Group Title: scribal art of textual transmission
Title: The scribal art of textual transmission
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Title: The scribal art of textual transmission a study of fifteenth-century manuscript tradition in nineteen manuscripts containing selected canterbury tales
Physical Description: ix, 120 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Klinedinst, Lloyd Francis, 1940-
Publication Date: 1971
Copyright Date: 1971
Subject: Transmission of texts   ( lcsh )
Manuscripts   ( lcsh )
English language -- Middle English, 1100-1500   ( lcsh )
English thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis - University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 112-119.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Manuscript copy.
General Note: Vita.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00097678
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000554374
oclc - 13400877
notis - ACX9212


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The Scribal Art of Textual Transmission:
A Study of Fifteenth-Century Manuscript Tradition
in Nineteen Manuscripts Containing Selected Canterbury Tales





Copyright by
Lloyd F. Klinedinst, Jr.


To Professors Robert H. Bowers and Richard A. Dwyer

I owe my greatest debts of gratitude. In their courses I

first became interested in the scribal processes which have

created, transmitted, and preserved medieval literature.

Thanks to their guidance I have been able to complete the

present study with what I hope is a modicum of scholarly

contribution to medieval studies.

I am especially thankful also to Professors Richard H.

Green and Francis C. Hayes who read the entire manuscript,

made helpful suggestions, and served on my Supervisory

Committee. My thanks also extend to Dr. Andrew Crichton

who read several chapters of the manuscript and made many

helpful suggestions and to Mr. J. Ray Jones, Associate

Librarian, whose frequent help in locating source materials

and bibliographical aids made my work more efficient and

less tedious.

To my wife, Jane, whose interest, encouragement, and

ample assistance as typist and proof-reader made this dis-

sertation possible I owe--and will gladly pay--many debts


of gratitude. I am very grateful also to Matt Ouderland

who acted in my behalf on campus, assisting me with the

many technical details that accompany the final steps of the


To the Graduate School, whose fellowships during the

past three years have enabled me to devote full time to

English studies, I owe special thanks. To my fellow gradu-

ate students from whose example and free exchange of ideas

I constantly benefited I owe many, many thanks.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . .. . . . . . iii

ABSTRACT . . . ... . . . . . . vi

PROLOGUE . . . ... . . . . ... .. 1



II. FROM PRINT TO SCRIPT . . . . ... 27



V. "THE HOOLE BOOK" . . . ... . .. 91

RETRACTION . . . . . . . . . . 109

LIST OF WORKS CITED . . . . ... . . 112

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . .. .120

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the
Graduate Council of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Lloyd F. Klinedinst, Jr.

December, 1971

Chairman: Robert Hood Bowers, Jr.
Major Department: English

Although studies on the art of the Canterbury Tales

abound and textual criticism has examined all eighty-three

manuscripts in which the Canterbury Tales occurs in whole

or in part, there has been no systematic study relating the

scribal processes and manuscript tradition involved in each

manuscript to the art of the Canterbury Tales. This disser-

tation initiates such an approach by examining the nineteen

manuscripts which contain selected Canterbury tales, all re-

maining manuscripts being either fragments or relatively com-

plete texts.

The first three chapters focus on scribal processes and

their artistic effects. In Chapter I three basic types of

textual transmission, transcriptive, memorial, and improvi-

sational, are distinguished in the continuum of scribal


processes. From the control group of nineteen manuscripts

containing selected Canterbury tales an example of each type

of textual transmission is represented and examined to de-

termine the artistic consequences of its mode of transmission.

Two additional examples of improvisational transmission,

each different in degree from that shown in Chapter I, are

examined in Chapter II, entitled "From Print to Script"

because its two texts are likewise examples of a common late

fifteenth-century manuscript tradition, the textual trans-

mission from book to manuscript.

Chapter III, "The Act of Significant Omission," focuses

on a type of improvisational transmission which selects,

omits, and abbreviates its texts both on a large and a small


Chapter IV, "Selected Tales: 'In Sondry Wyse of Sondry

Folk,'" shifts emphasis from the scribal processes of textual

transmission to the products of these processes, the selected

Canterbury tales in their various textual states. Each of

the selected tales is examined in its one or more textual

transmissions to determine how the particular scribal pro-

cesses employed in copying each text effect different tell-

ings of that tale, somewhat as the various performances of a

musical piece effect different renditions or interpretations

of its basic score. The most obvious conclusion resulting


from this analysis is that by the very fact of their excerpt-

ing tales for inclusion in compilations the scribes do not

consider the Canterbury Tales as an inviolable organic whole.

Nor does any one of the scribes excerpting tales sense any

dramatic principle. They do, however, both in their textual

transmissions and in the contexts of the compilations indicate

a sense of other unities, other principles of order and ar-

rangement, other interpretive concerns.

The subject of Chapter V, "'The Hoole Book,'" is the sum

product of scribal processes, the complete manuscript com-

pilation. A survey of the basic configurations of the nine-

teen manuscripts in this study shows the great variety of

organization in fifteenth-century manuscript books and

suggests that the various compilations into which any one

text has been transmitted can give multiple perspectives on

its importance as well as its meaning.

The concluding "Retraction" is less an abjuring than

simply a drawing back to place in the larger perspective of

Chaucerian scholarship the significance of this study. While

attention to the scribal art of textual transmission offers

a limited positive contribution to the study of the meaning

and art of Chaucer's masterwork, it does serve as a much

needed corrective to interpretations of the Canterbury Tales

which are products either of a modern sensibility or an over-


imaginative, vicariously recreated medieval sensibility and

which rely too little on the realities of literary produc-

tion in a manuscript tradition.


Studies on the art of the Canterbury Tales are by far

most numerous in current Chaucer research. Least numerous,

not only in current Chaucer research but in medieval studies

in general, are studies of scribal processes and manuscript

tradition. Information in these matters is usually gleaned

from sections of introductions to Chaucer Society texts,

Early English Text Society publications, dissertations,

textual editions of medieval literature, occasional articles,

and footnotes in any study that bases itself on the manu-

scripts of a text.

The eighty-three manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales

have been used primarily for establishing a critical text

and theorizing about the order, history, and development of

the tales. Occasionally the individual manuscripts them-

selves have received attention for their striking variants

or unique readings--in other words, for their own artistic


John M. Manly and Edith Rickert have assembled the

greatest amount of information on the eighty-three

manuscripts which they used in their 1940 critical edition,

The Text of the Canterbury Tales Studied on the Basis of All

Known Manuscripts. There has not, however, been any system-

atic study relating the scribal processes and manuscript

tradition involved in each manuscript to the art of the

Canterbury Tales. This dissertation initiates such an ap-

proach by examining the nineteen manuscripts which contain

selected Canterbury tales, all remaining manuscripts being

either fragments or relatively complete texts. Often

aesthetic approaches to interpreting the art of the Canter-

bury Tales rely too little on textual and contextual evi-

dence while textual approaches fail to draw out the aesthetic

implications of scribal processes in transmitting texts and

compiling them in manuscript books. The stereoscopic view

of this study attempts to avoid the over-elaborations of

artistic interpretations based too much on a hypothetical

text and too little on the medieval context of book produc-

tion, as well as to avoid the insufficient use of textual

information concerning scribal processes, manuscript tradi-

tion, and their aesthetic implications.

The first three chapters of this study focus on scribal

processes and their artistic effects. In Chapter I three

basic types of textual transmission, transcriptive, memorial,

and improvisational, are distinguished in the continuum of

scribal processes. From the control group of nineteen

manuscripts containing selected Canterbury tales an example

of each type of textual transmission is represented and

examined to determine its aesthetic consequences. Two ad-

ditional examples of improvisational transmission, each

different in degree from that shown in Chapter I, are

examined in Chapter II, entitled "From Print to Script"

because its two texts are likewise examples of a common

late fifteenth-century manuscript tradition, the textual

transmission from book to manuscript. Chapter III, "The

Art of Significant Omission," focuses on a type of improvi-

sational transmission which selects, omits, and abbreviates

its texts both on a large and a small scale.

Chapter IV, "Selected Tales: 'In Sondry Wyse of Sondry

Folk,'" shifts emphasis from the scribal processes of textual.

transmission to the products of these processes, the selected

Canterbury tales. Each of the selected tales is examined in

its one or more textual transmissions to determine how the

particular scribal processes employed in copying each text

effect a different telling of the tale, somewhat as the

various performances of a musical score effect different

renditions or interpretations of a basic text.

The subject of Chapter V, "'The Hoole Book,'" is the

sum product of scribal processes, the manuscript compilation.

A survey of the basic configurations of the nineteen

manuscripts in this study shows the extreme variety of

organization in fifteenth-century manuscript books and

suggests that the various compilations into which any one

text has been transmitted can give multiple perspectives

on its importance as well as its meaning. The concluding

"Retraction" is less an abjuring or taking back than simply

a drawing back to place in the larger perspective of

Chaucerian scholarship the significance of this study.

Since familiarity with the Canterbury Tales and its

manuscript tradition is presupposed, only those features of

each manuscript description which are relevant to this study

are mentioned. Further, the common abbreviations found in

Robinson's corrected second edition and in the Manly-Rickert

edition for both the individual Canterbury tales and the

manuscripts containing them are employed throughout.


The great textual critics of medieval literature, such

as Lachmann, Bedier, Moore, Pasquali, Vinaver, and Sisam,

have made invaluable contributions toward the study of manu-

script tradition.1 Names such as Skeat, Manly, and Rickert

are inseparable from the texts which they have established.

More recently, Professor George Kane has completed an

edition of the A-text of Piers Plowman which has been hailed

as a triumph of textual criticism. As manifested by these

scholars, the major trend of textual criticism is toward

the establishment of a text most representative of an

"author's" original, often called the presumptive archetype.

Though the textual critics have agreed in their common

goal of establishing authoritative texts, they have varied

in their methods of arriving at such texts. Three broad

approaches to the editing of texts can be distinguished.

The exact reproduction of one manuscript is the method

exemplified in Thomas Wright's 1847-1851 edition of the

Canterbury Tales, as well as in the numerous printed texts


of the Chaucer Society. A second method of editing is the

building-up of a composite or eclectic text as in Skeat's

edition of the Canterbury Tales. The third editorial pro-

cedure results in what is called a critical text. In such

a text based on all the manuscripts available, substantive

emendations are made on the authority of each reading in

the light of a genealogical pattern of manuscript tradition

as well as in view of the textual processes of transmission

which yielded such a genealogy.

The two critical editions most important for the

present study are Manly-Rickert's The Text of the Canterbury

Tales Studied on the Basis of All Known Manuscripts and

George Kane's Piers Plowman: the A-Version; Will's Visions

of Piers Plowman and Do-Well; An Edition in the Form of

Trinity College Cambridge MS. R.3.14 Corrected from Other

Manuscripts, with Variant Readings.2 Both editions provide

a wealth of information about scribal processes; both offer

a similar abundance of apparatus in order to check their

respective texts; both printed from one manuscript with

indicated emendations from all other available manuscripts.

However similar these editions are in effective contents,

their differences are significant and may well indicate a

new trend in textual criticism. Manly and Rickert edit in

terms of the genealogical process, heeding the critics of

that method and avoiding many pitfalls of the genealogical

method by a strict fidelity to their manuscripts' details

and the limits which these details impose. Kane's edition

of Piers Plowman: the A-Version is based on "the conclusion

that knowledge of the scribal tendencies of substitution

was a better instrument for determining originality with

these manuscripts than recension based upon a dubious

genealogical hypothesis.3 Kane, therefore, proceeds to

establish a text informed primarily by a knowledge of the

scribal processes of textual transmission. Yet, since he

purposes specifically to produce a critical edition, he

admits, . I had not reached the position described by

Greg where 'the relation of the manuscripts ceases to be of

any interest whatever.'"4

The observable trend from Manly-Rickert to Kane is to-

ward less hypothesizing in terms of a genealogy, more at-

tention to scribal variants, and consequently more apprecia-

tion of each manuscript for itself than for any relation it

might have to a presumptive archetype or original. While

earlier textual criticism stresses the individual talent of

authorship and establishes a text as faithful as possible

to the original, more recent textual criticism points toward

a fuller consideration of medieval literary tradition and

the scribal processes of manuscript book production which

promote a fluidity of text. Both emphases of early and

recent textual criticism are necessary to a balanced ap-

preciation of that special existence of medieval literature

in a chirographic culture.

While textual criticism has paid increasing attention

to the processes of scribal transmission and their unique

products, the individual manuscripts, literary criticism

has developed a rather elaborate analysis of both processes

and products of oral transmission. Since Milman Perry's con-

ception of an oral-formulaic theory of composition, numerous

studies have analyzed its application to medieval poetry.5

In a most recent review of the development of the oral-formu-

laic theory and its application to medieval poetry, Alan

Jabbour has offered a sound correction to the theory's

advocates who overemphasized the element of improvisation.6

Regretting the limitations of the only two theories of trans-

mission of Old English poetry, namely, that "it was orally

improvised, or that it represents a period when written com-

positions continued to utilize oral techniques,"7 Jabbour

exposes what he calls the "recent and somewhat irregular"

fault of identifying oral with improvisational. As he

clearly explains, "Folklorists have long recognized the

presence, to a greater or lesser degree, of stability as

well as variation, and of memory as well as improvisation

in the oral transmission of poetry."

The remainder of Jabbour's article, "Memorial Trans-

mission in Old English Poetry," identifies and gives "evi-

dence to weigh in the balance" for three basic types of

oral tradition which lend clarification to the three types

of manuscript tradition that are identified and discussed

in this chapter. Briefly summarized, the three types of

oral tradition are:

1) Improvisational: A "text" wherein

the variants are related only in subject-matter

and have no discernible history of word-for-word

or phrase-by-phrase transmission.9

2) Memorial: A "text" wherein the variants

show a history of word-for-word or phrase-by-phrase

oral transmission from a known or presumed arche-


3) Transitional: A "text" 'which, though

appropriated from written into memorial tradi-

tion, has not yet been subjected to the full

gamut of traditional modifications and remains

close to its written exemplar."l0

It is important to note that these types of oral tradition

are not mutually exclusive categories but broad areas of

distinction in the total range of oral transmission

processes. Thus, Jabbour states that it is more accurate

to describe a given type as primarily improvisational or

primarily memorial.

