The Little Children's Little Book (courtesy book c. 1480)





























Lytylle childrene, here ye may lere
Moche curtesy that is wrytyne here
For clerkis that the vij artes cunne,
Seyn that curtesy from hevyn come
Whan Gabryelle oure lady grette,
And Elizabeth with Mary mette.
Alle vertues arne closide yn curtesye,
And alle vices yn vylonye.
Loke thyne hondis be wasshe clene,
That no fylthe on thy nayles be sene.
Take thou no mete tylle grace be seyde,
And tylle thou see alle thynge arayede.
Loke, my son, that thow not sytte
Tylle the ruler of the hous the bydde;
And at thy mete, yn the begynnyng,
Loke on pore men that thow thynk,
For the fulle wombe without any faylys
Wot fulle lytyl what the hungery aylys.
Ete not thy mete to hastely,
A-byde and ete esely.
Tylle thou have thy fulle servyse,
Touche noo messe in noo wyse.
Kerve not thy brede to thynne,
Ne breke hit not on twynne:
The mosselle that thou begynnsse to touche,
Cast them not in thy pouche.
Put not thy fyngerys on thy dysche, your fingers in the dish,
Nothyr in flesche, nothyr in fysche.
Put not thy mete in-to the salte,
In-to thy Seler that thy salte halte,
But ley it fayre on thi trenchere
The byfore, and that is thyne honore.
Pyke not thine Eris ne thy nostrellis;
If thou do, men wolle sey thou come of cherlis.
And I whylle thi mete yn thi mouth is,
Drynk thow not; for-gete not this.
Ete thi mete by smalle mosselles;
Fylle not thy mouth as done brothellis.
Pyke not thi teth with thy knyfe
In no company begynne thow stryfe.
And whan thou hast thi potage doone,
Out of thy dyssh thow put thi spone.
Ne spitte thow not over the tabylle,
Ne therupon, for that is no thing abylle.
Ley not thyne Elbowe nor thy fyst
Vpon the tabylle whylis that thow etist.
Bulk not as a Beene were yn thi throte,
As a karle that comys oute of a cote.
And thy mete be of grete pryce,
Be ware of hyt, or thou arte not wyse.
Speke noo worde stylle ne sterke;
And honowre and curtesy loke thou kepe,
And at the table loke thou mkake good chere;
Loke thou rownde not in nomannys ere.
Wyth thy fyngeres thou towche and taste
Thy mete; And look thou do no waste.
Loke thou laughe not, nor grenne;
And with moche speche thou mayste do synne.
Mete ne drynke loke thou ne spylle,
But sette hit downe fayre and stylle.
Kepe thy cloth clene the byforne,
And bere the so thow have no scorne.
Byte not thi mete, but kerve it clene,
Be welle ware no drop be sene.
Whan thou etyst, gape not to wyde
That thi mouth be sene on yche a syde.
And son, beware, I rede, of on thyng,
Blow nether yn thi mete nor yn thi drynk.
And yif thi lord drynk at that tyde,
Drynk thou not, but hym abyde;
Be it at Evyne, be it at noone,
Drynk thou not tylle he haue done.
Upon thi trencher no fyllthe thou see,
It is not honest, as I telle the;
Ne drynk behynde no mannes bakke,
For yf thou do, thow art to lakke.
And chese come forthe, be not to gredy,
Ne cutte thow not therof to hastely.
Caste not thi bones ynto the flore,
But ley them fayre on thi trenchore.
Kepe clene thi cloth byfore the alle;
And sit thou stylle, what so be-falle,
Tylle grace be said vnto the ende,
And tylle thou haue wasshen with thi frend.
Let the more worthy than thow
Wassh to-fore the, & that is thi prow;
And spitte not yn thi basyne,
My swete son, that thow wasshist yne;
And aryse up soft & stylle,
And jangylle nether with Jak ne Jylle,
But take thi leve of the hede lowly,
And thank hym with thyne hert hyghly,
And alle the gentyllis togydre yn-same,
And bare the so thow haue no blame;
Than men wylle say therafter
That a gentylleman was heere.
And he that dispiseth this techyng,
He is not worthy, withoute lesyng,
Nether at good mannes tabulle to sitte,
Ner of no worships for to wytte.
And therfore, chyldren, for charyte,
Lovyth this boke though yt lytil be!
And pray for hym that made it thus,
That hym may helpe swete Jesus
To lyve & dye among his frendes,
And never to be combred with no fendes;
And geve vs grace yn Joy to be;
Amen, Amen, for charytee!

EXPLICIT. lerne or be lewde
quod Whytyng,


HERE endythe the boke of Curtesy that ys fulle necessary unto
yonge chyldryn that muste nedys lerne the maner of curtesy.


Clerks say that
courtesy came from heaven when
Gabriel greeted our Lady,

All virtues are included in it.

See that your
hands and nails are clean.
Don't eat till
you're told.
or sit down till
you're told.
First, think on
the poor;
the full belly
wots not what the hungry feels.
Don't eat too quickly.

Till you are fully helped,
touch nothing.
Don't break your
bread in two,

or put your pieces in your pocket,

or your meat in
the saltcellar.

Don't pick your ears or nose,

or drink with
your mouth full,

Don't spit over or on the table;
that's not proper.
Don't out your elbows
on the table,
nor belch as if you had
a bean in your throat.

Be careful of good food;

and be courteous
and cheerful
Don't whisper in any man's ear.
Take your food with your fingers,
and don't waste it.
Don't grin or talk too much,

or spill your food.

Keep your cloth clean before you.

Cut your meat; don't bite it.

Don't open your mouth
too wide when you eat,

or blow on your food.
If your lord drinks
always wait till he has done.

Keep your trencher clean.

Drink behind no man's back.

Don't rush at
the cheese,
or throw your bones on the floor,

Sit still till grace
is said
and you've washed your hands,

and don't spit in
the basin.
Rise quietly,
don't jabber, but

thank your host
and all the company,

and then men will say,
`A gentleman was here!'
He who despises this teaching
isn't fit to sit at a
good man's table.

love this little book,
and pray that Jesus
may help its
author to die among his friends
and not be troubled with devils,
but be in joy for
ever. Amen!

Text (slightly regularized and some small changes in running commentary) from The Babees Book, ed. Frederick J. Furnivall, EETS 32, 1868, pp. 16-24.

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