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tory; it was for many years the residence of his son Thomas Chaucer, who has probably been confounded with bis father.
One of the most curious documents in the bistory of Chaucer's declining years is the patent of protection granted him by the king in 1398. It has been supposed that it was a protection from his creditors, and that he must therefore have been in embarrassed circumstances; but Mr. Godwin justly argues that his creditors would hardly have been designated his competitors (æmulos suos), and that it does not appear why they should have excited quarrels and factions (querelas sive sectas ) against him. In this deed it is stated that the king bad ordained Chaucer to perform and expedite many arduous and urgent affairs of the crown, as well in the presence as the absence of the king, in various parts of the kingdom;' by which we may understand that he was again engaged in public affairs after seven years of retirement, and being now seventy years old. This circumstance may haye been one of the causes that the Canterbury Tales were left in an imperfect and unfinished state.
Within eighteen months of the date of this protection, Bolingbroke the son of John of Gaunt ascended the throne by the title of Henry IV. and however basely he abandoned many of his father's friends, he did not suffer the great poetical ornament of the age to be depressed by the revolution. This artful statesman perhaps desired the suffrage of the Muses in addition to the other means of supporting his authority. Chaucer had many motives to pay his court to the new monarch; he was the son of his great patron and benefactor, and therefore bad a kind of hereditary claim; but the poet had the prudence and the forbearance to preserve the most inviolable silence, * while Gower was one of the first to congratulate the new lord of the ascendant upon bis unexpected and ill gotten dignity; and thought he could never sufli-, ciently exercise his talent in encomiums upon this great event.' Chaucer had not only his former grants confirmed to him by Henry, but he also received an additional pension of forty marks per annum, and his son Thomas obtained a variety of distinctions, beside being appointed to the office of chief butler.
The poet did not long enjoy this accession to his fortune. He died on the 25th day of October, 1400, in London, to which city for some unknown cause he had recently removed: he was interred in Westminster Abbey, in the great south cross-aisle, probably under a stone with an inscription only; but in 1556, a century and a half after his death, a handsome monument was erected to his memory by Nicholas Brigham, a gentleman of Oxford, a warm admirer of his geniuer This monument, which is still in existence, stands at the north end of a recess formed by fout obtuse fofiated arches; it is a plain altar with three quatrefoils and the same number of shields.
Chaucer in bis treatise of the Astrolabe, written in 1391, mentions his little soy Lewis, for whose use it was composed; he appears to bave been at that time ten years of age. There seems to be little doubt that Sir Thomas Chaucer, before mentioned, who was Speaker of the House of Commons in the reign of Henry V. was his eldest son; but, as it has been already observed, there is much uncertainty in all that relates to the biography of the poet.
* Petrarca, Dante, and Chaucer (says Mr. Southey) are the only poets of the dark ages, whose celebrity has remained uninjured by the total change of manners in Europe. The fame of Chaucer has not indeed extended so widely as theirs, because English literature has never obtained the same European circulation as that of the easier languages of the south, and also because our language has undergone a greater alteration than the Italian. To attempt any comparison between these writers who have so little in common would be ridiculous; but it may be remarked that Chaucer displays a versatility of talents wbich neither of the others seems to have possessed; in which only Ariosto has approached, and only Shakspeare equaled him. Few, indeed, have been so eminently gifted with all the qualifications of a poet, essential or accidental. He was well versed in all the learning of his age, even of the abstrusest kind; he had an eye and an ear for all the sights and sounds of nature; humour to display human follies, and feeling to understand and to delineate passions. As a painter of manners he is accurate as Richardson; as a painter of character, true to the life as Hogarth. It is impossible that he can ever regain his popularity, because his language has become obsolete; but his fame will stand. The more he is examined the bigber be will rise in our estimation. Old poets, in general, are only valuable because they are old; on the contrary nothing prevents Chaucer from being universally ranked among the greatest poets of his country: far indeed below Shakspeare and Milton, perhaps below Spenser, for his mind was less pure, and his beauties are scattered over a wider and more unequal surface; but far above all others.'
The charge which has been brought against Chaucer, of baving alloyed the pure and native English of bis time by an extensive importation of French words and phrases, is without foundation, as may be seen by reference to the cotemporary writers, and those who preceded bim. In making this objection to the language of Chaucer, it was forgotten that until very recently the language of the court had been entirely French, and that it was even still frequently used. Chaucer, as a courtier, would of course follow the phraseology of the court, and it was therefore natural to expect a large admixture of Gallic idioms; but on comparing him with Gower or Lydgate it will be seen that he is not exclusive in their use. Indeed Mr. Ellis remarks that in the use of words of Latin derivation, most of which are common to the French and Italian languages, he very generally prefers the inflections of the latter,' and that he copies all the peculiarities of the Italian poetry. That Chaucer was familiar with the works of Dante Petrarca is very evident from many passages imitated and translated in his works. But he appears to have deeply studied the works of Boccaccio, whose genius had more affinity with his own. Frequent traces of the diligent use he made of the works of the great Florentine will present themselves to the attentive reader who shall look into the more celebrated works of Boccaccio: a late perusal of that delightful erotic romance the Fiametta has afforded me the clearest evidence that Boccaccio was his model; but to adduce the proofs would occupy more space than I can indulge myself with on the present occasion.
The Decamerone furnished him with the design of his Canterbury Tales; the Filostrato was the prototype of the long and beautiful poem of Troilus and Cresseide; and that delightful romantic fiction The Knigbtes Tale is a free translation of part of the Teseide. It is true that in his earlier works be was sometimes the translator or imitator of a French poet, as in the instance of the Romaunt of the Rose. But Ovid, Boethius, Statius, and other more obscure Latin writers also served bim as models, and were laid under contribution to furnish out his storehouse of fiction and poetic phraseology.
It is with justice that Chaucer has been called the Father of English Poetry, for he was not only the first of our versifiers who wrote poetically,' but in some degree the inventor of our versification. The most popular of our measures, the heroic ten syllable verse, which he first adopted, acquired in his hands
such perfection that there are passages, both in The Knightes Tale and the Flower and the Leaf, which are as harmonious and show as fine a sense of musical rythm as could be displayed by the most perfect of our more recent poets. Indeed the greatest master of the art, Dryden, in his rifaccimento of the Palamon and Arcite has sometimes fallen below his original. The judicious reader need not be reminded of the disadvantage under which Chaucer lies from our imperfect acquaintance with the mode of accentuation used in his day; yet the following passages are superior in spirit and delicacy, more various and musical than Dryden's imitation of them.
• Thus passeth year by year and day by day
This maketh Emily have remembrance
That all the orient laugheth of the sight;