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During the years 1368 and 1369, Chaucer was in London, and received his pension in person.
In 1369 (Aug. 15) the death of Queen Philippa took place, and in less than a month later, Blanche, the wife of John of Gaunt, died, at the age of twenty-nine. Chaucer did honour to the memory of his patron's wife in a funeral poem entitled “The Deth of Blaunche the Duchesse h! And in this poem he tells us, though sadly, that his own hopeless eight years' love is cured, what will not be, must needs be left;'or, as he says in Troilus,
Criseyde loveth the sone of Tydeus,
(Bk. V. st. ccli. 11. 1760–4.) Chaucer's lines in the Blaunche (35-42) about his hopeless love, which are referred to above, are in answer to the question why he cannot sleep at night.
“Trewely, as I gesse,
That wil not be, moot nede be left.' It was no good crying for the moon; and although the early shadow of disappointed love was still thrown over Chaucer's life, and made him tell of Troilus' sorrow, and sing the Complaint of Mars for his lost Venus, yet our poet was henceforth to work himself out into the freshness and brightness that still draw men to him as to spring sunshine.
And goodë fairë whyte she heet (was called),
(Deth of Blaunche the Duchesse, 11. 948-951.) 1 =allow, grant.
In the course of the next ten years (1370-1380) the poet was attached to the court, and employed in no less than seven diplomatic services. In 1370 he was abroad in the king's service, and received letters of protection, to be in force from June till Michaelmas. Two years after this (Nov. 12, 1372) Chaucer was joined in a commission with two citizens of Genoa to treat with the doge, citizens, and merchants of Genoa, for the choice of an English port where the Genoese might form a commercial establishment. He appears to have left England before the end of the year, having on the 1st of December received the sum of 661. 135.4d. in aid of his expenses. He remained in Italy nearly twelve months, and went on the king's service to Florence as well as to Genoa. His return to England must have taken place before the 22nd of Nov. 1373, as on this day he received his pension in person k.
This was Chaucer's first important mission. It was no doubt skilfully executed, and gave entire satisfaction to the king, who on the 23rd of April, 1374, on the celebration of the feast of St. George, at Windsor, made him a grant of a pitcher of wine daily, to be received in the Port of London from the hands of the king's butler! On the roth of May the Corporation of London granted Chaucer a lease for his life of the dwelling-house above the gate of Aldgate, with the rooms built over, and a certain cellar beneath, on condition that he kept these buildings in good
In this embassy Chaucer is supposed to have made acquaintanceship with Petrarch, who was at Arqua, two miles from Padua, in 1373, from January till September, and to have learned from him the tale of the patient Griselda. But it is not certain that the old biographers of Chaucer are to be trusted in this matter. If the date of the later editions of Petrarch's version can be trusted (there is no date in Ulrich Tell's first edition), Petrarch did not translate this tale from Boccaccio's Decameron into Latin until the end of Sept. 1373, after Chaucer's return [but some copies give the date June 8, 1373]. And though it is the Clerk of Oxenford, and not Chaucer, that asserts that he learned the tale of a worthy clerk'at Padua, 'Fraunces Petrarch, the laureate poete,' yet there can be no question that Chaucer's Clerk's Tale is an enlarged and adorned translation of Pe. trarch's Latin version of Boccaccio's Italian story.
| This was commuted in 1378 for a yearly payment of 20 marks.
repair. About four weeks later, on the 8th of June, he was appointed Comptroller of the Customs and Subsidy of Wools, Skins, and Leather, in the Port of London m, and on the 13th of the same month he received a pension of iol. for life from the Duke of Lancaster for the good service rendered by him and his wife Philippa to the said Duke, to his Consort, and to his mother the Queen. This is the first mention of Philippa Chaucer as Geoffrey's wife, though a Philippa Chaucer is named as one of the Ladies of the Chamber to Queen Philippa on Sept. 12, 1366, and subsequently. It is possible that Philippa Chaucer was a relative or namesake of Geoffrey, and that he married her in the spring or early summer of 1374; if not, he must have married her before Sept. 12, 1366.
