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number of lines in the Canterbury Tales have been ‘emended' in order to get rid of lines of this character, solely on the strength of the Harleian MS., the scribe of which kept a keen look-out, with a view to the suppression of this eccentricity on the part of his author. To give him much encouragement seems inconsistent with strict morality.
The introduction (ll. 249-269) of a Balade of twenty-one lines makes every succeeding couplet end with a line denoted by an odd number. The whole number of lines is 2,723. Dr. Furnivall was the first person who succeeded in counting their number correctly.
§ 12. DESCRIPTION of THE MANUSCRIPTS. The MSS. easily fall into two distinct classes, and may be separated by merely observing the reading of l. 1396: see note to that line. MSS. C., T., A. here read Guido or Guydo; whilst MSS. F., Tn., B. read Ouyde. MS. P. is here deficient, but commonly agrees with the former class. Those of the same class will be described together. Besides this, MS. C. is, as regards the Prologue only, unique of its kind; and is throughout of the highest authority, notwithstanding some unpleasant peculiarities of spelling. It is necessary to pay special attention to it.
The list of the MSS. (including Thynne's edition) is as follows:—
A.—Arch. Selden B. 24; Bodleian Library (First class). Add.-Additional 9832; British Museum (First class). Additional 12524; British Museum (First class). B.—Bodley 638; Bodleian Library (Second class). C.—Cambridge Univ. Library, Gg. 4. 27 (First class). F.—Fairfax 16; Bodleian Library (Second class). P.—Pepys 2006; Magd. Coll., Cambridge (First class). T.—Trinity College, Cambridge, R. 3. 19 (First class). Th.-Thynne's edition, pr. in 1532 (Second class P). Tn.—Tanner 346; Bodleian Library (Second class). a.—Additional 28617; British Museum (First class); but only a fragment, viz. ll. 513–610, 808–11os, 1306–1801, 1852– 21 Io, 2125-2135, 2151-2723). 3.—Cambridge Univ. Library, Ff. 1. 6 (Thisbe only). y—Rawlinson C. 86; Bodleian Library (Dido only).
They may be thus described.
containing the Canterbury Tales, denoted by the symbol “Cn.’ in the footnotes to vol. iv(i.e. throughout the Canterbury Tales); also by the symbol “Gg.’ in vol. i., i. e. in the Minor Poems; see p. 49 of the Introduction to vol. i. It also contains some other pieces by Chaucer, viz. the A. B. C., Envoy to Scogan, Truth, Troilus, and the Parlement of Foules. It is of early date, and altogether the oldest, best, and most important of the existing copies of the Legend. I shall call all those that resemble it MSS. of the first class.
Its great peculiarity is that it possesses the unique copy of the early draught of the Prologue; see p. xxi. Upon comparison of it with the Fairfax MS. (the best MS. of the second class), it is found to offer slight differences in many places throughout the various Legends, besides presenting large differences throughout the Prologue. The variations are frequently for the better, and it becomes clear that the first class of MSS. is of an older type. The second class is of a later type, and differs in two ways, in one way for the worse, and in another way for the better. In the former respect, it presents corrupted or inferior readings in several passages; whilst, on the other hand, it presents corrections that are real improvements, and may have been due to revision. No doubt there was once in existence a correct edition of the revised text, but no existing MS. represents it. We can, however, practically reconstruct it by a careful collation of MS. C. with MS. F. ; and this I have attempted to do. Throughout the Prologue, I take MS. C. as the basis of the “A-text,’ correcting its eccentricities of spelling, but recording them in footnotes wherever the variation is at all important; such a variation as hym for him, or yt for hit, I regard as being of no value. At the same time, I take MS. F. as the basis of the B-text, and correct it, where necessary, by collation with the rest. Throughout the Legends themselves, I take MS. F. as the basis of the text, collating it with C. throughout, so that the text really depends on a comparison of these MSS. ; if MS. C. had been made the basis, the result would have been much the same. It was convenient to take F. as the basis, because it agrees, very nearly, with all previous editions of the poem. Unfortunately, leaf 469 of MS. C. has been cut out of it; and, in consequence, ll. 1836–1907 are missing. The scribe has missed ll. 1922, 1923, 2506, 2507, in the process of copying.
