Gower MSS - Antiquaries 134

John Gower

MS Hunter 59 T-2-17 Portrait of Gower folio 6v John Gower Vox Clamantis Glasgow Univ Library www.lib.gla.ac.uk

Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts of the Works of John Gower
Derek Pearsall


London, Society of Antiquaries MS 134
Confessio Amantis, with Latin addenda; also Lydgate's Life of Our Lady (beginning lost), Hoccleve's Regiment of Princes, and Walton's translation of Boethius (last two-thirds lost)
s.xv med

(fols 1ra-30ra)  John Lydgate's Life of Our Lady, Book II (cap.13), line 222-VI.462end
Therfore quod pees now wole y not fayne <> To kepe & saue from alle aduersite. Amen./ Explicit vita beate Marie

Lacks 1110 lines at the beginning (Book I has 889 lines), which would occupy nearly 7 leaves.  Lacks II.674-990, perhaps through loss of leaves in an exemplar
NIMEV 2574.   Ed. Lauritis et al. (1961)

(fol.30ra)  `Pees makeþ plente' (three short gnomic couplets)

Pees makeþ plente <> Grace groweþ aftir gouernaunce

NIMEV 2742.   Written in red, last line in black. For text, see Lauritis 1961:27. Also appears at the end of the Life of Our Lady in Bodleian MS Rawl.poet.140 (see Lauritis 1961:27, n.7; Ker 1969:306).

(fols 30va-249rb)  Confessio Amantis  Prol.1 - VIII.3114*end
Torpor hebes sensus scola parua labor minimusque, etc. (6 lines of Latin verse).  Incipit prologus libri qui vocatur Gower.  Of hem þat writen vs tofore <> Oure ioye may ben endeles.  AMEN

Book I (fol.38ra), Book II (fol.61ra), Book III (fol.84rb, English text fol.84va), Book IV (fol.103ra), Book V (fol.127va), Book VI (fol.176vb), Book VII (fol.192rb, English text fol.192va), Book VIII (fol.228vb, English text fol.229ra).

A leaf lost between fols 134 and 135, with text of V.1159-1318

Text: collated by Macaulay (sigil X): Ib.  Forms a distinct subgroup with GOAd2; shares readings with Ia in part of Book V

(fol.249va)  `Explicit iste liber'
            Explicit iste liber <> sub eo requiesce futurus
            Longer six-line version with added dedication to Henry IV
Macaulay, III.478
(fol.249va)  `Quam cinxere freta'
            Quam cinxere freta <> stat sine meta
            With rubric, `Epistola super huius, etc.’
Macaulay, III.479. Macaulay suggests Strode as the author of the 4 lines of Latin verse (III.550, IV.419)
(fol.249va-b)  `Quia vnusquisque'
            Quia unusquisque <> specialiter intitulatur. Deo gracias
Long concluding prose rubric, first version, not unfavourable to Richard II
Macaulay, III.479

(fols 250ra-283rb)  Thomas Hoccleve's Regiment of Princes, lines 1-5463end

<      > restles besinesse (first half of first six lines lost through mutilation of a leaf) <> That knoweþ he whom no þinge is hid fro. Explicit Thomas Occlef

NIMEV 2229.   Ed. Furnivall (1897); Blyth (1999)
(fols 283va-297vb)  John Walton's verse translation of Boethius De Consolatione Philosophiae, stanzas 1-296, line 7 (Book II, prose vii, stanza 10)

In nomine trino hoc opus incipio. Insuffisaunce of konnynge and of wit <> Amonges hem þat dwellen ny3e present

NIMEV 1597 (1002 stanzas when complete).   Ed. Science (1927).


At fol.1v a space is left for a picture at the beginning of item 1; the surrounding text suggests that it was an Annunciation to the Virgin.  At fol.34va, before Confessio Prol.595, there is left a 13-line space, presumably for the Nebuchadnezzar picture (see Griffiths 1983:177).  At fol.250r, the beginning of item 7, the initial has been cut out (with loss of text), which suggests that it may have been historiated.


