Monday, October 25, 2010

Geoffrey Chaucer

The father of English literature, as some consider him, died on October 25, 1400.  Chaucer's most famous work was his Canterbury Tales.  Sir Walter Scott certainly read his works, as he made several allusions (and references) to Chaucer in his correspondence with others.

One individual with whom Scott exchanged several letters was dramatist Joanna Baillie.  On December 12, 1811 Scott writes to Ms. Baillie of her work as a playwright: '...While I was watching my infant or rather embryo oaks you have been wandering under the shade of those celebrated by Pope and Denham or in a still earlier age by Surrey and Chaucer. How often have you visited the site of Hearnes oak and calld up the imaginary train of personages who fill the stage around it in representation?...'

Earlier, in a letter to William Clerk (September 30, 1792), Scott invokes Chaucer in a more analytical reference on the inhabitants of Hexham: '...Hard by the town is the field of battle where the forces of Queen Margaret were defeated by those of the House of York- a blow which the Red Rose never recovered during the civil wars. The spot where the Duke of Somerset and the northern nobility of the Lancastrian faction were executed after the battle, is still called Dukesfield. The inhabitants of this country speak an odd dialect of the Saxon, approaching nearly that of Chaucer, and have retained some customs peculiar to themselves. They are the descendants of the ancient Danes, chased into the fastnesses of Northumberland by the severity of William the Conqueror...'

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