Reading Chaucer in the tower: the person behind the pen in an early-modern copy of Chaucer's Works.
Additionally, just as Harington's marginalia interprets Chaucer, any reading of that marginalia is necessarily an interpretation. As Wolfgang Iser argues, the reader "'receives' [the message of the text] by composing it." (3) Thus any act of reading is to some extent an act of creation as well. Harington reads Chaucer and thereby creates an image of Chaucer's poetry for himself. Moreover, Harington creates a record of himself, his interests, and his reading habits through his marginal annotations. When modern readers encounter this marginal self-fashioning years later, we continue this cycle of active reading and interpretation, creating our own image of Harington and of Chaucer through Harington's eyes. We, as later readers, can attempt to piece together Harington's experiences and Harington's Chaucer, but we can never fully recover those entities. We can, however, offer an interpretation grounded in the available evidence, and that interpretation can inform our necessarily limited understanding of how one early-modern reader experienced Chaucer.
Thus the purpose of this paper is twofold. First, I provide an account of the marginalia found in Harington's copy of Chaucer's Works. I argue that Harington's marginal annotations intersect with the details we know about his life in ways that reveal how readers in the early-modern period could find relevance in a temporally distant author's work. Second, I offer an interpretation of Harington's marginalia based on the biographical details of his life. In reading Harington's annotations with an eye to his personal history, I seek to give a voice to those oft-lamented anonymous annotators, the hands that appear in our manuscripts and early printed books but are often not connected to the lived experiences of the person attached to the hand. Analysis of a broad corpus of marginal responses can prove fruitful in observing trends and commonalities, as Alison Wiggins shows in her recent study of marginalia from fifty-three early-modern print editions of Chaucer. (4) However, in taking the bird's-eye view, we may risk losing sight of the individual lived experiences that also influenced a reader's annotations and responses. Though I compare Harington with other early-modern annotators of Chaucer, particularly drawing on my own analysis of an annotated Thynne edition held in Chicago's Newberry Library, I emphasize the ways in which knowledge of Harington's biography allows us to talk about his marginalia as something more than merely conventional.
The Person behind the Pen
John Harington--not to be confused with his son, Sir John, who famously translated Orlando Furioso--rose in court on the coattails of Sir Thomas Seymour, the brother of Henry VIII's third wife, Jane. Harington began serving Seymour no later and possibly much earlier than 1546. (5) Seymour's power grew after Henry's death, but his circumstances changed drastically when he was arrested and sent to the Tower of London following suspicion about the nature of his relationship with Princess Elizabeth and his alleged plot to gain the Lord Protectorship for himself, usurping it from his brother, Edward. (6) Harington, imprisoned with his master, was questioned about his own role in the scandal and the part he played in setting up a marriage between Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen, and the young King Edward VI. (7) Though Harington was eventually released from the Tower, Seymour was executed on March 20, 1549, and Harington likely served him up until that date. (8) Harington himself was released in the spring of 1550.
Like many gentlemen of his day, Harington could be described as literary-minded. His manuscript collection of poetry, known as the Arundel Harington Manuscript, contains examples of Tudor verse from such writers as Thomas Wyatt, Thomas Seymour, and Harington himself. Harington likely collected much of the poetry in the volume during one of his two stints as a prisoner (he was confined a second time from January 1554 to January 1555 on suspicion of involvement in Wyatt's Rebellion). (10) Though Ruth Ahnert notes that the co-occurrence in Arundel Harington of these poems by noted Tower prisoners does not necessarily indicate that Harington and the others sought out or were able to seek out literary communities while imprisoned, she suggests that the poems are united by a sense of place. (11) And regardless of the degree of literary community the Tower afforded its prisoners, we can certainly say that many of those prisoners chose to spend their time engaged in literary activity.
Harington's most notable literary achievement from the Tower is a translation of Cicero's De amicitia, which he translated from a French version. (12) In a dedication preceding the book, Harington describes life in the Tower almost idealistically, emphasizing the time for study and contemplation afforded by prison life:
For thereby founde I great soule profite, a little mind knowlage, some holow hertes, and a few feithfull freendes. Wherby I tried prisonment of the body, to be the libertee of spirite: aduersitee of fortune: the touche stone of freendship, exemption from the world, to be a contempt of vanities: and in the ende quietness of mind, the occasion of study. And thus somewhat altered, to auoide my olde idelnesse, to recompense my lost time, and to take profite of my calamitee, I gaue my selfe among other thynges to study and learne the Frenche tonge. (13)
Judging by the date ascribed in Harington's Chaucer as well as the sheer number of careful annotations--perhaps something Harington would have had time to do only in the confines of a prison cell--it is entirely possible that reading Chaucer constituted a part of Harington's literary activity in the Tower, an "occasion of study" to help him "auoide ... idelnesse" and "recompense ... lost time."
Harington's Marginalia: An Overview
Broadly speaking, we can categorize Harington's marginal annotations into two loosely defined groups. The first group I call "editorial marginalia." With these notes, Harington attempts to correct Thynne's text by adding punctuation or modernizing vocabulary, either to make the text more accessible to himself or potentially to aid readers he believed might follow him. Relative to his punctuation-focused emendations, which I discuss below, Harington's modernizations of vocabulary are infrequent and cluster near the front of the codex. For instance, at the end of the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, the edition reads, "Us thought it was nat worth to make it wyse / And graunted hym without more auyse." Harington strikes through "wyse" and writes "nice" in the margins. He does the same with the words "houe" and "layde" in "The Knight's Tale," replacing them marginally with "haue" and "laid" (fols. 5r, 11r). In "The Book of the Duchess," "whyse" becomes "wise," and in the short poem "Fortune," "hyne" is glossed as "hyena," though in this case Harington does not strike through the original word ("Duchess," l.113, fol. 267v; "Fortune," l.35, fol. 369v).
