A Proper Dyaloge Betwene a Gentillman and an Husbandman.
Published anonymously, A proper dyaloge participates in the debates of the early Reformation in England and clearly articulates some of the complaints the early Reformers had with the established Catholic Church. The tract, originally published in Antwerp by Hans Luft, an early activist in the printing of what were considered by the Church to be subversive books, appeared twice, in a shortened version in 1529 and in early 1530 in the complete version that serves as the source of this modern edition. Compiled by its authors to advance early Protestant criticisms against the abuses of the clergy in England, A proper dyaloge is a hybrid text, consisting of three independent parts: a lengthy verse dialogue between a gentleman and farmer or husbandman, each complaining of how he had become impoverished through clerical greed; an earlier Lollard tract, entitled An olde treatyse made aboute the tyme of kinge Rycharde the seconde, that critiques clerical worldliness (presumably included by the authors to demonstrate links between Lollard thinking and the early English Reformers); and a final prose piece, separately entitled A compendious olde treatyse, that appears only in the 1530 edition and argues for a vernacular version of the Bible.
Parker begins his edition with a lengthy introduction that addresses questions of authorship, content, structure, sources and analogues, as well as bibliographic issues. This is followed by his old-spelling edition of A proper dyaloge (divided into the three parts defined above), a rich commentary, and useful bibliography, glossary, and index. Though the work appeared anonymously, Parker suggests through a comparison of content and style, as well as additional historical considerations, that the probable authors of the dialogue proper were Jerome Barlowe and William Roye, the authors of the popular 1528 satire, Rede Me and Be Nott Wrothe (or The Burying of the Mass). While the first Lollard prose tract included has been attributed to Wycliffe, Parker suggests that the second prose tract found only in the 1530 version of A proper dyaloge may be a sixteenth-century edition of an earlier work recently edited by William Tyndale. Though speculative, the intriguing connection that Parker makes among Roye, Barlowe, and Tyndale is nevertheless worthy of consideration. While we may never be certain that Tyndale edited this treatise on the need for a vernacular translation of the Bible, the echoes between it and Tyndale's writings, together with the controversy surrounding his own recent English translation of the Bible, place both this tract and the complete A proper dyaloge within the tradition of inflamed ecclesiastical debate that would continue unabated in England for the next 150 years.
The authors' inclusion of the two Lollard tracts in the dialogue, moreover, illustrates how the early Reformers attempted to justify their position by defining their complaints as longstanding. Such complaints, well-known to modern readers of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, focus on the corruption that ensues when the clergy interferes in the secular realm. Instead, the authors of the dialogue argue for the complete separation of church and state, a proposal that the powerful and rich church found highly subversive. Though less well-known than the works of William Tyndale, A proper dyaloge will help modern readers re-create the controversial context in which Tyndale worked and published. It is a highly readable, attractive, and well-edited text that will no doubt prove useful to scholars and students alike.
MARY A. PAPAZIAN Oakland University
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|Author:||Papazian, Mary A.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1998|
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