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The clerical proletariat: the underemployed scribe and vocational crisis.

Among the unsung heroes of the resurgence of writing in English in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries are the unbeneficed--that is, unemployed or underemployed--clergy, many of whom earned full or partial livings in various mundane ecclesiastical jobs, in administrative writing offices, or as freelance scribes Twentieth-century scholars of church history referred to these unbeneficed clergy as the "clerical proletariat": a "submerged" class of clergy who had only their daily labor to live upon and whose competence was almost always underestimated. (1) In one sense they were a "proletariat," but in another sense the Marxist analogy breaks down for the Middle Ages, because their scribal work gave them a certain access to a "means of production": in this case, the power to wield the pen,--and many of them did so in the service of various kinds of protest literature and, more generally, writing for hitherto neglected vernacular audiences. (2)

Whether it is accurate to say that they created these new audiences or that the audiences were already eager for vernacular texts and they merely obliged--or some combination of both--their agency was by any measure a critical factor in the rise of English literature. Since a great deal of Middle English literature was anonymously authored and copied, getting at the evidence for the role of this clerical underclass is not easy. But the fingerprints of the "clerical proletariat" at work in Middle English book production often appear both internally in texts and outwardly in the manuscripts themselves, leaving a trail of clues for us to follow.

Historically, the sheer numbers of clerical proletarians are such that we cannot afford to ignore them. For instance, in "Careers and Disappointments in the Late Medieval Church," Alison K. McHardy studies the demographics of the unbeneficed clergy in statistics from the three poll taxes of 1377, 1379, and 1381. Taking statistics from just three of the cities cited in her extensive sample, we learn that "71% [of clergy] in Stamford, 77% in Lincoln, and 82% in London" were unbeneficed. (3) These are startling numbers; they reveal that although London's percentage is high, it is by no means extraordinary nationwide. "Their duties might be primarily legal, secretarial, administrative or advisory," she notes, and their ranks included a small number of clerks who were now in alternative careers, such as "doctors, astrologers, and entertainers" (e.g., working as musicians in a lord's household). (4) Many were parish clerks (an office that allowed marriage); still more "clerks" or "chaplains" did not make their living primarily as ecclesiastics but rather "as notaries, schoolmasters, choristers, or even members of less likely trades, such as blacksmiths and archers." (5)

Though McHardy's list is not meant to be exhaustive, Middle English scholars will already be struck by the numbers of literary works we have that deal with some of these professions, whether by chance or not, lyrics, such as "Chorister's Lament," "The Blacksmiths," "In the Ecclesiastical Courts," to name but a few, or longer poems that take up issues connected with such jobs. Piers Plowman, for instance, is rife with concerns about legal, scribal, choral, schoolroom, and courtroom issues and also heavily preoccupied with minstrels (especially in the C-text). Moreover, passages unique to the Z-text (a version of the poem, I suggest elsewhere, redacted in a proletarian setting) deal, for example, unusually positively with doctors and show much more interest in notaries than even the A-, B-, or C-texts. (6) also shows a strong sense of crisis in clerical vocation, compounding Langland's own sense of vocational crisis, itself imitated by Thomas Usk, Thomas Hoccleve, and others. (7)

What all these texts speak to in some way is the fact that the unbeneficed clergy found themselves in circumstances that forced them to be dependent on the laity for their livelihood. As McHardy notes, "The unbeneficed had to attract the goodwill and enthusiasm of the laity who were buying their ministry, so we must enquire how well they were able to retain the loyalty of laity." (8) Historians have long talked about this dilemma for the unbeneficed, but scholars of medieval English literary culture have as yet fully to grasp its implications. This essay attempts, in the small space available here, to offer some suggestive examples and future directions.

How do we identify the clerical proletariat? First it is important to note that career status could be a moving target: an individual might begin as a promising schoolboy, chorister, or undergraduate, then fall short of a benefice, become underemployed, and work, for instance, as a chaplain, school master, university lecturer, vicar choral, scribe, scrivener, or secretary for a household--and then, perhaps, but more often not, finally come to a church position. (9) During this process he might delay ordination indefinitely. T. A. R. Evans notes, for instance, that ordinations of some fourteenth-century Oxford university men were put off even into as late as their forties, or never undertaken at all if the right type of employment did not appear. Even if ordained, a clerk might never achieve a position higher than chantry priest; the poet John Audelay spoke openly of being "ner a parsun or a vecory," having gotten a chantry only late in life and after household service that included a range of secular and religious duties, even working as a kind of musician. (10) As Susanna Fein notes, Audelay was embroiled in public scandal during his earlier service to Lord Richard Lestrange and had to take part in a ritual of penitence alongside him after Lestrange provoked a violent London brawl in 1417.

In Audelay, one is forcibly reminded of the range of secular duties and even risks underemployment could carry with it in a hierarchical society. Some unbeneficed clergy, of course, might have preferred "free-lancing," and some landed on their feet in quite respectable non-ecclesiastical jobs: Hoccleve, despite his grumbling, was clearly a valued member of the king s service in the Office of the Privy Seal." But the unbeneficed more often appear as an economically disadvantaged group who, as Robert Swanson writes, lived "if not from hand to mouth, then from death to death, literally singing for their suppers." (12) But lest we assume that such clergy were the dregs of the profession, Tim Cooper notes:

   the extensive production of Latin clerical manuals to aid them, and
   the fact that they were often featured more significantly in their
   parishioners' wills than beneficed incumbents, or were more often
   entrusted with the care of children of dead parishioners, suggests
   rather that these men were the backbone of clerical service work,
   be it in praying for the living or dead, ministering in church
   services or in other small ways that their literacy skills offered:
   drawing up documents, carrying out ad hoc scribal commissions, and
   more. (13)

Given that no more than 15 percent of the stipendiary clergy got benefices, and that, as Cooper also notes, "possession of a benefice could only be gained by attracting the attention of a patron, and normally getting a university degree ... for those without such intellectual attainments, employment mobility was likely to be geographical but not economic." (14)

In fact, even the assumption that a university degree ensured upward mobility is likely overoptimistic. Studies tracing the careers of Oxford and Cambridge men in the fourteenth century show little evidence that even a university education helped one to acquire a benefice until the end of the fifteenth century. Royal patronage or powerful networks of influence of any sort often trumped university learning. As Evans starkly concludes from demographic studies, "only a small proportion of the parish clergy was trained in a university and most university men did not obtain a parochial cure." (15) Many could not afford to finish their studies, and even among those who did, Evans suggests, perhaps as few as 11 percent were beneficed. Historians often cite the "autobiographical passage" in Langland's Piers Plowman as accurately portraying the plight of the unbeneficed and, more specifically, those without patronage for study. In this textbook portrait of underemployment, Will reflects on a time when he was young and benefice-less but unwilling to give up the clerical habitus:

   When Y yong was, many yer hennes,
   My fader and my frendes foende [provided for] me to scole
   Tyl Y wyste witterly what holy writ menede ...
   And foend Y nere, in fayth, seth my frendes deyede,
   Lyf that me lykede but in this longe clothes.
   (Piers Plowman, C.V. 35-41, with omissions) (16)

Medieval university students were supported by patrons (both ecclesiastical and lay) but most often by their families ("frendes" here can mean relatives, too). Having been trained as a clerk and having fallen on hard times since the death of his patrons for university study ("scole"), Will still refuses to support himself by doing agricultural labor:

   "Sertes," Y sayde, "and so me god helpe,
   Y am to wayke to worche with sykel or with sythe
   And to long, lef me lowe to stoupe,
   To wurche as a werkeman eny while to duyren."