Harington's added punctuation is much more frequent. Commonly, he will add a comma, colon, or virgule at the end of a line of poetry. He may also envelope a phrase in parentheses if he deems it subordinate or add a double hyphen between a word's component parts if the word is split by a line break. This attention to punctuation occurs in both poetry and prose, but some sections are more heavily punctuated than others. Malcolm Parkes observes that later readers would often add punctuation to both printed books and manuscripts. Though Parkes notes that added layers of punctuation may be difficult to interpret, overall the practice is reader-focused, an attempt to ease an audience's understanding of an older text by updating standards to contemporary practices or individual preferences. (14) Of course, Thynne's 1542 edition is not so distant from Harington's present (1550) to have preserved a system of punctuation that was overly foreign to Harington. Moreover, punctuation in the sixteenth century lacked a standardized system, so Harington would not be updating his text to conform to a set of universal rules. This means that Harington's chaqges likely reflect a personal desire to add a level of interpretive meaning, to ensure ease of study in the future, and to make the volume accord with his own reading needs.
Harington's most persistent punctuation change is an added bracket that serves as something like a quotation mark. He consistently marks changes in speaker with this flourished bracket, particularly if the new voice is not marked textually until after the speech has begun. (15) So, when Harington reads in Troilus and Criseyde, "How hast thou thus unkyndly a longe / Hyd this fro me, thou fole (qd Pandarus)," he returns to the previous line and marks the change of speaker with a bracket, apparently having realized in the second line that there has been a change to Pandarus. (16) He marks this line, presumably, so that on a second reading he or another reader could follow the narrative more efficiently, understanding that there is a new speaker before it is indicated in the text. This heightened attention to speech and changing voices throughout Harington's book also emphasizes the performative elements of Chaucer's text.
With these punctuation changes, then, we also get our first hint of what reading experiences may have been like in the Tower. Prisoners in the early-modern prison system, particularly those with the funds to pay for better conditions, could live relatively comfortably. (17) An oral reading among the "few feithfull freendes" Harington mentions in his dedication to De amicitia is certainly a possibility, and the activity would make such added punctuation useful. Whether Harington would have read these texts aloud is ultimately unknowable; however, his changes reflect an interest in the oral nature of Chaucer's poetry and prose, and his emendations certainly would make reading aloud in a group setting easier. Moreover, Harington's added discourse markers suggest a continuation of a medieval scribal practice. As Colette Moore observes, since quotation marks were not yet common practice, medieval scribes used rubrication and other forms of marginalia to indicate speech, particularly when that speech carried a great degree of authority. Moore finds that this practice carried over to the age of print in a similar manner. (18) Harington's flourished brackets, then, seem to be a personalized extension of this common practice.
I classify the second group of marginalia, broadly, as "reader's aids." These are annotations that simultaneously guide Harington's reading of the text and also serve as help for future readers. They summarize key points, mark text out for extraction, highlight the names of characters, or otherwise make sense of the book via an apparatus that externally organizes the text. Underscoring is Harington's preferred method for indicating important and perhaps extractable lines. Less frequently, though still commonly, he draws elaborate manicules. Often, these highlighted segments are the types of sententious phrases we might expect to see decontextualized and written in a commonplace book, and this practice applied in Harington's book reflects a common desire among early-modern audiences to read Chaucer as a moral poet. (19) The drive to extract sententiae from Chaucer was so strong that Speght in his 1602 edition marked such phrases with printed manicules similar to Harington's hand-drawn marker. Further, the addition of these "Sentences and prouerbs noted" was important enough for Speght to highlight the feature on his title page, guiding readers toward passages they might copy into a commonplace book. (20) Just as a lack of printed punctuation encouraged Harington to punctuate his own book, in the absence of printed manicules, Harington marked sententious or proverbial passages as he saw fit. (21)
Although the evidence of other early-modern reading practices might lead us to expect cross-references or source citations in Harington's book, these are rare. (22) There are a few notes of this sort, however, and their character can provide details about the resources Harington had at his disposal in the Tower. In the "Reeve's Tale," Harington writes "see in Raynard p[e] ffoxe" beside "The greatest clerkes ben not the wysest men" (l.4054, fol. 17r), which is a proverb attested in Caxton's History of Reynard the Fox (1481). (23) There is at least one biblical cross-reference--a note indicating "Mathew | xxiii | chap i"--in the first book of the Testament of Love (ll.1.497-499, fol. 320r). (24) One might expect that an obviously well- trained and scholastically inclined reader would engage in further source citation; however, the lack of citations may point to an imprisoned reader who did not have recourse to the volumes such a detailed study would require. (25) However, one of Harington's cross-references provides evidence that he had access to at least one more book in the Tower. Harington writes in the dedication to his Booke of Freendeship that while he was imprisoned he had the opportunity to "study and learne the Frenche tonge, havyng both skilful prisoners to enstruct me, and therto plenty of bookes to learne the language" (A 2v). It seems one of those "plenty of bookes" in French was the Roman de la Rose. In the margins of Chaucer's translation, Harington provides reference to a print edition of the French Roman by writing "faux semblant dit cy verite | de tous cas de mendicite" in a break between two sections of Chaucer's translation (between l. 6714 and l. 6715, fol. 161v).
Early print editions of the Roman contained what Francis William Bourdillon calls "verse-titles." (26) These brief lines of verse served to divide the long poem into sections, and Harington's note is a copy of one of these French paratextual devices. (27) Harington inscribes the "verse-title" not in the margins but as a heading, indicating that he borrowed the French book's paratext in this single instance. That he did not adapt other "verse-titles" is strange. We might initially think that Harington imported the heading because it was one he remembered from his time outside the Tower. However, the fact that Harington claims he did not learn French until he was imprisoned makes such a scenario unlikely. Thus, if Harington was imprisoned during his reading, he may have had access to a printed Roman in addition to his Thynne edition. The selection of this single "verse-title," then, suggests three possibilities. First, Harington could have found this title to be particularly apt and wished to preserve it in Chaucer's version. Second, Harington may have been especially interested in the following section, in which Fals-Semblant suggests that a man who is "so bestyall / That he of no crafte hath science" is justified in begging. Finally, Harington may have only read this single segment of the French version. In that case, his marginalia would also indicate which elements of the French text Harington encountered and which he chose to skip.
