|TITLE:||"KNOWLEDGE OF THE FILES": SUBVERTING BUREAUCRATIC LEGIBILITY IN THE FRANKLIN'S TALE|
|SOURCE:||The Chaucer Review 43 no4 428-54 2009|
From the opening description of the Franklin's hospitality in the General Prologue to the question posed at the end of the Franklin's narrative, "Which was the mooste fre?" (V 1622), Chaucer appears to be exploring the issue of generosity in the Franklin's portrait and tale. This is not surprising. Generosity is also central to the analogue stories in Boccaccio's Decameron and Filocolo, both possible sources for the Franklin's narrative, and the public performance of liberality aligns perfectly with the Franklin's lai. The virtue of magnificence was seen as a sign of status in medieval society, and the romantic genre that the Franklin employs similarly aspires to courtly associations.(FN1) More specifically, romances often focused on the households comprising these courts. Surveying a number of late medieval English romances, D. Vance Smith states, "the discursive frame of the fourteenth-century English romance takes an economic cast.... [I]t is concerned in inextricable ways with matters that are relegated to the household."(FN2) The following essay explores the financial household concerns expressed by and through the Franklin, concerns that allow generosity to occur in the first place. This is a tale attentive to the bureaucratic management of household possessions.
My focus on bureaucracy within the Franklin's Tale fills a gap in the scholarship. In a recent essay assessing work on Chaucer's responsibilities as Controller and Clerk of the Works, Jenna Mead notes that there is little historically accurate, sustained attention paid to the influence of Chaucer's bureaucratic day job on his poetic labors, despite his approximately fourteen-year commitment to administrative duties.(FN3) Noting a "problematic absence of a theorized model of the bureaucrat in medieval governance," Mead asks, "What might it mean to propose a 'bureaucratic Chaucer'?"(FN4) Accepting Mead's challenge to envision a bureaucratic Chaucer as the author of the Franklin's Tale reveals a resistance to bureaucracy in the late Middle Ages. An analysis of the tale's treatment of bureaucracy suggests that the Franklin is not intent solely on exhibiting the extent of his possessions through the spectacle of generosity. This tale is equally committed to hiding information about wealth. It consistently maintains a level of privacy regarding economic values and calculations that subverts bureaucratic transparency.
Medieval scholarship, which rightly bristles at the assumption that the Middle Ages was characterized by largely homogeneous weltanschauung, should be wary of theories that assign a unity to beliefs about bureaucratic institutions prior to the early modern period. A survey of recent research on premodern administration reveals, however, that the preponderance of historians and literary scholars who work in this area depict a monologic late medieval view of bureaucracy. According to such studies, the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century European populace overwhelmingly accepted, emulated, and appropriated the bureaucratic mechanisms of the period. Given the increase in written documentation during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, scholars concur that such material evidence reveals a growing confidence in, and dependence on, administrative documentation.(FN5)
Such studies are correct to identify an acceptance of bureaucracy in the late Middle Ages. The fourteenth century was the temporal site for a burgeoning codification of laws and regulations in written form, and it is unique in this respect.(FN6) I seek here to complement these arguments by showing that fourteenth-century English subjects both valorized and denigrated bureaucracy. In order to suggest that the Franklin's Tale opposes certain tenets of bureaucracy, I will not look at the issue of written codification but will instead explore the administrative drive to standardize data, which motivated the recording of acts, decisions, and rules of society.
In his writings on bureaucracy, Max Weber acknowledges the epistemological concerns of administration when he claims that "knowledge of the files" is an important characteristic of a "strictly bureaucratic organization."(FN7) Collecting and organizing data are, according to the Weberian scheme, integral components of what he calls "ideal type bureaucracy." James C. Scott has recently discussed how this epistemological aspect of bureaucracy requires the standardization of information. In his influential text, Seeing Like a State, Scott writes that regularized data arises from a government's devotion to "rationalizing and standardizing what was a social hieroglyph into a legible and administratively more convenient form."(FN8) This desire for legibility in bureaucratic processes was apparent in the earliest iterations of bureaucratic writings. The twelfth-century text Dialogus de Scaccario, or Dialogue of the Exchequer, for instance, describes the various administrative goals and functions of the Exchequer. Prior to communicating these details, the Dialogus begins by prescribing the text's form, in a purported dialogue between the author Richard Fitzneal and an unnamed speaker. The speaker comments on style:
Writers on the liberal arts have compiled large treatises and wrapped them up in obscure language, to conceal their ignorance and to make the arts more difficult. You are not undertaking a book on philosophy, but on the customs and laws of the Exchequer, a commonplace subject, in which you must needs use appropriate and therefore commonplace language [communibus verbis]. Moreover, though it is generally permissible to invent new terms, I beg you not to be ashamed to employ the common and conventional words for the objects described, so that no additional difficulty may be created by the unusual language.(FN9)
Fitzneal's collocutor suggests that unclear language may conceal knowledge. He thus counsels Fitzneal to avoid oblique language and employ "communibus verbis," that is, the words of the commons. In order to create public information, then, a public language must be used. The man argues that such techniques will render Fitzneal's writing legible to all and ensure its didactic purpose.
Analyzing Geoffrey Chaucer's reflections on the epistemological aspects of bureaucracy in the Franklin's Tale reveals that not all bureaucratic practices in the fourteenth century were concerned with making information legible. More specifically, the Franklin's Tale explores the competing and contradictory interests of royal and non-royal household administrative efforts. The tale is attentive to the double bind inherent in the position of heads of households who want to make their possessions legible to themselves and simultaneously render the value of their possessions illegible to the king and his administrators. Examining the Franklin's references to a domestic architectural innovation dedicated to administrative activities (the study), as well as reading this tale alongside the language of late medieval household accounting treatises, reveals that the endeavors of householders such as the Franklin ultimately subvert the intended legibility of bureaucratic mechanisms. The Franklin enacts this subversion by exploiting semantic ambiguity, specifically in the form of irony, to maintain a sense of privacy in his poetry. The Franklin's lai is thus just as much concerned with the spectacle of magnificence as it is with the private administrative moves necessary to fuel publicly performed generosity.
Concurring with D. Vance Smith's argument regarding the relationship between romances and household concerns, Lynn Staley has suggested that romances like the Breton lai told by the Franklin have a core concern with the "household and its vulnerability to the unjust or the unforeseen."(FN10) The Franklin manifests this concern, in part, by his use of the term purveiaunce, which appears in two very different but contiguous contexts. Dorigen first utters this word while lamenting her husband's departure at the beginning of the story. Calling out to God, she invokes a metaphysical sense of purveiaunce and addresses "Eterne God, that thurgh thy purveiaunce/Ledest the world by certein governaunce" (V 865-67).(FN11) Only eleven lines after Dorigen's complaint ends, the term purveiaunce is repeated; this time, however, it appears in a more mundane context. In an attempt to relieve her sorrows, Dorigen's female companions endeavor to divert her attention by leading her to a garden "In which that they hadde maad hir ordinaunce/Of vitaille and of oother purveiaunce" (V 903-4). Unlike the metaphysical Providence cited by Dorigen earlier, this providence refers to the food and other goods laid out for this young woman.(FN12)
The Franklin's reiteration of purveiaunce so early in his tale exploits the referential breadth of this term in the fourteenth century. The word providence derives from the Latin providentia, or 'foresight,' which comes itself from providere, 'to provide.' In her sociolinguistic exploration of the term's etymology, Peggy Knapp writes, "The Middle English term may indicate either human preparation for the future or divine foreknowledge and its effects. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries it often describes amassing supplies, the supplies themselves, and good management of resources in the broader sense."(FN13) The term denotes, then, both supernatural foresight and the requisitioned possessions integral to household management. It thematically conjoins epistemological and material concerns in one utterance as it refers simultaneously to divine knowledge, household knowledge, and possessions.
