« 上一頁繼續 »
is to be
The place of his birth is as much disputed, but however may be determined with greater appear to of this name mentioned in our records. In the reign of King John there was one le Chaufiri as appears by the records in The Tower; and, in the reign of Henry, IIIone Eljas Chaucefir, who in the reign following, viz, Edward I. had a grant of ten Ntillings from the 'Treafury, there was'also one John Chaucer, of whom King Edward I heard a complaint for a thousand pounds: but all this gives us no kind of certainty in respect to our Author's family at all. Lelani contents himself with hinting that he was of a genteel extraction, nobili loco natus, are liis words; and it is said that he is faithfully copied by Balecz but this
first he calls him Sir Geoffrey Chaucer Knight, and says Bothing ofliis family at all, afterwards he met with Leland's book and abridged luis account of him. Jolio Pitts is very clear that he was of an exceeding good family, and not only a knight himself but his father a knight before him but his authority goes for little, mure especially with those that know him beft. Mr. Speght is of opinion that one Richard Chaucer was his father, who was a vintner at the corner of Kirton-Lane, and dying in 1348 left his house, tavern, and Atock, to the church of St. Mary aldermaty, where he was buried. This palied curTently with Fuller, and perhaps the better because it furnithed him with a very filly jest ; " His father,” says he, " was a vint“ ner in London, and I have heard his arms quarrelled at being f' argent and gules,Itrangely contrived and hard to be blazoned: “ fome more wits have made it the dathing of white and red “ wine (the parents of our ordinary claret) as nicking his fa“ ther's proteffion.” Againft this opinion, however, their lie two exceptions that folider heads than his liave not been able to get over; the first is that there was fomething very unnatural in this vintner's leaving all his estate to the church while bis fon was at the university; and the second that Chaucer should never complain of this, or, for any thing that we can discover, feel the effects of it, since it is evident enough that in his youth he lived at a rate that could not have been supported without
1ACC of truth, for though Bale says he was a Berkshire man, and Pitts would entitle Oxfordshire to his birth, yet if we may rely upon what he tells us himself (Telt. of Love) it is much more likely that he dhew his first breath in the city of London; and that he had 2 great intereft amongst its inhabitants is a thing as certain as that it drew upon him many misfortunes,
a fortune. The induftrious Mr. Hearne thinks it probable his father was a merchant of London ; but the laft writer of his life thinking that father not good enough for him hath found him out a better, one Sir John Chaucer, for which he has no other evidence than that such a man lived at a time when our poet might possibly have been his son. I must confess I think he was of a good family, and that for various reasons, which because I do not know they have been taken notice of before I will mention as briefly as I can. Firft then, his education speaks him a gentleman bred at both the Universities, travelled through several countries, and at låff a student in the Temple, where it is reported that he was fined two thillings for bearing a friar in Fleetftreet. Next, his poft at court thews him to have been a gentleman, for birth was much ftood upon in those days, and young men of the best quality were the King's pages. Thirdly, this is confirmed by his marriage, which so proud a man as John of Gaunt would not have admitted if he had been of a mean descent, much less have recommended him to his wife, and thereby made him the uncle-in-law of his own children. Fourthly, his writings Thew him a gentleman, for they are all written with such freedom and spirit as muft have expored him to great cnvy if he had not been a gentleman, and which he would probably have appeased by some reasonable apology. Lastly, the company he kept, and the respe&t that was constantly paid him, seem the cleareft teftimonies of this, which with the reft I submit to the decision of the intelligent reader.