Vinets and demi-vinets, gold, blue, red and green, with delicate flourishing and green-tipped sprays, abound in the MS.  Vinets incorporating long-tailed initial `I' in the English text introduce Books I and III of the Confessio; a demi-vinet incorporating initial `I' introduces Book VII; other books are introduced with demi-vinets opening from a 4 or 5-line opening initial in the English text (Prologue, II, IV, V, VIII), in one case central where the English text begins in column b (Book VI).  Vinets introduce items 7 and 8, and there are demi-vinets at fols 11v, 20r, 27r, 250r, 283v, 285r, 291r in items 1, 7 and 8.  A decorated border has been cut off at fol.8v.

3-line champs, gold, blue and red, flourished with gold and with green–tipped sprays, introduce major and some minor text-divisions in the English text of the Confessio (many have the long-tailed ‘I’, e.g. I.2021, fol.51va, I.2054, fol.54vb); 1-line pen-flourished initials, red on blue alternating with blue on red, introduce other minor text-divisions and sometimes Latin verse-headings and usually summaries (the indications for decoration are occasionally missed and the guide letters are visible, e.g. VI.1110, fol.183v; VII.4147, fol.220r); also both Explicit and Incipit, on the same line. Pen-flourished paraphs, red on blue, introduce marginal notes and speech-markers, or words from the Latin verse-headings and summaries mistakenly interpreted as marginal notes (e.g. Prol.584, fol.34v; Prol.1017, fol.37v). (The other texts in the MS have a similar hierarchy of decoration.) The prominence given throughout the text to the speaker markers has suggested to Echard that they are ‘deployed so as to offer a visual stress on the dialogic aspects of the poem’ (Echard 2001:60); elsewhere she reinforces her argument that ‘the philosophical dialogue’ is ‘a model for understanding the poem’ by pointing out that the Consolation of Boethius is included in the same MS and that the two speakers are flagged in the same way (Echard 1998:15-16).

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION (items IV-VI, Confessio pages only)

I           Parchment, 385 x 285 mm.

II         ii + 297 + i. The endleaves are paper.  Stubs of 2 leaves are visible after fol.297.

III        Collation: i-xvi8, xvii8 wants 7 (leaf lost after fol.134), xviii-xxxvii8. No catchwords or signatures.  At least one quire lost before fol.1 and at least four after fol.297

IV        Written space 285 x 205 mm. 41 lines per column, 2 columns per page. Ruled, columns and lines. No running titles. Latin verse-headings and summaries in red in column; Latin speech-prefixes and notes in red in margin. Latin summaries are at first often introduced at arbitrary points in the middle of the English text to which they relate (e.g. at Prol.919, fol.36v; I.1081, fol.45v; 1347, fol.47r), indicating unsupervised activity of a scribe working with an exemplar with summaries in the margin, but within a few folios the scribe more consistently inserts them before the beginning of the English text-paragraph.

V         Written by one scribe throughout, in a squat, regular, heavy hand that becomes smoother and more cursive and more right-leaning as the MS progresses. (Both Dr A.I.Doyle and Professor Linne Mooney, in private communications, have drawn attention to the variation in the hand, though both consider it to be the same scribe throughout, and Professor Mooney further compares MS Harley 1758 of the Canterbury Tales, where there is similar variation in the hand, which may indeed be the hand throughout of the same scribe as Antiquaries MS 134.) Some corrections in the scribe's hand, including the writing in of omitted lines at the bottom of the column, with crosses to indicate insertion, e.g. fols 41ra (Prol.406), 44va (Prol.954), 54vb (Prol.2504).  Some omitted lines are not supplied, e.g. III.2343.   There are also later `corrections', in a hand or hands of s.xvi/xvii, for which see ‘Additions’, below.