Conforming to the precepts of metaphysical language, the term purveiaunce is thus committed to analogy as it connects God's management of the world with man's management of his holdings. But the term seems not primarily to stress the parallels between these two spheres of meaning. An examination of late medieval management treatises reveals a tendency in this period to suggest, rather provocatively, that secular purveiaunce may temper or trump the effects of Fortune. Walter of Henley's thir teenth-centur y Anglo-Nor man text, The Husbandr y, which was widely circulated during the fourteenth century, invokes the vicissitudes of Fortune and suggests that good management techniques will actually alleviate the hardships brought about by such misfortunes.(FN14) Prior to explicating the detailed rules of proper household techniques, for example, The Husbandry states in its opening lines,
Qant au secle, pensez de la reo de fortune, coment home munte petit e petit en richesce, e coment qant il est au somet de la reo, par mescheance petit e petit chet en poverte e pus en meseyse. Dunt ioe vous pri qe solum ceo qe vos terres valent par an par estente ordinez votre vie e ne mye plus haut.
As to the world thinke of the wheele of fortune howe a man mounteth by little and little to richesse, and when he is at the toppe of the wheele, how by mischaunce he falleth by little and little into povertie and after that into miserie. Whearupon I pray you that according to that youre landes be woorth by yeare by extente youe doe order your life and no higher at all.(FN15)
The author of this treatise renders the hardships of fortunes dependent on the mechanisms of administration with the transitional term "dunt" (in Middle English, "whearupon"). He then exhorts his audience to make their possessions legible, via assessments of land, or "estente" ("extente"), in order that they may know the worth of their holdings, live within their means, and escape the dizzying and hyperbolic highs and lows of Fortune's wheel by living "ne mye plus haut" ("no higher at all"). It appears, then, that sensible bureaucratic practices are seen as a safeguard against the ravages of divine Fortune. Soon thereafter, Walter again relates the goals of his administrative handbook to Fortune as he warns in the introduction,
Vous veez une gent qe unt terres e tenementz e ne sevent vivre, perqey, ieo le vous diray, purceo qe il vivent sanz ordinance e sannz purveance fere aveant meyn, e despendent e gastent plus qe lur terres valent par an.
Yowe see a sorte of men which have landes and tenementes and yet they be notable to lyve and whye? I wille telle youe, bycause that they lyve without setting downe any order at alle, and without making any provision before hande and doe dispend and waste more then theire landes be woorthe yearely.(FN16)
Like the second iteration of purveiaunce in the Franklin's Tale, this citation of the term encompasses the clear ordering of information about, and management of, household possessions. This reference to providence, so quickly after the earlier reference to Fortune's wheel, suggests once again that good management can temper the uncertainties of Fortune and assure comfortable living conditions. Such purveiaunce, made "aveant meyn" or "before hande," continuously prepares for the future in order to escape the harsh realities of Fortune's temporality. Management treatises like The Husbandry thus subtly present administrative, man-made purveiaunce as a guardian against the potential hardships wrought by a capricious Fortune, and they thereby establish the importance of bureaucratic planning.
The effects of secular purveiaunce are likewise explored in the Franklin's Tale. The narrative provides a sustained exploration of effective bureaucratic processes that can temper the effects of the unjust or unforeseen events so central to medieval romances. Just as the treatises cited above pit the knowledge acquired through providential planning against the unknowable ravages of Fortune, so too does this tale ultimately articulate a discrepancy between different spheres of knowledge: in this case, what the king knows about his subjects' possessions versus what his subjects know about their own possessions. In addition, just as the treatises cited above subtly privilege the effects of household providence over those of Fortune, so too does the Franklin's tale ultimately support the aims of individual household administration over the goals of legibility espoused by monarchical bureaucracy.
CHAUCER'S BUREAUCRATIC FRANKLIN
Chaucer's Franklin is clearly identified as a man intimately familiar with "knowledge of the files," the quality enumerated by Weber as a characteristic of an effective, centralized bureaucracy. The narrator of the General Prologue describes the Franklin as a "knyght of the shire," a "shirreve," and a "contour" (I 356, 359). These occupations strongly identify the Franklin with administrative actions. Knights of the shire were intimately involved in bureaucratic duties and have been characterized as "men of the most administratively burdened class."(FN17) A "contour" on the other hand, was responsible for ensuring that the revenues reported to the county administrative officers were correct. Meanwhile, the sheriff served as the county official responsible directly to the exchequer for calculating and reporting the worth of landowners in his county in response to writs of distraint.(FN18) The triad of professions aligns the Franklin with bureaucratic responsibilities in his shire.
As a knight of the shire, a counter, and a sheriff, this Canterbury pilgrim would be responsible not only for the collection of money from his county's populace, but for the collection of information about this populace. In particular, men employed in such professions were "expected to find out from 'local men who know' a great range of information required by the government in the course of general as well as judicial administration."(FN19) Throughout the Middle Ages, English royalty attempted to accumulate information regarding their subjects, and these subjects' holdings, in order to amass revenues. The Franklin's various duties would include such demographic surveying.(FN20)
In another respect, however, the Franklin's responsibilities fall short of Weber's enumerated characteristics of bureaucracy, for the sociologist repeatedly stressed the impersonal and objective modes of bureaucratic organizations. The Franklin would be far from impersonal while performing his administrative obligations. Both a 1258 provision of Oxford and the fourteenth-century rolls of Parliament specify that administrators such as the sheriff be local men. The 1258 provision states, for example, that "Sheriffs are to be provided, loyal people and good men and landholders; so that in each county a vavassour of the same county be sheriff, to treat the people of the county well, loyally and justly."(FN21) The requirement to employ locals ultimately meant that such men were not beholden entirely to the king but instead had very local and personal interests. This situation may have caused a variety of frictions.(FN22) The presence of such officials with their regional concerns within England's quasi-centralized government may have prompted them, for instance, to participate in the revolts of 1381. Christopher Dyer hypothesizes that the documented involvement of regional administrators in the uprising may indicate a "widespread rejection of their ambiguous position, and an unequivocal siding with their neighbors against the constant demands of their lords."(FN23)
The Franklin squarely inhabits this ambiguous position. The narrator of the General Prologue confirms that the Franklin straddles the localized/centralized divide by indicating that he works for the king and simultaneously asserting that he practices great hospitality "in his contree" (I 340). The MED indicates that contree, rather than referring to an entire nation, meant 'district or region' during this period.(FN24) "The Franklin's provincialism," Roy Pearcy thus notes, "is implicit in the court-poet Chaucer's reference to the Franklin's activities 'in his contree' as somewhere remote from London."(FN25) Moreover, the General Prologue description of the Franklin ends by identifying him as a "worthy vavasour" (I 360). Much critical ink has been spilt over the presence of this somewhat archaic terminology in the Franklin's description, and most critics claim that the word vavasour was primarily a literary term employed in romances.(FN26) Less attention has been paid to the detail that this word was used in the influential Oxford provision of 1258 cited above, which states that "in each county a vavassour of the same county be sheriff, to treat the people of the county well, loyally and justly."(FN27) Although the word vavasour had slipped into relative obscurity by the time Chaucer invokes it here, the goal of this provision about sheriffs was still actively pursued. Regarding fourteenth-century governmental structures, Peter Coss explains that
In one area of life... [government] professionals were on the wane. From 1278 onwards county knights dominated the shrievalties. At last the demands of the Provisions of Oxford of 1258 had become a reality as henceforth the majority of the sheriffs would be 'loyal men and sound landholders', vavasours of their counties.(FN28)
It is possible that Chaucer is stressing the continued importance of this law by recalling the original language of the provision and consequently foregrounding the Franklin's local ties to his community. Even if this is not the case, and Chaucer is appropriating the term vavasour from literary predecessors, the argument that Chaucer is stressing the Franklin's provincialism still holds, for vavasours were identified in romance with "settledness in a particular locale."(FN29) The term, that is, emphasizes his connection to a specified rather than to a centralized location. Either way, the presence of this dated word in the Franklin's description affirms his local, provincial ties. Such details in the General Prologue, considered in their historical context, reveal that the Franklin is not solely an impersonal bureaucratic creature but also a self-interested and local manager of his shire's goods and possessions, and his own goods and possessions. He would be responsible for analyzing his neighbors' possessions for the king, and he would simultaneously be forced to have his own possessions analyzed b y the king.