Chaucer's Italian journey, and his study of Italian literature in consequence of it, exercised a marked influence on his writings, and opened the second period of his development, in which his Lyf of Seynt Cecile, Parlement of Foules, Compleynt of Mars, Anelida and Arcite, Boece, Former Age, Troilus, and House of Fame, were probably composed.
In 1375 Chaucer's income was augmented by receiving from the crown (Nov. 8) the custody of the lands and person of Edmond Staplegate of Kent, which he retained for three years, during which time he received as wardship and marriage fee the sum of 1041.; and (on Dec. 28) the custody of five "solidates' of rent in Soles in Kent. Toward the end of 1376 Sir John Burley and Chaucer were employed in some secret service, the nature of which is not known. On the 23rd of the same month the poet received 61. 135. 4d., and Burley twice that sum, for the work upon which they had been employed.
In February 1377, the last year of Edward's reign, the poet was associated with Sir Thomas Percy (afterward Earl of Worcester)
m In July 1376, Chaucer, as Comptroller of Wool Customs, received from the king the sum of 711.45.6d., being the fine paid by John Kent of London for shipping wool to Dordrecht without having paid the duty thereon.
• A solidate of land was as much land (probably an acre) as was worth a shilling.
in a secret mission to Flanders', and was shortly afterwards (April) probably joined with Sir Guichard d'Angle (afterwards Earl of Huntingdon) and Sir Richard Sturry to treat of peace with Charles V, King of France P. In 1377 Richard II succeeded to the throne, and Chaucer appears to have been reappointed one of the king's esquires. In January, 1378, he was probably sent with the Earl of Huntingdon to France to treat for a marriage of Richard with the daughter of the king of France. On his return he was employed in a new mission to Lombardy, along with Sir Edward Berkeley, to treat with Bernard Visconti, Lord of Milan (whose death Chaucer afterwards brought into his Monk's Tale) and Sir John Hawkwood, 'on certain affairs touching the expediting the king's war 9.' When Chaucer set out on this embassy he appointed Gower as one of his trustees to appear for him in the courts in case of any legal proceedings being instituted against him during his absencer.
By deed of May 1, 1380, Cecilia Chaumpayne released Chaucer from his raptus of her. On the 8th of May, 1382, he was made Comptroller of the Petty Customs, retaining at the same time his office of Comptroller of the Wool Customs. These emoluments he continued to hold till Dec. 1, 1386, and in Feb. 1385 was allowed the privilege of nominating a deputy, so that he had perhaps now, or perhaps soon after the loss of his office, leisure to devote himself to his great work, the Canterbury Tales, which, though never completed, was written at different times of his life, from 1373 to
• Chaucer received for this service rol. on Feb. 17, and 20l. on April 11.
p Chaucer received 261. 135. 4d. on April 30, as part payment for this service, and in 1381 (March) he was paid an additional sum of 22l.
4 Chaucer was absent on this service from May 28 to Sept. 19, but was not paid till 1380, when he received 561. 135. 4d.
* This circumstance proves the existence of an intimate friendship between the two poets. Chaucer dedicated his Troilus and Criseyde to Gower; and the latter poet, in the Confessio Amantis (Book viii.), makes Venus speak of Chaucer as follows:
"And grete wel Chaucer, whan ye mete,
1400, and prefaced by a Prologue, written on or about a journey in 1388. To this, the third period of his poetical life, also belong The Legende of Good Women (written about 1385), and Truth. (The 'Moder of God’ formerly attributed to him is Hoccleve’s.)
In 1386 Chaucer was elected a knight of the shire for Kent, in the Parliament held at Westminster. John of Gaunt was abroad at this time; and the Duke of Gloucester, at the head of the government, was most likely not well disposed towards the protégé of his brother, with whom he was now 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 appointed his place The loss of his emoluments reduced the poet from affluence to poverty—his beautiful 'balade of Truth' ('Flee fro the prees ') probably speaks his own feelings in this time of his distress-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 1387: yet in 1388 he made his merry Canterbury pilgrimage. Richard, in 1389, 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
Of dytees and of songes glade,
So that my court it may recorde.' • 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.