restricted access Barnabe Riche: his farewell to military profession (review)
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Reviews 137 Beecher, Donald, ed., Barnabe Riche: his farewell to military profession (Publications of the Barnabe Riche Society, Vol. 1), Ottawa, Dovehouse Editions, 1992; cloth & paper; R.R.P. CAN$28.00 (cloth), $12.00 (paper). The Centre for medieval and early Renaissance studies at the State University of N e w York is widely respected for its excellent editions of relatively obscure Tudor works that would otherwise be unavailable to any but the specialist reader. This edition of the relatively little-known fiction of Barnabe Riche (1542-1617), previously only available in T. M . Cranfill's 1959 edition, in particular deserves more than merely academic attention. Riche was the opposite of a university wit, and his long, colourful, and chequered career as soldier, pamphleteer, social climber, satirist, spy, military historian, government informer, and failed pirate (the ship he chartered sank almost immediately) lends his work a narrative zest and colloquial vigour that are far removed from the arid Euphuism, digressive apostrophes, and turgid moralizing of much Elizabethan fiction. Beecher's edition has a substantial scholarly and critical introduction, covering in detail not only Riche's life and work, and the tales in relation to their sources and analogues, but also more general topics such as the development of the novella in England and the Elizabethan debate over fictionality. The text itself is modernized in orthography and punctuation and is fairly lightly annotated, as befits the straightforward prose of a popular writer. It is the annotation of such a text that finally determines its usefulness to student readers in particular, and since it is always easy to cavil at the apparatus of a long work by choosing examples ad libitum, I confine m y comments to Beecher's treatment of 'Of two brethren and their wives', a fabliau which interestingly rewrites the traditional narrative of besieged female chastity that preoccupies many of the other tales. The glosses at the foot of the page are in general well suited to students' needs, although it is rather odd that in the middle of what he describes as 'an eloquent defense of Dorothy's honor in full defiance of the most compromising facts' (p. 89), Beecher glosses the rare word neatified ('by their [women's] industry w e [men] are neatified', p. 246) simply as 'made clean, worthy', completely overlooking the ironic possibilities (intensified by the suggestion of 'beatified') of 'made into neats or cattle; i.e., furnished with horns, cuckolded', an oversight that vitiates his reading of the entire speech. 138 Reviews Longer notes are placed at the end of the book, and while on the whole these are succinct and useful they exhibit at times a kind of fussy pedantry. Take, for example, the narrator's sententia concerning Dorothy's covert infidelities: 'The heart never grieves what the eye sees not' (p. 233). Though grammatically odd, this is perfectly intelligible in its context. The reader w h o nevertheless takes the trouble to seek out the endnote will scarcely feel rewarded to be told that 'Cranfill (p. 290) records that the more common form of the proverb was "what the eye seeth not, the heart rueth not" ' . This note will seem even more pointless to one who recognizes the phrase as idiomatic contemporary British English (as the chef in Fawlty Towers remarks philosophically, 'What the eye don't see, the 'eart don't grieve at'). Given this editorial redundancy, it is curious that there is no note on Riche's remark that the lawyer (one of Dorothy's lovers) 'so handled the matter that he had entered his action in her common place' (p. 239). No doubt the obscenity is self-explanatory, but its particular wit requires an elucidatory note for the m o d e m reader. But it is easy and ungracious to carp at details in a work of this scope. This is, on the whole, an excellent edition of a much undervalued writer. Peter Groves Department of English Monash University Black, Antony, Medieval political thought in Europe, 1250-1450 (Cambridge medieval textbooks), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992; rpt; paper; pp. xii, 211; R.R.P. AUS$29.95. The past few decades have seen an explosion in the...