In addition to identifying the Franklin's double allegiances, Chaucer stresses that the Franklin takes the management of his own household very seriously. The Franklin's description indicates just what type of manager this landowner is. After presenting his physical attributes, the narrator of the General Prologue states,
To lyven in delit was evere his wone,
For he was Epicurus owene sone,
That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit
Was verray felicitee parfit.
An housholdere, and that a greet, was he;
Seint Julian he was in his contree.
Overt references to the Franklin's delightful living and his association with gourmandizing Epicurus align his activities with the Aristotelian quality of magnificence. In discussing this virtue and its constitutive relationship to the late medieval household, David Starkey asserts that
Magnificence, as the Ethics defines it, is the employment of great private wealth in the public interest: 'The magnificent man reveals his character in spending not upon himself but on public objects; his gifts are a sort of dedication.'... The size of a nobleman's house, the splendour of its furnishings and the number and costly dress of his servants did two things: on the one hand, they advertised his wealth; and on the other, they provided the material foundations of his power.(FN30)
The Franklin appears to be practicing magnificence as he spends much of his household finances on public displays of wealth. Several critics have seized upon this reference to Epicurus and suggested that the Franklin wholeheartedly subscribes to a sybaritic mode of magnificent existence.(FN31)
Although the Franklin is billed as Epicurus's "owene sone" and seems to support magnificence, the Franklin's relationship with his "owene sone" discloses another, more financially restrained viewpoint. Suggesting that his son lacks "discrecioun," the Franklin specifies the young man's vices by grumbling, "But for to pleye at dees, and to despende/And lese al that he hath is his usage" (V 690-91). Here, the Franklin bemoans his son's customary tendencies to spend and lose money and cites the habitual nature of this behavior (his "usage"), even though the General Prologue portrait has identified the Franklin's own recurrent tendency (his "wone") to live lavishly. This discrepancy implies that although he himself seems, in Epicurean fashion, to be concerned with appearances, the Franklin is equally focused on the financial realities that support such appearances.
The Franklin, then, is attentive not only to the virtue of magnificence, but also to the careful management of possessions required to maintain this virtue. Such household management was seen as a complement to magnificence in various late medieval and early modern models of the household. For example, Edward IV's account-book, entitled the Black Book, divides the royal holdings into the "Household of Magnificence" and the "Household of Providence." This latter sector is artistically depicted with a picture of "officers of the counting house in session. These men, who were the key administrators of the household below stairs, appear with all the essential tools of bureaucracy: books, rolls, pen and ink, and counters and coins."(FN32) Starkey asserts that providence and magnificence, the two ostensibly contradictory aspects of a household, were actually complementary:
[T]he two qualities are interdependent. It was the task of providence to amass the resources to sustain magnificence; at the same time, magnificence itself was penetrated by calculation; by a careful reckoning of what could be afforded on the one hand, and by a subtle assessment of the ends to which lavishness was directed on the other.(FN33)
The Franklin's critique of his son suggests that he is at least nominally invested in such providential and bureaucratic concerns. In addition, the critique reminds us that the Franklin is himself attentive to the issue of purveiaunce that is invoked in his tale. He thus appears to support the administrative principle of judicious purveiaunce just as much as he supports the principle of living decadently.
The General Prologue portrait confirms that the Franklin practices what he preaches when it comes to prudent housekeeping. In addition to counseling financial restraint in his son, the Franklin exhibits such restraint in his own management techniques. Identified as a "housholdere, and that a greet," (I 339), the Franklin is depicted in terms of the lavish feasts he orchestrates:
Of alle deyntees that men koude thynke,
After the sondry sesons of the yeer,
So chaunged he his mete and his soper.
Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in muwe,
And many a breem and many a luce in stuwe.
Wo was his cook but if his sauce were
Poynaunt and sharp, and redy al his geere.
His table dormant in his halle alway
Stood redy covered al the longe day.
At first glance, and as critical consensus would have it, the above passage indicates the Franklin's propensity for conspicuous consumption.(FN34) A closer look reveals, however, that in addition to portraying actual banquets, this passage depicts a householder who is prepared to give banquets. The Franklin's partridges are not yet cooked and on the table; rather, they are being held in a pen, or "muwe." The fish are not laid out for eating but are instead stocked in a fish pond, or "stuwe." Moreover, this commentary on the Franklin's household suggests that he and his servants are cognizant of time and prepared for the future. The Franklin changes his comestibles depending on the temporally divergent "sondry sesons of the yeer." In addition, the Franklin's utensils and his banquet table are described as "redy," which suggests that they have an anticipated but not yet present use. And finally, tables in most medieval halls were laid on trestles during meals and removed when the repast was over.(FN35) The Franklin's table, which "alway stood redy," consequently emphasizes that the Franklin is consistently in a state of preparedness. In all, then, what at first appears to be a static catalogue of possessions and proof of magnificence is also a testament to temporal regulation and calculation. As he is depicted in the introduction to Chaucer's poem, the Franklin is thus eternally prepared for the future, exhibits good providence, and is an exemplar of effective household administration.
In this way, the Franklin offers an important yet often overlooked perspective into the social reality of the late Middle Ages -- one in which public spectacle, magnificence, and conspicuous consumption are not the sole components constitutive of power relations. Instead, a much more inconspicuous process of providential planning is seen to be integral to a household's maintenance. Household treatises stress, moreover, that such planning should be private. The Rules of Robert Grosseteste, a thirteenth-century didactic text on household management, counsels, for example, that
Al chef del an, quaunt tutes les acuntes serrunt oyes e rendues de terres, e de tutes issues, de tutes dispenses, e de tote maneres, pernez les roulles trestuz a vus e par un u dues des plus privez e leals ke vus eyes tres priveement fetes comparison des roulles des acuntes rendues e des roulles del aesme de blez e destor ke vus feystes après le Aust avaunt. At the end of the year, when all the accounts of all the manors have been rendered and heard, concerning all the lands, yields and expenses, collect all the rolls. Then in great secrecy, by one or two of the most discreet and faithful men you have, compare the account rolls with the rolls containing the estimates of corn and stock which you had compiled after the previous harvest.(FN36)
Repeating the concept privez twice, this passage indicates that covertness is clearly an important aspect of late medieval accounting practices.
