Gower Bibliography

Gower on Henry IV's Rule: The Endings of the 'Cronica Tripertita' and Its Texts.

Carlson, David R. "Gower on Henry IV's Rule: The Endings of the 'Cronica Tripertita' and Its Texts." Tradiio 62 (2007), pp. 207-36. ISSN 0362-1529


Carlson offers both a new account of the textual relations among the five surviving copies of the "Cronica Tripertita" and some provocative new proposals concerning the process of its revision. By 1400 or shortly thereafter, Gower had probably lost his sight, Carlson points out, and would thus have been unable to proofread each new MS as it was copied, but he remained alert, Carlson presumes, to the political events of his time, and intervened to update and correct the text in key passages. The surviving MSS are thus characterized by both increasing scribal corruption and a series of "new and improved authorial readings" (212). The bulk of this essay consists of an examination of the variations among these copies, distinguishing between those that are scribal and the more substantive ones that are more likely attributed to the poet. From these--and without regard to the separate textual history of VC, but equally without regard to the evidence of erasure and correction and the activities of the separate scribes enumerated by Macaulay (Works 4.lix-Ixxi) and Parkes, "Patterns of Scribal Activity" (see Carlson's note 9 on 213-14)--he constructs a new stemma (214), in which he argues that Hatton 92 (Macaulay's H3), though "poor [and] carelessly written" (219), nonetheless "represents [along with Harley 6291, Macaulay's H] the earliest state of the text in evidence" (221). H also contains, however, a unique passage at 1.55-56 that alters the characterization of Northumberland in a way that suggests knowledge of his implication in the attempts to overthrow Henry in 1403 and 1405 (as Macaulay hints in his note, 4.405). Such a revision must be authorial, Carlson implies (217), though if it was, Gower seems to have forgotten about it when he came to make other changes in the text (218-19). The other two most significant revisions suggest to Carlson an alteration in Gower's view of Henry that corresponds to the shift in his attitude towards Richard that many have detected in the revisions of CA. The first includes a small alteration in 3.479 that appears only in C, S, and G that mitigates somewhat the characterization of the chronicle of Richard's reign (222). The second is a fuller revision of the entire conclusion to the poem in which the former line occurs (3.478-89) that appears only in G, which allows that Richard "had once been a good king, at the beginning of his reign" (218); which describes the poem itself now not just as chronicle of Richard's reign but as a "mirror of the world"; and which transforms a judgment of Richard into a warning for all kings, that "the chronicle of any king's reign will becomposed by the king himself, in his own conduct, such as it will unfold in the course of a reign" (210). Carlson detects here "an incipient withdrawal of support, implicit, by attenuation of praise" (ibid.), and he proposes that the most likely cause of Gower's change of heart in this, his final revision of the poem (233), was Henty's execution of Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, in June of 1405 (234-36). [PN. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 28.1]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Biography of Gower
Cronica Tripertita
Manuscripts and Textual Studies

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