to his edition of the Canterbury Tales,' has emphasized tliese deficiencies in somewhat sweeping terms. But Tyrwhitt was a sagacious critic, possessing great literary knowledge, taste, and industry; and he brought all his powers and acquirements to the illustration of his favourite author, often with the happiest results. Though his paleographical knowledge was not of a very critical kind, he spared no pains in consulting manuscripts, and in general wherever the sense or poetical expressiveness of the verse is concerned, his selection of readings shows not only sound judgment, but cultivated feeling and appreciation. And in these respects the readings of Tyrwhitt's edition are often, as we shall presently show, better than those of the Harleian text which has now taken its place.

The next step in the history of Chaucer texts is the publication of this manuscript—the Harleian—by Mr. Wright in 1847. This publication represents something like a revolution in the plan of editing Chaucer, and at once raises the whole question as to the best method of dealing with the text. At first sight Mr. Wright seems to make out a strong case for his own plan. After noticing that the grammatical forms of the fourteenth century underwent a considerable change about the middle of the fifteenth, and that copyists of this date usually employed the language of the time rather than of the author they are copying, he contends that the only satisfactory plan of editing Chaucer is to select the oldest and best manuscript, and to adhere to it faithfully throughout. The opposite plan, which had hitherto been usually followed, he condemns indeed in no very measured terms :-

It is evident, therefore,' he says, 'that the plan of forming the text of any work of the periods of which we are speaking from a number of different manuscripts, written at different times and different places, is the most absurd plan which it is possible to conceive. Yet this was the method professedly followed by Tyrwhitt in forming a text of the “Canterbury Tales" of Chaucer.'

And after pointing out Tyrwhitt's special disqualifications as a student of manuscripts, he adds :

• Under these circumstances it is clear that to form a satisfactory text of Chaucer, we must give up the printed editions, and fall back upon the manuscripts; and that instead of bundling them altogether, we must pick out one best manuscript which also is one of those nearest to Chaucer's time. The latter circumstance is absolutely necessary, if we would reproduce the language and versification of the author. At the same time it cannot but be acknowledged that the earliest manuscript might possibly be very incorrect and incomplete, from the ignorance or negligence of the scribe who copied it. This, however, is not the case with regard to Chaucer's “ Canterbury Tales.” The Harleian manuscript, No. 7334, is by far the best manuscript of Chaucer's “Canterbury Tales" that I have yet examined, in regard both to antiquity and correctness. The handwriting is one which would at first sight be taken by an experienced scholar for that of the latter part of the fourteenth century, and it must have been written within a few years after 1400, and therefore soon after Chaucer's death and the publication of the “ Canterbury Tales." Its language has very little, if any, appearance of local dialect; and the text is in general extremely good, the variations from Tyrwhitt being usually for the better.'

This reasoning seems, as we have said, sufficiently conclusive, and it has very naturally determined the course of subsequent editors, both Mr. Bell and Mr. Morris having followed Mr. Wright's plan, and adopted the text he had selected. But the publication of the Chaucer Society's six-text edition of the * Prologue' and • Knight's Tale' has very much

much destroyed the
force of Mr. Wright's plea in favour of adhering strictly to a
single text. A comparison of the Harleian text with the six
now publishing by the Society, will show that there are num-
berless points of grammar, metre, or sense in which it may be
improved by careful collation, and that the old plan must still
be followed before we can hope to secure a satisfactory and
authoritative text. We propose to illustrate this necessity
more in detail by a comparison of Mr. Morris's text--the best
form of the Harleian-with the six other texts now available
for critical collation. Meanwhile, to complete the account of
texts, we must refer for a moment to the edition of Chaucer's
Poetical Works, edited by Mr. Robert Bell for the Annotated
Edition of the English Poets. As we have said, Mr. Bell and
his colleague Mr. Jephson adopt the Harleian text, making
alterations here and there, which are not however in all cases
improvements. They are, however, fairly entitled to the
credit of having attempted almost for the first time to edit the
minor poems, as well as of having given throughout a number
of useful miscellaneous notes. Neither of the editors was tho-
roughly master of Chaucers grammar and vocabulary, and
their attempted explanation of archaic words and phrases are
sometimes Iudicrously at fault. In the following verse from
• Troilus and Cressid,' a comparatively common and well-known
word is misinterpreted with perverse but curious ingenuity :-

* This Troylus, withouten reede or lore;
As man that hath his joyes ek forlore,
Was waytynge on his lady everemore,
As she that was sothfaste crop, and moore,
Of al his lust or joyes here tofore :
But, Troylus, now farewel al thy joye!
For shaltow nevere se hire eft in Troye.'

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On this passage the note is, ' Crop means the top shoot of a • tree or other vegetable. Crop and root” is a common 'expression, meaning the whole of anything, like our “ root and « « branch.” Perhaps crop and moore, or more, may mean * the top and more than the top, by a violent hyperbole.' Moore is, however, a familiar English word for root, common in our early literature, and still used colloquially in many parts of the country, especially the south and west. Notwithstanding defects of this kind, the edition is on the whole one of the most useful and convenient for English readers.