D. Vance Smith investigates this issue of financial privacy in relationship to writs of distraint in the fourteenth century and shows how the financial responsibilities and elevated taxes that went along with the title of knighthood may have rendered this elite status unattractive:
[I]t was prudent to conceal one's income from land in order to avoid being classified along with those who were eligible for knighthood.... Profits, while not intrinsically evil, could force one to assume a social position more elevated and prominent than might otherwise be desirable.(FN37)
The Franklin exemplifies the type of householder who may have been invested in keeping some of his profits concealed. He is at once a franklin -- that is, a landlord focused on his own household interests -- and a representative to the king, focused on the shire's and England's interests. Moreover, the tale clearly identifies him as a man intimately familiar with the mechanisms of both household and governmental administration. This bifurcated responsibility would render the Franklin acutely aware that while he may want to know how much he owns, the monarch's desire to tax his possessions would make it detrimental for him to allow others to know how much he owns. The Franklin's Tale explores the contradiction inherent in how individual households worked to make their own possessions legible to themselves while simultaneously striving to make their findings and calculations illegible to everyone else, and especially to the king's administrators.
STUDIES AND SECRECY: THE SPACES OF BUREAUCRATIC PRIVACY
In his five-volume study A History of Private Life, George Duby argues that the opposition between private life and public life "hinges on place. The zone of private life is apparently that of domestic space, circumscribed by walls."(FN38) Much has been written about Chaucer's use of and attention to space throughout his literary corpus.(FN39) So far as I can ascertain, however, nobody has commented on another space that appears repeatedly in the Franklin's narrative: the study.(FN40) This location is referenced three times in the Franklin's Tale. When Aurelius's clerkly brother remembers the book of magic he once saw, he remembers it "At Orliens in studie" (V 1124); when Aurelius and his brother meet the Orléans clerk, he takes them back to "his studie, ther as his bookes be" (V 1207); and when the clerk reminds his servant to bring supper to these men, he makes sure to specify their location in a study (V 1210-14). Despite the persistent role that the study plays as a locus of action in the Franklin's Tale, it never appears in any of the other stories related in the Canterbury Tales. The study's appearance in the Franklin's Tale thus alerts us to the importance of its presence in this narrative.(FN41)
A historical account of the study reveals that this room is a specifically fourteenth-century innovation and an architectural entity that would have consequently been important in Chaucer's mind. Mary Poovey notes the emergence of the study as a place in which administration occurred at the household level: "Beginning in the fourteenth century, and becoming commonplace by the fifteenth, the 'closet' or 'study' became the true center of the house."(FN42) Moreover, this centralized area of the home was decidedly marked as a private space; by the end of the Middle Ages, the study had become a place for private work and business.(FN43) Although very little has been written on the emergence of studies in English households, research has been conducted on their Italian and French counterparts, both of which Chaucer might have been acquainted with in his travels. According to Orest Ranum,
The studiolo, a tiny room or cell without fireplace or large window, first appeared in Italian Renaissance palaces, no doubt copied from monastic models. The two meanings of the word, which could refer either to a kind of writing desk or to a room used for the same purpose, tell us something about the way in which new private spaces were invented. A retreat reserved for the master of the house, the study was sometimes equipped with sturdy locks and bolts. Reading, keeping accounts, and prayer required little furniture other than a small table and a chair.... If fourteenth-, fifteenth-, and sixteenth-century portraits of Saint Jerome can be considered evidence for transformation of the study, then it is clear that this room grew from an item of furniture to something like furniture in which one lived. The walls were covered with wooden panels and small cabinets with doors.(FN44)
These newly constructed, Continental Renaissance studies, which were contemporaneous to Chaucer's travels and authorial activities, mimetically recreated their users' goals by containing small cabinets to manage and organize materials as well as locks and bolts to keep this organized data private.
The portrayal of this room in the Franklin's Tale appears to comply with the secrecy associated with studies being built in the fourteenth century. Aurelius's brother remembers, for instance, that another clerk left a book on his table in the study they once shared, and the Franklin includes the detail that the book had been laid down "prively" (V 1128). The privacy of the study is similarly stressed when Aurelius and his brother convene with the Orléans magician. The solitary nature of the room is also emphasized: "But in his studie, ther as his bookes be,/They seten stille, and no wight but they thre" (V 1207-8).
A closer examination of the Franklin's depiction of this room, and the supposedly clandestine activities that go on inside it, reveals, however, that it is not as private as studies were intended to be. Rather than emphasizing the maintenance of the study's secrets and implying that information is kept hidden, the tale suggests that the borders of the study are permeable. In both Aurelius's brother's study and the Orléans clerk's study, privacy is transgressed. For example, although the book left behind "prively" by Aurelius's brother's co-clerk was not intended for public consumption, Aurelius's brother must not have heeded that demarcation because he can recount the astrological specifics of its contents. He presumably ignored the text's private nature and looked inside it in order to recount such information, so that we as readers may know it. The Franklin foregrounds that we ultimately gain access to this information when he notes the brother's recollection of this book: "And to hymself he seyde pryvely" (V 1137). The Franklin then promptly narrates the content of these supposedly secret thoughts. The privacy of the study is similarly violated when Aurelius and his brother convene with the Orléans magician. The magician claps his hand to end the illusions he has created in this ostensibly solitary place, inhabited by "no wight but they thre," and the Franklin exclaims, "farewel! Al oure revel was ago" (V 1204). The plural possessive pronoun "oure" spontaneously increases the demographics of the room because it includes both the Franklin as narrator and ourselves as readers. It emphasizes that "we" have been allowed access to this purportedly private space.
A reader's continuous transgression of the study's secrets suggests that there is some sort of epistemological transparency at play in a space that within the tale is linked with privacy, and that beyond the tale was associated with administrative activities. This transgression draws attention to the competing goals of privacy and knowledge narrated by the Franklin. Ultimately, however, this omniscient and transgressive perspective is thwarted in the tale by the rhetorical trope of irony.
REVERSED DRAMATIC IRONY IN THE FRANKLIN'S TALE
Robert W. Hanning has argued that a fundamental conflict exists between privacy, which makes secrets, and poetry, whose function is to expose them. Hanning cites the narrator's remark in the General Prologue regarding the Merchant, "This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette:/Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette" (I 279-80), and points out that, in reporting this secret, the narrator has paradoxically revealed it to his audience. Hanning claims that this paradox holds true throughout the Canterbury Tales: "pryvetee in the sense of individual secrets cannot survive becoming a poetic subject; the poet, in announcing pryvetee, destroys it; poetry and pryvetee are mutually exclusive."(FN45) Hanning's assertion that privacy and poetry are mutually exclusive in the Canterbury Tales would appear to be supported by the continuous violation of the study's privacy by the Franklin's poetic narration. Although the mutual exclusivity of poetry and privacy is the norm in the Canterbury Tales, it is not the rule. And although the Franklin (and Chaucer) suggests that the spatial privacy of the study can be and usually is transgressed, he ultimately maintains at least a fraction of privacy through semiotic ambiguity and, specifically, irony.
