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the time of Chaucer. It is the work of some tasteless imitator, who has sufficiently disguised his original, by retaining none of its spirit. I mention these circumstances, lest it should be thought that this frigid abridgment was the ground-work of Chaucer's poem on the same subject. In the class of humourous or satirical tales, the SomPNOUR's Tale, which exposes the tricks and extortions of the Mendicant friars, has also distinguished merit. This piece has incidentally been mentioned above with the PLOWMAN'S TALE, and Pierce Plowman.
Genuine humour, the concomitant of true taste, consists in discerning improprieties in books as well as characters. We therefore must remark under this class another tale of Chaucer, which till lately has been looked upon as a grave heroic narrative. I mean the RIME OF Sir THOPAs. Chaucer, at a period which almost realised the manners of romantic chivalry, discerned the leading absurdities of the old romances : and in this poem, which may be justly called a prelude to Don Quixote, has burlesqued them with exquisite ridicule. That this was the poet's aim, appears from many passages. But, to put the matter beyond a doubt, take the words of an ingenious critic. “ We are to observe," says he, “ that this was Chaucer's own Tale: and that, when in the progress of it, the good sense of the host is made to break in upon him, and interrupt him, Chaucer approves his disgust, and changing his note, tells the simple instructive Tale of MELIBOEUS, a moral tale vertuous, as he terms it; to show what sort of fictions were most expressive of real life, and most proper to be put into the hands of the people. It is further to be noted, that the Boke of The Giant Olyphant, and Chylde Thopas, was not a fiction of his own, but a story of antique fame, and very celebrated in the
also mentions Solere-hall, at Oxford. reasons assigned, one of these two halls Also Aula Salarii, which I doubt not is or colleges at Cambridge, might at first properly Solarii. Compare Wood Ant. have been commonly called Soler-hall. Oxon. ii. 11. col. i. 13. col. i. 12. col. ii. A hall near Brazen-nose college, OxCaius will have it to be Clare-hall. Hist. ford, was called Glazen-hall, having Acnd. p. 57. Those who read Scholars- glass windows, antiently not common. hall (of Edw. III.) may consult Wacht. See Twyne Viscel. quædam, &c. ad V. SOLLER. In the mean time, for the calc. Apol. Antiq. Acad. Oxon,
days of chivalry: so that nothing could better suit the poet's design of discrediting the old romances, than the choice of this venerable legend for the vehicle of his ridicule upon them.” But it is to be remembered, that Chaucer's design was intended to ridicule the frivolous descriptions, and other tedious impertinencies, so common in the volumes of chivalry with which his age was overwhelmed, not to degrade in general or expose a mode of fabling, whose sublime extravagancies constitute the marvellous graces of his own CAMBUSCAN; a composition which at the same time abundantly demonstrates, that the manners of romance are better calculated to answer the purposes of pure poetry, to captivate the imagination, and to produce surprise, than the fictions of classical antiquity.
• See Dr. Hurd's LETTERS Ox Chi- been so fortunate as to meet with any VALRY AND ROMANCE. Dialogues, &c. traces of such a story of an earlier date iü. 218. edit. 1765. (With regard to than the Canterbury Tales." And Mr. “ The boke of The Giant Olyphant and Ritson in language at once elegant and Chylde Thopas, Mr. Tyrwhitt has ob- expressive, has pronounced the whole served : “I can only say that I have not statement “a lye."-Evrt.]
BUT Chaucer's vein of humour, although conspicuous in the CANTERBURY Tales, is chiefly displayed in the Characters with which they are introduced. In these his knowledge of the world availed him in a peculiar degree, and enabled him to give such an accurate picture of antient manners, as no cotemporary nation has transmitted to posterity. It is here that we view thc pursuits and employments, the customs and diversions, of our ancestors, copied from the life, and represented with equal truth and spirit, by a judge of mankind, whose penetration qualified him to discern their foibles or discriminating peculiarities; and by an artist, who understood that proper selection of circumstances, and those predominant characteristics, which form a finished portrait. We are surprised to find, in so gross and ignorant an age, such talents for satire, and for observation on life; qualities which usually exert themselves at more civilised periods, when the improved state of society, by subtilising our speculations, and establishing uniform modes of behaviour, disposes mankind to study themselves, and renders deviations of conduct, and singularities of character, more immediately and necessarily the objects of censure and ridicule. These curious and valuable remains are specimens of Chaucer's native genius, unassisted and unalloyed. The figures are all British, and bear no suspicious signatures of Classical, Italian, or French imitation. The characters of Theophrastus are not so lively, particular, and appropriated. A few traites from this celebrated part of our author, yet too little tasted and understood, may be sufficient to prove and illustrate what is here advanced.
