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ing a preface, dissertation, appendixes, and nearly eighty chapters) comprehend eleven hundred pages, this biographer assures us that he came in a manner a novice,' desirous, nevertheless, of convincing his countrymen that there existed mines of instruction and delight, with which they had hitherto little acquaintance.' To a novice we may hint, without arrogance, that, before he existed, students in poetry and history had worked these mines with effect; and that multitudes continually resort to them for genuine ore.
Mr. Godwin purposes to produce a work of a new species. He liberally describes preceding antiquaries, as persons, whom, nevertheless, it may be useful to consult, of cold tempers and sterile imaginations,'" • ignorant of the materials of which man is made,' who usually stupefy the sense,' and 'IMBUE the soul with MOPING and LIFELESS dejection ! · Mr. Godwin has not yet condescended to reveal the materials of which mian is made ;' but we suspect that the inan must be made of new materials, whose sense or whose soul can be imbued with this rhetorical inanity.
Fancy and Philosophy are invited to unite their energies to accompany Mr. Godwin in his investigation of past ages; in his efforts to rescue the illustrious dead' from the jaws of the grave,' to . question their spirits,' make himself their master of the ceremonies,' and introduce them to his countrymen.'
If we correctly apprehend, he is also ambitious ? to erect a monument to the name of Chaucer;' and, as far as he is capable, to produce an interesting and amusing book,' which may tempt others to study our older poets, and the elements of our language a study,' which he considers at least as improving as that of the language of Greece and Rome.' He next proposes to survey the manners, opinions, arts, and literature, of the same age;' to delineate the state of England, such as Chaucer saw it, in every point of view in which it can be delineated.' : · Of his success, he expresses himself with exemplary selfabasement..
'I can pretend only to have written a superficiul work. My studies, IF ANY THING OF MINE DESERVES SO SERIOUS A NAME, have chiefly been engaged upon other subjects.' Vol. i. p. ix.
The overweening humility of this passage ill-becomes a writer whose heroic perfectibility once boldly speculated on the ultimate annihilation of the moral, religious, and political establishments prevailing in the civilised world. A more appropriate modesty, however, generally pervades his vo. lumes.
To accumulate materials for this compilation, Mr. Godwin
has consulted records in our national repositories neglected by former biographers. He acknowledges that his inquiries have received every attention from the keepers of these records, and from the officers of government. For his own omissions, he cautiously endeavours, in his preface, to anticipate censures, which, we fear, he cannot avert. The obvious defect of being less copious upon the last fifteen than upon the preceding vcars of the life of Chaucer,' is conveniently attributed to his bookseller, who professionally assured him that the public would not allow the title of his book to authorise more than two volumes in quarto. Mr. Phillips may be " more conversant with matters of this sort ;' yet we perceive nothing in the mere title which might not authorise a more voluminous publication. Chaucer, John of Gaunt, the manners, opinions, arts, and literature of England, during an entire and interesting century, are subjects not unprolific.
To palliate this neglect of Chaucer in his latter years, it is insinuated, that 'less is lost by this compression' than the writer was at first apt to imagine. The reasons offered are feeble. An ample survey having been given of what occurred before Chaucer was fifty-seven years of age, it is not likely that his mind underwent any essential revolution after that period.'. On a similar neglect of the concluding events in the life of John of Gaunt, the writer remarks: 'If I have not adequately rescued this prince,' in the antecedent narrative, from historical misrepresentation,' 'I am afraid it would be to little purpose to have laboured on the concludo ing period of his life.'
The analysis of Chaucer's last production, his Canter: bury Tales, and the endeavour to trace these tales through preceding and contemporary authors,' Mr. Godwin has been constrained' to omit. This part of Chaucer has been most studied. The elaborate edition of Mr. Tyrwhitt, therefore, although expressly mentioned by Mr. Godwin, as the pro. duction of one of those coli, sterile, sense-stupefying, ! moping’- dejection'- imbuing' antiquaries, whom he has already described, has enough of judgement and knowledge' to form some excuse for this constrained compiler of two extensive volumes, who declines to recomment on the very work which he thus hyperbolically applauds: “There is no PRODUCTION OF MAN that displays more various and vigorous talent than “ the Canterbury Tales ! ”
• The slightness of the biography, compared with the magnitude of its object,' is confessed. The apologies for avowed omissions will be such only to novices. Abundant literary nutriment rapidly devoured, and more rapidly digested, impatience for publication, or any other reason why" would have appealed as successfully to our indulgence. The prefatory confessions of Mr. Godwin have extorted from us these unpleasant observations. Critical justice requires that we should state with equal sincerity his claims to commendation.
Disappointed in the aid which he had expected to derive from private collections, the biographer resolved “to yield an assiduous, and almost daily, attendance at the British Museum.' All the books to which he has referred, throughout the publication, have been actually consulted.' He has examined the records preserved in the Tower, and in many other archives. For about one hundred pages' only, the books referred to are few, and many references are given at second-hand ;' afterwards, this defcct no longer occurs.'
Mr. Godwin has had the good fortune' to encounter' some 'discoveries :' the principal of these is discussed in a preliminary dissertation on the period of the birth of Chaucer.'