Harington also employs marginal notes that signal the topic of a text or section of text. (28) These annotations sometimes occur in Latin, and less often in French, though Harington's preferred marginal language is English. Latin notations occur most frequently in the "Parson's Tale," The Romaunt of the Rose, and the Treatise on the Astrolabe--a religious prose treatise, a verse translation, and a scientific tract. The Latin is never extensive and usually consists of a few common words: "quid sit Ira" in the "Parson's Tale" when Ire is formally defined as "the fervent blood of man yquyked in his herte" (l. 535, fol. 108r), and "descriptio Amoris" in The Romaunt of the Rose (l. 4703, fol. 151v). The thematic notes in all languages are typically a single word or phrase, and these notes act like a marginal index for the book. In an age before a reader with an electronic edition of a work could search for a word or phrase with a few keystrokes, such marginal indexes must have been useful, particularly because pagination was often erratic.
Most striking of these indexing terms are those Harington applies to the Canterbury Tales. In its prefatory material, Thynne's 1542 edition provides readers with two tables of contents, the second of which contains an individual listing of each Canterbury tale and prologue. For most of the tales listed in the table, Harington supplies a brief thematic summary. Reading his notes, we discover that in "The Merchant's Tale" we will find the "benefit of advercitie," that "The Cook's Tale" is about "ill servants," that "The Franklin's Tale" is "of witchecraft," and that the Canon's Yeoman speaks of the "multiplication | and falshod of Chanons." Having these summaries early in the volume would have been a helpful memory tool if Harington wanted to return to a specific tale on later occasions. Other instances of marginal indexing are not applied to whole works; rather they index sections of a text. Thus we see thematic notes like "de penitencia" in a section of "The Parson's Tale" (1.78, fol. 105r) or "[o]f the love of / [C]hrist /" at the end of Troilus (ll. V. 1836-7, fol. 212v). (29) Particularly descriptive sections might also receive indexing notes. For instance, when Harington reaches the description of the arena in "The Knight's Tale," he writes "the theatre" and brackets the text column to draw attention to the descriptive section (l. 1889, fol. 6r). Again, these schematizing notes provide Harington with a means of organizing longer works and noting their most striking sections, as if he were selecting passages for a commonplace book. As we see below, he often keys these indexes to moments in the text when Chaucer deals with imprisonment, particularly through a Boethian lens.
More Than a Hand: A Biographical Reading of Harington's Marginalia
As modern readers, we are doubly removed from Harington's Chaucer. We read Harington reading Chaucer, and we attempt to craft an understanding of Harington's experiences via that reading. We create an image of Harington's imprisoned experiences mediated through his reading of imprisonment, and in this act of interpretation we attempt to refashion Harington and Harington's version of Chaucer. The success of this act of interpretation can never, of course, be empirically tested. And as Wiggins notes, biographical information can often be tantalizing and dangerous for scholars crafting a narrative of reader response from scant marginal evidence. (30) However, the temptation to overgeneralize, to record a marginal response as merely conventional or indicative of some broad interest that spanned all of Chaucer's sixteenth-century readers, is equally strong. To use a phrase from Robert Darnton, the generalizations may "seem too cosmic for comfort." (31) Thus, if we recognize the limitations of our own roles as readers and interpreters of Harington's marginalia, the biographical information can inform our interpretive efforts and prevent such broad generalities.
Indeed, it is almost impossible not to observe an added layer of personal depth when we read Harington's marginalia in conjunction with the biographical facts of his life, since it is difficult to imagine a case in which the intense personal experiences surrounding Harington's reading did not affect his own response to the text or shape it in ways unique to his personal circumstances. (32) Discerning some of these key interactions between Harington's biography and his marginalia can help remind us that a person with a history always lurks behind the annotations we read and seek to interpret hundreds of years later. We can picture Harington studying Chaucer in his Tower cell, reading aloud to a group of fellow prisoners, and we can imagine how that experience must have shaped his reading practice. Whether or not our image of Harington's imprisonment aligns with his lived experience, his marginal annotations, as I further demonstrate below, do allow for such an image. As Catherine Brown notes, "Medieval readers don't read the way we do; they do things differently. One way to embrace coevalness with them would be to learn to read from them." (33) Though Harington is, of course, not a medieval reader, Brown's sentiment holds true for readers of all historical periods, and to learn to read from Harington, we must know everything we can about the circumstances of his reading, understanding that his personal history is key evidence in decoding his interpretation of Chaucer.
The 1550 date inscribed in Harington's Chaucer is not definitive evidence that he read Chaucer in the Tower, as he was released in the early spring of 1550. However, whether he was recently released or still imprisoned, we would expect the experience to shape his understanding of Chaucer. Harington had seen his fortunes in court climb and plummet. His master, whom by all accounts Harington loved deeply, had recently been executed, and Harington was with him up until his death day. With this in mind, it is no surprise that Harington takes care to mark sections dealing with fortune, sadness, and occasionally imprisonment throughout Chaucer's Works. Appropriately, some of his most thoroughly marked texts are those that draw on the Boethian themes expressed in the Consolation of Philosophy, which Boethius composed while in prison. In reading and writing, I argue, Harington was able to use Boethius as a bridge from his own present to Chaucer's past, and he appropriated the Boethian material as a means of understanding his own imprisonment.
