Gower Bibliography

Spenser and the Mirour de l’Omme.

Lowes, John Livingston. "Spenser and the Mirour de l’Omme." PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 29.3 (1914), pp. 388-452.


Lowes argues that the fourth canto of Book 1 of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen – with its description of the progress of Pride and the other Deadly Sins – is extensively indebted to the description of the marriage of Pride and the World in Gower's MO. Most obviously, each sin rides on a symbolic animal, carries an appropriate object in its hand, and is associated with a specific malady (389). Lowes admits that there are differences in, for example, the sex of the sins, and the order in which they appear. Moreover, there are only four beasts that are used by both authors (and only 2 of those for the same sin), only three maladies that are common to both (and none is used for the same sin), and the actual objects that are carried are quite different. Despite this, Lowes demonstrates that there are numerous verbal parallels between the two texts. Spenser tends to move material around a great deal. For instance, he transfers the lion from Pride to Wrath because his Pride already rides in a chariot. Yet the description remains the same: Gower writes of a lion that will not go quietly for any amount of punishment ("pour nul chastiement"), and Spenser's lion is "loth for to be led" (qtd. on 400). Similarly, Spenser refers to Gluttony as a steward, and to Sloth as a chamberlain, phraseology that recalls lines 296-98 of the MO. Lowes admits that Spenser also uses other sources, but while the whole is a "composite" (415), the largest contribution is Gower's. Lowes further suggests that Spenser seems to have supplemented his many borrowings by turning to corresponding passages in the CA; the account of Avarice, for instance, is drawn almost equally from both sources (418-23). The result is that we find "bilingual scraps of Gower transmuted into pure, authentic Spenser" (423). Lowes further argues that other passages in the Faerie Queen (besides Book 1, Canto 4) are also influenced by Gower (438-47). Foremost among these are two descriptions of Envy in Book 4 (Canto 8), and Book 5 (Canto 12). Finally, Lowes rejects the possibility of a shared source for Gower and Spenser, and suggests that despite the survival of only one manuscript of the MO, the chance of Spenser's acquaintance with Gower's French works is not unlikely given the latter's "distinguished (and by no means undeserved) reputation as a poet not only in his own day, but in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as well" (449-50). It is specifically in "Gower's series of strikingly pictorial, arresting stanzas" that Spenser found "a mine of suggestive detail" (437). [CvD]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Confessio Amantis
Influence and Later Allusion
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

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