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with Sir Thomas Percy (afterwards earl of Wor cester), and in the second, attached to an embassy to treat of peace with Charles V.
It is probable that Chaucer was re-appointed one of the king's esquires on the accession of Richard II, and he certainly did not decline in court favour. In the middle of January 1378, he was again sent to France, attached to an embassy, the object of which was to negotiate king Richard's marriage with a daughter of the French monarch. His stay in France was not long, for in the May of the same year he was employed. on a new mission, being sent with Sir Edward Berkeley to Lombardy, to treat with Bernardo. Visconti, lord of Milan, and the celebrated Sir John Hawkwood, apparently to persuade them to assist in some warlike expedition contemplated by: the English government; and from this mission he appears.not to have returned until the end of the year. It was on this occasion that.Chaucer: nominated as one of his representatives, in case of any legal proceedings during his absence (to which people in those days were liable); John Gower, a circumstance that establishes the fact of the intimate friendship between the two poets. We know that Chaucer dedicated his Troilus and Creseide, written in the sixteenth year of the reigų of Richard II (1392-3), to Gower; and the latter
poet, in the Confessio Amantis, makes Venus say of Chaucer:
“And grete well Chaucer, when
So that my courte yt may recorde.
Soon after his return from Italy, Chaucer appears to have been again employed on foreign service, for the records shew that he was absent from May to December 1379. In 1382, he received the appointment of comptroller of the petty customs of the port of London, in addition to his
* See page 204 of the present volume, and Sir H. Nicolas's Life of Chaucer, p. 39.
previous office of comptroller of the customs and subsidies; and in February 1385, he obtained the still greater favour of being allowed to nominate a permanent deputy, by which the poet must have been partially released from duties which can never have been agreeable to his tastes.
Several circumstances shew that Chaucer had some intimate connexion with the county of Kent, where he probably held property; and he was elected a knight of the shire for that county in the parliament which met at Westminster on the 1st of October 1386, and which closed its session on the 1st of November following; shortly after which (before the 4th of December 1386), Chaucer was dismissed from his employments, but for what reason we have not the slightest intimation, though it was doubtless connected with some of the petty intrigues of this intriguing reign. Probably, as Sir Harris Nicolas supposes, he had become obnoxious to the duke of Gloucester and the other ministers who had succeeded his patron, the duke of Lancaster, in the government, and it is well known that the proceedings of the parliament just alluded to were directed against the duke of Lancaster's party,
We know nothing further of Chaucer's history until the year 1388, except that he continued regularly to receive his two pensions of twenty marks each ; but on the 1st of May in the latter year, the grants of these pensions were, at his request, cancelled, and the annuities assigned to John Scalby, which has been considered as a proof that the poet was at that time in distress, and obliged to sell his pensions. Exactly a year after this, in May 1389, on the young king's assumption of the reins of government, the duke of Lancaster's party were restored to power, and Chaucer again appeared at court. On the 12th of July, the poet was appointed to the valuable office of clerk of the king's works at the palace of Westminster, the Tower of London, the castle of Berkhemstead, and the royal manors of Kennington, Eltham, Clarendon, Sheen, Byfleet, Childern Langley, and Feckenham, at the royal lodge of Hathenbergh in the New Forest, at the lodges in the parks of Clarendon, Childern Langley, and Feckenham, and at the mews for the king's falcons at Charing Cross. He was expressly permitted to perform his duties by deputy, and his salary was fixed at two shillings a day. Chaucer held this office, however, only two years, having been dismissed from it before the 16th of September 1391, but the cause of his removal is unknown.
During the latter years of Richard's reign, Chaucer was evidently suffering from poverty, for instead of receiving as formerly his pension in
half-yearly payments when due, we find him constantly taking sums in advance; and, as these were not always paid into his own hands, we are led to suppose that he was suffering from sickness, as well as from want. He was now aged, as well as poor and needy; but the accession of Henry IV came suddenly to cast a gleam of brightness on his declining days. Within four days after he came to the throne, Henry granted him, on the 3rd of October 1399, a yearly pension of forty marks, in addition to the annuity of twenty pounds which had been given him by king Richard. On Christmas eve, 1399, the poet obtained the lease of a house near Westminster Abbey, where it is probable that he closed his days. His name appears in the issue rolls, as continuing to receive his pension, until the 1st of March 1400, when it was received for him by Henry Somere, the clerk of the receipt of the exchequer, who is supposed to have been a relation of the “frere John Somere," whose calendar is mentioned in Chaucer's treatise on the Astrolabe. Chaucer is stated, and with probable correctness, in an epitaph placed in 1550 near his grave in Westminster Abbey by Nicholas Brigham (a poet of that time), to have died on the 25th of October 1400, at which time, according to the supposed date of his birth, he would have reached the age of seventy-two.