Middle English Word of the Moment

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Annales Tres Seu Quattor Chronicarum: On MS BL Add. 54184.

Yesterday, after poring over it in the manuscripts room of the British Library, I gathered my courage and sent an email to their manuscripts department about MS Additional 54184, suggesting an amendment to its catalogue listing.

Add. 54184 is a manuscript of (mostly) the second quarter of the fourteenth century, from the great old monastery of Ramsey in Cambridgeshire. As it stands, it presents a history of England from her mythic origins to the (then) present day. Rather than composing their own, Ramsey used the Historia Anglorum of Henry of Huntingdon up to the death of King Stephen (1135, ff. 1-48v), the Annales Sex Regum of Nicholas Trevet up to the death of Edward I (1307, ff. 49r-130v) and – according to the British Library’s catalogue – Adam Murimuth’s Continuatio Chronicarum from the ascension of Edward II (1307) to the election of Pope Benedict XII in 1334 (131r-144r):

Murimuth's full Chronicle covers the period 1303-1347. The present text, headed 'Incipiunt Annales Regis Edwardi filii Regis Edwardi . . .', is very similar to that printed in E. Maunde Thompson, ed., Adam Murimuth Continuatio Chronicarum, Rolls Series (1889), pp. 3-219. Entries for 1307-1308 are different and much fuller in the present MS., which is not listed by Maunde Thompson, than in the Rolls Series version. A. Hall, who published the text under the title Adami Murimuthensis Chronicon (1721) was aware of the existence of the MS. in the posession [sic] of the Earl of Cardigan, but does not use the fuller 1307-1308 material in his version.

And there is a good reason that he didn’t (whether he knew it or not). The years 1307-1308 (ff. 131r-133r) are not Murimuth. Even if this were the only extant witness to them, that fact alone (in a chronicle so much copied ) would suggest that the author was a monk at Ramsey (or the author of Ramsey’s exemplar) rather than Murimuth. It would, in that case, be an interesting appendix to an edition of Murimuth – particularly as it is very full, very detailed, and very colourful in its language (in complete contrast to Murimuth’s usual style) – but one could hardly ascribe authorship to him.

But, in fact, this is not the only extant witness to this text. It’s actually the Annales Paulini for those years, the annals of St Paul’s in London, which Bishop Stubbs published as part of the Rolls Series in the 1880s. And that accounts for it being so well-informed about the London events – the coronation, in particular, is so detailed that I was seriously wondering (on my first quick read-through) if the Abbot had been a guest, and if so, how (given he died in 1314, if memory serves) he had managed to pass on such an anecdotal account to his monks that it was remembered in great detail in (at earliest) the mid- to late- 1330s. And even that wouldn’t account for the degree of geographic and locational specificity in the account, which sounds very much like a Londoner’s (as, of course, it is).

So I was reading it, becoming more and more incredulous about the idea of it being derived from Ramsey, and becoming increasingly sure that I’d read it before somewhere, when I came across the line “In omnem igitur terram exijt rumor iste / quod Rex plus amaret hominem magum malificum quam sponsam suam” (f. 132r ll. 21-22) - “And therefore across all the land arose this rumour, that the king loved an evil male sorcerer more than he did his wife”. And I said to myself, “Ah. THAT chronicle”.

So I checked it more thoroughly against Stubbs’ version, and found it is word-for-word the same, save for the opening sentence and some shuffling at the end of 1308, and the occasional scribal variants – preferring a few odd constructions of the perfect stem, and, entertainingly, amending Gaveston from being “poten[s]” (powerful) in the realm of England to “puten[s]” (stinking) in the realm of England. Which, I have to say, is entirely in character for language used by the chronicler elsewhere.

And so I daringly emailed the manuscripts department and suggested they mention the presence of a short extract from the Annales Paulini in the catalogue (mentioning the folio numbers and corresponding page numbers in Stubbs). We shall see what they think.


Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in what response you get: I have a similar (though nothing like as learned) correction I would like to get made. My impression is that none of this stuff will get done unless someone prompts them, though, they have enough to do anyway that the targeting is helpful. But maybe I'm wrong!

Also, welcome to the UK!

Hannah Kilpatrick said...

Thank you! I thought it would be helpful and from that point they can do what they like. :) And, I got this response, which looks reasonably positive though fairly non-committal:

Dear Ms Kilpatrick,

thank you very much for this information. We are currently undertaking preliminary work towards migrating our online catalogue into a new system. The existing catalogue is now closed and cannot be updated. Once migration is completed (scheduled for March 2011) I will be able to update the record. I will add the correction to my pile and see that it is done once the records go live in the new system.

Yours sincerely,

Michael St John-McAlister

This also explains why the new Cotton catalogue that was meant to be completed late 2009 is not available via their website. I want that catalogue!

jill said...

good catch!

Anonymous said...

That is one heck of a surname, too. Given its content, I shall wait on mine for the moment. Thankyou for sharing!