In "The Knight's Tale," Harington encounters two imprisoned characters in Palamon and Arcite, and the three leaves encompassing the knights' days in prison are of immediate attention for Harington (ll. 1003-1416 fols. 2v-3v). Harington's main form of annotation on these folios is underscoring; however, he also draws three manicules and writes one marginal note. One of Harington's manicules points toward a couplet that must have resonated with a man intimately familiar with the inner workings of court culture--"And therefore, at kynges court my brother / Eche man for hymselfe, there is non other" (ll. 1181-1182, fol. 2v). Harington's deep involvement in the "kynges court" had earned him his imprisonment. At this moment, we can imagine Harington recalling the power struggle between his master Thomas Seymour and Thomas's brother, Edward, the Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset, certainly a case in which "Eche man" was "for hymselfe" in the politics of court. (34)
Though the word "prison" occurs fourteen times across these lines, Harington marks sections containing the word only twice. Instead, it is the particularly emotional sections containing the word "prison" that catch Harington's attention. For example, when Palamon laments the fact that Arcite will be allowed to leave their cell, he states, "Fori may wepe and wayle, whyles pat I lyue / wyth all the wo that prison maye me yeue," and Harington underlines the couplet (ll. 1295-1296, fol. 3r). We might envision Harington himself weeping when his own friend and master was led out of the prison, never to return. Many of the other highlighted lines on these folios have a similar emotional quality. Harington also marks, for instance, lines describing Arcite's distress in exile, his "eyen holowe, and grysly to beholde" and his solitary "waylynge all the nyght, makynge mone" (ll. 1363 and 1366, fol. 3v). Though Harington typically underlines couplets or even small sections of a single line, in the case of Arcite's painful exile, he highlights eight lines, a substantially longer passage (ll. 1361-1369). Is Harington here recalling his own days of solitude, exiled from the court culture he knew and perhaps lamenting his own fate? If Harington's reading occurred immediately after his release from the Tower, as is possible, is he identifying with Arcite's newfound freedom, a freedom that he has discovered is just another form of imprisonment?
Of course, a decision to underline a passage is not evidence of what Harington was thinking at the moment of his reading. However, it is clear that something drew him to this section of "The Knight's Tale," and at some level he found that the characters' imprisonments struck an emotional chord as he reflected on his own time in his own Tower. Moreover, later readers encountering this prison-related marginalia likely connect Chaucer's narrative with Harington's lived experiences. We craft an understanding of Harington through this interpretation just as Harington shaped Chaucer's text with his annotating pen.
The most persistent interests reflected in this section, as well as throughout the book, are the Boethian questions of fortune and divine providence. Seven of the nineteen passages Harington underlines throughout the three pages presenting the imprisoned Palamon and Arcite concern this theme (fols. 2v-3v). The section that receives the most attention on these folios is Arcite's Boethian lament:
Alas, why playnen men so in comune That yeueth hem full ofte in many a gyse well better then hem selfe can devyse Some man desvreth to haue rychesse That cause is of her murdre or sycknesse And some man wolde out of hys prisson fayne That in hys house, is of hys meyne slayne Infinite harmes bene in thys matere We wote nat what thynge we prayen here We faren as he, that dronke is as a mouse Al dronken man wote well, he hath an house But he wote nat, whych the ryght waye thyder And to a dronken man the waye is slyder And certes in thys worlde so faren we We seken fast afire felicite But we go wronge ful ofte truly. (ll. 1251-1267, fol. 3r, with Harington's underscoring)
Harington highlights this section in three ways. First, he brackets the entire passage. Second, he underlines several of the lines, selecting the passages concerning prison, prayer, and going wrong despite seeking happiness. And finally, Harington pens a marginal response to the passage, writing, "The provicoun | [of] god is a | [bo]ve | the device | [of] man." In Chaucer, Harington seems to have found a guide for understanding and responding to his own prison situation. In these annotations, he signals his own reliance on God's will in the face of uncontrollable circumstances.
The idea of "the provicoun of god" also sparks Harington's interest in Troilus's Boethian soliloquy in Book 4. Here Harington brackets two and a half columns of text, more than a hundred total lines (ll. 961-1078, fols. 198r-v). He marginally writes "de predestinacione" beside "That forsyght of diuyne purueyaunce" (1.961, fol. 198r) and "de libero arbitoro /" next to "And some sayne that nedely there is none / But that free choyce is yeuen us euerychone"(ll. 970-971, fol. 198r). I have observed a similar pattern of marginalia from an annotator writing in a 1532 Thynne edition held at the Newberry Library in Chicago. (35) One of several annotators in this book, the Newberry reader focuses almost exclusively on the concept of free will, an interest we also see reflected in Harington's notes. In this Boethian passage of Troilus and Criseyde, the Newberry reader highlights a sententious phrase in three different ways. When responding to the lines, "For al that cometh cometh by necessyte / Thus to ben lorne it is my destyne," the reader underlines the passage, draws a manicule in the margin, and writes "ffre wyl" beside the section (ll. 958-959, fol. 203r). On the following page, the reader, like Harington, brackets the entire first column and marginally writes "[prede] stinacion | fre will" at the top of the bracketed section. (36)
Certainly questions of free will, predestination, providence, and fortune had resonance for many readers in the midst of Reformation-era England. However, Harington's specific situation suggests that his response to these ideas was not merely characteristic of early-modern interests. Instead, we can imagine a reader specifically concerned with his own fortune and his own predestined circumstances, especially when those circumstances involved a tumultuous life in court that resulted in imprisonment.
The Newberry reader's interest is similarly apparent in Chaucer's Boece. This reader focuses most of his attention on Books 4 and 5, and the sections the annotator chooses to underline or distinguish with a manicule frequently contain the words "will" or "fortune." Harington also meticulously reads Boece, but again, this interest is informed by his own experiences with imprisonment. Boece is one of three items in Thynne's 1542 Works that gets a title page, indicating the high status of this text for its early-modern readers. Harington uses the blank verso page afforded by the title page to provide a detailed table of contents for Boece (fol. 231v). (37) The blank page is nearly full of Harington's careful, section-by-section summaries written in a cramped but legible hand, as if to maximize the use of the page for these notes. The logical structure of the work invites careful outlining, but the Boethian themes highlighted elsewhere in the volume indicate that Harington was drawn to study this text for more than its scholastic structure.
