Chaucer: his life, his works, his world
Revered for centuries as the father of English poetry, Geoffrey Chaucer was also a central man of his age--a courtier, soldier, diplomat, public official, a man of action, and a man of the world. In this award-winning biography, Donald R. Howard recreates the public, private, and poetic life of this extraordinary man.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Geoffrey Chaucer died with his greatest work, the Canterbury Tales, unfinished. Is there perhaps a slight irony in the fact that Donald R. Howard died with this major work about Chaucer unfinished? Unfinished, but very close to done. Close enough to publish, and certainly close enough to show what it would have been like if finished. You need have no concerns about it being incomplete. About whether it's true, now... that you have to worry about. Howard was primarily a student of literature, and frankly, I'd be inclined to call this an historical novel rather than a biography. We have a lot of isolated facts about Chaucer (awards received, offices held, diplomatic missions undertaken, etc.), but we have little in the way of actual description of his life; we don't even actually know that the author of so many books was the same man as the fellow who fought in France (and was captured) in 1359, or who was a member of parliament thirty years later. If we want to fill in the many gaps in his life, we can only turn to inference, analogy, or deductions from his writings. It is a very uncertain process. And that uncertainty hardly appears here. Oh, Howard expresses uncertainty about a lot of things. But mostly about the wildest speculations. Much that is inference is treated as fact, and much that is guesswork treated as inference. To someone who wants to know what is absolutely reliable, it's an uncomfortable process. The other thing is, since Howard is so interested in literature, a very large fraction of the book is not about Chaucer but about Chaucer's writings. Of course, the writings are what survive; they are the reason we care, and Howard's comments about the writing are often better-founded than the tales about their author. But they aren't really biography. None of which is to deny that this is a very interesting book. And most of it is probably true. But most of it has to be taken with a grain or two of salt. Like the tales of the pilgrims themselves....
Review: Chaucer: His Life, His Works, His WorldUser Review - Goodreads
This review appeared in the San Jose Mercury News in 1987: IT doesn't surprise me that, according to one of those recent gloom-and-doom studies of American education, half of American high school ...