Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pilkington, Gilbert

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PILKINGTON, GILBERT (fl. 1350), is the reputed author of ‘The Tournament of Tottenham,’ a burlesque in verse on ‘the parade and fopperies of chivalry.’ An amusing description is given, in homely language, of the efforts of ignorant rustics to reproduce all the ceremonies of the tournament by way of prelude to a rustic wedding. The earliest manuscript of the piece is in the Cambridge University Library, Ff. v. 48, and dates from the fourteenth century. It is followed by a sequel entitled ‘The Feest.’ Both bear the signature of Gilbert Pilkington, but it is doubtful if he were more than the copyist. In the same manuscript, which once belonged to George Withers, the poet, the words ‘Quod dominus Gilbertus Pylkyngton’ are appended to two other poems, one entitled ‘Passio Domini,’ and the other ‘The Story of Robin Hood and Little John.’ But of these, too, Pilkington may only have been the copyist. A fifteenth-century copy of ‘The Tournament’ is in Harl. MS. 5396. William Bedwell [q. v.] once possessed the Cambridge manuscript of the piece, and printed it in 1631, in the belief that Pilkington was not only the author, but his own predecessor in the vicarage of Tottenham. The latter theory is not confirmed by any contemporary evidence. The title-page of Bedwell's edition runs: ‘The Tvrnament of Tottenham, or the wooing, winning, and wedding of Tibbe, the reev's daughter there. Written long since in verse by Mr. Gilbert Pilkington, at that time, as some have thought, Parson of the Parish. Taken out of an ancient manuscript and published for the delight of others, by Wilhelm Bedwell, now Pastour there. Printed by John Norton, 1631.’ Bedwell appended a description of Tottenham, with a fresh title-page. ‘The Tournament’ was reprinted with Richard Butcher's ‘Survey of Stamford,’ London, 1717, and again, 1718, 8vo; by Bishop Percy in his ‘Reliques’ (ed. Wheatley, ii. 17–28); by Ritson in his ‘Ancient Songs and Ballads,’ 1829; by Mr. W. C. Hazlitt in his ‘Popular English Poetry’ (iii. 82 sq.); and separately by Thomas Wright, with the sequel, ‘The Feest,’ in 1836.

[Warton's Hist. of English Poetry, 1871, iii. 115–16; Ritson's Bibl. Anglo-Poetica; Cat. of MSS. in Cambr. Univ. Library.]

S. L.