URRY (authorised by a communication from John Anstis, esq. garter principal king at arms) had, in his edition, observed, that, in the tenth year of Richard II,' Chaucer gave evidence in a case of chivalry, depending between sir Ro. bert Grosvenor and sir Richard le Scrope, concerning their arms, which the king directed the heralds to decide. This 'observation awakened the curiosity of Mr. Godwin, who procured a copy of the deposition from the college of arms (which the appendix contains), and unexpectedly discovered grounds for a new hypothesis respecting the time of the poet's birth. The date usually assigned to this event is 1328. • The deposition is dated 1386, and mentions Chaucer to be • del age de .xl. ans et plus, urmeez par c.rvij. ans,' aged forty years and upwards, and having borne arms twenty-seven years. If the received chronology of his life be correct, the age of Chaucer would have been, at this time, not forty, but fifty-eight years. Admitting the authority of the deposition, he must have been born about the year 1344,
After a detailed statement of the arguments (founded on official records) which exhibit Chaucer as distinguished by a gradation of appellatives in successive grants, denominated valettus in 1367, scutifer in 1372, and armiger in 1374-although these reasonings appear to corroborate the direct evi. dence of the deposition-Mr. Godwin adheres to the old chronology, and most unceremoniously attacks even our heralds.
This style of fighting, if successful, is not remarkably close. We must endeavour to compact the conjectures and reasonings of many a page.
The deposition of Chaucer is not considered to require a more precise statement of age, than appeared sufficient to constitute a credible witness to a fact,
Chaucer déposed to a fact which had happened twentyseven years before: he must, therefore, have been more than forty years old.
T'he deposition might be officially arranged after the examination. The officer might ask, generally, 'Are you forty years old and upwards ?' (no very, probable form of question) 'in other words, Are you of an age to be a credible witness to the fact?' Chaucer, perhaps, as generally, an. swered, 'I am.'
• Forty years old' is a round number, and seems to authorise the presumption of inaccuracy.
Chaucer might be influenced by vanity to understate his age. He was a courtier, and might feel like an antiquated belle,
Further evidence against the age, expressed in the deposition, is attempted to be substantiated by the assertions of Chaucer himself. Thus the cause of Chaucer versus Chaucer' proceeds :
The poems of “The Parliament of Birds,' and 'Chaucer's Dream,' were written, as is conjectured, in 1358 and 1359. If the deposition be authority, his age was then fourteen or fifteen; but these compositions are mature, and bear no marks' of juvenility.
If his birth occurred in 1344, the accepted statements of all his biographers, which relate to his studies at Cambridge, Oxford, and Paris, must be false. i Leland mentions the grey hairs' of Chaucer, and old age, as his greatest disease.' This cannot be true, in the general sense, if he were born in 1344, and died at the age of fiftysix. . ,
Gower, a contemporary poet and personal friend, in the year 1392—3, alluding to Chaucer, mentions his daye's olde,' his latter age;' and proposes' his setting an ende of all his worke. According to the received. date, Chaucer, when these verses were written, was sixty-four or sixty-five years of age; but, if born in 1344, he could only be fortyeight or forty-nine; consequently the phrases quoted would be inapplicable. · In his · House of Fame,' a poem which is supposed to have been written in 1380, Chaucer says of himself; for I am olde.' Judging by the received date, his age was fifty-two: by the deposition, he could be only thirty-six.
Mr. Godwin thus concludes :... It may seem indeed a very bold supposition, to maintain that Chaucer was fifty-eight years of age, at the time that he declared himself “forty years old and upward.” But less than this appears scarcely sufficient to bear out the events of his life, and the language of Gower, as well as his own, taken from the House of Fame, upon
year, 13 his latter according tten,
the subject. If we confess ourselves obliged to desert his own testimony and the idea that he was born so late as the year 1344, we are then placed at large in the wide field of conjecture; and I do not, in that case, feel myself inclined to “remove old land-marks," and set aside the date which has hitherto always been received, though
we do not exactly know the authority upon which it is founded." · P. xxxii.
The novelty of the subject alone has induced us to abridge a hypothesis which we shall now abandon to our readers. In a subsequent article, we shall consider the work itself: determined, with chivalrous prowess,
Art. IX.-The History of Ilium or Troy: including the
adjacent Country, and the opposite Coast of the Chersonesus of Thrace. By the Author of “ Travels in Asia Minor and Greece.” 4to. 10s. 6d. Boards. Robson. 1802.
< THE tale of Troy divine' will never cease to interest. If its venerable antiquity no longer recommend it, the picture which it offers of remote scenes, of manners so distant from those of the present times, of a state of society of which our ideas would otherwise be peculiarly imperfect, must render it a relique of singular importance and value. Our author has, in person, examined the scene, and collected, with assiduous care, what in every æra would interest, but what of late has become peculiarly attractive, in consequence of the bold denial of Mr. Bryant, that the siege of Troy was not a real transaction, and his assertion that its source was only a petty warfare in Upper Egypt.
A subject of late so often canvassed we cannot again engage in; but this abstract of our author's more extensive labours, which he seems to promise, and which we trust he will eventually give to the public, must not be wholly passed over. The present is a history of the Troäd, of the facts which oce curred in that scene, of the varied fate to which it has been subject. As it may be again the theme of our remarks, we may now survey, with a little anxious curiosity, its earlier destinies, especially as we suspect that the peculiar circumstances of this district have not entered, so much as they ought to have done, into the views of the authors who have contended on either side.
The commerce of the ancients has not been explored with a scientific eye; but it was commerce that first gave consequence and importance to the Troäd. The sagacity of Clarke, in a work which scarcely promises information upon this suba ject—the Connexion of the Roman and Saxon Coins-has in a few pages more fully illustrated the subject, than the play
CRIT. Rev. Vol. 1. January, 1804.