notwithstanding which his having that interest seems to be a corroborating proof ofhisbeing a citizen's son*,
* Of bis heing a citizen's for. ] It seems to have been a doubt with Leland whether Oxfordihire or Berkthire produced this great man, but he thought he had reason to think that he wa's born in one of those counties. It Berkinire was to be preferred, then Dunnington would bid thefàirett for it,which was certainly Chaucer's seat; but then it seems to be no tels certain that hiç purchased it from Sir Richard Adderbury. Pitts affirins roundly that he was born at Woodítock, and Camden, speaking of that place, says, that having nothing in it eise remarkable it boasts of liaving produced our English Homer,Geoffrey Chaucer : but he was too knowing a man to credit this; he knew the reason of it to be that Chaucer had a house there, and Ewelm and Hocknorton in the same county were also belonging to his family, and might therefore with as much justice as Woodstock put in a claim to his birth. But Chaucer himselffeems to have determined the point as clearly as man could do, for speaking of the troubles that had happened in this place he says, “The “ city of London, that is to me so dear and sweet, in which I " was forth-grown; and more kindly love have I to that place “ than any other on earth, as every kindly creature liath full
appetite to that place of his kindly engendruer,” Gr. and therefore Camden very julfly takes occalion, speaking of anijther poet, to affirm that London was our Author's birthplace: “ Edınund Spenser,” says hç, " a Londoner, was só smiled
un by tłe Muses at his birth tbat he excelled all the English “poets that went before him, it we except only lus fellow.ci"tizen Chaucer.” It may seem a little difficult to reconcile what is said in this note to what has been advanced in the former, and yet it may be done tolerably well, for thougli we now confider a citizen of London as a trader of course, yet in tive times when Chauçer lived men of great quality and dininction sefided in the city, where the couit was also kept, and therefóre'lie might very well be in this sense the fon of an inliabitant of London, and still liis father might not be eithier mér. chant or vintner, but in some poft about the court; and this in
The time of his birth is pretty well fixed, for most of the writers who mention it agree that it was in the second year of Edward III. A. D. 1328.
Here again we fall into the dark, for as to his earlier years we know not where or how they were fpent; but as soon as he was fit for academical studies he was fent to Cambridge, where he gave early testimonies of his abilities by several elegies and Tonnets, as well as by a poem called The Court of Love, which he composed when he was about eighteen, and which carries in it very pregnant proofs of skill and learning, as well as quickness of wit and great strength of geniast. It is
fo dark a mattet, and which has employed so many learned pens, without letting in much light upon it, seems the most probable account of the matter : for in that discourse in which he speaks of London as his birthplace he very clearly confeffes that lie had been but too deeply engaged in the popular difurbances that happened there, through his attachment to his patron the Duke of Lancaster, which thows the intereft he had among the people; and yet he affirms that in what he did he had no evil intention, much less meant to throw all things into confusion; and offers it as a reason why he should be believed in declaring this, that he was a native of London, and loved it better than any place upon carth, as every creature naturally does the place from which it'spritigs. After clearing up there points as far as possible we thall be more brief in our temarks upon other points of this history, though a large and full life of Chaucer seeins to be a work ftill wanting to the learned world after all the pains that has been hitherto taken about it.
And great strength of genius. ] The moft certain accounts we have of Chaucer are those taken from his own writings, in which there are a great variety of circumftances that occur not
not by any means certain in what college or hall of that university he studied, but it is conjectured, and in any of the ancient relations of his life, insomuch that it is very doubtful whether we should ever have heard any thing of his being a student at Cambridge if he had not left us that particular himself. In like manner it might have been presumed, but it could hardly have been proved, that his Court of Love was not his first performance, or at least his first performance that made any great figure. But from the perusal of this poem we learn from himself that he had written many things before in honour of the deity of Love. Indeed the poem itself speaks it probable, for though we have a very high idea of the natu-, fal genius of Chaucer, yet it would be impossible to perfuade any judge of poetry that this was his first essay, for not only the tru&ure of the poem manifests an extraordinary skill in that, kind of writing, but the harmony of his numbers, even at this distance of time, sufficiently thew that they could not fall from the pen of an unpractised poet. It is generally believed, upon the credit I apprehend of the rubrick placed at the head of this performance, that it was written in imitation of The Romant of the Rose; but I muft confess I am not very well satisfed of that, and thould rather be of opinion that our Author composed it after the manner of those Italian poems that were then so generally esteemed, and for which the famous Francis Petrarch had been crowned soine years before with great so. lemnicy at Rome. The honours which that celebrated poet acquired, and which he had never acquired but in an age of the greatest gallantry, excited all who had any turn that way to emulate his performances. We may very plainly perceive in this work of Chaucer's that he meant to make his entrance by it into the region of Parnassus, and þoldly resolved, on the strength of his own judgment as well as of his genius, to declare himself a poet, and put himself that way into the road to fame. If this had not been his intention he would have scarce written The Court of Love,-the ground of which poem is to thew, that it was a tribunal to which every man owed obe dience, which sconer or later he was obliged to pay. As for