Consideration must also be given to two types of oral

tradition which Jabbour prefers to classify in the lettered

tradition because of their written basis rather than their

oral delivery. The simpler type is memorized transmission

which represents the oral delivery of a memorized text,

distinct from the transitional or memorial transmission in

degree rather than in kind. The second type, called a

"transitional" class by the "advocates of compromise,"

represents "texts which are composed pen in hand along the

lines of an oral style" and read, recited, or sung aloud to

an audience.2

Analysis of the processes of scribal transmission in

the light of the basic types of oral transmission yields

the identification of three basic types of transmission in

the lettered or manuscript tradition. The first and simplest

type is transcriptive: it produces a text wherein the

variants are primarily due to mechanical errors, due to the

misconstruction of grammar or sense, or due to a change of

"dialect, construction, tense, mood or number, word order,

and vocabulary equivalents, which do not materially alter

the substance of the communication in any way now determin-


A second and least frequent type of scribal trans-

mission is memorial: it produces a text wherein omission,

compression, expansion, and dislocation of matter is at-

tributable to operations of the memory in absence of the

copy-text. This type of scribal transmission is not to be

confused with the mechanical error of unconscious substi-

tution prompted by memory in the transcriptive type of

transmission.14 Its variants are significantly different

in their alteration of the text on a larger scale and to

little advantage.

The third and most interesting type of scribal trans-

mission is improvisational: it produces a text wherein

the variants are attributable to deliberate substitution

according to typical scribal responses to copy.15 Improvi-

sational transmission in the lettered tradition produces a

large variety of textual renditions ranging from minor

versions designed for more explicit or more emphatic presen-

tation to major recensions reflecting editorial censorship,

reinterpretation for a different time and place, or rework-

ing into a different genre. In its fullest expression

improvisational transmission produces conflated or compiled

texts which make of two copy-texts a third and new text

reworked to become of independent significance in the

literary tradition.

The purpose of this chapter is to furnish evidence

from the control group of nineteen Canterbury Tales manu-

scripts for the existence of each of the three types of

textual transmission and to consider the critical issues

involved in each scribal rendition of one of the most

popular works of medieval literature.

British Museum MS. Additional 10340 (Ad4)16 is a slim

Chaucer collection of only forty-three folios. It is signi-

ficant for being among the oldest Chaucer manuscripts (ca.

1400).17 Its text of Chaucer's translation of Boethius'

Consolation of Philosophy was the first to be edited by

EETS,18 only later to be superseded by Cambridge MS.

Ii.3.21, which is now used as the standard text.19 In its

text of "Truth," Ad4 is singular for its inclusion of the

unique copy of the Envoy; it, too, serves as the poem's

standard text.20 What is of moment here, however, is its

memorial text of the Parson's description from the General

Prologue. No one has really doubted that this text is

written from memory.21 What is significant, however, and

yet unexamined, are the differences that appear because of

memorial transmission and the light which these differences

shed upon our understanding of the Canterbury Tales.22

Evidence of the memorial transmission of this text is

abundant in its omissions, compressions, and dislocations

of material. These characteristics of the transmitted text,

together and on a large scale, indicate a memorial process

rather than improvisation according to any given scribal

habits of revision. First, the text of Ad4's excerpt from

the General Proloque:23

478 There was a pore person of a toune
477 And was a good man of religioune
479 Holy he was bope in Pou3t and werk
480 Therto he was a lered man a clerk
481-4 om.
491 Were hys parisshe housed neuer so far a sonder
492 He lafte neiper for reynes ne for ponder
494/493 The ferrest in hys parische/_to visit
490 He coupe haue suffisaunce in ping ful lite
486 Ful lope was hym to cursen for his types
485 And so he was yproued ofte syptes
487-9 om.
495 Thus wolde he walk and in hys hande a staf
496 This noble ensample into hys shepe he 3af
497 That fyrst he wrou3t and afterward he tau3t
498 Out of be gospel he po words rau3t
507 He lete nau3t hys benefice to hyre
508 And lete hys shepe emcombred in be myre
509 Ne ran to london vnto seynt poules
510 To getyn hym a chauntery for soules
511 Oper wip a breperhede to be wipholde
512 But duelt at home and he kept hys owne fold
513 So pat pe wolf ne made it nat myskary
514 He was a shepherd and nat a mercenary
499 And pis figure he added eke perto
500 That if gold rust what shal yren do
501 For 3if a prest be foule on whom we trust
502 No wonder is a lewed man to rust
503 For it is a foule ping who so take kepe
504 A sheten shepherd and a clene shepe
505-6 om.
515-24 om.
525 He wayted after no pompe ne reuerence
526 Ne made hym a spiced conscience
527 But cristis lore and hys apostles tweue
528 He tau3t but first he folwed it hym selue.

A comparative chart of the lines and verse paragraphs of

Ad4 and the M-R text of the Parson's description reveal at

a glance their major differences:24

Verse Para-
graphs of
M-R Text




Verse Para raphs
of Ad



parson's general virtues
his poverty & charity
his visitations
his good example
a true shepherd--no mercenary
his humility & sense of equality
conclusion: his Christlikeness


(om. 481-484)

(om. 487-489)

(om. 505-506)
(om. 515-524)



Besides the four major omissions indicated by parentheses,

two other significant omissions occur because of another

characteristic feature of memorial transmission, namely,

the dislocation of matter. In line 479 the loss of "rich"

involves also the loss of a consequent contrast with "poor"

of line 478, perhaps due to the transposition of lines

477-478 which more likely correspond to a memorial recall

and description of subject than to the logical gener-

al-to-particular movement of the standard text. The other

omission is also of contrasting pairs and is due not only

to a transposition but also to a compression of lines.

Lines 493-494 are compressed by yoking the first part of

line 494 to the end of line 493, omitting the complementary

asperities ("In siknesse nor in meschief") which still do

not prevent the Parson from his pastoral care, and omitting

the contrasting social classes ("much and lite") whom the

Parson visits without discrimination and who are later

mentioned (line 522--though also omitted in the memorial

transmission) in a contrasting pastoral duty of correction.

Examples of greater dislocation of textual matter both

with and without concomitant omission occur, as indicated

by the illustrative chart, in the transposition of the "a"

and "b" parts of the second verse paragraph. Another dis-

location is the separation of line 495 from its thought

context of parish visitation and its placement after the

transposed couplet (486-485) which, with the preceding line

490, is all that remains of the 2a. section on the Parson's

poverty and charity. In a similar but less complex manner,

verse paragraph 3. on the Parson's good example and teaching

is split by the dislocation of verse paragraph 4. on the

Parson as no mercenary but a true shepherd.

The aesthetic consequences of such a major rearrange-

ment of matter is a loss of coherence both on large and

small scales. The loss of three couplets which serve as

riming transitions leaves the transitions which remain be-

tween the rearranged verse paragraphs abrupt and disjunct.

The couplet of lines 523-524 is completely omitted. The

two other couplets remain as rimes but lose their function

as transitions. The couplet of lines 485-486 is transposed

and exists as a self-contained verse paragraph rather than

the couplet's original function as the last and first lines

of two separate verse paragraphs. The couplet of lines

495-496 loses its transitional function with the further

loss of coherence in that line 495 is dislocated from what

remained of its original verse paragraph in lines 491-493

and stands as an incoherent first line to the memorial

text's verse paragraph (lines 495-498) on the Parson's good


Besides loss of coherence and the abrupt transitions

noted in the previous discussion of the greater omissions

and dislocations of textual matter there is the incoherence

created within the verse paragraphs. The best example of

this is the memorial text's treatment of verse paragraph 2b.

(11. 491-495), itself split up, as discussed earlier, by

having its last line dislocated. The four lines that remain


are compressed to three, and a fourth line is misremembered

from what was originally a line in the previous verse para-

graph 2a.25 The first lack of coherence results simply

from a misremembered line. Instead of the original "Wyd

was his parisshe and houses fer asonder" (491), the scribe

has remembered "Were hys parisshe housed neuer so far a

sonder," confusing the distinct notions of a large parish

with parishioners spaced far apart and literally stating

the idea of a parish existing in diversely scattered areas.

The second loss of coherence is both more disruptive and

more interesting. In the transposed and compressed memo-

rial transmission of lines 493-494, the phrase "much and

lite" which included the rime for visitt" was omitted.

This rime-word, however, seems to have triggered the memory

of the same word used in line 490 of the previous verse

paragraph which is incompletely remembered in the memorial

text. The misremembered line, "He koude in litel thyng

haue suffisaunce," becomes "He coupe haue suffisaunce in

ping ful lite," providing the necessary rime and perhaps

the reminder of verse paragraph 2a. which follows in dimin-

ished form.

On the smallest scale, this memorially transmitted

text is responsible for three unique variants--of no use

textually but of critical interest in determining the

quality and value of memorial transmission. In line 507

"lete" replaces "sette," an emphasis on the passive rather

than the active aspect of hiring benefices, and yet a

repetition of the same word used in the next line. Next,

in line 512 imagination interpolates into the memorial

transmission supplying "owne" to add the emphasis of

pastoral possessiveness in contrast to mercenary wolfishness.

Finally, in line 503 the memorial transmission extends the

warning from what was only the class of priests to all "who

so take kepe." Also, instead of the abstract "shame" which

the warning attributes to "a sheten shepherd and a clene

sheep" (504), the memory enlivened perhaps by the imagina-

tion substitutes "For it is a foule ping," adding to the

visual an olfactory image of shame.

In comparison with a transcriptive text, a memorially

transmitted text is of less literary value, lacking the

former's logical order and coherence, its more sophisticated

transitional devices, and its complete subject matter. Yet,

in its own right, as a product of the memory in search of

an important text, this memorial transmission of the

Parson's description possesses an admirable rendition with

no serious faults in what it does transmit and with some

few unique variants which are attractive glosses to the

standard text. Considered in the entire manuscript context

of Ad4, the memorial transmission of the Parson's descrip-

tion together with "Truth," both in parallel columns suc-

ceeding Chaucer's translation of Boethius, serve as verse

exemplum and cautionary lyric postscripts to some of the

highlighted themes of the philosophical treatise. Here the

Parson's role as an exemplar of philosophical wisdom in

action is not unlike his role as representative of religious

wisdom in action, both in his general description and in

his tale, itself a religious treatise.

In contrast to the rare occurrences of memorial trans-

mission in the Canterbury Tales are the all-pervasive in-

stances of transcriptive and improvisational transmission.

As is obvious, the manuscript tradition deals primarily

with manuscripts and it is, above all, from the scrutiny of

scribal habits in copying and transmitting texts that an

understanding of the manuscript tradition emerges and with

it an increased appreciation of the literary tradition which

it preserves and transmits.

A comparative textual analysis of two Canterbury Tales

manuscripts, Cambridge University MS. Kk.1.3 (Kk) and

British Museum MS. Harley 1704 (Hl1), provides a clear

contrast between the transcriptive and the improvisational

types of transmission. Both texts are found in diachronic

miscellanies, specifically, compilations in verse and prose

copied over a period of time from the fourteenth to seven-

teenth centuries and ranging in subject matter from copy

book verses and drawings through political and legal forms

to religious and didactic topics.26 Both Kk's leaf of

seventy lines (B1650-1719) and Hll's complete rendition of

237 lines are transmissions by one hand, each of the

Prioress' Prologue and Tale. Here the similarity ceases.

The Kk fragment in a plain book hand is an "almost

perfect" text, possibly at the head of the composite group

which forms the largest line of descent for the PrProl and

1 27
Tale and which includes H1.27 Its five variants agree

with at least two dozen other manuscripts; Kk thus can be

considered a nearly perfect example of transcriptive trans-

mission. By contrast, the "ugly cursive hand" which is re-

sponsible for most of the fifteenth-century verse and prose

collection29 in the total diachronic miscellany of Harley

1704 transmits an improvisational text with the first three

stanzas of the PrProl reworked for presentation outside of

the Canterbury Tales framework and with many editorial

omissions and unique readings. The following text of Hll's

first stanza shows to what extent the scribe has reworked

the opening of the PrProl:

1643\U645 0 lord thy name howe precious
1644/j1643 Hit is in this world how meruelous m. 1646-16561
1657 0 moder made o made and moder free LJ

1658 O bush vnbrent, brent in Moyses sighte
1659 That rauysedest doun fro the deitee
1660 Thurgh thyn humblesse the goost in the light
1661\l662 Of whos vertu conceyued was the faders sapience
1663 Help me to telle this tale in thy reuerence

The title, "Alma Redemptoris Mater," which the HI1 scribe

gives to the PrProl and Tale, together with his omissions

of "quod she" in line 1644 and of any other incipits or

explicits, effectively eliminates all reference to the

Canterbury Tales. The first stanza compresses what was

three stanzas, omitting half of the first stanza and the

entire second stanza, transposing three pairs of verses,

making necessary syntactic changes, and editing in several

readings--all reworked into an eight-line stanza with a

rime scheme of aabcbcdd, unlike any Chaucerian rime scheme

and certainly unlike the rime royal in which the rest of

the text is copied. The most interesting of the substantive

variants is the replacement of the noun "tale" for the pro-

noun "it" in line 1663, a necessary change since it is the

first mention of what the speaker is telling, but especially

because it agrees with Hll's last line variant of the

PrProl which replaces "song" with "tale" and indicates some

editorial consistency, albeit a loss of the musical enhance-

ment which no doubt accompanied the tale as "sung" by the

Prioress about whom it is said:

Ful weel she soong the service dyuyne
Entuned in hir nose ful semely (1,122-123)

In the tale itself the first unique variants indicate

the editorial consistency just suggested. Instead of the

standard text's reading in line 1689 describing the "litel

scole of Cristen folk" who learned "Swich manere doctrine

as men used there," the HI1 scribe copies "Swich manere

doctrine as we use here," altering the text as before for

the time, place, and circumstances of his transmission.

