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The Text of Chaucer's Purse [*]
George B. Pace

THE COMPLAYNT OF CHAUCER TO HIS PURSE is preserved in ten manuscripts and also in Caxton's print, which, representing a lost manuscript, ranks as an authority. As one would expect, the manuscripts all vary; but by and large the variations are slight, and it is frequently difficult to tell, on a priori grounds, significant from non-significant variation. Professor Robinson regards the classification of the texts as uncertain.[1]

The uncertainty of which Professor Robinson speaks is well shown in the three published classifications.[2] They are similar in that each divides the manuscripts[3] into two groups independently descended from a lost original.[4] But this similarity is not real, for the components of the two groups are different in each classification, as one can see from footnote


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4 above. Such confusion suggests that a bifid arrangement is wrong.

In great part the confusion almost certainly arises from the slightness of the variations. Each editor presumably regards a somewhat different set of readings as significant for grouping the manuscripts.[5] With long poems, of course, it is often necessary to limit the number of variants—for practical reasons. The Purse is short, however, and by considering all of the variant readings, I believe I can show that a trifid arrangement is correct.

The classification proposed in this paper is hence complete;[6] and whether one agrees with the argument or not, one has before one all of the evidence upon which a classification may be based.

The Purse manuscripts, with their sigils, are as follows:[7]

  • A Additional 22139. British Museum. F. 138a.
  • A2 Additional 34360. British Museum. F. 19a.
  • CC1, CC2 MS. 176. Caius and Gonville College, Cambridge. Pp. 12 (CC1), 23 (CC2).
  • Cx Caxton's Anelida and arcite. F. 9a-9b.
  • F Fairfax 16. Bodleian. F. 193a.
  • Ff Ff. 1. 6. Cambridge University Library. F. 59a.
  • H Harley 2251. British Museum. F. 298a.
  • H2 Harley 7333. British Museum. F. 148a.
  • M MS. 4. Morgan Library. F. 77a.
  • P Pepys 2006. Magdalene College, Cambridge. P. 388.


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If my reasoning is correct, the following is the most probable tree for these texts.


I. In explaining the tree, we may begin most conveniently with the lowest MS. on it—A2. Miss Hammond has proved that H and A2 are sister MSS,[8] but it is nevertheless obvious that A2 has no independent textual value for the Purse. Because the reading of H in line 11, Ie-lownesse (for yelownesse), is obviously more authoritative than the reading of A2, eye lownesse, I have chosen H as the exemplar which more closely approximates the common original of H and A2, and have hence diagramed A2 as descended from H and have omitted a separate discussion of it.

II. H and M share several readings found in no other MSS[9] and hence must be considered as closely related. Neither can be considered as descended from the other, however, for each text reads uniquely in places where the other agrees with the rest


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of the MSS.[10] First, M's unique readings (H's readings agree here with all other MSS):
  • 15. Omits to me; H to me
  • 16. Om. downe; H downe
  • 17. pis night; H thurgh youre myght

Note also this reading in M:

  • 7, 14, 21. y muste; H must I, the word-order of the rest of the MSS.

Now, H's unique readings (M's readings agree with the rest of the MSS):

  • 2. Om. be; M be
  • 3. Om. nowe; M nowe
  • 10. To . . . as; M Or . . . lyke
  • 12. feere; M stere
  • 20. Om. thus; M thus

Note also these readings in H:

  • 5. on biere; M vpon my bere, the reading of all MSS except P Cx (see section VI below, in which it is shown that P Cx have a common original).
  • 15. my lif my light; M my hertis light. Both readings are unique, yet M's is closer to the generally supported reading, my lyves lyght.

H and M share these unique readings:

  • 11. H yowre Ie-lownesse bath no peere; M youre yelownes bathe no pere. For reasons which will become apparent, Chaucer's original (the x of the tree) must be assumed to have read That of yelownesse had neuer pere.
  • 16. souerayn lady. The rest of the MSS read saveour.
  • 20. Both MSS read line 6 here and omit the usual But yet I pray unto your curtesye.


