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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

VIII. The English Chaucerians

§ 9. The Chaucerian Apocrypha

To the most attractive, if also the most puzzling, part of it, we may now come. There can be no doubt that, putting ballads, carols and the like aside, no verse in southern English, from 1400 to 1500 or a little later, has anything like the literary and poetical merit or interest which attaches to the best of the doubtful “Chauceriana” themselves. These pieces have, during the last generation, been rather unfortunate: for some Chaucer-students, in their fear of seeing them readmitted to the canon, have, as it were, cast them out altogether and refused to have anything to do with them, while even those who have admitted them to a sort of court of the gentiles have seemed afraid of paying them too much attention. This seems irrational, and it is certainly unlucky; for more than one or two of these pieces posses poetical merit so considerable that their authors, when discovered, will have to be put above any writer previously mentioned in this chapter. The Plowman’s Tale, which falls quite out of Chaucerian possibility from its substance and temper, has already been handled with its begetter the Vision, and many of the smaller pieces are sufficiently disposed of with Tyrwhitt’s label of “rubbish.” But The Tale of Beryn or Second Merchant’s Tale, with the preliminary adventures of the Pardoner; La Belle Dame sans Merci, ascribed to Sir Richard Ros; The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, ascribed to Sir Thomas Clanvowe; The Flower and the Leaf, The Assembly of Ladies and The Court of Love are well entitled to notice here, and at least three of them deserve the commendations suggested above, whosoever wrote them and at whatsoever time between the possible limits of c. 1390–c. 1550 they may have been written.