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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
The Clerk's Forgotten Tale: Tolkien's Lost Chaucer

Morthoron
Gondor


Oct 11, 11:13pm

Post #1 of 25 (1964 views)
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The Clerk's Forgotten Tale: Tolkien's Lost Chaucer Can't Post

I don't believe this particular tome has been discussed previously, but I am genuinely intrigued to read noted Medievalist John M. Bowers' latest effort Tolkienís Lost Chaucer, in which Dr. Bowers uses Tolkien's notes from an abandoned project (a Clarendon edition of selected works of Chaucer), and intersperses additional biographical intersections of Tolkien and Chaucer.

https://interestingliterature.com/...3CAOtcVAuaKOMCw_zuqo

I wonder if Chaucer's corrupted and wholly incorrigible Pardoner ever made his way into some of Tolkien's more vile characters.

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



(This post was edited by Morthoron on Oct 11, 11:14pm)


squire
Half-elven


Oct 12, 12:27am

Post #2 of 25 (1905 views)
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I've been curious about this one [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the link to a review. It sounds like the author realized his only hope was to liven up the incomplete and rather densely academic draft notes to a chatty romp through Tolkien's literary biography. At least he seems to have done a good job of it.

For instance, I liked the 'Whanne in October...' parody from Tolkien's Leeds days. I don't think I'd heard of the existence of that one before. So kudos on Bowers' research, especially since, as I understand it, he'd never really known much about Tolkien before taking on this project.

I've called this kind of project 'scraping the bottom of the Tolkien barrel', but others have told me I'm being unkind. I think that if I was more familiar with Chaucer as a subject I'd be more inclined to get this.



squire online:
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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 16, 2:20am

Post #3 of 25 (1617 views)
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"The Clerke's Compleinte" has been reprinted twice. [In reply to] Can't Post

First published in 1922 in The Gryphon, which I take to be a university miscellany, it was reprinted, with notes by Tom Shippey, in Arda 1984/85, and in 2009 it appeared again in vol. 6 of Tolkien Studies with commentary by Jill Fitzgerald.

I'd like to see the full publication of Tolkien's parody of Langland, titled "Doworst". Excerpts appeared in two obscure Australian magazines in the 1970s. I heard Doug Anderson read from one of these at Kalamazoo ten or more years ago.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 17, 1:54am

Post #4 of 25 (1581 views)
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Addendum on "Arda 84/85". [In reply to] Can't Post

Despite that collection's name, it was published in 1988.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
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Morthoron
Gondor


Oct 19, 9:35pm

Post #5 of 25 (1440 views)
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It is interesting... [In reply to] Can't Post

that Tolkien's work on 14th century Middle-English text -- save for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo -- has largely gone undiscussed in online Tolkien circles (at least to my recollection).

Have you ever reviewed Tolkien's A Middle English Vocabulary? It was originally meant to accompany Kenneth Sisam's Fourteenth Century Verse and Prose, but for some unexplained reason Tolkien's supplement was included in only a few of the subsequent impressions of Sisam's book, and has remained a standalone publication for the most part.

In any case, It is Tolkienesque to the core, reflecting his attention to detail (some would insist it was his belaboring minutiae). The poems and prose in Sisam's tome finish at 203 pages (300 with notes), while Tolkien's supplement equates to 176 pages in the edition I have. An enlightening little book I have used for the thornier passages in both " Vision of Piers Plowman" and "The Canterbury Tales".




Quote

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



squire
Half-elven


Oct 20, 12:31am

Post #6 of 25 (1425 views)
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Circling the online wagons [In reply to] Can't Post

On this Tolkien forum at least, we have never to my memory discussed any of Tolkien's non-fiction academic work in an organized way. Although our crest has long since fallen, up until a few years ago the Reading Room conducted regular formal read-throughs of Tolkien's fiction with a weekly chapter structure and designated leaders.

