Huchown (DNB01)

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HUCHOWN (fl. 14th cent.), the author of several romances in the old alliterative verse, is described by Wyntoun as 'Huchown of the Awle Ryale' (in one MS. 'Auld Ryall'). Wyntoun eulogises him as 'cunnand in literature,' and ascribes to him three romances, 'The Gret Gest of Arthure,' 'The Awntyre of Gawane,' and 'The Pystyll of Swete Susan.' Of these 'The Pystyll of Swete Susan' can be identified beyond dispute. It exists in five manuscripts (two in the British Museum, one in the Bodleian library, a fourth at Cheltenham, and a fifth at Ripley), and was published in Laing's 'Select Remains,' 1822, and, besides several times by German editors, by the Scottish Text Society in 'Scottish Alliterative Poems' from the five manuscripts ed. F. J. Amours, 1896-7. Further, by means of an exhaustive comparison with the 'Pystyll,' Dr. Trauttnann (Der Dichter Huchown und seine Werke in Anglia, 1877) has established the identification of 'The Gest of Arthure' with the non-rhyming alliterative poem 'Morte Arthure' preserved in the Thornton MS. at Lincoln, and published, ed. Halliwell, 1847, and by the Early English Text Society, ed. E. Brock, 1865. The identification of 'The Awntyre of Gawaine' is still, however, a matter of dispute. Mr. F. J. Amours (Scottish Alliterative Poems) argues with some plausibility for the rhyming alliterative poem, 'The Awntyres of Arthure at the Terne Wathelyne,' preserved in the Thornton MS., in the Douce MS. in the Bodleian Library, and in the Ireland MS. at Hale, Lancashire, and published by Pinkerton from the Douce MS. in 'Scottish Poems,' 1792, under the title 'Sir Gawain and Sir Galaron of Galloway,' by David Laing in 'Select Remains,' 1822 (2nd ed. 1885) ; by the Bannatyne Club, ed. Sir F. Madden, 1839 ; by the Camden Society, ed. Robson, 1842 ; and by the Scottish Text Society in 'Scottish Alliterative Poems,' ed. F. J. Amours, 1896-7. This conclusion cannot, however, be regarded as more than probable; and there is even a possibility that it maybe the non-rhyming 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,' which is poetically of great merit.

As to the identity of the poet himself, since his name was Huchown (French Huchon), it has generally been supposed that he was the 'gude Sir Hew of Eglyntoun' mentioned in Dunbar's 'Lament for the Makeris.' A Sir Hugh of Eglinton, who flourished between 1348 and 1375, was married to Egidia, half sister of Robert II, and was for some years auditor of accounts. The name of no other Sir Hew of Eglinton occurs in public documents in the fourteenth century, and notwithstanding some ingenious arguments to the contrary, there is absolutely no reason for refusing to accept this Sir Hew as the poet referred to by Dunbar, and therefore in all probability 'Huchown of the Awle Ryale,' which two last words have, with at least plausibility, been interpreted as 'royal palace.'

[Authorities mentioned in text; Athenæum, 1900–1.]

T. F. H.