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On the basis of the above shared unique readings, we may assume ex 2HM,[11] which we may call a. The significant readings of a are as follows:

  • 1. to
  • 4. yf
  • 5. Me were as lefe to be leyde vpon my bere
  • 7, 14, 21. must I
  • 10. Or se
  • 11. That of youre yelownesse hath no pere
  • 13. Quene of comforte and of company
  • 15. Now purse
  • 16. And souerayne lady downe in this world here
  • 18. Sith
  • 20. ffor which vnto yowre mercy thus I crye
  • 22ff. Om. Envoy

III. CC2 and a share several unique readings. Because of the following unique reading in a, however, we cannot assume the descent a > CC2:

  • 11. That of youre yelownesse hath no pere. CC2, which reads neuer no pere, must belong with the MSS in which neuer occurs (i.e., all except a); further, CC2 omits youre with all other MSS.
Nor, because of the following unique readings in CC2 (where a and the rest of the MSS agree), can we assume the descent a < CC2:
  • 1. Om. to; a to
  • 15ff. CC2 om. third stanza and envoy; a, although it omits the envoy, contains the third stanza.
Note also these readings in CC2:
  • 4. Om. yf; a yf, the reading of all other MSS except A Cx P.[12]

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  • 5. Me were A leef to be layd opon my bere; a Me were as lefe to be leyde upon my bere, a reading closer to the generally supported reading, which omits to.
CC2 and a share the following unique readings:
  • 5. to be leyde upon my bere. All other MSS om. to.
  • 11. no pere. All other MSS om. no.
The following reading may be taken as corroborative evidence:
  • 7, 14. must. All other MSS except CC1 [13] have variations of mote.

On the basis of the above readings, we may assume ex 2 a CC2, b, the significant readings of which, as they differ from those of a, are as follows:

  • 11. That of yelownesse hath never no pere

IV. H2 and b share two unique readings. However, because of the following unique readings in b (where H2 and the rest of the MSS agree), we cannot assume the descent b > H2:

  • 5. to be layde; H2 be leyde
  • 16. souerayne lady; H2 saveoure
  • 20. Reads line 6 here; H2 But yitte I pray vn-to your courtesye
  • 22ff. Om. envoy; H2 has the envoy
Nor, because of the following unique readings in H2 (where b and the rest of the MSS agree), can we assume the descent b < H2:
  • 10. Or shew . . . to; b Or se (om. to)
  • 15. Yee pursse; b Now purse
Note also this reading in H2:
  • 16. as in pis worlde doune here. Although in reading downe in this world here b incorrectly omits as, it preserves the generally supported word-order.[14]


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H2 and b share this unique reading:

  • 13. Om. good. All other MSS read good.
These readings are also significant:
  • 11. H2 neuer his pere; b neuer no pere. The extra word is uniquely common to these MSS.
  • 18. Sith. All other texts except CC1 and the Thynne print of 1532 read Syn.[15]

On the basis of these readings we may assume ex 2 b H2, c, the significant readings of which, as they differ from those of b, are as follows:

  • 5. be leyde
  • 16. saveoure
  • 20. But yitte I pray vn-to your courtesye
  • 22ff. The envoy presumably read as in H2.

V. Before considering the group A CC1 Cx P, I shall give briefly the evidence for the classification of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth-century printed versions of the Purse. Since they all derive ultimately from Cx, they are of no value in establishing a text.[16] The descent often can be determined only through shared spellings since many of these texts are practically identical. The copy in Thynne's 1532 edition of The Workes (sig. Vvv4b) is almost identical with Cx: the only variations of importance are the substitution of arte for be in line 15, and Sithe for Syn in line 18. The copies in the 1542 and the undated (1545?) Thynne (sig. TT5a and Qqq4b respectively) are independently descended from the 1532 volume, as can be determined from the spellings which the undated Thynne shares with the 1532 but not with the 1542. The only variant reading of any importance is the undated Thynne's error tresour for tresorere in line 18. The copy in Stow's 1561


