|TITLE:||UNFINISHED BUSINESS: THE TERMINATION OF CHAUCER'S "COOK'S TALE"|
|SOURCE:||The Chaucer Review 41 no2 185-96 2006|
The "unscheduled termination" of Chaucer's Cook's Tale has long baffled critics and readers alike.(FN1) At the end of Fragment I of the Canterbury Tales, the story suddenly concludes after one of the most provocative lines in all the tales, describing a woman who "heeld for contenance / A shoppe, and swyved for hir sustenance" (I 4422).(FN2) Douglas Gray notes that the abrupt end of the Cook's Tale may have resulted from a variety of circumstances:
There are a number of ways in which the incompleteness of The Cook's Tale may be accounted for: that more of it existed, but has been lost (but the Hengwrt scribe seems to have decided that there was no more);(FN3) that Chaucer was by some circumstance or other prevented from completing it,(FN4) or that for some reason he decided not to do so.(FN5)
We might add to this list the possibility that the Cook's Tale, rather than being an "incomplete" story, can be understood within a larger framework, concluding in a manner wholly appropriate within the thematic context of Fragment I.(FN6) Many critics, puzzling over the sudden close, explore the ending by means of an imagined base-text, but without new manuscript evidence discussions of the textual provenance of the Cook's Tale remain conjectural, and we must admit the impossibility of reconstructing the tale based on a text that no longer exists, and perhaps never existed, even as a copy.
It seems more useful to look at the tale that does exist, examining the extant fragment of the Cook's Tale to find clues regarding its termination. Critics advocating thematic closure have done this, but their arguments, while theoretically appealing, seem somehow insufficient. As John Burrow notes, the presence of "thematic patterns" does not satisfactorily explain the tale's sudden end: "One business of criticism, certainly, is to see thematic patterns in carpets, but I doubt whether the completion of such a pattern can properly be held to justify the breaking off of a story--almost before it has begun, in the case of The Cook's Tale."(FN7) The problem with the Cook's Tale is that it does not feel complete.(FN8) Not only does the tale fail to resolve narratively; it also lacks the markers of conclusion so common to Chaucer's other tales. Thus, as John Hines suggests, arguments of thematic completeness "do not solve the problem that more is needed by the Cook's Tale as a narrative product: it conspicuously lacks the marked conclusion that all the preceding tales have had, either in a conclusion within the tale or in the form of an endlink."(FN9) It is possible, of course, that the abrupt completion of the tale should be read as humorous, mocking either the Cook's lack of skill as a storyteller or his taciturn nature. The former seems unlikely because the fragmentary tale is itself compelling. As for the latter possibility, if we are meant to laugh at the Cook's brusque, inadequate finish, then why does Chaucer make him so gregarious earlier, clawing the Reeve on the back after that man's tale? Why is there no closure or summation to emphasize a potentially comic component? And why is there no reaction from the other pilgrims?
Commenting on the Canterbury Tales, several critics quote Frank Kermode's statement that "We cannot, of course, be denied an end; it is one of the great charms of books that they have to end."(FN10) Burrow questions the applicability of this statement to Chaucer, but Michaela Paasche Grudin suggests that such a desire for closure may not have been ahistorical:
By the time Chaucer, in Troilus and Criseyde (c. 1385), has Pandarus say to Criseyde, "th'ende is every tales strengthe" (2.260), the relation between structure and closure is surely a cliché. After all, do not readers, like lovers, hope for a satisfying consummation?(FN11)
Despite this prevalent cliché, however, Chaucer consistently resists the restrictive finality of closure, mimicking the reality of a world that, sadly, has far too little consummation. Grudin demonstrates how throughout the Canterbury Tales, "The illusion of realism--the narrative appearing to be unfinished because it is interrupted--underscores Chaucer's innovative sense of closure,"(FN12) that is to say, his anti-closure.(FN13) Kolve asserts that medieval aesthetics had little room for such "modern" suspicions of literary closure because medieval writers sought to imitate the perfect, and thus perfected (in the sense of completed) work of the Divine Creator.(FN14) But Rosemarie McGerr, in her book-length study of closure in Chaucer, demonstrates that, despite modern and postmodern assumptions regarding the development of literary openness, earlier models of open form existed within the literary tradition of the late Middle Ages. Furthermore, she stresses that "resistance to closure plays a larger role in Chaucer's narrative poems than in those of any other medieval poet."(FN15) Perhaps, then, the Cook's Tale might be read as one of these "open books."