In Hanning's example above, which strives to establish a contradiction between private and poetic endeavors in the Canterbury Tales, the rhetorical trope of irony is heavily in play as our narrator paradoxically reveals what should be concealed. Indeed, irony was a familiar rhetorical trope to medieval writers, and the Franklin's Tale is, as a whole, indebted to this trope.(FN46) The Franklin reveals, of course, his familiarity with rhetorical terminology at the same time that he denies such knowledge in the prologue to his tale. We first get a clue that the Franklin is committed to irony as a specific rhetorical maneuver when he interrupts the Squire and exudes twenty-two continuous lines of praise for this pilgrim. Smothering his traveling companion and fellow tale-teller with hyperbolic statements such as, "ther is noon that is heere/Of eloquence that shal be thy peere" (V 677-78), the Franklin participates in the most widely recognized form of medieval ironia -- excessive flattery as a pretence for derision.(FN47) Irony was often glossed unequivocally as excessive praise, and medieval audiences would have recognized this trope in the Franklin's encomium. Moreover, the Franklin uses a word often associated with irony when the Host cuts off this tribute. He responds to the Host's interruption by stating, "I wol yow nat contrarien in no wyse" (V 705). The word contrarium was the term most often used to define irony in Middle Ages. One writer states, for instance, that irony is "a figurative expression implying through its contrarium what it intends to mean."(FN48) The Franklin thus appears to be well versed in both the terminology and methodology of ironic utterances.
Irony, of course, encompasses a wide range of linguistic maneuvers and has meant different things to different people in different historical periods. In the Middle Ages irony was often associated with concealment. The long-established classification of ironia as a species of allegoria was based on the element of opacity (obscuritas) shared by the two modes, for instance. A Latin vocabulary surviving in a thirteenth-century manuscript glosses the word ironicum as obliquum, that is, 'covert.'(FN49) Narrative irony, or dramatic irony, can therefore involve the withholding of information as the speaker conceals some form of meaning from his/her characters, his/her audience, or him/herself.(FN50) An ironic utterance sounds different depending on the perspective from which one hears it or sees it, and thus it may generate different levels of knowledge among its audiences. In the Franklin's Tale this perspective is constantly shifting so that a standardized and consistently legible "common knowledge" never exists. In several passages the Franklin plays around with these changing narrative perspectives and their effects on knowledge. As the tale progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that specific information is continually kept secret, or ironically withheld, from different participants in the Franklin's Tale.
Moreover, the Franklin's ironic perspective actually plays into the specific thematics of purveiaunce and secrecy pervading this narrative. At points in his monologue, the Franklin purports to have foresight concerning the fate of his narrative subjects while highlighting that his audience does not. Enjoining the Canterbury pilgrims to hold off from a hasty judgment on Arveragus's decision to give up his rights to Dorigen, the Franklin states, for example,
Paraventure an heep of yow, ywis,
Wol holden hym a lewed man in this
That he wol putte his wyf in jupartie.
Herkneth the tale er ye upon hire crie.
She may have bettre fortune than yow semeth;
And whan that ye han herd the tale, demeth.
Here the Franklin doubly emphasizes that he is attuned to purveiaunce. First, he indicates that he is looking to the future and practicing effective management skills as he claims to foresee the chance event (indicated by the term "paraventure") that his audience will question his characters' motivations. He then invokes the word "fortune" to suggest that he knows the future of these men and women -- presumably because he is telling the story.
Immediately following this warning, however, the Franklin suggests that he is not as omniscient as the preceding passage suggests. After Dorigen has confessed to Arveragus her rash promise and commitment to Aurelius and has been commanded by her husband to fulfill that promise, Dorigen leaves her home in order to report this judgment to Aurelius. Describing her movements, the Franklin notes,
This squier, which that highte Aurelius,
On Dorigen that was so amorus,
Of aventure happed hire to meete
Amydde the toun, right in the quykkest strete,
As she was bown to goon the wey forth right
Toward the gardyn ther as she had hight.
And he was to the gardyn-ward also;
For wel he spyed whan she wolde go
Out of hir hous to any maner place.
But thus they mette, of aventure or grace.
It appears that the Franklin wishes to stress the coincidental meeting of Aurelius and Dorigen. He claims that they "happed" to meet by "aventure" -- both terms that denote chance -- and reiterates that the encounter is unplanned by repeating the sentiment, "But thus they mette, of aventure or grace."(FN51) Sandwiched in between these two references to chance, however, is a detail that implies that this rendezvous is less than haphazardly fortuitous. The Franklin states the exact cause of this meeting as he notes that Aurelius has been spying on Dorigen, "For wel he spyed whan she wolde go." The Franklin thus flexes his authorial muscles in this poetic segment as he facilely and subtly switches back and forth between two very different narrative perspectives. That is, at the very same time that he reports the young squire's stealthy machinations, he stresses that he does not know why Aurelius and Dorigen "happen" to bump into each other in the middle of town.
In a way, this is a fine specimen of compressed dramatic irony as we as readers appear to know more than the story's characters do. Aurelius's and Dorigen's meeting may be chance or it may be the result of spying, depending on what perspective one takes in these ten lines. This passage is made doubly ironic because at the same time that the Franklin is telling us a story about transgressed privacy and voyeurism, he makes it appear that part of his own story is kept private from himself, for he claims not to know the cause of this rendezvous. This gap between what the Franklin purports to know and what the audience knows is not a unique occurrence in the tale. Although he has already quoted Aurelius's brother as stating,
"For I am siker that ther be sciences
By whiche men make diverse apparences,
Swiche as thise subtile tregetoures pleye"
the Franklin later claims innocence regarding the methodology of the clerk when he notes that this man "maken illusioun,/By swich an apparence or jogelrye -- / I ne kan no termes of astrologye" (V 1264-66). Here, then, Chaucer creates ambiguity as to the nature of the magic while at the same time providing sufficient information to perceptive readers to indicate the forces that are actually at work.(FN52)
As a whole, then, the tale presents a highly unstable paradigm regarding who knows what types of information. The Franklin's tale stresses that nobody in this romance knows everything. The Franklin appears at times to be omniscient about his narrative content, and at other times he seems woefully ignorant regarding the inner workings of the story. Individual characters, too, exhibit varying degrees of omniscience. Sometimes it seems that people within the tale are mind-readers as, for instance, when Aurelius and his brother meet the Orléans clerk, who wondrously gleans, without the travelers saying a word, "the cause of youre comyng" (V 1176). Later, however, he admits ignorance regarding Aurelius's heavy heart and queries, "What was the cause? Tel me if thou kan" (V 1591). Similarly, Dorigen's friends empathetically "knewe hir hevy thoght" (V 822), and yet later they seem oblivious to Dorigen's ruminations as they "nothyng wiste of this conclusioun" (V 1014). What becomes clear is that there is no overarching structure for the dissemination of knowledge in this narrative and that access to information is forever shifting.
CERTAIN UNCERTAINTIES: MAINTAINING HOUSEHOLD PRIVACY
Despite the Franklin's assurance (when he advises a delay in judging Arveragus) that the audience will have all the information they need by the end of his tale, we as readers are ultimately denied crucial data in this story. Chaucer maintains the privacy inherent in household bureaucracy by enlisting the rhetorical trope of irony. More specifically, the teller employs the reverse of dramatic irony to enact this denial and maintain this privacy. When it comes to finances and calculations in this tale, we as readers ultimately know less than the characters do.
