The last few weeks have been hard work but it feels as though I’m making progess on a different scale with all my Bevis/Boeve research. Some of the stimulating articles I’ve been reading have confirmed my opinion that there is still much to do, not least to interrogate the fable of the Arundel patronage.
A completely separate line of enquiry would be the local traditions associated with Bevis, some of which will probably never be traced to their sources, but undoubtedly there was a moment when the literary source gave rise to a local desire to claim the hero and to create a ‘backstory’ suited to the interests of the era and what was already known of Southampton’s, or indeed Arundel’s, history.
Perhaps the most puzzling tradition is how the concept of a horse leaping to its death from Arundel Tower came into being, when in the earliest texts it is Bevis’s mother who takes that leap. Tempting as it is to propose the identification of horse and mother, in some kind of Celtic binary akin to the ancient Welsh story of Rhiannon, this seems at stretch the imagination a little too far.
These matters are at present, however, out of my range as I concentrate on the literary problems, although another potential researcher may take them up. As for me, the next stops on my research journey will be the city archives and the Hartley Library. Really looking forward to that!
It’s been the best part of 6 weeks since I was last able to think seriously about writing. I hadn’t realised how intensely tired I was until the lull after the Christmas festivities. Happily, now that has passed, thanks in part to good friends. Quite inadvertently, the spur to write has returned and my work on Bevis is underway again. This does not mean that I have turned my back on Boeve. Far from it. Thanks to the feedback from the Medium Aevum reader, and the rather encouraging comments from the editor, I am eager to revise the paper. The argument really does work, but needs a stronger historical basis in one place, and a more assertive statement about the commonsense approach of looking to Southampton for a patron. However, I almost argued myself out of the relevance of my original theory, based on dating, but have realised that a sequential dating may be possible, and that this would justify the later dating that has been proposed.
Before I can work on the revision, however, I have some translation to do, so progress on Boeve will be slow, and temporarily delayed while I work on another approach to Bevis.
It was a bit of a disappointment to find out yesterday that my research on Bovo and Boeve has not persuaded the editors of Medium Aevum that the poem is more likely to have been composed for a patron or patrons with close connection to Southampton, than for the twelfth or early thirteenth-century earls of Arundel. It always takes me a while to get over a knock-back, and I realised this afternoon this is because it’s not something I have been used to, which is not to be self-congratulatory, it just rather surprised me when I thought about it.
So where next? I still believe I have an argument to put forward, and I have to express my gratitude to my MAE reader for their comments, because I think I see how they can help strengthen that argument, when taken together with the work on the adventus, although I have not heard yet whether that has been any more persuasive. I am already wondering if I maybe need to develop the whole thing, because the Bovo and Boeve paper is already rather long – but that is a decision to be taken after Christmas.
The last few days of work on the adventus in Boeve have meant some slightly disconcerting rearrangement of paragraphs to tighten up the ideas and make the argument flow. The absence of records – not even Pipe Rolls for the crucial year – the nature of those that do exist, and the distinctive cross-over between history and poetry in twelfth-century chronicles has made for interesting reading while I pieced together such evidence as exists. One more week’s work should see the end of the restructuring. And then comes the tricky matter of submitting it.
It’s been a bit of a struggle but at last something like a research paper is beginning to emerge out of a chaos of sources and ideas as I have kept nibbling away at the material that makes up my argument for an unnoticed adventus in Boeve. Today I found Henry of Huntingdon had written a poem that also dramatises the crucial historical moment to which I think Boeve looks back. I just have to locate the right source now. It’s been lovely getting back to the essays in the METh journals too as I’ve been checking them for anything on entry ceremonies. Lots more to do, but that’s a task for another day.
The news today is that the tail of one of Southampton’s famous lions has fallen off! Or has the ghost of Bevis returned to wreak vengeance on the images of these ferocious beasts that ‘menaced’ his beloved in a cave? The official line is that the metal has succumbed after several centuries to natural deterioration. The tail is in the safe-keeping of the city archaeologist while the inevitable problem of funding makes it unlikely that restoration will take place quickly. Pictures can be found at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-45573884#
While the lion has been in the process of losing its appendage, the summer has given me some time to research the possibility that Boeve de Haumtone really does recollect the circumstances of a very early royal adventus. The form of these entries was very variable, and suited to many local circumstances. I believe there are grounds enough to propose the idea seriously. There are a few more translations to be done, and some further consultation of contemporary chronicles, but I hope to have a finished form of the argument in place perhaps before Christmas. However, as it is speculative, it may never get further than the Academia website where other scholars will be able to assess and take pot shots at it! My confidence in that area may increase with further research, but I am prepared for ‘savaging to take place’. If anyone remembers the exact circumstances of this quote I shall be amazed!
With the latest revisions done and dusted the next logical step was to print off the paper ready for submission – an unusual step in itself because I’m so used to just sending off documents of this kind as email attachments. However, my printer has decided it doesn’t want print off the web addresses that are an essential part of the referencing in some footnotes. Everything else prints off as it should but on a handful of pages the referencing is almost printed, but fades off very strangely. Nothing I’ve tried so far has worked. It must have been so much simpler with a quill and parchment! On the other hand, while the technical stuff awaits resolution there is time for further proof-reading, and as a wise man said recently, that’s all to the good.