popular books of the late middle ages. Indeed, it retained its popularity into the Renaissance: Cosimo de' Medici, for instance, made sure that it, together with the Breviloquium de virtutibus, was included in the Laurentian Library (p. 205). The bulk of the book consists of a straightforward examination of the contents of these four works in order to reconstruct John's own thought on the topics considered. There is a problem here, in that these writings primarily consist of collected exempla for use by preachers. As Dr. Swanson says on p. 65, 'Very few of the comments in Communiloquium come originally from John of Wales. To attempt to reach one man's mind through the words of others may seem futile.' Her contention is that John, through the skilful and coherent management of these exempla, does reveal his own ideas. The sheer number of exempla and the very wide range of authors, both ancient and medieval, upon whom John draws are striking; but did he produce any new ideas or was he just retailing conventional ones? It would appear that in three areas in particular he had a distinctive contribution to make. In his extensive treatment of politics, he adopted a very positive attitude towards the state and involvement in political affairs and took the view that philosophers should not hold aloof from such matters. Dr. Swanson persuasively invites us to consider part of the Communiloquium as in effect a form of Fiirstenspiegel addressed to the general public. John also approved of social mobility in relating nobility to individual virtue rather than to birth. Further, he provided an important contribution to ideas about child-rearing by standing out against the prevalent medieval advocacy of harshness in their upbringing. For the period at which he wrote, John's prescriptions were a model of mildness. Maybe he was mindful of the revulsion which Augustine, in his Confessions at least, expressed at the cruel punishments children were made to suffer. Dr. Swanson brings out very well one of the most striking aspects of John's work: his respect for the writers of the ancient world. The Communiloquium, for instance, contains 1,020 citations from authors before A.D.450, 796 biblical ones and 573 from writers after A.D.450 (p. 163). Why is there this bias? On one level John can be seen as part of a growing pre-humanist movement. Dr. Swanson suggests a deeper reason which is certainly telling. John saw a profound connection between the friars' poverty ethic and the simplicity of life and rejection of riches preached by so many of the ancient philosophers. John had a 'passion' for spreading recognition of the virtues of ancient philosophy, which he saw as having so much to teach thirteenth-century Christians. He also admired republican Rome's tradition of frugality. This book as a whole is meticulous and extremely thorough. A small amount of repetitiveness, however, occurs at times. Dr. Swanson gives us a list of 453 MSS. and 14 early printed editions (up to c. 1550) of John's works. She tells us that she has primarily used the Venice, 1496, edition of the Breviloquium de virtutibus (collated with two Oxford MSS.), and the Augsburg, 1475, edition of the Communiloquium. She does not inform us of the editions or MSS. which she has primarily used in her study of the Compendiloquium and the Breviloquium de sapientia sanctorum; one is left to conjecture, on the basis of the checklist of editions on p. 290, that it is again the Venice, 1496, edition in both cases. On p. 168 she uses
This text was generated automatically from the scanned page and has not been checked. Typical character accuracy is in excess of 99%, but this leaves one error per 100 characters.
The National Library of Wales has created and published this digital version of the journal under a licence granted by the publisher. The material it contains may be used for all purposes while respecting the moral rights of the creators.