contributor.author: Fritz Kemmler

title.none: Fein, ed., Studies in the Harley Manuscript (Kemmler)

identifier.other: baj9928.0105.002 01.05.02

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Fritz Kemmler, University of Tbingen, fritz.kemmler@uni-tuebingen.de

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2001

identifier.citation: Fein, Susanna, ed. Studies in the Harley Manuscript: The Scribes, Contents, and Social Contexts of British Library MS Harley 2253. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000. Pp. ix, 515. $36.00. ISBN: 1-580-44060-6.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 01.05.02

Fein, Susanna, ed. Studies in the Harley Manuscript: The Scribes, Contents, and Social Contexts of British Library MS Harley 2253. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000. Pp. ix, 515. $36.00. ISBN: 1-580-44060-6.

Reviewed by:

Fritz Kemmler
University of Tbingen
fritz.kemmler@uni-tuebingen.de

Today, British Library MS Harley 2253, a tri-lingual ms (Anglo- Norman, Latin and Middle English), is perhaps best known for its Middle English religious and love lyrics ("The Harley Lyrics"), for some of its (Middle English) 'political' poems and its version of King Horn. The manuscript has received the attention of both anthologizers and critics since the days of Thomas Percy's landmark edition Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765) and Thomas Warton's pioneering The History of English Poetry from the Eleventh to the Seventeenth Century (1774-81). But the manuscript has much more in store for present-day critics, editors and readers, as the collection of essays under review here clearly demonstrates.

Despite its popularity with critics, editors, historians and paleographers, there is as yet no complete edition of the texts in the manuscript and the otherwise invaluable facsimile published by the EETS in 1965 (OS 255; with an introduction by N. R. Ker) omits ff. 1-48 (articles 1-7; French verse and prose). Thus, it is to be hoped that the project mentioned in the "Introduction" by the editor, Susanna Fein, will be completed in the near future: "A collaborative edition in the Middle English Texts Series will include texts of all the contents of Harley 2253, with translations given for non- English works." (10) And I hope that this collaborative edition of the manuscript will also provide adequate help for the more difficult of the Middle English texts.

The thematic scope of this highly welcome and important collection of essays is impressive indeed. And this wide range of topics and themes poses a problem for any reviewer. I shall therefore briefly describe the range of topics and add some remarks concerning the lines for future research on this important fourteenth-century manuscript.

(1) paleography and provenance: Carter Revard, "Scribe and Provenance" (pp. 21-109).

(2) the organizing principle (selection): Theo Stemmler, "Miscellany or Anthology?..." (pp. 111-121); David L. Jeffrey, "Authors, Anthologists and Franciscan Spirituality" (pp. 261- 270).

(3) the 'religious' contents of the manuscript: Michael P. Kuczynski, "An 'Electric Stream': The Religious Contents" (pp. 123-161); John J. Thompson, "The French Bible Stories in Harley 2253" (pp. 271-287).

(4) 'political' and apparently 'political' texts in the manuscript: John Scattergood, "Authority and Resistance: The Political Verse" (pp. 163-201); Richard Newhauser, "Historicity and Complaint in Song of the Husbandman" (pp. 203-217).

(5) the complex genre 'debate': Karl Reichl, "Debate Verse" (pp. 219-239).

(6) literary topics and themes: Helen Phillips, "Dreams and Dream Lore" (pp. 241-259).

(7) Anglo-Norman (or French) texts in the manuscript: Barbara Nolan, "Anthologizing Ribaldry: Five Anglo-Norman Fabliaux" (pp. 289-327); Mary Dove, "Evading Textual Intimacy: The French Secular Verse" (pp. 329-349).

(8) thematic aspects of saints' lives and love lyrics: Susanna Fein, "Marina and the Love Lyrics of the Seventh Quire" (pp. 351-376).

(9) the layout of the English verse in the manuscript: Elizabeth Solopova, "Layout, Punctuation, and Stanza Patterns in the English Verse" (pp. 377-389).

(10) linguistic features and their significance: Frances McSparran, "The Language of the English Poems..." (pp. 391- 426).

(11) manuscripts and the circulation of literature: Marilyn Corrie, "...Circulation of Literature in Pre-Chaucerian England" (pp. 427-443).

The volume also contains a comprehensive "Bibliography" (pp. 445-480), an "Index of Items in MS Harley 2253" (pp. 481-484), an "Index of Manuscripts" (pp. 485-488) and a "General Index" (pp. 489-515).

Concerning future research on Harley 2253 I think that it will be futile to speculate about the scribe's intentions in putting together the manuscript ("anthology or miscellany?") as long as there is no evidence for the contemporary use of the manuscript, i.e. the social background not only of the scribe but also of the community in which and for which the manuscript was produced.

Carter Revard's conclusion "considerable evidence shows that he [the scribe] did produce Harley 2253 as a household book" (86) could serve as a starting point for a collaborative project on other manuscripts produced in the same area of the (South) West Midlands: BL MS Add 46919, Bodleian Library MS Digby 86, Jesus College Oxford MS 29 and Trinity College Cambridge MS B.14.39 (see the map on p. 400 and the final paragraph of Marilyn Corrie's paper, p. 443). An investigation along these lines could reveal new insights into as yet only superficially perceived modes of literary production and preservation of cherished genres and themes. And it could also reveal more about the similarities and dissimilarities of literary activity in England and on the Continent.

In general, more research is necessary in the field of regional literary activities during the first half of the fourteenth century. Thus, the Harley scribe's version of the Short Metrical Chronicle in BL MS Royal 12.C.xii deserves to be studied together with the other early Middle English chronicles, e.g. Robert of Gloucester's Chronicle from the (South) West Midlands and Castleford's Chronicle and Robert Mannyng's Chronicle both composed in the north eastern area and available in modern critical editions.

The essays in Studies in the Harley Manuscript, written mostly by specialists in the field of medieval English language and literature, are an impressive demonstration of what collaborative and 'international' research can achieve. And bearing in mind Marilyn Corrie's statement, "An adequate appreciation of the literary culture of early medieval England demands of its critics the same multilingual competence as is evident amongst the compilers and hypothetical readers of manuscripts such as Harley 2253 and Digby 86" (443), I recommend that further research should also include an interdisciplinary approach.

Finally, some remarks on the formal aspects of this fine collection of essays: there are only a very few printer's errors.

P. 173, footnote 20: "Weisbaden" should read "Wiesbaden".

P. 233, footnote 9: "Die Form des Gedichts is sehr interessant" should read "Die Form des Gedichts ist sehr interessant".

P. 266: "pecatti" should read "peccati". On the same page, footnote 18 shows two errors in the quotation from the Latin: "et ita plena remissio quod [?: quoad] culpam et poenam fit praetur [?: praeter] resurrectionem Christi"

P. 351, footnote 2: "the precedent lyric is the the secular one" should read "the precedent lyric is the secular one".