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Make We Merry More and Less

 | 
Jane Bliss
, 
Douglas Gray

Editor’s Preface

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  • 1 In order to keep notes to a helpful minimum I have indicated one or two references for eac (...)
  • 2 From The Norman Conquest (2011), pp. vii–iii; extracts from De Nugis are on pp. 81–94. Com (...)

Douglas Gray was planning this anthology to be a companion volume to his Simple Forms, but he left it unfinished at his death: the Introduction, and presentation of selections (including head-notes), were more or less complete but there were no notes or bibliography. The file vouchsafed to posterity was headed ‘Master — edited so far’; it has been possible to identify and locate most, if not all, of the references.1 For example, he does not say where he gets his extracts from Walter Map’s De Nugis Curialium, and they do not correspond to the well-known translation by M. R. James. However, he says in an earlier anthology that he prefers to make his own new translations (however excellent the existing ones);2 some stories in this match the ones in the present volume, so it is fair to deduce that he re-used his own translations. Further, he said then that he wished to keep costs down; a reason to believe he made his own transcriptions from manuscripts in some if not all cases as well. There are a number of editions of, for example, the Paston Letters; it is not possible to identify which he used. Therefore the word ‘editor’ in my footnotes will always mean the editor of the text in question (possibly Gray himself; otherwise the editor of any text as detailed in the Bibliography); I refer to Gray by name, and to myself as editor of this book as little as possible.

1Make We Merry is a long book, and every selection has been included as Gray set them out. It would be possible to shorten it by cutting some of the pieces, but we have decided not to do so: the selection represents the range and depth of Gray’s vision, and there will be no more from him now.

2The order of chapters, as he left them, corresponded very closely with those in Simple Forms although it could not be an exact match. Apart from reversing Ballads and Romances to match the earlier book, I have not conflated or divided any chapters; the chapters have been left in his order, as providing the closest possible ‘companion’.

3Sources are indicated as briefly as possible in footnotes; the rationale has been to identify an anthology or other source-book for each, because this is how Gray worked, and cite one or perhaps two for each. These anthologies provide a wealth of context and other information that readers may consult; footnotes can thus be kept brief and unobtrusive. Only where a convenient source is not available have IMEV numbers been used. But IMEV is an index, not an anthology; putting these numbers for every selection would duplicate information and make for cumbersome notes.

  • 3 What is easily available for one reader may be more difficult for another, therefore any s (...)
  • 4 Some of these may be identified in the introductions to cited texts; for example, all know (...)
  • 5 The online versions supplied cannot always be the same editions as cited in this book; the (...)

4Because it has proved impossible to identify his sources with any certainty, footnotes indicate where the texts may easily be found (in most cases).3 Having no access to Gray’s library, I would naturally search my own shelves, libraries, and the internet; then choose among what is available for readers to follow up. I have edited as lightly as possible, so as to preserve the Master’s style, but there were naturally a few lapses to correct and ambiguities to smooth out. Where it was impossible to locate what he was thinking of when he marked [nt] for notes to be added, these have been explored as far as practicable or silently omitted. In order to keep notes to a minimum, I have not given references for every single book or work that Gray mentions;4 I have identified only where the text in question, that is, the passage selected for inclusion, may be found. Online versions of books have been added to the Bibliography where available.5 Among secondary sources, only the names mentioned in his text have been sought out and listed. It would be possible to replace a number of Gray’s references with more recent works, but we prefer to present the book as closely as possible as he left it, and not strive to update it (except in a few special cases, where an up-to-date reference may obviate the need for an over-long footnote).

5Given what has been explained above, it will be impossible to ascertain whether the books Gray used (if he did) are still in copyright; some may be, others very probably not. Furthermore, Gray may have made his own transcriptions from manuscripts.

6A note about proverbs: Gray has scattered dozens of proverbs throughout his text, many but not all of them identified in Whiting’s compendium. I have checked most of these, and he made very few errors (some may simply be copying errors). Therefore, since Whiting is very easy to use, providing clear headwords and an index, I have not attempted to identify every single example of a proverb or what might count as proverbial.

7Further, a few of his glosses, which were so copious as to verge on the intrusive, have been deleted on the assumption that most nonspecialists likely to use this book can read Middle English words if their spelling approximates to the modern.

8Titles of books and so on, and (conventionally) words and phrases in Latin, are printed in italic type.

9It may also be useful at this point to identify the famous Percy Folio (PFMS), mentioned passim below: it is a folio book of English ballads used by Thomas Percy to compile his Reliques of Ancient Poetry (see Bibliography). Although compiled in the seventeenth century, some of the material goes back well into the twelfth.

  • 6 This paragraph was written by Gray, his only preface. His ‘gentle modernization’ of spelli (...)

10Treatment of texts:6 to enable modern readers to read without constantly having to consult a glossary or dictionary, glosses are placed on the page with translation of longer passages placed in footnotes. Annotation and bibliographical references are kept to a minimum. Punctuation is modernized where appropriate, and there is some gentle modernization of spellings: u/v, i/j, and unfamiliar letter forms thorn and yogh.

  • 7 Preface, to Middle English Literature (J. A. W. Bennett, edited and completed by Douglas G (...)

11Using Gray’s own unconsciously prophetic words (although my work has been far less extensive than his in that case),7 I should like to dedicate the volume to the memory of this most humane of medievalists.

Notes

1 In order to keep notes to a helpful minimum I have indicated one or two references for each, to enable readers to explore further if they wish; it has been impossible to ascertain Gray’s sources.

2 From The Norman Conquest (2011), pp. vii–iii; extracts from De Nugis are on pp. 81–94. Compare versions in Walter Map’s De Nugis Curialium, trans. M. R. James (1923).

3 What is easily available for one reader may be more difficult for another, therefore any selection is going to seem arbitrary to some. More than one source is possible for most of the texts.

4 Some of these may be identified in the introductions to cited texts; for example, all known references to Robin Hood in medieval literature.

5 The online versions supplied cannot always be the same editions as cited in this book; they are added for readers’ convenience and general interest.

6 This paragraph was written by Gray, his only preface. His ‘gentle modernization’ of spellings makes it even more difficult to know what source he used for any given text.

7 Preface, to Middle English Literature (J. A. W. Bennett, edited and completed by Douglas Gray), p. vi.

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