In his table, Harington has space to outline and summarize only Boethius's first and second books, and he uses most of the page to schematize Book 1. We learn, for example, in Harington's first summary that "Boecius thinketh that poets write fantasies, albeyt their meaning soundeth to | philosophic, if they be depelye studied and well understand./." Harington's last note remarks "That theare is nothing certen under heaven./," and the previous note tells us "That a man ought not to sorow for the sorowfull chaunce which be past, nomore | than he ought to be glad at the departure of joyfull thinge: for death the last day | maketh an end of all./," These notes respond to Book 2 Metrum 3 and Book 2 Prosa 3, respectively. (38) Having run out of space on his table, Harington continues to summarize passages by squeezing brief comments into the text breaks between sections. His in-text summaries are particularly frequent and detailed in Book 5, which concerns free will. Some are short: "fortune is governed by | divine providence" (5.m1, fol. 261r). Others contain a bit more detail: "god seeth at once all things that | bene are or here after shall come" (5.m2, fol. 261 v).
It is clear from other examples of prison writing that Boethius was an attractive figure for describing the circumstances of imprisonment, since the text was incredibly popular among prison-poets of the medieval period. James I of Scotland, for instance, found inspiration in The Consolation of Philosophy when he produced his long poem, "The Kingis Quair." James may have written the poem shortly after his release from English imprisonment in 1423, and the text is intimately connected to James's experience in prison. (39) A recent TEAMS edition of "The Kingis Quair" gathers it with several other prison poems from the fifteenth century, and all of them have some connection to Boethian themes. (40) Another such Boethian-inspired prison writer was Thomas Usk, who wrote his Testament of Love in response to his shifting political fortunes and imprisonment. (41) As no manuscript of Usk's Testament exists, we know about it today because of Thynne's 1532 edition, and Harington read and responded to it in his 1542 book, believing it was Chaucer's. (42)
The annotations in Usk's Testament again follow Harington's typical patterns. He underlines proper names, brackets longer passages, and draws manicules by sententious phrases. Some of the more extensive written commentary is overtly moralizing--"want of welth | ofte hindrethe the | worthie" (l.I.401, fol. 319r). Some of the notes are focused on themes--"peace" (fol. 321r). And some of them have a more schematizing purpose--"sondrie example" written beside a list of "ensamples" in the text (ll. 1.502-505, fol. 320r). However, as we have seen before, Harington consistently responds to Boethian ideas, particularly passages concerning fortune. He also continues his interest in free will and divine foreknowledge, underlining references to "the auenture of fortune" in the text (l. I.521, fol. 320r) and paying careful attention to Usk's discussion of free will and providence in Book 3. (43) His most specific response to fortune is in an early note. He writes " [t]he true picture | [o]f fortune" and underlines "fortune sheweth her fayrest, whan she thynketh to begyle," highlighting his sense that the truest form of fortune is one that is fickle (ll. 1.742-743, fol. 321v). We see fickle fortune again in a passage Harington marks with a flourished bracket:
Every of tho joyes is tourned into his contrary: For richesse nowe have I poverte, for dignite, nowe am I enprisoned. Instede of power, wretchednesse I suffire, and for glorye of renome I am nowe dispised and foulych hated. Thus hath farn fortune, that sodaynly am I overthrowen and out of al welth dispoyled. (ll. II.992-995, fol. 336v)
He was likely drawn to this section because he too was "nowe ... emprisoned," finding himself suffering "wretchednesse" rather than power. By 1550, Harington had already experienced a lengthy stay in the Tower. He was supposed to be discharged in October 1549, but for reasons unknown, he was not released until later (the early spring of 1550). In such a situation, fortune could only seem, at best, unpredictable. (44)
Prison writing continued into the sixteenth century, but Ahnert, in tracing the genre, observes a shift from the medieval to the early-modern periods, finding "a notable lack of Boethian-influenced prison works" in the sixteenth century, when Protestant prisoners "rejected the medieval model of meditative inwardness in favour of new and reconditioned forms that better suited their evangelical agenda." (45) Still, Harington's focus on fortune and free will provides evidence that at least one prisoner read and meditated on Boethian themes. Chaucer's Boethian perspectives on prison may have been Harington's only prison-related reading material, particularly if his library was diminished by his confined conditions. Thus, regardless of broader trends rejecting the Boethian model for prison literature, Harington's personal circumstances made a Boethian connection available, and Harington used that Boethian model as a means of exploring his own imprisoned state.
Before I conclude, I would like to make brief reference to Harington's own prison poetry, as six of the poems in the Arundel Harington manuscript are thought to have been written by Harington in the Tower. (46) Though Harington's prison poetry does not quote Chaucer directly, there are occasional and faint echoes of his reading material. In "At least withdraw your creweltie" (No. 20), written during Harington's second confinement, the speaker claims he has been left in prison for far too long "without all right agaynst all lawse" (1. 6). (47) However, he consoles himself by remembering that the "chaunce" (the fortune) of those holding him now will one day turn:
But as the Stone that strykes the wall Somtyme bownds back on th'urlers hedd so your fowle fetche to your fowle fall may tourne and noye the brest it bredd. (ll. 37-40)
Here, we might be reminded of Lady Philosophy assuring Boece that "vertues ne be not wythout mede. And that blysffulnesse cometh alway to good folk and infortune cometh alway to wicked folke" (4.pr1, 53-56, fol. 257r). Indeed, Harington, in his reading of Chaucer, has underlined a line to that effect on the next folio: "good folke ben alway stronge and myghtye, and the shrewes ben feble and deserte, and naked of all strengthes" (4.pr2, 8-10, fol. 257v). Remembering that the "shrewes" who imprisoned him will eventually receive "infortune," that the stones they throw will one day return to strike them justly, can be read as a comfort to Harington in his prison cell.
