Imatges de pàgina


nish the best commentary upon one of Chau- CHAP. cer's most voluminous productions, but also the fittest introduction to the history of those measures of ecclesiastical polity in which Chaucer himself was afterward concerned.







THE discourse, which, as has already been

mentioned, was imitated by Regnier, the sawomen in. tirist of the reign of Henry IV. of France, is into this considerably longer than that of False-semblant upon religious imposture. It is

supposed to be addressed, by an old woman whom Jealousy had appointed porter to one of the gates of her fortification, to Bel-accueil, or Kind-Welcoming, a personage whom, as being one of the abettors of the lover in his adventure, Jealousy had seized and shut

up in a strong tower.

The Old-Woman is prevailed upon by a detachment of the baronage of Love, consisting of Largesse and Courtesy,


to release the prisoner ; and previously to her chap. dismissing him from durance, she addresses to him the discourse in question. It is sufficiently remarkable that, though the instructions of the Old-Woman are addressed to a stripling, they are so constructed as to have relation almost exclusively to the use of her own sex: a sufficient proof either that this discourse is a translation only of some satire which was already in the possession of popular favour, or that the


had written it for a different occasion, and found it convenient to insert it in the

The discourse of the Old-Woman may be considered as almost a complete code of female libertinism : and it is not a little extraordinary, that the very age in which the system of modern gallantry was perfected, and in which men learned to regard the gentler sex with a distance and awe, that borrowed its language from the phrases of divine worship, should be distinguished for depravity and licentiousness of manners. The tales which Boccaccio, La Fontaine, Voltaire, and others, have consecrated and immortal

present work.


Plan of the satire.

CHA P. ised with all the graces of humour and style,

were the offspring of this period; and these tales are known not to be characterised by any feature more than by the salaciousness of their descriptions and the relaxation of their morals.

The discourse of the Old-Woman in the Romance of the Rose is precisely in the same taste, and stained with the same errors, as the tales of the twelfth and thirteenth cena turies. The idea upon which it is constructed is sufficiently ingenious. The Old-WOman had been in her time the


model of libertinism : but she is now infirm, and ugly, and

poor, and discontented; and is desirous of instilling principles into her juniors, which may cause them to take such revenge upon

the male sex for her misfortunes, as she is

past the opportunity of taking for herself. She had received in her youth an infinity of presents from men who loved her ; but instead of converting them into a fund to cheer her amidst the sufferings of old age, as she says she ought to have done, she had bestowed them as freely as she had received


them, upon a man who did not love her, but CHAP.
of whom she was infatuated. This favourite,
it seems,


vice that is incident to a profligate youth; ingratitude, and lechery, and gluttony, and gaming. He therefore dissipated the treasures of his mistress as fast as she supplied them.

Stung with the recollection of her misconduct in this respect, the principal lesson of her discourse, which she dwells upon with the greatest earnestness, and to which she returns at every interval, is rapaciousness. She advises her pupils to give no entertainment to the sentiment of love ; but, guarding their hearts at every avenue, to be boundless and incessant in their extortions. For this purpose she recommends that a woman should encourage many lovers at once, and lay her snares for all; just as a wolf who breaks into a sheep-fold, and is vour one sheep, flies at a thousand, and does not determine, till he has actually slaughtered his prey, which of the flock is destined to gorge the keenness of his appetite. The Old-Woman further proceeds to give rules

eager to de

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