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Clarendon Press Series
Author of 'Specimens of Early English.'
Member of the Council of the Philological Society.
AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
EVENTFUL as the early life of Chaucer must have been, we have no sources of information from which we can gather even the simplest facts concerning his birth, birthplace, parentage and education, which are thus involved in much obscurity and uncertainty. If the Testament of Love be allowed to have any weight as an authentic autobiography, London a may claim the honour of being the place of the poet's birth. The name Chaucer, though not belonging to any noble or distinguished family, was of some antiquity, and seems to have been borne by persons of respectability and wealth, some of whom were connected with the city of London; and in the local records of the period (23rd year of Edward III), mention is made of a certain Richard Chaucer, a vintner of London, who,' says Speght, "might well be Geoffrey Chaucer's father b.'
For want of historical evidence to settle the exact year of the poet's birth, we are obliged to follow the ordinary traditionary account
ich places at commencement of the reign of Edward III, somewhere about the year 1328, a date which is perhaps not far wrong, inasmuch as it agrees with many better-known periods of his life. According to the inscription on his tomb, erected to his memory in 1556 by Nicholas Brigham, Chaucer died in the year 1400, and, having attained to the ripe age of three score and ten, would justly be entitled to the epithets old
a • Also the citye of London, that is to me so dere and swete, in which I was forthgrowen; and more kindly (natural) love have I to that place than to any other in yerth (earth), as every kindly creture hath full appetite to that place of his kindely engendrure and to wilne reste and peace in that stede to abyde.' (Test of Love, Book I. $ 5.)
b See Morley's English Writers, vol. ii. p. 142.