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By Derek Brewer

Geoffrey Chaucer died on 25 October 1400. To mark the six-hundredth anniversary of his dying Derek Brewer's vintage ebook is once more to be had in a completely illustrated model: over 100 modern color and black and white illustrations, from the homely to the subtle - from kid's video games and cooking to falconry and music-making - carry the past due heart a while to lifestyles. Chaucer's English international - that of the second one 1/2 the fourteenth century - is wealthy in curiosity of each sort, and Chaucer was once a uniquely perceptive recorder of it. The tensions among culture and innovation ended in critical, occasionally violent, clashes; age-old customs have been contested by means of the hot individualism one of the expert, by way of passionate non secular dissent in low and high, and through peasants in insurrection. London, stuck up within the highbrow ferment, grew to become an fiscal and cultural strength to rival the nice Continental towns, but remained heavily associated with the royal courtroom and the church, strongholds of culture. The English language got here to its first complete flowering because the Norman conquest, and lots of overseas impacts have been absorbed; one of the turmoil, the humanities flourished. Chaucer stood on the subject of the centre of this international. He used to be one of many new literate laymen, a made of the merchant-gentry, from early adolescence a courtier, in brief a soldier, all through his lifestyles an administrator, diplomat, pupil. He used to be additionally a really nice poet: drawing freely from his paintings, Derek Brewer's biography provides a whole and rounded photo of yet interesting age. DEREK BREWERhas written many books and articles on Chaucer and medieval and later English literature. he's professor of English literature emeritus within the college of Cambridge, and used to be grasp of Emmanuel university from 1977-90.

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The reason why he was called ‘le Chaucer’ does not appear. fm Page 30 Monday, August 21, 2000 11:25 AM 30 THE WORLD OF CHAUCER A fourteenth century leather shoe which may be seen in the Museum of London person has moved from his place of origin (like Andrew de Dinnington or Robert of Ipswich); and trade names, like Brewer or, probably, Chaucer, which show your occupation and that you are neither gentry nor a common labourer. Chaucer seems to be the French name for shoemaker. Robert le Chaucer, if a shoemaker (which was quite a distinguished craft) must also have run a number of lines of other business, like many a successful fourteenth-century merchant, among which that derived from his father the taverner, improved to vintner, was probably the most profitable and with the most social prestige.

On the other hand, the romances in English of the fourteenth century are notably decent, and the brutally shocking, often perverted, sexuality of modern literature was certainly never attempted. fm Page 47 Monday, August 21, 2000 11:26 AM A FOURTEENTH-CENTURY CHILDHOOD fourteenth century it seems rather to have been ‘good clean dirt’. It is quite likely that Geoffrey’s father had a book or two, miscellanies of religious instruction, romances, medical remedies, etc. There is a famous manuscript in the National Library of Scotland called the Auchinleck Manuscript which was written somewhere in London about 1340–5 and which has been thought by some scholars to have been known to Chaucer himself.

He was aware of their glamour, especially of chivalric ceremonial, yet could not help noticing the individual jealousies and reluctances under the surface of ritual social unity. He was moved more by the newer rather sentimental piety of the age which found its chief expression, for him, in the worship of the Virgin Mary, which I imagine reflected a domestic tenderness in his own life, and the new urban development of bourgeois family affectionateness, which was still not common in those harsh times.

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