Chaucer, Geoffrey (13401400)

Chaucer, Geoffrey, the great early English poet, and father of English poetry, the son of a vintner and taverner, born probably in London, where he lived almost all his days; when a lad, served as page in the royal household; won the favour and patronage of the king, Edward III. and his son, John of Gaunt, who pensioned him; served in an expedition to France; was made prisoner, but ransomed by the king; was often employed on royal embassies, in particular to Italy; held responsible posts at home; was thus a man of the world as well as a man of letters; he comes first before us as a poet in 1369; his poetic powers developed gradually, and his best and ripest work, which occupied him at intervals from 1373 to 1400, is his “Canterbury Tales” (q.v.), characterised by Stopford Brooke as “the best example of English story-telling we possess”; besides which he wrote, among other compositions, “The Life of St. Cecilia,” “Troilus and Cressida,” the “House of Fame,” and the “Legend of Good Women”; his influence on English literature has been compared to that of Dante on Italian, and his literary life has been divided into three periods—the French, the Italian, and the English, according as the spirit of it was derived from a foreign or a native source (13401400).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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