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XVIII.

CHAP. as the province of inferior talents ; but that

on the contrary, the highest • geniuses and great masters of intellect regarded themselves as well and nobly employed in the task, and believed that the proper foundation for a superstructure of letters in any language, was to naturalise and make free of that language, the venerable fathers of letters in remote ages and distant countries.

CHAP. XIX.

CHAUCER ENTERS INTO THE SERVICE OF EDWARD

III.--MOTIVES OF HIS PREFERMENT. - RESIDES
NEAR THE PALACE AT WOODSTOCK.CHARAC.
TER OF THE ENGLISH COURT IN THE YEAR 1358.
-BATTLE OF POITIERS.

XIX.

1358.

HITHERTO Chaucer has appeared only CHAP. as a private individual, and the anecdotes of his life are scanty. We are left to reasoning and inference, as to the places of his education, and the functions to which he was destined. We are now to see him in a different light. From the thirtieth year of his age, if not sooner, to his death, he was a courtier, the counsellor of princes, employed in various negociations and embassies, and involved in the factions, contentions and intrigues of his time.

CHAP
XIX.

. Chaucer's promo. tion.

Those persons seem to have considered

the question very superficially, who have Causes of been willing to seek in some other principle

than in his literature, for the cause of the attention which Chaucer experienced in the family of his sovereign. He was employed in various negociations,

In like manner, Prior was a negociator, and Addison was a minister ; yet they were indebted for their political fortune to their literary perform

ances. Respect

But the times of Prior and Addison will genius and afford a very faint image of the attention in the carly with which literature was treated in the courts Europe.. of princes at the period we are considering.

In later ages literature has been so diffused as to lose its rareness; and it is well known that rareness is the great recommender of every object among the wealthy and luxuri-

A munificent prince in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, might open his hand, and become the patron of almost every scholar and man of genius throughout his dominions. Now talents are left to thrive as they can, and be the builders of

paid to

literature

ages af

ous.

their own fortune. This is in the order of CHA P.

XIX. nature; and there are many reasons why we

1358. ought not to regret it.

In the early times to which we have had Miscellanerepeated occasion to refer, princes often con-amples, sidered the superintendence of letters as one of the great functions of their office. We have seen Henry II. dictating to Wace and Benoit the subjects of their compositions. Richard I. is well known to have lived in perpetual intercourse with the poets of his time: Edward I. brought over to England by his patronage Raymond Lully', and Guido dalla Colonna the author of the original Troy Book. Alphonsus X, king of Castille, surnamed the Wise, was the author of several important astronomical discoveries ; and Robert king of Naples declared that, if he must part with his studies or his crown, he should not hesitate in withdrawing himself

ous ex

· Olaus Borrichius, Conspectus Scriptorum Chemicorum, cap. 24 ; apud Mangetus, Bibliotheca Chetnica.

• G. J. Vossius De Historicis Latinis, Lib. II, Cap. 1x. Mongitore, Bibliotheca Sicula, art.-Guido de Columpnis,

XIX.

1958,

of Petrarca

caccio.

CHAP. to private life. Even Richard II, weak, in

dolent and dissipated as he was, aped the spirit of the times, sent for Gower to his barge, and enjoined him to book some new thing. These are only a few of many ex

amples which might be cited. Examples But the spirit of patronage, and the distincand Buc- tions bestowed upon men of letters, gradually

increased, and never rose to a higher pitch
than in the time of Chaucer. Every page of
the history of Petrarca and Boccaccio, his
contemporaries, is an illustration of this truth.
They were both of plebeian birth, and Boc-
caccio the offspring of illicit love, a circum-
stance upon which it was the mode of those
times to lay the greatest stress. Yet, owing
to their literary accomplishments only, they
are among the most important personages in
the contemporary history of the Italian states.
Petrarca in particular was during life courted
by cardinals and
who did not love, affected to honour him;

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popes; those

among them

• De Sade, Tom. I, p. 446.

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