The next unique readings occur in the stanza (1706-1712)

describing the little child's learning the first verse of

"Alma Redemptoris Mater"; the scribe augments "herde" (1709)

to "herde and learned" and changes "koude" (1712) to "knewe."

The first change is for explicitness, the second updates the

verb to insure easy understanding. Significant editing for

the more explicit or more elegant expression occurs next in

the stanzas describing the circumstances of the little boy's

murder (1755-1768). HI shares with its immediate varia-

tional group, (Mc), the replacement of the "pit" (1761) into

which the child is cast by "privy," but Hi1 is unique in its

reading of "drenchid" for threew" (1762).

The H11 scribe is responsible for many other omissions

and variants than those mentioned here. An examination of

the full list of variants reveals typical scribal habits

which most often result in the substitution of one common-

place reading for another. But in the specific instances

here discussed the scribe exercises an editorial function

which has resulted in interesting aesthetic consequences,

chief of which has been the arrangement of the Prioress's

Tale for presentation outside of the framework of the

Canterbury Tales.

Of the three types of textual transmission examined in

this chapter, by far the most interesting and most revealing

is that of improvisational transmission. Of the nineteen

manuscripts in the control group of Canterbury Tales manu-

scripts, only British Museum MS. Additional 10340 represents

the infrequent type of memorial transmission; Cambridge Uni-

versity MS. Kk.1.3 is one of the few examples of transcriptive

transmission. British Museum MS. Harley 1704 represents one

of the simplest examples of the improvisational transmission

which characterizes the other sixteen manuscripts of this



For a summary of essential bibliography in textual
criticism,see George Kane, ed., Piers Plowman: The A-Version;
Will's Visions of Piers Plowman and Do-Well; An Edition in
the Form of Trinity College Cambridge MS. R.3.14 Corrected
from Other Manuscripts, With Variant Readings (London, 1960).
pp. 53-54, n. 3.

John M. Manly and Edith Rickert, With the Aid of Mabel
Dean, Helen McIntosh, and Others, With a Chapter on Illumina-
tions by Margaret Rickert, The Text of the Canterbury Tales
Studied on the Basis of All Known Manuscripts, 8 vols. (Chi-
cago, 1940), hereafter cited as M-R; Kane's text cited above
in n. 1.

Kane, p. 62.

Kane, p. 63, quoting from W. W. Greg, The Calculus of
Variants: An Essay on Textual Criticism (Oxford, 1927),
p. 54.

For a list of key studies on this theory, see Alan
Jabbour, "Memorial Transmission in Old English Poetry," The
Chaucer Review, 3 (1969), 174-190.

Jabbour, passim.

Jabbour, p. 177.


"By 'text' I here refer to the detailed expression of
a poem or tune." Jabbour, p. 181, n. 21.

10Jabbour, p. 182.

Jabbour uses this term "lettered tradition" in the
same sense as Larry D. Benson, "The Literary Character of
Anglo-Saxon Formulaic Poetry," PMLA, 81 (1966), 334, n. 4.

12Both "lettered tradition" types of transmission are
analyzed in Ruth Crosby, "Oral Delivery in the Middle Ages,"
Speculum, 11 (1936), 88-110 and "Chaucer and the Custom of
Oral Delivery," Speculum, 13 (1938), 413-432.

1Kane, p. 125.

1Kane, p. 144.

15For a list of such typical responses, see Kane,
pp. 127-146.

16All abbreviations used in the discussion of the Can-
terbury Tales are in accord with their use in M-R or F. N.
Robinson, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, 2nd ed. (Boston,

17M-R, I, p. 49.

18R. Morris, ed., Chaucer's Boethius, EETS, E. S.,
5 (London, 1868).

19F.J. Furnivall, ed., Chaucer's Boece,' Chaucer
Society Publication, 75 (1886); Robinson, pp. 903-904.

20Robinson, pp. 917-918; for an untypical opposing
viewpoint, see Aage Brusendorff, The Chaucer Tradition
(London, 1925), pp. 245-252.

21M-R, I, p. 48; Brusendorff, p. 248; Sir William
McCormick, with the assistance of Janet E. Heseltine, The
Manuscripts of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: A Critical
Description of Their Contents (Oxford, 1933), p. 535.

22M-R considers the text primarily as "of no textual
value" (pp. 48-49); Brusendorff shows a disdain in remarking
that the scribe who wrote these lines from memory "did not
remember them very well"; he further uses this memorial text
as circumstantial evidence to discredit the unique copy of
"Truth"'s Envoy (p. 248).

23The text is reproduced from McCormick, p. 535, with
one exception, that McCormick notes the omission of lines
487-490 whereas the omission is of lines 487-489, line 490
coming before line 486 and previously marked only by a "+"
sign in McCormick.

24The divisions into verse paragraphs are suggested by
indentations in the M-R text.

25Verse paragraph 2a., itself five lines (486-490),
survives only in the dislocated line discussed here and in
line 486; lines 486-485 together form a couplet and the only
remnant of the original verse paragraph's treatment of the
Parson's poverty and charity.

26M-R, I, pp. 238-240, pp. 302-303.

27M-R, I, p. 303; II, p. 351; VII, p. 152.

28M-R, VII, pp. 155-163.

29M-R, I, p. 239.


MS. Chetham 6709 (Ct) and Trinity College, Cambridge

MS. R.3.19 (Tc3), both compilations which contain excerpts

from the Canterbury Tales, form a special pair that exempli-

fies a particular kind of manuscript transmission based

not so much on the type of copying process involved as on

the fact that the transmission is from print to script.

This pair of manuscripts further represents two different

degrees of improvisational transmission. The compounded

aesthetic consequences of improvisational transmission from

print to script reveal much both about the art of fif-

teenth-century manuscript tradition and about the early

understanding and appreciation of the Canterbury Tales.

The special type of textual transmission from print to

script is amusingly discussed and amply documented in Curt

Bdhler's The Fifteenth-Century Book.1 In an opening anec-

dote to his first lecture on scribes of the fifteenth

century, he describes an article he published while still a

bibliographical tyro, entitled "An Unusual Fifteenth-century



Manuscript,"2 which discussed an "unusual" manuscript which

represented textual transmission from print to script.

After a score of years and many such "unusual" manuscripts

Bdhler's comment on his early article is simply that "the

only thing unusual about this was the truly magnificent

display of my own ignorance."3 His further remarks based

on much experience suggest that "every manuscript ascribed

to the second half of the fifteenth century is potentially

(and often without question) a copy of some incunable" and

he goes so far as to say:

Actually, of course, there is very little
real difference between the fifteenth-cen-
tury manuscripts and the incunabula--and
the student of the earliest printing would
be well advised if he viewed the new in-
vention, as the first printers did, as sim-
ply another form of writing--in this case,
"artificialiter scribere."

H. J. Chaytor, in his From Script to Print: An Intro-

duction to Medieval Vernacular Literature,5 although empha-

sizing "the breadth of the gulf which separates the age of

manuscript from the age of print,"6 would agree in general

terms with what was just cited from BUhler; for in his

chapter on "Publication and Circulation" he says:

A very cursory examination of early incu-
nabula will show that the printer did his
best to reproduce the text in manuscript
form; there will be no title nor title-
page, the scribe's abbreviations will be
reproduced, his proportion of text to mar-
gin observed and so on.7


The statements of Buhler and Chaytor are aimed at making

broad generalizations to guide the novice. But their direc-

tives need to be modified to describe accurately that transi-

tion in which there was no gulf between script and print

because it was an age of both script and print. Nor was it

a no man's land between the worlds of the chirographic and

of the typographic books, but a world in which "it would

seem likely that manuscripts and incunabula were successful

in achieving a sort of peaceful co-existence." Indeed,

Buhler corrects his own overstatement about the lack of real

differences between manuscripts and incunabula when he speak.3

of the "peaceful co-existence" of two potential enemies. He

further suggests the reasons for such peaceful co-existence

in their performance of different services:

The former [manuscripts] provided what was
distinct and personal, while the latter
Cincunabula] supplied the accurate, useful
texts which scholars needed, and at a price
which even a German cleric could afford.9

This notion of the complementary qualities of script and

print serves as a surer guideline to follow in examining

the special type of textual transmission from print to


MS. Chetham 6709, in contrast with its printed copy-text,

manifests quite well the complementary qualities of manu-

scripts and incunabula; moreover, it brings into relief the


special role of manuscript transmission, that of improvisation

for a specific performance, audience, and purpose with the

consequent possible alterations of structure, tone, and


Ct is a 285 folio Lydgate-Chaucer anthology of re-

ligious verse in honor of the Blessed Virgin Maiy, reputedly

compiled by Lydgate and written by a scribe of whom remains

only his name and claim to having copied Ct.1 Ct features

Lydgate's Life of Our Lady succeeded by six saints' lives

and concluding prayers to Saint Edmund and to the Blessed
Virgin Mary.12 After a detailed five folio table of con-

tents, Ct's first three items are excerpts from two differ-

ent Caxton prints, the first item being a transcriptive

transmission in toto of Caxton's 1484 edition of Lydgate's

Life of Our Lady, the second and third items being tran-

scriptive transmissions of the only two saints' lives in the

Canterbury Tales from Caxton's 1484 edition (Cx2).13 Edi-

tors of both Lydgate's and Chaucer's texts do not include

Ct or the Cx2 edition in their stemmata or classifications

of manuscripts; nor do they list their variants in the criti-

cal apparatus because they judge the manuscripts and printed

editions of no textual value. Thomas F. Dunn, however,

examines the Cx2 edition of the Canterbury Tales and proves

it to be of considerable value for its transmission of a


now lost Y manuscript, the quality of which he demonstrates

is "very near to the texts of Ad3, Dd, and El."14 While Ct

cannot perform a similar retrieval service since Cx2 does

exist, it remains of interest in itself and in contrast to

Cx2. The assumptions which give priority to the textual

archetype permit Professor Dunn only to mention that "as a

by-product of this work [his dissertation on CxA something

of the quality of Caxton both as an editor and as a printer

will appear."15 But the focus of the present study on

textual transmission and its aesthetic consequences enables

both the Cx2 printed book and the Ct manuscript to be con-

sidered on their own merits and appreciated for their dis-

tinct contributions to literary tradition and to an under-

standing of the Canterbury Tales.

Ct and Cx2 transmit very nearly the same text of the
SNT and the PrT; yet, although their texts may be described

as transcriptive transmissions, Ct is more accurately de-

scribed as an improvisational transmission because in its

purpose of compiling a "religious library," an anthology of

religious verse to our Lady, it places the two Canterbury

tales in a new context, inducing an interpretation other

than that in Cx2 or in any other manuscript which transmits

the Canterbury Tales in its entirety--not to mention an

interpretation other than that of many critics. Besides the


obvious elimination of any dramatic or organic interpretation

of relationships among tales and tellers, Ct's presentation

of the SNT and the PrT in the context of an anthology of

religious verse affirms their interpretation as works of

Mariolatry. The structure-in-context of the two tales

excludes certain interpretations, simplifies the tone and

diction, and eliminates the possibilities for ambivalence.

By thus setting a basically transcriptive text in a context

which induces a specific interpretation, a kind of improvi-

sational transmission is effected. The Cx2 edition by

contrast presents the same text of the SNT and the PrT, but

it does so in the full context of the entire Canterbury Tales

and consequently allows the various interpretations that

normally belong to the work as a whole. Finally, the con-

trasting texts of Ct and Cx2 exemplify that "peaceful

co-existence" born of complementary services, the manuscript

providing a personalized text, the printed book supplying a

text as accurate and faithful to the original as possible.17

An equally personalized, yet slightly different type

of improvisational text is represented in Trinity College,

Cambridge MS. R.3.19 (Tc3). Like Ct, it is an anthology

whose excerpt from the Canterbury Tales is an example of

transmission from print to script.18 Tc3, however, is an

anthology of secular verse and its transcriptive transmission

of the MkT is restructured more thoroughly than Ct's text

into a new context which makes the Tc3 text another example

of improvisational transmission.

Among Tc3's more than fifty poems by Chaucer, Lydgate,

and anonymous poets, the text in question occupies one of

the booklets which constitute the anthology. Entitled

"Bochas," it begins on folio 170r and ends on folio 202.

The scribe starts by eliminating that part of the MkProl

which presents the on-going banter among pilgrims. He im-

provises an opening couplet:

Worshipfull and dyscrete that here present be
I will you telle a tale two or three

He further modifies what he frames as the "prohemyum"19 by

arranging the couplet verse into eight-line stanzas and by

making fully consistent the partial pluralization of his

copy-text's transmission of the couplet:20

Of hym that stood in greet prosperitee
And is fallen out of high degree

Finally, the Tc3 scribe's "prohemyum" includes the first

two stanzas of the MkT.

After this "prohemyum" the scribe begins "Bochas" proper

by substituting Lydgate's long account of Adam in The Fall

of Princes, as MacCracken conjectures, "because Chaucer had

not done justice to Adam in his poor one stanza."21 Knowl-

edge of Tc3's textual relationships, however, leads to the

certain fact that in Tc 's exemplar, the Cx1 edition, the

Adam stanza is missing22 and that therefore the scribe,

perhaps in his desire to complete the imperfect Chaucer

text, perhaps in his desire to begin his own "Bochas" cor-

rectly, supplies the Lydgate text on Adam. After the Adam

passage the Tc scribe resumes the MkT text and completes

it from Sampson to Cresus, omitting as does his exemplar

the "Modern Instances" stanzas on the two Pedros. After a

simple "Explicit" on folio 188r the scribe completes his

own "Bochas" with more extracts and envoys from The Fall of

Princes in an order already noted by MacCracken.23

The Tc3 scribe's performance is interesting both for

what it reveals about scribal processes and for what inter-

pretation of the Canterbury Tales it yields. Like the

Chetham scribe, the Tc3 scribe offers a personalized and

distinct text in contrast to his print exemplar. No sense

of plagiarizing or of disrupting the text's integrity is

present; rather, Chaucer and Lydgate cooperate smoothly

under the eponym of "Bochas." The Tc3 scribe, however,

modifies his text more than does the Chetham scribe. He

does not simply place a Canterbury tale in a new context

and thus induce a distinct interpretation; he fills in and

adds to its existing structure to transform the MkT into a

Chaucerian de casibus narrative. As in the Chetham text,

the dramatic or organic interpretations of the MkT are

eliminated; absent are the concern for the meaning of

tragedy in contrast with the NPT and the interplay between

the Monk's sad tales which must be curtailed by the Knight

and those worthy romances preferred by the courtly group.

