Geoffrey Chaucer, the Critical Heritage

By Derek Brewer | Go to book overview

Bibliographical note

The general aim of the two volumes is to present a copious selection of the criticism of Chaucer in English from his own day until 1933. Though necessarily selective, I believe nothing of significance has been omitted. The two volumes divide conveniently almost in mid-nineteenth century.

Speght was the first editor to include ‘the judgments and reports of some learned men, of this worthy and famous Poet’ ‘Workes’, 1598, c.i a). Urry collected more such ‘Testimonies’. Hippisley, with an extract from whose work our first volume concludes, appears to be the first to attempt an articulated account of the course of such comments. The process culminates in the great collection made by Miss C.F.E. Spurgeon, ‘Five Hundred Years of Chaucer Criticism and Allusion’, 3 vols, Cambridge, 1925 (reprinted 1961), whose entries reprint in full or in selected extracts the comments she lists. Further references to other criticisms and allusions have been made in the bibliographies by D.D. Griffith, ‘Bibliography of Chaucer 1908-1953’, Seattle, 1955; and W.R. Crawford, ‘Bibliography of Chaucer, 1954-63’, Seattle, 1967. The present work has added a few more comments not previously noted elsewhere, but this has not been a principal object. W.L. Alderson and A.C. Henderson, ‘Chaucer and Augustan Scholarship’, Berkeley, 1970, is a detailed study of one aspect of the reception of Chaucer with new bibliographical information. The work by A. Miskimin, ‘The Renaissance Chaucer’, Yale University Press, 1975, appeared too late to be used.

The present work has an orientation different from that of Miss Spurgeon. Her intention was, especially in the earlier period, to collect as far as possible every reference, however repetitious, and whether literary or not, although for the nineteenth century she was forced to be very

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