But even at the height of the Room's popularity in the mid to late 2000s, we attacked The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales with hesitation, rarely did his shorter works (Farmer Giles, Adventures of Tom B., etc.), and never seriously considered the History of Middle-earth series (What, never? Well, hardly ever!). We did the Letters once, Children of Hurin when it came out, Bored of the Rings once (never quite concluded, unfortunately) and a critical commentary once (Brian Rosebury's 'Cultural Phenomenon'). The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were the staples of the rotation, coming around year after year after decent intervals.

One criticism leveled at the Room by occasional visitors was that the discourse was 'intimidating' both in critical style (e.g., 'prove' your point; where did you read that?; that's not what the text says) and in the depth and breadth of the literary analysis. There were also complaints that the non-core books noted above were less well known and that far fewer of the forum's attendees owned or had read them.

With all that as background, I would respectfully suggest that the idea of the old TORn Reading Room reading and discussing his literary editions and translations (Sir Gawain, Pearl, etc.), much less a purely philological masterpiece like 'A Middle English Vocabulary', boggles the mind. I think you are quite lucky to have found other online groups that have tackled these works even to the minimum degree that you remember.

And with all that in mind, I would also encourage you to post anything you want to discuss about A Middle English Vocabulary, a book I've long known about but have never seen nor read. If you give us some background or links to the information needed to understand your points or questions, it could be very stimulating and interesting to those of us with some interest in Tolkien's methods of philological inquiry as he made his name in the field in the 1920s.



squire online:
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Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Morthoron
Gondor


Oct 20, 12:44am

Post #7 of 25 (1421 views)
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It would seem my recollections were correct then... [In reply to] Can't Post

as I've been posting here (although not with any great magnitude) since 2008.

The nice thing about Tolkien's early scholarly work is that I believe most of it has long passed any copyright conventions, and is available for perusal here:

https://archive.org/...oc00tolkuoft/page/n3

and in conjunction with Sisam's work (complete with Sisam's notes) here:

https://archive.org/...rnet.dli.2015.462392

Give it a swift once-over, if you'd like. And p'raps we can chatsies with it a bit, eh hobbitses?

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



(This post was edited by Morthoron on Oct 20, 12:44am)


squire
Half-elven


Oct 20, 1:39am

Post #8 of 25 (1417 views)
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Gee whillikers [In reply to] Can't Post

I see that A Middle-english Vocabulary really is a MIddle-english vocabulary. That is, there's no commentary at all, just words, what their modern equivalents are, and links to roots and associated forms and spellings. Since I can barely read Middle English and have generally depended on translations, I can't think what I could add to anyone's reading of this text.

On the other hand, I see that Sisam does provide notes and commentary. I began to read with pleasure his essay on the state of the language in this period, which is a subject I touch on briefly in the one lesson on Chaucer that I teach my students. The main take-away I got without finishing it is that we are too used to our 'locked-in' mass-circulation language to deal easily with the extremely fluid state of English in the 14th century. Then every author wrote what he spoke, and what he spoke was markedly different from region to region - and then the books were circulated by hand-copying not mass printing, so each copyist overlaid his own view of the language onto the words of the author, leading to large-scale variations in the editions of the 'same' text that have come down to us. Truly raw meat for a scholar, if puzzling and even scary for a regular reader.

This kind of background helps us (or me, anyway) to understand the supreme importance of a professionally prepared "edition" of a literary work like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Not a translation, which I might like to read, but a printing in the original language of the 'best standards' interpretation of what the poet most likely actually wrote, with extensive notes to explain the choices of the editor in discarding alternate texts and interpretations.

As I understand Tolkien's career, this kind of work was his strength, and the disappointment of the English academy in his later scholarly output is that he never finished several proposed 'editions' that the pros were eagerly anticipating from him. And the blame for his tardiness and incompletes went, of course, to his vast fantasy output leading with The Lord of the Rings.

Do you know how many of his 'editions' are still in use today for teaching the middle-English canon?



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Solicitr
Rohan

Oct 20, 2:16pm

Post #9 of 25 (1354 views)
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It could be said [In reply to] Can't Post

that the 14th Century was the last period to enjoy this sort of fluidity. This was a period where English was for the first time in over three centuries a literary language again, but even the semi-standardization achieved in Alfred's day was gone and Langland, the Gawain-poet and Chaucer all happily wrote in languages which may have been near-unintellible to one another. That was ending fast, since already at this time, a century before Caxton, the Chancery was in effect imposing an official "proper" English-- one that happened to be the one Chaucer spoke, which is why he's so easy for us to read compared to the others.


