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John Gower in England and Iberia

John Gower in England and Iberia: Manuscripts, Influences, Reception

Ana Sáez-Hidalgo
R. F. Yeager
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 339
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  • Book Info
    John Gower in England and Iberia
    Book Description:

    John Gower's great poem, the Confessio Amantis, was the first work of English literature translated into any European language. Occasioned by the existence in Spain of fifteenth-century Portuguese and Spanish manuscripts of the Confessio, the nineteen essays brought together here represent new and original approaches to Gower's role in Anglo-Iberian literary relations. They include major studies of the palaeography of the Iberian manuscripts; of the ownership history of the Portuguese Confessio manuscript; of the glosses of Gowerian manuscripts; and of the manuscript of the Yale Confessio Amantis. Other essays situate the translations amidst Anglo-Spanish relations generally in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; examine possible Spanish influences on Gower's writing; and speculate on possible providers of the Confessio to Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt and queen of Portugal. Further chapters broaden the scope of the volume. Amongst other topics, they look at Gower's use of Virgilian/Dantean models; classical gestures in the Castilian translation; Gower's conscious contrasting of epic ideals and courtly romance; nuances of material goods and the idea of "the good" in the Confessio; Marxian aesthetics, Balzac, and Gowerian narrative in late medieval trading culture between England and Iberia; reading the Confessio through the lens of gift exchange; literary form in Gower's later Latin poems; Gower and Alain Chartier as international initiators of a new "public poetry"; and the modern sales history of manuscript and early printed copies of the Confessio, and what ir reveals about literary trends. Ana Sáez Hidalgo is Associate Professor at the University of Valladolid, Spain; R.F. Yeager is Professor of English and World Languages and chair of the department at the University of West Florida. Contributors: María Bullón-Fernández, David R. Carlson, Siân Echard, A.S.G. Edwards, Robert R. Edwards, Tiago Viúla de Faria, Andrew Galloway, Fernando Galván, Marta María Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Mauricio Herrero Jiménez, Ethan Knapp, Roger A. Ladd, Alberto Lázaro, María Luisa López-Vidriero Abelló, Matthew McCabe, Alastair J. Minnis, Clara Pascual-Argente, Tamara Pérez-Fernández, Barbara A. Shailor, Winthrop Wetherbee

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-299-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-14)
    Ana Sáez-Hidalgo and R. F. Yeager

    “Este lyvro, per graça do muym alto senhor deus, screveo, per mandado de dom Fernando de Castro o Moço, na çidade de Çepta, em xxxxta dias no ano de 1430, Joham Barroso” [this book, by grace of the highest lord God, I have copied, at the command of Dom Fernando de Castro o Moço, in the city of Ceuta, in forty days in the year 1430. João Barroso]. This inscription in Portuguese appears on the final leaf of Madrid, Real Biblioteca MS II-3088, a fifteenth-century manuscript bound and cataloged among books in the Royal Private Library under the titleLivro...

  6. I Manuscripts

    • Chapter 1 Castilian Script in the Iberian Manuscripts of the Confessio Amantis
      (pp. 17-32)
      MAURICIO HERRERO JIMÉNEZ, Tamara Pérez-Fernández and Marta María Gutiérrez Rodríguez

      As can be seen from its title, our work centers on the study of the Iberian manuscripts of the most celebrated work by the poet John Gower, theConfessio Amantis, which in the fifteenth century was translated from the original Middle English first into Portuguese and afterwards into Castilian, using the Portuguese translation as a base. The bastard Gothic script of the Portuguese manuscript and the Gothic court hand of the Castilian translation were both familiar in the Portuguese and Castilian courts in the fifteenth century. As a result, books written in bastard were read by Portuguese kings, princes, and...

    • Chapter 2 Provenance Interlacing in Spanish Royal Book-Collecting and the Case of the Confessio Amantis (RB MS II-3088)
      (pp. 33-50)

      My focus is on the history of the provenances of the volumes in what was once the private library of the kings of Spain, now housed in the Royal Palace in Madrid. The objective is two-fold: first, to demonstrate, using three events in the history of the Real Biblioteca [Royal Library], how the sense of “treasure” or “royal representation” could be achieved by the display of manuscripts or printed books taken from collections of diverse owners and libraries where they held a completely different meaning; and second, to offer an example of provenance research of special interest to British medievalists:...

    • Chapter 3 Inglorious Glosses?
      (pp. 51-76)

      The History of the Latin Gloss in Medieval English Literaturewould be a small book. It hasn’t been written yet, and there’s not much to write about, so anyone undertaking the task would inevitably produce a slim volume. What, then, if we broaden the scope of the inquiry, and think not in terms of specifically Latin glossing but rather of “vernacular glossing” or “vernacular commentary” – by which I mean the production of commentary, whether in Latin or in the vernacular, on a vernacular text?² The British outlook remains rather barren, though one’s eyes can pick out with pleasure the...

