Gower Bibliography

Gower's Mirour and its French Sources: A Re-examination of Evidence

Dwyer, J. B. "Gower's Mirour and its French Sources: A Re-examination of Evidence." Studies in Philology 48 (1951), pp. 482-505.


Dwyer agrees with Elfreda Fowler that no single manual on the vices and virtues can account for all the contents of Gower's MO. However, he rejects "her judgment on the relative closeness of the Somme des Vices et Vertus and the Miroir du Monde to Gower's Miroir" (483). The existence of two passages in the MO that are borrowed from the Somme shows that the latter work is a closer analogue to Gower than the Miroir du Monde. The first passage is an extended treatment of fear ("Paour"), a subdivision of Humility (lines 11293-472 of the MO). The inclusion of certain verses from Helinand's Vers de la Mort in both texts proves the indebtedness to the Somme. The second shared characteristic is "the allegory involving the Beast of the Apocalypse" (497). Both the MO and the Somme offer a unique interpretation of the Beast's seven heads as the Seven Deadly Sins, a configuration that is unusual in the patristic and medieval tradition. On the other hand, while Gower preferred the Somme over the Miroir, he did generally employ an eclectic manner of composition. As proof of this tendency, Dwyer points to the VC, written in Cento, and to the tale of "Pyramus and Thisbe" in the CA, where Gower likely borrowed from, and adapted, multiple sources. There is therefore no need to posit a single parent source to explain Gower's eclectic borrowings in the MO, as Fowler does. Moreover, an eye must also be had for Gower's originality. He is both more rigid in his subdivisions of the virtues and vices, and more lax in his treatment of some of them (his narrow understanding of Temperance being but one example). Dwyer therefore concludes that one "should more reasonably suspect a rather free use of collections and florilegia on Gower's part than a plundering of a single source" (488). [CvD]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Vox Clamantis
Confessio Amantis
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

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