Vrbanitatis; A Handbook of Manners (MS c. 1460)



























Who-so wylle of nurture lere,
Herken to me & ye shalle here.
When thou comeste be-fore a lorde
In halle, yn bowre, or at the borde,
Hoode or kappe thou of tho
Ere thou come hym alle un-to,
Twyse or thryse with-outen dowte
To that lorde thou moste lowte, or thrice.
With thy right kne lette hit be do,
Thy worshyp thou mayst save so.
Holde of thy cappe & thy hood also
Tylle thou be byden hit on to do;
Alle the whyle thou spekest with hym,
Fayr & lovely holde up thy chynn,
So aftur the nurtur of the book
In his face lovely thou loke;
Foot & hond thou kepe fulle stylle
Fro clawyng or tryppyng, hit ys skylle;
Fro spettyng & snetyng kepe the also;
Be privy of voydance, & lette hit go.
And loke thou be wyse & felle,
And therto also that thow governe the welle.
In-to the halle when thou dost wende
Amonge the genteles gode & hende,
Prece thou not up to hygh for no thing,
Nor for thy hygh blood, nere for thy konnyng,
Nothur to sytte, nether to lene,
For hit ys neythur good ne clene.
Lette not thy contynuance also abate,
For good nurtur wylle save thy state;
Fadyr & modyr, what evur they be,
Welle ys the chylde that may the:
In halle, in chambur, ore where thou gon,
Nurtur & good maners maketh man.
To the nexte degre loke thou wysely
To do hem reverence by and by:
Do hem no reverens, but sette alle in rowe
But yyf thou the bettur do hym knowe.
To the mete when thou art sette,
Fayre & honestly thow ete hyt:
Fyrste loke that thy handes be clene,
And that Thy knyf be sharpe & kene;
And cutte thy breed & alle thy mete
Right even as thou doste hit ete.
If thou sytte be a worthyor man
Then thy self thow art on,
Suffre hym fyrste to towche the mete
Ere thy self any ther-of gete;
To the beste morselle thou may not stryke
Thowgh thou nevur so welle hit lyke.
Also kepe thy hondys fayre & welle
Fro fylynge of the towelle,
Ther-on thou shalt not thy nose wype;
Nothur at thy mete thy toth thou pyke;
To depe in thy cuppe thou may not synke
Thowgh thou have good wylle to drynke,
Leste thy eyen water there-by,
Then ys hyt no curtesy.
Loke yn thy mowth be no mete
When thou begynneste to drynke or speke;
Also when thou sest any man drynkyng
That taketh hede of thy karpyng
Soone a-non thou sece thy tale,
Whethur he drynke wyne or Ale.
Loke also thou skorne no mon
In what degre thou so hym gon;
Nor thou shalte no mon repreve
Yyf thou wylt thy owen worshyp save,
For suche wordys thou myghth out kaste
Sholde make the to lyve in evelle reste;
Close thyn honde yn thy feste,
And kepe the welle from hadde-y-wyste.
In chambur among ladyes bryght,
Kepe thy tonge & spende thy syght;
Lawghe thou not with no grette cry,
Ne Rage thou not with Rybawdry.
Pley thou not but with thy peres;
Ne telle thou not that thou heres,
Nor dyskevere thou not thyn owen dede
For no myrth nor for no mede;
With fayr speche thou may have thy wylle,
And with thy speche thou may the spylle.
3yf thou suwe a wordyer mon
Then thy self thou art on,
Lette thy Ryght sholdur folow his bakke,
For nurtur that ys, with-owten lakke.
When he doth speke, holde the style;
When he hath don, say thy wylle;
Loke yn thy speche thou be felle,
And what thou sayste a-vyse the welle;
And be-refe thou no mon his tale,
Nopur at wyne nere at Ale.
Now, criste of his grette grace
3eve us alle bothe wytte & space
Welle pis to knowe & Rede,
And heven to have for our mede! and heaven as our reward.
Amen, Amen, so moot hit be,
So saye we alle for charyte!

Of Good Manners

When you come
before a lord
take off your hat or hood

and fall on your
right knee twice

Keep your cap off
till you're told to
put it on;

hold up your chin;

look in the lord's face;
keep hand and
foot still;
don't spit or snot;
break wind quietly;

behave well.
When you go into
the hall,
don't press up too high

Don't be shamefaced.

Wherever you go
good manners make the man.

Reverence your betters,
but treat all equally
whom you don't know.

See that your hands are clean,
and your knife sharp.

Let worthier men help themselves
before you eat,
Don't clutch at
the best bit.
Keep your hands
from dirtying the cloth,
and don't wipe your nose on it,

or dip too deep in your cup.

Have no meat in your mouth when
when you drink or speak.
and when your
neighbour is drinking.
stop talking.

Scorn and

reprove no man.

Keep your hands from what would
bring you to grief.
Among ladies,
look, don't talk.
Don't laugh loud,
or riot with ribalds.

Don't repeat what you hear.

Words make or
mar you.
If you follow a worthier man,
let your right shoulder follow
his back, and

don't speak till
he has done.
Be austere in speech;

don't stop any man's tale.

Christ give us all
wit to know this,


Here ends the tract of good manners

Text (slightly regularized and some small changes in running commentary) from The Babees Book, ed. Frederick J. Furnivall, EETS 32, 1868, pp. 13-15.

Back to Geoffrey Chaucer Page | (Or use your browser's back button to return to the previous page.)

Last modified: July 6, 2006
Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Gold Texts on this page prepared and maintained by L. D. Benson (