The MkT as incorporated into the "Bochas" text and in the

larger context of Tc3 as a poetic anthology becomes a fine

example of verse narrative in the de casibus tradition.24

Tc3, then, represents a greater degree of improvisa-

tional transmission than the Chetham manuscript; while the

Ct scribe places an unaltered transcriptive text in a new

context to induce a distinct interpretation, the Tc3 scribe

copies a transcriptive text but so modifies the structure

by inclusion and increments from another text that he

creates in fact a new structure with a context and signifi-

cance of its own. This type of compositive improvisation

results in what are commonly known as conflated or mixed


The same hand that executes the compositive improvisa-

tion of "Bochas" creates two other conflated texts in the

same manuscript. The first poem which begins "Lady of pite,

for by sorowes pat pou haddest" is variously titled by the

three scholars who almost simultaneously published it for


25 3
the first time in 1954.2 Tc 's unique copy is a ten-stanza

rime royal love poem which R. H. Robbins describes as a

competent, typical minor love poem somewhat like Chaucer's

"Compleint damours," with the exception that:

. into this established routine of
conventional love poetry creep a touch
of humour and a homely proverb (rare, in-
deed, unless the whole poem turns com-
pletely satirical) in the lover's refu-
sal to play second fiddle to his rival:

But as for your loue, do as yow please;
And as for your euyll wyll, perof woll I non;
ffor hit were ouermoche, ij dogges on o boon.2

Robbins proceeds to note one distinct feature of this poem,

namely, its "incorporation of four stanzas from the

pseudo-Chaucerian 'Craft of Lovers,' which appears in this

manuscript a few folios earlier."27 Describing "The Craft

of Lovers" as a satiric dialogue which gains its effect

from alternating the wooer's (Cupido's) hyperbolic verses

with the straightforward rejoinders of the woman (Diana),

Robbins states that by the divorce of the four borrowed

stanzas28 from the wooer's part "the original satire or

ridicule against the courtly tradition is removed." A

closer reading of the poem, however, indicates neither the

typical love poem nor the pure courtly satire. After the

two opening stanzas of invocation and desire to write well,

come three of the four borrowed stanzas praising the beloved

in most flattering terms and requesting successively, "Ye

regystre my loue in your remembraunce"(21), "So pat ye wold

haue me in remembraunce"(28), and "Exyle me nat out of your

remembraunce"(35). But with the first line of stanza six,

"What might hit be bat brought me in pys daunce--"(36),

the second half of the poem presents a negative symmetry of

the first half. Stanzas six, seven, and eight express the

wooer's doubts, distrust, and even dislike for the beloved,

climaxing his negative feeling with the image of the be-

loved as a bone fought over by two dogs. Finally, stanzas

nine and ten mirror the introductory stanzas by the lover's

resolution and acceptance of the good and the bad in his

beloved and his secular salute to heroesof this world, a

perfect balance to the first stanza's sacred invocation.

This interpretation places "Lady of pite" between the con-

ventional love lyrics such as those that are found early in

the manuscript and first published by Wilson29 and the sa-

tirical pieces such as "The Craft of Lovers," "I have a

lady where so she be," and "O mosy quince hangyng by you're

stalke," found throughout the manuscript and discussed

briefly in A. K. Moore's article on some satirical Middle

English lyrics.30 "Lady of pite" is, then, a love lyric

that expresses an ambivalent view of both lover and beloved,

mixing styles as it mixes texts to create a compositive


improvisation not unlike the far more competent creations of

Chaucer himself.

The other mixed text, "O merciful and O merciable"

(folio 161r), immediately follows "Lady of pite." Robbins

considers it a love epistle and recognizes that it takes

its first four stanzas from The Court of Sapience and later

inserts into its own unique text one stanza from "The Craft

of Lovers.31 What has not yet been mentioned, however, is

that the four non-consecutive stanzas from Peace's appeal to

God the Father in Book One of The Court of Sapience are em-

ployed precisely as the first stanza in the preceding poem

to introduce a poem of erotic love with a religious prologue

a device typical of the main tradition of love poetry in the

Middle Ages.32

By compositive improvisation, then, three new poems

are created by transmitting and conflating various texts

into new contexts. Together with the Chetham scribe's

placement of one text in a different context to achieve a

distinct interpretation, these texts represent a definite

tradition of manuscript transmission and reveal new ways in

which the Canterbury Tales, and other medieval poems as well,

were understood and appreciated in the fifteenth-century

literary tradition.


iCurt F. Bdhler, The Fifteenth-Century Book: The
Scribes, The Printers, The Decorators (Philadelphia, 1960),
p. 7.

2La Bibliofilia, 42 (1940), 65-71.

3Buhler, The Fifteenth-Century Book, p. 16.


5H. J. Chaytor, From Script to Print: An Introduction
to Medieval Vernacular Literature (Cambridge, 1945).

6Chaytor, p. 1.

7Chaytor, p. 137.

8Bhler, The Fifteenth-Century Book, pp. 16, 26.

9Loc. cit.

10This guideline is not to be taken as a generalization;
there are instances of medieval writers or scribes insisting
on accurate, useful texts just as there are modern printers
or editors whose editions of Shakespeare, for example, have
been personal and distinct.

11M-R, I, pp. 83-84; Joseph A. Lauritis, gen. ed., Ralph
A. Klinefelter, and Vernon F. Gallagher, A Critical Edition
of John Lydgate's Life of Our Lady, Duquesne Studies, Philo-
logical Series, 2 (Pittsburgh, 1961), p. 51.

2M-R, I, p. 82.

13For detailed evidence that the three texts in question
are products of transcriptive transmission, see M-R, I,
pp. 533-534; II, pp. 397-409; VII, pp. 462-542; Lauritis,

pp. 17, 47; R. A. Klinefelter, "Lydgate's 'Life of Our Lady'
and the Chetham MS. 6709," Papers of the Bibliographical
Society of America, 46 (1952), 396-397.

14Thomas F. Dunn, The Manuscript Source of Caxton's
Second Edition of the Canterbury Tales (Chicago, 1940),
p. 36.

1Dunn, p. 2.

16In their transcriptive transmissions, accidental
differences arising from scribal error are of no substantive

17In the "prohemye" to the second edition, Caxton ex-
plicitly states his intention for reprinting the Canterbury

whyche book I haue dylygently ouersen and
duly examined to thende that it be made
acordyng vnto his [Chaucer's] owen making /
For I fynde many of the sayd books / whyche
wryters haue abrydgyd it and many thynges
left out / And in some place haue sette
certain versys / that he neuer made ne
sette in hys booke / of whyche books so
incorrect was one brought to my vy yere
passyd / (W. J. B. Crotch, The Prologues
and Epilogues of William Caxton, EETS 176
(London, 1928), 90-91.)

After having explained his inaccurate first printing, Caxton


. yet I wold ones endeuoryre me to em-
prynte it agayn / for to satysfye thauctour /
where as to fore by ygnouraunce I erryd in
hurtyng and dyffamyng his book in dyuerce
places in settyng in some thynges that he
neuer sayd ne made / and leuyng out many
thynges that he made whyche ben requysite
to be sette in it / (loc. cit.)

18For detailed evidence, see M-R, I, p. 533; II, pp.
397-409; VII, pp. 462-542.

19On folio 170v the frame headings are "Hic incipit
prohemyum" and "Explicit prohemyum."

2The variants indicate the respective stages of gram-
matical regularization:

3165 hym] hem b
3166 is] are Tc3; high] his Cxl, their Tc3

21Henry Noble MacCracken, "A New Manuscript of Chaucer's
Monkes Tale," MLN, 23 (1908), 93.

22M-R, II, pp. 405-406.

23The order which MacCracken notes is: Books I, chap-
ters 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 18, 23; II, 2, 1, 6, 12, 13, 15,
21, 22, 25, 27, 30; III, 5, 9, 10, 14, 17, 20; MacCracken,
p. 93.

24For a similar view based not on manuscript evidence
but on medieval traditions of tragic tales, see R. W. Bab-
cock, "The Medieval Setting of Chaucer's Monk's Tale,"
PMLA, 46 (1931), 205-213. Although Babcock's division be-
tween a clerical-moralistic-Boccaccian tradition and a
non-clerical-narrative-Chaucerian tradition leaves something
to be desired, the Tc3 text because of its context represents
the narrative tradition, in spite of its "Bochas" title and
conflation with Lydgate. As this manuscript instance of the
de casibus tradition indicates, a more sophisticated analysis
of its interpretive spectrum is needed.

25Rossell Hope Robbins, "A Love Epistle by 'Chaucer,'"
MLR, 49 (1954), 289-292; Henry A. Person, ed., Cambridge
Middle English Lyrics (Seattle, 1953), pp. 14-16; Kenneth A.
Wilson, "Five Unpublished Secular Love Poems from MS. Trinity
College Cambridge 599," Anqlia, 72 (1954), 415-418; cf.
Carleton Brown and R. H. Robbins, The Index of Middle English
Verse (New York, 1943), No. 1838.

26Robbins, p. 289.

27Loc. cit.

28Stanzas 3, 7, 11, and 15 in "Craft" become stanzas
3, 4, 5, and 10 in "Lady of pite."

29Wilson, pp. 400-418.


30A. K. Moore, "Some Implications of the Middle English
Craft of Lovers," Neophiloloqus, 35 (1951), 231-238.

31Robbins, p. 290.

32This device for introducing a love poem is no doubt
the reason why Brown first misdescribed "Lady of pite" in
his Register as "An orison to the B. V." and why "O merci-
ful and O merciable" was not included in the Index's list
of love epistles.



A direct contrast to the scribal art of compositive

improvisation discussed in the preceding chapter is what

might be called the scribal art of significant omission

resulting in omissive or edited (in the sense of cut or

abbreviated) texts. British Museum MS. Harley 1239 (Ha )

offers an example of the art of significant omission on a

large scale. A Chaucer anthology containing Troilus and

five Canterbury tales,1 Hal demonstrates by its selection

of tales the art of significant omission. From Fragment

I(A), HaI selects only the KnT; from Fragment II(B ), the

MLT; from Fragment III(D), only the WBT; from Fragment

IV(E), only the CIT; from Fragment V(F), only the FranklT.

This selection clearly indicates the omission of fabliaux,

satires, or what have recently been called problem com-

edies2--all tales in the naturalistic mode.3 Yet, while

this art of omission is significant, what it signifies must

remain conjectural. R. M. Wilson considers "the almost com-

plete absence of a single fabliaux [sic] as compared with


the wealth of such literature in France" to be "one of the
most surprising things in Middle English literature." He

prefers to see this absence, however, as more apparent than

real, attributing its failure to be preserved to two major

reasons: its essentially popular and transitory nature,

and its lack of moralization. It is difficult, then, to

determine popularity or taste from either the art of signi-

ficant omission or its result, the lost literature of the

Middle Ages.

The awareness of such a process, however, is helpful

as a guideline and corrective to any notions which might be

entertained concerning taste and popularity in medieval

literature. Charles A. Owen, Jr. in his article, "The

Canterbury Tales: Early Manuscripts and Relative Popularity,"5

uses the wealth of information on the manuscripts of the

Canterbury Tales to deduce some notions of their popularity

and of the taste on which such popularity depended. Basing

his argument on the theory that "a large number of inde-

pendent textual traditions for a tale points to its relative

popularity, while the reverse indicates that the tale circu-

lated principally as a part of the collections," Owen

suggests the "immediate popularity for such modern favorites

as the Franklin's Tale, the Pardoner's Tale, and the Miller's

Tale, as well as for the controversial Prioress's Tale, and

the underrated Canon's Yeoman's Tale."6 Owen realizes him-

self, however, the discrepancy between a popularity de-

termined by the principle of independent textual traditions

and a popularity based on the principle of selection (i.e.,

excerpted tales in "anthologies"), with its corollary, the

principle of significant omission. Only the PrT is con-

sistently popular on the basis of both criteria. Of the

FranklT, PardT, MillT, and CYT, all high in number of in-

dependent textual traditions, only the FranklT is ex-

cerpted--and then only once for inclusion in the anthology

discussed in this chapter. Conversely, tales having a low

number of independent textual traditions rank high in popu-

larity if based on their selection for other manuscript

collections. Such tales are Melibee and the Clerk's Tale,

each excerpted five times, second only to the PrT's ex-

cerption six times.

In order to account for the discrepancy between a popu-

larity of Canterbury tales based on the principle of inde-

pendent textual traditions and a popularity based on the

principle of selection and significant omission in "an-

thologies," Owen offers six conjectural factors: "the

better chance that respectable literature has of surviving";

the fabliaux not being copied; the fabliaux being copied

and circulated so frequently as to wear out and be discarded;


librarians' tendencies to make room for their contemporaries'

more solemn efforts; "perhaps a real change in taste" toward

the moral and religious; and, finally, a change in audience

from discriminating court to a wider fifteenth-century

audience. Whatever the attraction of these reasons to

explain the discrepancies which arise when the Canterbury

Tales manuscripts are examined and when any attempt is made

to deduce from their textual tradition some indications of

taste and popularity, the fact is that everything remains


What can be said, then, about the art of significant

omission in Hal? From what information can be gathered

about its provenance, the Ha scribe styles himself in a

florid, but ungrammatical Latin colophon on folio 106v:

"heremita de Grenewych mundo quasi totaliter segregatus ac

mentibus suorum fortune amicorum et hominum per oblitus"

(the Hermit of Greenwich almost totally segregated from the

world and thoroughly forgotten through fortune in the minds

of his friends and of men). Further, it is clear from the

first part of the colophon, "Vestre magnifice et genero-

sissime dominacionis" (To your magnificent and most gen-

erous lord), that the scribe intended his book for some

great personage.7 It is obvious, then, that he should omit

those tales of common people in a common mode and select


tales worthy of such a great personage: romances--chivalric,

Breton, and moral.