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edition of The Workes (sig. O0066-Ppp1a), is descended from the copy in the undated Thynne edition, sharing with it tresoure but misreading worde for worlde, l. 16, and Burtes for Brutes, l. 22. The copy in Speght-s 1598 edition of The Workes (sig. O005b-O006a) is descended from Stow: it leaves uncorrected the three misreadings mentioned above but introduces no new errors. The copy in Speght's 1602 edition (sig. Iii3a) "corrects" the errors of its predecessor (treasoure becomes treasure, Burtes becomes Brutes, word becomes world) but for some unknown reason attributes the poem to Hoccleve. This copy introduces a few slight variants (these are found also in its offsprings, a copy in a 1649 pamphlet reprinted and discussed by P. B. Mitchell in MLN, li [1936], 436, and the reprint in the 1687 Speght). The last text we need consider is the copy in Urry's 1721 The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Compared with the Former Editions, and many valuable MSS (p. 549). Despite the pretensions of the book's title, this copy is only a sophisticated version of Stow.

VI. CC1 Cx P share one unique reading. Because CC1 is a fragment, containing also a number of unique readings, neither Cx nor P can be descended from it:

  • 1-14. CC1 omits the first two stanzas.
  • 16. as in this worde downe here; Cx P as doun in this world here, a reading which we must assume to be that of Chaucer's original.[17]

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  • 17. Of lich [18] ; Cx P Out of, the reading of all other MSS.
  • 18. tresour; Cx P tresorere, the reading of all other MSS.
  • 19. shae; Cx P shaue, the reading of all other MSS.
  • 20. you curtiously; Cx P your curtoisye, the reading of all other MSS.
  • 24. Be; Cx P Ben, the reading of all other MSS.
  • 25. you; Cx P ye, the reading of all other MSS. all my mys; Cx P alle harmes, a reading closer to the reading we must assume for x, all oure harmes.

Neither CC1 nor Cx can be descended from P:

  • 4. But certes; Cx For certes, the reading of all other MSS except A (which reads uniquely That certes).
  • 14. By; Cx Be (with A CC2), a variant of the generally supported Beth.
  • 21. ell; CC1 els, Cx ellis, variants of the generally supported elles.
  • 22. o; CC1 Cx of, the reading of all other MSS.
  • 23. be; CC1 Cx by, the reading of all other MSS.

Neither CC1 nor P can be descended from Cx:

  • 3. Om. so; P so, the reading of all other MSS.
  • 4. ye now make; P but ye make, the reading of A (and CC2 [19] ) and closer to the reading of the rest of the MSS, but yf ye make.
  • 17. by; CC1 P througe, the reading of all MSS except M (which reads uniquely).
  • 20. Om. yet; CC1 P yet, the reading of all other MSS.
Note also the following unique spelling in Cx:
  • 19. ony; CC1 P any, the usual spelling.
CC1 Cx P share one unique reading:
  • 24. Om. song. All other MSS containing the envoy read song.


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Note these other readings as corroborative evidence:
  • 5. Both P and Cx depart from the usual reading, upon my bere. P up on bere, Cx upon a bere.
  • 8. yet. The rest of the MSS read it. Presumably, Cx and P's unusual spelling arose from a parent MS. whose parent, in turn, read yt.
  • 25. CC1 Cx P depart from the reading which we must assume to be that of x (see section X below), all oure harmes, CC1 reading all my mys, Cx P all harmes.[20]

On the basis of the above readings we may assume ex 2 CC1 Cx P, d, the significant readings of which are as follows:

