Books Should Be Free is now
Loyal Books
Free Public Domain Audiobooks & eBook Downloads
Search by: Title, Author or Keyword

Chaucer   By: (1837-1924)

Book cover

First Page:

From: ENGLISH MEN OF LETTERS

CHAUCER

BY

ADOLPHUS WILLIAM WARD

NOTE.

The peculiar conditions of this essay must be left to explain themselves. It could not have been written at all without the aid of the Publications of the Chaucer Society, and more especially of the labours of the Society's Director, Mr. Furnivall. To other recent writers on Chaucer including Mr Fleay, from whom I never differ but with hesitation I have referred, in so far as it was in my power to do so. Perhaps I may take this opportunity of expressing a wish that Pauli's "History of England," a work beyond the compliment of an acknowledgement, were accessible to every English reader.

A.W.W.

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER 1. CHAUCER'S TIMES.

CHAPTER 2. CHAUCER'S LIFE AND WORKS.

CHAPTER 3. CHARACTERISTICS OF CHAUCER AND OF HIS POETRY.

CHAPTER 4. EPILOGUE.

GLOSSARY.

INDEX.

CHAUCER.

CHAPTER 1. CHAUCER'S TIMES.

The biography of Geoffrey Chaucer is no longer a mixture of unsifted facts, and of more or less hazardous conjectures. Many and wide as are the gaps in our knowledge concerning the course of his outer life, and doubtful as many important passages of it remain in vexatious contrast with the certainty of other relatively insignificant data we have at least become aware of the foundations on which alone a trustworthy account of it can be built. These foundations consist partly of a meagre though gradually increasing array of external evidence, chiefly to be found in public documents, in the Royal Wardrobe Book, the Issue Rolls of the Exchequer, the Customs Rolls, and suchlike records partly of the conclusions which may be drawn with confidence from the internal evidence of the poet's own indisputably genuine works, together with a few references to him in the writings of his contemporaries or immediate successors. Which of his works are to be accepted as genuine, necessarily forms the subject of an antecedent enquiry, such as cannot with any degree of safety be conducted except on principles far from infallible with regard to all the instances to which they have been applied, but now accepted by the large majority of competent scholars. Thus, by a process which is in truth dulness and dryness itself except to patient endeavour stimulated by the enthusiasm of special literary research, a limited number of results has been safely established, and others have at all events been placed beyond reasonable doubt. Around a third series of conclusions or conjectures the tempest of controversy still rages; and even now it needs a wary step to pass without fruitless deviations through a maze of assumptions consecrated by their longevity, or commended to sympathy by the fervour of personal conviction.

A single instance must suffice to indicate both the difficulty and the significance of many of those questions of Chaucerian biography which, whether interesting or not in themselves, have to be determined before Chaucer's life can be written. They are not "all and some" mere antiquarians' puzzles, of interest only to those who have leisure and inclination for microscopic enquiries. So with the point immediately in view. It has been said with much force that Tyrwhitt, whose services to the study of Chaucer remain uneclipsed by those of any other scholar, would have composed a quite different biography of the poet, had he not been confounded by the formerly (and here and there still) accepted date of Chaucer's birth, the year 1328. For the correctness of this date Tyrwhitt "supposed" the poet's tombstone in Westminster Abbey to be the voucher; but the slab placed on a pillar near his grave (it is said at the desire of Caxton), appears to have merely borne a Latin inscription without any dates; and the marble monument erected in its stead "in the name of the Muses" by Nicolas Brigham in 1556, while giving October 25th, 1400, as the day of Chaucer's death, makes no mention either of the date of his birth or of the number of years to which he attained, and, indeed, promises no more information than it gives... Continue reading book >>




eBook Downloads
ePUB eBook
• iBooks for iPhone and iPad
• Nook
• Sony Reader
Kindle eBook
• Mobi file format for Kindle
Read eBook
• Load eBook in browser
Text File eBook
• Computers
• Windows
• Mac

Review this book



Popular Genres
More Genres
Languages
Paid Books