GUILLAUME DE LORRIS (fl. 1230), the author of the earlier section of the Roman de la rose, derives his surname from a small town about equidistant from Montargis and Gien, in the present department of Loiret. This and the fact of his authorship may be said to be the only things positively known about him. The rubric of the poem, where his own part finishes, attributes Jean de Meun's continuation to a period forty years later than William's death and the consequent interruption of the romance. Arguing backwards, this death used to be put at about 1260; but Jean de Meun's own work has recently been dated earlier, and so the composition of the first part has been thrown back to a period before 1240. The author represents himself as having dreamed the dream which furnished the substance of the poem in his twentieth year, and as having set to work to "rhyme it" five years later. The later and longer part of the Roman shows signs of greater intellectual vigour and wider knowledge than the earlier and shorter, but Guillaume de Lorris is to all appearance more original. The great features of his four or five thousand lines are, in the first place, the extraordinary vividness and beauty of his word-pictures, in which for colour, freshness and individuality he has not many rivals except in the greatest masters, and, secondly, the fashion of allegorical presentation, which, hackneyed and wearisome as it afterwards became, was evidently in his time new and striking. There are of course traces of it before, as in some romances, such as those of Raoul de Houdenc, in the troubadours, and in other writers; but it was unquestionably Guillaume de Lorris who fixed the style.
For an attempt to identify Guillaume de Lorris see L. Jarry, Guillaume de Lorris et le testament d'Alphonse de Poitiers (1881). Also Paulin Paris in the Hist. litt. de la France, vol. xxiii.
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