A similar art of significant omission had been prac-

tised, coincidentally enough, in MS. Paris Anglais 39 (Ps),

which with Hal is textually related to a non-extant exem-

plar. Jean of Angouleme, as Manly and Rickert put it,

"did not scruple to omit, and did so with opprobrious com-

ment duly transcribed by Duxworth," his scribe.9 Jean's

art of significant omission, practised on the same exemplar

from which the Hermit of Greenwich copied, is explained by

his "opprobrious comments," one of the rare instances of

"literary criticism" in the Middle Ages. These comments

further suggest reasons for similar instances of omission.

He omits the SqT after line 28 with the comment: "Ista fabula

est valde absurda in terminis et ideo ad presents pretermittatur

nec ulterius de ea procedatur" (This story is exceedingly

absurd at the end and therefore for the present let it be

excepted nor should we proceed any further on it). The MkT

he cuts short in the middle of the tragedy of Sampson, and

long before the Knight of the Canterbury Tales stops the

Monk, Angouleme comments: "Non plus de ista fabula quia

est valde dolorosa" (No more of this story because it is so

sorrowful). He further omits lines 750-1393 of the CYT

"quia termini sunt valde absurdi" (since its expressions are


so absurd); he also omits the CkTP and most of Thopas with-

out comment.

The art of significant omission on the large scale of

complete tales, then, does indicate some facts concerning

taste and popularity. Both Duxworth, working under the

direction of the royal amateur, and the Hermit of Greenwich,

working in hope of securing the favor of a great personage,

select tales approved by the noble caste and omit tales

liable to meet with nobility's disapproval. Evidence such

as this is far more reliable in judging taste and popularity

than the hypothetical factors previously offered.

The art of significant omission, practised on a smaller

scale within the individual text itself, is most notable in

MS. Stonyhurst B.XXIII (St). St, a collection of religious

and didactic works evidently chosen to meet the taste of

some patron, is the product of one scribe who is apparently

a well-educated amateur.0 His editorial cutting of slightly

more than one-half of Melibee is exceptional in contrast to

"the comparative freedom from editing in the way of drastic
cutting" which characterizes the Melibee texts. Yet this

cutting is certainly in keeping with the tradition of

Melibee. Of the four different French versions of Albertano

of Brescia's Liber consolationis et consilii, that of Renaud

de Louens, the freest, most popular, and the one which

Chaucer converted to Melibee, cuts the Latin original of

twenty thousand words to fourteen thousand, completely

discarding six of Albertano's fifty-one chapters, omitting

almost the whole of eight others, and editing out more than

fifty per cent of the material in about half the remaining

chapters.12 Chaucer's translation of Renaud's version

rarely departs from the text; of the fewer than twenty-five

omissions only one, the omission of a passage on the lack

of wisdom in youthful kings, is significant in the context

of Richard II's early years of reign.13 What, then, is to

be concluded from the St scribe's extensive cutting of

Chaucer's uncut translation of de Louens' Melibee?

Certainly one effect remains constant in both the

majority of Melibee texts and in the St's exceptional ab-

breviation, an effect well expressed by the pilgrim Chaucer

in his explanation of the analogy between his tale of

Melibee and the Evangelists' telling of Christ's passion:

And alle acorden as in hire sentence
Al be their in hir tellyng difference.
(VII, 947-948; B2 2137-2138)

Melibee cut or uncut remains a helpful treatise on con-

solation and counsel in a situation of common occurrence

and, therefore, of popular interest in the Middle Ages.

But, if his "sentence" is the same, the St scribe by his

art of significant omission reveals a telling difference.

Since he is excerpting Melibee for inclusion in a serious

compilation, he is one of the first in the camp of critics

who regard Melibee as a serious piece of moralizing.1 Yet,

he does much to alter its accused faults of dullness and

interminability. He shaves over 470 of the original 921

lines by making five major splices ranging from 23 to 221

lines each and by omitting one or two lines in nearly two

dozen other passages. That these are both conscious and

skillful omissions is proven by the relative smoothness of

transition which remains at the splices, often because of

substituted transition words.15

Further, by placing Melibee in a collection of reli-

gious and moral treatises the St scribe, like the Chetham

scribe who places the PrT and the SNT in a context of re-

ligious works, practices an art of omission which excludes

the interpretations of the second major camp of Melibee

critics. By eliminating the link between Thopas and Melibee,

as well as any trace of Melibee's setting in the Canterbury

Tales, the St scribe disallows any notion of Melibee as

"another burlesque or painful leg-pull."6 Also, by further

eliminating many of the interminable passages of proverbs,

the St scribe--had he transcribed Melibee in context--takes

away some of the potential irony in Chaucer's apology for

his "litel tretys" with "somewhat moore of prouerbes than


ye han herd bifoore."

The art of significant omission, then, a necessary

corollary of the art of selection, is one definite mode of

textual transmission. By attention to its effects limited

judgments may be made about the popularity of works, the

taste of specific audiences, and the interpretation of



M-R, I, p. 189.

2Norman T. Harrington, "Chaucer's Merchant's Tale:
Another Swing of the Pendulum," PMLA, 86 (1971), 31.

For classifications of tales, see: Robert 0. Payne,
The Key of Remembrance: A Study of Chaucer's Poetics (New
Haven, 1963), pp. 156-159; Paul G. Ruggiers, The Art of the
Canterbury Tales (Milwaukee, 1965), pp. 46-50.

4R. M. Wilson, Early Middle English Literature (London,
1939), p. 234. He reiterates the same statement in The
Lost Literature of Medieval England (London, 1952), p. 133.

5Charles A. Owen, Jr., "The Canterbury Tales: Early
Manuscripts and Relative Popularity," JEGP (1955), 104-110.

60wen, p. 109. While this factor is the principle one
which Owen considers, he allows "other factors than that of
popularity" as probable in determining the number of inde-
pendent textual traditions; namely, date of "publication,"
process of revision, and circulation alone or with the other
tales in a given fragment.

7M-R, I, pp. 192-193.

M-R, II, pp. 76-77.

9M-R, I, p. 403; all quotations in the remainder of
this paragraph are from this page.

10M-R, I, pp. 519-521.

1IM-R, II, p. 371.

12J. Burke Severs, "The Tale of Melibeus" in Sources
and Analogues of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, eds. W. F.
Bryan and Germaine Dempster (1941; rpt. New York, 1958),
pp. 560-566; hereafter cited as SA.


13SA, pp. 565, 581.

14For classification of critical camps with respect to
Melibee, see Trevor Whittock, A Reading of the Canterbury
Tales (Cambridge, 1968), pp. 210-211.

15For substituted transition words, see, in the Corpus
of Variants, M-R, VII, pp. 206-461, especially variants in
lines 2306, 2363, 2685, 2788, and 2807.

16Whittock, p. 211.


While the first three chapters of this study have

focused on identifying and examining the various types of

textual transmission which scribes perform with the Can-

terbury Tales, this chapter attends to the transmitted

tales themselves and their various interpretations as

performances of different scribes, each practising in his

own way the art of textual transmission.

How a reader views the Canterbury Tales as a whole

more often than not determines how he views the individual

Canterbury tales. The task which modern criticism has tried

repeatedly to accomplish for several decades is to unify the

Canterbury Tales.1 Thus modern critics have produced read-

ings and interpretations of the Canterbury Tales' unity as

various, piecemeal, original, puzzling, and commonplace as

the first scribal editors produced when they compiled

Chaucer's fragments into the different arrangements of the

Canterbury Tales which exist in eighty-three extant manu-


In his 1912 article entitled "Chaucer's Discussion of

Marriage," George Lyman Kittredge tried to counter the

general tendency of criticism "to read and study the Canter-

bury Tales as if each tale were an isolated unit" by empha-

sizing the connecting links, the larger groups and the

dramatic relationships of the tales to their tellers in the

particular situations out of which each tale arises.2 Since

then, not considering Kittredge's exaggeration of the

dramatic aspects in order to restore a balance but rather

taking his thesis for granted and making the Canterbury

Tales a roadside drama, modern critics have pressed out

various interpretations of dramatic and organic unity, reach-

ing an arbitrary highpoint in 1955 with R. M. Lumiansky's

Of Sondry Folk and Ralph Baldwin's The Unity of the Canter-

bury Tales.3

As often as not, however, the unity propounded is, in

the words of a contemporary critic, "only frame deep," and

the unitive interpretations of many modern critics appear

only as attempts "to bend the poem to an organist theory of

unity," an attractive vision for post-Coleridgean man but

hardly a concept of unity familiar to Chaucer.4 At present,

critics are consequently stressing Gothic co-ordinate con-

struction, additive collocation, and inorganic unity. Just

two years after the heyday of organic interpretation of the


Canterbury Tales, Charles Muscatine in 1957 gave substantial

definition to the form of the Canterbury Tales in terms of

the aesthetics of Gothic art and then examined its implica-

tions principally in terms of the juxtaposition of styles

within the tales.5 In 1963, D. W. Robertson, Jr. and Robert

O. Payne both endorsed the Gothic compositional nature of

the Canterbury Tales, although each in his own way sought a

type of organic unity arising, according to Robertson, from

an all-pervasive Augustinian theology and, according to

Payne, from a developing Chaucerian poetics.6

Paul G. Ruggiers' The Art of the Canterbury Tales,

published in 1965, is an example of the contemporary

criticism which must deal with both the organic and the

inorganic, the narrative and the dramatic theories of the

Canterbury Tales. As is evident from a comparison of re-

marks in his Introduction, Conclusion, and Part I, Ruggiers

answers confusedly the question he poses in the first line

of his book: "Everyone who comes seriously to the study of

the Canterbury Tales must face the problems of its struc-

ture: is it merely a series of fragments held loosely to-

gether by one device or another, or is it a complete struc-

ture?"7 While Ruggiers gives recognition to Chaucer's use

of a medley or miscellany technique and his imposition of

the encyclopaedic form of the middle fragments on a romance


quest form of the beginning and end fragments, nevertheless,

he concludes: "We can only state, finally, what we think

we see when we draw back from the poem as a whole: what is

disjointed and fragmentary in Chaucer's view of life as

pilgrimage is given anchorage within the complete vision

which the beginning and end morally imply."8 Let Thomas

Aquinas' words, mutatis mutandis, supply a just appraisal

of this so prevalent practise of critics: "Praestet fides

supplementum / Sensuum defectui."

The two contemporary critics, after Muscatine, who

contribute most to an understanding of the Canterbury Tales

as Gothic form possessing an inorganic unity are Robert M.

Jordan and Elizabeth Salter. Whereas Muscatine attributes

to Chaucer a mastery of the French tradition, his unique

characteristic achievement being the mixture of styles which

"is the holding together and seeing in relationship to each

other of the wide range of values, some of them antithetical,

which had once made up the richness and poise of medieval

civilization,"10 both Jordan and Salter are reluctant to

grant him such mastery. Jordan sees "the aesthetic charac-

ter of the poem [as] determined by the dissonance between

the dramatic and the static, not exclusively, or even mainly,

by 'drama.'"ll Elizabeth Salter, noting the marked fluctua-

tion of literary quality in the Canterbury Tales, goes


further by asking "whether there is not a more serious kind

of fluctuation in the Canterbury Tales--a fluctuation of

purpose, described conveniently, though crudely, as an un-

certain movement between narrative and dramatic principles

of organization."12 Comparing Chaucer's art with that of

the manuscript illuminators in which there developed an

increasingly dispersive relationship between the components

of the manuscript page, Salter interprets the art of Chaucer

in the Canterbury Tales as "one of accommodation--of new

materials, forms and impulses with older."13 Salter does

not pretend to offer any rationale for balance or unity,

but states baldly that "the many qualitative contrasts of

pilgrim portraits, Links and Tales are not always to be dis-

cussed as 'Gothic paradox,' or 'justaposition of contrasting

parts': they tell us of a problem of adjustment, rather

than of mastery of the problem."14

To the essays of contemporary criticism which seek to

establish a more faithful reading of the Canterbury Tales in

terms of inorganic unity, even verging on imbalance and

disunity--Muscatine's analysis of the mixture of styles,

Jordan's examination of the structures of selected tales,

and Salter's interpretation of the relationship between

links and tales in the light of manuscript illumination

evidence--this chapter offers another contribution based on

fresh data furnished by the scribal processes of textual


Most critics have argued, and Manly and Rickert have

proven, that in none of the fifty-five manuscripts which

contain relatively complete texts of the Canterbury Tales

is there any indication that the order or arrangement of

framework and tales is that of Chaucer.15 Whatever attrac-

tion the ideal of understanding Chaucer's conception (or-

ganic or otherwise) of the Canterbury Tales may hold for

modern critics, the fact is that his immediate "critics"16

encountered only fragments or separate units and that these

scribes interpreted quite variously the unity, order, and

arrangement of the Canterbury Tales.17 Whatever Chaucer's

conception of unity in the Canterbury Tales, it is certain

that his audience as represented by the scribes who trans-

mitted the Canterbury Tales in fifty-five different manu-

scripts--no two exactly alike--did not consider them as an

organic unity.19

To an even greater degree, the scribes and compilers

of the nineteen manuscripts of this study (manuscripts in

which one or more Canterbury tales were excerpted for in-

clusion with romances, saints' lives, pious verses, and

treatises) considered the Canterbury Tales as little more

than a fine miscellany, a compilation of tales from which

other miscellanies, other compilations might compile, that

is, plunder.