For many critics, however, the famous scribal note of the Hengwrt Manuscript challenges the potential openness of the Cook's Tale.(FN16) Fragment I ends with the Cook's Tale, and below line 4422 the scribe has written, "Of this cokes tale maked Chaucer na moore." Gray and N. F. Blake, among others, have assumed that the scribe made this note based on certain knowledge,(FN17) but M. C. Seymour, who has examined the bibliographic information thoroughly, argues that if Fragment I were circulating in booklet form before Hengwrt was transcribed, as is likely, then the last leaves of the copy-text may quite easily have been lost:
Indeed, one of the motives behind the commissioning of MS Hengwrt may have been to preserve within one binding copies of the Canterbury Tales which were known to be already subject to hazard in booklet form. The claim that of this cokes tale maked Chaucer namoore may not therefore be true.(FN18)
Seymour believes that the tale continued, but that the final quire of the copy-text was "lost very early in the manuscript tradition, so that the Hengwrt scribe, writing in London or Westminster c. 1405, was unable to find or hear of it."(FN19) Seymour proposes that, having looked unsuccessfully for the tale, the scribe added his note later.
Possibly. The ink used for the note does not match the darkest brown ink of the Cook's Prologue and Tale but corresponds, instead, to the lightest brown ink of Section 2 (quires 9 through 12, including the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, the Friar's Prologue and Tale, and the Summoner's Prologue and Tale). In fact, of the manuscript's five different shades of ink, the lightest brown ink appears only in Section 2 and the Cook's Tale note.(FN20) It is quite clear, then, that the scribe added the note only after he had completed the Cook's Tale. He almost certainly did not add the note as part of the "finishing touches to the manuscript,"(FN21) as Burrow has suggested. Were this the case, the note most likely would have been in the ink of yellowish shade (used sporadically throughout the work, notably for the opening title, two links in section 4, and for parts of Section 3). The presence of the lighter brown ink in only the note and Section 2 demonstrates quite clearly that the scribe wrote the note immediately before beginning Section 2, during his work on the section, or immediately following. Clearly, the scribe completed the tale with no explicit and returned later to add the note. A. I. Doyle and M. B. Parkes imagine that the scribe wrote the manuscript piecemeal as he obtained separate portions of copy.(FN22) If this were the case, then perhaps the scribe placed no note initially because he hoped to obtain the rest of the tale. Seymour argues that by the time the scribe began work on the Ellesmere Manuscript, he had established the existence of the tale's continuation but had been unable to obtain a copy of the complete story, as evidenced by the absence of a note and the blank space after the tale.(FN23) Yet the note is not the only important difference between the two manuscripts. Seymour admits that Hengwrt and Ellesmere are not identical, despite the meticulous work of their scribe: "textually [MS Hengwrt] lacks thirteen groups of lines found in Ellesmere and elsewhere. The order of some of its tales differs from that of MS Ellesmere."(FN24) If we agree with Charles Owen that Hengwrt and Ellesmere were copied by a "remarkably competent editor,"(FN25) then we may assume that the differences in the manuscripts resulted from careful decisions rather than happenstance. More importantly, if Linne Mooney is correct in her identification of the scribe mentioned in "Chaucers Wordes unto Adam, His Owne Scriveyn" as Adam Pinckhurst, then these alterations would have been made by a scribe familiar with Chaucer, perhaps even working under authorial supervision.(FN26)
In the case of the Cook's Tale, assigning Pinckhurst to Hengwrt and Ellesmere complicates rather than clarifies matters. If, as Mooney suggests, the Adam Scriveyn poem's traditionally early date might be taken as evidence of a long working relationship between Chaucer and the scribe, then the claim "Of this cokes tale maked Chaucer na moore" may have been confirmed by the author himself. But if this were so, then why is there no corresponding note in Ellesmere? Why are there other important differences between the two texts? Are we to read the variations found in the later manuscript as evidence of authorial correction or revision? If this is the case, then the note may have been removed, rather than placed, under Chaucer's direction.(FN27)
