Christian Works : Epistle of Privy Counsel

Christian Works

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Devotional treatise in prose.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>MS Ii, 6. 31 is a unique copy, as this is the only manuscript in which this text is found alone. All other copies are bound alongside <i>The Cloud of Unknowing</i>, or other treaties attributed to the same author. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Phyllis Hodgson consulted this copy for her basic text edition, but deemed it ‘obviously unsuitable’, as the text is ‘much modernised in vocabulary and spelling’ (<i>The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counselling</i>, ed. Phyllis Hodgson, EETS, Original Series 218 (London: Oxford University Press, 1944), p. xxiii.). The version of the text in this manuscript is distinctive, as it concludes with an additional passage that only appears in three of the ten extant copies (Bodleian Library MS Douce 262, Bodleian Library MS Bodley 576, and Cambridge University Library MS Ff. 6.41), thus suggesting a common exemplar (A.S.G Edwards ‘Editing and ideology: Stephen Batman and the Book of Privy Counselling’, in G. Lester (ed.), <i>Chaucer in perspective: Middle English essays in honour of Norman Blake </i>(Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), pp. 267-278 (p. 271)). </p><p style='text-align: justify;'><b>Language and Dialect:</b></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The dialect has not been located in A. McIntosh, M. L. Samuels et al., <i>A Linguistic Atlas of Late Medieval English</i> (1986). Given the late date of the manuscript, it is difficult to pinpoint specific localising features, as the language is moving towards a more standardised form (see ‘dating’ for notes on vowel change and pronouns). It has some southern features, such as the forms ‘shall’ and ‘shulde’, which, according to <i>eLALME</i> distribution maps, were most highly concentrated in the Midlands (<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://archive.ling.ed.ac.uk/ihd/elalme_scripts/lib/create_feature_map.php?mapid=0220004'><i>eLALME</i></a> Dot Maps, ‘SHALL, SHOULD: sh- (shal, shulde)’: [accessed 12/03.19]). The southern ‘-eth’ third-person singular present verb ending is used throughout throughout the manuscript, but also appears in the first and second person forms (‘me thynketh’, and ‘thee thynketh’). Overall, the manuscript’s dialect may be best described as what Smith terms ‘colourless written English’, a less regionally diverse form that arose at the end of the fifteenth century, in line with the increasing elaboration of English (Jeremy J. Smith, ‘From Middle to Early Modern English’, in <i>The Oxford History of English, </i>ed. Lynda Mugglestone (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp.147-79, (p.165)).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'><b>Bibliography:</b></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Described in <i>A Catalogue of the Manuscripts Preserved in the Library of the University of Cambridge, edited for the Syndics of the University Press</i> (Munich: Kraus, 1980), vol. III, p. 530. See also, Phyllis Hodgson’s description in her best text edition<i> The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counselling</i>, ed. Phyllis Hodgson, EETS Original Series 218 (London: Oxford University Press, 1944). See also A.S.G Edwards ‘Editing and ideology: Stephen Batman and the Book of Privy Counselling’, in G. Lester (ed.), <i>Chaucer in perspective: Middle English essays in honour of Norman Blake </i>(Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), pp. 267-278, for discussion of the marginal annotations. For information regarding Batman’s ownership and reading practices, see M.B. Parkes, ‘Stephan Batman’s Manuscripts’, in <i>Medieval Heritage: essays in honour of Tadahiro Ikegami</i> (Tokyo: Yushodo Press, 1997), pp.125-56, and Simon Horobin, ‘Stephan Batman's manuscripts of Piers Plowman’, <i>Review of English Studies</i>, 62 (2011), pp. 368-372.</p>


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