The relevance of scribal processes in the Canterbury

Tales is, therefore, cautionary. Attention to the Canterbury

tales as they first existed in manuscript tradition can

prevent misconceptions of their text as being that printed

by any editor from William Caxton to F. N. Robinson. Such

attention also allows readers, before coming to their own

understandings and interpretations, to see the Canterbury

tales as they were first understood, transcribed, and trans-

mitted by a limited number of fifteenth-century scribes.

It is also in comparison with this first critical reception

of the Canterbury Tales that the validity of such modern

notions as organic unity, sophisticated aesthetic theory,

and erudite Augustinian exegesis in the Canterbury Tales

can be tested.

More particularly, a study of the nineteen manuscripts

containing excerpted Canterbury tales shows that scribes

and compilers selected certain tales, transmitted their

texts in a variety of ways, and reset the sometimes modi-

fied texts into different contexts of new compilations.

These scribal processes of textual transmission and manu-

script compilation become virtually a critical interpretation

and let the modern scholar see how Chaucer's first "critics"


understood the Canterbury Tales. What the scribes elaborate,

emphasize, change, or omit is, therefore, indicative of

their understanding and appreciation of the selected tales

and, by implication, of the Canterbury Tales. A more viable

relationship might be posited between the scribe as teller

and his transmission of the text as tale than has been made

between the Canterbury pilgrims as tellers and their dra-

matic performances as tales. More complete than the phrase,

"of sondry folk," which Lumiansky selects from line twen-

ty-five of the General Prologue in order to stress the

tellers of tales and the dramatic unity of the Canterbury

Tales, is the phrase, "in sondry wyse," which Chaucer

employs more frequently to express, not merely the ambiva-

lence, but a fortiori, the polyvalence of values, attitudes,

approaches, and styles of life and art.2 Thus, in one of

the most crucial passages, that of his own (that is, Chaucer

the Pilgrim) headlink to the tale of Melibee, he describes

what well might be the key of remembrance for the Canterbury

Tales. In response to Harry Bailly's request to tell a tale,

Chaucer replies:

Gladly quod I by goddes swete pyne
I wol yow telle a litel thyng in prose
That oghte liken yow as I suppose
Or elles certes ye be to dangerous
It is a moral tale vertuous
Al be it toold som tyme in sondry wyse
Of sondry folk as I shal yow deuyse

As thus ye woot that euery euangelist
That telleth vs the peyne of Iesu Crist
Ne seith nat alle thyng as his felawe dooth
But nathelees hir sentence is al sooth
And alle accorden as in hir sentence
Al be their in hir tellyng difference

Clearly, Chaucer is talking about the art of story telling

and he says, in effect, that each telling of a story is dif-

ferent, even as each performance of a musical score varies;

further, it is this difference which is significant and

which, in fact, tells who is the consummate teller or judge

of tales. The achievement of the Canterbury Tales, then,

is not simply its unique portrayal "of sondry folk," but

especially its rendition of their tales told "in sondry


This evidence further suggests that, besides the com-

monly-held view of a dramatic ordering principle in the

Canterbury Tales, there is a narrative ordering principle.

For just as critics have rightly perceived but exaggerated

a dynamics of dramatic art in the links, so in the tales

themselves and in their inter-relationships one can perceive

Chaucer's dynamics of narrative art, his creation of sondry

tales and sondry telling of these tales. But the road to

this highway, this Jerusalem of narrative art, begins with

an examination of the more commonplace by-ways in the scribal

art of textual transmission. What follows, then, is an

analysis of each Canterbury tale selected for compilation

in the nineteen manuscripts of this study in order to de-

termine the "sondry wyse" in which the sondry tales were

told. The order of tales followed is that of the best manu-

script tradition, that of a-El.

The first Canterbury Tale selection is Ad4's memorial

text from the General Prologue of the Parson's description,

in parallel columns with the unique text of "Truth," in-

cluding its Envoy. The two texts serve as a double pendant

for the main text of the manuscript, that of Chaucer's

translation of The Consolation of Philosophy. As demon-

strated in detail in Chapter I, the Parson's description

loses its rhetorical coherence as found in Robinson's

standard text. Absent also are all the elements which re-

late it organically or dramatically within the Canterbury

Tales. Gone is the persona of Chaucer the Pilgrim with all

the irony and polyvalency he brings to the General Prologue;

gone is the dramatic sense of a rookie reporter recalling

his hurried interviews with the crowd of pilgrims and the

interplay of their various descriptions; gone, lastly, is

the allusive style in which, for example, the Parson's

figure of speech, "That if gold ruste, what shal iren do?",

might strike with a resonance intensified by vibrations

from earlier descriptions such as the Yeoman's silver


Christopher medal, the Prioress's brooch of gold, the Monk's

gold pin, Friar Huberd's soliciting of silver for the poor

friars, even the Clerk's little gold in the coffer, the

Guildsmen's silver-mounted knives, and the Physician's

special love of gold. The Parson's description serves,

however, as a typical, static exemplary figure,23 embodying

in its brief religious portrait the philosophical wisdom of

the main text and serving as a gloss to the text of Boethius'

Consolation.24 Finally, instead of any dramatic interplay

there is a thematic coherence among the prose thesis con-

cerning wisdom in an unstable world, the cautionary lyric

calling for self-rule and holy pilgrimage to God's highway,

and the exemplary figure of the Parson as a pilgrim of truth

and wisdom. Though not a story, there is a significant dif-

ference between the Ad4 scribe's memorial description of the

Parson and the same description as found in the context of

the General Proloque; thematic considerations replace dra-

matic ones.

The KnT is selected twice for inclusion in compilations,

both composed by religious scribes and apparently for patrons.

Here, however, the comparison stops as Manly and Rickert

describe the Ha text as "very bad" while the Ll text is

extremely close to the d-group manuscripts, "departing only

by much unique editing.25 A comparison of the Ha text
by much unique editing. A comparison of the Ha text

with Ps, its partner in a constant pair, as well as with

L1I, reveals the differences among the respective scribes

in telling the KnT. The Hermit of Greenwich, as the Ha1

scribe styles himself, is responsible for over thirty unique

editorial variants which are aptly called "unique errors"

by Manly and Rickert; his "very large number of small omis-

sions, additions, substitutions and other defects .

suggest either an ignorant or careless scribe or an exem-

plar hard to read."27 Comparison with Ps which uses the

same exemplar leaves little doubt but that the former

alternative is more likely. M. M. Crow's study entitled

"Unique Variants in the Paris Manuscript of Chaucer's Can-

terbury Tales" describes nearly two dozen of the sixty

unique, intentional, or editorial changes in the Ps manuscript

which "were made to improve the meter, the rime, or the

sense, to add explanatory matter, to supply words for blank

or illegible passages, and to cut out parts not considered

interesting."28 For example, instead of the Ps scribe's

correct copying of "The rede statue of Mars with spere and

targe" (1.975) to describe Theseus' banner, or his accurate

transcription of the "thousand yeer" period (1.1669) to

emphasize the unpredictability of God's providence and

governance, the Ha1 scribe commits the erring transmission

of a "rede state of armys" on Theseus' banner and a mere

"twelmond yeer" to counter the improbability of a certain

day's occurrence. Converse instances where the Ha scribe

faithfully copies his exemplar but the Ps scribe varies

reveal the same ignorance of the former as opposed to the

latter's knowledgeability. In three instances where the

Ps scribe supplies unique spurious lines the Ha scribe

has apparently followed the exemplar in which the omissions

occur; in each case the Ps scribe has supplied a riming line

which was unnoticed by the Hermit of Greenwich.29

In a generally poor text, then, the Ha scribe shows

himself as a poor teller of tales. Only once does he seem

to offer a consistent and notable interpretation, namely,

in the course of transcribing the first passage which describes

Emelyc, the two knights' first sight of her, and their en-

suing debate (1.1033-1186). Of the six times that "romen"

occurs in this passage the Hal scribe has changed the first

two occurrences that pertain to Emelye.30 In line 1069

Emelye is presented in her garden as she "Was in hir walk

and mornyd vp and doun" and when Palamon first describes

her he says:

The fairness of that lady that I se
Yond in the gardyn mewynq to and fro
Is cause of al my cryynge and my wo

These two editorial variants which introduce a tone of sad-

ness, and possibly also of confinement,31 in presenting


Emelye, bespeak more a narrator like the Squire whose attitude

toward Canacee is similarly pitying, than a narrator like

the Knight whose Emelye is not given much more attention

than Aude in the Song of Roland--both narrators being con-

cerned more with the deeds of men on God's earth. The tone

of the Hal text, however, is one that might be expected from

the Hermit of Greenwich.

By contrast, the L11 scribe's "much unique editing,"

like that of the Ps scribe, shows more awareness of and

concern for the sense rather than the sentiment of the KnT.

His more than sixty unique substantive variants are pri-

marily intended as improvements of meaning: replacing un-

familiar with familiar words, interchanging general and

specific words, trimming words to simplify the text, or

adding explanatory words to complete the sense. Moreover,

in three distinct variants the L11 scribe manifests an

over-all concern for the KnT as a philosophical romance of

the noble life--an attention to the text and tale not only

exceptional among scribes32 but also in the mainstream of

current criticism.3 The first two variants occur near the

end of part one when, after Arcite's release, Palamon ad-

dresses the cruel gods, lamenting the just man's plight in

contrast to beasts and criminals (1.1313-1333). In the

descriptive clause modifying the "cruel goddes that gouerne /


This world with byndyng of you're word eterne," the L1l scribe

replaces "word" with "lufe"; later in the complaint, when

Palamon states that man must curb his will whereas "a beest

may al his lust fulfille" the L11 scribe replaces "lust"

again with "luf." Together these editorial changes empha-

size the role of love throughout creation and foreshadow

in clearest terms the solemn speech of Theseus to the First

Mover who "Whan he first made the faire cheyne of loue /

Greet was theffect and high was his entente" (1.2988-2989).

The third editorial variant occurs in part three when the

battle ranks of knights are forming to decide the question

of who marries Emelye. The Knight-narrator exclaims:

And sikerly their trowed many a man
That neuere sithen that the world bigan
As for to speke of knyghthod of hir hond
As fer as god hath maked see and lond
Nas of so fewe so noble a compaignye
For euery wight that loued chiualrye
And wolde his thanks han a passant name
Hath preyed that he myghte been of that game
And wel was hym that their to chosen was

To the temporal-spatial panorama that is already achieved

to emphasize the excellence of nobility at "that game" the

L11 scribe shows his comprehension of the passage's uni-

versal significance by altering the expression "euery wight

that loued chiualrye" to "euery wight that is made that

lufes chiualrye," thus strengthening the notion of a First

Mover to whom the noble life is best and who, therefore, made

men who would love and strive to achieve such a life.

Even more important than the significant differences

between the Hal scribe's and the L1 scribe's textual trans-

missions of the KnT is the striking omission of all fabliaux

in any of the nineteen manuscripts which excerpt Canterbury

tales for inclusion in their compilations. The scribes,

as tellers of tales, have chosen to transmit only the most

proper and edifying tales, omitting entirely the MillT, RvT,

CkT, FrT, SumT, MerchT, SqT, PhysT, PardT, ShipT, Thop, NPT,

CYT, and MancT. As might be expected, the scribes, as

tellers of tales, are much less diversified in their tastes

than the pilgrims and certainly less experimental than

Chaucer, the maker of both tales and tellers.

The next tale selected by scribes for inclusion in

their compilations is the MLT. The Ha1 scribe compiles it

in his anthology of Chaucer's romances which contains

Troilus, KnT, MLT, WBT, C1T, and FranklT. Making only four

unique but inconsequential editorial changes, the Ha1 scribe,

by the context into which he includes the MLT, interprets

the tale as a romance.

For the scribe of Cambridge University MS. Ee.2.15 (Ee),

however, the MLT is incorporated into a four-booklet collec-

tion of moral or religious tales and treatises including,

in order, a fragment of Mirk's Festial, the MLT entitled

"Costauns," a fragment of "Three Questions" from Confessio

Amantis (1.3067-3402), Lydgate's lives of St. Edmund and

St. Fremund, "The Charter of Fefment of the Sowle," and a

legend of St. Augustine of Canterbury. By placing the MLT

in such a context and by making more than forty editorial

changes in the text, mostly for clarity, explanation, or

elaboration, often of religious matters, the Ee scribe

narrates the MLT more as a romantic tale of piety than as

the romance transcribed by the Ha1 scribe in his Chaucer

anthology. What is one man's romance is another's piety

and the difference appears in the telling.

The HaI scribe, already discussed for his transmission

of the KnT and the MLT, is exceptional among the various

scribes who compiled the nineteen manuscripts of this study.

He alone has compiled an exclusively Chaucerian anthology

and he alone has excerpted more than two tales for compila-

tion. Although uninteresting as a transmitter of texts,

the Ha1 scribe is valuable to us as a compiler who has

selected certain tales, omitted others, and by these choices

indicated a particular reading of the Canterbury Tales.

Discussed earlier as indicative of medieval taste and popu-

larity with regard to the Canterbury Tales, the Ha1 scribe's

selection of tales also implies a reading of that famous

series of tales known as the Marriage Group. His selection


of only three of the tales in the Marriage Group, those tales

that are romances, and his omission of the dramatic links,

especially the Wife of Bath's Prologue, indicate a sense of

coherence and unity other than organic or dramatic. His

Chaucer anthology possesses a unity based on genre, all six

pieces being romances of one sort or another. His lack of

any significant editorial variants--the two most striking

alterations being the common occurrence of beginning the

KnT at 1.893 and the six spurious lines which capsulize the

opening of the FranklT (V.629-788)--manifests a common under-

standing and presentation of the selected tales.

The C1T, also transmitted by the Hal scribe with only

four insignificant variants, is selected by four other

scribes for inclusion in compilations. With Melibee, also

excerpted five times, the C1T is second in "popularity" to

the PrT which is included in six separate compilations.