If Mooney is right, and Pinckhurst was working on Hengwrt and perhaps Ellesmere before 1400, then Seymour's scenario of transmission, with its lost quire, seems less plausible. It is unlikely, though possible, that Pinckhurst (or another scribe) working during Chaucer's lifetime would have copied the tale as we have it, looked unsuccessfully for an ending, placed the erroneous note, later realized his mistake, and then been unable to obtain a complete copy of the tale from Chaucer or his estate. Moreover, the apparently incorrect readings found in Hengwrt (perhaps even including the note, as Seymour proposes) make little sense if we imagine that Chaucer oversaw the transcription.(FN28)
Moreover, even without considering the complicating factor of Adam Pinckhurst, we need not accept without question Seymour's position that a portion of the Cook's Tale has been lost. The lack of a note in Ellesmere does not prove that the scribe had discovered the existence of a completed Cook's Tale. On the contrary, I would suggest that the lack of a note proves only the scribe's uncertainty as to the correct state of the tale, not his certainty that there was more. In this regard, we might consider similar situations of uncertainty in Hengwrt, such as when the scribe seems to have sought more copy for the Monk's Tale, or the instance, described by Seymour, of the scribe's misreading of the conclusion of the Squires Tale:
In the Squire's Tale too the scribe failed to recognise initially the dramatic interruption and originally left a blank page (f.137v), which he later filled with the Franklin's Prologue hurriedly adapted to the Merchant whose tale he had already written on subsequent leaves.(FN29)
Our careful scribe does make mistakes. Perhaps he misunderstood the dramatic conclusion of the Cook's Tale in Hengwrt and furnished no similar note in Ellesmere because he suspected that the first note might be in error. No other manuscript contains a note similar to that of Hengwrt, and several other scribes have inserted the Tale of Gamelyn immediately following the unfinished tale. This indicates that from the very beginning there was confusion as to what followed and that, like Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas, the first Cook's Tale was unacceptable to some.
For Chaucer, however, I believe that the Cooks Tale was perfectly acceptable. In fact, evidence within the Canterbury Tales suggests that both the placement of the Cook's Tale and something of its present narrative were important to Chaucer, since the tale appears to inform later conversation and interaction between his pilgrims. In the Prologue to the Manciple's Tale, Harry Bailly bids his companions to wake the sleeping Cook so that the man may tell a tale for the company's enjoyment. The Host does not say another tale, but rather tells them,
"Do hym come forth, he knoweth his penaunce; For he shal telle a tale, by my fey, Although it be nat worth a botel hey."
This passage has caused confusion because the Cook's Tale appears in Fragment I, which obviously occurs before the Manciple's Tale. Additionally, Bailly asks, "Is that a cook of Londoun, with meschaunce?" (IX 11), as if seeing the Cook for the very first time. These two passages have led Larry D. Benson and others to suggest that "Perhaps Chaucer intended to cancel the Cook's Prologue and the fragmentary Cook's Tale."(FN30) It may be, however, that the Manciple's Prologue suggests the opposite, and that Bailly's address to the Cook depends greatly on the earlier tale and prologue. In the Manciple's Prologue, the Host is in high spirits, as is indicated when he begins "to jape and pleye" (IX 4). He awakens the napping Cook and harangues him:
"Hastow had fleen al nyght, or artow dronke? Or hastow with som quene al nyght yswonke, So that thow mayst nat holden up thyn heed?"
The Manciple joins in the "bourde" (IX 81) and calls the Cook a "dronken wight" (IX 35) whose "breeth ful soure stynketh" (IX 32).(FN31) The Cook becomes angry but is so drunk that he falls off his horse and must be helped back on. Only when the Manciple gives him more alcohol is the Cook content again. Obviously, Bailly is mocking the Cook's drunkenness, perhaps even suggesting his sexual impotence with the punning observation that the Cook cannot hold up his own head.