Rather, he says:

   "And yf Y be labour sholde lyuen and lyflode
   [livelihood] deseruen,
   That laboure bat Y lerned best berwith lyuen Y sholde:
   In eadem vocacione qua vocati estis, & c.
   And so Y leue in London and opelond bothe:
   The lomes [tools] bat Y labore with and lyflode
   Is pater-noster and my prymer, placebo and dirige,
   And my sauter som tyme and my seuene psalmes.
   Thus y synge for here soules of suche as me helpeth
   ... on this wyse y begge
   Withoute bagge or botel but my wombe one.

   (Piers Plowman, C.V. 22-52, with omissions)

Instead, the tools that he labors with are those available to a clerk in minor orders: his pater noster and primer, especially the Seven Penitential Psalms and the Office for the Dead, by which he lives (to quote Swanson again) "if not from hand to mouth, then from death to death." (17)

In fact, as often as this passage has been analyzed as self-deprecatory, scholars have not really appreciated that what Langland says here is also historically accurate for a certain class of those "left behind." (18) In the later Middle Ages, losing one's university patrons, most often family members, was a life crisis--not only did it drive one into proletarian status, dependent on daily or hourly work, but it could also drive one to a form of officially sanctioned begging. In such cases, Oxford university authorities could deliver sealed testimonial letters declaring the student legally "able to seek alms"--an administrative category. (19) Poor students might also be expected to live by menial labor working for their colleges or halls, sometimes even by agricultural labor (e.g., there are records of indigent students paid to work in the gardens at King's Hall, Cambridge, or paid to help build the new library at Merton College, Oxford in the 1370s). (20) Oxford and Cambridge also had to adhere to the repulsive (to us) rules enforced by lords against bondsmen or the "unfree" becoming clerics; in such cases, admission to university was technically against the law because their labor was "owned" elsewhere. Fines were amerced fairly often on bondsmen for sending sons to Oxford, which, however financially troublesome, did frequently provide a means of access to university education, because the "unfree" (paradoxically) could be financially better off than free tenants might be. (21) This unwelcome competition for already scarce jobs is also deplored in Langland's C.V. apologia, for which modern scholars have often maligned him as a social elitist:

   And also moreouer me thynketh, syre Resoun,
   Me [Men] sholde constrayne no clerc to no knaues werkes,
   For by the law of Leuyticy that oure lord ordeynede Clerkes
      ycrouned ...
   Sholde nother swynke ne swete ne swerien at
   Ne fyhte ...
   For hit ben eyres of heuene ...
   Domininus pars hereditatis mee, &c...
   For sholde no clerke be crouned but yf he come were
   Of frankeleynes and fre men and of folke ywedded.
   (C.V. 53-67)

In fact, depressing as these views are to us, Langland is actually describing state, ecclesiastical and university regulations about who may study, how much they can pay, and who may ultimately be ordained. (22) Like the later Audelay, what Langland is really embittered about here is the intervention of a new free-market economy in the buying of opportunities, benefices, and other types of office by the illiterate and unqualified, which finally, for Langland, ends in "pore gentel blood [being] refused" (Piers Plowman, C.V. 78). (23) Competition is especially unwelcome when there is already so little to go around.

I leave aside for now as too complex a problem for the space allotted here the intriguing questions this raises about Langland's biography and whether he himself had a university education, even a partial one. (24) Suffice it to say that poetic portraits of the clerical proletariat such as Langland's were repeated in Ricardian and Lancastrian writing. The same repertoire of "labouring" psalms, of course, was famously used in the chronicle account of another one-time scrivener we normally think of as a secular, Usk, as he was being drawn to his execution in 1388, and praying this professional repertoire with great devotion: "dicensque cum traheretur valde devote Placebo et Dirige, vij. Psalmos Penitenciales, Te Deum laudamus, Nunc dimittis, Quicumque vult, et alios in articulo mortis tangentes." (25)

Hoccleve also uses the motif of being unable to work agriculturally in his own "autobiographical" Prologue to the Regiment of Princes:

   With plow can y noght medle ne with harrow
   Ne wote noght what londe gode is for corne
   And forto laude a Cart or fille a barow
   To wiche y neuer vsid whas to forne
   My bak vnbuxum' hathe swych swynk for sworne.
   (Hoccleve, Regiment, 11.983-987) (26)

Here (and elsewhere) Hoccleve has Langlandian proclivities, but the trope predates Langland as a longtime scribal complaint, (27) and the motif about being too weak to work agriculturally and reluctant to beg ultimately descends from the parable of the unjust steward in the Gospel of Luke, a job to which many medieval underemployed clerics, it turns out, could relate. There the steward, on the verge of losing his job, says:

   What shall I do seeing that my master is taking away
   the stewardship from me? To dig I am not able: to
   beg I am ashamed
   [Quid faciam quia dominus meus aufert a me
   vilicationem? Fodere non valeo. mendicare
   (Luke 16:3, my emphasis)

The parable, I argue here, was very popular among clerical proletariat writers, in part because it portrays a bookkeeper's vocational crisis, with which such a group might readily identify. In fact, as is discussed in more detail below, it appears in a macaronic line unique to the Z version of Piers Plowman: "For fodere non valeo [to dig I am not able], so feble ar my bones" (Piers Plowman, Z Version V. 141). (28)

And a related form of the trope even crops up in the self-deprecatory prologue to the Orchard of Syon, written by the anonymous English translator of a Latin version of Catherine of Siena's Italian Dialogo : "Grete laborer was I never, bodili ne gostli. I had never greate strengthe myghtli to laboure with spade ne with schovel. Therfore now, devoute sustren, helpeth me with preiers, for me lackith kunnynge, ayens my grete febelnes." (29) The use of the motif here, though possibly just rhetorical, hints at something more: where scholars have routinely assumed monastic authorship and copying of late medieval devotional works like the Orchard, unbeneficed workers are also possible candidates and are documented on both sides of the monastic wall. Scribal evidence of several books of monastic provenance points to the involvement of such hired labor, especially in urban monasteries, while former scribes also sometimes joined religious orders. (30)

In addition to piecework in education and book production, clerical proletarians are best known to us from their donkey work in documentary and writing office capacities. Hoccleve, who worked for the King's Office of the Privy Seal, tells us explicitly that he gave up waiting for a benefice and married ("I gasyd longe ... / After some benefice; and whan non cam, / By process I me weddid atte laste"). (31) Many gave up the wait for a benefice, and with odds of less than 15 percent, who can wonder. But what modern scholarship most underestimates is how many clerical proletariat thinkers never discarded their past or training: Usk, whom we think of as a man of political factionalism, interwove extensive material from Anselm's De Concordia into his text; he also, as Melinda Nielsen shows, made unexpectedly extensive use of university logic texts. (32) So, too, Hoccleve, whom we think of as a largely secular poet, brought to his poetry a distinctively pastoral sensibility, as, for instance, his "Lerne to Die" shows. Hoccleve's modern editor, Charles Blyth, expressed surprise over the amount of quotation from canon law in Hoccleve's Regiment. (33) But we should not be surprised about any of these cases; these men were amphibians--pastoral passion informs their political thought, and politics informs their ecclesiastical views. Poised between two worlds, they composed and copied works that both taught the laity and engaged the literate--and raised the bar in vernacular writing, which was still scarce at the onset of Richard II's reign in 1377.

Only slowly have I begun to realize that much of the literature composed, copied, or redacted by proletarian clerics is, like the passages above, about vocational crisis of one sort or another. We have seen Langland describe what it meant socially to lose one's university patronage and career prospects midstream, and what living at the edge of clerical status meant, vocationally and socially. So, too, Usk, who, though he rose from scrivener to sergeant-at-arms, only ever comes to us in writing when he is in crisis: first in his Appeal, then in his Testament, and is finally chronicled as he approaches execution, clinging to his clerical status to the last. And Hoccleve, though he rose from benefice-less clerk to be a significant employee of the Privy Seal, (34) is always in vocational crisis or financial need or both. In what space remains, I focus on further evidence, often anonymous-sometimes glimpsed through fissures or unexpected cracks in scribal professional work-that a scribe maybe "underemployed," given his degree of learning. These clues, along with evidence of a certain distinctive hybridity of the "religious" and the "secular," are suggestive of proletarian productions. Many of our writers and scribes, then, are more sophisticated than we think. Many of our anonymous (and not so anonymous) writers are more religious in their training than we think, while the secularly of religious men can surprise us elsewhere, as we see below.

