade Despoiled.
  • Story The Sixty-Ninth — The Virtuous Lady With Two Husbands. [69]
  • Story The Seventieth — The Devil's Horn.
  • Story The Seventy-First — The Considerate Cuckold
  • Story The Seventy-Second — Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention.
  • Story The Seventy-Third — The Bird In The Cage.
  • Story The Seventy-Fourth — The Obsequious Priest.
  • Story The Seventy-Fifth — The Bagpipe. [75]
  • Story The Seventy-Sixth — Caught In The Act. [76]
  • Story The Seventy-Seventh — The Sleeveless Robe.
  • Story The Seventy-Eighth — The Husband Turned Confessor. [78]
  • Story The Seventy-Ninth — The Lost Ass Found. [79]
  • Story The Eightieth — Good Measure! [80]
  • Story The Eighty-First — Between Two Stools. [81]
  • Story The Eighty-Second — Beyond The Mark. [82]
  • Story The Eighty-Third — The Gluttonous Monk.
  • Story The Eighty-Fourth — The Devil's Share. [84]
  • Story The Eighty-Fifth — Nailed! [85]
  • Story The Eighty-Sixth — Foolish Fear.
  • Story The Eighty-Seventh — What The Eye Does Not See.
  • Story The Eighty-Eighth — A Husband In Hiding. [88]
  • Story The Eighty-Ninth — The Fault Of The Almanac.
  • Story The Ninetieth — A Good Remedy. [90]
  • Story The Ninety-First — The Obedient Wife. [91]
  • Story The Ninety-Second — Women's Quarrels.
  • Story The Ninety-Third — How A Good Wife Went On A Pilgrimage. [93]
  • Story The Ninety-Fourth — Difficult To Please.
  • Story The Ninety-Fifth — The Sore Finger Cured. [95]
  • Story The Ninety-Sixth — A Good Dog. [96]
  • Story The Ninety-Seventh — Bids And Biddings.
  • Story The Ninety-Eighth — The Unfortunate Lovers.
  • Story The Ninety-Ninth — The Metamorphosis. [99]
  • Story The Hundredth And Last — The Chaste Lover.


  • This article is based on the preface to 1899 English translation Cent Nouvelles nouvelles by Robert. E. Douglas

See also

External links

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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