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"Chaucer's Chronicle," John Shirley, and the Canon ofChaucer's Shorter Poems Julia Boffey Queen Mary and Westfield College, Vniversity ofLondon A. S. G. Edwards Vniversity ofVictoria Tpcom.s ofChaucedan canon fmmadon enteced its most dis­ tinctive phase during the late fifteenth century and lasted until the end of the sixteenth. This period saw a series of attempts, in both manu­ script and print, to establish the corpus of Chaucer's works and to con­ solidate them in a single entity termed, for the first time in English literary history, "The Works."' The anthologies put together by the compilers of Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Arch. Selden. B.24, the last major manuscript collection of Chaucer's works,2 and for the printed editions of Pynson (1526), Thynne (1532 and subsequently), Stow (1561), and Speght (1598 and 1602) are noteworthy for their increas­ ing comprehensiveness and also for the large number ofspurious poems that they included in their formulations of the canon. More than fifty such poems were added during this period and retained their place until the end of the nineteenth century.3 Modern scholarship has largely pruned these additions from the canon and established it in what seems a relatively unproblematic form. But 1 A. S. G. Edwards, "Chaucer from Manuscript to Print: The Social Text and the Critical Text," Mosaic 28. 4 (1995): 1-12. 2 See the facsimile (Boydell and Brewer, 1997) with an introduction by Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards; see also A. S. G. Edwards, "Bodleian Library MS Arch. Selden. B. 24: A 'Transitional' Collection," in Stephen G. Nichols and Siegfried Wenzel, eds., The Whole Book: Cultural Perspectives on the Medieval Miscellany (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), pp. 53-67. 3 R. H. Robbins, "The Chaucerian Apocrypha," in A. E. Hartung, gen. ed., A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050-1500, 9 vols. (New Haven, Conn.: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1973), 4:4. 201 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER the earlier stages of canon formation-those, that is, before the expan­ sionist phase at the end of the fifteenth century-remain rather unex­ plored. There has been no systematic attempt to trace the growing patterns ofcollocation in the manuscript tradition that precede the six­ teenth century's more ambitious, and increasingly implausible, at­ tempts to settle the body of Chaucer's works. There remain some indi­ cations of an early consciousness of common authorship as a unifying principle, as with the gathering of several of Chaucer's works in Cambridge University Library MS Gg.4.27,4 but textual collocations were often based, it seems, on generic links in which authorship may have been a reinforcing but not necessarily a primary factor. One sees this in the manuscripts of the so-called "Oxford Group" (Oxford, Bodleian Library MSS Bodley 638, Fairfax 16, Tanner 346, and Digby 181),5 in which Chaucer's dream-visions and lyrics appear with similar works by Clanvowe, Lydgate, and Hoccleve: The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, The Complaint of the Black Knight, and The Letter of Cupid, for example. Other patterns of linkage can be discerned at more local levels, as with the groupings of Chaucer's lyrics that can be found in some manuscripts,6 or even in such curious "mini-anthologies" as London, British Library MS Addit. 10340, in which Boece is supple­ mented with a copy ofthe lyric "Fortune" and a unique extract from The General Prologue depicting the Parson.7 But factors other than the literary and thematic seem also to have come into play, and of kinds that resist obvious categorization. These perhaps grew out of a complex of often unrecoverable circumstances linking the earliest attempts to produce Chaucer's works for commer­ cial circulation within the metropolis to individuals with information or texts possibly deriving from Chaucer's own literary circles.8 While 4 M. B. Parkes and R. Beadle, intro. to Geoffrey Chaucer: Poetical Works: A Facsimile of Cambridge, University Library MS Gg.4.27, 3 vols. (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1979-80). 5 Eleanor Prescott Hammond, Chaucer: A Bibliographical Manual (New York: Macmillan, 1908), pp. 333 ff.; and Aage Brusendorff, The Chaucer Tradition (Oxford...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 201-218
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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