Imagens das páginas

enacts the red glow of scorn. This criti- excellence, the essay is not free from cism is included in the second biographi- questionable statements and inferences. cal chapter, The Chaucer Legend; for The most striking is, perhaps, the atthat is the limbo to which the author tempt to justify the Ellesmere reading in has banished “all things transitory and a famous couplet in The Wife of Bath's vain ” that have exercised the pens of Tale, where, to our thinking, the rejectheorists. The whole chapter, we need tion of the vulgate would deprive us of hardly add, is highly diverting. One re- a delightful bit of characteristic humor. grets only that the latest German sug- of less moment, although not without gestion, which identifies the hard-hearted significance in view of arguments subsemistress for whom Chaucer languished quently used to support the doubtful with “die Freigebigkeit” of the Duch- thesis that Chaucer is responsible for the ess Blanche of Lancaster, did not ap- extant English translation of the Roman pear in time to receive due honor in this de la Rose, is the assertion that “there essay.

must have been” in Caxton's time “a The first chapter closes with a capi- body of students who recognized the extal commentary on Chaucer's ability in istence of corruptions in the copies, and practical affairs, — a subject about which were laudably interested in preserving we have a right to draw inferences, but the text of the poet in its purity.” This which has been pretty well neglected by may be true, but it is scarcely a warhis biographers.

rantable inference from Caxton's words, In The Text of Chaucer (chapter which indicate merely the existence of a iii.) Mr. Lounsbury speaks to laymen body of intelligent and enthusiastic readrather than to specialists ; yet even theers, quite a different thing. The mismost advanced student will find his spe- print “1513” for “1413”

occurs twice cimens of manuscript corruption use- in this chapter (pages 240, 341), to enful, and his notices of the early editions force what Mr. Lounsbury says about the exceedingly convenient. The gradual difficulty of attaining typographical acdeterioration and the slow restoration of curacy. the text are traced with perspicuity; The essay on the Writings of Chaucer and to the whole of what is usually re- (chapter iv.) deals with the higher critgarded as a sufficiently arid subject the icism, attempting to separate from the charm of the author's style and the titil- genuine works of the poet the many lation of his humor lend an attractive pieces ascribed to him by the ignorant zeal ness which philologists have not usually of the earlier editors. To this end, much thought fit to impart to their lucubra- space is given to a minute scrutiny of tions. To Tyrwhitt Mr. Lounsbury is those "internal" criteria on which scholliberal of praise, though not beyond ars have come to rely in such a process. desert; to Thomas Wright he is some- A long excursus on the authorship of thing less than just. The odd notions the English Romaunt of the Rose forms of Chaucer's verse prevalent as late as a sort of appendix. With regard to all the middle of the present century are the other apocrypha, Mr. Lounsbury's described, and due credit is given to judgment agrees with that of most modProfessor Child for investigating, for the ern scholars. As to the Romaunt, howfirst time scientifically, the leading phe- ever, he is flatly opposed to the prevailing nomena of Chaucerian grammar and view; for he is convinced that Chaucer metre. An account of the labors of Dr. is the author of the whole of the fragFurnivall, and a sketch of what remains mentary version that long went under to be done in elucidation of Chaucer, his name. He is led into this position bring the chapter to a close. Despite its by considerations of style, his chief doc

We are

ument being a large collection of par the line, “ Thou [= though] I southe allel passages. Though fully aware of hethen into Ynde." But enough of the difficulties in the way of his theory, this.

difficulties which most students re In one instance Mr. Lounsbury has gard as insuperable, — he believes that suffered his enthusiasm to get the betthe grammatical, metrical, and dialectic ter of the fairness with which he usualtests cannot hold their ground against ly treats his opponents in this debate. his proofs. To discuss fully Mr. Louns One of the proofs that the English Robury's extraordinarily clever argument maunt as we have it is the work of more would carry us into technical details for than one hand is the fact that an imporwhich we have no room, and for which

tant personage in the allegory is called this is not the proper place.

“ Bial-Acoil” in one part of the poem, satisfied, however, that all his affirmative “Fair - Welcoming" in the rest. This arguments can be met, and that he has

argument Mr. Lounsbury dismisses with in no wise vacated the all but conclusive contempt that is almost hilarious. "Sadevidence on the other side. His parallel ly hampered would a poet be if he were passages, on which he is almost ready to not at liberty to use equivalent expresrest his case, can in very many instances sions, either when the necessities of the be themselves paralleled from the metri verse demanded it, or when, after using cal romances, and the stylistic and philo- one form, he settled upon another that logical evidence which he adduces is in recommended itself, for any reason, to many respects untrustworthy. An ex his taste. . . . In the general Prologue, ample or two will illustrate what seem [Chaucer] speaks of the Reeve's horse to us his errors in matters of detail.