Harington's most doleful poem is "The lyfys longe that lothsomly doth last" (No. 19). In this elegy, Harington expresses a wish to pass through the "porte" of death into eternal life. He comforts himself with the knowledge that eternal life and freedom will come after a painful life on earth ends:
Death is a porte wherby we passe to joye Lyf ys a lake that drowneth all in payne Death is so deare it ceasyth all anoy Lyf is so lewd that all it yelds ys vayne For as by lyf to bondage man was browght Even so by death was Freedome lykewyse wrought. (ll. 31-36)
The sentiment is strikingly similar to a couplet we read, and Harington underlines, in "The Knight's Tale:" "Thys world is but a thorowfare full of wo / And we ben pylgrymes, passyng to and fro" (ll. 2847-2848). Though Biblical rather than explicitly Boethian, this sentiment repeated in Harington's poetry suggests that he ruminated on Chaucer as he read. (48) Consciously or unconsciously, his imprisoned reading influenced his own imprisoned writing, and his imprisoned writing influences our interpretation of his imprisonment.
Just as Boethius's imprisonment led him to consider the role of human will, divine providence, chance, and destiny in his writing, a community of imprisoned readers and writers after Boethius, both medieval and early modern, focused on tracing these themes in their own work. Knowledge of Harington's biography shows that his interest in Chaucer's Boethian material maybe more influenced by his personal circumstances--his imprisonment--than by any general trend in sixteenth-century Chaucerian reception. Harington had access to Boethian reflections on imprisonment, and he used the books he had in the Tower to reflect upon his own changing fortunes and imprisoned state. Annotations reflecting broad trends in reading techniques and responses to Chaucer are certainly present in Harington's book, but his personal history adds nuance to our generalizations about early-modern reading habits.
Chaucer becomes like Lady Philosophy for Harington, offering him a guide for reflecting on his own imprisonment and the broader questions of free will, fortune, and divine providence. However, Harington's Chaucer acts as more than a Boethian mouthpiece. For Harington, Chaucer is also a means of filling the idle days of imprisonment. He is a companion text to Harington's French lessons, offering another lens to the Roman and providing a further perspective on a character Harington finds particularly intriguing, Fals-Semblant. Chaucer was a script for collective reading and perhaps a discussion topic among the prison community in the Tower in 1550. Finally, the book is the means by which Harington can leave his mark for posterity. In the very act of signing and dating his Chaucer, Harington both advertises his ownership of the object and announces to later readers that he once lived and breathed and studied, a declaration that was profoundly meaningful in itself in his tumultuous environment. (49) He crafts an image of himself through this record, and we, as later readers, interpret the image of Harington and interpret Harington's image of Chaucer.
Thus, a biographical reading of Harington's marginalia moves him out of the amorphous group of "sixteenth-century readers of Chaucer." His marginalia gives us unique access to what an early-modern reader in the Tower of London found compelling about a medieval poet's work. Through his notes, we are invited into Harington's reading community; we are encouraged to learn to read as he read and interpret as he interpreted. His notes allow us to envision both an imprisoned reading community and a sophisticated individualized response from a reader invested in tracing the Boethian material throughout Chaucer's corpus. Overall, we are compelled to remember that reading, though it may work within a matrix of conventional expressions, is a highly individualized activity, and the narratives we construct about these readers must take into account the person behind the annotating pen.
University of Notre Dame
Thank you to Tim Machan, Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, and Nicole Eddy for their generous feedback on drafts of this essay.
(1.) University of Notre Dame, Hesburgh Library, XLarge PR 1850 1542. There is at least one other annotator in the book, who writes in a later hand and makes cross-references to Milton. However, I focus in this paper only on those annotations by Harington.
(2.) Of course, Harington is not the only named early-modern reader who responds to Chaucer's Works. For instance, we have access to Pope's copy of the 1598 Speght edition. However, Pope's annotations consist mostly of "c" marks placed beside passages he finds interesting. On Pope's reading of Speght, see David Nokes, "Pope's Chaucer," Review of English Studies 27.106 (1976): 180-182. We can also read Ben Jonson's Chaucer. However, Jonson confines his commentary to just three sections of the book: the prefatory "To the Readers" material, "The Remedie of Love," and "Of the Cuckow and the Nightingale." On Jonson's Chaucer, see R. C. Evans, "Benjonson's Chaucer," English Literary Renaissance 19 (1989): 324-345. For an example of a named reader leaving behind a comparably substantial marginal response in his copy of Speght's edition, see Megan Cook, "How Francis Thynne Read His Chaucer," Journal of the Early Book Society 15 (2012): 215-243. Cook connects antiquarian Francis Thynne's annotations in Speght's 1598 Chaucer to his critique of Speght's edition in his published Animadversions. Cook notes that Thynne focuses his annotating pen on Speght's paratext and responds to Chaucer with a historical rather than an affective eye. The most famous example of a named early-modern annotator is Gabriel Harvey. On his reading techniques and substantial corpus of marginal annotations, see Lisajardine and Anthony Grafton, "'Studied for Action': How Gabriel Harvey Read His Livy," Past & Present 129 (1990): 30-78.
(3.) Wolfgang Iser, "Interaction between Text and Reader," in The Reader in the Text: Essays on Audience and Interpretation, ed. Susan Rubin Suleiman and Inge Crosman (Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press, 1980), 107.
(4.) Alison Wiggins, "What Did Renaissance Readers Write in Their Printed Copies of Chaucer?," The Library 9.1 (2008): 1-36.
(5.) The most complete account of Harington's life is in Ruth Hughey, John Harington of Stepney: Tudor Gentleman, His Life and Works (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1971).
(6.) Ibid., 22-29.
(7.) Ibid., 24-26.
(8.) Ibid., 29. Seymour was allowed some servants in the Tower.
(9.) A full edition and description of this manuscript, now London, British Library, Additional MS 28635, is available in Ruth Hughey, ed., The Arundel Harington Manuscript of Tudor Poetry, 2 vols. (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1960).
(10.) For a list of those poems in the manuscript supposed to have been composed in the Tower, see Ruth Ahnert, The Rise of Prison Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 91-92.
(11.) Ibid., 93.
(12.) The book was printed by Thomas Berthelette in 1550 and released in a second edition in 1562. See Hughey, John Harington, 34.
