BY WILLIAM LANGLAND
Recent criticism of Piers Plowman has done more to weaken the hold of opinions once generally accepted than to replace them by others better founded. It is still most probable that 'Long Will', who is more than once mentioned in the text as the poet, was William Langland. The earliest external evidence of his home and parentage is given in a fifteenth-century note in MS. Dublin D 4. 1, of which both the matter and the vile Latinity bear the stamp of genuineness: 'Memorandum quod Stacy de Rokayle, pater Willielmi de Langlond, qui Stacius fuit generosus, et morabatur in Schiptone under Whicwode, tenens domini le Spenser in comitatu Oxon., qui praedictus Willielmus fecit librum qui vocatur Perys Ploughman.' Shipton-under-Wychwood is near Burford in Oxfordshire. The poem shows familiarity with the Malvern Hills and the streets of London; but it is hard to say how much is fact and how much is fiction in the references to Long Will in the text itself, more especially the description of his London life added as the Sixth Passus in Version C, and reproduced here as the second extract.
Since Skeat's edition for the Early English Text Society, the many manuscripts have been grouped into three main types. The shortest, or A-text, appears from internal evidence to have been written about 1362. The B-text (about 1377) has the most compact manuscript tradition. It is distinguished by considerable additions throughout, and by the reconstruction and expansion of the visions of Dowel, Dobet, Dobest, which make up the second half of the poem. The C-text, the latest and fullest form, appears