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REVIEWS SETH LERER, ed.Readingfrom the Margins: Textual Studies, Chaucer, and Medieval Literature. San Marino, Calif.: Huntington library Press, 1996.Pp.vii,16 0.$12.0 0 paper. In their introduction to this book,Seth Lerer and Joseph A.Dane pro­ pose as an epigraph R. B.McKerrow's remarks of seventy years ago about the then-new popularity of "bibliographical " methods.Plus fa change. ... But there have been changes, of course, as scholars have returned to medieval manuscripts with different assumptions and purposes than those of earlier generations.Illustrating the rewards and occasionally the potential perils of that return,these essays show the range of current textual and codicological approaches to Chaucer and Middle English literature. In a study of the early reception of the Ellesmere manuscript,A.S. G.Edwards and Ralph Hanna focus on the poem in praise of the De Veres,Earls of Oxford,written on the Ellesmere flyleaves in about the third quarter of the fifteenth century and attributed to "Rotheley." From the definite evidence that the manuscript was owned by the Drurys in the sixteenth century,and the possibility of earlier Paston ownership,Edwards and Hanna infer fifteenth-century ownership by the De Veres,who had connections with both families.They draw to­ gether many disparate pieces of evidence to paint a convincing picture of involvement by the De Vere circle in local literary efforts,including connections with lydgate and with manuscript production at Bury St. Edmunds.The Rotheley poem,itself lydgatian in vocabulary,gives a (probably) legendary account ofhow a De Vere ancestor's exploits in the First Crusade led to the family's receipt of its arms.As Edwards and Hanna point out,fidelity to kings,one of the De Vere qualities being celebrated,was a particularly complex thing at the time the poem was apparently written,a period when the De Veres suffered at the hands of Edward IV and Richard III because of their lancastrian loyalties.The poem looks forward to a restoration ofthe family's status,which did in fact occur under Henry VII. Edwards and Hanna contrast this outcome with Chaucer's own per­ manent loss of status after the triumph of the Appellants in the 1380s; they assert Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, which the Ellesmere manuscript "heroicizes," only because he could not "regain the out­ standing courtly place he had held before," and thus "exchanged some measure of political power for a much less clearly valuable cultural 291 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER standing" (p. 28). The relationship between Chaucer's political and lit­ erary careers may have been more complicated than this suggests. He was, after all, perhaps most productive in the first half of the 1380s, when he seems to have been quite close to the court; and he may have chosen not to return to that place and its attendant risks after Richard II consolidated his power again at the end of the decade. But, perhaps more important for the study of Chaucer's reception, we cannot know, as Edwards and Hanna implicitly acknowledge, whether Rotheley and his patrons were aware of these details of Chaucer's life, including the fact that a De Vere ancestor, like Chaucer, belonged to Richard's party and lost out to the Appellants. As is so often the case, we can perceive a network ofrelationships between various pieces of evidence-a lavish manuscript, a copy of Chaucer's Truth added to it, the Rotheley poem added still later-but find it much more difficult to gauge the knowl­ edge and motives of their medieval readers and writers. Julia Boffey considers the growth of the Chaucer apocrypha and the existence of divergent "Chaucers" in the fifteenth and sixteenth cen­ turies. Boffey's primary piece of evidence is the attribution to Chaucer, in two manuscripts, ofa one-stanza extract from Walton's translation of Boethius. One ofthese manuscripts is Selden B.24, which contains a se­ ries of spurious attributions to Chaucer, in addition to much genuine material, and which contrives to "Scotticize" Chaucer (p. 44). The other is Cotton Vitellius E.xi, a copy of John of Fordun's Chronica gentis Scotorum and thus another manuscript with...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 291-296
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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