as all pomely gray.' In the prologue Smitted (Troilus, v. 1545) may well be to the Canon's Yeoman's Tale, the horse from smitten, to pollute, to disgrace : of the Canon who overtook the party is there is then no irregularity, and the all pomely grys.' As if this were not form is useless for Mr. Lounsbury's pur- enough, the steed that Sir Thopas bepose. Again, it is unsafe to assert that

strode was all dapple gray.' Here we houne (Troilus, iv. 210) is the same as have three ways of stating the same hound, unless here, in the same line, can thing. Does any one seriously think of be satisfactorily accounted for, and this maintaining that these differences of has not yet been done. Shortly to tell, phraseology suggest in the slightest dewhich is said not to occur in Gower, is gree difference of authorship?” Anfound in the Confessio Amantis at least other question : Does any one seriously twice. Such tautological turns of phrase think that, by showing that Chaucer used as “ful pale and nothing red,” to which three different words to describe a dapMr. Lounsbury seems disposed to attach ple-gray horse (or rather, three dappleimportance, are met with again and again gray horses !), Mr. Lounsbury has in the in Gower and in the romances. If I slightest degree answered an argument may, in the sense of if I can help it, is, based on the variety of names given to in one of the cases in which it is found

a single character in the Romaunt? Far in the Romaunt, a mere translation of si be it from us to wish to restrict genius je puis : this is enough to destroy its de- in the exercise of its reasonable privimonstrative force, even if it did not occur leges; but surely liberty becomes license elsewhere (as it does, for example, twice when an author is to be allowed to vary in Ywain and Gawain). It is useless to at will the names of his dramatis personee. compare “ Although he sought oon intyl We should surely have a right to comInde” with “ Though that I walked into plain if a German translator of Henry Inde” when Havelok the Dane contains IV. indulged his dislike for sameness by





calling the hostess of the Boar's Head everywhere meant. But this is difficile " Dame Quickly” or “ Frau Hurtig ” in- per difficilius. The influence of French differently, and it might dizzy the arith- literature on Chaucer is traced with dismetic of memory if we were obliged to crimination. It is to be hoped that this greet the same man in the same poem part of the book will meet the eye of “ Fortinbras” and

Mr. Churton Collins, who, in a recent "Johnie Armstrong."

much-commended polemic, On the Study A long monograph of over two hun of English Literature, has not shrunk dred and fifty pages on the Learning of from declaring that “the fathers of Chaucer follows the excursus just com

Chaucer” were “ Boccaccio, the authors mented on. This is one of the most of the Roman de la Rose, Machault, valuable parts of the work. It would be Granson, Froissart.” Acquaintance with difficult to speak too highly of the solid Horace and Livy, Mr. Lounsbury is inacquirements and the expository talent clined to think, Chaucer had none. The which it displays. It exhausts the sub Doctor's Tale is no proof that he knew ject without tiring the reader.

We can

the story of Virginia in the Latin form, mention but a point here and there. Mr. for the details of the narrative show that Lounsbury is clearly right in denying he drew directly from the Roman de la that the House of Fame is a travesty Rose. of the Divine Comedy, or can be identi The most serious defect in this otherfied with the Dante in English of Lyd- wise admirable chapter is the very ingate's catalogue. His opinions on Chau- adequate treatment of Chaucer's obligacer's relations to Boccaccio and Petrarch tions to the metrical romances. Sir will provoke digladiation. There is no Thopas has always been allowed to have evidence, he maintains, that Chaucer ever too much weight in this question. Chauread a line of the Decamerone. This cer satirizes one class of the romances, statement is so opposed to current be not all classes ; for there were good liefs that we must expect to see it as romances and bad in the fourteenth sailed with passion. It is true, notwith- century, as there are good and bad novels standing. The remark that Chaucer in the nineteenth. That Chaucer enowed to this work the plan of his Can- joyed the best of them would be a priori terbury Tales continues to be made in extremely probable : their excellences, every new history of English literature, the existence of which Mr. Lounsbury though the latest worker in that field, is too hasty in refusing to recognize, Professor Brandl, in Paul's Grundriss, were of a kind to appeal to him. Inhas had the caution to employ a qualify- deed, he must have had a kindness for ing “wohl." Yet so great a genius as the poorest of them. The satire of the Chaucer, as Mr. Lounsbury reminds us Thopas is rather that of a man who is might well have hit upon the idea of indulging in raillery at the amiable having people tell stories, for in that weaknesses of his friends than of a man point alone are the plans of the two who is branding the despicable follies of works alike,

