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cer himfelf is included in that number; they might therefore, according to that pallage, be thirty; but it we reckon the several characters as they are enuinerated in the Prologue we uil find them one-and-thirty; I. a Knight, 2. a Squiur, 3. a Yema, 4. a Prioresle, 5. another Nonne, 6,7,8. three Preeftes, 9. a Monk, 10. a Frere, Il. a Marchant, 12. a Clerk of Oxens forde, 13. à Sergeant of the Lawe, 14. a Frankelein, 15. an Haberdasher, 16. a Carpenter, 17. a Webhe, 18. a Deyer, 19. a 'Tapifer, 20. a Coke, 21. a Shipntan, 22. a Dodour of Physike, 23. a Wif of Bathe, 24. a Perfore, 25. a Plowman, 26. a Reve, 27. a Miller, 28. a Sompnour, 29. a Pardoner, 30. a Manciple, 31. Chaucer hintelf. It muit be observed however that in this list there is one very fufpicious article, which is that of the ihree Preepies. As it appears evidently to have been the design of Chaucer to compose his company of individuals of different ranks, in order to produce a greater variety of distinct characters, we can liardly conceive that he would, in this single inItance, introduce three of the lame profession with: out any discriminating circumstances whatever; and in fact when the Nonne's Preelt is called upon to tell his Tale, (ver. 14°14,) he is accosted by the Host in a manner which will not permit us to suppose that two others of the fame denomination were prefent. This must be allowed to be a strong objection to the genuineness of that article of the three Preeftes; but it is not the only one. All the other characters are particularly defcribed, and most of them very much at large, whereas the whole that is said of the other Nonne and the three Preefies is contained in these two lines (ver.163, 4,) at the end of the Prioreffe's charac
Another Nonnc also with hire had the,
Where it is also observable that the single circumstance of description is false, for no nonne could be a chaplain. The chief duty of a chaplain was to say mass and to hear confession, neither of which offices could regularly be performed by a nonne or by any woman (7.)
It should seem, therefore, that we have fufficient ground to reject these two lines, or at least the second, as an interpolation (8,) by which means we fhall get
(7) It appears that some abhesies did at one time attempt to hear the confe lions of their nuns, and to exercise fome otlier smaller parts of the clerical funaion, but this practice, I apprehend, was foon ftopped by Gregory IX. wlio las forbidden it in the firongett terms, Decretal. I. v. tit. 38, c. X.;“Novaquæ“ dam noftris funt auribus intiinata, quod Abbatiffæ moniales * proprias benedicunt; ipfaruin quoruz conjetiones in crimni" bus audieunt, et legentes Evangeliun præsumunt publice “ prædicare: cum igitur id ablonum lit et pariter abfurdum, " Mandainus quatenus neil de cætero fat cunctis firmiter in. "hibere.” If there prefumptuous abbelles tad ventured to say mafs his Holiness wouid doubticis have thundered still louder Againit them.
(8) My notion (I cannot call it opinion) of the matter is this, that the tirk of these lines did really begin the character of alle Nonne, which Chaucer haci originally inierter in this place, togetherwith that of the Nonne's Preet, at as great length as the other characters, but thcy were bich afterwards expunged ether by him felf, or (anore proisaiviy) by those who published his work after his death, for rcafons of neariy the famekind with trofe which occafioned the fuppression of the latter part of the Coke's Tale. 1 fufpect our band had been rather too gay in his defcription of these two religious persons. See a little concerns ing the Preelt, ver. 15453--65.----If it thouid ve thought improbable that an interpolator would insert any thing to absurd and contradictory to the Author's plan as the second iine, I hey leave to fuggeit that.it is still inore improbable that such a line should have come frem thic Authcr himself; and further, Volume I.
rid of two of the Preeltes, and the dctail of the chafacters will agree with the grois number in ver. 24, Chaucer himielf being included among the nine-andt wenig. As novelists generally delight in even numbers it is not improbabic that the Hoft was intended to be tlie thirtieth : though not under the fame obligation with the other pilgims, he might nevertheless tell his Tale among them as a volunteer.