VI        Occasional use of raised punctus at line-end, becomes more common and is regular by Book IV. Latin verse-headings and summaries are sometimes marked off at the end with raised punctus and double virgule

VII      Blind stamped front and back with elaborately decorated double panel, brown leather over thick oak boards.  `London binding of s.xvi bearing Oldham's rolls HE.b.5 and TC.a.7' (Ker, 1969:306). `Rebound in 1890, using as the inner frame the roll used by the 16th c.binder "R.B.", cf. W.H.J.Weale, Early Stamped Bookbindings in the British Museum, 1922, R.236' (Seymour 1968:286).  Spine: (Monogram of SA)/ POEMS BY/ LYDGATE, GOWER,/ AND OCCLEVE.// MS./ SOC.ANTIQ./ LOND.//CXXXIV//

2o fo (fol.2r)  That arte to god so acceptable and dere
2o fo of Confessio (fol.31r)  But hee þt haþ his worde unpeysed (Prol.64*)

ADDITIONS (Confessio pages only)

(inside front cover pastedown) Bookplate of Rev.Charles Lyttelton
fol.ir    List of contents followed by inscription in same hand of s.xviii (that of Bishop Lyttelton): `It formerly belong'd to Halesowen Abbey in Com: Salop and seems to have been wrote about ye time of K:Henry ye 5th - CL'
fol.1r   (bottom) 'Robert ffloids', 'I here fere quoth perman' (s.xvi)
(between columns) `he that is welthy: louing women' (s.xvii) and other scribbles
fol.1v   (top)  2-line inscription (s.xvi). ‘… is the gallenteste sporte thawe paynefull it semeth yet helthe [….] it doth bringe it is a pastime for a Ducke or a Kinge’. 
fol.2v   (top)  5-line inscription (s.xvi). ‘I praye go to the screvener in feter lane and desire him to Come to the flete and bringe the leter of atturneye… I praye do not fayle for my mr trusteth to you…’ (Willetts 2000:61).
fol.33ra (at Prol.380)  ‘skill’ written beside ‘skile’ (s.xvii, untrained hand). See also fols 33rb , 63r, 106r, 158v, 237v.
fol.33rb (at Prol.421)  ‘befor/ June the’ (rubbed, same hand)
fol.63r ( at II.334)    `taxeth’ for `taxeþ’ (a modernization, s.xvi/xvii).
fol.81r (at II.3055) `I praie lest all blessings be redye \ageinst my domynge for þat day I goe hense'.  s.xv ex.
fol.101r           (right margin, at III.2527) `Jesus be my sped' (s.xvi). `Jesus be my spead' (s.xvi)
(centre, at III.2485) `Hardy'  s.xvi
fol.101v           (centre, at III.2559) `Edmund Hardy'   s.xvi
fol.103r           (centre, at IV.8ff) `my mynde \to me a kingdome is’ [the well-known opening line of a poem published in 1588 by Edward Dyer, d.1607] \`soe is myne if \that I might obtaine it\' `Elizabeth Cromwell' `Briget Littelton'. In two hands, s.xvi, the first writing the first inscription and the first signature, the second the second inscription and signature..
(right margin, at IV.52) `my hart doth holde my hand to heare her weepe', in the first of the two hands above
fol.106r           (at IV.454)  an invented line supplied (s.xvi/xvii) for a line omitted.
fol.123r           (at IV.3060) `Katherin Vine'  s.xvii/xviii
fol.129r           (at V.265ff, upside down)  'Nouerint vniuersi & presentes me/ Thomam Caton de ?Bennsted'  (the beginning of a charter, s.xvi), amongst other scribbles.
fol.147va          (at V.3247)  crude pointing hand and ‘bene’ at beginning of story of Jason and Medea. Similar use of crude pointing hand to single out memorable stories at VI.1391 (fol.184vb), the story of Ulysses; VIII.667 (fol.233va), the naked wrestling in the story of Appolinus; VIII.1277 (fol.237va), the story of Thaïs.
fol.149v           (top) `The condetion of this obligatione is such that’  s.xvi
fol.158va (at V.4984)  ‘his’ inserted above ‘þe’, crossed out, and ‘whiche he aughte’ crossed out and ‘& lyvelod beyng’ inserted at side (presumably a s.xvii reader’s failure to understand ‘aughte’).
fol.164v           (top left margin) scribbled inscription  s.xvii
fol.179r           (right margin)  `braaimley’ [Seymour 1968 `bromley'] amongst other scribbles  s.xvi/xvii
fol.180r           (bottom) `bromley'  s.xv/xvi
fol.232r           copy of VIII.497-8, s.xv/xvi
fol.237va (VIII.1273)  ‘stode inne’ added by a later reader (s.xvii) in margin, having been omitted in text.
fol.251v           (bottom) pen-trials written upside down  s.xvi/xvii
fol.262v           `Incipit Occlef' (beside line 2017), s.xv. `Occlef' (sometimes `Occleff') is also written as running title on this and succeeding pages
fol.266r           (right margin, top) `francis felton',  s.xvii, amongst other scribbles and pen-trials in the same hand, including `francas falten’ with vowels cryptically decorated
fol.268r           (top)  scribbled inscription
(bottom)  `how haste fordoth & dayly doth out caste', in a formal hand, s.xv/xvi; \`Be ware he said of soudayne haste'  s.xv/xvi
fol.280r           `be me Anthon'  s.xv

