Gower Bibliography

Riverside Chaucer 3rd ed.

Benson, Larry D, ed. "Riverside Chaucer 3rd ed." Boston, MA.: Houghton Mifflin, 1987

Review

The notes to the long-awaited revision of Robinson's Chaucer have been completely redone by a large team of well-known Middle English scholars, and if they do not provide a precise guide to current views of Chaucer's relationship with Gower, they do offer some idea of what students will be learning about Gower in their Chaucer classes for the next few years. Many will be pleased that the theory of a quarrel between the poets is given short shrift in this edition, both by Martin Crow and Virginia Leland in their biographical introduction (p. xxiii), who refer to "structural reasons" for Gower's removal of his compliment to Chaucer (CA 8.2941 ff.), and by Patricia Eberle in her notes to the Introduction to the Man of Law's Tale (p. 854), who points out the present uncertainty about the dating of Gower's revisions. (Robinson also dismissed the likelihood of a quarrel in his note to LGW G 315). Gower is given extensive coverage, however, either as a source or as an analogue for a great many passages in Chaucer's work, particularly in CT. CA is included in the discussion of contemporary tale collections in the General Editor's introduction (p. 3), but is omitted from the list in the notes on pp. 795-96. In the discussion of the General Prologue Gower is cited only once as a possible source, for GP 435-37 (from MO 8338-43), but illustrative passages are cited from all three of his major works in the notes to the portraits of the Monk, the Clerk, the Sergeant of the Law (as he is called), the Doctor of Physik, the Parson, the Plowman, and the Summoner. Gower is also cited in the notes to a number of the tales; e.g. KnT 2129, MLT 161, 302-8, 1183, WBT 1109, et al.: without a precise count, the number of such references seems much larger than in Robinson's edition. Of the four tales that have close analogues in CA: Both Benson and Patricia Eberle come down in favor of Gower's priority for the tale of Constance (pp. 9, 856-57), and to Block's list of nine passages that Chaucer borrowed from Gower Eberle adds the entire scene of Constance's departure from Northumberland, MLT 834-68. In his comments on the Introduction to the Man of Law's Tale Benson suggests that "perhaps Chaucer is teasingly challenging his friend to a storytelling contest parallel to that in which the pilgrims are engaged" (p. 9); while Eberle (p. 856) provides an excellent note on the complexities involved in inferring a reference to Gower. Christine Ryan Hilary declares, a bit surprisingly, that "Chaucer knew and probably echoes" Gower's tale of Florent in WBT, citing Chaucer's line 1081 and CA 1.1727-31 (pp. 872-73). She also compares WBT 1073 to CA 1.1587. She doesn't cite Fisher, however, the one scholar who would most certainly agree on Chaucer's borrowing. (Benson lists Gower's tale only as an analogue, p. 11.) Larry Benson asserts that Chaucer knew Gower's tale of Virginia before writing his PhysT (p. 14), but David Benson lists Gower's tale only as an analogue and concludes that "there is no convincing evidence that Chaucer drew on any earlier version except RR" (p. 902). Larry Benson includes Gower's "Phebus and Cornide" as one of the possible sources for Chaucer's MancT (p. 20), and V.J. Scattergood cites in a favorable context Hazelton's suggestion that Chaucer's tale is a parody of Gower's (p. 952). Colin Wilcockson cites Gower's "Ceix and Alceone" only once in his notes to BD (p. 968), not as an analogue but as containing the metamorphoses that Chaucer omits. Benson's introduction to The Parliament of Fowls (p. 383) cites Gower's 34th and 35th balades in a list of contempary Valentine's Day poems. John M. Fyler's notes to HF include a reference to Tatlock's belief (1907) that MO 22129-52 might be based on HF 1573-82 (p. 988). The notes to LGW by M.C.E. Shaner and A.S.G. Edwards (pp. 1059-75) reflect some of the complexity of the relationship between this poem and CA. They note that the "Flower and the Leaf" passage in CA 8.2468 "may be an imitation" of LGW F 72, while LGW G 315 "may be a friendly jab at Gower." Among the tales, Gower's Cleopatra "is probably based" on Chaucer's (p. 1066), particularly for the details of her death (LGW 678-80, 696-702); and Chaucer's and Gower's stories of Thisbe "seem related, but it is hard to say which came first" (p. 1067), in both cases echoing Robinson. Gower is cited only as an analogue for Chaucer's tales of Medea, Lucrece, Ariadne, Philomela, and Phyllis. No note is made of Root's suggestion (1909) that Chaucer's Lucrece may have been based on Gower's, and though other parallels are noted in this legend, no reference is made to one of the most interesting similarities between the two poems, Lucrece's swoon before she is violated by Tarquin (LGW 1815-17; CA 7.4986-87). Several other parallel passages from MO, VC, and CA are cited in the notes to LGW, many of them drawn from Fisher. Laila Z. Gross takes note of Fisher's account of the many parallels between Chaucer's "Lak of Stedfastnesse" and Gower's CA Prol. (p. 1086), and Stephen Barney lists Fisher as a general source on Gower's relation with Chaucer in his note to T&C 5.1856-59 (p. 1058). Otherwise Fisher is quite remarkably neglected in this edition: there is no reference, for instance, to his belief in Gower's influence on the conception of GP and the Marriage Group or to his identification of the Eagle in HF, and while he is cited (p. 1059) for his belief that LGW was written at the request of the queen, the rest of his proposal, that LGW and CA were written for the same commission in 1385, passes without notice. Despite the inevitable unevenness and inconsistency in a work involving so many different hands, the editors on the whole have done a commendable job of presenting the most useful scholarship on Chaucer in a clear and compact form. One small but revealing example of their care will cause some pleasure for those of us who decide to cite from this volume: except in the case of "Boece," which has been freshly edited by Ralph Hanna and Traugott Lawler, the editors have arranged the prose texts on the page so that the line numbers are the sa as in the edition that they are replacing. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society JGN 6.1]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Facsimiles, Editions, and Translations

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