In particular, Chaucer maintains such privacy by deploying the highly equivocal word certein in this tale. Terms such as truly and certainly were often catch phrases in ironic modes of speech. Donatus, for example, writes that emphatic terms such as scilicet and vero are invariably ironic.(FN53) Most critics who tackle the complexities of the Franklin's Tale have focused on the term truth and its resonances and implications within the Franklin's narrative.(FN54) Although the word certain is a synonym for truth and appears repeatedly throughout the Franklin's lines, little to no attention has been paid to this word. Here it is helpful to go back to Dorigen's complaint regarding God's pur veiaunce: "Eterne God, that thurgh thy pur veiaunce/Ledest the world by certein governaunce" (V 865-66). Examining the meanings of certain in the MED reveals that the term could denote 'truth.' It could additionally reference 'specificity'; the MED lists the synonyms specified, fixed, and precise for cer tein:
(a) specified, fixed, prescribed (time, place, amount, quantity); (b) fixed, determined (bounds, limit, measure); (c) definite, stipulated, binding (agreement, rule, etc.); determinate (cause); (d) specifically authorized (legal agent), special; (e) specified (item); (f) limited, precise, specific.(FN55)
At the same time that it signifies specificity, certein can also describe an indeterminate entity during the fourteenth century. In its second entry for certein, the MED lists "(a) A definite but unspecified extent of (time); a certain (time); (b) a definite but unspecified amount of (gold, silver); a ? moneie, a certain amount of money; (c) a definite but unspecified number of (units)."(FN56) In Dorigen's utterance, then, it becomes unclear whether she is saying that God's providence is true, or whether she is particularizing it in some sense -- and, if so, expressing how it is particular.
Provocatively, a great number of medieval texts use the term certein in administrative contexts. It was a technical term, for instance, in royal terminology: a certum was a fixed annual sum, handed over from the officials of the exchequer in "theoretically regular installments to the receiver of the chamber."(FN57) An administrative use of certein is also found in Piers Plowman. Conscience repeats this word multiple times when comparing friars' jurisdictions to the king's administrative establishment of wages:
And yf Ge coueiteth cure, Kynde wol Gow telle
That in mesure god made alle manere thynges
And sette hit at a serteyne and at a syker nombre
And nempned hem names and nombred þe sterres.
Kynges and knyhtes, þat kepen and defenden,
Haen officerys vnder hem and vch of hem a certeyne.
And yf thei wage men to werre thei writen hem in nombre;
Wol no tresorer taken hem wages, trauayle they neuere so sore,
Bote hy ben nempned in þe nombre of hem þat been ywaged.
Here ordre and here reule wol to haue a certeyne nombre.
Of lewed and of lered the lawe wol and asketh
A certeyne for a cer teyne -- saue oenliche of freres!
(C.22.253-56, 257-61, 265-67; my emphasis)(FN58)
The invocation of certainty so central to this argument appears to propel Langland into a discussion of bureaucracy as he leaps into a metaphor regarding enrolled labor and suggests that certainty and administration are interrelated concepts.
This semantic use of certein in administrative endeavors is also evident in the household treatises cited earlier. In them, certainty is both the desired outcome of effective household management and the means to this goal; the collection and cataloguing of "certain" (i.e., specific) information is encouraged repeatedly in these documents. Walter of Henley's Husbandry, for example, instructs its reader on the value of collected data: "Franc tenant ou custemer sil dedient lur custumes ou lur services a la estente verez la certeynete" ("Free tenantes or custumarie tenantes, if they denye theire customes and services go to the extent and theare you shall see the certeintie therof").(FN59) Here, then, and elsewhere in treatises on accounting such as The Rules of Robert Grossteste and The Seneschaucy, the word certein is repeated to denote the certainty provided by good record-keeping. Moreover, these treatises enumerate the very means of such practices as they describe the mechanics of gathering and enrolling specific information. The Rules, in its second precept, instructs householders to inquire into all of their holdings:
Apres fetes fere saunz delay dreyt enqueste e enrouller en un autre rolue distincteement truestuz vo maners en Engletere, chascun par soy quaunt vu porrez, e quauntes carues vus avez en chescun liu petitu u graunt e quauntes vus poorriez aver... quaunz de pre cumben de pasture a berbiz, cumben a vaches, e issi de tute manere des avers par certeyn number.
Afterwards arrange without delay that a just inquest is held and all your demesne manors in England are enrolled on another roll, distinctly; each by itself and as soon as possible: how many ploughs you have in each place small or large and how many can have... how much pasture for sheep, how much for cows and so for all kinds of beasts and in certain numbers.(FN60)
Like all the other exhortations to good purveiaunce, this passage emphasizes the importance of getting ready as it repeats twice the imperative to act without delay. It suggests that such administration is enabled by the collection of "certain" numbers. These texts continually stress the importance of collecting precise information.
As indicated earlier, the household treatises recommend that these administrative processes be done secretively. Such privacy is ultimately maintained in the Franklin's Tale by means of the concept of certainty, which is central to household management. Echoing these accounting treatises, the Franklin repeatedly invokes the term certein to qualify his statements. So, for example, he asserts, "I lerned nevere rethorik, certeyn" (V 719), "Pacience is an heigh vertu, certeyn" (V 773), and "For to noon oother creature, certeyn,/Of this matere he dorste no word seyn" (V 1107-8). In addition, when Aurelius must inform the clerkly magician that he does not possess the funds to uphold his side of the bargain, he plans to ask his debtor if he may be permitted, "At certeyn dayes, yeer by yeer, to paye" (V 1568), employing the term in an administrative context. As with all these iterations of the word certein, it ultimately becomes unclear to the audience when these certain days will be, because Aurelius plays off the paradoxically dialectic relationship between specificity and generality contained in the term. He is at once particularizing these days by specifying that he will pay at "certeyn" times and, at the same time, being extraordinarily vague about which days are being specified. Data has effectively been rendered illegible. As readers, we know that these days have been specified but we do not know the specifics.
Aurelius has already articulated the efficaciousness of such a ploy at the beginning of the Franklin's story when he hints at his affections for Dorigen. Prior to proclaiming his feelings, the young squire attempts to hide them by invoking a topos frequently used to describe the pursuit of fin amor:
But nevere dorste he tellen hire his grevaunce.
Withouten coppe he drank al his penaunce.
He was despeyred; no thyng dorste he seye,
Save in his songes somwhat wolde he wreye
His wo, as in a general compleynyng.
A "general" complaining is thus intended to conceal Aurelius's specific feelings for Dorigen and indicates how such generalities may privatize particulars.
Given the recurrence of the term certein in the Franklin's communication, it is thus noticeable when he puts this word aside and expresses instead uncertainty. It is also striking that the one time in the tale when the Franklin appears uncertain is when there is a monetary value at stake. This uncertainty occurs when Aurelius must pay the magician whom he has hired to remove the rocks. Describing this transaction, the Franklin notes that
With herte soor he gooth unto his cofre,
And broghte gold unto this philosophre,
The value of fyve hundred pound, I gesse.
(V 1571-73, my emphasis)
At this crucial point in the narrative, the Franklin appears to lose, or does indeed lose, his confident grasp on the certainties of his story, as he admits to having to guess the amount paid. When it comes down to the detailed calculations that fuel the household economy and make it solvent, the Franklin's audience once again does not actually get to know, for certain, what is going on. This information is kept private, inviolably secured against prying eyes by means of equivocation and circumlocution.
