The Gentleman’s Piers Plowman: John Mitford and his Annotated Copy of the 1550 Edition of William Langland’s Great Poem
Identifies the Rev. John Mitford (1781–1859), editor of The Gentleman’s Magazine, as the last of the ‘gentleman scholars’ of the pre-Skeat era who filled the flyleaves of their Crowleys and Rogerses with summaries of scholarship on the poem and lists of words and topics, and as the first to make what would become an important claim about PPl‘s authorship. Mitford owned and annotated the Crowley held by the State Library of Victoria (Australia), and, this note points out, was anonymous reviewer of Thomas Wright’s 1842 edition in that journal, an item that has not figured in histories of the poem’s editorial and critical history because of its absence from DiMarco’s Reference Guide. Mitford here suggests that ‘persons of talent and leisure’—at least two, that is, in addition to the original author—were responsible for the variations to be found in the manuscripts. This, the first expression of such an idea, seems to have provided the foundation for George Marsh’s very similar comments of 1862, which John Manly would later gratefully cite as support for his multiple authorship stance as ‘an independent utterance from a scholar so distinguished for soundness of taste and sanity of judgment’. (LW)
The La Trobe Journal, 84 (2009), 104-12, 130-31.