    • Chapter 4 The Yale Gower Manuscript, Beinecke Osborn MS fa.1: Paleographical, Codicological, Technological Challenges and Opportunities
      (pp. 77-86)

      Early on in my career, in the late 1970s, Stephen Parks, then the Curator of the Osborn Collection in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, asked me to consider the possibility of cataloging the Osborn early manuscript collection.¹ When I went to the library stacks and pulled out Osborn MS fa.1 (the official call number of the Gower manuscript under discussion) I was astounded by two things: first, the terrible smell that drifted my way upon removing the codex from its slip case, and second, the degree of what looked to be mildew damage that the parchment had experienced....

  7. II Iberia

    • Chapter 5 The English Literature of Nájera (1367) from Battlefield Dispatch to the Poets
      (pp. 89-102)

      It can be demonstrated that John Gower’sCronica tripertita(1400) was based on the state-official account of the tyranny of the English king Henry IV: the parliamentary “Record and Process” of the deposition of Richard II and his replacement on the throne by his cousin in 1399. Evidently, Gower was given or obtained a copy of the official account of the usurpation, and he turned it into poetry in the form of theCronica tripertita, which then circulated as another apology for the nascent Lancastrian regime, propaganda-wise.¹ Other evidence indicates, however, that Gower’s work was not innovatory in this respect....

    • Chapter 6 At the Nájera Crossroads (1367): Anglo-Iberian Encounters in the Late Fourteenth Century
      (pp. 103-118)

      Scholarship in Anglo-Iberian relations developed during the second half of the twentieth and first decade of the twenty-first century to such an extent that few readers would subscribe today to the often quoted statement made in 1906 by the eminent hispanophile James Fitzmaurice-Kelly about the “almost complete insulation of each country with regard to one another” in the Middle Ages, or his other affirmation that “the first step to sustained intellectual commerce” started at the end of the fifteenth century, in allusion to the thirteenFables of Alfonce(by the Aragonese Jewish convert, Pedro Alfonso, or Petrus Alphonsus) which were...

    • Chapter 7 Spanish Literary Influence in England: John Gower and Pedro Alfonso
      (pp. 119-130)
      R. F. YEAGER

      As Joseph Ramon Jones and John Esten Keller note in their introduction to their most accessible English version of Pedro Alfonso’sThe Scholar’s Guide,

      TheDisciplina Clericalishas been called the first collection of oriental tales in a western tongue, in this case […] medieval Latin.

      Though this assertion is not completely true, it can be said that Pedro Alfonso, in this little anthology of stories, was the first to give sudden vogue to age-old tales from the East and to make these quickly available in Latin, a language all western scholars could read.¹

      That theDisciplinahad wide and...

    • Chapter 8 From Norwich to Lisbon: Factionalism, Personal Association, and Conveying the Confessio Amantis
      (pp. 131-138)

      At an uncertain date, John Gower’sConfessio Amantiswas translated into Portuguese asO Amante, orLivro do Amante, from what G. C. Macaulay termed a “first recension” manuscript – one which, that is, honored Richard II rather than Henry Bolingbroke.¹ According to theincipitof the manuscript copy of theConfessio’s Castilian translation,Confyson del Amante, a rendering from the Portuguese version rather than a Middle English original, the Portuguese translator was one “Roberto Paym,” or Robert Payn, an English-born canon of Lisbon cathedral. Payn was likely the “Ruberte Paym” who appears as a member of the household of...

  8. III The Classical Tradition

    • Chapter 9 Gower’s Second Cursus
      (pp. 141-152)

      Venus’s dismissal of John Gower at the end of theConfessio Amantisostensibly represents the end of his dual career as a lover and an author. Freed from his “trance” (CA VIII.2813) and shocked into recognition by the mirror rendering an accurate “liknesse of miselve” (CA VIII.2437), the poet receives a rosary of black beads with the gold inscription “Por reposer” (CA VIII.2907) and a new commission, to seek and pray for peace.¹ This scene is echoed in theConfessio’sexplicit, literally the final words, in which the poet’s book is sent to find lasting repose under the earl of...

    • Chapter 10 Remembering Antiquity in the Castilian Confessio Amantis
      (pp. 153-164)

      The fifteenth-century Portuguese and Castilian translations of theConfessio Amantisstand as both unique and commonplace artifacts in late medieval Europe: a pioneering occurrence of translation from an English original into Iberian vernaculars, they are at the same time a testimony to the habitual circulation of narratives speaking to the common literary and intellectual interests of European lay elites.¹ First in Portugal and then in Castile, Gower’s work appears to have fitted seamlessly into its host cultures’ interests and preoccupations. As a mirror of princes, Book VII of theConfessiomust have been particularly welcomed in a Portuguese royal court...

    • Chapter 11 Gower and the Epic Past
      (pp. 165-180)

      Marc-René Jung, the distinguished scholar of the fortunes of the classical tradition in medieval French literature, tells of traveling to London to examine a particularly important manuscript of theHistoire ancienne, that extraordinary amalgamation of theromans d’antiquitéand semi-legendary vernacular historical writings, only to discover that the manuscript was inaccessible, because it was on display as part of an exhibit entitled “Fakes, or the Art of Deception.” It had been chosen for this exhibit, together with manuscripts of more famous medieval fictions like Geoffrey of Monmouth’sHistory of the Kings of Britain, because its account of the history of...

