Gower Bibliography

John Gower's French and his Readers

Yeager, R.F. "John Gower's French and his Readers." In Language and Culture in Medieval Britain: The French of England c.1100-c.1500. Ed. Wogan-Browne, Jocelyn and Collette, Caroline and Kowaleski, Maryanne and Mooney, Linne R and Putter, Ad and Trotter, David. York: York Medieval Press, 2009, pp. 135-45. ISBN 9781903153277

Review

Yeager's new essay – in this collection of studies on the use of French in England during the Middle English period – captures in one place the most important of the research he has presented in three earlier articles on Gower's works in French (see JGN 20 no. 1, 24 no. 2, and 26 no. 2) and adds some important new details, particularly on the "Traitié." MO, he believes, was written in two stages: the largest part of the work was composed in French on the model of Henry of Lancaster's "Livre des Seyntz Medicines" and for the same aristocratic audience; the concluding prayer to Mary, however, was added to make the work more suitable for the Austin canons of St Mary Overeys with whom Gower had taken up residence after 1378. The "Cinkante Balades" is the later of Gower's two ballade collections as evidenced by its use of an envoy, on the model of Deschamps rather than Machaut; and conceived as a response to the popular "Livre des Cent Ballades," it was addressed to an audience of "French chevalier poets" (142) of the sort with whom the future Henry IV associated during the early 1390s. The "Traitié" is the earlier composition: Yeager has little patience with the notion that it was composed in 1397 as a wedding gift for the poet's new bride. As evidence of its readership, Yeager reconsiders the identity of the "Quixley" who names himself as the author of the English translation of the "Traitié" in BL MS Stowe 951. Rather than the small landowner chosen by MacCracken, Yeager offers instead a Robert de Quixley, prior of Nostell Priory, near York, between 1393 and 1427. Nostell was also house of Austin canons, suggesting both the nature of Gower's original readership – identical to that which Yeager proposes for the completed MO – and the means of transmission to the translator. The very fact of the translation also attests to the decline in the use of French after 1399. Yeager notes that Gower's only known composition in French after Henry's accession is the pair of ballades that preface the "Cinkante Balades" in the sole surviving manuscript, dedicating the collection to the new king, and there, his reference to the Latin verses that follow the two ballades as being in "perfit langage" is itself a comment on the status of French and Gower's choice to use either English or Latin for all of the work he composed during the final decade of his life. [PN. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 29.2]. Reprinted in virtually identical form, in Dutton, Elisabeth, ed., with John Hines and R.F. Yeager, "John Gower, Trilingual Poet: Language, Translation, and Tradition." Westfield Medieval Studies, 3. Cambridge: Brewer, 2010, pp. 304-14.

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Traité pour Essampler les Amants Marietz
Manuscripts and Textual Studies
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

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