The five distinct scribes of the C1T, as tellers of the tale,

furnish evidence justifying the two major interpretations of

contemporary critics. The four scribes of Ha1, L11, Ph4

and Ra4, all transmit the C1T as an exemplary religious

fable after the manner of Petrarch. Both in text and in

context each scribe indicates a conventional religious

rendering of the tale. The Ra4 scribe, in fact, adds to

the conclusion three spurious lines which emphasize the

moral lesson to be learned:

But yet god graunt vs grace to make good ende
And bryng vs oute of euery bale
And euer to haue pacience in oure mynde34

Neither the presence (in Ha ) nor absence (in Lll, Ph4, and

Ra ) of the Wife of Bath stanza, not the Envoy with its

Archwives stanza in place (in Hal and Ph4) or after E.1212

(in L11 and Ra4)--nothing of the satirical or realistic

counterpoint as implied by the Clerk himself prevents these

four scribes from presenting the C1T as a religious fable

in compilations that are predominantly moral and religious.

The Np scribe, however, whose wit is earlier manifest

in a ditty inserted after his transcription of Libeus Dis-

conyus,35 transmits the C1T more in the spirit of the pil-

grim Clerk. He begins only at line E.92, as if he refuses

to be fooled by the false occupatio of the "prohemye" about

which the Clerk says:

And trewely as to my iuggement
Me thynketh it a thyng inpartinent

His conclusion, moreover, firmly indicates his appreciation

of the satirical value of the C1T. After concluding the

tale both with the inclusion of the Wife of Bath stanza

and with the Archwives stanza in place, plus the seven lines

of the Host's stanza, the Np scribe writes "in large

flourished letters": "Explicit ffinus [sic]" (Here is the

end). Then he adds directly below: "Hic pennam fixi penitet

me si male scripci qd Mprf[More]" (Here I set down my pen.

It grieves me to have written so poorly says More). After

a tiny sketch of a long-eared quadruped followed by the year

1457 on the same line, and the digits one to ten on another

line, the Np scribe pens his critical comment on the CIT in

the form of the Envoy from Lydgate's satirical poem "Beware of


O ye wymmen, which been enclyned,
Bi influence of 3oure nature,
To bene as pure as gool fined,
In 3oure strenght for to endure
Arme you're silfe in strong armoure,
Lest men assaile your sikirnesse,
Set on 3oure brest 3our silve to assure
A myghti schilde of doblenesse.36

Both Envoys of Chaucer and Lydgate, in a delightful tone of

grave irony,37 encourage women to be true to themselves, to

their highh prudence," their "sikirnesse." By thus

juxtaposing the Envoy and the tale, the real and the ideal,

Chaucer, Lydgate, the pilgrim Clerk, and the Np scribe force

a comparison and choice. Elizabeth Salter has aptly

described the effect:

The taking of a common-sense view (such
as the Wife of Bath, with her reliance
upon 'experience,' would have approved)
and the exaggeration of it until it be-
comes entirely ludicrous and grotesque
are, in fact, ways of defending the
basic premises of the Griselda story.

Realism is pressed so far that idealism
begins to seem desirable--even accessible.

The C1T becomes, then, indeed ironic and satirical, but not

of the conventional fable nor of the religious idealism it

embodies--though Chaucer's pen is, here as elsewhere, a

two-edged sword cutting heavily in one direction and ever

so slightly in the other. Rather, the C1T, as the Np scribe

understands and transcribes it, makes Griselda "a more

acceptable, less preposterous creation than the Wife of

Bath and 'archewyves' of her kind."39 The several scribes

of the CIT have indeed rendered the tale with some important


Quite the opposite tendency is manifest in the six

separate texts of the PrT. This popular Canterbury tale

receives basically the same handling from the six scribes

who include it in their various compilations. In their

transcription of the text the scribes of Ct and Kk intro-

1 2 3
duce no editorial variants. The scribes of H1 H2, H13

and Ra4 introduce, respectively, only seventeen, seven, two,

and nine editorial variants, all of which aim to make the

sense clearer by alteration of words or expressions and

none of which contribute to a telling of the PrT as anything

other than the pious legend that it is--notwithstanding the

host of modern interpretations with which Florence H. Ridley

so aptly deals in defense of the conventional presentation

which each of the six scribes render for the PrT.40

From the context, however, into which the six scribes

as compilers set the Prioress's pious legend, evidence indi-

cates various emphases in their appreciation of the tale,

aspects of interest in the tale which perhaps led four of

the six scribes to excerpt and include the PrT in their

compilations. In the Kk and the Ra4 compilations, where

the PrT is respectively a fragment and a mutilated text,

there is no indication of any particular interpretation,

much less emphasis, of the tale. In Ct, however, as

described in Chapter II, the PrT is among five other saints'

lives and is thus included particularly as a saint's life.

In HI the PrT, under the title "Alma Redemptoris Mater,"

is transcribed between two penitential poems entitled "Do

mercy to fore thi Jugement" and "In thy most health wisely

be ware." In such a context the PrT becomes an exemplary

tale manifesting the Blessed Virgin Mary's mercy on her

faithful, as is abundantly clear in the antiphon to Hugh of

Lincoln, praying him to intercede "That of his mercy God

so merciable / On us his grete mercy multiple / For rever-

ence of his mooder Marie / Amen" (VII.1878-1880).

In HI2, a large anthology of one hundred and thirty-

eight verse pieces, the first of the two scribes who compile

the manuscript41 includes the PrT in a series of miracle


fol. 71b Story of Dan Joos a monk whose
devotion to the BVM is rewarded
when upon his death red roses
spring from his mouth, eyes,
and ears with the name of Mary
engraved upon them in gold.

fol. 73b PrT

fol. 78 How a man of Paris who prayed
to souls in Purgatory was pur-
sued by his enemies to a church-
yard where the dead rose from
their graves and saved him.

fol. 78b A similar tale about wulfrike a
Wiltshire priest whose prayers
for poor souls were rewarded when
upon his dying they arise to pray
for him.42

The H12 scribe has selected the PrT primarily as a miracle

tale and has thus given the tale a slightly modified empha-

sis in his telling.

The H13 scribe transcribes the PrT in his own manner

including the PrT as the first of three tales about martyrs,

the other two being the SNT entitled "Vita Sancte Cecilie"

and "De Sancto Erasmo Martire."43 In such a context the H1

scribe tells the PrT as a martyr's life bearing witness to

Christ and Mary.44 In the PrT, then, in contrast to the

divergent interpretations given for the CIT, there are

similar interpretations. The only differences which occur


are emphases of appreciation, focusing on the PrT "in sondry

wyse" as a saint's life, a tale of Mary's mercy, a miracle

story, and a martyr's life.

The text of Melibee, like that of the PrT, receives a

transmission free from divergent interpretations. In three

instances, however, scribes modify the tale's significance

by placing it in specific articulation to larger and dif-

ferent contexts. The Sl3 scribe and the Ar scribe make

fewer than ten editorial variants; and, the compilers of

these two manuscripts include Melibee as a moral treatise

or tale among works of a similar nature.4 The Sl3 scribe,

in a small, neat, cursive hand, copies perhaps from the same

exemplar as El and thus renders important textual trans-

mission.46 The Ar text, though showing signs of corrections

by the scribe and another, remains corrupt and is mutilated

at line VII.2967.47 In the hands of both the Sl3 scribe

and the Ar scribe, Melibee is transmitted in its conventional

text and context.

Three of the five scribes, however, who transmit

Melibee in miscellanies incorporate this tale into a specific

form and context for their own particular purposes. In Pp,

Melibee, together with the ParsProl and Tale, forms the dis-

tinct middle of a three-part anthology of mostly Chaucerian,

some Lydgate, and other pieces. In the absence of any

evidence indicating a particular emphasis in the tale, the

context in which Melibee is transmitted indicates its

probable selection as representative of Chaucer's prose.

For, despite the inclusion of the seventy-four lines of

the ParsProl, and the implications in the ParsProl and the

explicit of Melibee that Thopas and MancT were told,48 the

fact is that only the two prose pieces are excerpted for

part two of the Pp manuscript, while part one features

miscellaneous prose and poetry, and part three consists

exclusively of Chaucer's short poems.

The St scribe, discussed earlier for his art of sig-

nificant omission, treats Melibee not only as a serious

piece of moralizing. But, by the spurious line which he

adds to the last line, he gives further emphasis to the

religious conclusion:

For douteless if we be sory and repentant
of the synnes and giltes which we han
trespased in the sighte of our lord god
[3075] / he is so free and so merciable /
that he wole foryeuen vs oure giltes /
and bryngen vs to the blisse that neuere
hath ende [spurious line] To the wiche
blis he vs bryng jat blood on be crosse
for vs spreinde cryst Iesus.4

In contrast to the religious emphasis, which the St scribe

gives to Melibee, is the fifth and final scribe's stress

on its proverbial wisdom. Copier and compiler of the com-

plete manuscript, the Hn scribe almost divides the compila-


tion into two equal parts. The first consists of religious

pieces, such as Lichfield's "Complaint Between God and Man,"

a debate by the Four Daughters of God, and several stories

revolving about the life of Christ. The second part begins

with Melibee, under the title of "Proverbis," followed by

the MkT; it includes mostly moral verses, such as Burgh's

"Greater and Lesser Cato," Lydgate's "Churl and Bird,"

"Horse, Sheep and Goose," and some concluding verses of

miscellaneous character.50 The Hn scribe, while not editing

as largely as the St scribe, makes fifty cuts from one to

thirty lines and edits, by alteration or expansion, some

seventy times. While his much edited transmission of the

text shows no great difference in his telling of the tale,

it does manifest a marked interest in making the tale clear

and understandable. Thus, when the Hn scribe concludes

with the Explicit, "They that this present and forseyde tale

haue or shal Reede Remembyr the noble prouerbis that rebukyth

Couetise and vengeanse takyng in trustee of Fortune which

hathe causyd many a noble prince to fall as we may rede of

them here folluyng,"51 he is setting Melibee in a context

which stresses the tale as proverbial wisdom. Moreover, the

Hn scribe has omitted the dramatic link between Melibee and

the MkT and created his own non-dramatic, thematic link

expressive of a different concept of unity or coherence of

tales than that which many contemporary critics would pro-


The MkT, as transmitted by the Hn scribe under the

title "The falle of Princis,"52 and linked to Melibee by the

moralistic passage just cited, becomes a series of caution-

ary tales showing what happens to men who, unlike Melibee,

cast their fate with Fortune and, consequently, fall. Like

the scribe of Tc3, discussed in Chapter II and the only other

scribe to excerpt the MkT, the Hn scribe eliminates the

dramatic prologue to the MkT, which presents the on-going

banter among the pilgrims, to begin with the tale proper

(VII.3181). While both scribes eliminate the dramatic

dimensions of the MkT, however, each presents the tale

with a difference. The Hn scribe sets the tale in a highly

moralistic context and renders an interpretation of the

tale as a de casibus tract in the Boccaccian tradition;

the Tc3 scribe sets the tale in a poetry anthology and

thus implies a narrative concern in the Chaucerian tradition.53

A difference similar to that between the Tc3 and the

Hn versions of the MkT exists between the only two excerpted

textual transmissions of the ParsT. The Pp scribe, as dis-

cussed earlier in this chapter for his telling of Melibee,

selects the only two prose tales from the Canterbury Tales

and compiles them in a separate middle section of a three-

part anthology, a section featuring Chaucer's prose. This

implied stylistic concern is in direct contrast to the

strictly religious presentation of the ParsT in L12, a mis-

cellany of religious prose and verse in English and Latin.54

In this compilation, most likely made in a monastery by a

number of monks and containing all of Richard Rolle's

English works except his English Psalter, the scribe who

copies the ParsT, if he does know of Chaucer and of the

ParsT as such, makes no mention of these facts. He simply

entitles the tale as a treatise, "Prima pars penitencie,"

and obviously tells it as an ethical treatise. It is a

mild irony of textual transmission, then, that the Pp text

includes the Retraction which, for all its religious import,

is omitted in the L12 text, perhaps because it was not in

the copy-text, perhaps because it was not part of "Prima

pars penitencie."

All the tales selected, transmitted, and compiled in

the nineteen manuscripts containing only excerpts from the

Canterbury Tales have been examined with attention to the

scribal processes which are responsible for their existence.

The conclusions of such an examination ought to be taken

in the spirit in which Chaucer first proffered his tales,

a spirit which places a healthy restraint on critics:

But first I pray yow of you're curteisye
That ye narette it nat my vileynye
Thogh that I pleynly speke in this matere
To telle yow hir words and hir cheere
Ne though I speke hir words proprely
For this ye known also wel as I
Who so shal telle a tale after a man
He moot reherce as neigh as euere he kan
Euerich a word if it be in his charge
Al speke he neuere so rudeliche and large
Or ellis he moot telle his tale vntrewe
Or feyne thyng or fynde words newe

The most obvious conclusion is that the scribes as

Chaucer's early audience, his first critics, and successive

tellers of the Canterbury tales, do not consider the Can-

terbury Tales as an inviolable organic whole. Even the

scribes of the fifty-five manuscripts containing more or

less complete versions of the Canterbury Tales have been

shown to possess no firm sense of unity either in the

entire work or in the tales themselves.55 Nor does any

one of the scribes excerpting tales sense any dramatic

principle. They do, however, both in their textual trans-

missions and in the contexts of their compilations, indi-

cate a sense of other unities, other principles of order

and arrangement, other interpretive concerns: thematic,

didactic, moral, religious, satirical, generic, and

stylistic. Considered as tellers of tales, then, these

scribes serve as invaluable contemporary interpreters of

the Canterbury Tales. They help to restore trust and


primary attention to the tales. They best prepare the

reader to appreciate the dynamics of Chaucer's narrative

art, the creation of "sondry talys" "in sondry wyse of

sondry folk." As its title suggests, the Canterbury Tales

is--at least as much, if not more--about its tales rather

than its tellers.