Solicitr
Rohan

Oct 20, 2:18pm

Post #10 of 25 (1352 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not so sure about copyright. In the UK, Tolkien's work is covered until 70 years after his death, that is 2043. The US exempts works published before 1923, but there isn't much of Tolkien's professional work that that covers.


squire
Half-elven


Oct 20, 2:34pm

Post #11 of 25 (1348 views)
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Can you explain the Caxton and Chancery references in a bit more detail? [In reply to] Can't Post

I've never heard any of this, but it sounds fascinating in its own right, and also in relation to more modern attempts to standardize language, from dictionaries like Johnson's and Webster's (to name only what I'm familiar with), to the various Academies (most notoriously the one in Paris, fighting the long defeat against English-led bastardizations of popular French).

How, in the 1300s, did the central government (as I take your reference to the Chancery) go about standardizing English, whether using Chaucer's dialect or anyone else's? And, thinking on my feet a bit here, is this the proto-ancestry of the "King's English" and of RP, or "received pronunciation", setting out an upper-class pronunciation for those who wish to advance into the elite classes in British society? (In the US I believe it's called "non-regional pronunciation.)



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Oct 20, 2:42pm

Post #12 of 25 (1348 views)
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Hard to picture [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not disputing what you say at all, but I was trying to picture all these strong language variations and reconcile them with how the church and the monarchy would function across the country. So let's say, for a thought experiment, the Archbishop of Canterbury writes to all the bishops and priests of England with a set of new rules to follow for baptisms. Would the recipients understand what they received? If not, who would translate/clarify it for them? Or was there a common lingua franca version of English that everyone knew in addition to their local dialect? (And OK, I suppose Church communication would be in Latin anyway, but humor me here, and let's say there was a nationwide communique in "English" that was important to understand.)


Solicitr
Rohan

Oct 20, 3:05pm

Post #13 of 25 (1345 views)
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Chancery English [In reply to] Can't Post

There wasn't really a conscious effort to 'standardize' the language, like the lexicographers or Academies of other times and places. It simply happened to be the case that the Chancery shifted from using French in all its documents to using English- and once Official Government Business was conducted in a particular dialect, that dialect would wind up becoming dominant. A similar phenomenon would occur 150 years or so later in Germany with Luther's Bible.

It is to this accident of history that we can attribute much - though not all - of English' weird-arse spelling peculiarities. You see, thanks to the influence of Chancery and Chaucer (and Wycliffe), English spelling was roughly locked in before the Great Vowel Shift happened. Ergo "knight"- in Middle English every letter was pronounced, or rather the spelling accurately represented its ME pronunciation. But then the pronunciation changed out from under the spelling. Silent final E as well (although it was already becoming silent in this period, as one can easily hear by reading Chaucer aloud).

Received Pronunciation or "the King's English," "Oxford Accent" etc was a much, much later development, starting in the 18th century, and it was right from the outset class-driven, chiefly by the aspirational middle class. Thomas Sheridan (father of the playwright) was a leading figure, from the 1750s promoting himself as a sort of Henry Higgins who could bury your rural or working-class roots by reforming your elocution.


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Oct 20, 3:11pm)


Solicitr
Rohan

Oct 20, 3:09pm

Post #14 of 25 (1339 views)
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Keep [In reply to] Can't Post

in mind that what we're talking about here is written English- something that really only affected a minority of the population. Spoken English remained and remains rather independent.

Could Englishmen from different parts understand one another? Can a Cockney and a Geordie understand one another today?


CuriousG
Half-elven


Oct 20, 3:10pm

Post #15 of 25 (1334 views)
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Very informative!! Thanks for clarifying for me. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Solicitr
Rohan

Oct 20, 3:35pm

Post #16 of 25 (1334 views)
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while [In reply to] Can't Post

on the subject of English pronunciation, I might as well bring up another oddity.

