Jack Upland, Friar Daw’s Reply, and Upland’s Rejoinder

Jack Upland, Friar Daw’s Reply, and Upland’s Rejoinder, are three related works that are a good example of the English tradition of criticizing or defending the friars. They were written between ca. 1390 and ca. 1450 in the Midlands dialect.

Jack Upland survives in two manuscripts: B.M. MS. Harley 6641, on vellum, and C.U.L. MS. Ff. vi. 2, on paper. This item by item prose work, critical of the behaviour of the friars, is of unknown authorship. The earliest printed text is dated to about 1536, and according to a heading ‘Compyled by the famous Geoffrey Chaucer,’ this is unlikely. The colophon reads: ‘Prynted for Ihon Gough./Cum Priuilegio Regali’. There are two surviving copies, one in the Huntington Library, the other in the library of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. There is another printed text by John Foxe in the second edition of his Actes and Monumentes (1570).

Friar Daw’s Reply and Upland’s Rejoinder survive in a unique copy: Bodleian MS. Digby 41, on vellum. The Reply is on ff. 2-17, and the Rejoinder is written in the margins of the ReplyDaw’s Reply, and Upland’s Rejoinder have been printed in full by T. Wright in Political Poems and Songs, ii (Rolls Series, 1861).

Friar Daw’s Reply is a contemporary response to Jack Upland, where the author adopts the character of an unlearned friar “Daw Topias”; he is named John Walsingham in the written explicit at the end of the poem. This poet, presumably John Walsingham, defends the friars who are criticized in Jack Upland. Upland’s Rejoinder (in the margins of the Reply) is a fierce response to “Friar Daw” and consists of (among other things) a variety of coarse attacks against the Friar; the author of the Rejoinder is uncertain.

It is generally agreed that the proverb of Robin Hood in Friar Daw’s Reply, is dated to c. 1419-20.

This section contains information found in Rymes of Robyn Hood: An Introduction to the English Outlaw, R.B. Dobson and J. Taylor (London, 1976), p. 289; Medieval England: An Encyclopedia, Paul E. Szarmach, M. Teresa Tavormina, and Joel T. Rosenthal (Routledge, 1998), p. 379.