Case Study 1: An Underemployed Vernacular Scribe, More Clerically Trained Than We Thought

My first example of an apparently underemployed scribe is the copyist and annotator of Oxford, Oriel College, MS 79 ("O"), a text of Piers Plowman.}s A small sample of his marginal annotations appears in the chart below alongside the parallel ones found in Cambridge, University Library Ll.iv.14 ("[C.sup.2]"), both manuscripts of the B-text. This is a unique marginal cycle, shared only by O and [C.sup.2] (O predates [C.sup.2] and was perhaps the exemplar for it). (36) Like most B-text notes, these are terse and, as their modern editor, David Benson, complains, not usually interpretively illuminating. (37) But they can tell us more than we might realize about the scribes who copied or created them. Take, for instance, the annotations to the B-text Pardon episode that so fascinates modern readers. These notes highlight only telegraphically the topics of merchants, begging, and almsgiving, and both sets entirely skip over the Tearing of the Pardon (Piers Plowman, B.VII.l 15-138). (38)

O                                [C.sup.2]

30r / B.VII.18                   34r / B.VIL18 March[a]undis

30r / .26 how schalt             34r / .26 How pu shalt do
do | pin almes                   | pin almes

30v / .72 catoun of |            35r / .72 Caton of
almes dedis                      | almes dedis

30v / .83 Of falcse              35r / .83 ffalse beggers

31r / .99 [written in red]       --
pe pardoun | of peris
| Plowman

32r / .192 0f pardoun            36v / .192 of pardon

These notes, all too representative of B-text marginalia, are the opposite of the learned, lengthy Latin source glosses that are common in Canterbury Tales and Confessio amantis manuscripts but virtually never appear in Piers Plowman. But I would note that this does not necessarily mean that Piers scribes (or any vernacular scribes, for that matter) could not produce learned glosses if needed. So, for instance, at the very end of the annotation cycle, O suddenly sprouts a highly learned gloss (see Fig. 1) in the last passus, where Will falls asleep and dreams of the arrival of a seductive Antichrist who "in mannes foorme" will appear to "spedde mennys nedis" even while uprooting truth, "as he a god were" (fol. 84r; cf. B.XX.53ff.). (39) Having originally written only a one-word note here ("Antecrist"), the annotator later came back to add an uncharacteristically long and exegetical gloss in heavily abbreviated Latin:

   Ieronimus superillud Danie/is .12. Beatus q ui expectat
   & peruen/f usque ad dies .1335. Beatus inquit,
   qui interfecto untichristo . dies supra numerum
   perfinitum .45 .prestolatwr: quibus & dominus
   Saluator in sua magestate venturas est.
   [Jerome on Daniel 12, "Blessed is he who waits and
   comes through [perseveres] until 1335 days have
   passed. Blessed/' he says, "is he who, after the death
   of Antichrist, remains for forty-five days beyond the
   aforementioned number, when the Lord Saviour is
   about to come in his majesty."]
   (fol. 84r, note to B.XX.53)

He had initially, however, merely contented himself with the simple English annotation ("Antecrist"), just like the others in O's cycle and at the very same line (XX.53). The longer gloss is written in the same hand but in different ink and is fitted awkwardly around the original "Antecrist" note, even extending down to surround the second original terse note ("ffreris"). The long gloss was, then, an afterthought and absolutely unusual in this cycle. The new gloss encourages the reader to be among the "blessed" who persevere through this terrible period to see Antichrist's death. And the gloss reassures the reader that the period of pain will have a specific numerical end, that the real messiah, dominus Saluator, is coming in majesty, and that there will be a brief period (45 days) of blessedness after the death of Antichrist.

Some years ago Wendy Scase suggested that the gloss might refer to disputes over Joachite doctrine. In fact, there is no indication what its composer thought of Joachimism, if anything (its origin is Jerome), but I would suggest that what unnerved the annotator and caused him to spring into action was something textual: in an unnoticed error in O's main text a few lines below, fools (that is, "fools for Christ"), the only ones not taken in by Antichrist's deceptions, would rather die than live "Lenger ban lenten.~ to be so rebuked" (line 63). In fact "lenten" (Lent), a period of forty days (not the eschatological forty-five days), is a misreading in O for "leute." (40) In most manuscripts, B.XX.62-63 reads: "Whiche fooles were wel gladdere to deye / Than to lyve lenger sith Leute was so rebuked." But O mistakenly invokes Lent: "Lenger ban lenten .~ to be so rebuked" (my emphasis).

Realizing that this did not add up, the annotator (I would guess) decided that more authoritative information-and better math!-were urgently needed. But whatever his theological reason, the heavily abbreviated Latin gloss supplies a valuable piece of evidence to us that the normally telegraphic, mainly vernacular annotators of the B-text tradition were neither monolingual nor unlearned-nor did they expect their readers to be.

In material terms, O is a modest manuscript, and the annotating scribe's work has all the hallmarks of a member of the clerical proletariat. (41) For instance, at 11.281, he supplies the technical term "Of annuelerie preestis" in a passage advocating for poor priests. He beefs up references to other chantry priest matters (e.g., 11.149, "nota | be ground of trentalis"), to legal genres (e.g., "Carta" at 2.75), and everywhere to merchants, a key group for scribes, poorly paid chaplains, and freelance liturgical workers. (42) The swelling ranks of the unbeneficed clergy were dependent on the laity for their funding-something that was slowly changing the dynamics of English society and vernacular literature.

Case Study 2: More Secular Than We Imagined: The Chantry Chaplain's Accounts Roll and "A Bird of Bishopswood"

I would like now to look at another proletarian case that reveals the opposite kind of reversal of expectations; if the O annotator is more learnedly religious than we might imagine, this next proletarian is more secular than we might think, given his job description. John Tyckhill was a rent collector (collector reddituum) and chantry chaplain at St. Pauls, London, likely though not certainly ordained when he composed an alliterative poem now called "A Bird of Bishopswood." (43) It was written down on that most bureaucratic of writing surfaces, a roll, in fact a St. Paul's rent roll for 1396-1397 maintained by Tyckhill himself (see Fig. 2). The poem, like Piers Plowman, employs the May morning trope of the chanson d'aventure, but it is also semi-erotic, even a touch Chaucerian. Despite its quality and Ruth Kennedy's good edition, it has not been much studied, though Ralph Hanna astutely mentions its St. Paul's context as "provocative" in relation to St. Erkenwald. (44) It manages to capture a compelling sense of interiority, almost apologia, with, I would note, a surprisingly Hocclevian air of melancholy or depression for its early date. Implicitly, it laments a kind of clerical loneliness during the spring season of love, which is also, fittingly for the poet's mood, the period of Lent:

   And I had lenyd me long al a Lentyn tyme
   In vnlust of my lyf and lost al my joye ...
   As a I welk bus and wandryd, wery of myself.
   ("Bird in Bishopswood," 11.12-13.17).

