University of Virginia Library

Search this document 


expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
A Lost MS of Chaucer's Legend of Good Women? by Arthur Sherbo
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
collapse section 
expand section2. 
expand section3. 
expand section4. 
expand section5. 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 
expand section 

expand section 

A Lost MS of Chaucer's Legend of Good Women?
Arthur Sherbo

The Gentleman's Magazine for June 1758 (pp. 261-262) printed a letter from Paul Gemsage (a misprint for Gemsege), the anagramatic signature of the antiquary Samuel Pegge, a regular contributor to the periodical. His subject in the June 1758 letter was the sleep of plants, a subject prompted by a pamphlet by Linnaeus on the phenomenon of plants closing up for the night, and he quoted the pertinent lines from The Legend of Good Women.

There lovith no wight hartyer alyve,
And whan that it is evyn I rynne belyve,
As sone as the sone ginneth to west,
To see this floure, how it woll go to rest,
For fere of night, so hatith the darkenes,
Her chere is plainly spread in brightnesse
Of the sonne for then it will unclose: (ll. 59-65)
Pegge proceeded by stating, "I have a MS. of this part of the author, from whence, to spare the trouble of reporting various readings, I have transcribed the above passage literatim. Those who are curious may compare it . . . with the printed copies of Chaucer, since there are some variations which I think preferrable to what at present are read in Mr. Urry." Having occasion to inquire into the etymology of "daisy," Pegge quoted again from his MS:
The longe daie I shope me to abide
For nothing ells, and I shall nat lie,
But for to looke upon the daisie,
That well by reson men it call maie
The dayes ye, or els the ye of the daie. (ll. 80-84)
And then once more:
And fro me farre came walking in the mede
The God of love, and on his hande a quene,


Page 155
And she was clad in a roiall habite grene,
A fret of golde she had next her here,
And upon that a white crowne she bere
With floures small, and I shall not lie,
For all the world right as a daisie
I crounid is, with white levis lite,
So were the the floures of her crowne white,
And of perle fyne and oryentall
Her white crowne was markidall,
For the which the white crowne above the grene,
Made her like a daisie for to sene,
Considderith eke her fret of gold above. (ll. 212-25)
He notes that Urry has "considered" in the last of the quoted lines and thinks it "certainly better."

Examination of the manuscript texts of the Legend of Good Women in the Chaucer Society Supplementary-Texts of Chaucer's Minor Poems, Series I, No. 22 (1871, reprinted 1888) raises some interesting questions. First of all, Pegge's MS is most closely related to BM Add MS 9832, with the first two quotations agreeing verbatim but not literatim with that MS. However, in l. 214, where the BM MS has "habytt of grene," Pegge's MS has "habite grene," a reading found in six other MSS. The BM MS has "markyd all" where Pegge's MS has "markidall" (l. 222), a unique reading. And, finally, Pegge's MS shares the reading "to sene" (l. 224) with seven other MSS., while the BM MS has "to seme." Two possibilities exist. Pegge may have made errors in transcription, despite his statement that his transcriptions were literatim, or he possessed another, hitherto unknown MS of Chaucer's poems. The unique reading in l. 222, "markidall," makes sense, if possibly not preferable to the "makyd all" of the other MSS.

Pegge's library was sold on March 29, 1798 but no MS of The Legend of Good Women is listed in the sale catalogue. A note on the BM MS reads, "This is apparently the first portion of the MS. acquired by Urry from Mr. Morell Thurston of Rochester, and collated by him. See his edition of Chaucer's Works, 1771 [643, n. 1]." The MS was acquired in June 1835 from the bookseller Thomas Thorpe. Despite Pegge's MS being closer to the BM MS than to any other MS of the poem, it would seem to have been another, but now lost, version.