The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Balaban, John. "Blind Harry and the Wallace." 8 (1974): 241-51.
Traditionally, Blind Harry is Henricus Caecus and the author of Schir William Wallace. Though some of the evidence against Harry's authorship may be explained away, other problems are not so easily dismissed. That Harry's name is not mentioned in the earliest copy of The Wallace may result from the fact that this copy has no title page, or Ramsay, the scribe, may have left it off when making his copy. John Mair, in Historia majoris Brittaniae (De gestibus Scotorum) first mentions Blind Harry. From what scholars know of Mair, they can estimate that Blind Harry lived in the last half of the fifteenth century. As the writer of Wallace states in the eleventh book, his source is a Latin book by John Blair, perhaps the same one who serves Wallace in the tale, but this book most likely never existed and is the writer's nod to authority. The writer of Wallace does not state that he is blind, and metrical patterning suggests that this poem could not have been recited from memory. Harry seems to have been quite familiar with Chaucer, imitating metrical patterns, descriptions, and tone. Thus, the traditional Blind Harry does not seem to be the writer of Wallace. Scholars must also note that medieval writers often referred to the devil as "Harry," so the name "Blind Harry" must be an alias. The historical inaccuracies in Wallace serve to popularize it, making William Wallace seem a god instead of a rebel.