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Wimsey and Aymon
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
I am finally getting around to reading the Lord Peter Wimsey books by Dorothy L. Sayers. The main character endeared himself to me in the first few pages, and for a reason that I think would apply to very few other people. Many of my friends would appreciate the fact that Lord Peter is a lover of and collector of antiquarian books. But I was tickled that he was *particularly* interested in "The Four Sons of Aymon".

"The Four Sons of Aymon" is a little-known entry in "The Matter of France", the tales of Charlemagne and his knights. It dates from the late 12th century, and was quite influential on the later entries in the cycle, such as the "Orlando Furioso". It was translated to English and published by William Caxton in the late 15th century, but its influence in this language has been slight. I xeroxed a copy from microfilm many years ago, and quite enjoyed it. It's more primitive than the later Orlando material, but quite powerful for all that. The anecdote of "death by chessboard" has entered my standard repertoire :-) Recommended to fans of that sort of thing, tamarinne, especially.

After Caxton, it appears to have gone out of print for centuries. There were two Early English Text Society reprints, in 1884-5 and 1975. If you're affiliated with a subscribing college, you can find Caxton's version at Early English Books Online. Google Books has PDFs of the 19th century reprint here and here.

Hmmm... must poke around a bit more in Google Books... Here's the EETS reprint of Huon of Bordeaux (here's my review of a retelling). And here's an EETS reprint of "Sir Ferumbras", of which I know nothing (yet). Yay Google Books! I hope they get more of this series on-line over time.
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I'm a Wimsey fan from way back and went out of my way to read books mentioned in the mysteries. I hadn't remembered this one and have never read it, so this is deeply cool.

There's supposed to be a good new translation of "Orlando Furioso" that's just out, too.

"good" appears to be a matter of some debate. It's not complete, and apparently takes more than usual amounts of poetic license. That said, I will probably pick it up at some point anyways, being an Orlando junkie :) Informative Amazon review here.

This reviewer raises some interesting points:
"He gives you the parts he likes in "free" adaptations that he thinks will make it entertaining. What a shame, since the book is beautifully produced and it could be many years before another publisher undertakes a new translation. Shame on Harvard University Press for supporting such an unscholarly enterprise."

He's probably right about no other publisher being willing to risk a longer, more literal translation--that's why there haven't been many such (any such?) in years. And interesting that the reviewer blames Harvard UP. It's well known that they are trying to make themselves more profitable precisely by publishing more works for the "general reader." Maybe they're hoping to attract the acclaim and wide readership (and profitability) of Fagles' translations.

I think the Barbara Reynolds was the last major one, from sometime in the 1970s. Mind you, I think that that one was sufficiently awesome to preclude any pressing need for another one for a few generations.

I suppose you ought to be warned that the Matter of France does not continue as one of Lord Peter's consuming interests through the rest of the series. But if it helped to get you off on a good foot with a character that so many of us know and love and now have another friend we can geek over with, then that's all to the good!

I discovered him decades ago and have the early [pb]editions to prove it! I'm so glad that "younger" people are able to find and read him today...

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