Early Music History

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a1 Jesus College, Cambridge

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At the heart of the biography of Guillaume de Machaut as currently understood there lies an inconsistency so great as almost to present a paradox, for it seems irreconcilable with the evident content of his surviving output of musical works. From 1338 until his death in 1377 Machaut possessed a canonry and prebend of the cathedral and metropolitan church of Our Lady of Reims. Conventionally it has been assumed that soon after his receipt of this benefice, and certainly by 1340, he had taken up residence within one of the prebendal mansions located in or near the precinct of the cathedral, and that he made this his permanent domicile for the remainder of his adult life – a period little short of forty years.


1 The first drafts of this article were written in 1991, and were initially intended to accompany a review of Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, Machaut's Mass, eventually published in Music & Letters, 74 (1993), pp. 54–9. However, in the course of correspondence with Dr Leech-Wilkinson I learnt of the research then being conducted by Professor Anne Walters Robertson, and as a result of this information the present text was put aside until it could take account of Professor Robertson's work. My debt to both scholars will be evident and is warmly acknowledged. I am also grateful to Dr Leech-Wilkinson for assistance on particular points arising in the prosecution of research for this article. An early version was read at the Eighth International Symposium on Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Music, Kloster Neustift / Novacella, Italy, in July 2000.