BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting


The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian


Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde


Chaucer and his England

by George Gordon Coulton

Excerpt:

From Strutts "Sports and Pastimes"

PLANS OF MEDIEVAL DWELLINGS 97

MEDIEVAL MUMMERS IIO

From Strutts "Sports and Pastimes"

PILGRIMS IN BED AT INN 139

From T. Wrights " Homes of other Days"

THE SQUIRE OF THE "CANTERBURY TALES" . . . . I46

From the Ellesmere MS. (15/* century)

THE MILLER . 150

From the Ellesmere MS.

THE WIFE OF BATH 162

From the Ellesmere MS.

THE FRIAR 165

From the Ellesmere MS.

PEACOCK FEAST OF LVNN 177

From Stothards Facsimile of the Original Brass

A KNIGHT AND HIS LADY 203

From Boutelfs " Monumental Brasses"

A BEVY OF LADIES 220

From T. Wrights " Womankind in Western Europe"

LIST OF PLATES

The Hoccleve Portrait OF Chaucer . . . Frontispiece

From the Painting in " The Regement of Princes"

FACING FACE

LONDON BRIDGE, ETC., IN THE l6TH CENTURY . . . . 15

From Vertue,s Engraving ofAggas,s Map

WESTMINSTER HALL 32

From a Photograph by J. Valentine & Sons

A TRAVELLING CARRIAGE 35

From the Louterell Psalter

WESTMINSTER ABBEY AND PALACE IN THE 16TH CENTURY . 71

From Vertue,s Engraving ofAggas,s Map

WESTMINSTER ABBEY 73

From a Photograph by S. B. Solas &" Co.

THE TOWER, WITH LONDON BRIDGE IN THE BACKGROUND. . 82

From MS. Roy. 16 F. ii. f. 73

A TOOTH-DRAWER OF THE I4TH CENTURY 92

From MS. Roy. VI. E. 6,/ 5036

ALDGATE AND ITS SURROUNDINGS, AS RECONSTITUTED IN

W. NEWTON'S "LONDON IN THE OLDEN TIME* . . . IOI

A PARTY OF PILGRIMS 148

From MS. Roy. 18 D. ii./. 148

CANTERBURY 170

From W. Smith,s Drawing of 1588. (Sloane MS. 2596)

EDWARD III 173

From his Tomb in Westminster Abbey

PHILIPPA OF HAINAULT l8l

From her Tomb in Westminster Abbey

SIR GEOFFREY LOUTERELL, WITH HIS WIFE AND DAUGHTER . 194 From the Louterell Psalter (Early 14th Century)

SEAL OF UPPINGHAM SCHOOL 2l6

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN A I4TH CENTURY CLASSROOM . . 2l6

From MS. Roy. VI. E. 6, f. 214

WILLIAM OF HATFIELD, SON OF EDWARD III. AND PHILIPPA . 224 From his Tomb in York Minster (1336)

BODIAM CASTLE, KENT 245

THE PLOUGHMAN 268

From the Louterell Psalttr (Early 14th Century)

THE CLERGY-HOUSE AT ALFRISTON, SUSSEX, BEFORE ITS RECENT

RESTORATION 298

WESTMINSTER ABBEY—VIEW FROM NEAR CHAUCER'S TOMB . 313

From a Photograph by S. B. Bolas if Co.

CHAUCER AND HIS ENGLAND

CHAPTER I
ENGLAND IN EMBRYO

"O born in days when wits were fresh and clear,
And life ran gaily as the sparkling Thames!"

FEW men could lay better claim than Chaucer to this happy accident of birth with which Matthew Arnold endows his Scholar Gipsy, if we refrain from pressing too literally the poet's fancy of a Golden Age. Chaucer's times seemed sordid enough to many good and great men who lived in them; but few ages of the world have been better suited to nourish such a genius, or can afford a more delightful travelling-ground for us of the 20th century. There is indeed a glory over the distant past which is (in spite of the paradox) scarcely less real for being to a great extent imaginary; scarcely less true because it owes so much to the beholder's eye. It is like the subtle charm we feel every time we set foot afresh on a foreign shore. It is just because we should never dream of choosing France or Germany for our home that we love them so much for our holidays; it is just because we are so deeply rooted in our own age that we find so much pleasure and profit in the past, where we may build for ourselves a new heaven and a new earth out of the wreck of a vanished world. The very things which would oppress us out of all proportion as present-day realities dwindle to even less than their real significance in the long perspective of history. All the oppressions that were then done under the sun, and the tears of such as were oppressed, show very small in the sum-total of things; the ancient tale of wrong has little meaning to us who repose so far above it all; the real landmarks are the great men who for a moment moulded the world to their own will, or those still greater who kept themselves altogether unspotted from it. Human nature gives the lie direct to Mark Antony's bitter rhetoric: it is rather the good that lives after a man, and the evil that is oft interred with his bones. The balance may not be very heavy, but it is on the right side; man's insatiable curiosity about his fellow-men is as natural as his appetite for food, which may on the whole be trusted to refuse the evil and choose the good; and, in both cases, his taste is, within obvious limits, a true guide. It is a healthy instinct which prompts us to dwell on the beauties of an ancient timber-built house, or on the gorgeous pageantry of the Middle Ages, without a too curious scrutiny of what may lie under the surface; and at this distance the 14th century stands out to the modern eye with a clearness and brilliancy which few men can see in their own age, or even in that immediate past which must always be partially dimmed with the dust of present-day conflicts. Those who were separated by only a few generations from the Middle Ages could seldom judge them with sufficient sympathy. Even two hundred years ago, most Englishmen thought of that time as a great forest from which we had not long emerged; they looked back and saw it in imagination as Dante saw the dark wood of his own wanderings— bitter as death, cruel as the perilous sea from which a spent swimmer has just struggled out upon the shore. Then, with Goethe and Scott, came the Romantic Revival; and these men showed us the Middle Ages peopled with living creatures—beasts of prey, indeed, in very many cases, but always bright and swift and attractive, as wild beasts are in comparison with the commonplace stock of our fields and farmyards—bright in themselves, and heightened in colour by the artificial brilliancy which perspective gives to all that we see through the wrong end of a telescope. Since then men have turned the other end of the telescope on medieval society, and now, in due course, the microscope, with many curious results. But it is always good to balance our too detailed impressions with a general survey, and to take a brief holiday, of set purpose, from the world in which our own daily work has to be done, into a race of men so unlike our own even amid all their general resemblance.


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