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REVIEWS trates on variants from the published text, but it may suggest to many readers that the quantity of variants is more important than their quality. Several of the emendations and many of the variants are based on metrical criteria, and it might have been helpful to have a section on meter and how different scribes responded to the meter of the poem. This would have given us some insight into the nature of individual scribes and their manuscripts. The introduction and notes contain an impressive review of scholarship dealing with the poem. Here Pearsall is at his best. His judgments are judicious without in any way being mealymouthed. His reports of previous scholarship are balanced and fair, though it is clear he has little sympathy with some approaches to the poem. All who use this edition will find its breadth of scholarship stimulating. Little seems to have escaped his net. Those works that are not noticed often concern the language of the Tale, such as a series of notes by N. E. Osselton in English Studies on the demonstrative adjective (p. 232), though they do not refer to this particu­ lar example. The printing is reasonably accurate with the majority of the misprints occuring in the lemmas of the apparatus criticus and notes. However, these are small blemishes in a work which provides a vast amount of information in a learned but easy manner. It will no doubt be quarried by scholars for many years to come. N. F. BLAKE University of Sheffield A. G. RIGG and CHARLOTTE BREWER, eds. William Langland, Piers Plowman: The Z Version. Studies and Texts, vol. 59. Toronto: Pon­ tifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1983. Pp. x, 137. $11.00. The editors of this work offer for our consideration what seems, at first glance, a shocking and nearly incredible thesis: that more than one hun­ dred years of academic research and criticism devoted to the three versions of Langland's masterpiece have overlooked the existence of a fourth version of Piers Plowman, which Rigg and Brewer, taking a hint from Walter W. Skeat, have labeled the "Z Version." The arguments assembled in their very learned and judicious introduction aim to convince us that folios 233 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER 124-39 of MS Bodley 851 comprise the earliest known draft of Piers. In marshaling these arguments, they readily acknowledge their debt to the earliereditors, Skeat and George Kane, whose shared opinion concerning Bodley 85l's worthlessness they are seeking to reverse.As they remind us, Skeat had rejected the manuscript out of hand as "mere rubbish, written out from imperfect recollection," whereas Kane rejected it on more specific grounds, calling it a conflated and sophisticated text resembling A more than B or C. There is no doubt that its origin was in the A tradition...That part of the text which is referable to A is much disordered and lacks many lines and passages.... The text there contains many lines not relatable to any version. . . . One possibility is that the early part ofZ was copiedfrom a text produced by someone acquainted with all three versions ofthe poem, literate and able to write tolerable long lines, who was restoring from memory, and occasionally by sophistication, a physically very defective copy. . . ofthe A version. [Quoted in Rigg and Brewer, eds., pp. 9-10; italics added] Taking this suggestion from Kane's discussion, Rigg and Brewer seek to show, by means of various kinds of evidence, that the person likeliest to have served as the creator of Z is none other than the author himself, William Langland. Among their various strands of evidence, perhaps the least compellingis the literary, which is characterized by arguments necessarily subjective: viz.: "There are no signs of 'patching' either where Z lacks passages found in A or where Z has material not found in A....Although the quality of the 'spurious' passages varies, many of them seem to us to be beyond the capacity of someone merely 'literate andabletowritetolerable longlines'" (p. 11). Likewise inconclusive, as the editors acknowledge, is the textual argu­ ment.One can make the readings of Z support several different hypotheses concerning its origins (including Kane's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 233-237
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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