The European Sun: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Scottish Language and Literature, University of Strathclyde, 1993

By Graham Caie; Roderick J. Lyall et al. | Go to book overview

THEO VAN HEIJNSBERGEN


38. The Bannatyne Manuscript Lyrics: Literary
Convention and Authorial Voice

When James V died in 1542, Scotland not only entered a phase of instability in the social and political spheres but, if we take into account the importance of royal patronage, literature, too, faced a period of unsettlement. However, waiting in the wings was a new source of patronage: already in the reign of James IV (1488–1513) the increasingly self-confident burghs had begun to take over the role of major cultural patron, as witnessed by local pageants, royal entries and the erection of burgh song schools, and this became even more prominent after 1542, when Crown, nobility and Church were increasingly occupied with more pressing affairs such as the ‘Rough Wooing’ by the English troops and the upheavals of the Reformation. The fact that in 1561 a Catholic sovereign came from France to rule over an Edinburgh elite that had newly been reformed but still retained many Catholic features complicated matters even further; nevertheless, the commencement of Mary Stewart’s reign also contained the promise of renewed cultural vigour through royal patronage. The Bannatyne Manuscript (1568; henceforth BM), the anthology in which most of the extant vernacular poetry of this period has been preserved, reveals traces of these cultural and sociopolitical developments in its secular poetry, especially with respect to the emergence of a new authorial voice out of medieval conventions of courtly literature.1 Although this is in itself a purely literary process, it is tied in with historical developments, and some historicising is in order here.

There is one other document that George Bannatyne, the collector of the manuscript, has left us, a ‘memoriall buik’, in which he records the births, marriages, deaths and godparents of his parents, brothers, sisters and children. This inventory of relatives and godparents, yielding some eighty-five names of people that the Bannatynes associated with, provides the best checklist available should we wish to reconstitute an audience for the BM. I have presented elsewhere a more detailed account of this list, but for the present purpose a short summary will suffice.2 The names on the list can be divided into four groups: leading merchants and craftsmen from Edinburgh (with connections to

1 For a diplomatic transcription of the Bannatyne manuscript, see The Bannatyne Manuscript Writtin in Tyme of Pest, 1568, ed. W. Tod Ritchie (STS, 4 vols, 1928–34); for the facsimile edition, see The Bannatyne Manuscript, eds. Denton Fox and William A. Ringler (London, 1980). The only booklength study of the manuscript to date is Joan Hughes and W.S. Ramson, Poetry of the Stewart Court (Canberra, 1982).

2 Theo van Heijnsbergen, ‘The Interaction between Literature and History in Queen Mary’s Edinburgh: The Bannatyne Manuscript and its Prosopographical Context,’ in The Renaissance in Scotland. Studies in Literature, Religion, History and Culture, eds. A.A. MacDonald, Michael Lynch and Ian B. Cowan (Leiden, 1994), pp. 183–225.

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