Trivet, Nicholas

Trivet, Nicholas
(Nicholas Trevet)
(ca. 1258–ca. 1334)
   Nicholas Trivet was an English Dominican friar best known as a chronicler, though his story of Constance became the source of CHAUCER’s MAN OF LAW’S TALE, and his commentary on BOETHIUS’s CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY was one of the texts Chaucer used in making his own translation of Boethius, known as the Boece.
   Trivet was the son of a judge named Thomas Trivet, who lived either in Norfolk or Somerset. Nicholas became a Dominican in London, and studied at Oxford and later in Paris, and it may have been there where he became interested in chronicles, both in English and French. He wrote commentaries on a number of classical texts, including one on Boethius and significant commentaries on Seneca and on St. AUGUSTINE’s CITY OF GOD. He also composed theological tracts on the Bible and the Mass, and commentaries on other medieval theologians.His scholarly reputation enabled him to secure a position teaching at Oxford, while his competence and theological wisdom helped him become prior of his Dominican order in London.
   But Trivet’s reputation rests chiefly on his three chronicles: the Historia ab orbe Condita ad Christi Nativitatum (History from the creation of the world to the birth of Christ) (1327–28), a worldwide encyclopedic chronicle (a precursor of HIGDEN’s POLYCHRONICON) based largely on Vincent of Beauvais; the Annals of Six Kings of England (ca. 1320), for which he was best known and which covers the period 1135–1307—from Stephen through Edward I, the latter of whose reign is a particularly important part of Trivet’s book; and the Anglo-Norman Chronicle (ca. 1320), a history from the creation of the world to 1285. The latter survives in some eight manuscripts, and contains the story of the saintly Constance, whose constant faith in the face of persistent adversity made hers an inviting story to retell in verse for both John GOWER, who includes it in his CONFESSIO AMANTIS, and Chaucer, whose Man of Law’s Tale is certainly the best-known version, though his ultimate source for the story was Trivet’s chronicle.
   ■ Block, Edward A. “Originality, Controlling Purpose, and Craftsmanship in Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale,” PMLA 68 (1953): 572–616.
   ■ Paull,Michael R.“The Influence of the Saint’s Legend Genre in the Man of Law’s Tale,” Chaucer Review 5 (1971):179–194.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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