Notice, however, that the Host also suggests that the Cook might need sleep because he has spent the night with a "quene." With this insinuation, the Host seems to refer back to the Cook's aborted tale, implying a correlation between the immoral Perkyn and the Cook, who would have spent his youth under an indenture similar to that of the young reveler.(FN32) We might remember too that the husband of the quean in the Cook's Tale is described as a thief's accomplice. So when Bailly observes, "A theef myghte hym ful lightly robbe and bynde" (IX 8), we are reminded that Perkyn has taken up residence with just the kind of man who might prey on the drunken, sleeping Cook.(FN33) The Host stresses, too, the fact that Hogge of Ware is a "cook of Londoun," the setting of Perkyn's drinking, dicing, and whoring adventure. Finally, the Host has already resigned himself to the fact that the Cook's narrative will be worthless: "nat worth a botel hey" (IX 14). Perhaps Bailly merely predicts the quality of the tale from the Cook's present state--Hogge's inebriation will prompt the Host's later assessment, "I trowe he lewedly wolde telle his tale" (IX 59)(FN34)--or perhaps he knows that the Cook's tale will be common and vulgar because of his experience with the earlier tale. Thus, although Bailly does not refer overtly to the Cooks Tale in the Manciple's Prologue, he does allude to the story three or four times, suggesting that, rather than cancelling the tale, Chaucer intended for it to retain its place at the end of Fragment I.
As for the conclusion itself, it seems clear that the Hengwrt scribe's note purporting knowledge of the completeness of the Cook's Tale cannot be trusted without reservation. If the tale actually did continue, then Seymour offers the best explanation for the ending being lost, although he bases much of his argument on the assumption that the copy-text and manuscript would have been of similar size, and this may not have been the case. Of the hypothetical lost ending, we can know nothing. The loss has not, of course, prevented scholars from speculating. Some critics, noting the "degenerative movement"(FN35) of Fragment I, have predicted a fabliau, while others have proposed a morally rich conclusion, such as a prodigal son story or a morality tale.(FN36) Yet the lost-portion theories all seem to ignore the fact that, unsatisfactory as it is, the tale does have a kind of ending. It seems remarkably fortuitous that the extant fragment would end with what Benson describes as "an ideal couplet at which to stop"(FN37) rather than with an incomplete thought or a mundane sentence. And yet the tale fails to satisfy as a narrative.
So what are we to make of the Cook's Tale? How can it be complete and incomplete at the same time? The accumulation of sins within it and the startling vulgarity of the final line may cause one to suspect that Chaucer intended to interrupt the tale of Perkyn's misadventures, as he does the Tale of Sir Thopas, the Squire's Tale, and the Monk's Tale. Thus, the tale may be complete for Chaucer, although not completed by the Cook. Ultimately, we may never know what Chaucer had in mind for the Cook's Tale. Without new textual evidence, all speculation is suspect, and the commentary must remain, like many of Chaucer's stories, open.
University of Alabama
1. V. A. Kolve, Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative: The First Five Canterbury Tales (Stanford, 1984), 257.
2. All quotes are from The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd edn. (Boston, 1987).
3. M. C. Seymour argues that because "Chaucer left no work uncompleted," CkT must have been finished ("Of This Cokes Tale," Chaucer Review 24 : 259-62, at 259). Based on the assumption that the copy-text and manuscript would have been of similar size, he suggests elsewhere that the placement of the tale in Hengwrt makes it possible that "a completed Cook's Tale had lost its final leaves in the scribe's copy-text" ("Hypothesis, Hyperbole, and the Hengwrt Manuscript of the Canterbury Tales," English Studies 68 : 214-19, at 216). He sees the bibliographical situation of CkT as parallel to that of MerT in Hengwrt, where the primary copy-text of MerT seems to have lacked the last hundred lines. These lines existed but not in the scribe's copy-text. Furthermore, he suggests that "the absence of such a note [MS Hengwrt's explicit] in MS Ellesmere suggests that [the scribe] was then, a short time later, aware that Chaucer had completed the tale, though he was still unable to obtain the complete copy" ("Cokes Tale," 260).