  • 4. For certes but ye make me heuy chiere
  • 5. Me were as lief be leid vpon bere
  • 7, 14, 21. Be
  • 8. yet
  • 11. had neuer pere
  • 13. of gode companye
  • 16. as doun in this world here
  • 18. Syn
  • 19. as any frere
  • 21. Be . . . mote I
  • 24. Ben verrey kinge this to yow I sende
  • 25. And ye that mow all harmes amende

VII. A and d share two readings, one unique, the other, although not unique, believed to be significant for grouping A with d. Because, however, of the following unique readings in A (where d and the rest of the MSS agree), we cannot assume the descent d < A:

  • 4. any; d heuy
  • 13. Om. of; d of
  • 21. Om. mote; d mote
  • 22ff. A omits the envoy
Note these unique spellings in A:
  • 7. dey; d dye, the usual spelling.
  • 20. Rut (an obvious scribal error); d But.


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Nor, because of the following unique readings in d (where A agrees with the rest of the MSS), can we assume the descent d > A:

  • 5. upon bere; A upon my bere
  • 8. yet; A hit

A and d share these readings:

  • 4. Om. if. All other MSS except CC2 read if.
  • 7, 14, 21. Be. All other MSS read some form of Beth.

Although this evidence is not strong, it is stronger than any other evidence for placing A; hence I think we may assume ex 2 d A, e, the significant readings of which, as they differ from those of d, are as follows:

  • 4. For certes but ye make me heuy chere
  • 5. vpon my bere
  • 8. hit

VIII. Because of the following unique readings in c (where e agrees with the two MSS not yet considered, F and Ff), we cannot assume the descent e < c:

  • 11. had never no pere; e had neuer pere
  • 13. Om. good; e good

Nor, because of the following unique readings in e (where c agrees with F Ff), can we assume the descent e > c:

  • 4. Om. if; c if
  • 24. Om. song; c song
  • 25. Om. oure; c (with Ff) oure

c and e share one reading which is not shared by the two MSS yet to be considered (F Ff):

  • 19. For I am shave as nigh as any frere
This line must be assumed to be the reading of the prototype. Otherwise we must assume, as will appear, that x read For I am shave as nye as is any frere (a reading found only in Ff). Hence


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we cannot consider that c and e had an exclusive common ancestor. Each rather represents a group derived independently from an unknown parent MS.

IX. F and Ff share a number of unique readings. Because of these unique readings in Ff, however, we cannot assume the descent F < Ff:

  • 11. the lewdnesse; F yelownesse, the reading of c e.
  • 19. Om. nye; F nye, the reading of c e.
Note also these two spellings in Ff:
  • 7, 14. deye; F dye, the usual spelling.
  • 21. erlles; F elles, the usual spelling.

Nor, because of these unique readings in F, can we assume the descent F > Ff:

  • 19. a; Ff any, the reading of c e.
  • 25. alle myn harme; Ff all oure harmes, the reading of c.

F and Ff share these unique readings:

  • 18. bene. The other MSS read be.
  • 19. is. The other MSS omit.
  • 25. mowen. This form varies in all other copies.
Note also these two unique spellings:
  • 8. voucheth sauf. This phrase was troublesome to nearly all of the Purse scribes (A vouchesafe; A2 H fouchesauf; CC2 wouschsaf; Cx vouchesauf; H2 wouchepe save; M fouchesaufe; P vouch sauf).
  • 14. ayeyne

On the basis of the above readings we may assume ex 2 F Ff, f, the significant readings of which are as follows:

  • 4. but yf
  • 7, 14, 21. Beth
  • 13. of gode companye
  • 18. Syn
  • 19. For I am shave as nye as is any frere[21]

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  • 24. song
  • 25. all oure harmes

X. Neither c nor e can be descended from f because of f's reading:

  • 19. For I am shave as nye as is any frere. Here c and e agree on as nygh as any frere.

XI. f shares with c these readings not found in e:

  • 4. but if. e omits if
  • 7, 14, 21. Beth e Be
  • 24. song. e omits song
  • 25. all oure harmes e all harmes

But f shares with e these readings not found in c:

  • 13. gode. c omits gode
  • 18. Syn. c Sith [22]

Hence we must suppose that c, e, and f all derive independently from one parent (the x of the tree).