He sees a beautiful bird, "sade in al semblant," who neither "chauntyd ne chatryd," and it seems to the narrator that that she "Myssyd a make [mate] myrth for to mak here" (30). He fears to go near her in case she flees, and he laments his own lack of wings and perhaps lack of something else:

   For sche had wengys at her wylle and wantyd neuer a fethyr
   And I vnlyght of my lymus and lyme had I none ...
   Ne couth noght cheuysch me with charmys ne
   chauntyng of bryddys.
   ("Bird in Bishopswood," 11. 34-36)

He ends the poem with erotic wordplay and love-longing--especially poignant if the author is indeed a fully ordained chantry chaplain: not only does he lack a "lyme" (a pun meaning both "limb" and "bait"), but he admits that he lacks the ability to chant like a bird (that is, literally, like a bird catcher) a metaphor that speaks volumes in relation to the author's vocation. (45)

The St. Paul's poem is a real treasure, and it opens up a crack through which we can learn about the opposite end of proletarian vocational crisis and perhaps even the loneliness of clerical life in that liminal religious status. The poem is almost certainly both written out and composed by Tyckhill, whose corrections to it appear in the same hand as the draft itself (evident in Fig. 2). Each collector kept his own roll (the St. Paul's rolls are cut and sewn together chancery style), apparently in his lodgings. Tyckhill's rolls themselves tell us a great deal: he also wrote Latin scientific prose into one of them, passages of which also show some sort of active revisions. (46) His is not, according to Malcolm Parkes, the hand of an Oxford or Cambridge student, nor is it really an ecclesiastical hand. (47) Rather, Parkes compares it professionally to the type of hand of the Equatorie of the Planets, which many scholars have attributed to Chaucer: practiced, lay, functional. And like Chaucer, Tyckhill was learned; his ability to compose in Latin, French, and English made him stand out among his chantry colleagues and may explain his promotion at last to a real benefice: a rectorship of St. Gregory's, a church by St. Paul's, in 1398. (48)

Ruth Kennedy assumes, reasonably enough, that Tyckhill was ordained, despite some conflicting evidence, at the time he wrote the poem. But we cannot be certain, since his first benefice came along only upon his leaving St. Paul's, and whether Tyckhill was among them or not, many clerks waited to be sure of beneficed church employment before fully committing to ordination and celibacy. Moreover, as the extensive entries in his rent rolls show, Tyckhill's day job involved a great deal of association with the laity. At the time of writing the poem, then, Tyckhill was one of the many clerks inhabiting the liminal world between the lay and the clerical. If so, the topic of the poem appears slightly poignant, especially if one thinks of Hoccleve, who at roughly the same time and in the same city waited decades for a benefice and eventually decided to marry.

Of course, the May morning encounter with a bird that leaves the speaker loveless, sexless ("without a limb"), and alone may simply be a diverting piece of creative fantasy for an otherwise pious churchman to amuse himself with on his days off. But even if that is all it is, it reminds us of the real humanity of proletarians, even those perched (whether Tyckhill knew it or not) on the edge of career success (he would be beneficed by 1398). Kennedy is at pains to separate him from the "chantry priests of ill repute" in contemporary satires. But his life was not wholly smooth: in 1394 he was part of a group of about twelve chaplains accused of intimidating ("averring threats" against) three other named chaplains. (49)

The character of his accounting activities has: not really been studied, and what follows suggests only the tip of an iceberg, but there are some important, unnoticed clues to be found in them: the rent rolls he kept show that he dealt daily with people from all walks of life. St. Paul's was a landowner on a large scale, and he managed financial transactions with not only clergy of all ranks but laity of all kinds, including sheriffs, Guildhall officials, and others. (50) Whatever his reasons for crafting the poem, it gives us hitherto underappreciated evidence of a St. Paul's prole tarian of the 1390s already deeply steeped in the latest London vernacular styles. The alliterative nature of the poem, its chanson d'aventure style, and its skilled use of the poetic "I" sound at different times Chaucerian, Langlandian, or Hocclevian by turn. As I suggest elsewhere, Hoccleve indulges in alliteration in just such Langlandian moments as his own apologia poetry (51)--and Hoccleve certainly did not learn the art of proletarian melancholy from Chaucer.

This much we can intuit from the literary par allels in the poem, but there are two rather compelling pieces of new evidence I would like to mention here that suggest Tyckhill might well have been actually connected with Middle English literary circles. One is that Tyclchill's service at St. Paul's in the 1390s overlapped with that of another chantry chaplain well known to Langland scholars, William Palmer (d. 1400): Palmer bequeathed a copy of Piers Plowman to a woman of his parish, Agnes Eggesfield, giving us evidence of Langland's earliest female reader. William died as rector of St. Alphage in London, but apparently served as a St. Paul's chantry priest in the 1390s. (52) In the rather tight-knit community of St. Paul's chaplains, it is not hard to imagine that ideas and texts were shared (several records survive of their book bequests to one another). (53)

A second piece of evidence is the fact that on the dorse of the rent roll that contains Tyckhill's poem there are several Latin account entries involving payments to a "Johannis Merchaunt [or Marchaunt]" (Fig. 3). These occur amidst other accounts sporadically relating to the London Guildhall (spelled variously, e.g., "in Gyldhalda" or "ad Gildhaldam"). Take, for instance, one that can be easily found in Figure 3, by counting six lines above the seam on the roll, and reading, "Item soluitur Johanni Marchaunt pro precepto eiusdem vicecomitis," indicating that Marchaunt drafted a writ for a previously named sheriff. John Marchaunt, assuming, as seems likely from the context, it is the same man, is the person Mooney and Stubbs have just recently identified as having held various Guildhall posts as an attorney in the city's courts between about 1380 and 1417, and as Doyle and Parkes's Scribe D, the most prolific known London scribe of Middle English literature in this period. (54) Scribe D, of course, copied early and important manuscripts with works by Langland, Chaucer, Gower, and other vernacular writers and worked alongside Hoccleve himself on the Trinity Gower (Trinity College, Cambridge MS R.3.2). (55) John Marchaunt, as Mooney and Stubbs demonstrate, was also known to Usk.

Assuming this is also the Marchaunt of Tyckhill's roll accounts, it would appear that Tyckhill might easily have had access to any number of London writers' works in the 1390s, if not before. Since his poem is dateable to before 1398, when he resigned his St. Paul's collectorship to take up a benefice, he was certainly among the very earliest readers of Chaucer, Langland, and perhaps even Hoccleve. And, if Mooney's and Stubbs' identification is correct, he apparently handled some business with the most prolific of their scribes, John Marchaunt.

Proletarians like Tyckhill exemplify perfectly a type of conjunction that is foreign to us, where poetry, account-keeping, and liturgical training converge. To underline the latter, we should conclude by mentioning that Tyckhill's poem is written out in prose, as Kennedy notes, with great attention to punctuation for enhancing oral performance. This is exactly what a trained liturgist might do: he supplies metrical cues where space is too short to copy in verse, very like the punctuation in the more famous alliterative poem "The Blacksmiths," also copied out in prose, in British Library MS Arundel 292. Like "A Bird in Bishopswood," "Blacksmiths," as I suggest elsewhere, is elaborately punctuated for meticulous performance using the punctus elevatus, the punctus versus, and the virgula suspensiva, not only to mark off the alliterative fine units, but to indicate intonation patterns (Fig. 4). (56)

Arundel 292 is another manuscript that has been somewhat misjudged as purely religious, even monastic in purpose. But Arundel 292 is actually more likely to have been used by non-monastic clergy at Norwich Cathedral Priory, and in a circumstance very like Tyckhill's liminal situation at St. Paul's. (57) Arundel 292 captures this amphibious clerical culture well, especially in two poems entered into the manuscript at later dates, "Chorister's Lament" (ca. 1350), and "Blacksmiths" (ca. 1400-1450).

