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on ill terms. On the ist of December Chaucer was dismissed from his offices of Comptroller of Wool, Woolfells, and Leather, and of Comptroller of Petty Customs, and others were ap-. pointed in his places. The loss of his emoluments reduced the poet from affluence to poverty, and we find him raising money upon his two pensions of 20 marks, which on the ist of May, 1388, were cancelled and assigned to John Scalby. To add to his trouble his wife died in 1389. Richard, in 1387, dismissed his council and took the reins of government into his own hands; the Lancastrian party were restored to power, and Chaucer was appointed Clerk of the King's Works at Westminster, at a salary of 25. a-day, about 1l. of our money. The next year he was made Clerk of the King's Works for repairing St. George's Chapel at Windsor. But these appointments were of short duration. In another year he either retired or was superseded, and for the next three years his only income was his annuity of rol. from the Duke of Lancaster, and an allowance of 405., payable halfyearly, for robes as the king's esquire.
On the 28th of July, 1394, Chaucer obtained a grant from the king of 20l. a-year for life, payable half-yearly at Easter and Michaelmas; but at this time the poet appears to have been in very distressed circumstances, for we find him making application for advances from the Exchequer on account of his annuity, and as these were not always made to him personally during the next few years, it is supposed that he was labouring under sickness or infirmity, for it does not appear that he was absent from London t.
• The Parliament of 1386 compelled Richard to appoint a commission to enquire into the state of the subsidies and customs. The commissioners began their duties in November, and the removal of certain officers may be attributed to their investigations.
* Chaucer appears to allude to his pecuniary difficulties in the following verses “ To his Empty Purse:'-
• To yow, my Purse, and to noon other wight,
my lady dere;
In 1398 (May 4) letters of protection were issued to Chaucer, forbidding any one, for the term of two years, to sue or arrest him on any plea except it were connected with land. Five months later (Oct. 18) the king made him a grant of a tun of wine a-year for life. Next year Henry Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt, supplanted his cousin Richard, and within four days after he came to the throne Chaucer's pension of 20 marks was doubled, in addition to the annuity of 2ol. which had been given him by Richard II.
On Christmas Eve, 1399, the poet covenanted for the lease, for 53 years (a curious agreement for a man in his 7 ist year to make), of a house in the garden of the Chapel of St. Mary, Westminster, where it is probable that he ended his days. The date (Oct. 25, 1400) assigned to his death by Nicholas Brigham is corroborated by the entries in the Issue Rolls, no note of payment being found after March ist, 1400.
Chaucer had two sons, Lewis, who died young, to whom he addressed his treatise on the Astrolabe, and Thomas, who attained to immense wealth, and whose great-grandson, John de la Pole (Earl of Lincoln), was declared by Richard III heirapparent to the throne. In the Prologue to the Rime of Sir Thopas“, we have pro
For whiche unto your mercy thus I crye,
Oure host to japen he began,
bably a faithful picture of Chaucer's personal appearance, agreeing in many points with his portrait by Occlever. In person he was corpulent, and, like his host of the Tabard, a large man' and no 'poppet' to embrace, but his face was small, fair and intelligent; downcast and meditative, but dazed by age and study. Altogether he had an elvish' or weirdy expression of countenance which attracted the attention of those who came into contact with him for the first time, and with whom he seems to have been reserved and reticent. His extensive acquirements and voluminous writings show that he was a hard-working student; from incidental allusions in the House of Fame, we learn that when his labours and reckonings’ at the Custom House were over, and he returned home, instead of rest and novelties he sat and pored over his books until his eyes were 'dased' and dull; and often at night an aching head followed the making of 'books, songs, and ditties.' So absorbed was he in his studies, that for the time neither foreign affairs, his neighbours' gossip, 'nor anything else that God had made,' had any interest for him. Hermit-like though he lived, Chaucer was not naturally a recluse, and still less an ascetic; given more to observe than to talk, he loved good and pleasant society, and to sit at the festive board; for, as he himself tells us, “his abstinence was but little.'
But the personality of Chaucer is obscured by the essentially dramatic spirit which pervades nearly the whole of his works; and consequently we have but few opportunities of judging correctly of the poet's peculiar views, feelings, and tastes. His ardent love of Nature, finely apostrophised by the poet as 'the vicar of the
“ Thou lokest as thou woldest fynde an hare,
For unto no wight doth he daliaunce."' * This is a coloured portrait found in the margin of Occleve's • De Regimine Principum' in Harl. MS. 4866.
ý Tyrwhitt renders elvisb by shy.'
Almighty Lord,' is everywhere apparent. What is more spontaneous and characteristic of the poet than such joyous outbursts as the following:
• Herknith these blisful briddes how they synge,
Ful is myn hert of revel and solaas.' Even his love and reverence for books gave way before an eager desire to enjoy the beauties of nature in that season of the year when all around him was manifesting life and loveliness 2.
Not less evident is Chaucer's high estimation of woman and his perception of a sacred bond, spiritual and indestructible, in true marriage between man and womana.' Of all the flowers in the mead the daisy, the emperice and floure of floures alle, was Chaucer's favourite, because to him it was the fit representative of the 'trouthe of womanhede.'
As Mr. Morley has well remarked, “Ditties in praise of the Marguerite, or daisy, were popular with the French fashionable poets; but none of them, like Chaucer, among all their allegorical dreamings, ever dreamed of celebrating in that flower an emblem of womanly truth and purity, wearing its crown as a gentle, innocent, devoted wife.'
Though Chaucer was so intimately connected with the court, and enjoyed no small share of courtly favours, he protested nobly and fearlessly against the popular opinion that churls or villains, in the legal sense of the term, that is, persons of plebeian rank, were necessarily prone to be guilty of base and unwort actions; and
• And as for me, though that I konne but lyte (little),
(Legende of Goode Women, II. 29-39.) See Morley's English Writers, vol. ii. pp. 135, 256, 286.
at the present day we can hardly appreciate the boldness which made him assert more than once that the true test of gentility is nobleness of life and courtesy of manners, and not mere ancestral rankb.
As we have already said, Chaucer's great work, the Canterbury Tales, was not written till after the year 1386. His earlier literary productions were mostly translations, or imitations from foreign sources, chiefly Latin and French, and have therefore but little claim to originality, except so far as he altered or added to his originals; but even in these efforts there are many excellences and traces of the poet's genius, especially of his great power over language, which made his ability as a translator known and highly appreciated by his literary contemporaries. Francis Eustace Deschamps, in a ' Ballade à Geoffroi Chaucer,' speaks of him in the warmest terms of praise as 'grant translator, noble Geoffroy Chaucier!' But it is to the Canterbury Tales c that Chaucer
* But undirstonde in thyn entente
(Romaunt of the Rose, 11. 2187—2202.)
(The Wife of Bath's Tale.) c The chief minor works of Chaucer are:-The Court of Love; The Romaunt of the Rose (a translation of the Roman de la Rose), a work in