Chaucer: Ackroyd's Brief Lives

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Dec 18, 2007 - Biography & Autobiography - 208 pages
In the first in a new series of brief biographies, bestselling author Peter Ackroyd brilliantly evokes the medieval world of England and provides an incomparable introduction to the great poet’s works.

Geoffrey Chaucer, who died in 1400, lived a surprisingly eventful life. He served with the Duke of Clarence and with Edward III, and in 1359 was taken prisoner in France and ransomed. Through his wife, Philippa, he gained the patronage of John of Gaunt, which helped him carve out a career at Court. His posts included Controller of Customs at the Port of London, Knight of the Shire for Kent, and King's Forester. He went on numerous adventurous diplomatic missions to France and Italy. Yet he was also indicted for rape, sued for debt, and captured in battle.

He began to write in the 1360s, and is now known as the father of English poetry. His Troilus and Criseyde is the first example of modern English literature, and his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, the forerunner of the English novel, dominated the last part of his life.

In his lively style, Peter Ackroyd, one of the most acclaimed biographers and novelists writing today, brings us an eye-opening portrait, rich in drama and colorful historical detail, of a prolific, multifaceted genius.

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Contents

The Londoner
1
A Courtly Training
17
The Diplomat
28
An Italian Connection
43
The Civil Servant
52
The Court of the Boy King
68
A Nest of Troubles
86
Bloody Revolt
98
The Affairs of Troy
105
Residence in Kent
119
The Tales of Canterbury
138
Last Years
169
Selected Reading
175
Translations of the Quoted Materia
177
Index
183
Copyright

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Page 59 - For when thy labour doon al ys, And hast mad alle thy rekenynges, In stede of reste and newe thynges, Thou goost horn to thy hous anoon; And, also domb as any stoon, Thou sittest at another book Tyl fully daswed ys thy look, And lyvest thus as an heremyte, Although thyn abstynence ys lyte'.
Page 122 - Go, litel bok, go, litel myn tragedye, Ther God thi makere yet, er that he dye, So sende myght to make in som comedye!
Page 171 - The characters of Chaucer's Pilgrims are the characters which compose all ages and nations. As one age falls, another rises, different to mortal sight, but to immortals only the same; for we see the same characters repeated again and again, in animals, vegetables, minerals, and in men. Nothing new occurs in identical existence j Accident ever varies, Substance can never suffer change nor decay. Of Chaucer's characters, as described in his Canterbury Tales...
Page 176 - I, for ye be my lady dere! I am so sory, now that ye be light; For certes, but ye make me hevy chere...
Page 156 - I kan right now no thrifty tale seyn That Chaucer, thogh he kan but lewedly On metres and on rymyng craftily, Hath seyd hem in swich Englissh as he kan Of olde tyme, as knoweth many a man; SO And if he have noght seyd hem, leve brother, In o book, he hath seyd hem in another.
Page 83 - Thoo was I war, lo, at the laste, That faste be the sonne, as hye As kenne myghte I with myn ye, Me thoughte I sawgh an egle sore, But that hit semed moche more Then I had any egle seyn. But this as sooth as deth, certeyn, Hyt was of gold, and shon so bryghte That never sawe men such a syghte, But yf the heven had ywonne Al newe of gold another sonne; So shone the egles fethers bryghte, And somwhat dounward gan hyt lyghte.
Page 166 - Experience, though noon auctoritee Were in this world, is right ynogh for me To speke of wo that is in mariage...
Page 160 - Right as ther dyed nevere man," quod he, "That he ne lyvede in erthe in som degree, Right so ther lyvede never man," he seyde, 2845 "In al this world, that som tyme he ne deyde. This world nys but a thurghfare ful of wo, And we been pilgrymes, passynge to and fro. Deeth is an ende of every worldly soore.

About the author (2007)

PETER ACKROYD is the author of the recent bestselling books London and the award-winning Life of Thomas More. His early works include The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde, which received the Somerset Maugham Award; Hawksmoor, winner of both the Whitbread Novel of the Year and the Guardian Fiction Award; and Chatterton, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize. His most recent novel, The Clerkenwell Tales, is a thriller set in medieval London, which was inspired by his Chaucer short biography. He lives in London, England, and is completing his Shakespeare biography and a new novel.

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