(This is a well-used MS, with many rubbed and illegible inscriptions not recorded here.)


Charles Lyttelton (1714-68), antiquary and Bishop of Carlisle (see DNB), became president of the Society of Antiquaries in 1765 and bequeathed certain of his books and MSS to the Society at his death, including the present MS (as is reported in an extract from the Bishop’s will copied into the manuscript `Minute Book of the Society', xi, 1769, p.5: `Also a MS Vol. On Vellum, containing the Poems of Occlive, Lidgate, & others, now in my Study at Rose Castle’).  Ker (1969:314) notes that Antiquaries MS 544, a copy of Magna Carta, also came from Bishop Lyttelton at this time, and was likewise supposed by him to be from the Premonstratensian abbey of Halesowen, Worcestershire, the muniments of which descended to the Lyttelton family.  Ker cites the Appendix to the Second Report of the HMC, where, among the Lyttelton MSS, are mentioned (p.38) documents relating to Halesowen abbey including a bailiff's account for 34/35 Edw.III and a cartulary of the abbey. Halesowen abbey and appurtenances were first assigned to Sir John Dudley in 1539, but were acquired by John Littelton in 1560: see Roth (1887:41-2), Nash's Worcs., I.518 (both scholars draw their information from Bishop Lyttelton's own unpublished MS, `The Parochial Antiquitys or Topographical Survey of Hagley, Frankley, Churchill, Clent, Arley and Hales Owen', etc.); Harris 1993:166-7.

The present MS had clearly been in the Lyttelton family of Frankley, Worcs., for a long time, as appears from the inscriptions on fol.103r.  `Briget Littelton' is most probably the younger sister of Sir Thomas, the first baronet (1596-1650), and third daughter of John Littelton (d.1601) and Muriel, daughter of the Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Bromley (see inscriptions on fols 179r, 180r), of Upton-on-Severn in Worcs. (d.1587; see DNB). Muriel's younger sister Elizabeth married Sir Oliver Cromwell (d.1655) of Hinchingbroke, co.Huntingdon, uncle to the Protector (Nash, Worcs., I.595). The playful interchange on fol.103r would thus be that of aunt and niece. Bishop Lyttelton is in the direct line of descent, being the third son of the Sir Thomas Lyttelton (d.1751) whose grandfather was Bridget's older brother.  It is not likely that `Briget’ is this Bridget's great-grandmother, wife to the Sir John Littelton who died in 1590.  For a full account of the Lyttelton family, see Collins's Peerage, VIII.316-59, Nash's Worcestershire, I.493-501, and the further authorities cited  by Harris 1993:167, n.301; for Bromley, see Collins, VII.247-57, Nash, I.595, II.445.