4. J. M. Manly and Edith Rickert concede that the end of the tale may have been lost; if CkT was not completed, however, they maintain the unlikelihood of Chaucer ending it voluntarily at this point: "That Chaucer wrote thus far and stopped is difficult to believe. He seems not only a master of matchless technique but too thoroughly master of his story-material to stop. Only sudden illness or some other insurmountable interference could have prevented him from going on" (The Text of the Canterbury Tales, 6 vols. [Chicago, 1940], 3:446). Nor would the incomplete nature of the original preclude later reproduction. As John Burrow has noted, "Such was indeed common practice in the Middle Ages: to publish texts left fragmentary at the time of an author's death, with or without continuations by other hands" ("Poems without Endings," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 13 : 17-37, at 17).
5. Douglas Gray, "Explanatory Notes," in Riverside Chaucer, 853. There are a number of theories as to why Chaucer might have chosen either to leave the tale uncompleted or to censor himself. William E Woods suggests that Chaucer abandoned the tale because it too closely resembled the political controversy between Nicholas Brembre and John of Northampton that pitted the victuallers against other guilds ("Society and Nature in the Cook's Tale," Papers on Language and Literature 32 : 189-206, at 203). Donald R. Howard proposes a scenario similar to the lost-quire theory but with the ending removed intentionally: "Possibly it was finished but too scurrilous to be transcribed, and so went underground. Possibly Chaucer or someone else suppressed it, ripped it out of an early copy leaving only what was on the same folio with the ending of the Reeve's Tale," (The Idea of the Canterbury Tales [Berkeley, 1976], 244). This is an interesting idea certainly, but as John Scattergood notes, the scurrility of the two preceding tales and Chaucer's admonition to those offended to "Turne over the leef and chese another" (I 3177) makes the situation unlikely ("The Cook's Tale," in Sources and Analogues of the Canterbury Tales, ed. Robert M. Correale and Mary Hamel, 2 vols. [Cambridge, U.KL, 2002-2006], 1:75-86, at 76). And if we imagine authorial intervention as an explanation for the seemingly incomplete tale, we might also wonder why Chaucer never cancelled or revised the portion of the tale that remains. Derek Pearsall suggests that closure of CT in general has been "pre-empted" by revision ("Pre-empting Closure in 'The Canterbury Tales': Old Endings, New Beginnings," in Essays in Ricardian Literature: In Honour of J. A. Burrow, ed. A. J. Minnis, Charlotte C. Morse, and Thorlac Turville-Petre [Oxford, 1997], 23-38). Richard Beadle, basing his reading on references to a lost manuscript once belonging to Sir John Selden which has no division between the prologue and the tale, describes the story as a feint designed to respond to Harry Bailly without fully answering him yet ("'I wol nat telle it yit': John Selden and a Lost Version of the Cook's Tale," in Chaucer to Shalw4peare: Essays in Honour of Shinsuke Ando, ed. Toshiuki Takamiya and Richard Beadle [Cambridge, U.K., 1992], 55-66). Scattergood calls this explanation unlikely, since Chaucer uses "whilom" and a description of place and characters (as in CkT) to open several tales, including two of the three that precede the tale and the one that follows. Furthermore, he notes that nearly all scribes began "A prentys whilom dwelled in oure citee" (I 4365) with "an emphatic decorative capital," implying that they too saw CkT as a story, rather than a "feint" (77).