CONCLUSION: BUREAUCRACY IN THE CANTERBURY TALES
Given the interconnected nature of the pilgrims' stories in the Canterbury Tales, it is not surprising that these issues of privacy, bureaucracy, and certainty appear elsewhere in the poem. The Reeve, for instance, who would have been responsible for an estate's accounting needs, seems to know everything about his lord's holdings:
His lordes sheep, his neet, his dayerye,
His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye
Was hoolly in this Reves governynge,
Ther nas baillif, ne hierde, nor oother hyne,
That he ne knew his sleighte and his covyne.
(I 597-99, 603-4)
At the same time, the Reeve is careful to maintain secrets about his own affairs: "Ful riche he was astored pryvely" (I 609). Such issues are similarly invoked in the Shipman's Tale as the wife states in commercial-laden language,
"Lene me this somme, or ellis moot I deye.
Daun John, I seye, lene me thise hundred frankes.
Pardee, I wol nat faille yow my thankes,
If that yow list to doon that I yow praye.
For at a certeyn day I wol yow paye,
And doon to yow what plesance and service
That I may doon, right as yow list devise."
John M. Ganim analyzes this passage in very telling terms when he writes that "The wife's request of the one hundred franks is filled with erotic breathlessness, secrecy, and passion as well as being specific (or as specific as possible) about the loan amount as well as its terms of repayment."(FN61) Ganim's parenthetical qualification should be freed from its marginal, bracketed status and become the focus of inquiry in the wife's iteration. Is the wife being as specific as possible, or is she solidifying the breathless, secretive nature of her utterance with the vague uncertainty of the term "certeyn"?
Such questions are pertinent not only at the level of individual stories and characters; they also relate to the central framing concerns of the Canterbury Tales. Several critics have argued that the issues of truth and its relation to fiction as articulated in the Franklin's Tale are integral to the concerns of the Canterbury Tales, and they have even hypothesized that Chaucer's own experience as an administrator in the Customs Office links him with the bureaucratic Franklin.(FN62) This argument regarding the centrality of this pilgrim's story is plausible insofar as the concerns of privacy and bureaucracy raised in the Franklin's Tale also appear to be essential to the framing narrative of this lengthy poem.
These issues become apparent when one continues to consider the key term certein in the General Prologue, as the pilgrims and the Host work out the details of their tale-telling contest. Like the Franklin's tale, which ends with a paid-for meal when the magician concedes to Aurelius, "Thou hast ypayed wel for my vitaille" (V 1618), the General Prologue concludes with a negotiation concerning a similarly paid-for meal. Harry Bailly anoints himself judge, announces the contest's gastronomical prize, and explains that each losing pilgrim will contribute monetarily towards the winner's supper. The pilgrims agree to this plan and seem to further specify its terms by asking that the Host set the grand-prize supper at "a certeyn pris" (I 815). This call for specificity, however, is paradoxically articulated via the extremely unspecific and highly ambiguous word "certeyn." While the travelers call out for clarity, therefore, Chaucer compels them do so in equivocal terms that ultimately undermine their demand. As readers, we know that this price has been specified but we do not know exactly what it is. In the end, the bureaucratic negotiations and calculations inherent in household management become illegible to the audience of the Canterbury Tales. The poem works against the transparency and legibility inherent in bureaucratic standardization with a species of textual ambiguity specifically intended to thwart synoptically prying eyes.
University of Portland Portland, Oregon (email@example.com)
1. D. Vance Smith, Arts of Possession: The Middle English Household Imaginary (Minneapolis, 2003), 77-79.
2. Smith, Arts of Possession, 6.
3. Jenna Mead, "Chaucer and the Subject of Bureaucracy," Exemplaria 19 (2007): 39-66.
4. Mead, "Chaucer and the Subject of Bureaucracy," 47, 42.
5. Richard Firth Green states, for example, that there is "an increased willingness to trust writing" (A Crisis of Truth: Literature and Law in Ricardian England [Philadelphia, 1999], 123). Green does identify a resistance to centralized authority but suggests that such resistance enacts communal, folk law values, whereas my argument suggests that resistance to bureaucracy is encouraged by more individualistic, self-serving causes. Rosamund Faith argues that a growing reliance on Domesday during this period indicates a "great reverence for, and trust in, documents that were thought to guarantee privileges or liberties" ("The 'Great Rumor' of 1377 and Peasant Ideology," in R. H. Hilton and T. H. Aston, eds., The English Rising of 1381 [Cambridge, U.K., 1984], 42-73, at 62-63). M. T. Clanchy, on the other hand, points to the generative quality of administrative mechanisms between 1066 and 1307 as he argues that bureaucracy caused the felicitous growth of literacy during this period (From Memory to Written Record, England 1066-1307, 2nd edn. [Oxford, 1993], 1).
6. R. F. Green, A Crisis of Truth, 136.
7. Enumerating reasons for the "technical superiority" of bureaucratic organizations, Max Weber lists "precision, speed, unambiguity, knowledge of the files, continuity, discretion, unity, strict subordination, reduction of friction and of material and personal costs" (H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, eds., From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology [New York, 1964], 214).
8. James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, 1998), 3.
9. Richard Fitzneale, Dialogus De Scaccario, ed. and trans. Charles Johnson (Oxford, 1983), 5-6.
10. Lynn Staley, Languages of Power in the Age of Richard II (University Park, Pa., 2005), 318.
11. Citations from Chaucer's work are from The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd edn. (Boston, 1987).
12. The term ordinaunce plays a similar role to purveiaunce in this context, where it refers to material provisions, while elsewhere in Chaucer's corpus the word refers to metaphysical providence. See, for example, Troilus's speech in Tr: "forsight of divine purveyaunce/Hath seyn alwey me to forgon Criseyde,/Syn God seeth every thyng, out of doutaunce,/And hem disponyth, thorugh his ordinaunce,/In hire merites sothly for to be,/As they shul comen by predestyne" (IV, 961-66).
13. Peggy Knapp, Time-Bound Words: Semantic and Social Economies from Chaucer's England to Shakespeare's (New York, 2000), 113.
14. For documentation regarding this manuscript's circulation, see Ruth J. Dean and Maureen B. M. Boulton, Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (London, 1999), 217-19.
15. Dorothea Oschinsky, ed., Walter of Henley and Other Treatises on Estate Management and Accounting (Oxford, 1971), 308-9. The English translation is from a Middle English translation of the Husbandry and was probably written in the sixteenth century (Oschinsky, 142).
16. Oschinsky, ed., Walter of Henley, 308-9 (my emphasis).
17. Helen M. Jewell, English Local Administration in the Middle Ages (New York, 1972), 35.
18. These writs, issued by both Edward III and Richard II, compelled men who possessed more than forty librates to become knights. The law was primarily intended to raise revenues for the king since such newly appointed knights would have to pay fees and increased taxes. Smith notes the Franklin's participation in these bureaucratic duties (Arts of Possession, 42). For more on the Franklin's administratively inflected occupations, see D. W. Robertson, "Chaucer's Franklin and His Tale," Costerus 1 (1974): 1-26; Nigel Saul, "The Social Status of Chaucer's Franklin," Medium AEvum 52 (1983): 262-79; and Henrik Specht, Chaucer's Franklin in the Canterbury Tales: The Social and Literary Background of a Chaucerian Character (Copenhagen, 1981), 124-33.
