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CH A U C E R.
MEMOIRS OF STRODE AND GOWER, THE CONFI.
DENTIAL FRIENDS OF CHAUCER.
IT has already been observed that Chaucer Chap.
to the acute observer no slight token of the integrity of the poet's mind. The persons whom Chaucer has thus thought fit to honour and commend in the face of his countrymen and posterity,
chap. have a just title to the notice of those who
would study his life : happy if we could collect such satisfactory information concerning them, as might tend in any considerable degree to throw light upon the character of the man by whom they were distinguished. Among the companions of Chaucer's youth these were selected by him as his chosen associates ; and it may well be supposed that an intimate knowledge of their tempers,
fortunes, studies and pursuits would tend greatly to elucidate his. The following are the most considerable particulars which are recorded concerning them.
Of Strode so little is known, that I am inclined not to suppress any part of it, but to put down all that is said of him by Leland, Bale and Pits. At the same time it is right to observe that these authors are entitled to a very limited credit in the details into which they enter, particularly the Protestant bishop, and the Romish priest. They are much more tenacious of the character of rhetorical de.claimers, than of industrious collectors or faithful historians. An apt example at once
of their inattention and positiveness occurs CHAP. under the article of Chaucer, where both Bale and Pits mention the duchess of Suffolk, wife to William de la Pole lord of Ewelm, whọ will hereafter appear to be the grand-daughter of Chaucer, by the appellation of Chaucer's sister. Yet these compilers, such as they are, are the only authorities we possess respecting the lives of the majority of the literary characters of ancient times in England.
Leland, having occasion to speak of Chau- by Lelandi cer's dedication of the poem of Troilus and Creseide, observes, “ Who this. Strode was I have not hitherto been able to discover in any author. But I remember to have read considerable commendations of one Strode, a student of Merton college in Oxford, a man
and who in the catalogue of the members of this college is referred to the last years of Edward III. All that
pears from the verses of Chaucer is that he had given considerable attention to the topics of philosophy .'
very learned in
* Leland, Scriptores Britannici, cap. dv.
С НА Р.
person thus doubtfully referred to by Leland under the article Chaucer, is honoured with a separate chapter in another part of his work. The contents of the chapter are these.
Ralph Strode was one of the most illustrious ornaments of Merton college. He attached himself with singular devotion to eloquence and the muses; by whom he was so beloved in return, as to be enriched by them with a copious supply of grace, elegance and wit. This man, gifted with so many endowments, presented the public with a composition in elegiac verse, written with great neatness, sweetness and power of versification, and called from its subject Phantasma; as appears from the catalogue of learned men educated at Merton college in Oxford b."
To these particulars Bale has added that “ he was pronounced by the sophists of Italy and France a most admirable dialectician.
• Leland, cap.ccccxxi. This catalogue is quoted by Wood, Antig. Oxon, Tom. II, Collegium Mertonense,
When young, he was smitten with an ardent CHAP. passion for eloquence and poetry, and cultivated the principles of these arts with such success, as to be deservedly entitled to the laurel. On his return from Italy, &co."
Pits is more confident and particular in his by Pits. language on the subject. He calls him “ a laureated poet of this island, member of Merton college, where he became acquainted with all the nicer and more delicate shades of the Latin speech, and eminently excelled in poetical composition. He afterward travelled through France and Italy, and lived in much familiarity and friendship with the most learned men of both countries. His manners were highly polished; his turn of mind was at once gay and acute ; and he possessed the talent of adorning the most familiar topics of conversation with poignant and agreeable sallies, in the exercise of which talent he willingly indulged d.” [This is definitive and
• Bale, Scriptorum Britanniæ Catalogus, Cent, vi, cap. 44.
Pits, De Illustribus Angliæ Scriptoribus, cap. 629.