6. E. G. Stanley argues that the wife's shop is the Cook's reductive solution to the "argument of herbergage" (I4329) and that, having solved the problem posed by the dangers of hospitality, the Cook merely has nothing more to say: "The last few lines of The Cook's Tale give the recipe for carefree herbergage: though the lodger be a thief, no loss if a thief in cahoots puts him up; though the lodger be a swiver, no danger if the landlady is a whore, and no honour to lose if the pimping landlord is her husband" ("Of This Cokes Tale Maked Chaucer Na Moore," Poetica 5 : 36-59, at 59). E. D. Blodgett also describes the tale as an example of the Cook's essentializing nature; instead of herbergage, however, Blodgett understands the tale in terms of pfyvetee, suggesting that the brevity of CkT results from "the feebleness of the Cook's memory" ("Chaucerian Pryvetee and the Opposition to Time," Speculum 51 : 477-93; at 491). Olga Burakov contends the tale (complete or not) is connected to biblical themes, specifically Adam's fall and the sin "of defying a higher authority" ("Chaucer's The Cook's Tale," Explicator 61 : 2-5, at 2). Emily Jensen sees a pattern of increasingly active and autonomous participation by women in Fragment I, suggesting that the threat of increased female agency might explain why Chaucer ends where he does ("Male Competition as a Unifying Motif in Fragment A of The Canterbury Tales," Chaucer Review 24 [1990): 320-28, at 324).
7. Burrow, "Poems without Endings," 32. Indeed, we might note that the entire tale is only fifty-eight lines long, just over half the length of the later episode in MancPro that describes the Cook's drunkenness.
8. Piero Boitani complains in Chaucer and the Imaginary World of Fame (Totowa, N. J., 1984) that many of Chaucer's works provide "disturbing, unsatisfactory, ambiguous, problematic, incomplete conclusions" (208). For CkT specifically, several of Chaucer's copyists, who, as Scattergood points out, "hate a vacuum" ("The Cook's Tale," 77), have filled the lacunae in various ways. In twenty-five manuscripts, the spurious Tale of Gamelyn has been inserted; eight manuscripts offer no transition, but most scribes have added lines deferring the tale of Perkyn in favor of one more appropriate. Other manuscripts, rather than adding the Tale of Gamelyn, end CkT with a moral similar to the "sentence" (VI 224) of the Physician. For example, MS Bodley 686 concludes, "Remembre you what myschefe cometh of mysgovernaunce" (Kolve, Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative, 276). Daniel J. Pinti notes that alterations of the copy-text were common, revealing the fact that Chaucer's authority was not sacrosanct; in Bodley 686 Pinti sees the revisionary voice of the scribe, who "creates a vision of the Cook's Tale that not only pretends to completion, and even moralization, but also re-imagines the tale's themes in significant ways and functions as a commentary on the idea of Chaucerian authority in the fifteenth century" ("Governing the Cook's Tale in Bodley 686," Chaucer Review 30 : 378-88, at 380). For David Boyd, the revisionary Bodley 686 acts to vindicate the maintenance of power relations, providing an "opportunity for containing the transgressive and justifying the social order" ("Social Texts: Bodley 686 and the Politics of the Cook's Tale," Huntington Library Quarterly 58 : 81-97, at 95). Most manuscripts, however, seek to complete rather than revise. The conclusion of CkT in MS Rawlinson 141 offers a typical moral ending: "And thus with boredom and bryberye / Togeder thei used till thei honged bye; / For who so evel byeth shal make a sory sale. / And thus I make an ende of my tale" (Burrow, "Poems without Endings," 23).
9. John Hines, The Fabliau in English (New York, 1993), 158.
10. Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (New York, 1967), 23.
11. Michaela Paasche Grudin, "Discourse and the Problem of Closure in The Canterbury Tales," PMLA 107 (1992): 1157-67, at 1159.
12. Grudin, "Discourse," 1161.
13. Phyllis Braxton, "Closure in the 'Canterbury Tales,'" PMLA 108 (1993): 1170-71, criticizes this discussion of closure, arguing that Grudin ignores the importance of Chaucer's gendered readership and the effect of this audience on CT. This seems to me to be not only incorrect, but ironic. Very aware of issues of gender issues in the tales, Grudin cites such critics as Caroline Dinshaw, who has commented on the way closure in Tr is connected to a "masculine reading" in which the dominant male-centered ideologies "achieve their vision of wholeness by unacknowledged exclusion, elimination, constraint" (Chaucer's Sexual Politics [Madison, Wisc., 1989], 51). For me, the reading that Braxton attempts to force onto both the tale and Grudin's article engages in a restrictive and hegemonic containment analogous to the oppressive closure that she attributes to the patriarchy of Chaucer's time.