The one thing most Americans think they know about British English is that it's non-rhotic: that is, R isn't pronounced finally, or medially after a long vowel. That isn't actually the case; while it's true of RP and many Northern dialects, it certainly isn't true of West Country (what Hollywood has adopted as the "pirate accent"). Sean Astin was attempting a generic West Country Loamshire in the LR movies- leading some Americans to class it as "Irish!"

But rhoticity in 'official' pronunciation was a very near-run thing, much later than one would have expected and it almost went the other way. Well into the 1800s, many 'experts' deplored non-rhoticity as slack, lazy, provincial and uncouth- and Keats was blasted by some reviewers for making "thorns" rhyme with "fauns," "sort" with "fought" and "morn" and "dawn"- Cockney rhymes, they were called, the mark of the Regency equivalent of Estuary English!


CuriousG
Half-elven


Oct 20, 4:57pm

Post #17 of 25 (1322 views)
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Adding R's [In reply to] Can't Post

I am more on board with people dropping R's than adding them. Dropping them does sound a little lazy, but it's a mystery to me how in the mountain state of Colorado where I grew up, "wash" became "warsh" for some people, and it's equally odd to live in Boston where "idea" becomes "idear."


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 22, 7:26pm

Post #18 of 25 (1193 views)
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I referred to "Middle English Vocabulary" in one of the "Year's Work" essays. [In reply to] Can't Post

A scholarly article published in the past decade argued that one of the Middle English texts edited by Sisam for Fourteenth Century Verse and Prose might be a source text for Tolkien's character Goldberry. In my brief review, I noted that the scholar's translation of the Middle English words, which he was comparing to words associated with Goldberry in The Lord of the Rings, often did not match Tolkien's own translations in A Middle English Vocabulary.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
How to find old Reading Room discussions.

(This post was edited by N.E. Brigand on Oct 22, 7:27pm)


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Oct 23, 5:37pm

Post #19 of 25 (1158 views)
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"Ahem" [In reply to] Can't Post

For what it's worth:

I wouldn't say we've had discussions about, so much as toyed with, Tolkien's A Middle English Vocabulary, to wit the MEVC threads linked to here (and it's parent thread, and this one ). I can't remember if there are any others, but the Sir Gawain party thread recently on Main is made in similar spirit. Each of these threads contains some light discussion around certain words, and philological challenges Tolkien may have faced.


(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Oct 23, 5:46pm)


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Oct 24, 1:23am

Post #20 of 25 (1115 views)
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Please pardon the superfluous apostrophe (again) - [In reply to] Can't Post

Its appearance here, well, itís embarrassing.

Angelic


Lissuin
Valinor


Oct 24, 2:36am

Post #21 of 25 (1110 views)
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Yeah, yeah, Sir D. So? [In reply to] Can't Post

Your only human, mate. Let it goooooooo.
Liss

Lissuin, Jan 4, 2019, Reading Room

Quote
I read Tolkien's stories before the films, The Hobbit after LOTR. After the more adult story of the Fellowship and the ring, the children's bedtime story about Bilbo and the Dwarves - even with a wizard and a dragon and Elves - was a bit hard to stay with. It might be similar to the experience of seeing the film version first with all it's bells and whistles.

Blush
(so, yeah, I obviously can't let it go either, eh? Whatchuh gonna do?)
Wink


CuriousG
Half-elven


Oct 24, 3:23pm

Post #22 of 25 (1053 views)
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Certainly a bannable offense. Farewell, SirDennis, it was nice to know thee before you became a barbarian and a menace to the English language! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


CuriousG
Half-elven


Oct 24, 3:25pm

Post #23 of 25 (1051 views)
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See, its spreading due to it's contagious nature. First its SirDennis, then its Lissuin. Its so sad. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Oct 25, 3:50am

Post #24 of 25 (1016 views)
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*snert* [In reply to] Can't Post

Your not getting rid of me so easily.

Edit to add: *dang it*


(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Oct 25, 3:52am)


ElanorTX
Grey Havens


Oct 26, 3:25am

Post #25 of 25 (920 views)
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You're // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

"I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."


 
 

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