"Blacksmiths" straddles the lay and the clerical world in unexpected ways. (58) Ostensibly written against the policy of allowing smiths to work at night (an issue of city ordinances of a type that Guildhall scribes dealt with daily), the poem in fact luxuriates in the very sounds of the smithy, which it seeks to imitate in exuberantly over-alliterated lines. "Blacksmiths" has been compared by Elizabeth Salter to the "urban disturbance" genres of Horace, Juvenal, and Martial, so, I would suggest, its origins in schoolboy rhetorical exercises and its careful punctuating for voicing link it culturally to the song school, and with its earlier companion, "Choristers." (59) Made of often misshapen parchment, Arundel 292 was a working volume for basic pastoral care or lay teaching and its blank pages became something of a log for complaint verse that resonated with clerks caught in dead-end choral or schoolmaster positions. Proletarians appear to have spoken the same language in more ways than one, and they brought a set of liturgical skills to their vernacular writing, which is somehow married up with their more secular work in day jobs like Tyckhill's account-keeping. We turn next to their frequent identity as account-keepers, real and metaphorical.

Case Study 3: "Render an Account of Your Stewardship": White-Collar Vocational Crisis and the Clerical Proletariat in the Z-Text of Piers Plowman

We have seen that proletarians were amphibians who moved between two worlds, often between some form of secular office life and liturgical practice. But only slowly have I come to understand exactly why one particular metaphor, that of "rendering accounts," seems to crop up so often in proletarian texts. In this section, with Tyckhill's literal account-keeping vividly before us, we explore the use of this motif in the biblical Parable of the Unjust Steward and its interpolation into Piers Plowman in the redaction known as the Z-text. And this brings us to another dimension of proletarian book producers: their incredible sense of freedom, not to say entitlement, about meddling in book production. The reason for this is not far to seek: with so many underemployed clerically trained copyists, well versed in both church and government matters, scribal intervention in texts is confident and often highly intelligent--to the extent that it can be difficult for modern editors to tell scribes from authors.

One of the best examples of this I know is the Z-text redaction of Piers, which is awash in unique lines added to further emphasize and augment clerical proletarian concerns (a topic Langland himself had already found compelling), especially scribal and notarial life. Take this example from Z, with its unique additions bolded:

   Sire Simonye ys ofsent to sele the chartres
   Ant alle the notaryes by name, that they noen
   To sette on here sygnes as Symonye wyl bydde.
   (Z.II.39-41; see also II.99ffi and 119ffi)

Likely, though not certainly, a Londoner, from a similar proletarian background as Langland himself, the Z redactor seems to have known and had access to all three versions of the poem, though it was an A-text he chose to "improve." (60) In the short space left here, we will examine:

1. The Z redactor's fascination with the Parable of the Unjust Steward, which, as we saw at the outset, resonated deeply with multiple proletarian writers in the Ricardian period.

2. The redactor's fascination with Langland's special treatment of merchants among the three social groups (merchants, lawyers, and beggars) in the Pardon scene, three groups that is, of real importance to proletarian thinkers, such as we have also just seen picked out for attention in the laconic marginal notes of Oriel 79 (O).

To begin with the parable: the biblical steward was denounced to his master (diffamatus est) for dissipating his goods--we never know whether in fact he is guilty. His master then asks him to "render an account of his stewardship" (redde rationem villicationis tuae; Luke 16:2). Middle English scholars know this as the famous theme of Wimbledon's popular 1388 sermon, written about the same time as the Z redaction. But as we saw above, in the parable's key passage the steward, on the verge of being fired, asks himself (ait ... intra se) "what shall I do seeing that my master is taking away the stewardship from me? To dig I am not able; to beg I am ashamed" (quid faciam quia dominus meus aufert a me villicationem? fodere non valeo; mendicare erubesco; Luke 16:3). The parable describes, then, in modern terms, a crisis of white-collar unemployment. As such, it seems to have caught the attention of Langland, the Z redactor, Wimbledon, and, as we saw earlier, Hoccleve, and the Orchard of Syon author.

Langland's interest, though most evident in the C.V. apologia, goes back to the A- and B-texts, in which Robert the Robber (one of the voices of Sloth in the Seven Deadly Sins' confessions) also has a remarkable moment of interiority that explicitly invokes the parable's accounting moment (redde rationem villicationis tuae):

   Robert be robbour on reddite (61) lokide,
   Ac for bere was nou3t wherewith he wepte swipe sore.
   And 3et be sinful shrewe seide to hymselue.
   (A.V. 233ff)

Invoking the good thief crucified alongside Christ (an emblem of salvational hope for the desperate), Robert prays for mercy, stressing the accounting theme again:

   So rewe on bis Robert bat red[dere] ne hauib,
   Ne neuere wen[e] to wynne wib craft bat [I owe].
   (A.V. 240-241)

That is, "have pity on this Rob(b)er(t) who does not have the means to pay back, nor [do I] ever think to earn that which I owe with any craft." (62) The lines are poignant, and Langland would return to them in complex ways, especially in the C-text and latently in the C.V. apologia--not so latently, however, that a fellow proletarian did not see the connections. In the Z-text, the A-text lines above are mysteriously augmented with unique Latin lines of the redactor's own composition, directly quoting the Parable of the Unjust Steward that is unobtrusively foundational--for the biblically alert--to Langland's C.V. autobiographical passage:

   So rewe on me, Robert, for reddere ne habbe
   Ne nere wene to wynne wyth craft that Y knowe ...
   For fodere non valeo, so feble ar my bones:
   Caucyon, ant Y couthe, caute wolde Y make
   That Y ne begged ne borwed ne in despeyr deyde.
   (Z.V. 142-143)

In their note to this passage (Z.V. 142), Rigg and Brewer translate these rather difficult last two lines as follows:

   For I cannot dig, so feeble are my bones. If I could,
   I would prudently [caute] make a down payment
   [caucyon],* in order not to beg or borrow or die in
   *"caucyon" can mean "surety, bond" given against
   a loan.

To understand this challenging interpolation, one has to know a little bit about loans and bonds, some biblical Latin, and the parable of the Unjust Steward--in short, the kind of mixture of knowledge a proletarian would have. Faced with his white-collar unemployment crisis and unpalatable blue-collar options, the steward comes up with a shrewd plan to call in his master's debtors for payment of at least part of their debt, apparently forgiving them the rest of the debt: thus one debtor who owes a hundred jars of oil is told "accipe cautionem tuam et sede cito scribe quinquaginta" [Take thy bond and sit down at once and write fifty] (Luke 16:6). In this way he pleases his master by prudently (prudenter) gathering in his debts, if at a loss (Luke 16:8). In a parable already laden with ambiguities, the questionable nature of the steward's remedy was not lost on medieval commentators, and it was not lost on Christ himself, who ends with this cryptic comment: "quia filii huius saeculi prudentiores filiis lucis in generatione sua sunt" [for the children of this world, in relation to their own generation, are more prudent than the children of the light] (Luke 16:8). (63)

The parable's central character, a minor bureaucrat down on his luck, demonstrates a strange mix of interiority, audacious entrepreneurialism, self-interest, and ingenuity. Utilizing a language of law and accountancy, the parable must have struck a chord with many who worked in writing offices that dealt with debt (such as the Exchequer, Privy Seal, or even a proletarian St. Paul's rent collector). Apparently Robert the Robber's "reddere" in the A-text sparked off an association with the "redde rationem vilicationis" of the parable, so the Z redactor inserted the "fodere" passage to cement the allusion. And by then he was really having fun with his embellishments. He could not have actually been Langland, by the way, because the interpolation does not make much poetic sense in its context, but he was eager to impress. He came up with the punning next line, "Caucyon, ant Y couthe, caute wolde Y make" (Z.V. 143), by borrowing the word cautionem (bond) from the parable. Then, like a math genius wanting to show not only that he can solve a problem but that he can also skip whole steps while doing it, there is a kind of showing-off quality here (an attempt to "out-Langland" Langland).