14. Kolve, Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative, 280-82.
15. Rosemarie P. McGerr Chaucer's Open Books: Resistance to Closure in Medieval Discourse (Gainesville, Fla., 1998), 157.
16. Peter Robinson acknowledges the limitations of Hengwrt. In answer to the question of whether or not we can trust tie manuscript, he offers a very qualified, "Yes, in parts," concluding, "It has the best text, where it has a text, but it may not have all the text which Chaucer wrote, nor have it all in the best order, nor spell the text as Chaucer spelt it" ("Can We Trust the Hengwrt Manuscript?," in Chaucer in Perspective: Middle English Essays in Honour of Norman Blake, ed. Geoffrey Lester [Sheffield, 1999], 194-217, at 214).
17. Gray, "Explanatory Notes," 853; and N. F. Blake, "On Editing the Canterbury Tales," in Medieval Studies for J. A. W. Bennett: Aetatis Suae LXX ed. P. L. Heyworth (Oxford, 1981), 101-9, and "The Relationship Between the Hengwrt and Ellesmere Manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales," in Essays and Studies 32 (1979): 1-18.
18. Seymour, "Hypothesis," 217.
19. Seymour, "Of This Cokes Tale," 260.
20. Scholars need not travel to the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, as I did, to confirm this information. Estelle Stubbs, The Hengwrt Chaucer Digital Facsimile (Leicester, 2000), reproduces high-quality scans of the manuscript and discusses the ink situation in detail.
21. Burrow, "Poems without Endings," 20.
22. A. I. Doyle and M. B. Parkes, "A Paleographical Introduction," in The Canterbury Tales: A Facsimile and Transcription of the Hengwrt Manuscript with Variants from the Ellesmere Manuscript, ed. Paul G. Ruggiers (Norman, Okla., 1979), xix-1.
23. Seymour, "Of This Cokes Tale," 260.
24. Seymour, "Hypothesis," 214.
25. Charles Owen, "The Alternative Reading of The Canterbury Tales: Chaucer's Text and the Early Manuscripts," PMLA 97 (1982): 237-50, at 243. Manly and Rickert also see Ellesmere as "editorially sophisticated," but recent editors and critics have challenged this notion; see George Kane's chapter on Manly and Rickert in Editing Chaucer. The Great Tradition, ed. Paul G. Ruggiers (Norman, Okla., 1984), 207-29.
26. Linne R. Mooney, "Chaucer's Scribe," Speculum 81 (2006): 97-138. For a caution regarding the attribution, see Brendan O'Connell, "Adam Scriveyn and the Falsifiers of Dante's Inferno: A New Interpretation of Chaucer's Wordes," Chaucer Review 40 (2005): 39-57, at 39-40.
27. On the dating of Hengwrt and Ellesmere, see Mooney, "Chaucer's Scribe," 97-98, 115, 119-20.
28. Certainly, Chaucer chides Adam in "Chaucers Wordes unto Adam, His Owne Scriveyn" for the scribe's "negligence and rape" (line 7). But the poem also indicates that a substantial effort has been made "to correcte and eke to rubbe and scrape" (line 6) both Tr and Bo. It seems reasonable to imagine that similar care would have been taken with CT.
29. Seymour, "Hypothesis," 217. We might note the blank page following the false ending of SqT; perhaps this and the blank space following CkT are analogous lacunae. If so, then the space following CkT might signify the scribe's understanding that the tale was over, not that more existed somewhere, as Seymour argues.
30. Larry D. Benson, "Explanatory Notes," in Riverside Chaucer, 952.
31. Although the tone of this Prologue seems playful, the Manciple's jesting may contain an edge. Constance Hieatt discusses the antagonistic professional relationship between cookshop men and manciples ("A Cook They Had With Hem for the Nones," in Chaucer's Pilgrims, ed. Laura C. Lambdin and Robert T. Lambdin [Westport, Conn., 1999], 199-209, at 203) and we might note just how many lines are spent cataloguing the Cook's drunkenness. Hieatt points out that the Host's play might reflect professional conflict, since tavern-keepers, cooks, and pie-men were all victuallers in competition with one another.
