Thomas Hoccleve's La Male Regle in the Canterbury Cathedral Archives

David Alexander Watt


At some time between 1422 and 1426, Thomas Hoccleve copied nineteen of his poems into a manuscript now known as San Marino, Huntington Library, MS HM 111. Hoccleve’s autograph manuscript is the most authoritative copy of many of these poems, including a poem of fifty-six stanzas known as La Male Regle. The copy of this poem that appears in an opening at the end of Canterbury Cathedral Archives, Register O does not challenge the authoritative text. Nonetheless, it merits an edition that will allow students to consider it in its own right: the Canterbury copy does not simply present a fragment of the poem but a careful selection of nine stanzas designed, in the words of Marian Trudgill and J. A. Burrow, to “present a freestanding ‘balade.’” The aim of this edition of the poem, a diplomatic transcription, is to provide access to these nine stanzas without demanding that each reader reconstruct the poem from a list of variants. This edition will help readers study the “balade” as an independent text as well as to compare it to Hoccleve’s copy in MS HM 111. It aims to encourage questions about the text as well as its reception and circulation. Who was responsible for the appearance of these stanzas in Canterbury? What does their appearance in Register O reveal about the way early fifteenth-century readers saw the poem in a literal or literary sense? How might this contribute to our understanding of textual culture in England at this time?


Thomas Hoccleve; La Male Regle; Canterbury

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.