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Wetwang revisited

Part two, in which we wet our wonges

Tolkien’s paper ‘Chaucer as a Philologist’ (1934) is an analysis of northern English dialect in the Reeve’s Tale, one of the Canterbury Tales. Tolkien argues that Geoffrey Chaucer displays a philological interest in the dialect, as shown by the speech of two Northern clerks in the tale. I’ve never read this paper closely before copy-editing OUP’s forthcoming Tolkien on Chaucer (Opens in a new window), edited by John Bowers and Peter Steffenson.

So last week (Opens in a new window) I enlarged on the comments about the name Wetwang that I’ve made in The World of J.R.R. Tolkien. Before we reach Wetwang in Middle-earth, this week I come to what Tolkien says about Wetwang in Middle English. It’s a fitting week to talk Chaucer, because the British Library (which I visited last night for its current exhibition Fantasy: Realms of Imagination and for a talk by the wonderful Susan Cooper) has just made available online digitised images of all its Chaucer manuscripts.

Geoffrey Chaucer (Ellesmere manuscript)

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