The maneuver serves mainly to stake out membership in a sophisticated club. (64) One has to have agile Latin grammar to get this, and the Z redactor must have found irresistible the opportunity to play similarly with the Luke parable to evoke the legal language of financial offices and places where employment crises were rife. Hoccleve made a poetic career of writing about such crises in his begging poems. For instance, in La Male Regie he confesses that he dare not "stele, for the guerdoun is so keene, / Ne darst ... nat, ne begge also for shame" (367-368); even Chaucer's "Complaint to His Purse" fits into just such a genre of white-collar employment crisis. And then there is the C.V. apologia itself, in which the dreamer renders his own account of slightly dubious stewardship in the language of business:

   Ac yut Y hope, as he that ofte hath ychaffared
   And ay loste and loste and at the laste hym happed
   A bouhte such a bargain he was the bet euere
   And sette al his los at leef ....
   So hope Y to haue of hym that is almighty
   Agobet of his grace.
   (Piers Plowman, C.V. 94-100, with omissions)

Members of the clerical proletariat, then, seem to speak the same language and furthermore to serve a very specific set of clientele. Among the strikingly proletarian features of the Z-text that 1 discuss elsewhere is his special attention to Piers's Pardon from Truth, in which Langland innovatively tried to bring new social groups (merchants, lawyers, and beggars) into the salvational covenant, finding loopholes for them under certain moral conditions. (65) The Z redactor warmly approves of Langland's efforts and embellishes them lovingly wherever he can, for instance, in his emphasis on the physical documentary nature of the Pardon from Truth. Whereas in the A-text beggars are not allowed directly into Piers's "bull" unless they meet certain criteria, Z rather amusingly shifts them quite physically "to the dorse" ("in the bak halfe") of the document:

   Beggaueres ne byddares ne but nat in the bulle
   But yt be in the bak half [dorse] wythouten, by
   [outside by themselves]

The three "newer" groups Langland is so keen to find a place for in Truths Pardon, the merchants, lawyers, and beggars, are also social groups highly relevant to writing office life and freelance documentary work. Langland had squeezed the merchants into Truth's Pardon (Piers C.IX.22-24 and 27) by giving them a clause in the margin of the "bull," thus emphasizing their "marginality" in the Church's schema but slyly claiming they are covered under God's "secrete (or privy) seal." This brings a powerful, surprisingly emotional response from the merchants--the only group allowed the distinction of being able respond to Truth's offer in the poem itself:

   Tho were marchauntes mury; many wopen for ioye
   And preyed for Peres the plouhman bat purchased
   hem pis bulles.

But in the A-text and in Z, these lines run very differently:

   banne were marchauntis merye: many wepe for ioye,
   And 3af wille for his writing wollene clopis;
   For he co[pie]de pus here clause pei [couden] hym
   gret mede.

In A and Z, Will (not, as in BC, Piers) is the agent of the merchant's joy via his scribal work. Z is even more pointed:

   And yeuen Wylle for thys wrytyng wollen clothus
   For he coped thus here clause, couth hym gret mede.

Interestingly "copiede" (which as Kane points out in his note to A.VHI.44 is quite a new verb) is "coped" in Z, a delightful pun on the idea of clothing the words in ecclesiastical garb, the "bull" itself. One cannot help but see in As (and Z's) version a moment of writerly vocation, indeed, even mission. In Z it is emphatically "thys" writing, and the act of copying the "clause" is both allegorized and sanctified quite cleverly.

Why should merchants have such a special role? One pertinent factor may be, as many historians and codicologists have shown, that scribes and scriveners did much of their daily work for merchants and lawyers. The Church regarded the rising merchant class as a gray area in canon law; someone like Langland must have found this intolerable, or at least unsatisfactory. Langland's move is avant-garde here, and theologically progressive. As I show elsewhere, though the Z redactor is more conservative than Langland on many ecclesiastical issues, (66) his redaction evokes scribal culture even more, and he followed Langland in this inclusiveness wholeheartedly. The Z redactor felt that Langland's innovations to the Pardon system to include these groups were so crucial that he even suppressed the Tearing of the Pardon to make sure that the inclusion was not undermined. (67) It is no wonder. Merchants, as I need not explain to readers of this journal, were an important early readership for English literature. From the thirteenth-century evidence of the clientele of poetic competitions like the London Puy, to Linne Mooney and Estelle Stubbs's Guildhall discoveries, to fifteenth-century evidence offered by the scribe-anthologist, John Shirley, merchants loom large. (68) The clerical proletariat, as we saw above in McHardy's researches, are clerics who now work for the laity

To conclude, the latest poem we have looked at here in any detail is the 1396-1397 "Bird in Bishopswood," and perhaps it is not by chance that this poem is the most poignantly uncertain about the clerical life. In the Ricardian period there began to be a steep drop in requests for ordination, as bureaucratic culture found ways other than the benefice to fund itself directly, and by the early fifteenth century the symbiosis that had existed between church and state was partly dissolved, or at least unmoored, as fewer amphibians were forced to tread the road of disappointment. (69) The popular writers of the mid--to late fifteenth century are not so much clerical proletariat civil servants and chantry priests but members of religious orders (like John Lydgate, John Walton, John Capgrave, and Osbern Bokenham). Increasingly in the fifteenth century large numbers of benefices were appropriated to the monastic houses (a shift still not fully taken account of in scholarship), while in the other direction the civil service laicized at a terrific rate. (70)

In such an environment, binaries like secular and religious, heresy and orthodoxy, clerical and lay, and other oppositions are bound to rigidify more than they did in the fourteenth century. I would suggest that some of the

more judgmental, platitudinous, or "orthodox" tones we sense in fifteenth-century English writing (71) stem in part from such demographic shifts--not so much from growing "anticlericalism" or post-Arundel censorship, but a shift of tone arising rather, as the number of ordained religious in the civil service dropped off and the numbers of the "clerical proletariat" melted away into a growing laicization of the writing offices--with the loss of their unique, vocationally troubled voices.


This essay is dedicated with gratitude to the memory of Malcolm Parkes, who taught generations of us to prepare our earliest "questions to ask the manuscript." I would also like to thank Derek Pearsall, Martha Driver, Linne Mooney, Estelle Stubbs and Katherine Zieman for their helpful readings of this paper. I am grateful also for stimulating questions in response to an oral version given for the English Faculty at Cambridge (May 2014), and for the 2013 Early Book Society conference audience in St. Andrews, where this paper was first delivered as a plenary.


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University of Notre Dame


(1.) See, e.g., the introduction in J. F. Goodridge, Piers the Ploughman (London: Penguin, 1959), 9, citing W. A. Pantin's comments on the "clerical proletariat" as a social and economic underclass: "though the case of Langland shows us that a more or less submerged cleric might be the intellectual equal of anybody." Among recent studies, see especially Tim Cooper, The Last Generation of English Catholic Clergy: Parish Priests in the Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield in the Early Sixteenth Century (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell and Brewer, 1999); and T. A. R. Evans, "The Numbers, Origin and Careers of Scholars," in The History of the University of Oxford, vol. 2, Late Medieval Oxford, ed. J. I. Catto and Ralph Evans (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), 485-538; Alison K. McHardy, "Careers and Disappointments in the Late Medieval Church," Studies in Church History 26 (1989): 111-130. I use the term "proletariat" not in the pejorative sense of scholars like Pantin, but in the "reclaimed" sense fostered by Marxist scholarship and in recent histories such as Cooper, Last Generation.

