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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and entertaining read!, 15 Dec. 2007
By 
Nicky (God's Country) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics) (Paperback)
Gerald of Wales was Archdeacon of Brecon in the 12th century and along with Archbishop Baldwin he travelled around Wales to drum up support for the Third Crusade. This book was supposed to record the day-to-day events of the mission but Gerald was a bit of a raconteur, he also wrote about everything else that caught his eye. He knew everyone who was anyone in the 12th century and wrote about them all, sometimes with quite a bit of venom! He aspired to be Bishop of St David's (a role he'd never get) and would often write snide remarks about the man who did get the job. He also wrote about local legends that he'd heard, mythical creatures, saintly relics, described beautifully the landscapes and people that he met along the way. He writes with wit and humour throughout the book which makes it a delight to read. This book is a fascinating study of life in Wales in the 12th century written almost in the style of a travel diary. This book will appeal to both scholars and anyone with just a passing interest in history.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A character, 10 April 2010
By 
E. Woolley (Gascony) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics) (Paperback)
In this splendid translation from the Latin by Professor Lewis Thorpe the character of Gerald shines through with his forthright views on the Welsh (he was three-quarters Welsh) and the people he meets. His descriptions of the country are equally fascinating. Unputdownable.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gerald of Wales, 13 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics) (Paperback)
Although the introduction is somewhat long-winded, it is essential reading. We should also bear in mind that this translation from the original latin may have lost some of it's enthusiasm in the process.
This Book is filled with the essence of Welsh Heritage and is essetial reading for the Historian. It is equivalent to 'Bede's History of the Engtlish People.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharing a coracle with the archbishop of Canterbury, 27 Dec. 2012
By 
A. Cooper "él de los castillos" (Wembley, near the stadium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics) (Paperback)
Although the original language of these works was Latin, they should be on the curriculum in secondary education in Wales (as far as I can tell they aren’t), as they are Wales’s substitute for England’s “Domesday Book”. To date there are no Welsh versions, and, indeed, only one Welsh patriot of my acquaintance has ever heard of them! Gerald (correctly de Barri, but nobody called him that), born about 1145, and archdeacon of Brecon in the diocese of St. David’s, was part of the Norman infiltration into Wales. His other surviving works are also in Latin. Nevertheless, he was born in Wales and was probably a Welsh speaker.
These posthumous editions by cricket-loving Lewis Thorpe are exhaustive in contextualising the contents, not only historically, but also in identifying the often very brief classical allusions of the well-read author (one that Thorpe perhaps thought not worth commenting on is Gerald’s assertion: “From time immemorial Wales has been divided into three more or less equal parts” (“Description…” book 1 chapter 2)). There are numerous evocative geographical descriptions, with accompanying anecdote, so much so, that the purpose of the “Journey….”, to accompany the archbishop of Canterbury, Baldwin, in a fundraising tour for the 3rd Crusade in 1188, is more or less lost. I have the reprint of 2004, which has part of a 13th century English map on the cover. A later edition has a manuscript illumination of a scribe. Very nice, but not nearly as apposite.
The interest of Gerald’s Welsh portfolio goes far beyond the purely local. I bought it to use the “Journey….” as a yardstick for the likely limit of a day’s itinerary at the same period in Spain, for which it has been endlessly useful. Perhaps the most surprising element is Gerald’s comments on music. The Welsh predilection for the harp might be expected, but the extent of its use at such an early date in an unrefined environment is a revelation. Even more so is Gerald’s assertion that, whereas the English could only manage singing in two parts, the Welsh could do it in several. As a cathedral canon he would know what he was talking about, but does any multi-part music from the 12th century actually exist?
As far as I know, Gerald’s travelogue is unique, in pre-18th century literature, in, precisely, its wealth of topographical descriptions. Would that somebody had done the same for the Crusades. The “Journey…” and the “Description….” must also be of value to translators. Thorpe’s texts are fluent and idiomatic, and devoid of anachronisms. However, there is no modern edition of the Latin originals, much less parallel text versions. If you want Gerald’s actual words (and his Latin is very good), you have no option but the editions of 1868 which are the basis of Thorpe’s translations. You won’t find them on station bookstalls, not even at Llandudno Junction.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gerald of Wales, 5 Jan. 2012
This review is from: The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics) (Paperback)
A fascinating glimpse of Medieval Wales and the Monastic World. The introduction is a bit long and wordy, but this is a work of scholarship rather than a light read
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars really very interesting!, 22 Sept. 2011
This review is from: The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics) (Paperback)
I would definitely recommend this book, however possible not for a first experience of medieval history. It is very well presented and explained, and is helping a lot with my university history course!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Historic Trip, 3 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics) (Paperback)
A very readable account of Wales as it was in the distant past enlivened by a host of stories, some believable, some perhaps not. Gerald is a good guide and it is interesting to compare his descriptions of places with their appearance today. Well worth buying if you are visiting, living in or travelling through Wales.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 12th century travel writing, 23 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics) (Paperback)
The Journey though Wales has been described as ‘a piece of travel writing’ amongst other things, and indeed this is one important aspect of the work. What makes the account of Gerald’s Journey so fascinating and endearing for this reader 800 years later is the way that Gerald does not give a simple account of his travels, but rather goes off on something of a tangent, to remark upon local landmarks, notable events, or tidbits of juicy gossip that he has heard during his travels.

The writer seems to take delight in all such asides, often not simply recounting them, but giving his own opinion and viewpoint of events. Indeed, the candid and often very forthright opinions and perspectives of the author appear very prominently in the work. Gerald did not always seek to please, and it he disliked a particular person, or disapproved of their action he would say as much in no uncertain terms.

King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine were not infrequently on the receiving end of Gerald’s criticism and ire, and the writer of ‘The History of the Kings of Britain’ Geoffrey of Monmouth was targeted by Gerald on more than one occasion. His criticism of Monmouth’s work is particularly interesting from a Historical standpoint, as it demonstrates how even contemporary writers knew there was little truth in Monmouth’s ‘History’. Ironically though, Gerald is not averse to quoting from Monmouth when recounting the tales of Arthur, or other popular mythological figures and incidents.

Gerald’s criticism of certain people in not always a result of genuine moral conviction or differences of opinion however, but at times may have been a result of spite or personal antagonism. On more than one occasion Gerald edited and revised his work in order to cast a more negative light on persons he had previously held in high regard or vice versa. This was Gerald’s way of getting his own back on people who had ill-used him, or that he not longer favoured. In spite of his Position as Bishop of St David’s Gerald was not above such pettiness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Early Wales, 20 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics) (Paperback)
Great book to read about the journey taken by Gerald of Wales through the hinterland of Wales during our dark ages. A good reference also to other books that make reference to characters he encounters on his journey.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought, 7 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics) (Paperback)
as a replacement for the copy I lost. Absolutely amazing, wonderful read, great introduction for students/ anyone interested in the early medieval period.
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The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics)
The Journey Through Wales and the Description of Wales (Classics) by Gerald of Wales Giraldus Cambrensis (Paperback - 28 Sept. 1978)
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