The Retraction to the Canterbury Tales, a text in which Geoffrey Chaucer seems to take leave of writing and perhaps life itself, has long been a textual and interpretive problem for scholars. This essay explores the Retraction’s absence from editions of Chaucer printed between 1532 and 1721, reading it alongside the 1561 appearance in print of the short poem Chaucer’s Words Unto Adam, His Own Scriveyn. I argue that, during the Retraction’s absence, Adam Scriveyn came to serve as an alternative scene of authorial leave-taking, and that this allowed for a set of concerns about textual accuracy and a strong desire for authorial control to take the place of the Retraction’s anxieties about reader response. Both the absence of the Retraction and the special placement of Adam Scriveyn should be accounted for when considering early modern readers’ understanding of Chaucer and his works.


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pp. 32-54
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