XII. From the tree it will be seen that four MSS (F Ff A H2) are all at one remove from the original. Of these Ff has the fewest unique readings and is in general a good text. It therefore forms the basis of the text which I now print.

The complaynt of Chaucer to his Purse
To yow my purse and to noon other wight
Complayn I for ye be my lady dere
I am so sory now that ye been lyght
ffor certes but yf ye make me hevy chere
Me were as leef be layde vpon my bere
ffor whiche vnto your mercy thus I crye
Beeth hevy ageyne or elles mote I dye


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Now voucheth-sauf this day or hyt be nyght
That I of yow the blisful sovne may here
Or se your colour lyke the sonne bryght
That of yelownesse had neuer pere
Ye be my lyfe ye be myn hertys stere
Quene of comfort and of gode companye
Beth heuy ayeyne or elles mote I dye
Now purse that ben to me my lyves lyght
And saveour as doun in this worlde here
Oute of this tovne helpe me thurgh your myght
Syn that ye wil nat bene my tresorere
For I am shave as nye as any frere
But yet I pray vnto your curtesye
Bethe hevy ayen or elles mote I dye
Lenvoy de Chaucer
O conquerour of Brutes albyon
Whiche that by lyne and free eleccion
Ben verray kynge this songe to yow I sende
And ye that mowen all oure harmes amende
Haue mynde vpon my supplicacion

When one compares this text with Skeat's and Robinson's, one does not find a great many differences,[23] a fact which should not be surprising, since all three texts are based on the same manuscript. The differences are:


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  • 3. been. Skeat be.
  • 4. ffor certes but yf ye make me hevy chere. Skeat and Robinson omit yf. [24]
  • 11. That of yelownesse had neuer pere. Skeat and Robinson read hadde.
  • 15. ben. Skeat be.
  • 18. wil. Skeat and Robinson wole.
  • 25. all oure harmes. Skeat all our harm.

Because the differences between my text and Skeat's and Robinson's, while numerous, are rather trivial, a natural question now—at least a question frequently asked—is this: If a text is to stay substantially the same, why go to the trouble of "establishing" it?[25] Is the work worth doing, really? An answer lies readily at hand in Dr. Bühler's comments on the Morgan MS.:

Does line 17 in the Morgan MS. [Oute of this toune helpe me pis night] mean that Chaucer wanted money to leave Greenwich and thus avoid an expected encounter with the sheriff? . . . The lines (apart from the Envoy) suggest a date not later than May 4, 1398, for on that day King Richard took Chaucer "into his special protection. . . ." After that date Chaucer had no reason to press for money so urgently, or, for that matter, to leave town precipitously. This is true not only of the poem as it stands in the Morgan MS. but also in the other MSS.; the Morgan text (in line 17) mainly emphasizes Chaucer's immediate need of money. This argues for a date earlier than May 4th, 1398; in that case, the Morgan text may be construed to represent the earlier version of the poem.[26]


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Chaucer's biography is so meager that it is tempting to make any inferences we can. I think my study shows, however, that we must reject any inferences drawn from line 17 in the Morgan MS. From the evidence set forth in section 11 above, we must conclude that the Morgan MS. is the sister of Harley 2251—that the two manuscripts have an exclusive common ancestor, the a of my tree. From the evidence set forth in sections III and IV, we must conclude that b is the sister of CC2,[27] and that, in turn, the exclusive common ancestor of a and CC2 (the b of my tree) is the sister of Harley 7333. Now in line 17 Harley 2251 and Harley 7333 read Out of this towne help me thurgh youre myght; this is the reading of the rest of the manuscripts also. Hence the reading of a, the parent of the Morgan MS., must have been thurgh youre myght, and the variant pis night the emendation of a scribe.

