This excellent collection would have been unthinkable not so very long ago. Charles's English poems languished in dusty neglect, too English for French scholars, too French for English ones, and the only question that arose, and that intermittently, was whether Charles could plausibly have acquired sufficient English to write the English lyrics attributed to him. The fact that all that is now changing, and that Charles's English poems have crept back into the literary canon, has much to do with Mary-Jo Arn's meticulous and ground-breaking work, especially in her magnificent edition of Charles's English Fortunes Stabilnes: Charles of Orleans's English Book of Love (Binghamton, NY,1995).
In the present volume, Arn and a group of Charles d'Orléans specialists return to the Duke, and from a variety of perspectives, historical and literary, which illuminate Charles's imprisonment in interesting and unexpected ways. The historians William Askins and Michael K. Jones address two of the sort of questions which, in retrospect, seem so obvious that one wonders why they have not occurred before: respectively, about the nature of Charles's gaolers, and the reasons for his interminable captivity, and the answers that they give must surely stimulate new historical and archival research. A number of scholars return to what might seem well-trodden ground, but show just what there is to harvest: Mary-Jo Arn herself returns to the question of authorship via Charles's manuscripts; Gilbert Ouy has been engaged for many years in new research on Charles's librairie (Champion's ground-breaking study badly needs updating); Derek Pearsall returns, in the wake of N. McCracken, to William de la Pole and his relations with the poet.
Other critics, more specifically literary, explore Charles's language: Claudio Galderisi examines the lexicon of time, Rouben Cholakian looks at the continuities and ruptures between Charles's poetry before and after 1440, and A. C. Spearing brings his particular expertise in dream literature to bear. Janet Backhouse gives a useful survey of London, BL MS Royal 16 F.ii and in what are possibly two of the most innovative essays in the book, Jean-Claude Muhlethaler and A. E. B. Coldiron turn to Charles's reception history with, respectively, a subtle and delicate discussion of the lyrics as they appear in Vérard's deceptive La Chasse et départ d'Amours and, astonishingly wide-ranging, a discussion, in cultural-capital terms borrowed from Pierre Bourdieu, of the ways in which the English poems were received across the centuries to the present day (Coldiron, one gathers, is about to publish a full-length study on just this topic: if this essay is anything to go by, we are in for a scholarly treat). All in all, then, this is a uniformly excellent volume, and Mary-Jo Arn is to be congratulated both on the persuasive powers and editorial skill that she must have used to bring all of the contributions together, and on the sheer perseverance which she has brought, over many years, to studies of Charles and his poetry.
JANE H. M. TAYLOR
Medium Aevum 71.1 (2002) 114-15