Emending Oneself: Compilatio and Revisio in Langland Usk, Usk, and Higden
This chapter seeks to apply Pearsall’s scrupulous attention to the material circumstances, constraints, and opportunities of manuscript culture to the Testament of Love. In particular, Nielsen explores possible implications of Usk’s acrostic, ‘Margarete of Virtw have merci on thin Usk.’ Usk’s coded signatures, like L’s, participate in a well-established insular Latin culture of acrostics and manuscript ordinatio in which authors’ or patrons’ names are imposed upon a pre-existing text, as an attempt to ‘freeze’ material already circulating in multiple versions. This chapter thus brings forward neglected evidence for multiple periods of composition of the Testament of Love and suggests that the entire last decade of Usk’s life ought to be taken into account for our understanding the text, rather than the 1384-5 window alone. By approaching the Testament of Love as an ongoing work, we may trace anew a dynamic process of composition, publication, and struggle for authorial control in London documentary culture.
New Directions in Medieval Manuscript Studies and Reading Practices: Essays in Honor of Derek Pearsall, ed. by Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, John Thompson and Sarah Baechle (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2014), pp. 467-488.