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fact, however, of an interview, so pleasing to the imagination, rests upon no certain evidence; nor are there even satisfactory proofs that he ever went on his Italian embassy.
His genius and connexions seem to have kept him in prosperity during the whole of Edward III.'s reign, and during the period of John of Gaunt's influence in the succeeding one. From Edward he had a grant of a pitcher of wine a day, in 1374, and was made comptroller of the small customs of wool and of the small customs of wine in the port of London. In the next year the king granted him the wardship of Sir Simon Staplegate's heir, for which he received £104. The following year he received some forfeited wool to the value of 71 4s. 6d, sums probably equal in effective value to twenty times their modern denomination. In the last year of Edward he was appointed joint envoy to France with Sir Guichard Dangle and Sir Richard Stan, or Sturrey, to treat of a marriage between Richard Prince of Wales and the daughter of the French king. His circumstances during this middle part of his life must have been honourable and opulent ; and they enabled him, as he tells us in his Testa
and jolly, while the poor Oxford scholar is lank and meager. If Chaucer really was corpulent, it was indeed giving but a shadow of himself to paint his figure as very lean: but why should be give himself a double existence, and describe both the jolly substance and the meager shadow?
ment of Love, to maintain a plentiful hospitality ; but the picture of his fortunes was sadly reversed by the decline of John of Gaunt's influence at the court of Richard II. but more immediately by the poet's connexion with an obnoxious political party in the city. This faction, whose resistance to an arbitrary court was dignified with the name of a rebellion, was headed by John of Northampton, or Comberton, who in religious tenets was connected with the followers of Wickliffe, and in political interests with the Duke of Lancaster; a connexion which accounts for Chaucer having been implicated in the business. His pension, it is true, was renewed under Richard ; and an additional allowance of twenty marks per annum was made to him, in lieu of his daily pitcher of wine. He was also continued in his office of comptroller, and allowed to execute it by deputy, at a time when there is every reason to believe that he must have been in exile. It is certain, however, that he was compelled to fly from the kingdom on account of his political connexions; and retired first to Hainault, then to France, and finally to Zealand. He returned to England, but was arrested and committed to prison. The coincidence of the time of his severest usage with that of the Duke of Gloucester's power, has led to a fair supposition that that usurper was personally a greater enemy to the poet than King Richard himself, whose disposition towards him
might have been softened by the good offices of Anne of Bohemia, a princess never mentioned by Chaucer but in terms of the warmest panegyric.
While he was abroad, his circumstances had been impoverished by his liberality to some of his fellow fugitives; and his effects at home had been cruelly embezzled by those entrusted with their management, who endeavoured, as he tells us, to make him perish for absolute want.
In 1388, while yet a prisoner, he was obliged to dispose of his two pensions, which were all the resources now left to him by his persecutors. As the price of his release from imprisonment, he was obliged to make a confession respecting the late conspiracy. It is not known what he revealed; certainly nothing to the prejudice of John of Gaunt, since that prince continued to be his friend.
To his acknowledged partizans, who had betrayed and tried to starve him during his banishment, he owed no fidelity. It is true, that extorted evidence is one of the last ransoms which a noble mind would wish to pay for liberty; but before we blame Chau. cer for making any confession, we should consider how fair and easy the lessons of uncapitulating fortitude may appear on the outside of a prison, and yet how hard it may be to read them by the light of a dungeon. As far as dates can be guessed at in 20 obscure a transaction, his liberation took place after Richard had shaken off the domineering party of Gloucester, and had begun to act for himself. Chaucer's political errors and he considered his share in the late conspiracy as errors of judgment, though not of intention-had been committed while Richard was a minor, and the acknowledgment of them might seem less humiliating when made to the monarch himself, than to an usurping faction ruling in his name. He was charged too, by his loyalty, to make certain disclosures important to the peace of the kingdom; and his duty as a subject, independent of personal considerations, might well be put in competition with ties to associates already broken by their treachery'.
While in prison, he began a prose work entitled The Testament of Love, in order to beguile the tedium of a confinement, which made every hour, he says, appear to him an hundred winters; and he seems to have published it to allay the obloquy attendant on his misfortunes, as an explanation of his past conduct. It is an allegory, in imitation of Boethius's Consolations of Philosophy; an universal favourite in the early literature of Europe. Never was an obscure affair conveyed in a more obscure apology; yet amidst the gloom of allegory and lamentation, the vanity of the poet sufficiently breaks out. It is the goddess of Love who visits him in his confinement, and accosts him as her own immor
1. For my trothe and my conscience,” he says in his Testament of Love,“ bene witnesse to me bothe, that this knowing sothe have I saide for troathe of my leigiaunce by which I was charged on my kinges behalfe.”
tal bard. He descants to her on his own misfortunes, on the politics of London, and on his devotion to the Lady Marguerite, or pearl, whom he found in a muscle shell, and who turns out at last to mean the spiritual comfort of the Church'.
In 1389 the Duke of Lancaster returned from Spain, and he had once more a steady protector. In that year he was appointed clerk of the works at Westminster, and in the following year clerk of those at Windsor, with a salary of £36 per annum. His resignation of those offices, which it does not appear he held for more than twenty months, brings us to the sixty-fourth year of his age, when he retired to the country, most probably to Woodstock, and there composed his immortal Canterbury Tales, amidst the scenes which had inspired his youthful genius.
In 1394 a pension of £20 a year was granted to him, and in the last year of Richard's reign he had à grant of a yearly tun of wine, we may suppose in lieu of the daily pitcher, which had been stopped during his misfortunes.
Tradition assigns to our poet a residence in his old age at Donnington Castle, near Newbury, in Berkshire; to which he must have moved in 1397,
1 Mr. Todd has given, in his Illustrations, some poems supposed to be written by Chaucer during his imprisonment; in which, in the sanie allegorical manner, under the praises of Spring, he appears to implore the assistance of Vere, Earl of Oxford, the principal favourite of Richard II.