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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 December 2020
The Authorship of the Romaunt of the Rose, subject of ardent controversy for nearly a century, can at last be established beyond any significant measure of doubt, for there is a new and highly reliable kind of evidence to show that at least two men were responsible for the existing partial translation of the famed Roman de la rose into Middle English. More than 200 MSS of the original French poem, composed by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun in the thirteenth century, have been catalogued by the late Ernest Langlois. The French scholar divided these MSS into three main groups, I, II, and III, and into subgroups or families marked by capital letters; while individual MSS he designated by the family letter plus a lower-case letter, Ab, He, Ha, and so on. In consequence of Langlois' great work, scholars have been enabled to compare the ME Romaunt with the variant readings of the MSS of its French original, and as will be demonstrated below, such comparison throws revealing light upon the facts of the Romaunt's composition.
1 Ed. Le roman de la rose, 5 vols. (Paris, 1914–24). All references will be to this edition.
2 Skeat based his argument on Kaluza's discovery in 1893 that the Romaunt, hitherto thought because of a 5000-line gap to be in two fragments, was probably in three, a break coming after 1. 1705 of the first. In this paper, 11. 1–1705 will be called Fragment A, 1706–5810 and 5811–7698, Fragments B and C respectively.
3 The Chaucer Tradition (London and Copenhagen, 1925). All references to Brusendorff will be to this work.
4 Other instances of Ri discordance are ME 769 and Lang. 754, ME 712 and Lang. 700, ME 820 and Lang. 805, ME 844 and Lang. 882, omission of Lang. 362 and ME 370, omission of Lang. 366 and ME 374.
5 Lang. 1475 f. and ME 1507 f., Lang. 1241 f. and ME 1263 f., Lang. 1029 f. and ME 1045 f., Lang. 77 f. and ME 81 f., Lang. 1585 and ME 1615. Moreover, L MSS do not correspond in Lang. 1240–42 and ME 1262–64, Lang. 1060 and ME 1079, Lang. 166 and ME 168, Lang. 712 and ME 724, Lang. 777 and ME 793, Lang. 803 and ME 818, Lang. 881 and ME 893 f., addition of two lines after Lang. 539 and ME 551.
6 Also worthy of note are Lang. 495 f. and ME 507 f., Lang. 1526 and ME 1556, Lang. 501 and ME 513, Lang. 1636 f. and ME 1674 f., Lang. 181 f. and ME 196, Lang. 271 and ME 282, Lang. 283 and ME 293, Lang. 298 f. and ME 308, Lang. 501 and ME 513, Lang. 687 and ME 697.
7 Other instances of probable eye-skipping, not dependent specifically on H readings but nevertheless explaining omissions in the ME, are: From Que in Lang. 1171 to Que in Lang. 1173 (explains omission of Lang. 1171 f.); from Maint in 1187 to Maint in 1189 (explains omission of Lang. 1187 f.); from Ci in 1S8S to Ci in 1587 (explains omission of Lang. 1585 f.).
8 An isolated instance exists where all H MSS omit a couplet (1045 f.), the linear equivalent of which is in the Romaunt (1062 f.). But the first line of the ME couplet rimes with the line before it, while the second rimes with the line immediately after, indicating that the couplet, which barely resembles the existing French lines, was devised to fill out the translator's rime scheme.
9 Les manuscripts du Roman de la Rose: Description et classement (Paris, 1910), p. 248.
10 Since the completion of this article, I have been engaged in preparing a new comparative edition of the Romaunt of the Rose and appropriate readings of the Roman. The only comparative edition already in existence, constructed by Max Kaluza for the Chaucer Society and published in 1891, does not, of course, take into account the variant readings of all the many French MSS now known—Langlois' work was not completed until a quarter of a century after Kaluza's edition was in print. Consequently, the existing comparative text is deficient in many respects—a fact which Brusendorff noted in 1925—and the need for another text is manifest.
Preparation of a new edition of the Romaunt and Roman has proved a fruitful task, for it has brought to light several important and hitherto unnoticed situations: Fragment B, for instance, consists probably of four or five small fragments, knit together awkwardly by an early editor-scribe who possessed a MS of the French poem. The misplacing of lines 7109–7158 and 7159–7208 in the Glasgow MS and Thynne edition was not accidental, but the work of the early editor following his version of the Roman. Certain lines thought to be of an ME translator's own composition have originals in certain French MSS. A complete explanation of these and additional observations will be made available, either in article form or as an introduction to a new edition, as soon as possible.
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