    Note. Since the classification uses spelling variants only to corroborate stronger evidence, and since a list containing spelling variants becomes unwieldy, only variant readings are given below. All MSS not listed may be taken as agreeing with the lemma (written thus: xyz)).

  • 1. purse) first purpose, corrected to purse H2. to) om. CC2.
  • 2. ye) yow A2 CC2 H. be) om. A2 H. bene Ff.
  • 3. so) om. Cx. now) om. A2 H. ye) you CC2. been) be A CC2 Cx H2P. bethe) M.
  • 4. ffor) That A. But P. yf ye) om. yf A CC2 P. ye now Cx. ye) you CC2. hevy) any A.
  • 5. as leef) A leef CC2. as) als H2. be) to be A2 CC2 H M vpon) on A2 H. my) om. A2 H P. a Cx.
  • 6. your) you M.
  • 7. Beeth) Be A Cx P. elles) ell P. mote I) must I A2 H. most I CC2. y muste M.
  • 8. hyt) yet Cx P.
  • 9. No variant readings.
  • 10. Or) To A2 H. se) shew H2. lyke) as A2 H. lyche to H2.

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  • 11. yelownesse) yowre eye lownesse A2. yowlenes CC2. the lewdnesse Ff. yowre Ie-lownesse H. youre yelownes M. had) hath A2 H. hadde F. hathe M. neuer pere) no peere A2 H. neuer no pere CC2. neuer his pere H2. no pere M.
  • 12. be) bien A2 H. beo H2. bethe M. lyfe) light A2 H. be) bien A2 H. beo H2. bethe M. myn) my A CC2 Cx H2 M P. stere) feere A2 H.
  • 13. of) om. A. gode) om. A2 H H2 M. all CC2.
  • 14. Beth) Be A Cx CC2. By P. elles) ell P. mote I) must I A2 H. most I CC2. y muste M.
    CC2 omits the rest of the poem; CC1 begins here.
  • 15. Now) Yee H2. ben) be A CC1 Cx. beth A2 H M. to me) om. M. lyves lyght) lif my light A2 H. hertis light M.
  • 16. saveour) souerayn lady A2 H M. as) om. A2 H M. doun) om. M. as doun in this worlde here) as in this worde downe here CC1. as in pis worlde doune here H2.
  • 17. Oute of) Of lich CC1. thurgh) by Cx. thurgh your myght) pis night M.
  • 18. Syn) Sith A2 CC1 H H2 M. wil) wole F. wolle M. bene) be A A2 CC1 H M P. beo H2. tresorere) tresour CC1.
  • 19. shave) shae CC1. nye) om. Ff. as any frere) as is a ffrere F. as ys any frere Ff.
  • 20. yet) om. Cx. your curtesye) you curtiously CC1. A2 H M omit this line and read line 6 here.
  • 21. Bethe) Be A CC1 Cx P. elles) ell P. mote) om. A. must A2 H. most CC1. y must M.
    A A2 H M CC2 lack the envoy.
  • Lenvoy de Chaucer) Thenuoye of chaucer vnto the kynge Cx. Lenvoye H2 P.
  • 22. of) o P.
  • 23. by) be P.
  • 24. Ben) Be CC1. songe) om. CC1 Cx P.
  • 25. Ye) You CC1. mowen) may CC1 Cx H2. mow P. all oure harmes) all my mys CC1. alle harmes Cx P. alle myn harme F. all oure harmous H2.
  • 26. Haue) hape H2.
  • The title. The compleint of chaucer vnto his empty purse Cx. The complaynt of Chaucer to his Purse F. A supplicacion to Kyng Richard by chaucier/ H2. The complaynt off Chaucers vn-to his purse M. La Compleint de chaucer A sa Bourse Voide P. Chaucer A2.



The preliminary work on this problem was done some years ago in collaboration with Dr. James W. Alexander, to whom I am greatly indebted throughout this paper.


Chaucer, p. 1039.


