Stephen Stallcup

title.none: Fellows, ed., Of Love and Chivalry

identifier.other: baj9928.9410.003 94.10.03

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Stephen Stallcup, Princeton University

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1994

identifier.citation: Fellows, Jennifer, ed. Of Love and Chivalry: An Anthology of Middle English Romance. Everyman's Library. London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1993. Pp. xxxi + 319.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 94.10.03

Fellows, Jennifer, ed. Of Love and Chivalry: An Anthology of Middle English Romance. Everyman's Library. London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1993. Pp. xxxi + 319.

Reviewed by:

Stephen Stallcup
Princeton University

Tail-rhyme romances have often been the whipping-boys of Middle English poetry. Even in the Canterbury Tales, Harry Bailey cuts off Chaucer's parodic romance, the Tale of Sir Thopas, exclaiming, "Thy drasty rymyng is nat worth a toord!" Yet there are worthy poems in this ostensibly lowly group, and Jennifer Fellows has chosen six of them for her fine collection, which should prove a complementary volume to Everyman's Six Middle English Romances, edited by her mentor Maldwyn Mills and recently reissued. Fellows's volume is marked by the same rigorous annotation that distinguished her teacher's (which has become a standard in many classrooms) and will be useful both to the beginning student of literature in Middle English and the advanced scholar.

Thematically, the poems bear the same general relationship to one another that all romances do, but there is little otherwise to link them. Rather, the collection highlights the different and diverse ways that the broad concepts of Fellows's title, "love" and "chivalry," came to be developed within a single genre. Further, she notes that "Several motifs are shared by two or more of these six romances (wicked stewards, wronged queens, 'wooing women,' judicial combats), but in each they are made to serve different ends" (viii). Instead of being a thematic one (which would have been a hard task indeed), the organizing principle of this volume seems rather to be based on chronology and familiarity: the texts range from the well- known King Horn, usually dated to c. 1225, to the relatively unknown Erle of Toulous, dating to the beginning of the fifteenth century.

Indeed, it is just this span that will make this volume especially useful to teachers of medieval literature looking for a broad and representative anthology that is both brief and inexpensive. The first texts in the work, King Horn and Florys and Blauncheflour, are standards and have appeared in almost every recent anthology of Middle English romances. Two others, Amis and Amiloun and Sir Launfal, have also been anthologized within the last few decades. But the real gems in the volume are Syr Tryamour and the Erle of Toulous, two poems which have generally escaped scholarly notice because of their inaccessibility (they do not appear in E.E.T.S., and the only edition of the latter poem appeared in 1881).

The editor does her fellow medievalists a great service in rescuing these two texts from obscurity. Dating from the late fourteenth century, the two romances treat the theme of the "calumniated queen," as Fellows terms it, which tells of a woman unjustly accused of adultry by evil retainers (who are, of course, believed by the king) but whose reputation is salvaged by the romance's title character who brings the retainers to gruesome ends. Fans of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail will recognize in Syr Tryamour (lines 1549-72) an analogue of the parodic battle between King Arthur and the Black Knight, who, after being completely dismembered by Arthur, quips "It's only a flesh wound ...." After Tryamour hacks off Burlond's legs at the knees, the wounded knight declares, "'A lytull lower, syr,' seyde hee, 'And let us small go wyth thee. Now are we bothe at oon assyse.'"

Following the general practice of Everyman's medieval texts (and of the Riverside Chaucer), Fellows retains the spelling of the manuscripts except in the cases of i/j and u/v (which she regularizes) and 'thorn' and 'yogh' (which she resolves to th, y, or gh). Likewise, she glosses difficult words in the margins and difficult phrases or sentences at the bottom of the page. As she has not sought to produce critical editions of all the poems (for which at least one already exists), her critical apparatus is limited only to significant variants. The bulk of her scholarship, and the part that more advanced students and scholars will find most helpful, occurs in the notes to each poem at the back of the book. (Lines with commentary are noted with a superscript n.) The commentary on King Horn and Amis and Amiloun is especially thorough. Fellows compares and contrasts the texts with their Anglo-Norman originals, quoting and translating relevent passages where appropriate, and cites thematic or verbal analogues in contemporary Middle English poetry. She also includes helpful references to secondary sources when glossing various facets of medieval courtly culture.

If there is one criticism to be made of this edition it is that becoming accustomed to the wealth of information in some areas the reader wishes for such liberality in all. Some readers may find Fellows's headnotes to the poems, which occur all together in the introduction, too brief. Although models of conciseness—they include full lists of manuscript witnesses and are copiously footnoted—they in their brevity often fail to address fully some of the more general and theoretical issues addressing what makes a romance a romance. Likewise, the initial note to the acephalous Floris and Blauncheflour describing the action which occurs before the extant text begins is painfully brief. A more thorough summary of the French version up to the point where the Middle English text begins would be helpful to students who may be confused by the text's abrupt beginning. Again, as this volume is designed on one level for the general reader, a brief note on some of the peculiarities of Middle English grammar, especially the pronoun system, might smooth over some of the difficulties a beginning reader is apt to encounter.

Fellows's collection is a solid one and a welcome addition to an area of Middle English poetry that has not received as much attention as it might have. Its "reader- friendly" format and helpful annotations make this volume a highly useful and effective one.