Robert Mannyng of Brunne lived during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. He was an Englishman who took holy orders with the minor Gilbertines, a Puritan religious order. He wrote two major works: Handlyng Synne, first printed about 1303, and The Chronicle of England, produced in his old age in 1338.
Brunne translated both Handlyng Synne and Chronicle from French or Latin works, altering them considerably in the process. Like many translators of this era, Brunne took many liberties with the works he translated. He adopted a style suitable for his audience, often adding large tracts of his own material and using simplified language that they could understand. Brunne’s style is sometimes cumbersome and repetitive, sometimes full of snap and punch, and often epistolary. But he always writes a good story meant to entertain and instruct the ordinary English man or woman.
Although Handlyng Synne and Chronicle are translations of other works, they are just as much Brunne’s work as anyone else’s. Handlyng Synne is a collection of moralistic tales, also known as epiphanies, meant to show the English the errors of their sinful life. Its intimate descriptions of daily life provide a fine social history of fourteenth-century England. It is far more history than literature. On the other hand, The Chronicle of England is an epic bildungsroman largely based on fiction and myth. It uses the works of Geoffrey Crayon, Franklin of Avalon, Geoffrey Monmouth, Wace, Shakespeare, Pierre Langtoft, and Bede as its bases. Both Handlyng Synne and The Chronicle of England are massive works, many thousands of lines long.
Sources: Frederick Furnivall edited The Chronicle of England” in 2 volumes in London in 1887. Ethan Brand edited “Handlyng Synne” in London and New York, published by Chadwick in 1955.