H. F. Heath in the Globe Chaucer, p. li; F. N. Robinson, loc. cit.; C. F. Bühler in "A New Lydgate-Chaucer MS.," MLN, LII(1937), 5-9.


For convenience I shall not distinguish between the MSS and Caxton's printed version.


Heath: (1) F; (2) A Cx Ff H H2 P. Robinson: (1) A2 CC2 F Ff H H2; (2) A Cx P. Bühler: (1) A CC2 F Ff H2 P: (2) A2 H M. (See below for the meanings of the sigils.) Although the alphabetical arrangement of the sigils shows most imperfectly the many differences between these classifications, one will note the flexibility with which the MSS are shifted from group to group. Obviously at least two of these classifications must be largely incorrect.


Dr. Bühler's classification is based mainly on the variants in lines 5, 11, 16, and 20; Robinson's (a tentative classification) and Heath's are published almost without explanation.


Note that Robinson omits M and CC1 (both unavailable to him); Bühler, Cx and CC1 (the latter unavailable to him); and Heath (whose classification was published in 1898), A2 CC1 CC2 M (some of the errors in Heath's classification probably arise from the small number of MSS which he used, but cf. Flügel, "Kritische Bemerkungen zur Globe-edition von Chaucers Werken," ESt, XXVII [1900], 60). CC1 (a transcription of which is printed in my "Four Unpublished Chaucer MSS" [forthcoming in MLN]) and the Black Letter texts had not been classified until my study.


Most of them have been published by the Chaucer Society (for A F Ff H H2 P, see Parallel Texts, pp. 448-49; for A2, More Odd Texts, p. 41; for Cx, Supplementary Parallel Texts, p. 155), and I have relied on their transcriptions. In addition, I have used the transcription of M published by Dr. Bühler (op. cit., 6-7) and the transcription of CC2 published by H. N. MacCracken ("An Odd Text of Chaucer's Purse," MLN, XXVII [1912], 228-29). The MSS are all from the Fifteenth Century (Cx was printed ca. 1477); A and F are from the first half. Except for CC1, the dating of which is necessarily my own, I have relied on generally established dates. (Although questions of date are not important in the classification of the Purse MSS, I might point out that the MS. tree which I propose preserves chronological probability.)


"Two British Museum MSS," Anglia, XXVIII (1905), 1-28. The evidence which Miss Hammond used, however, is completely outside the Purse MSS.


Henceforth called "shared unique readings." These readings are in A2, of course, but at the moment that fact is irrelevant (cf. fn. 10 below).


As a general thing, the phrase "the reading of the rest of the MSS" means exactly what it says. To avoid an unnecessary complication, however, I exclude from consideration the readings of MSS already considered provided they are in the same line of descent as the MS. being discussed. For instance, it is at present of no significance whether A2 agrees or disagrees with the rest of the MSS. (The variant readings of A2—as well as those of the other MSS—may be found in the Table of Variants below.)


This useful abbreviation, borrowed from the Chicago Chaucer, means, of course, "the exclusive common ancestor [of H and M]."


On the basis of this reading Dr. Bühler groups CC2 with A P (he does not consider Cx). The omission, however, is of the sort that any scribe might well be tempted to make, since the line is metrically too long and the yf is not necessary to the sense (see below for a further discussion of this variant). In view of the quite strong evidence in lines 5 and 11 for grouping CC2 with a, one is practically forced to consider the omission of yf as accidental coincidence.


CC1, in the same book as CC2, contains the last stanza and the envoy. Although it is of a different provenance from CC2 (see section VI), and apparently in a different hand, there may be some connection in both texts' reading must instead of mote.


CC1 reads as in this worde downe here. The agreement in word-order with H2 seems nonsignificant (see fn. 17 below).


Since the Thynne print is clearly copied from Cx (see section V below), which reads Syn, this reading may have little significance.


