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REVIEWS DONALD C. BAKER, ed. The Manciple's Tale, A Variorum Edition ofthe Works ofGeoffrey Chaucer, Vol. 2, The Canterbury Tales, Part 10. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984. Pp. xxvii, 146. $28.50. With this variorum edition of The Manciple's Prologue and Tale, Donald C. Baker has earned the gratitude of all scholars interested in this area of Chaucer's work. Though this may not be the richest of Chaucer's tales, it raises a number of problems which the editor addresses with thoroughness and good sense. Much of the Textual Commentary is relatively unexciting and routinethe descriptions of the "base-ten" manuscripts on which the edition is established and the account of previous printed editions. As is evident from the many cross references, a lot of this section is based on Manly and Rickert's The Text ofthe Canterbury Tales (1940). But Baker signals his independence when he examines critically their view that the text of The Manciple's Prologue and the text of the Tale derived from different textual traditions. That there is a case he does not deny: "...there is some evidence for a slightly more complex textual tradition of affiliation for the Prologue than for the Tale" (p. 42). But he demonstrates clearly that the weight of the evidence was overestimated by Manly and Rickert, largely, he believes, because of a literary "prejudice"; they assumed, following Manly's influential "Chaucer and the Rhetoricians" lecture (1926), that because the Tale was full of rhetorical figures and because it depended on Le Roman de la Rose it must have belonged to Chaucer's early periods, whereas the Prologue was held to be later because of its highly developed naturalism. Those who, like the present writer, are on record as believing that the Prologue and Tale form a cogent literary entity, will take comfort from Baker's findings, which are convincing. There is no reason for assum­ ing, on textual grounds, that the fragment was not planned and executed as a whole. In line with what has become the current conventional wisdom and in line with the general practice of the variorum editors of The Canterbury Tales, Baker relies on the Hengwrt MS as the basis for his text. And he treats it very conservatively. He emends only on five occasions, four involv161 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER ing obvious scribal slips, and one because the Hengwrt copyist at line 256 could not bring himself to write swyve, a word he clearly regarded as obscene.Baker rejects all the Ellesmere MS variants, usually rightly, but surely not at line 147, which in Hengwrt reads: But al for naught, for it availeth noght. The Ellesmere MS reads, "But al yn ydel... ," as do a number of others. Baker says thatthe Hengwrt readingis "more emphatic and suitable for the repetitiousManciple" (p.101).This may beso.But what makes one uneasy about accepting this reading is the fact that, ifit is an error,it is very easy to see how it came about: "for naught" may be the result of anticipatory attraction with "for ... noght" in the second half ofthe line. The reading "yn ydel" is meaningful and elegant.What is more, ifit is an error, it is not easy to see how it could have arisen-unless as a result of the deliberate alteration of a line which an early copyist found clumsy. Generally, however, the text is not problematical, except where the Manciple's fragment relates to what comes before and after it. In most manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales this fragment precedes The Parson's Prologue and Tale, but not in Hengwrt, perhaps because of disordering among the sections. The opening line of The Parson's Prologue refers back to the "Maunciple" as having toldtheprevioustale, but the word is written over an erasure. There have been various suggestions about the original reading-"Frankeleyn," "Marchaunt," and "Yeoman" have all been sug­ gested. Baker rehearses the various arguments but does not speculate further. nor does he say very much about what precedes the Manciple's fragment, though a reliance on Hengwrt raises the problem in a particu­ larly acute form: here the Canon's Yeoman's fragment, its...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 161-163
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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