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0293 Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1
Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1 / Page 293 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000042
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was called on to append to his narrative, as well as from the tenor of the apologies of his ecclesiastical biographers, that many of his tales were considered to try the faith of readers, even of his own time, and of his own cloth since. Thus Henry of Glatz in the note appended to his transcript of Odoric, declares that if he had not heard such great things of Odoric's perfections and sanctity, he could scarcely have credited some of his stories.' Wadding', with scepticism scarcely disguised, says that much in the book will seem incredible, unless the holy character of the narrator find belief or force it.2 And Asquini is reduced to plead that so saintly a man would never have told what was untrue, much less have taken his oath to it as Odoric has done 13

It is true indeed that our friar is not merely undiscriminating in the acceptance of what he has heard, but also sometimes looser in his statements of what he relates, or professes to relate, from actual experience, than other travellers of his day such as Jordanus and Marignolli. But this seems to come rather from the fact that Ocloric is a man of inferior refinement, both morally and intellectually, than that he introduces wilful figments ; whilst the notes attached to his narrative will prove I trust how certainly they are the footsteps of a genuine traveller that we are following. And in judging him we must not forget the disadvantages under which his story labours in coming to us by dictation, or mainly so, and that a dictation accomplished in illness,' and taken down by a, friar of probably still less literature than his own.'

I must, however, after the examination of a considerable number of versions and MSS., entirely reject the notion put forward so positively by Tiraboschi,6 and accepted by later

1 In Acta Sanctorum.

" Nisi fadem exstruat vel extorqueat sanctitas auctoris."

3 Vita e Viaggi, p. 13.

4 " Dun jaceret infirmus," says Wadding after some older writer.

It is singular that the narratives of Marco Polo, Odoric, Nicolo Conti, and Ibn Batuta, the four most remarkable Asiatic itineraries of the middle ages, should all have come down to us under the disadvantages of dictation.

6 See Storia della Letteratura Italiana, Modena, 1789, v, pp. 124-129.

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