32. Walter Curry notes that the Cook's mormal malum mortuum would have been viewed as resulting from "disgraceful association with diseased and filthy women" (Chaucer and the Mediaeval Sciences [New York, 1960], 51). Jill Mann objects that "the medical authorities quoted by Curry attribute mormals to generally intemperate or unclean habits ... rather than to any specific behaviour" (Chaucer and Medieval Estates Satire: The Literature of Social Classes and the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales [Cambridge, U.K., 1973], 285n), yet we can see how even nonspecific "unclean behaviour" with queans would be distasteful in a cook, particularly one who has already had his mormal disturbingly juxtaposed to his "blankmanger" (I 387).
33. Of course, the Cook may be speaking metaphorically, and Perkyn and his friend may not be actual thieves, but they have been connected clearly enough to thievery for the allusion to be remembered: "And for ther is no theef withoute a lowke, / That helpeth hym to wasten and to sowke / Of that he brybe kan or borwe may, / Anon he sente his bed and his array / Unto a compeer of his owene sort, / That lovede dys, and revel, and disport" (I 4415-20).
34. Hieatt points out that Bailly's remarks about the Cook "assume a prior acquaintance between the two" ("A Cook," 203), and perhaps there was more than a passing acquaintance. Pie-men and cookshops were not allowed to sell ale or wine (205), yet Hogge is drunk all the time. We have been told that at Bailly's Tabard, "Strong was the wyn, and wel to drynke us leste" (I 750). Perhaps Bailly has witnessed the Cook's drunkenness before.
35. Howard, The Idea of the Canterbury Tales, 245. The Knight begins with a courtly romance; then the Miller tells of the carpenter John's cuckolding; then the Reeve tells of the joyless and violent "jape" played on Symkyn by Aleyn and John; then the Cook begins his tale, telling of dice, drinking, riot and theft, eventually ending with a woman swyving for sustenance.
36. Kolve argues that CkT provides a "'moral' voice [that] speaks in a language new to The Canterbury Tales so far" (Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative, 270), and Hieatt suggests that, since an apprentice like Perkyn would have impeded the Cook's professional endeavors, we should expect the tale to end with a moral: "Thus Hogge's attitude toward his central character is not one of approval, and presumably if we had a complete tale to examine, we would find that Perkyn got his comeuppance, one way or another" ("A Cook," 204). Such an assumption seems to ignore Chaucer's depiction of the Cook. Hogge of Ware certainly appears more prone to Perkyn-like debauchery than to prudish moralizing. In fact, the Cook's enthusiastic reaction to the Reeve's "jape of malice in the derk" (I 4338), his (at best) amoral understanding of the man's story, and his promise of a "litel jape" (I 4343) of his own seem to preclude any tale involving ethics or morality. On the other hand, Haldeen Braddy's examination of the Indenture of Apprenticeship in 1396 between John Hyndlee of Northhampton and Thomas Edward, son of Gilbert Edward of Wyndesore, might support the "moral voice" premise. Braddy notes that Perkyn breaks all three of the agreements in the Indenture: 1) the apprentice shall not absent himself illegally, 2) the apprentice shall not lend out goods and chattels of the master without permission, and 3) the apprentice shall not visit taverns, prostitutes, or dice-like games to the loss of time to the master ("Chaucerian Minutiae," Modern Language Notes 58 : 18-23, at 18). Interestingly, Braddy notes that under the agreement of the Indenture, the term of apprenticeship could be doubled if the apprentice violated any of the three strictures (19), yet Perkyn is released as a bad apple. As a side note, it strikes me that an indenture, which the OED describes as "A deed between two or more parties with mutual covenants, executed in two or more copies, all having their tops or edges correspondingly indented or serrated for identification and security," provides a condition somewhat similar to the bibliographical situation envisioned by Seymour and