Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.
You are leaving Cambridge Core and will be taken to this journal's article submission site.
To save this undefined to your undefined account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your undefined account. Find out more about saving content to .
To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.
Among the questions which still await investigation in the literary history of sixteenth and seventeenth century England, not the least important is that of the survival of the vernacular writings of the Middle Ages. No one can have studied the records of publishing activities during the Tudor and Stuart periods without becoming aware that a considerable number of the romances, tales, poems, chronicles, lives of saints of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries still continued to circulate, and to find, though probably in ever smaller numbers, appreciative readers. Nor can anyone who has noted this persistence of medieval literature beyond the Middle Ages fail to draw from it inferences not a little damaging to our current conceptions of sixteenth and seventeenth century taste. As yet, however, no historian of literature has dealt with the problem in a systematic or detailed way—no one has tried to set clearly before us precisely which works, out of the total body of medieval writings, remained in vogue, how long the popularity of each of them lasted, how far they were modified in form or content to suit the taste of successive generations, by what sort of “public” they were read, and of what nature was the influence which they exercised upon the newer writers. Some day perhaps we shall have such a history of the survival of medieval literature in early modern England. In the meantime, as a preliminary treatment of a single phase of the subject, the present study of Guy of Warwick may not be without its interest. It proposes to trace from the days of the early printers to the close of the eighteenth century the fortunes of but one—though perhaps the most typical one—of the many romances whose popularity survived the Middle Ages.
Colley Cibber declared that for The Non-juror, the most important of his dramas, he employed Molière's Tartuffe as the basis. His declaration has been accepted by later writers. Genest says, “it is taken from Moliere's Tartuffe.” Ward repeats, “Crowne may have helped to suggest to Cibber the composition of The Non-Juror (1717), which however more closely follows Tartuffe.” Van Laun declares: “Cibber has been accused of having stolen the plot, characters, incidents, and most part of the language from Medbourne; but this is untrue. What he has taken from him is the servant Charles (Laurence), who also betrays his master.” The ever-present German dissertation solemnly copies the statement: a certain Wilhelm Schneider concludes: “Medbournes ‘Tartuffe’ kann, zumal er zunächst Übersetzung ist, nach van Launs Artikel nur für wenige Anregungen herangezogen werden.” Joseph Knight in his article on Cibber in the Dictionary of National Biography remarks: “A strong Hanoverian, as was natural from his origin, Cibber saw bis way to adapting the ‘Tartuffe’ of Molière to English politics. ‘Tartuffe’ became accordingly in the ‘Non-juror’ an English catholic priest.” Americans have joined the chorus. A Western man asserts: “The Non-Juror is based directly on Molière's Tartuffe. … Cibber was no doubt familiar with Medbourne's play, but he used Molière as a basis, and owed practically nothing to any play other than the Tartuffe of Molière.” More recently Professor Nettleton speaks of “The Non-Juror (1717), an adaptation of Molière's Tartuffe to English setting,” and quotes with approval the words of Cibber.
In attempting to trace the theory of the German novelle back to its beginnings, a century and more ago, the student finds that Goethe's famous epigram of 1827: “Was ist die Novelle anders als eine sich ereignete unerhörte Begebenheit?” is rightly given third place chronologically among the more important contributions to the discussion before Tieck. Goethe's predecessors in this field were the brothers Schlegel, and their contributions were pioneer work in a truly peculiar sense of the word; for at the time they wrote, the German novelle was as good as non-existent, and criticism is wont to follow, not precede, literary production. It is true that both had foreign models from which to deduce their theory; in the case of Friedrich Schlegel, Boccaccio furnished the norm, for August Wilhelm, both Boccaccio and Cervantes. But it is also true that, as the foremost critical talents of the Romantic movement, the Schlegels were in search of a new literary form into which might be poured the new literary content of the movement with which they were allied; and so their critical statements are, in a certain sense, more or less conscious propaganda for Romanticism. It was in their characteristically Romantic flight from an uncongenial present that they rediscovered Boccaccio and Cervantes and realised that these two masters had excelled in a form not native to Germany. In introducing this form in theory into German literature theirs was pioneer criticism of the first order, and it is with no thought of belittling their attainment that attention may be called to the fact that their work was anticipated in a fashion by the greatest figure in literature among their contemporaries.
In a series of recent articles Professor Frederick Tupper has put forward, with great skill and learning, a view regarding the plan of the Canterbury Tales which demands, on account of its originality and its importance, the most respectful and open-minded consideration. As one who was fortunate enough to be present at the inception of the theory, and who welcomed enthusiastically the promise of fresh light which it seemed to hold, I am free, I think, from antecedent prejudice. But as the theory has been developed in article after article I have felt myself compelled to dissent, with steadily strengthening conviction, from Professor Tupper's contention, and it is the purpose of this article to make clear the grounds on which it seems to me that that contention, in spite of its uncommon plausibility, must be rejected. All students of Chaucer are under a debt to Mr. Tupper, whether they agree with him or not. A fresh and original conception, maintained with an enthusiasm that vivifies dead facts, is of all too rare occurrence, and its “Forth, beste, out of thy stal” is wholesome stimulus. But Mr. Tupper would be the last to wish his vigorous challenge to gird up our loins and give a reason for the faith that is in us, to go unanswered. He has already offered hospitality to various objections in his articles, but he and his critics have not met, apparently, on common ground. In my own case I wish to accept, without question, his own choice of field and weapons.
If there were ever an occasion when, to paraphrase the words of Sir Benjamin Backbite, a neat rivulet of text might meander through a meadow of marginal annotation, the Finnsburg Episode would provide it. Hardly any passage in Beowulf has gathered to itself such a mass of exegesis. This is not surprising when we consider the highly allusive manner in which the story is told, the unusual words and idioms, and the corruptions of the text. In the Finnsburg Fragment the same obscurities and corruptions abound, and if the narrative itself is less broken and allusive, these textual difficulties and the loss of lines at the beginning and the end make its interpretation difficult. Unfortunately, many problems still remain to be settled; the labors of scholars have failed to bring agreement upon many important matters.