The character of the PRIORESSE is chiefly distinguished by
an excess of delicacy and decorum, and an affectation of courtly accomplishments. But we are informed, that she was educated at the school of Stratford at Bow near London, perhaps a fashionable seminary for breeding nuns.
There was also a nonne a Prioresse
Seyntè Loy, i. e. Saint Lewis. (Sanc- Third her son had granted a church in tus Eligius. T. This saint is mentioned Winchester diocese, to the monastery of by Lyndsay in his Monarchy.] The Leedes in Yorkshire, for their better same oath occurs in the FREERE's Tale, support, “a trouver sis chagnoignes V. 300. p. 88. Urr.
chantans tous les jours en la chapele du dinner. (The Prioresse's exact be- Chastel de Ledes, pour laime madame haviour at table, is copied from Rom. Alianore reyne d'Angleterre," &c. A.D. Rose, 14178-14199.
1341. Quatern. vi. Et bien se garde, &c.
The Prioresse's greatest oath is by
Saint Eloy. I will here throw togeTo speak French is mentioned above, ther some of the most remarkable oaths among her accomplishments. There is a in the Canterbury Tales. The Host, letter in old French from queen Philippa, swears by my father's soule. Urr. p. 7. and her daughter Isabell, to the Priour 783. Sir Thoras, by ale and breade. of Saint Swithin's at Winchester, to ad- p. 146. 3377. ARCITE, by my pan, i. e. mitt one Agnes Patshull into an eleemo- head. p. 10. 1167. Theseus, by mightie synary sisterhood belonging to his con Mars the red. p. 14. 1749. Again, as he vent. The Priour is requested to grant was a trew knight. p. 9. 961. The Cakher, “ Une Lyvere en votre Maison dieu PENTER's wife, by saint Thomas of Kent. de Wyncestere et estre un des soers," for p. 26. 183. The Smith, by Christes foote. her life. Written at Windesor, Apr. 25. p. 29. 674. The CAMBRIDGE SCHOLAR, The year must have been about 1350. by my father's kinn. p. 31. 930. Again, Registr. Priorat. MS. supr. citat. Qua- by my croune. ib. 933. Again, for godes tern. xix. fol. 4. I do not so much cite benes, or benison. p. 32. 965. Again, by this instance to prove that the Priour seint Cuthberde. ib. 1019. Sir Jouan of must be supposed to understand French, BOUNDIS, by seint Martyne. p. 37. 107. as to shew that it was now the court lan- GAMELYN, by goddis boke. p. 38. 181. guage, and even on a matter of business. GAMELYN's brother, by saint Richere. There was at least a great propriety, that ibid. 273. Again, by Cristis ore. ib. 279. the queen and princess should write in A FRANKELEYN, by saint Jame that in this language, although to an ecclesiastic Galis is, i. e. saint James of Galicia, of dignity. In the same Register, there p. 40. 549. 1514. A PORTER, by Goddis is a letter in old French from the qucen berde. ib. 581. GAMELYN, by my hals, Dowager Isabell to the Priour and Con- or neck. p. 42. 779. The Master OUTvent of Winchester; to shew, that it was LAWE, by the gode rode. p. 45. 1265. at her request, that king Edward the The Hoste, by the precious corrus Ma
Ne wette hire fingres in hire sauce depe;
Of court, and bene statelich of maneref. She has even the false pity and sentimentality of many modern ladies.
She was so charitable and so pitous,
if that she saw a mous
And all was conscience and tendre hertei. The Wife of Bath is more amiable for her plain and useful qualifications. She is a respectable dame, and her chief pride consists in being a conspicuous and significant character at church on a Sunday.
Of clothmaking she hadde swiche an haunt
drian. p. 160. 4. Again, by saint Paulis p. 160. 43. The Monke, by his porthose, bell. p. 168. 893. The Man of LAWE, or breviary. p. 139. 2639. Again, by Depardeur. p. 49. 39. The MARCHAUNT, God and saint Martin. ib. 2656. The by saint Thomas of Inde. p. 66. 745. Hoste, by armis, blode and bonis. p. 24. 17. The SoMPNOUR, by goddis armis lwo. p. ADDITIONS.]
4 pleasure, desire. 82. 893. The Hoste, by cockis bonis. literally, stretched (reached). p. 106. 2235. Again, by naylis and by | Prol. v. 124. blode, i. e. of Christ. p. 130. 1802. Again, & bread of a finer sort. by saint Damian. p. 131. 1824. Again,
v. 143. by saint Runion. ib. 1834. Again, hy * It is to be observed, that she lived Corpus domini. ib. 1838. The RIOTTOUR, in the neighbourhood of Bath ; a counby Goddis digne bunes. p. 135. 2211. The try famous for clothing to this day. Hoste, to the Monke, by your
father kin. See above, p. 9, note.