(2.) These two categories of writing are, of course, both large and distinct, though sometimes overlapping. The treatment of protest literature especially is beyond the scope of this essay, but for a learned recent analysis of its connections with legal genres, see Wendy Scase, Literature and Complaint in England, 1272-1553 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Also beyond the scope of this essay is whether proletarians espoused or came to espouse Wycliffism, but it is worth noting that the young Wyclif was bitterly disappointed when he was passed over for a prebend in 1375; see Barrie Dobson, "The English Vicars Choral: An Introduction," in Vicars Choral at English Cathedrals, ed. Richard Hall and David Stocker (Oxford: Oxbow Press, 2005), 4. For a classic account of the development of Marxist theory in twentieth-century scholarship, see Lee Patterson, "Historical Criticism and the Claims of Humanism," in Negotiating the Past: The Historical Understanding of Medieval Literature (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), 41-76. Of course many of these clerks were trilingual and also served new audiences in French and Latin.

(3.) McHardy, "Careers," 113.

(4.) Ibid., 118.

(5.) Ibid., 127.

(6.) Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, "Confronting the Scribe-Poet Binary: The Z Text, Writing Office Redaction and Oxford Reading Circles," in New Directions in Manuscript Studies and Reading Practices: Essays in Honour of Derek Pearsall, ed. Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, John Thompson, and Sarah Baechle (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, forthcoming 2014). 489-515. On notaries and "poor clerks," see Beverly Brian Gilbert, "'Civil' and the Notaries in Piers Plowman" Medium Aevum 50 (1981): 49-63.

(7.) Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, "Professional Readers of Langland at Home and Abroad: New Directions in the Political and Bureaucratic Codicology of Piers Plowman" in New Directions in Later Medieval Manuscript Studies: Essays from the 1998 Harvard Conference, ed. Derek Pearsall (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell and Brewer, 2000), 103-129.

(8.) McHardy, "Careers," 119. For detailed analysis showing that the unbeneficed were underpaid chaplains in charge of about half the parish churches in Norwich, but often able to supplement their incomes via the chantries endowed by the laity, see Norman P. Tanner, The Church in Late Medieval Norwich, 1370-1S32 (Toronto: PIMS, 1989), 47-51.

(9.) For scribe attorneys and other writing office profiles, see Linne R. Mooney and Estelle Stubbs, Scribes and the City: London Guildhall Clerks and the Dissemination of Middle English Literature, 1375-1425 (York, UK: YorkMedieval Press, 2013). For university and educational professional careers, see Evans, "Numbers." On careers as vicars choral, see Barrie Dobson, "The English Vicars Choral: an Introduction," in Vicars Choral at English Cathedrals, ed. Richard Hall and David Stocker (Oxford: Oxbow Press, 2005), 1-10. Tanner, The Church, 47-8, notes the rarity of upward mobility to a benefice in his Norwich data.

(10.) See Evans, "Numbers," 534-535, on the late careers of Hoccleve and Audelay; for Audelay's career disappointments, see McHardy, "Careers," 127-128, citing this passage; and on Audelay's biography, see the introduction in Susanna Fein, ed,,John the Blind Audelay, Poems and Carols (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Douce 302) (Kalamazoo, MI: TEAMS, 2009).

(11.) Linne R. Mooney, "Some New Light on Thomas Hoccleve," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 29 (2007): 293-340. See Tanner, The Church, 51, for evidence that most Norwich unbeneficed lived above mere subsistence levels, and some might have preferred "free-lancing" for lay chantries as decently lucrative and less burdensome.

(12.) Robert Swanson, Church and Society (Oxford: Blackwells, 1989), 62.

(13.) Cooper, Last Generation, 127.

(14.) Ibid.

(15.) Evans, "Numbers," 538.

(16.) Derek Pearsall, ed., William Langland: Piers Plowman. A New Annotated Edition of the C-Text (Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press, 2008).

(17.) Swanson, Church and Society, 62.

(18.) For a summary of scholarship on C.V., see Pearsall, William Langland, 21, and his notes to V. 11.1-108.

(19.) Evans, "Numbers," 509-511, and 511 n. 84, citing H. E. Salter, ed., Registrum cancellarii Oxoniensis 1434-69, Oxford Historical Society, XCIII-TV (Oxford: Clarendon, 1932), ii: 40, as an example in which the chancellor provided letters authorizing begging.

(20.) These are referred to in records as batellarii. See Evans, "Numbers," 509, for these examples.

(21.) Ibid., 515, noting that unfree tenants were often wealthier than free ones.

(22.) On ordination regulations, which Langland faithfully mirrors here, see H. S. Bennett, "Medieval Ordination Lists in the English Episcopal Records," Studies Presented to Hilary Jenkinson, ed. J. Conway-Davies (London: Oxford University Press, 1957), 20-34.

(23.) McHardy, "Careers," 128 on Audelay.

(24.) On Langland's life, see most recently, if speculatively, Robert Adams, Langland and the Rokele Family: The Gentry Background to Piers Plowman (Dublin: Four Courts, 2013).

(25.) L. C. Hector and Barbara F. Harvey, ed. and trans., Westminster Chronicle 1381-1394 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982), 314-315; see also Paul Strohm, "Politics and Poetics," in Literary Practice and Social Change in Britain, 13801530, ed. Lee Patterson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 89. For liturgical practices, see Katherine Zieman, Singing the New Song: Literacy and Liturgy in Late Medieval England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).

(26.) Thomas Hoccleve, The Regiment of Princes, ed. Charles R. Blyth (Kalamazoo, MI: TEAMS, 1999). On Hoccleve and Langland, see Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Linda Olson, and Maidie Hilmo, Opening Up Middle English Manuscripts: Literary and Visual Approaches (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012), 87-90.

(27.) Kerby-Fulton, et al., Opening Up.

(28.) A. G. Rigg and Charlotte Brewer, Piers Plowman: The Z Version (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1983). I retain Rigg and Brewers use of bolded text for lines unique to Z.

(29.) Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Nicholas Watson, Andrew Taylor, and Ruth Evans, eds., The Idea of the Vernacular: An Anthology of Middle English Literary Theory, 1280-1520 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), 237, and notes 45, on the translator's comment that he completed this during leisure time, and 47 on the translator's possible Carthusian status.

(30.) See Margaret Connolly, "Mapping Manuscripts and Readers of Contemplations of the Dread and Love of God',' in Design and Distribution of Late Medieval Manuscripts, ed. Margaret Connolly and Linne R. Mooney (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2008).

(31.) Hoccleve, Regiment of Princes, 11. 1451-1453; see also McHardy, "Careers," 127.

(32.) Melinda Nielsen, "Scholastic Persuasion in Thomas Usk's Testament of Love," Viator 42 (2011): 183-204. Nielsen traces the pragmatic and theological kinds of learning available to a man like Usk, who was clearly intellectually ambitious, and concludes: "From grammar school to university connections, apprenticeship to involvement in documentary London, possibilities abound for how a London scrivener could develop and gratify his taste to imitate Boethius, translate Anselm, allude to Trevisa, adapt scholastic logic, and pioneer English prose" (186); see also R. Allen Shoaf, ed., Thomas Usk: The Testament of Love,_Robbins Library Digital Projects (Kalamazoo, MI: TEAMS, 1998),

(33.) Hoccleve, Regiment of Princes, 12; see also Kerby-Fulton, et al., Opening Up, 89-90.

(34.) Mooney, "Some New Light."

(35.) Katherine Heinrichs, ed., The Piers Plowman Electronic Archive, vol. 3, Oxford, Oriel College, MS 79 (O) (Medieval Academy of America and SEENET by Boydell and Brewer, Woodbridge, U.K., 2004): "The main scribe has written, in addition to the text, marginal glosses, corrections, notae, and ... parasigns"; Introduction, Section 1.6, "Handwriting," 6.

(36.) See C. David Benson and Lynne Blanchfield, The Manuscripts of Piers Plowman: The B Version (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell and Brewer, 1997), 20.