(13.) A 2r-v. Here and following, references to the book are from John Harington, The hooke of freendeship (London, 1550), Early English Books Online. An edition is included in Hughey, John Harington, 141-190. For a longer analysis of the text, see Ahnert, Rise of Prison Literature, 90-100.
(14.) M. B. Parkes, Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West (Aldershot, UK: Scolar Press, 1992), 5-6. On readers emending the punctuation in incunabula, see Paul Saenger and Michael Heinlen, "Incunable Description and Its Implication for the Analysis of Fifteenth-Century Reading Habits," in Printing the Written Word: The Social History of Books, circa 1450-1520, ed. Sandra L. Hindman, 239-249 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991).
(15.) In a similar way, annotators of romance manuscripts often marked dialogue and shifts in speakers. For a study of such dialogue markers in Roman de la Rose manuscripts, see Sylvia Huot, '"Ci parle l'aucteur': The Rubrication of Voice and Authorship in Roman de la Rose Manuscripts," SubStance 17.2 (1988): 42-48. Thank you to Nicole Eddy for bringing this similarity to my attention.
(16.) ll. I.617-618, fol. 171v. Here and following, the text of the quotation is from Thynne's edition. The line numbers are from the Riverside Chaucer.
(17.) Of course, for those without the means to pay for a better prison experience, conditions could be miserable. On the conditions of the early-modern prison see Ahnert, Rise of Prison Literature, 11-22. See also Peter Lake and Michael Questier, "Prisons, Priests and People," in England's Long Reformation, 1500-1S00, ed. Nicholas Tyacke, 195-234 (London: University College London Press, 1997).
(18.) Colette Moore, Quoting Speech in Early English (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
(19.) On Chaucer's postmedieval reception, see Caroline F. E. Spurgeon, Five Hundred Years of Chaucer Criticism and Allusion, 1357-1900, 3 vols. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1925); Seth Lerer, Chaucer and His Readers: Imagining the Author in Late-Medieval England (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993); Seth Lerer, Courtly Letters in the Age of Henry VIII (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997);Joseph A Dane, Who Is Buried in Chaucer's Tomb (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1998); Stephanie Trigg, Congenial Souls: Reading Chaucer from Medieval to Postmodern (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002). Spurgeon notes that the understanding of Chaucer as a moral exemplar is "almost exclusively" a sixteenth-century phenomenon, "although there are isolated examples earlier and later." See Spurgeon, Five Hundred Years, 1:xciv.
(20.) For an analysis of Speght's 1602 sententiae, see Clare R. Kinney, "Thomas Speght's Renaissance Chaucer and the solaas of sentence in Troilus and Criseyde," in Refiguring Chaucer in the Renaissance, ed. Theresa M. Krier, 66-84 (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1998); William Sherman, Used Books: Marking Readers in the Renaissance (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), 44-45. On commonplace books in the early-modern period, see also Heidi Brayman Hackel, Reading Material in Early Modern England (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
(21.) Antonina Harbus also provides a detailed description of the more than a thousand anonymous marginal notes in a copy of Thynne's 1532 edition held in the Beinecke Library. Harbus notes that although most of the annotations are of a "conventional type," the annotator took particular interest in proverbial material, again something that reflects an interest in extracting material for commonplace books. Harbus's annotator, like Harington, also corrects spelling and punctuation. See Antonina Harbus, "A Renaissance Reader's English Annotations to Thynne's 1532 Edition of Chaucer's Works," Review of English Studies 59.240 (2007): 342-355.
(22.) On famous early-modern reader Gabriel Harvey's cross-referencing techniques, seejardine and Grafton, "Studied for Action," 51.
(23.) See the note to the line in the Riverside Chaucer.
(24.) Here and following, line numbers from Usk are taken from Thomas Usk, The Testament of Love, ed. R. Allen Shoaf (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1998).
(25.) Fifteenth-century manuscripts of Chaucer often contained such source citation, particularly in "The Wife of Bath's Prologue." For a treatment of these scribal glosses, see Theresa Tinkle, "The Wife of Bath's Marginal Authority," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 32 (2010): 67-110.
(26.) Francis William Bourdillon, The Early Editions of the Roman de la Rose (London: Bibliographical Society, 1906), 97.
(27.) Bourdillon records the lines as the 66th verse-title.
(28.) On this practice applied in incunabula, see Saenger and Heinlen, "Incunable Description," 249-250.
(29.) The annotation at fol. 212v is cropped, as are many other examples of Harington's marginalia. Here and following, the letters in brackets are my emendations.
(30.) Wiggins, "What Did Renaissance Readers Write," 12.
(31.) Robert Darnton, "First Steps toward a History of Reading," in The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1990), 162.
(32.) For other studies that demonstrate the value of reading marginalia biographically, see Carl Grindley's analysis of the Ayscough family's reading of Piers Plowman in the sixteenth century: Carl Grindley, "The Life of a Book: British Library Manuscript Additional 35157 in Historical Context" (PhD diss., University of Glasgow, 1996). See also Karrie Fuller's work on Sir Adrian Fortescue's reading of Langland in 1532: Karrie Fuller, "Langland in the Early Modern Household," in New Directions in Medieval Manuscript Studies and Reading Practices, ed. Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, John J. Thompson, and Sarah Baechle, 333-334 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2014).
(33.) Catherine Brown, "In the Middle," Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30.3 (2000): 547-574.
(34.) For a brief summary of Thomas's supposed plots against Edward, see G. W. Bernard, "Thomas Seymour," in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: University Press, 2004).
(35.) Newberry Library, Case 6A 112. In addition, I have also examined two 1542 Thynne editions in the Newberry collections, one of which contains substantial manuscript marginalia (Vault Case Y 185. C4055). I plan to provide a full analysis of the marginal notes in these and other Thynne examples as part of a longer study. It is worth noting at this stage that the multiple annotators in both Case Y185 and Case 6A 112 use similar reading techniques to Harington's. Annotators in both examples, for example, marginally index sections, underline sententious phrases, and draw manicules.
