First circulated in the fourteenth century,
The Travels of Sir John Mandeville relates the adventures of an
English knight who travelled to the Holy Land, India, China and beyond.
Whether or not 'Mandeville' was who he claimed to be, or had visited
the places he described, the book was a bestseller of its day and
gives an unrivalled picture of the world as seen through medieval eyes
- a world round like our own, yet with Jerusalem at its centre,
where the real and the mythical exist side by side: crocodiles and dragons,
Tartar and Amazon warriors, the Dead Sea and a river flowing with
My poetry collection, Mandeville, published by
Faber and Faber tells the story of Mandeville's journey round his world.
(Click on the link, where available, to read the whole review.)
"Mesmerising... packed with wonderfully vivid and elaborate descriptions,
sometimes reminiscent of Byron, sometimes of Borges, of fabulous beasts and landscapes and
great Eastern warlords and potentates... an extraordinary achievement."
"The delicacy with which Francis confronts the issues thrown up by
his chosen subject in this fascinating, beautiful collection marks him out once
more as one of our most skilled,
intriguing and consistently ambitious poets." (Sarah Crown,
"In its grandeur and strangeness, Mandeville prompts comparisons with Calvino." (Sean O'Brien,
The Sunday Times)
"Down-to-earth and immediate, evocative of an older world, but not a creation of archaism or pastiche. With it come the sights, sounds and sensations:
riding and hearing the 'hoofs slither, feeling the spindly legbones jar'.
Sensuous particulars are given to the physical and metaphysical alike... Mandeville is
indeed a curious and unfamiliar pleasure." (William Wootten,
"When Keats first discovered Homer, he ended up on
'a peak in Darien' in sheer astonishment. The mental traveller of Mandeville remains
surrounded by magic carpet." (Jeremy Noel-Tod,
The Daily Telegraph)
This truly delightful book and its entertaining guide give
us a fascinating insight into what it is to travel, to wonder and to believe.
"Genuinely exciting to read, unputdownable in the way that poetry collections
so frequently aren't... I don't expect, this year, to read a
collection that uses language with such inventiveness and exuberance."
"Matthew Francis travels light, with an involving and inspiriting manner and relish for the exotica of travellers'
tales that left me half expecting a quinquereme of Nineveh to come into view... Mandeville is a captivating collection,
ironic in its informed approach to history and fantasy, wise in its rhetorical restraint, and thoroughly enjoyable." (Michael
Hulse, Poetry Review)
"Time and again, the perfectly everyday collides with the wholly
fantastical. When you encounter a first-rate poet such as Francis, you are always inclined to slow down in order to savour the
quality of the making, and so it is here - there is a lovely briskness about the telling: a skipping, lightsome humour. It is all
most appetisingly companionable because the poetry is so open to the marvellous." (Michael Glover, The Tablet)
"A tour de force of dramatic monologue... [Mandeville's] combination of assurance, occasional vulnerability, and
appreciation of the new and strange make him consistently engaging... Mandeville proves a compelling book of
impressive poetic skill, a collection to read and reread with pleasure." (Carrie Etter, Poetry Wales)
"He is able to make us see not only through Mandeville's eyes, but also to see Mandeville
through our own 'reading' eyes... Mandeville takes us back to a more spiritual time."
"Using Mandeville's travels lets him mine for strange and amazing metaphors...
Mandeville works as a springboard for
Francis's originality." (Bill Greenwell,
"Phantasmagorical... an intriguing tribute." (Peggy Hughes,
Poems from Mandeville
Of the Phoenix
Of the Dead Sea
Of Ants that Dig for Gold