$ 7. This leads me, in the third place, to examine what the agreement was which the pilgrims entered into at the fuggeftion of the Hof with respect to the number of Tales that each person was to tell. The propofal of the Hoft stands thus, with very little variation, in all the mfl.; This is the point--[says he, ver. 792-5,]
That echie of you, to thorten with youre way
And homcivard he tha! tellen other two. From this pairage we liould certainly conclude that each of them was to tell trvo Tales in the journey to Canterbury, and two more in the journey homeward; but all the other passages in which mention is made of this agreement would rather lead us to believe that they were to teil only one Tale in each journey, and the Prologue to The Parfon’s Tale ftrorisly confirms this laitir fuppofition. The Host says there, (ver, 17317,]
Now lacketh us no Tales mo than onand calling upon the Parfon to tell this one 'Talę which was wanting, he says to him, [ver. 17325,] I think I can promise, in the courie of the following Work, to point out severai other undoubted interpolations, which are in thic full as absurd as the subject of our present discullion,
ne breke thou not our play,
For every man, lave thou, hath told his Tale. The Parson therefore had not toid any 'Tale before, and only one Tale was expected from him (and confequently from each of the others) upon that journey.
It is true that a very night alteration of the passage first cited would reconcile that too to this hypotheiis; if it were written
That ecle of you, to forten with youre way
And homeward he hal tell autother to the original proposition of the Hoft would perfeélly agree with what appears to have been the fubfequent practice. Howerer, i cannot venture to propose such an alteration of the text in opposition to fo maly mr.fl. some of theme of the bet note; and therefore the reader, is he is to pleated, may consider this as one of those inconsistencies hinted at above wirich prove too plainly that the Author had not finished his work.
$ 8. The remainder of the Prologue is employed in describing the characters of the pilgrims and their first setting out upon their journey. The little that it may be necessary to say in illuftration of fome of the characters I Mall reserve for the Notes. The ciicuinlances of theis feiting out are related ficcinctly and naturally; anal the contrivance of appointing the Knight by lot to teli the url Tale is a happy onc, as it affords the Anthor the opportunity of giving his Work a splendid opening, and at the tume umc does not infringe that apparent equility upon whici, the freedom of discourse, and coniec uent thu cafe and good humour of every fociety, lo entirely depen is. The general fatisfaction which this appointinunt is
faid to give to the company puts us in mind of a similar gratification to the secret wishes of the Grecian army when the lot of fighting with Hector fails to Ajax, though there is not the least probability that Chaucer had ever read the Iliad even in a translation.
$ 9. The Knighte's Tale, or at least a poem upon the fame subject, was originally composed by Chaucer as a separate work : as such it is mentioned by him, ancong some of his other works, in 'The Legende of Gode Wornea, (ver. 420, 1,] under the title of- AL the Love of Palamon end Arcite of Tbebes,tbougb the Storie is knowen lite--and the last words seem to imply that it had not made itself very popular. It is not impose fible that attrit it was a mere tranilation of TheThefeida of Boccace, and that its present form was given to it when Chaucer determined to align it the first place among his Canterbury 'Fales. AsThe'Theseida, upon which this Tale is entirely founded, is very rarely to be met with 69,) it may not be unpleasing to the
(9) The letter which Boccace sent to the Fiammetta with this poem is dated di Napoli a 15 d'Aprile 1341. [Lettere di xiii. Uomini Illuft. Ven. 1564.) I believe that date is a true one, and it is remarkable as being the very year and month in which Petrarch received the laurel at Rome. The long friendthip which fubfifted between these two extraordinary men muft probably have commenced in the preceding winter, when Petrarch came to Naples in order to be examined by King Robert, previously to his going to Rome. Boccace seems to have been present at some of the conversations between him and the king, [Geneal. Deor. 1. xiv. c. xxii.)--The firit edition of the Thefeida, according to Quadrio, [t. vi. p.462,] was without date, and under the mistaken title of Amazonide, which might liave been proper enough for the first book; it was soon after however reprinted, with its true title, at Ferrara in 1475, fol. Dr. Askew was so obliging as to lend me the only copy of this edit.