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1370.

Consideration in which Chaucer was now held, il

CHAP. equal. But the verses of our elder poet have

no want of vigour and manliness ; and in almost every one of his productions we recognise the elasticity of his spirit, and the healthful temper

of his soul. If therefore he was a ten years suitor, we may be well assured that this circumstance was in him no indication of a whining and feeble temper, defective in discrimination, or nerveless and impotent to resolve.

The marriage of Chaucer may be regarded as one of the first demonstrative evidences

occurring in his history, of the important lustiated. light in which he was viewed by his con

temporaries. We might reasonably indeed presume this, from the known deference and honour with which poets of merit and genius were regarded in this early period of modern Europe. His pension however, granted in the year 1367, was not considerable ; and may be conceived as of nearly the same value as the pensions granted to poets in more recent examples, by princes who certainly had no desire to make them their associates and their equals, and in times which could

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XXIX.

engender the sentiment that it would be an chAP. enormous breach of decorum to inter a man

1370. distinguished only by his merit as a player [Garrick], among princes and statesmen, but that the honour has nothing in it to astonish us 'when we find that his tomb is only placed by the side of those of Shakespear and Milton".

The marriage of Chaucer fully ascertains the rank in which he was placed. His wife was the daughter of a knight, and a man filling what was in those days regarded as a very distinguished office. Her own situation about the queen was one which we now find reserved for ladies of honourable birth. Her sister was placed in a similar office about the person of the duchess Blanche ; and we may conclude, from the sequel of her history, as well as from the superintendence which was committed to her over the female offspring of this distinguished personage, that she was

r This sentiment is to be found in a volume entitled Lettres sur l'Angleterre, par M. Fiévée, 8vo, 1802.

XXIX.

CHAP. foremost in the possession of the confidence

of the duchess. We have seen, in examin1370.

ing the poem entitled Chaucer's Dream, in what terms he speaks of the attention and deference yielded to his wife by the duke and duchess of Lancaster. It was by this marriage, as will hereafter appear, that our poet became the progenitor of the earl of Lincoln, declared by Richard III. presumptive heir to the crown of England ; while the sister of Chaucer's wife was the ancestress of those who have now for more than three centuries been in actual possession of it.

CHAP. XXX.

LAST CAMPAIGN OF THE BLACK PRINCE.-CON-
DUCT OF THE DUKE OF LANCASTER.-CHAUCER
SENT UPON A SPECIAL MISSION.

c H A P. XXX. .

escheated by the chamber

the

peers of

France.

THE transactions of the campaign of 1370 began with a memorable proceeding, which,

1370. while it ought to have revolted the hearts of Aquitaine mankind against Charles V, tended, by a singular inconsistency characteristic of the human mind, essentially to serve his cause. His first open step in the prosecution of the war was, as we have seen, to summon the Black Prince to answer before him, as his lawful superior, the complaints and allegations of the malcontent lords of Aquitaine. This summons was received, as he expected, with indignation and contempt. A citation of this sort seemed calculated to lead to a solemn and open trial, or rather to the mockery

XXX.

CH AP. of a trial. Charles however was not of a

temper to wait the dilatory steps of a legal process. He saw his advantage for taking possession of the English provinces in the north of France in their unprovided condition; and, with that contempt of justice which marked all his proceedings, immediately seized it. He at the same time marched a considerable army against the frontiers of Aquitaine. But these military measures did not suspend the prosecution of the other part of his plan. He knew how to unite the cold and tedious formalities of justice with all the violence and rapacity of plunder. He brought the cause to a public hearing before the chamber of peers in Paris, and in the beginning of the year 1370 caused a sentence to be pronounced, declaring the Black Prince to have forfeited his rights in the duchy of Aquitaine, and confiscating all the English possessions in France to the use of the crown

1370.

* Duchesne, Histoire d'Angleterre ad ann. Henault Abrégé Chronologique, ad ann.

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