  9. IV Economy

    • Chapter 12 Goods and the Good in the Confessio Amantis
      (pp. 183-192)

      While rich and poor characters and references to riches and poverty appear throughout Gower’sConfessio Amantis, the number of stories that place some emphasis on poverty or the poor in the poem is arguably small. Only seven tales include poor characters or are in some sense about poverty.¹ Characters defined by their riches figure more prominently in the poem and, not surprisingly, many of them can be found in Book V, the book devoted to the sin of Avarice, or the excessive desire to accumulate and hoard money and things. TheConcordanceto theConfessioshows that more than half...

    • Chapter 13 Gower’s Kiste
      (pp. 193-214)

      One of the few intimate biographical facts that we securely possess about John Gower – known since 1926, but mentioned in no biography or collection of life records – is Gower’s acquisition of a brass pot and a chest, by way of the London ironmonger, credit-broker, and (at that moment) royally appointed London sheriff, Gilbert Maghfeld, in October 1392. This was the same year Chaucer borrowed a small sum of money from Maghfeld, some five years before Maghfeld died bankrupt, indebted to the Crown for unpaid customs: a fate that explains why his account-book survives in the Exchequer, where it...

    • Chapter 14 John Gower: Balzac of the Fourteenth Century
      (pp. 215-228)

      I take both my title and the trajectory of my argument from Georg Lukács’s famous study of the development of the historical novel.¹ It is a striking fact that as Lukács’s history of the genre moves from Sir Walter Scott through the development of nineteenth-century Realism and Naturalism, and then through to his own contemporaries, the writerly heroes who emerge, the ones most truly able to exploit the novel’s capacity to write “a history of the present,” tend to be not, as one might expect, the leftist practitioners of the genre (such as Zola), but, rather, the more ideologically conservative...

    • Chapter 15 Gower’s Gifts
      (pp. 229-242)

      Everyone is familiar with gifts and their various functions. Gifts cement our relationships, reward employees, and even arouse our competitive instincts and charitable impulses.¹ Gifts routinely cross social boundaries, such as that between the personal and professional. Many readers of this collection will at some point have received a gift from a family member meant for the recipient’s professional life, for example, which would evoke a variety of emotional responses: love, gratitude for the gift’s generosity, awkwardness if the family member misunderstood the recipient’s professional needs, or even amusement over the gift’s appropriateness or inappropriateness.² Their emotional impact aside, however,...

  10. V Reception

    • Chapter 16 The Long and the Short of It: On Gower’s Forms
      (pp. 245-260)

      “This is the first instalment of one of those monuments of tedious and unremunerative toil which, even in these days of commercialised literature, there are still scholars to put together, and which the Clarendon Press, to its honour, is always ready to publish.”¹ So opens the March 1900 review in theAcademyof the first volume of G. C. Macaulay’s edition of John Gower’s works. Volumes two and three were praised in the same periodical in 1901 as “a monument of remorseless and well-informed industry,”² and the 1903 review of the Latin volume once again singles out Macaulay’s “industry” and...

    • Chapter 17 “Al université de tout le monde”: Public Poetry, English and International
      (pp. 261-278)

      Given Gower’s resourcefulness in adapting old works to new circumstances and to court new potential readers, it may be less than surprising that the versatility of his thinking about audience has a synchronic as well as a diachronic dimension: Gower often, even habitually, cultivates several potential audiences at once.³ More remarkable is that Gower’s thinking about audience – at least latterly, in that phase of his career best attested by the meticulously groomed, earliest manuscript record – can often be seen as actively engaging the possibility of a socially indeterminate public that exists beyond, and in addition to, whatever member...

    • Chapter 18 Buying Gower’s Confessio Amantis in Modern Times
      (pp. 279-290)
      A. S. G. EDWARDS

      The history of any book’s ownership, its passage from person to person, from place to place, is largely one that has to be reconstructed, not from the evidence contained within the material form of the work itself, but chiefly by reference to external documents. There may, of course, be signs of ownership within the book, annotations, coats of arms, signatures or shelf marks, but these do not invariably appear and often do not occur at all; where they do exist they are not always identifiable and are hence of limited evidential value. Insofar as any book may have a developed...

    • Chapter 19 Gaps and Silences in the Reception of John Gower in Franco’s Spain
      (pp. 291-298)

      One of John Gower’s most celebrated heroines, Constance, in one of her hazardous sea voyages, came to the coast of Spain near a Saracen’s castle. There, a Moorish knight boarded the boat at night and tried to rape her. Our resourceful Constance prayed for help and God answered her prayer. A strong wind came up, blew the rapist away to drown in the bay and drove her boat out to sea.¹ The poem in which this story appeared, the famousConfessio Amantis, also came to Spain a few years after the story was written, although its fortunes were not so...

    (pp. 299-302)
    (pp. 303-328)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 329-336)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 337-339)