Constructing an accurate biography of Alain Chartier has proved an arduous task for scholars. Biographers have had to deal with many problems—scarce information, variable spellings of the author’s surname, and frequently contradictory references—in order to propose an approximate chronology. Account books, political and diplomatic documents, and the author’s own works have been fruitful sources of information.
Chartier was born toward the end of the fourteenth century, probably 1385, into a property-holding family in Bayeux, Normandy, in France. His father was Jean Chartier. Alain was older than his two brothers, Guillaume and Thomas, and preceded them to high office. Thomas was to become a royal secretary and notary; Guillaume, bishop of Paris and royal adviser. Although little information concerning Alain’s youth and years as a student is available, it is known that he left his native province to study at the University of Paris. It may be assumed from his scholarly knowledge and ability to write well in Latin and in Middle French that Chartier was an able student and that he received an excellent classical education. In addition to his mastery of language, his works bear witness to a broad knowledge of ancient history, philosophy, and literature.
The artistically nourishing atmosphere of the Anjou court was pivotal in the development of the young Chartier’s literary talent, and his courtly love poems must have found an...
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