Title Background

Editors of <i>Piers Plowman</i>.

Editors of Piers Plowman.

Skeat’s editions of PPl seemed to establish that there were three, and three original, versions; that his editions presented reasonably faithful pictures of what WL wrote; and that one author was responsible for the three original versions. But R. W. Chambers showed the unsatisfactory nature of Skeat’s edition of the A text, and as more manuscript variants became available Chambers realized the necessity of comparing B and C readings in editing A, and may even have come to doubt that only three authorial versions of the poem existed. Chambers’s student Kane also came to understand the value of B and C readings in establishing the A text, but did not acknowledge that his A text had been edited on principles invalidated by Chambers. In an unpublished letter to Chambers (1909), Skeat himself cast doubt on the possibility of recovering by normal procedures any sort of original text for a poet as obsessive as WL about revising and a poem perhaps so unreliably transmitted.