Antoine de la Sale

Antoine de la Sale or la Salle (1385/6 to 1460/1) was a French writer.


Family and Early Years

He was born in Provence, probably at Arles, the illegitimate son of Bernardon de la Salle, a celebrated Gascon mercenary, mentioned in Froissart's Chronicles. His mother was a peasant, Perrinette Damendel.

At the Court of Anjou

In 1402 Antoine entered the court of the third Angevin dynasty at Anjou, probably as a page.

In 1407 he was at Messina with Louis II, Duke of Bourbon, who had gone there to enforce his claim to the kingdom of Sicily. The next years he perhaps spent in Brabant, for he was present at two tournaments given at Brussels and Ghent.

In 1415 he took part in the successful expedition by John I of Portugal against the Moors in Ceuta.

In 1420 he accompanied the 17 year old Louis III of Anjou in his attempt to assert his claim as King of Naples.

He travelled from Norcia to the Monti Sibillini and the neighboring Pilate's Lake (the final resting place of Pontius Pilate, according to local legend). The story of his adventures on this trip and of the local legends and Sibyl's grotto , form a chapter of La Salade, which also has a map of the ascent from Montemonaco.

In 1426 La Sale probably returned with Louis III of Anjou, who was also comte de Provence, to Provence, where he was acting as viguier of Arles in 1429.

In 1434 René of Anjou, Louis's successor, made La Sale tutor to his son, John II, Duke of Lorraine (also known as the Duke of Calabria), to whom he dedicated, between the years 1438 and 1447, his La Salade.

In 1439 he was again in Italy in charge of the castle of Capua, with John II and his young wife, Marie de Bourbon, when the place was besieged by the king of Aragon.

La Sale married Lione de la Sellana de Brusa in 1439. He was about fifty-three; she was fifteen.

René abandoned Naples in 1442, and Antoine no doubt returned to France about the same time. His advice was sought at the tournaments which celebrated the marriage of the unfortunate Margaret of Anjou at Nancy in 1445; and in 1446, at a similar display at Saumur, he was one of the umpires.

La Sale's pupil was now twenty years of age, and after forty years' service to the house of Anjou, La Sale left it.


He become tutor to the sons of Louis de Luxembourg, Count of Saint-Pol, who took him to Flanders and presented him at the court of Philippe le Bon, duke of Burgundy. For his new pupils he wrote at Chatelet-sur-Oise, in 1451, a moral work entitled La Salle. He followed his patron to Genappe in Brabant when the Dauphin (afterwards Louis XI) took refuge at the Burgundian court.

Literary Works

The Salad (French:La Salade) (1440-1444)

A textbook of the studies necessary for a prince. The title is of course a play on his own name, but he explains it as being due to the diverse subject matter of the book: a salad is composed "of many good herbs." The work covered geography, history, protocol and military tactics. One complete original copy has survived, and two early printed editions. It includes Queen Sibyl's Paradise (French:Le Paradis de la reine Sibylle), and Trip to the Lipari Isles (French: Excursion aux Îles Lipari), but these are have often been edited separately.

La Salle (1451)

Little John of Saintré (French:Le Petit Jehan de Saintré) (1456)

He was nearly seventy years of age when he wrote the work that has made him famous, L'Hystoire et plaisante cronicque du petit Jehan de Saintré et de la jeune dame des Belles-Cousines sans aultre nom nommer, dedicated to his former pupil, Jean de Calabre. An envoi in manuscript 10,057 (nouv. acq. fr.) in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, states that it was completed at Châtelet on the 6th of March 1453 (i.e. 1456). La Sale also announces an intention, never fulfilled, apparently, of writing a romance of Paris et Vienne. The manuscript of Petit Jehan de Saintré usually contains in addition Floridam et Elvide, translated by Rasse de Brunhamel from the Latin of Nicolas de Clamange. Brunhamel says that La Sale had delighted to write honorable histories from the time of his "florie jeunesse", which confirms a reasonable inference from the style of Petit Jehan le Saintré that its author was no novice in the art of romance-writing.

