Gower Bibliography

The English of Chaucer and His Contemporaries.

Samuels, M.L. and Smith, J.J. "The English of Chaucer and His Contemporaries." Aberdeen: The University Press, 1988 ISBN 0080364039

Review

This slim volume consists of an brief introduction by the editor, and eight essays on scribal practices and the reconstruction of authorial language in late Middle English, five by Samuels, two by Smith, and one coauthored. Six were previously published between 1972 and 1985, and another was given as a paper at the New Chaucer Society Congress in 1988. They are reprinted exactly as they first appeared. There is some degree of disjointedness and repetition as a result, but also an opportunity to trace the steps in the process of detection by which the authors have separated out scribal and authorial strata of language in the MSS they examine. One of the key elements in their work was provided by Doyle and Parkes' identification of other MSS copied by scribes "B" and "D" in the Trinity Gower, in their 1978 essay in the Neil Ker Festschrift. Another was Samuels and Smith's own study of "The Language of Gower," reprinted in this volume (pp. 13-22) from Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, 92 (1981), in which they demonstrate that the orthography of the Huntington and Fairfax MSS of CA must be virtually identical to Gower's own. In his 1983 essay on "Chaucer's Spelling" (in the present volume, pp. 23-37), Samuels compares the orthography of scribes "B" and "D" in the Trinity MS to the authentic Gowerian spellings in Fairfax in order to discover each scribe's own characteristic habits, and then proceeds to separate the scribe's forms from Chaucer's in the copies that they made of CT. In the two essays that follow (pp. 38-69), Samuels studies the work of scribe "B" (in an essay that first appeared in 1983) and Smith studies that of scribe "D" (in his 1988 New Chaucer Society paper), again with the knowledge of Gower's authentic spellings as a base, in order to sustain Doyle and Parkes' conclusions on the identity of the hand in the manuscripts they attributed to these scribes in face of the attacks on their methodology made by Vance Ramsey. The volume also contains Samuels' essays on "Chaucerian Final '-E'," "Langland's Dialect," and "Spelling and Dialect in the Late and Post-Middle English Periods." The only other essay to refer to Gower is also the only one that has not appeared before, Smith's study of "Spelling and Tradition in Fifteenth-century Copies of Gower's Confessio Amantis" (pp. 96-113). Smith makes two important observations about the orthographical tradition of CA MSS: first, that the distinctive language of the archetype was preserved far more strongly than one would expect or that happened in contemporary copies of CT, a fact he attributes to the status as auctoritas that Gower seems to have enjoyed; and second, that there was only slight influence from the "Chancery" forms that were to become the basis of the written standard. In the last part of his essay he takes up the question of the textual transmission of CA, and observes that the MSS of the groups that Macaulay labelled "first recension, unrevised," "first recension, intermediate," and "second recension (b)" seem to derive from an exemplar with a number of North-West Midlands features. His suggestions on how this situation arose appear to accept Macaulay's explanation of the order of appearance of these groups. In fact, his observations are consistent with other evidence that Macaulay got the order wrong, and that the groups he thought were first in origin were actually those furthest removed both in time and place from the poet himself. The Appendix to this essay contains a valuable list of the MSS of CA with notes on the language forms of each. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 9.1]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Manuscripts and Textual Studies

Gower Bibliography Editors Only: edit metadata