The latest text of Chaucer's poetical works, that edited by Mr. Morris, and substituted for Tyrwhitt's in the new issue of the Aldine Series, is undoubtedly also the best. Mr. Morris is one of our most accurate and accomplished early English scholars, and no better editor of a mediæval text could possibly be found. After examining several manuscripts of the • Can• terbury Tales,' he agreed with Mr. Wright in thinking the Harleian text the best, and it has accordingly been selected and faithfully adhered to throughout. Clerical errors and corrupt readings were corrected by collation with other manuscripts, especially the Lansdowne, and a careful examination of Mr. Morris's text will show how painstaking he has been in this part of his work. The rest of the poems have been edited from the manuscripts where they existed, and the result is the best text of Chaucer that has yet appeared. Good as it is, however, we hope to show that something better may be produced by turning to full account the valuable materials the Chaucer Society are providing for critical use. As we have seen, Mr. Morris gives what all recent editors have regarded as the best manuscript of the · Canterbury Tales,' in the best form, carefully revised, and corrected throughout. The important question is, whether a still better text may not be produced by the critical collation of other manuscripts. Mr. Wright, as we have seen, scouts this notion; and even Mr. Furnivall, the editor of the Chaucer Society texts, seems disposed to answer it in a somewhat hesitating manner.

At least he expresses himself as disappointed at the extent of general agreement between the manuscripts the Society has undertaken to publish.

A comparison of Mr. Morris's text of the ‘Prologue and the Knight's Tale' with the texts of the Society, has, however, convinced us that the question as to possible improvement must be answered decisively in the affirmative. Knowing beforehand the excellence of the Harleian text, and the general agreement of the six other manuscripts, we have been surprised


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indeed at the number of emendations of greater or less importance they afford. In the ‘Prologue’alone there are, in our judgment, upwards of fifty lines that may be improved by collation either in sense or metre, while in the • Knight's Tale' the better readings are in proportion to its length even more numerous and important. These better readings affect mainly the metre, the meaning, or the poetical expressiveness of the existing text. Some, again, effect marked improvements in minutiæ of grammar, emphasis, and spelling. While nothing can be more arbitrary and unsettled than the orthography of Chaucer's day, and indeed for centuries later, the spelling of the Harleian manuscript is still peculiarly harsh and clumsy, especially in the case of proper names, and they might easily be altered for the better on the authority of the other texts. The improvements in the metre are effected sometimes by the simple transposition of words in the line, sometimes by exchanging one form of word for another, and often in both ways. Sometimes again by the omission of a superfluous word or syllable, and at others by the introduction of a word or syllable that at

up the measure and completes the sense. The readings that improve the meaning do so usually by removing vagueness and ambiguity, and giving increased clearness and precision to the image or idea presented. This is accomplished in various ways, sometimes by the apt use of defining epithets and particles, as this lord instead of the lord (172), that house instead of an house (578), the chieftain instead of a chieftain (1697). Sometimes by a slight change in the form of the noun or verb, as shall not die instead of should not (1683), taketh his leeve instead of took his leeve (359), hearkeneth, the true imperative form, instead of hearken (985), full of degrees instead of full of degree (1032), the noblest of the Greeks instead of the nobles (2041).

These details of more accurate expression derived from the other manuscripts not only clear up obscurities, but correct errors in the Harleian text, errors which mar the sense of the passages in which they occur, and are inconsistent with the context. In the Knight's Tale, for example, after Palamon, Emely, and Arcite have visited the temples of Venus, Diana, and Mars, to pray for help in the approaching contest, there arises some dissension among the Gods which is stinted' by an address of Saturn to Venus, in which he says:

"Now wepe nomore, I schal do diligence,
That Palomon, that is thyne owen knight,

Schal have his lady, as thou hast him hight.'
In the second line the Harleian text reads, and Mr. Morris


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prints, mine instead of thine, a blunder which the context, it is true, corrects, but which is none the less a disfigurement to the text. All the six manuscripts read correctly thine. Again, in the Prologue, Mr. Morris's text spoils one of the most characteristic touches in the description of the choleric’ Reeve. He is represented as a man of keen observation and incessant activity, keeping a rigid outlook over the whole of his lord's property with a minute knowledge and thorough-going supervision of everything connected with it-crops and prices, corn and cattle, dairy and farmyard produce. He keeps a sharp eye, moreover, on the factors, tenants, and labourers of the estate, and invariably ferrets out the little schemes, the petty concealments and evasions, by which they strive to secure an advantage at the expense of their superior. He does this with such remorseless certainty that they are in terror of him :

Syn that his lord was twenti yeer of age ;
Ther couthe noman bringe him in arrerage.
Ther nas baillif, ne herde, ne other hyne,
That he ne knewe his sleight and his covyne;

They were adrad of him, as of the deth.' • There was no auditor that could on him win,' and 'none 'could bring him in arrearage.' In other words, no one has any handle against him. He is far too skilful a manager to let his practices appear. While he finds out the practices of all his lord's tenants and dependents, he at the same time so effectually conceals his own as to receive from his lord substantial rewards for his zeal and faithfulness. The Harleian manuscript, however, destroys this feature in the description, and reverses Chaucer's meaning, by reading in the fourth line, • that they ne knewe his sleight and his covyne.' This would represent all the tenants as knowing the Reeve's malpractices, instead of the Reeve knowing theirs. But if so, he would have been in their power instead of their being in his; and apart from this, the reading is altogether inconsistent with the other part of the description. If his lord is to be robbed, he

. is evidently determined that he shall be robbed by none but himself. All the manuscripts accordingly, instead of they read he, which is undoubtedly correct.

A considerable number of the better readings derived from the Society's texts affect the expressiveness rather than the actual meaning of the amended lines, and many of them are of real poetic value, giving greater strength and vivacity to the narrative, increased richness or delicacy of colouring to the description. In some cases the emendation consists of a fresh and appropriate epithet instead of a merely expletive or



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