Bartholomaeus Anglicus, On the Properties of Things: Man and Wife

Source: The following translation by John Trevisa has been taken verbatim from a complete scanned text of Coulton’s book at: [accessed 27 August 2009]. The entire text of Trevisa’s translation (from an edition of 1582) is available online at:;idno=A05237.0001.001

At the bottom of this page is a translation of this text into modern English by Martha Carlin.

Note: Footnotes in Coulton’s edition have here been converted into endnotes at the end of the text.

Bartholomaeus Anglicus (Bartholomew de Glanville), De Proprietatibus Rerum (On the Properties of Things), Book 6, Chap. 14 (c. 1245), trans. John Trevisa (c. 1398).

Printed in G. G. Coulton, Social Life in Britain from the Conquest to the Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1918), pp. 441-2 (man and wife).

[p. 441] MAN AND WIFE

Trevisa’s Bartholomew, Lib. VI. c. 14.

A man is callyd Vir in latyn, and hath that name of might and stregth, as sayth Isidore. For in myghte and strength a man passeth a woman. A man is the hede [n. 1] of a woman, as the appostle sayth. And therfore a man is bounde to rule his wyfe, as the heed hath cure and rule of the body….A man hath so great love to his wyfe, that for hyr sake he aventryth hym selfe to all perylles : and settyth her love afore his mothers love : For he dwellyth with his wyfe and forsakyth father and mother, for, [as] sayth god, a man shal forsake father and mother and abyde with his wyfe. Afore weddynge the spouse thynketh to wynne love of her that he wowethe [n. 2] with yeftes [n. 3], and certifyeth of his wylle with letters and messangers, and with dyvers presentes and yeveth many yeftes and moche good and cattell [n. 4], and promyseth moche more. And to please her he putteth hym to divers playes and games amonge gatherynge of men, and useth ofte dedes of armes, of myght and of maystry [n. 5]. And maketh hym gaye and semely in dyvers clothynge and araye. And all that he is prayed to gyve and to do, for her love he yeveth and dothe anone with all his myghte. And denyeth no peticion that is made in her name and for her love. He speketh to her plesantly, and beholdeth her chere in the face with pleasynge and gladde chere, and with a sharpe eye, and at laste assenteth to her, and telleth openly his wyll in presence of her frendes and spouseth her with a ryng, and taketh her to wyfe, and yevethe her yeftes in token of contracte of weddyng and makethe her chartres and dedes of graunt and of yeftes. He maketh revels and festes and spowsayles, and yeveth many good yeftes to frendes and guestis, and comforteth and gladdeth his guestes with songes and pypes and other mynstralsy of musike. And afterward, whan all this is done he bringeth her to the privetes of his chambre and maketh her felow at bed and at borde. And than he maketh her lady of his money, and of his house [p. 442] and meyny [n. 6]. And than he is no lesse diligente and carefulle for her than he is for hym selfe : and specially lovyngly he avysethe her yf she doo amys, and taketh good hede to kepe hir well, and taketh hede of her bearynge and goinge, of her spekyng and lokyng [n. 7], of her passynge and ayene-commynge [n. 8], oute and home. No manne hath more welthe, than he that hathe a good woman to his wife; and no man hath more wo than he that hath an evyl wyfe, crieng and janglyng, chidyng and scoldyng, dronken, lecherous, and unstedfast, and contrarry to him, costly, stout and gay, envious, noyfull, leping over londes [n. 9], moch suspicious, and wrathful.. . .In a good spouse and wyfe behoveth these condicions, that she be busy and devout in goddes service, meke and serviseable to her husbond, and fair spekyng and goodly to her meyny, mercyable and good to wretches that bene nedy, easy and pesible to her neyghbors, redy ware and wyse in thynges that shuld be avoyded, myghtyfulle [n. 10] and pacient in suffrynge, busy and diligent in her doing, manerly in clothynge, sobre in movyng, ware in speakynge, chaste in lokyng, honeste in bearynge, sadde [n. 11] in goinge, shamfaste amonge the people, mery and glad with her husbonde, and chast in privite.


1. head.
2. wooeth.
3. gifts.
4. chattels.
5. victory.
6. retinue.
7. looking.
8. again-coming.
9. given to vagabondage.
10. strong.
11. serious.



Translation by Martha Carlin, 28 September 2018, copyright, all rights reserved:


A man is called “vir” in Latin, meaning “might” and “strength,” according to Isidore [of Seville]. For in might and strength a man surpasses a woman. A man is the head of a woman, as the apostle says. And therefore a man is bound to rule his wife, just as the head has the custody and governance of the body . . . A man has such great love for his wife, that for her sake he will expose himself to all perils, and he sets her love ahead of his mother’s love: for he dwells with his wife and forsakes father and mother; for as God says, a man shall forsake his father and mother and dwell with his wife. Before wedding, a betrothed man wishes to win the love of her whom he woos with gifts, and makes his intent clear with letters and messengers and various presents, and gives many gifts, and many goods and chattels, and promises much more. And to please her he takes part in martial sports and games in gatherings of men, and often engages in deeds of arms, strength, and dominance. And he makes himself gallant and seemly in his clothing and accessories. And all that he is asked to give and do, for her love he gives and does immediately, with all his might. And he refuses no request that is made in her name and for her love. He speaks to her pleasingly, and observes her expression with a pleasing and glad look, and with a sharp eye, and at last comes to agreement with her, and openly declares his wish in the presence of her friends, and becomes formally betrothed to her with a ring and undertakes for her to be his wife, and gives her gifts in token of the wedding contract, and makes her charters and deeds of grants and gifts. He hosts parties and feasts and the wedding festivities, and gives many good gifts to friends and guests, and entertains and pleases his guests with songs and pipes and other minstrelsy of music. And afterward, when all this is done, he brings her to the privacy of his chamber, and makes her his partner in bed and at table. And then he makes her the lady of his money and his house and his household. And then he is no less diligent and careful of her than he is of himself, and very lovingly he warns her if she does amiss, and takes good care to look after her, and takes heed of her bearing and her conduct, of her manner of speaking and looking, of her departures from home and her returns. No man is richer than one who has a good woman as his wife, and no man has more woe than one who has a bad wife, crying and nagging; chiding and scolding; drunken, lecherous, and unfaithful; and hostile to him; expensive; proud and showily dressed; jealous; destructive; a vagabond; very suspicious and full of anger . . . A good spouse and wife should be busy and devout in God’s service; meek and obedient to her husband, and courteous and good to her household; charitable and good to wretched folk who are needy; pleasant and peaceable to her neighbors; vigilant and wise in things that should be avoided; strong and patient in suffering; busy and diligent in carrying out her duties; modest in her dress; restrained in movement; careful in speech; modest in glance; virtuous in conduct; quiet in her demeanor; bashful in company; merry and joyful with her husband; sexually virtuous.