Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Richard Morris's Prick, of Conscience: A Corrected and Amplified Reading Text

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Richard Morris's Prick, of Conscience: A Corrected and Amplified Reading Text

Article excerpt

Richard Morris's Prick, of Conscience: A Corrected and Amplified Reading Text, cd. Ralph Hanna and Sarah Wood, EETS, os 342 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). lxxxv + 413 pp.; 1 plate. ISBN 978-0-19-968099-3. Si25.00. When it comes to editions of major Middle English poems, two by Richard Morris have held the field for the longest time: his seven-volume Cursormundi (1874-93) and the 9,600-line Prick of Conscience (1863). A century and a half later, within two years The Prick of Conscience has been edited twice: in 2012 by this reviewer in a TEAMS edition, and in 2013 by Ralph Hanna and Sarah Wood for the Early English Text Society. The superb quality of the EETS edition is what one would expect from such erudite and meticulous scholars. Scholarship can finally move beyond the chestnut that the Prick of Conscience exists in more manuscripts (some 120) than any other Middle English poem. The poem can also now emerge from the shadow of its negative critical reception. It is a major source for religious and catechetical knowledge, the cosmos, natural history, hell, purgatory, and heaven. The synthesis and redistribution of this material in such a prodigious number of manuscript witnesses implies the wide ramification of that knowledge in late medieval England.

Hanna and Wood have done much more than their modest title implies. The front matter provides a re-examination of the manuscripts and their stemma, authorship (anonymous, despite its former attribution to Richard Rolle), dialect (northern), versification (octosyllables), and sources (extremely varied). The explanatory notes are a rich resource for investigations of biblical or legendary lore. The indexes of quotations, allusions, and proper names facilitate these scholarly ends. …

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