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The Mirour De L’Omme and Gower’s London Merchants

  • Roger A. Ladd
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Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

Gower might not seem to belong in a study of this sort, because his critical reputation has generally been based on the Confessio Amantis, which makes little mention of merchants. Unlike the Confessio, the text of Gower’s that most directly addresses merchants, the Mirour de l’Omme (or Speculum Hominis or Speculum Meditantis), has long languished in obscurity. Even the discoverer and editor of the Mirour de l’Omme, G. C. Macaulay, dismisses that work as crushing Gower’s “better part…under mountains of morality and piles of deadly learning.”1 Derek Pearsall shows that avoidance of close engagement with Gower’s texts has a long tradition,2 but despite the astonishing growth in Gower studies in the past few decades, the Mirour remains in large part undiscovered country. For those willing to work with Gower’s non-English works, the fact that the Vox Clamantis has long had an available translation, while the Mirour de l’Omme waited until 1992, has led scholars of Gowerian satire to start with the more conventional Vox, with the result that the Mirour remained largely unstudied until the 1990s.3 Even scholars who briefly touch on that Anglo—French poem often simply conclude that Gower did not like anybody very much, including merchants.4 While Gower’s satires do critique society categorically by estate, a closer reading of the section of the Mirour assigned to merchants reveals that Gower’s satire of trade is far more complex in the Mirour, the satiric poem most readable for the merchant estate (see later discussion). Thus, while this chapter cannot undertake a comprehensive reading of the Mirour, which has a great deal going on beyond satirizing merchants, my reading of the poem’s antimercantile satire hopes to open up this poem somewhat, and encourage further detailed study.

Keywords

Comprehensive Reading Business Register Potential Audience False Measure Rhetorical Move 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    John Gower, The Complete Works, ed. G. C. Macaulay, vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899–1902), p. liv. All citations of the Mirour de l’Omme (MO) in French and the Vox Clamantis (VC) in Latin are from this edition; MO is in vol. 1, and VC in vol. 4.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Derek Pearsall, “The Gower Tradition,”, Gower’s Confessio Amantis: Responses and Reassessments, ed. A. J. Minnis (Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 1983), p. 184 [179–97].Google Scholar
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    For a more detailed discussion of mercantile overlap with Gowerian manuscript production, see Roger A. Ladd, “The London Mercers’ Company, London Textual Culture and John Gower’s Mirour de l’Omme,” Medieval Clothing and Textiles 6 (2010): 132–36 [127–50].Google Scholar
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  31. 23.
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  35. 30.
    Charles Johnson, ed., The De Moneta of Nicholas Oresme and English Mint Documents (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1956), p. 56.Google Scholar
  36. 33.
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  38. 37.
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    John H. Fisher, John Gower: Moral Philosopher and Friend of Chaucer (New York: New York University Press, 1964), pp. 97–98.Google Scholar
  40. 42.
    Eileen Power’s translation of this passage is instructive: “in England art thou born, but it is said that thou art by ill governed, for Trick, who hath much money, is made regent of thy staple; at his will he taketh it to foreign lands, where he purchaseth his own gain to our harm.” Eileen Power, Medieval People (1924; repr. New York: Doubleday, 1954), p. 129.Google Scholar
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  43. 54.
    The English coinage was famously resistant to devaluation: see Carlo Cipolla, “Currency Depreciation in Medieval Europe,”, Change in Medieval Society: Europe North of the Alps, 1050–1500, ed. Sylvia L. Thrupp (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1964), p. 230 [227–36].Google Scholar
  44. 56.
    Lisa Jefferson, ed., Wardens’ Accounts and Court Minute Books of the Goldsmiths’ Mistery of London, 1334–1446 (Cambridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2003), pp. 62–67.Google Scholar
  45. 59.
    All biblical citations in English come from the Douay-Rheims translation in The Catholic Comparative New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); the Latin text is taken from Alberto Colunga and Laurentio Turrado, eds., Biblia Sacra iuxta Vulgatam Clementinam, 4th edn. (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1965).Google Scholar

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