Descriptive ReviewsCharles d'Orléans in England (1415-1440)
This groundbreaking volume comprises twelve papers on various aspects of the life and literary production of Charles d'Orléans during his captivity in England. The theme is illustrated by the frontispiece, a full-color reproduction of fol. 73 of BL MS Royal 16 F. ii, depicting Charles in the Tower of London (the illustrations in this manuscript are discussed in this volume by Janet Backhouse). Michael K. Jones investigates the political dimension to the duke's protracted captivity, with special attention to the circumstances surrounding the siege of Orléans. William Askins establishes that there was a great deal of interaction between Duke Charles, his brother Jean d'Angoulême and their English keepers, a conclusion borne out by Gilbert Ouy's survey of the manuscripts copied by (or for) the two brothers during their captivity. The status of Charles's English poetry comes under particular scrutiny. Mary-Jo Arn compares the layout of Paris, BN MS fr. 25458, a copy commissioned by Charles in the late 1430s of his French poetry written before and during his captivity, and BL MS Harley 682, copied nearer the time of his release and gathering his English poetry. Six plates support Arn's argument that both manuscripts were supervised by the duke himself, and that divergences in layout are due to differing purposes: the French collection was open-ended but Charles did not intend to add any English poems to his oeuvre after returning to France.
Claudio Galderisi analyzes Charles's relationship with his mother tongue during his twenty-five years of captivity, while John Fox elucidates in his "Glanures" four specific textual riddles which reveal Charles's linguistic versatility and playfulness. Rouben C. Cholakian stresses the abstract nature of the world depicted in Charles's poems, both during and after his captivity. The theme of captivity itself, however, is not always treated in such a symbolical manner. Jean-Claude Mühlethaler's analysis of La Chasse d'Amour and Le Départ d'Amours [1509, published by Antoine Vérard] thus shows that several key ballads of Charles were omitted from the anthology or edited because of their explicit biographical dimension. The duke's poetry is considered alongside that of contemporary works in English by A. C. Spearing, who compares and contrasts the device of dreams in The Kingis Quair and Charles's English book, and Derek Pearsall, whose work on the authorship of the Fairfax sequence suggests that Charles had a greater influence on other English writers than has tended lo be acknowledged. A. E. B. Coldiron concludes with the question as to why Charles d'Orléans has not found his place in the English literary canon, pointing towards nationalist distrust of a French aristocrat, and aesthetic sensitivities unsympathetic to his favored medium of expression. However, the bibliographical supplement at the end of the book indicates an upsurge in scholarly interest over the past decade, which bodes well for the future reception of Charles's oeuvre.Francoise Le Saux
Journal of the Early Book Society (2002), 181-82