In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews 191 the introduction and the scene-setting chapters at the beginning of each part could have benefited from being traceable through the index. Christopher Wortham Department of English University of Western AustraUa English Writers of the Late Middle Ages (Authors of the Middle Ages Vol. m , 7-11), ed. M . C. Seymour: N o 7, N. F. Blake, William Caxton; No. 8, W e n d y Scase, Reginald Pecock; No. 9, Douglas Gray, William Dunbar; No. 10, Douglas Gray, Robert Henryson; No. 11, M . C. Seymour, John Capgrave, Aldershot, Variorum, 1996; board; pp. 256; R.R.P. £39.50. This compact book, essentially a reference volume, in the laudable • series, English Writers of the Late Middle Ages, from Variorum is a laminated boards coUection of what would otherwise be five slim monographs. They foUow on the numbered earlier volumes—of literary criticism; of bibUography; and on Mandevflle, Trevisa, Langland, and Hoccleve. Thus, being parts of a most comprehensive and inter-related series, they have a lean format, including: known details of the m a n and his life; an appendix containing relevant documents; and a bibliography in sections. The whole is edited by M . C. Seymour, as are the parts, the latter also having an additional pagination for their use separately. Before considering these discrete parts, it m a y be appropriate to compare their more sober tone and much more substantial scholarly apparatus to the hitherto standard reference volume H. S. Bennett's Chaucer and the Fifteenth Century (1947). That charming companion volume n o w seems redolent of the impressionistic scholarship of a much earlier day. W u h a m Caxton, contributed by Professor N. F. Blake, contains, as might well be expected, very m u c h the longest biographical and cultural essay on its subject, particularly in its sections on 'Merchant and Merchant Adventurer', 'Cologne and the Final Days in Bruge', and, particularly, on the Westminster association (pp. 22-38). These much assist us with what Blake is most concerned with, 192 Reviews 'understandmg Caxton against the background of his time' (p. 1), and indicate both the robust man and the busy merchant who i s sometimes forgotten because of the image of the printer. Equally attractive and convincing is the sensitive and even romantic account of Caxton's years in the Low Countries, shedding much light on: the Merchant Adventurers on the Continent, notably at Bruges; the Dukes of Burgundy and their influence on international trade; the unpredictable impact of the factions in the Wars of the Roses on the City of London (p. 13); and Caxton's possible connections with LiUe, Nieuport, Calais and Middleburg, as well as England's relations with the Hanseatic League (pp. 16-17). This cultural probing is both important in understanding Caxton and even more Uluminating of choices made by him in his career as printer, publisher and writer, from the time when he ' f i r s t saw a printed book . . . .Ukely to have been in the 1460s' (p. 19). With his insights into what was fashionable in Flanders, with (royal) patronage, with his developing skills as a translator 'from approved languages such as Latin and French' (p. 22), he would s t i l l remain both a merchant and government agent. His handling of the Troy story is shown to be different 'from those which might be known to his cUentele' (p. 28). The Bruges phase, which produced six books, is foUowed by that at Westminster (1476-1492), when 'afloodof printed material issued from his press' (p. 33), during which he imported considerable numbers of books from the Continent. His lexis is discussed in penetrating fashion—'He shared the common view that EngUsh...needed to be improved....He proffered words of Romance origin and was generally in favour of fashionable words' (p. 36). And Blake interweaves various themes with Caxton's career and culture: Caxton as a significant EngUsh critic (perhaps the first), not least for his concern with moral character; the necessity of patronage i s touched on for many phases of Caxton's Ufe, and the conclusion stresses how we should respond to Caxton as both a medieval and an...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 191-195
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.