Petit Jehan de Saintré gives, at the point when the traditions of chivalry were fast disappearing, an account of the education of an "ideal knight" and rules for his conduct under many different circumstances. When Petit Jehan, aged thirteen, is persuaded by the Dame des Belles-Cousines to accept her as his lady, she gives him systematic instruction in religion, courtesy, chivalry and the arts of success. She materially advances his career until Saintré becomes an accomplished knight, the fame of whose prowess spreads throughout Europe. This section of the romance, apparently didactic in intention, fits in with the author's other works of edification. But in the second part this virtuous lady falls victim to a vulgar intrigue with Dame Abbé. One of La Sale's commentators, Joseph Neve, ingeniously maintains that the last section is simply to show how the hero, after passing through the other grades of education, learns at last by experience to arm himself against coquetry. The book may, however, be fairly regarded as satirizing the whole theory of "courteous" love, by the simple method of fastening a repulsive conclusion on an ideal case. The contention that the fabliau-like ending of a romance begun in idyllic fashion was due to the corrupt influences of the Dauphin's exiled court is inadmissible, for the last page was written when the prince arrived in Brabant in 1456. That it is an anti-clerical satire seems unlikely. The profession of the seducer is not necessarily chosen from that point of view. Some light is thrown on the romance by the circumstances of the duc de Calabre, to whom it was dedicated. His wife, Marie de Bourbon, was one of the "Belles-Cousines" who contended for the favor of Jacquet or Jacques de Lalaing in the Livre des faits de Jacques Lalaing which forms the chief source of the early exploits of Petit Jehan.

The incongruities of La Sale's aims appear in his method of construction. The hero is not imaginary. Jehan de Saintré flourished in the Hundred Years' War, was taken prisoner after Poitiers, with the elder Boucicaut, and was employed in negotiating the Treaty of Brétigny. Froissart mentioned him as "le meilleur et le plus vaillant chevalier de France." His exploits as related in the romance are, however, founded on those of Jacques de Lalaing (c. 1422-1453), who was brought up at the Burgundian court, and became such a famous knight that he excited the rivalry of the "Belles-Cousines," Marie de Bourbon and Marie de Cleves, duchesse d'Orleans. Lalaing's exploits are related by more than one chronicler, but M. Gustave Raynaud thinks that the Livre des fails de Jacques de Lalaing, published among the works of Georges Chastellain, to which textual parallels may be found in Petit Jehan, should also be attributed to La Sale, who in that case undertook two accounts of the same hero, one historical and the other fictitious. To complicate matters, he drew, for the later exploits of Petit Jehan, on the Livres des faits de Jean Boucicaut, which gives the history of the younger Boucicaut. The atmosphere of the book is not the rough realities of the English wars in which the real Saintré figured but that of the courts to which La Sale was accustomed.

Reconfort a Madame de Neufville (c.1458)

A consolatory epistle including two stories of parental fortitude, written at Vendeuil-sur-Oise.

Des anciens tournois et faictz d'armes (1459)

Journee 1'Onneur et de Prouesse (1459)

Disputed Literary Works

The works in this section have been attributed to La Sale in the past but are not now believed to be by him.

Cent Nouvelles nouvelles (1461/2?)

La Sale is supposed to have been the "acteur" in the collection of licentious stories supposed to be narrated by various persons at the court of Philippe le Bon, and entitled the Cent Nouvelles nouvelles. One only of the stories is given in his name, but he is credited with the compilation of the whole, for which Louis XI was long held responsible. A completed copy of this was presented to the Duke of Burgundy at Dijon in 1462. If then La Sale was the author, he probably was still living; otherwise the last mention of him is in 1461. In the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles the Italian novella is naturalized in France. The book is modelled on the Decameron of Boccaccio, and owes something to the Latin Facetiae of the contemporary scholar Poggio; but the stories are rarely borrowed, and in cases where the Nouvelles have Italian parallels they appear to be independent variants. In most cases the general immorality of the conception is matched by the grossness of the details, but the ninety-eighth story narrates what appears to be a genuine tragedy, and is of an entirely different nature from the other contes. It is another version of the story of Floridam et Elvide already mentioned.

Maitre Pathelin

Some critics have ascribed to him also the farce of Maitre Pathelin.

Further reading

  1. Petit Jehan de Saintré by J. M. Guichard (1843);
  2. Les Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles by Thomas Wright (Bibliothéque elzevérienne, 1858).
  3. La Salade was printed more than once during the sixteenth century. La Salle was never printed. For its contents see E. Gossart in the Bibliophile belge (1871, pp. 77 et seq.).
  4. Joseph Neve, Antoine de la Salle, sa vie et ses ouvrages ... suivi du Reconfort de Madame de Fresne ... et de fragments et documents inedits (1903), who argues for the rejection of Les Quinze Joyes and the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles from La Sale's works.
  5. Pietro Toldo, Contribute olio studio della novella francese del XV e XVI secolo (1895), and a review of it by Gaston Paris in the Journal des Savants (May 1895);
  6. Stern, Versuch liber Antoine de la Salle, in Archiv fur das Studium der neueren Sprachen, vol. xlvi.
  7. G. Raynaud, Un Nouveau Manuscrit du Petit Jehan de Saintré, in Romania, vol. xxxi.


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