Gower Bibliography

The Gower Manuscripts: Some Inconvenient Truths

Fredell, Joel. "The Gower Manuscripts: Some Inconvenient Truths." Viator 41.1 (2010), pp. 231-50. ISSN 0083-5897


Fredell's concern is to join the "gathering consensus (whose genesis is credited to Peter Nicholson)" seeking to refute the "elaborate three-stage creation story for the 'Confessio'" (1) posited by Gower's first editor, G.C. Macaulay that has guided Gower studies for over a century. Macaulay argued that there were three states of revision evident in the known manuscripts of the "Confessio," and that these corresponded to developing "phases of disenchantment with Richard II and enchantment with the future Henry IV, from 1390 to 1393" (1). As Fredell notes (and Nicholson's meticulous studies [1984, 1987, 1988] have shown), "[Macaulay's] argument depends upon a miniscule number of variants and glosses offered in evidence, and manuscript witnesses that contradict the model directly. Similar problems entangle the variants on Richard in 'Vox Clamantis'" (1). The "truths" told by the manuscripts, thus, are "inconvenient for scholars making political arguments that require evidence of Gower's disillusionment with Richard during the 1390's" (1, fn. 3). Fredell proposes a very different--and no less elaborate--explanation for the manuscript evidence: "Textual variants, marginalia, and layout indicate Lancastrian producers first issued versions dedicated to Henry, then created manuscripts of "Confesso" as artifacts' of the earlier Ricardian period"(1) [emphasis mine]. Thus for Fredell, "any pre-1399 version of the 'Confessio' is a speculative reconstruction at best whose first witnesses long post-date the Henrician version; that the Henrician version survives only from the time that Henry seized the throne of England; and that the surviving versions of the Ricardian 'Confessio' thus are very likely influenced by the Henrician version, not the other way around" (19). [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 31.1]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Confessio Amantis
Manuscripts and Textual Studies

Gower Bibliography Editors Only: edit metadata