(37.) Benson writes, "Unlike proper medieval glosses, they do not analyze, comment on, or elucidate the text at any length. [They].. .are almost always brief and often not more than a single word--nota ... Each scribe apparently produced his own,... with the exception of two groups of closely affiliated MSS." Ibid., 20. O and C2 form one such group.

(38.) Proletarian disapproval of this episode is discussed in more detail below, as well as in Kerby-Fulton, "Confronting."

(39.) George Kane and E. T. Donaldson, Piers Plowman: The B Version (London: Athlone Press, 1978).

(40.) See Wendy Scase, Piers Plowman and the New Anticlericalism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 116-117.

(41.) In addition to copying the Piers text and annotations in Oriel 79, this scribe also copied the last eight lines of a Latin poem on fol. 1r. Kathryn Heinrichs, who transcribed Oriel 79 as the third volume for the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive, writes in the description posted on the Archive's project site, "The manuscript is a professional production, written in a small, regular anglicana formata by a scribe of North Hertfordshire whose language is almost perfectly consistent. The quality of the vellum is poor, and the manuscript is only modestly ornamented."

(42.) Mooney and Stubbs, Scribes and the City. We cannot know for certain whether the O scribe is creating or copying the marginal cycle, but his is the earliest manuscript with the cycle. At the very least, we know he approved enough of the annotations to copy them.

(43.) Ruth Kennedy, "A Bird in Bishopswood': Some Newly-Discovered Lines of Alliterative Verse from the Late fourteenth Century," in Medieval Literature and Antiquities: Studies in Honour of Basil Cottle, ed. Myra Stokes and T. L. Burton (Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1987), 71-87.

(44.) See Hanna, "Alliterative Poetry," in Wallace, Cambridge History, 510.

(45.) See the Middle English Dictionary online for definitions of birdlime: "brid ~ [see brid 5. (a)]; (b) fig. something that entraps [birds]; (c)?glue; (d)?mineral pitch, bitumen; (e) mud, slime." cgi/m/mec/med-idx?type=id&id=MED6006

(46.) London Metropolitan Archives (formerly Guildhall Library) 25125/34. On the scientific writings, see Kennedy, "Bird," 73-74; they are on the face, with accounts on the dorse.

(47.) Parkes, cited in Kennedy, "Bird," 74. Parkes drew Kennedy's attention here to the professional, non-ecclesiasticaltype of hand in Cambridge University Library MS Peterhouse 75 (containingthe Equatorie of the Planets) as aparallel to Tykhill's hand. Parkes' points remain pertinent whether or not Chaucer proves to be the scribe of Peterhouse 75, though Linne Mooney and Estelle Stubbs kindly inform me that Kari Ann Schmidt has unpublished evidence that the scribe was not Chaucer.

(48.) For this theory, see Marie-Helene Rousseau, Saving the Souls of Medieval London: Perpetual Chantries at St. Paul's, c. 1200-1548 (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011), 115-116.

(49.) Kennedy, "Bird," 76-77.

(50.) I have had a chance to examine only two of the rent rolls held at the London Metropolitan Archives in any detail: formerly Guildhall Library MS 25125/32 and 25125/34.

(51.) Kerby-Fulton, et al., Opening Up, 87-90.

(52.) Rousseau, Saving the Souls, 116. On Palmer, see Kerby-Fulton, "The Women Readers in Langland's Earliest Audience: Some Codicological Evidence," in Learning and Literacy in Medieval England and Abroad, ed. Sarah Rees-Jones (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2002), 121-134.

(53.) Rousseau, Saving the Souls, 115-116.

(54.) Ian Doyle and M. B. Parkes, "The Production of Copies of the Canterbury Tales," in Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts and Libraries: Essays Presented to N.R. Ker, ed. M.B. Parkes and Andrew Watson (London: Scolar Books, 1978) 163-212.

(55.) For the fullest recent list of English manuscripts attributed to Scribe D, see Mooney and Stubbs, Scribes and the City, 38, and for his employment history, 56-57.

(56.) Ibid., 329-330; see Jane Roberts, Guide to Scripts Used in English Writings up to 1500 (London: British Library, 2005), xiii, for the types of punctuation. And see Kerby-Fulton, et al., Opening Up, 45, for their use in "Blacksmiths."

(57.) See Susan Boynton and Eric Rice, eds., Young Choristers, 650-1700 (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell and Brewer, 2008), 44ff., on Norwich's almonry school for boys of all ages and choirmasters appointed from outside the monastery. On "Blacksmiths" and "Choristers," see Kerby-Fulton, et al., Opening Up, 42-43. For a more detailed study of the musicology of "Choristers," see Anna de Bakker's forthcoming article on the vocabulary of the poem and medieval chorister training.

(58.) It is written into Arundel 292 on fol. 71v, just after a text on what to do if, as a priest, one has an accident with the host ("Si aperta quod absit neglicencia de corpore aut sanguine Christi acciderit")

(59.) Especially like those found in Geoffrey de Vinsauf's Poetria nova. See Elizabeth Salter, English and International: Studies in the Literature, Art and Patronage of Medieval England, ed. Derek Pearsall and Nicolette Zeeman (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 211-213.

(60.) See Kerby-Fulton, "Confronting." The London scribe who made the copy of Piers Plowman in Huntington Library HM 114 similarly had access to all three versions of the poem. See Kerby-Fulton, et al., Opening Up, 70.

(61.) I.e., "render" or "payback"; the line also echoes Rom. 13:7.

(62.) A. G. Kane, Piers Plowman: The A Version (London: Athlone, 1960), see variants to A.V. 241, but sixteen manuscripts read some form of "any craft that I know"-, three MSS read "redde" at 240.

(63.) The exegetical interpretations of the passage, too complex for discussion here, enrich interpretations of Z, as redactors and imitators of Langland knew well. See Stephen Wailes, Medieval Allegories of Jesus' Parables (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 245ff. As Augustine noted, "not all aspects of the steward praised by the lord are to be imitated" (247), and

the inability to dig signifies the inability to do penance, thus clarifying Langland's invocation of the parable in relation to Sloth and unrestituted robbery.

(64.) For a genuine Langlandian example, see Pearsall's note to C.V. 86-87.

(65.) Kerby-Fulton, "Confronting."

(66.) For a list of passages in Z, see Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, "Piers Plowman," in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 513-538; and see also Karrie Fuller, "The Craft of the Z- Maker: Reading the Z Text's Unique Lines in Context," Yearbook of Langland Studies 28 (2014) 15-30.

(67.) For the evidence of this case, see Kerby-Fulton, "Confronting." The term "merchants" is used in this paragraph as a convenient shorthand, just as Langland employs it. However, Linne Mooney has suggested to me (in private correspondence, Aug. 12, 2014) that the term "is now not used by historians for a general term for members of the great livery companies in London, since it has connotations of Mercers or trading companies." She suggests instead "some term like members of London's craft companies, members of London's livery companies, or the craft oligarchy of London, rather than merchants'." Langland, however, uses the term "marchauntis" (e.g. A.VIII.42) in the general sense I use it here.

(68.) Ralph Hanna, London Literature, 1300-1380 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 126-129; Mooney and Stubbs, Scribes and the City, for recent discussion of the London Puy (128-129) and Shirley (69-71).

(69.) See Evans, "Numbers," 531, on the drop in requests for ordination.

(70.) Evans notes that "The number of rectories available in England was significantly reduced in the later Middle Ages by the appropriation of livings, especially to monasteries--It has been estimated that the number of appropriated rectories in England rose from about 1,500 in 1291 to about 3,300 in 1535." Ibid., 533.

(71.) Most recently, see Vincent Gillespie and Kantik Ghosh, After Arundel: Religious Writing in Fifteenth-Century England (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2011).
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Date:Jan 1, 2014
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