(36.) The annotation is unfortunately cropped on the far left side. The "predestinacion" reading is my best guess based on the context. A third word, below "fre will" is cropped to the extent that it is unreadable.
(37.) Notably, Harington does not provide a table of contents for the two other texts with title pages--The Canterbury Tales and The Romance of the Rose.
(38.) Thanks to Jesse Lander for allowing me to read a paper he presented at the International Congress on Medieval Studies entitled "Reading and (Re) marking: A Tudor Gentleman Encounters Chaucer." He reads Harington's table of contents closely and concludes that some of Harington's summaries offer polemical expansions on Chaucer's text.
(39.) Linne R. Mooney and Mary-Jo Arn, "The Kingis Quair: Introduction," in The Kingis Quair and Other Prison Poems, ed. Linne R. Mooney and Mary-Jo Arn (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2005), available at http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/mooney-and-arn-kingis-quair-and-other-prison-poems-kingis-quair-introduction.
(40.) Mooney and Arn, "General Introduction," in The Kingis Quair and Other Prison Poems, available at http://ddib.rochester.edu/teams/text/mooneyand-arn-kingis-quair-and-other-prison-poems- introduction.
(41.) On Usk's biography, see Paul Strohm, "Politics and Poetics: Usk and Chaucer in the 1380s," in Literary Practice and Social Change in Britain, 1380-1530, ed. Lee Patterson, 83-112 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990). The date of Usk's Testamentis unknown, and many scholars try to place it during one of Usk's imprisonments. Strohm notes that we need not interpret Usk's prison literally or autobiographically, and he dates the text to 1385-1386, the period between Usk's two imprisonments. See Strohm, "Politics and Poetics," 97 n. 18.
(42.) Harington references Chaucer by name in an annotation on fol. cccxxv, equating the textual "I" in l. I.545 ("I was drawe to ben assentaunt") with Chaucerhimself.
(43.) He underlines, for example, passages such as "to good service longeth good dede goodly don thorowe fre choice in hert" and "Every man hath free arbitrement to chose good oryvel to performe" (3.216,3.222, fol. cccxliiv).
(44.) Hughey, John Harington, 30.
(45.) Ahnert, Rise of Prison Literature, 4-5. The exception is Thomas More's A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation.
(46.) Ahnert, Rise of Prison Literature, 91.
(47.) Here and following, all quotations from Harington's poetry are taken from the edition in Hughey, Arundel Harington Manuscript. For Hughey's brief discussion, see Hughey, John Harington, 48-49.
(48.) On the biblical source of this sentiment, see the note to the line in the Riverside Chaucer.
(49.) The prison graffiti that several prisoners left behind on the walls of the Tower is a related practice. See Ruth Ahnert, "Writing in the Tower of London during the Reformation, ca. 1530-1558," Huntington Library Quarterly 72.2 (2009): 168-192, esp. 172-178.
Ahnert, Ruth. The Rise of Prison Literature in the Sixteenth Century. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
--. "Writing in the Tower of London during the Reformation, ca. 1530-1558." Huntington Library Quarterly 72.2 (2009): 168-92.
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Brown, Catherine. "In the Middle." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30.3 (2000): 547-574.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Riverside Chaucer. Edited by Larry D. Benson. 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.
--. The Works of Geffray Chaucer Newly Printed, with Dyuers Workes Whiche Were Neuer in Print Before. London: Thomas Godfray, 1532.
--. The Workes of Geffray Chaucer Newly printed, Wyth Dyuers Workes Whych were Neuer in Print Before. London: Richard Grafton, 1542.
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Dane, Joseph A. Who Is Buried in Chaucer's Tomb. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 1998.
Darnton, Robert. "First Steps toward a History of Reading." In The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History, 154-187. New York: Norton, 1990.
Evans, R. C. "Ben Jonson's Chaucer." English Literary Renaissance 19.3 (1989): 324-345.
Fuller, Karrie. "Langland in the Early Modern Household." In New Directions in Medieval Manuscript Studies and Reading Practices, edited by Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, John J. Thompson, and Sarah Baechle, 324-342. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2014.
Grindley, Carl. "The Life of a Book: British Library Manuscript Additional 35157 in Historical Context." PhD diss., University of Glasgow, 1996.
Hackel, Heidi Brayman. Reading Material in Early Modern England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Harbus, Antonina. "A Renaissance Reader's English Annotations to Thynne's 1532 Edition of Chaucer's Works." Review of English Studies 59.240 (2007): 342-355.
Harington, John. The booke of freendeship. London, 1550.
Hughey, Ruth. John Harington of Stepney: Tudor Gentleman, His Life and Works. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1971.
--, ed. The Arundel Harington Manuscript of Tudor Poetry. 2 vols. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1960.
Huot, Sylvia. '"Ci parle l'aucteur': The Rubrication of Voice and Authorship in Roman de la Rose Manuscripts." Substance: A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism 17.2 (1988): 42-48.
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Jardine, Lisa, and Anthony Grafton. '"Studied for Action': How Gabriel Harvey Read His Livy." Past & Present 129 (1990): 30-78.
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--. Courtly Letters in the Age of Henry VIII. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Mooney, Linne R., and Mary-Jo Arn. The Kingis Quair and Other Prison Poems. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2005.
Moore, Colette. Quoting Speech in Early English. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Nokes, David. "Pope's Chaucer." Review of English Studies 27.106 (1976): 180-182.
Parkes, M. B. Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West. Aldershot, UK: Scolar Press, 1992.
Saenger, Paul, and Michael Heinlen. "Incunable Description and Its Implication for the Analysis of Fifteenth-Century Reading Habits." In Printing the Written Word: The Social History of Books, circa 1450-1520, edited by Sandra L. Hindman, 225-258. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.
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Tinkle, Theresa. "The Wife of Bath's Marginal Authority." Studies in the Age of Chaucer 32 (2010): 67-110.
Trigg, Stephanie. Congenial Souls: Reading Chaucer from Medieval to Postmodern. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.
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|Title Annotation:||Geoffrey Chaucer|
|Publication:||The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2015|
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