LE DIALOGUE DU FOU ET DU SAGE AND WITTY AND WITLESS
TEXTS. I cite from Monmerqué's reprint of the French dialogue, with marginal readings from the British Museum edition (see Appendix B). Trifling variants are not noted. I cite from the Percy Society print of Witty and Witless.
HEYWOOD'S Witty and Witless (OR Wit and folly) IS preserved in manuscript in the British Museum (Harl. Ms., 367) and is not known to have been printed before the nineteenth century. The reference to Henry's fool, Will Somers, and the direction that three of the closing stanzas 'in the Kyngs absens, ar voyde' indicate the quality of its audience but do not help to fix its date within reasonable limits. It is tempting to regard it as a juvenile bid for fame. At any rate, the fact that it lacks the elaboration and stage business of Love permits us to suppose it an earlier piece of work. I understand that K. W. Cameron, in The Background of John Heywood's 'Witty and Witless' ( Raleigh, North Carolina; The Thistle Press, 1941), proposes a date of composition c. 1522. A few years one way or the other would not, however, affect the present question.
Le fou et le sage has been tentatively assigned to the reign of Louis XII (died 1 January 1515). It may well have been written before 1515, but the only conclusions for which I can find some definite evidence are that it was printed at Lyons between 1516 and 1527, and at Paris before 1532. The number and variety of the old editions show that it was long popular. These matters are discussed in Appendix B.
It may be noted that neither of the texts from which I cite is to be relied on in detail. The Percy Society print of Witty and Witless, like Farmer's modernized text of this and other plays, has several misreadings. Professor De la Bère's more recent text is also faulty. For the present purpose, however, one need not refer the reader to the