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Make We Merry More and Less: An Anthology of Medieval English Popular Literature

Make We Merry More and Less: An Anthology of Medieval English Popular Literature Douglas Gray and Jane Bliss (ed.)
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78374-710-8 £18.95
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'Make We Merry More and Less' is an innovative and intriguing anthology, showing the very wide range of both knowledge and human sympathies of the wonderful Douglas Gray.
—Stephen Knight, Research Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia

The anthology was designed ‘to offer both pleasure and instruction, as does Middle English popular literature itself’ (p. 13), and it achieves its goal admirably. Glosses are provided for the more unfamiliar words in the selected texts, making them readily accessible to the non-specialist reader. The introduction is concise and informative, and is at pains to emphasize that, despite the title, the anthology does not in any way seek to present a picture of a romantic ‘merry’ England. The editor, Jane Bliss, has done a fine job of organizing the materials that Douglas Gray left behind, including the daunting task of providing the references. The book is a delight.

—David Atkinson, Folk Music Journal, Volume 11 Number 5, 2020. 

Conceived as a companion volume to the well-received Simple Forms: Essays on Medieval English Popular Literature (2015), Make We Merry More and Less is a comprehensive anthology of popular medieval literature from the twelfth century onwards. Uniquely, the book is divided by genre, allowing readers to make connections between texts usually presented individually.

This anthology offers a fruitful exploration of the boundary between literary and popular culture, and showcases an impressive breadth of literature, including songs, drama, and ballads. Familiar texts such as the visions of Margery Kempe and the Paston family letters are featured alongside lesser-known works, often oral. This striking diversity extends to the language: the anthology includes Scottish literature and original translations of Latin and French texts.

The illuminating introduction offers essential information that will enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the chosen texts. Each of the chapters is accompanied by a clear summary explaining the particular delights of the literature selected and the rationale behind the choices made. An invaluable resource to gain an in-depth understanding of the culture of the period, this is essential reading for any student or scholar of medieval English literature, and for anyone interested in folklore or popular material of the time.

The book was left unfinished at Gray's death; it is here edited by Jane Bliss.

The Faculty of English, University of Oxford, has generously contributed to this publication.

Make We Merry More and Less: An Anthology of Medieval English Popular Literature
Douglas Gray and Jane Bliss (ed.) |  July 2019
B&W | 418 pp. | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781783747108
ISBN Hardback: 9781783747115
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783747122
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783747139
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783747146
ISBN Digital (XML): 9781783747153
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0170
Categories: BIC: DQ (Anthologies, non-poetry), CFP (Translation and interpretation), DSBB (Literary studies: classical, early and medieval); BISAC: LCO017000 (Literary Collections / Medieval), LCO009000 (LITERARY COLLECTIONS / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh); OCLC Number: 1110259940.

Editor’s Preface


Chapter 1: Voices from the Past
Chapter 2: Ballads
Chapter 3: Romances
Chapter 4: Tales and Legends
Chapter 5: Merry Tales
Chapter 6: Animal Tales
Chapter 7: Proverbs and Riddles
Chapter 8: Satire
Chapter 9: Songs
Chapter 10: Drama


Douglas Gray was the first J. R. R. Tolkien Professor of English Literature and Language in the Faculty of English at the University of Oxford until his retirement in 1997; during this time he was also a professorial fellow of Lady Margaret Hall. He died in December 2017. Gray published extensively during his lifetime, his invaluable contributions to medieval studies include A Selection of Religious Lyrics (1975); Middle English Literature (1986); The Oxford Book of Late Medieval Verse and Prose (1988); Later Medieval English Literature (2008); Simple Forms: Essays on Medieval English Popular Literature (2015).

Jane Bliss is an independent medieval scholar, freelance writer, and occasional teacher. Recent publications include Naming and Namelessness in Medieval Romance (2008), Cher Alme: Texts of Anglo-Norman Piety (with Tony Hunt and Henrietta Leyser, 2010), La Vie d’Edouard le Confesseur by a Nun of Barking Abbey (2015) and An Anglo-Norman Reader (2018). She currently runs an Anglo-Norman Reading Group in Oxford, and corresponds widely with colleagues on many aspects of medieval studies.