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REVIEWS to be focused on four individual tales. These essays, on The Miller's Tale, The Friar's Tale, The Summoner's Tale, and The Manciple's Prologue and Tale, all appeared originally about two decades after the general essays reprinted in the first half. The notion of "structural irony" as developed in each of these essays covers ground that today might be well advertised as a study of "intertextuality" and "narratology." Birney anticipates the arrival of such hard-core new-age professionalism as our terms imply with what he would still see, I think, as appropriately Chaucerian ironic deflation; gently he lampoons a contemporary critic who "recently observed, with somewhat disingenuous gravity, that Chaucer enriched the irony of Absolom's fate by making him the inhibited 'flatulatee' in contrast to Nicholas, the 'natural' man, the 'flatulator"' (p. 79). From Birney's point of view it must nevertheless appear that the critical voice of the Victorians is distressingly persistent, still as burdened with tomes and terms of post-Romantic German idealism as ever and, with the earnestness of genuine insecurity, still transposing them into the English critical vocabulary. Inescapably, Birney's own literary style- the very accents of his critical prose- ironically echoes the same era. He wants us to know, however, that as a reader of Chaucer's irony he votes with the Elizabethans: "I think that old Elizabethan, Reginald Scott, was accurate when he said Chaucer looked upon men 'and derided their folly in such a manner as the time would suffer him."' In his next sentence, ever the gentleman, he deftly applies his point: "The trouble with Chaucer study today is that it has fallen into the hands of professors, who are such incorruptible fellows" (p. 10). He means it, of course; and one suspects that his editor and former student does too. DAVID LYLE JEFFREY University of Ottawa N. F. BLAKE. The Textual Tradition ofthe Canterbury Tales. London and Baltimore, Md.: Edward Arnold, 1985. Pp. xiii, 222. $49.50. The Textual Tradition of the Canterbury Tales draws together the many facets of Norman Blake's research on The Canterbury Tales, gives the rationale behind his 1980 edition of the work, and in some respects goes beyondwhat hehaspreviouslypublished.Blake'sposition among editors of 183 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER The Canterbury Tales is unique. He not only bases his text on the Hengwrt manuscript and uses its ordering of the tales and links but rejects as scribal almost every line of text not in Hengwrt. The only exceptions are those passages where eyeskip by the scribe can be demonstrated. Excluded as a result are the links in the E and F sections except for the Clerk's Envoy and theHoststanza, the five addedpassagesin The Wife o/BathsPrologue, the Adam stanza in The Monks Tale, and the whole of the Canon's Yeoman's sequence. Blakebases hisdecisionson a set ofinterlockingargumentsderivedsolely from textual evidence. He rejects any effort to distinguish on grounds of quality lines Chaucer wrote that do not appear in Hengwrt from those added by scribes. In this respect he reflects the recent tendency to question any revision by Chaucer of his work-to attribute to scribes and editors most of the changes hitherto seen as authorial. Even the lively addition to the Knight's interruption of the Monk in The NunsPriests Prologue falls victim to this rigorous principle. Blake envisages The Canterbury Tales as a set of unarranged fragments on which the author was still at work when he died. No circulation of tales or groups of tales took place either before or immediately after Chaucer's death. An editor or a small group worked on what Chaucer had left behind, producing a copy text which became the exemplar for all the early manuscripts.This copytextconsisted notofa new manuscriptbutrather ofan arrangementofChaucer's own materials, some ofthe groupsloosely held together, a few ofthe tales still without links, all of the major segments subject to rearrangement as familiarity with the materials developed. From a very early stage in this procedure came the Hengwrt manuscript. Blake takes issue with the usual explanation for the irregularities of Hengwrt as presented most authoritatively in the Doyle-Parkes introduc­ tion to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 183-187
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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