Fortunately, as they seem never to have been investigated carefully (even Thynne was unclassified before this study, although the classification is simple [cf. Robinson, op. cit., p. 1039]).


The evidence for this line is as follows:

Cx P A F Ff as doun in this world here
CC1 as in this worde downe here
H2 as in pis worlde doune here
A2 Hdowne in this world here
M in this worlde here
As we shall see, we must assume that F Ff form a group independently descended from x; hence we must assume the reading of Cx P A to be that of x (note also the reading of A2 H). CC1's reading, however, leaves us with two additional problems: the agreement in word-order with H2 and the agreement in the variant worde with the Stow print. For the first of these I can offer no explanation except to remark on the general badness of CC1's text, a badness which suggests memorial transcription. I am forced to regard the agreement in word-order with H2 as accidental in view of the rather strong evidence for grouping CC1 with Cx P in l. 24. The second agreement is even more remarkable when considered with the next line, for there CC1 reads tresour with Stow. Yet we know that Stow's reading derives from the 1545(?) Thynne. It is chronologically impossible, of course, that CC1 be descended from Thynne or Stow, and there seems to be no reason for thinking that Thynne or Stow utilized CC1, since their texts are otherwise in close agreement with their printed predecessors. The explanation must lie in the character of the variants. Both tresour and worde make a sort of obvious sense, and hence both may be sophistications; or they may be misprints in Thynne and Stow, graphic errors in CC1 (note that CC1's scribe drops a letter in shave, l. 19, reading shae). (Professor Hench has called my attention, since I wrote this note, to the fact that word is commonly found for world in Middle English texts (cf. NED). Hence the form in CC1 is quite probably only a variant spelling.) Such striking agreements as the tresourworde pair show how necessary it is to consider all variant readings in constructing a tree rather than simply those that seem significant.


Apparently meaningless (the writing is clear).


The omission of yf must be considered non-significant for grouping CC2 with A P in view of the evidence set forth in section III.


CC1's reading perhaps derives from a spelling all har mys, since in the non-book hands of the period har and my do not look unlike.


F For I am shave as nye as is a ffrere; Ff For I am shaue as ys any frere.


To be considered as significant only with the reservation expressed in fn. 15 above.


There are many differences in spelling, of course; but since no edition can pretend to reproduce Chaucer's spelling, the fact that the three texts are spelt somewhat differently is not important. My procedure has been to follow F's spelling rather rigidly, departing from it only when it is unique (but making no distinction between y and i and u and v: hence sovne instead of soune in l. 9). Skeat's departures from F's spelling, incidentally, seem to follow no consistent plan: for instance, he adopts the spelling of Cx P, purs, in l. 15, although the spelling of F, purse, is found also in A A2 [CC1] H [M]; but in l. 1 he retains F's purse, although Cx Ff P spell the word purs. Skeat's through for thurgh, l. 17, is found in no MS.


My reading, metrically less regular than Skeat's and Robinson's, perhaps needs a word of comment. Although yf is omitted by some MSS (A CC2 Cx P), it is found in two of the three branches of the tree and hence must be assumed to have been in the original. Furthermore, it would seem more probable that a scribe would emend to make the line more regular than emend to make it less regular. (It may be well to remind the reader that the x of the tree is only the archetype of the eleven Purse MSS; that it is not necessarily identical with Chaucer's own copy of his poem [indeed, most probably is not exactly identical]; and hence that the x of the tree may itself have contained errors.)


One can never know, of course, what the final text will be until the work is done.


Op. cit., pp. 8-9. Since Dr. Bühler is arguing from a unique reading—and the assumption is usually made that unique readings are per force to be regarded as of scribal origin—, the reader should know that in Dr. Bühler's tree the Morgan MS. is placed at one remove from the original. Even so, there are logical difficulties in assuming "the earlier version." Instead of one earlier version, at least two earlier versions must be assumed, one composed of the Morgan MS. alone (solely on the basis of its unique variant in l. 17).


CC2 ends at line 14.


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