Addit. 9882. This is an imperfect MS., ending at l. 1985, no more leaves of the MS. being left after that line. Besides this, the scribe has omitted several lines, viz. ll. 166, 233, 234, 332, 333, 351,865-872, 960, 961, 1255, 1517, 1744–1746, 1783, 1895, 1945. It belongs to the first class of the MSS., but is an unsatisfactory copy, and I have not fully collated it. It confirms, however, several of the readings of this edition, as distinguished from former editions. Addit. 12524. This also is only a fragment. The first leaf begins at l. 1640 of the poem, from which point it is complete to the end, though ll. 2454–2461 are partially effaced. It belongs to the first class of MSS., but is a late copy, and I have not fully collated it. It confirms several of my readings. T.—MS. Trin. Coll. Cam. R. 3. 19. Denoted by the symbol ‘Trin.” in my edition of the Minor Poems, and described in vol. i., Introd. p. 56. It is of rather late date, about 1500, but belongs to the first class of MSS. The scribe has omitted the following lines, viz. 233, 234, 332, 333,489, 960, 961, 1627, 22.02, 2203, 2.287–2292, and 2569. A.—MS. Arch. Selden B. 24 (Bodley). Denoted by the symbol “Ar.’ in my edition of the Minor Poems, and described in vol. i., Introd. p. 54. A Scottish copy, written about 1472. It belongs to the first class of MSS., but the Scottish scribe sometimes takes liberties, and gives us a reading of his own. For example, l. 714 becomes:—“As in grete townis the maner is and wone.' But its readings, on the whole, are good. It alone preserves the word “almychti' in l. 1538, which in all the rest is too short; this may not have been the original reading, but it gives a fair line, and furnishes as good an emendation as we are likely to get. The scribe has omitted ll. 860, 861, 960, 961, 1568–1571, 2226, and 2227 ; besides which, one leaf of the MS. is missing, causing the loss of ll. 2551–2616. P.-Pepys 2006, Magd. Coll., Cambridge. Denoted by ‘P.' in my edition of the Minor Poems, of which it contains ten. It belongs, on the whole, to the first class of MSS. The scribe has omitted ll. 232, 437, 623, and 1275. Besides this, it has lost at least one leaf, causing the complete loss of ll. 706–776, whilst ll. 777–845 are in a different handwriting. At l. 1377 it breaks off altogether, so that it is only a fragment. It gives l. 1377 in the following extraordinary form :—“And thow wer not fals to oon, * - - d
but thow werfals to twoo’; giving six feet at least to the line, and a syllable over. a.—Addit. 28617. A fair MS., but only a fragment, as already noted (p. xlvii). It confirms many of my readings; as, e.g., in ll. 1995, 2019, 2020, 21.99, &c. It varies in l. 1999, but gives there an excellent reading:—That is nat derk, and ther is roum and space. 8.—Camb. Univ. Library, Ff. 1.6. Contains the Legend of Thisbe only. A late and poor MS., of small account. Y.—Rawl. C. 86 (Bodleian Library). Contains the Legend of Dido only. A poor text, with many errors. Yet it seems to be of the first class, and preserves ll. 960–1. It confirms my readings of ll. IoA8, IoT4, IoT9, 1139, 1144, 1159 1174, 1195, 1196, 1215, 1366. F.—Fairfax 16 (Bodleian Library). This is the valuable MS. which contains so many of the Minor Poems. It is described in my Introd. to the Minor Poems; vol. i. p. 51. I have taken it as the basis of the edition, though it was necessary to correct it in all the places where the MSS. of the first class have better readings. It is the best MS. of the second class, and Bell's edition does little more than follow it, almost too faithfully, though the editor professes to have collated with it the MS. A. described above. The same text, in the main, reappears in the editions by Thynne, Morris, Corson, Gilman. The scribe is careless, and frequently leaves out essential words; he also omits ll. 249, 487, 846, 960, 961, 1490 °, 1643, 1693, 1998, part of 215o, 2151, 2152, part of 2153*, 2.193, 2338 (in place of which a spurious line is inserted in a wrong place), and 2475. Besides this, the scribe often ruins the scansion of a line by omitting an essential word in it, as has already been mentioned. Thus in l. 614, he drops the word for, which occurs in all the other MSS. The scribe often wrongly adds or omits a final e, and is too fond of substituting_y for i in such words as him, king. When these variations are allowed for, the spelling of the MS. is, for the most part, clear and satisfactory, and a fair guide to the right pronunciation. Rejected spellings are given in footnotes as far as l. 924; after which I have made such alterations as are purely trivial without giving notice. Even in ll. 1-924 I have changed hym into him, and kyng into king ;
* Not 1491, as Bell says; he has mistaken the line.