1Major reviews of Chaucerian scholarship and criticism
in which the trend to seek the unity of the Canterbury Tales
can be found are: Albert C. Baugh, "Fifty Years of Chaucer
Scholarship," Speculum 26 (1951), 659-672; Rob Roy Purdy,
"Chaucer Scholarship in England and America: A Review of
Recent Trends," Anglia 70 (1951), 345-381; Charles Muscatine,
"Chaucer in an Age of Criticism," MLQ 25 (1964), 473-478;
William R. Crawford, Bibliography of Chaucer: 1954-63
(Seattle and London, 1967), xiii-xl; Meredith Thompson,
"Current and Recurrent Fallacies in Chaucer Criticism" in
Essays in American and English Literature Presented to Bruce
Robert McElderry, Jr., ed. Max F. Schulz with William D.
Templeman and Charles Metzger (Athens, Ohio, 1967), pp. 141-

2George Lyman Kittredge, "Chaucer's Discussion of
Marriage," MP 9 (1912), 435-467; since then this article
has been reprinted in several recent anthologies.

3R. M. Lumiansky, Of Sondry Folk: The Dramatic Princi-
ple in the Canterbury Tales (Austin, 1955); Ralph Baldwin,
The Unity of the Canterbury Tales, Anglistica, 5 (Copenhagen,

4Robert M. Jordan, Chaucer and the Shape of Creation:
Some Aesthetic Possibilities of Inorganic Structure (Cam-
bridge, Mass., 1967), pp. 113, 115.

5Charles Muscatine, Chaucer and the French Tradition:
A Study in Style and Meaning (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1957;
paperback, 1969); see particularly pp. 166-173.

6D. W. Robertson, Jr., A Preface to Chaucer: A Study
in Medieval Perspectives (Princeton, Oxford, 1963); Robert
O. Payne, The Key of Remembrance: A Study of Chaucer's
Poetics (New Haven and London, 1963).

7Paul G. Ruggiers, The Art of the Canterbury Tales
(Madison and Milwaukee, 1965), p. xiii.

8Ruggiers, p. xviii.

Robert M. Jordan, op. cit.; Elizabeth Salter, "Medieval
Poetry and the Visual Arts," Essays and Studies, 22 (London,
1969), 16-32.

1Muscatine, Chaucer and the French Tradition, p. 247.

J1ordan, p. 130.

12Salter p. 29.

1Salter, p. 29.

4Salter, p. 31.

15Baugh, pp. 668-669; Purdy, p. 346.

1For a more thorough view of the scribe as critic, see
Judson B. Allen, The Friar As Critic: Literary Attitudes
in the Later Middle Ages (Nashville, 1971).

7Some essential articles on the order and arrangement
of the Canterbury Tales are in chronological order: F. J. A.
Furnivall, A Temporary Preface to the Chaucer Society's
Six-Text Edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Chaucer
Society Publications, 2nd Ser., No. 3 (London, 1868); Henry
Bradshaw, "The Skeleton of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales,"
Collected Papers of Henry Bradshaw (Cambridge, 1889), pp.
102-148; Eleanor P. Hammond, "On the Order of the Canterbury
Tales," MP 3 (1905-06), 159-178; J. S. P. Tatlock, The De-
velopment and Chronology of Chaucer's Works, Chaucer Society
Publications, 2nd Ser., No. 37 (London, 1907), 131-219;
W. W. Skeat, The Evolution of the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer
Society Publications, 2nd Ser., No. 38 (London, 1907);
Carleton Brown, "The Evolution of the Canterbury Marriage
Groups," PMLA, 48 (1933), 1041-1059; J. S. P. Tatlock, "The
Canterbury Tales in 1400," PMLA, 50 (1935), 100-139; Carleton
Brown, "The Man of Law's Headlink and the Prologue of the
Canterbury Tales," SP 34 (1937), 8-35; M-R, II (1940), pp.
474-518; Germaine Dempster, "Manly's Conception of the Early
History of the Canterbury Tales," PMLA 61 (1946), 379-415;
Germaine Dempster, "A Chapter in the Manuscript History of
the Canterbury Tales: The Ancestor of Group d, the Origin

of its Texts, Tale-order, and Spurious Links," PMLA 63 (1948),
456-484; Germaine Dempster, "The Fifteenth-Century Editors of
the Canterbury Tales and the Problem of Tale Order," PMLA,
64 (1949), 1123-1142; W. W. Lawrence, "The Sequence of the
Tales" in his Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales (New York,
1950), pp. 90-118; Robert A. Pratt, "The Order of the Can-
terbury Tales," PMLA 66 (1951), 1141-1167; Charles A. Owen,
Jr., "The Development of the Canterbury Tales," JEGP 57
(1958), 449-476; Charles A. Owen, Jr., "The Earliest Plan
of the Canterbury Tales," Medieval Studies 21 (1959), 202-
210; Donald C. Baker, "The Bradshaw Order of the Canterbury
Tales: A Dissent," NM 63 (1962), 245-261; Jun Sudo, "The
Order of the Canterbury Tales Reconsidered," HSELL, 10 (1963),

18Elizabeth Salter's remarks on "the need of the pre-
sent-day critic to find 'unity'" versus "less pressure on
the medieval writer than upon later writers to demonstrate
over-all unity by any sort of cohesive methods" are in-
structive. Suggesting that "there is also no very sharp
distinction between the compiler of materials written by
others, and the creative artist," she states: ". . we
must beware of assuming it necessary to prove the unity of
the whole composition by sophisticated aesthetic theory;
since it is possible that Chaucer felt himself to be more
in the position of the compiler of a miscellany than, for
instance, in that of the architect of a Gothic cathedral."
Salter, pp. 24-25.

19That medieval readers did not fail to see dramatic
linking in the Canterbury Tales, but also that they saw
other principles of unity--thematic, generic, dogmatic,
stylistic--is suggested by the following manuscript examples.
The dramatic principle is especially evident in MS. La which
supplies a full set of spurious links and indicates a readi-
ness to complete the CkT and SqT. Several manuscripts mani-
fest a generic interest and a sense for the kind of unity
that is made fuller by the additive collocation of more tales.
Such manuscripts are, for example, N1 which adopts the Tale
of Beryn, Ch which adopts Hoccleve's Sleeveless Garment story
as a Plowman's Tale, the twenty-five manuscripts which add
the Tale of Gamelyn as the CkT, and the two manuscripts,
Adl and En which add Lydgate's Siege of Troy as the last of
the Canterbury Tales. Ha3 shows its dogmatic preoccupation
in its revisions and excisions of objectionable parts of
the tales. Jean of Angouleme's Ps indicates its generic and
stylistic concerns by the omission of displeasing tales and

the editorial corrections and alterations to suit the noble
taste. More detailed instances of scribal reactions to, and
interest in, individual tales from the Canterbury Tales fol-
low in this chapter.

20J. S. P. Tatlock and A. G. Kennedy, A Concordance to
the Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer and to the Romaunt
of the Rose (Washington, 1927) proves the many uses to which
Chaucer put the expression "in sondry wyse" and the term

2That the art of story telling is an ordering princi-
ple in Fragment VII is cogently argued in Alan T. Gaylord,
"Sentence and Solaas in Fragment VII of the Canterbury Tales:
Harry Bailly as Horseback Editor," PMLA 82 (1967), 226-235.
Therein he states that "the shape of the whole of F VII, or,
more accurately, the shape of the ideas and themes which hold
it together, seems to me controlled by a single, though ad-
mittedly very broad subject: the art of story telling"
(p. 226). Moreover, if Fragment VII properly belongs, as
its alias B2 indicates and as Robert A. Pratt demonstrates
in "The Order of the Canterbury Tales," PMLA, 66 (1951),
1141-1167, after Fragment II (BI), then, together with the
other references in Fragments I and II, there is every
reason to believe that the art of story telling is indeed
an ordering principle of the entire Canterbury Tales.

22The focus of this study on scribal interpretations
of the Canterbury Tales, as implied by their selection and
transmission of certain tales in numerous texts and con-
texts, is just one approach to an appreciation of Chaucer's
narrative art. The more frequently used approaches are com-
parisons among the tales themselves and comparisons of the
tales with their sources or analogues.

2For definition and examples of the exemplary figure,
see Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin
Middle Ages, trans., Williard R. Trask (1953; rpt., New
York and Evanston, 1963), pp. 59ff, 81, 95, 98f, 110, 114n,
118, 120, 179, 362-364, 549f.

2Numerous examples of the medievalization of Boethius'
Consolation of Philosophy into a consolation of religion
are found in two unpublished type scripts of Dr. Richard A.
Dwyer: "The Appreciation of Handmade Literature"; Boece de
Confort: A Study of Medievalization by Narrative.

5M-R, I, pp. 190, 341.

M-R, II, p. 49.

M-R, I, pp. 190-191.

28Martin M. Crow, "Unique Variants in the Paris Manu-
script of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales," The University of
Texas Studies in English, No. 16 (Austin, 1936), p. 18.

29Crow, p. 27; the lines are A1474, A1793, and A2603.

30In the standard text, "romen" occurs in the following
lines: A1065, A1069, A1071, A1099, A1113, and A1119.

31See OED, mew, V.3 with suggestive sense cf V.2

320n most scribes' general view of a text, Kane says,
"Scribes did not see their alterations in any large rela-
tion to one another. Their view of the copy seems gener-
ally to have been limited to the single line, and seldom
to any appreciably larger unit." Kane, p. 145.

See Muscatine, Chaucer and the French Tradition,
pp. 175-190: Ruggiers, pp. 151-166; The Chaucer Review,
Vol. 3, No. 2 (1968) devotes its entire issue to the KnT.

34McCormick, p. 557.

35M-R, I, p. 378.

36David Laing, "Notice of an Old English Manuscript in
the Royal Library at Naples," in Reliquiae Antiquae: Scraps
from Ancient Manuscripts Illustrating Chiefly Early English
Literature and the English Language, eds., Thomas Wright and
James Orchard Halliwell, Vol. 2 (London, 1845), p. 70. For
the complete poem, see Henry N. MacCracken, The Minor Poems
of John Lydgate, EETS, O.S., 192 (London, 1934), 438-442.

37That grave irony is indeed the tone in which these
passages were intended is implied by the title and running
glosses in several of the Lydgate manuscripts (Bodley
Fairfax 16, Ashmole 59, and B. M. Adds. 16165), indicating
that the poem speaks "per antifrasim," the envoy of which
poem the Np scribe consequently uses to comment on the CIT.

38Elizabeth Salter, Chaucer: The Knight's Tale and
The Clerk's Tale (London, 1962), p. 64.

39Salter, Chaucer, p. 65. It might be added here that
a third interpretation, that implied by the Host's and the
Merchant's responses, is taken by none of the scribes.
This interpretation is the purely bourgeois, secular,
realistic viewpoint which sees the tale neither as Petrarch';3
religious fable nor as the Clerk's ideal standard, but as
a reality oft to be wished for between husbands and wives.
The Host manifests the same limited view in his response to

40Florence H. Ridley, The Prioress and Her Critics
(Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1965).

41For a thorough description of this manuscript, plus
a discussion of the first scribe (Hand A), see Eleanor
Prescott Hammond, "Two British Museum Manuscripts (Harley
2251 and Add. 34360): A Contribution to the Bibliography
of John Lydgate," Anqlia, Neue Folge, 16 (1905), 1-28.

4A Catalogue of the Harley MSS in the British Museum,
(London, 1808), II, 579.

43For more detailed information, see ibid., p. 675.

44The same difference in the Ct and H13 versions of
the PrT holds for their transmissions of the SNT, elimina-
ting the necessity for a separate discussion later of the
SNT as told with significant differences.

45For exact contents, see M-R, I, pp. 515, 52.

46M-R, I, p. 516.

M-R, I, p. 53. An interesting contrast is the un-
interesting corrections of Ar's two readers and the
Duxworth-Angouleme team who write and correct the Ps manu-

48The argument that Pp simply copies from an exemplar
in which such an order exists is--except for the absence of
mentioned tales in Pp--possible and leads to the interesting
fact that only the Hg manuscript has such an order (M-R, I,
p. 270; Eleanor Prescott Hammond, review of John Koch, A
Detailed Comparison of the Eight Manuscripts of Chaucer's
Canterbury Tales completely printed in the Publications of
the Chaucer Society (Heidelberg, 1913) in Beiblatt zur
Anglia, 25 (1914), 234-239. Given the extremely complex

textual tradition of this tale (M-R, II, p. 371), a Hg
line of ancestry is as probable as any other.

49M-R, IV, pp. 214-215; VII, p. 460.

50For a complete description, see M-R, I, p. 289 and
the Catalogue of the Famous Library of Printed Books, Illu-
minated Manuscripts, Autograph Letters and Engravings col-
lected by Henry Huth and since maintained and augmented by
his son Alfred H. Huth (London, 1917), III, 1662-1663.

51McCormick, p. 543.

52McCormick, p. 543; M-R, I, p. 289.

53For the earlier discussion of these traditions be-
hind the MkT, see Chapter II, p. 41, 24n.

54For a description of contents, see M-R, I, pp. 343-
348 and Hope Emily Allen, Writings Ascribed to Richard Rolle,
PMLA, Monograph Series III (New York and London, 1927),
pp. 34-36.

5Dempster, "Manly's Conception of the Early History
of the Canterbury Tales," PMLA, 61 (1946), esp. pp. 401-403,


As has become abundantly clear in the preceding chap-

ters, the scribal art of textual transmission manifests

itself in two basic processes: the transmission of a text

and the arrangement of that text in a context. Of the two

processes, in the case of the nineteen manuscripts in this

study, the more interesting and fruitful is the latter

process of compilation. By their transmission of the text,

with whatever editorial addition, alterations, and omis-

sions they made, the scribes of these nineteen manuscripts

have shown their interest and their understanding or mis-

understanding of specific passages in various Canterbury

tales. It is, however, by their arrangement of these tales

into various contexts that they have indicated most clearly

their understanding and appreciation of whole tales. Hence

the importance of responding to the questions posed by

R. H. Bowers:

. do students always pay sufficient
attention to the total contents of a
given medieval manuscript, which, as a


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