Academic journal article Philological Quarterly

Apollonius of Tyre in Its Manuscript Context: An Issue of Marriage

Academic journal article Philological Quarterly

Apollonius of Tyre in Its Manuscript Context: An Issue of Marriage

Article excerpt

The romance of Apollonius of Tyre was "throughout the Middle Ages, one of the most frequently copied and translated romances of all those which are thought to have originated in the Hellenistic world of the second- and third-centuries A.D. " (1) The earliest extant version of the legend, entitled Historia Apollonii Regis Tyri, was written in Latin prose. This Latin version "strongly suggests that the work was originally composed in Greek," with some later, Latin, innovations, resulting in an amalgamation of Greek and Latin elements. (2) An Old English prose translation of the romance exists in fragmentary form (although it was presumably originally complete) in a sole manuscript dating from the mid-eleventh century: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 201 (henceforth MS 201). The Old English version found in MS 201 is the oldest extant vernacular translation of the Historia Apollonii, (3) and is, according to Clare Lees, "the first heterosexual love narrative in English." (4) It should be noted, however, that it seems likely that the translation of Apollonius in MS 201 was copied from another, now lost, Old English version. (5) Moreover, Archibald notes that "at least one other Old English text is known to have existed, whether or not it was the same version [as in MS 201]. The catalogue of the Benedictine Abbey at Burton-on-Trent [Staffordshire], written about 1175, records number 75, 'Apollonium anglice.'" (6)

MS 201, in which the Old English Apollonius is now uniquely extant, is a composite manuscript consisting of two distinct parts, which were bound together in the sixteenth century, probably by (or for) Matthew Parker: (7) part 1 (pages 1-178) is the focus of this article; part 2 (pages 179-272) is "quite unrelated" to part 1, and was written in Latin and Old English at Exeter (s. xi med). (8) Part 2 was formerly bound with Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MSS 191 and 196, and principally contains the Capitula of Theodulf (of Orleans) in Latin and Old English translation. (9) The provenance of part 1 is uncertain (possibly written at Worcester, York, Canterbury, Winchester, or at a combination of houses). (10) The extant evidence to determine part l's provenance is far from conclusive. (11)

MS 201 has received quite some critical attention, particularly in recent times. For example, the incomplete Old English translation of the Regularis Concordia which opens MS 201 is partially adapted for a female audience, and this peculiarity has occasioned comment, especially from Joyce Hill. (12) For the most part, however, this attention has been stimulated because MS 201 records a considerable amount of Wulfstanian material. (13) A large proportion of the works written by, ascribed to, or associated with Wulfstan is extant in MS 201, and most of these are found after the Regularis Concordia between quires 1 and 11. As Whitelock notes of this Wulfstanian portion, "while it does not always give the best text of the works it contains, it has Wulfstan material that survives in no other manuscript." (14) The manuscript includes many of Wulfstan's homilies, as well as anonymous homilies written in Wulfstanian style. It also includes pastoral letters (including Wulfstan's revised version of AElfric's Pastoral Letter to him); a number of law codes (of AEthelraed and Cnut, interwoven with the non-Wulfstanian codes of Eadgar, Eadmund and AEthelstan); selections from his Institutes of Polity; the Northumbrian Priests' Law (although Wulfstan's authorship of this text is contested) ; his Canons of Edgar, and the prose sections from his Old English translation of the so-called "Benedictine Office." (15)

MS 201 is also of interest because it contains the longest (although not original) example of the so-called "Late Old English Handbook for the Use of a Confessor" (henceforth "Handbook"), which follows on from the Wulfstanian material. The "Handbook" is one of the few examples of Anglo-Saxon vernacular penitential literature, and MS 201 contains it as well as other penitential and confessional texts. …

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