It is possible that the present MS had an even earlier association with the Littelton family.  Sir Thomas Littelton (1422-81), born at Frankley House, Worcs., a distinguished lawyer, author of an important book on `Tenures', and direct ancestor of the Littelton family above (great-grandfather to the Sir John who died in 1590), had a large library, part of which he bequeathed to Halesowen abbey.  In his will (Testamenta Vetusta, I.367; also Collins, VIII.324-8) he leaves a Catholicon, also a Constitutiones Provinciales, bound with the Gesta Romanorum and other works, to the abbot and convent of Halesowen, the latter to be chained and kept for the priests to read; he leaves a Fasciculus Morum to Enfield church, a Medulla Grammatica to King's Norton church; `also I wulle that my grete English boke be sold by myn executors, and the money thereof to be disposed for my soul'. It is tempting to believe that the 'great English book' was the present MS (certainly a great book, the more so when it still had the quires that are now lost at beginning and end).  Such a deduction would be more plausible, of course, if the MS had simply been left to Halesowen by Sir Thomas; but the association between the family and the abbey was always close.

Macaulay, II.cxliii

Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of the Society of Antiquaries of London (London, 1816).

Charles Blyth (ed.), Thomas Hoccleve, The Regiment of Princes, TEAMS (Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages), Middle English Text Series. Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University, 1999.

Arthur Collins, The Peerage of England, rev. Sir Egerton Brydges.  9 vols.  London, 1812.

Siân Echard, ‘With Carmen’s Help: Latin Authorities in the Confessio Amantis’, Studies in Philology 95 (1998), 1-40.

--------------, ‘Dialogues and Monologues: Manuscript Representations of the Conversation of the Confessio Amantis’, in A.J.Minnis (ed.), Middle English Poetry, Texts and Traditions: Essays in Honour of Derek Pearsall. University of York: York Medieval Texts (2001), pp.57-75.

F.J.Furnivall (ed.), Hoccleve’s Regement of Princes, EETS, Extra Series 72 (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1897)

Jeremy Griffiths, `Confessio Amantis: The Poem and its Pictures', in A.J.Minnis (ed.), Gower's Confessio Amantis: Responses and Reassessments. Cambridge: D.S.Brewer (1983), pp.163-78.

N.R.Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, Vol.1: London.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969. See p.306.

J.Lauritis, R.Klinefelter and V.Gallagher (eds), A Critical Edition of John Lydgate's `Life of Our Lady’ . Duquesne Studies, Philological Series, no.2 (Pittsburgh, 1961). Description of MS, pp.45-6.

T.Nash, The History and Antiquities of Worcestershire.  2 vols.  London, 1781.

Harris Nicholas (ed.), Testamenta Vetusta. 2 vols., London, 1826.

H.Ling Roth, Bibliography and Chronology of Hales Owen.  Index Society, Occasional Indexes II.  London, 1887.

Mark Science (ed.), Boethius De Consolatione Philosophiae, translated by John Walton. EETS, Original Series 170 (1927)

M.C.Seymour, `The Manuscripts of Hoccleve's Regiment of Princes’, Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions, Vol.IV 1955-71, Part 7 (1968-71), pp.253-97 (pp.286-7)

Pamela J.Willetts, Catalogue of the Manuscripts of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Woodbridge: D.S.Brewer, for the Society of Antiquaries, 2000. See pp. 60-61.

"I throw my darts and shoot my arrows at the world. But where there is a righteous man, no arrow strikes. But I wound those who live wickedly. Therefore let him who recognizes himself there look to himself."
Vox Clamantis

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