19. Jewell, English Local Administration, 188.
20. Jewell writes, "Over the period as a whole it was financial interest which promoted the great nationwide inquiries which are so marked an achievement of medieval English administration" (English Local Administration, 87).
21. Harry Rothwell, ed., English Historical Documents: 1189-1327, 10 vols. (London, 1975), 3:365.
22. Richard W. Kaeuper, War, Justice, and Public Order: England and France in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford, 1988), 282-83.
23. Christopher Dyer, "The Social and Economic Background to the Rural Revolt of 1381," in R. H. Hilton and T. H. Aston, eds., The English Rising of 1381 (Cambridge, U.K., 1984), 9-42, at 36.
24. MED, s.v. contree (1).
25. Roy J. Pearcy, "Chaucer's Franklin and the Literary Vavasour," Chaucer Review 8 (1973): 33-59, at 36.
26. For a helpful summary and citations of such readings, see Malcolm Andrew, A Variorum Edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Volume II: The Canterbury Tales, Part One B: The General Prologue Explanatory Notes, 2 vols. (Norman, Okla., 1993), 2:325-26.
27. Rothwell, ed., English Historical Documents, 365 (my emphasis).
28. Peter R. Coss, The Origins of the English Gentry (Cambridge, U.K., 2003), 148.
29. Pearcy, "Chaucer's Franklin," 35.
30. David Starkey, "The Age of the Household: Politics, Society and the Arts, c. 1350-1550," in Stephen Medcalf, ed., The Later Middle Ages (New York, 1981), 224-90, at 255.
31. Bernard F. Huppé calls the Franklin a "voluptuary" (A Reading of the Canterbury Tales [Albany, N.Y., 1964], 164). Robertson writes that the Franklin unequivocally "places pleasure before everything else" ("Chaucer's Franklin," 23). Robert Miller insists that the Franklin's Epicurean tendencies extend to his views on marriage ("The Epicurean Homily on Marriage by Chaucer's Franklin," Mediaevalia 6 : 151-86). See, too, Staley, Languages of Power, 67. E. C. Ronquist, on the other hand, questions such readings by pointing to the positive descriptions of Epicurus in medieval texts and suggesting that the Franklin should not be conceived of unequivocally as a glutton ("The Franklin, Epicurus, and the Play of Values," in Robert Myles and David Williams, eds., Chaucer and Language: Essays in Honour of Douglas Wurtele [Montreal, 2001], 44-60). Another tempered reading of this passage, emphasizing the positive aspects of Epicurus, is provided by Mary J. Carruthers, "The Gentilesse of Chaucer's Franklin," Criticism 23 (1981): 283-300.
32. Starkey, "The Age of the Household," 255-56.
33. Starkey, "The Age of the Household," 256.
34. In addition to Staley's characterization of this scene as "hedonistic" and the comments by other critics cited above (note 31), Smith claims that the Franklin's household exhibits an "excess that is condemned by other figures in the Canterbury Tales" (Arts of Possession, 41-42).
35. William E. Mead, The English Medieval Feast (London, 1931), 133.
36. Oschinsky, ed., Walter of Henley, 394-95 (my emphasis).
37. Smith, Arts of Possession, 29.
38. Georges Duby, A History of Private Life: Revelations of the Medieval World, trans. Arthur Goldhammer, 5 vols. (Cambridge, Mass., 1988), 2:6-7.
39. See, for example, Kenneth A. Bleeth, "The Rocks and the Garden: The Limits of Illusion in Chaucer's Franklin's Tale," English Studies 2 (1993): 113-23; and Carol Heffernan, "The Two Gardens of the Franklin's Tale," in Glyn S. Burgess, ed., Court and Poet: Selected Proceedings of the Third Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society (Liverpool, 1981), 177-88. For a more general treatment, see V. A. Kolve, Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative: The First Five Canterbury Tales (Stanford, 1984), 85-157.
40. The only related reference I could find discusses the clerk's study in MilT. However, this essay characterizes Nicholas's room as a place of scholastic erudition rather than of administrative practices. Peter Goodall writes that the clerk's study in this tale is meant to stress Nicholas's privacy and is intended to question the outcome of the secretive actions pursued within this space ("'Allone, withouten any compaignye': Privacy in the First Fragment of the Canterbury Tales," English Language Notes 29 : 5-15).
41. Similar types of rooms do, however, exist in Chaucer's poetry. In ShipT, for example, the merchant retreats to a "countour-hous" (VII 77), where he shuts the door and privately reckons his money.
42. Mary Poovey, A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society (Chicago, 1998), 34.
43. Alan Stewart, "The Early Modern Closet Discovered," Representations 50 (1995): 76-100, at 81. See, too, Goodall, "Allone, withouten any compaignye," 5-9.
44. Orest Ranum, "The Refuges of Intimacy: The Study," in Roger Chartier, ed., Passions of the Renaissance, vol. 3 of Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby, ed., A History of Private Life (Cambridge, Mass., 1989), 207-63, at 225-27.
45. R. W. Hanning, "Telling the Private Parts: 'Pryvetee' and Poetry in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales," in James M. Dean and Christian K. Zacher, eds., The Idea of Medieval Literature: New Essays on Chaucer and Medieval Culture in Honor of Donald R. Howard (Newark, 1992), 108-25, at 109.
46. For treatments of irony in medieval literature, see Claire Colebrook, Irony (London, 2004), 9-13; Dennis Howard Green, Irony in the Medieval Romance (Cambridge, U.K., 1979), 431; and A. D. Knox, Ironia: Medieval and Renaissance Ideas on Irony (Leiden, 1989), 1-237.
47. For the connection between false flattery and irony in the Middle Ages, see Knox, Ironia, 46-51.
48. Knox, Ironia, 20.
49. Knox, Ironia, 44.
50. For a consideration of dramatic irony found in medieval romances, see D. H. Green, Irony in the Medieval Romance, 250-86.
51. For a helpful reading of this passage and a convincing argument regarding the non-theological connotations of aventure and grace in this context, see Margaret Singer, "'Aventure or Grace': Lucky in Love in the Franklin's Tale," in Geraldine Barnes, John Gunn, Sonya Jensen, and Lee Jobling, eds., Words and Wordsmiths: A Volume for H. L. Rogers (Sydney, 1989), 113-18.
52. Anthony Luengo, "Magic and Illusion in the Franklin's Tale," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 77 (1978): 1-16, at 6.
53. Knox, Ironia, 28.
54. Helen Cooper, The Canterbury Tales: Oxford Guides to Chaucer (Oxford, 1989), 237-40; R. F. Green, A Crisis of Truth, 326-35.
55. MED, s.v. certain (1).
56. MED, s.v. certain (2).
57. Chris Given-Wilson, The Royal Household and the King's Affinity: Service, Politics, and Finance in England, 1360-1413 (New Haven, 1986), 86.
58. William Langland, Piers Plowman: The C-Text, ed. Derek Pearsall (Exeter, 1994), 371-72 (my emphasis).
59. Oschinsky, ed., Walter of Henley, 317.
60. Oschinsky, ed., Walter of Henley, 388-89 (my emphasis).
61. John M. Ganim, "Double Entr y in Chaucer's Shipman's Tale: Chaucer and Bookkeeping before Pacioli," Chaucer Review 30 (1996): 294-305, at 300.
62. For more on Chaucer as bureaucrat, see David Wallace, Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational Forms in England and Italy (Stanford, 1997), 12.