- without consultation with the objects of his literary antipathy. It Boccaccio. The “ Lollius” puzzle tempts is as reasonable to argue from Rebecca Mr. Lounsbury into an ingenious but and Rowena that Thackeray had no highly improbable theory. He suggests liking for Ivanhoe as to argue from Sir that those works of Boccaccio which Thopas that Chaucer had no liking for Chaucer unquestionably knew (the Filo- Beves of Hampton or Guy of Warwick. strato, for example) were supposed by At all events, the style of Chaucer shows him to be works of Petrarch, and that the plainest marks of the influence of by "Lollius” Petrarch is always and the romances. He uses their phraseology


and their formulæ with freedom, and ap- bearing the meaning which he wishes to parently with satisfaction ; and indeed attach to them that a friend suggests a considerable number of the parallel that they might well have been used by passages which Mr. Lounsbury has col Dean Mansel as a motto for his famous lected in a previous chapter, to prove Bampton Lectures on the limits of relithat Chaucer and the translator of the gious thought. Notwithstanding all this, Roman de la Rose were one and the the whole paper is so interesting and sugsame person, are destitute of all value gestive that one could better spare

betas evidence simply because they are lit ter part of the book. erary commonplaces derived from these The third volume of the Studies is compositions. It is odd to find Mr. entirely devoted to literary history and Lounsbury appealing to the language of literary criticism. It consists of two the Nun's Priest to prove that Chaucer masterly articles, — Chaucer in Literary had no respect for “ the book of Laun- History, and Chaucer as a Literary Arcelot de Lake.” To say nothing of the tist. The object of the first of these is fun of the passage in question, it is “to trace the history of Chaucer's repudangerous to gauge Chaucer's sentiments tation.” In his own day and by his imby those of the Nun's Priest.

mediate successors Chaucer was regardThe essay on Chaucer's Relation to the ed as the prince of poets, and there is Religion of his Time, which takes


the the testimony of Eustache Deschamps to more original part of the next chapter, prove that his fame had crossed the

– for that portion of the chapter which Channel. The vogue of the poet in deals.with Chaucer's relation to the Eng- Scotland in the fifteenth century was lish language, though useful and general- also very great. All this is pointed out ly sound, does not pretend to contain any- by Mr. Lounsbury, whose remarks on thing new, — is in some ways in striking the Kingis Quair will save his opponents contrast with the rest of the Studies. It the trouble of putting into excellent lanexhibits Mr. Lounsbury in the character guage a strong point against the Chauof a special pleader, not in the charac cerian authorship of the English Roter of a judicial critic. The main thesis maunt of the Rose. Similarly, what he is that the poet, though not a Wycliffite, has to say of the " singular fact that the was so affected by the religious and po- anonymous productions (of the fifteenth litical agitations of the times that he century] exceed those of the authors of yielded to the impulses of his naturally repute in everything which makes poetskeptical spirit and grew less and less ry readable" may easily be used against an orthodox Christian as he grew older, him by one who wishes to expose till he came at last to question the funda- fallacy of his argument that we must mental articles of the faith. In a word, ascribe the Romaunt to Chaucer because an attempt is made to approximate the it is too good to be ascribed to any other attitude of Chaucer in his riper years to known writer. Of the popularity of the that of “the modern agnostic.” That poet in the sixteenth century, four edithere may possibly be some truth in this tions of his complete works, published view few will deny. That the poetical within a period of thirty years, are the passages which Mr. Lounsbury brings best evidence. Such testimony is strikforward as evidence substantially sup- ing enough, even if we allow for the port it we cannot admit. This is notably factitious reputation which he enjoyed the case with regard to the opening lines mainly on the strength of the sparious of the Prologue to The Legend of Good Plowman's Tale, a violent invective Women, on which Mr. Lounsbury lays against the Roman Church. Mr. Lounsgreat stress.

So far are these from bury's treatment of these matters leaves


nothing to be desired. Equally well thinks, can Chaucer be familiar to our done is his account of the relation of sight; in no other voice can he speak to Spenser to Chaucer, and of the general us with a familiar sound. Space fails effect which the fourteenth-century mas- us to discuss these unwelcome and, as ter exercised on the Elizabethan revival. we think, mistaken utterances. But in From this he passes to the eclipse which practice they will refute themselves. It Chaucer's fame suffered in the latter is only an approximate familiarity that half of the seventeenth century, when such changes will effect; and this dehe

appears to have been read by a select lusive benefit will be won through a very circle only, though of course he contin- real and very lamentable loss. One test ued to be talked about by everybody is easy. Let the beginner who is haltThe renewed interest in Chaucer which ing between two opinions examine a confollowed Dryden's modernizations car- secutive hundred of Chaucer's rhymeries Mr. Lounsbury into country seldom words, and observe what happens to explored even by the professional stu- them when pronounced in modern fash

He has given a history of the ion. Yet bad rhymes are not the only attempts made at different times to re- evils that follow in the train of modernproduce the works of the poet in mod- ization. ern English, as well as a sketch of vari- In the final chapter of the book we ous entertaining futilities in the way of have Mr. Lounsbury at his best as a imitations of his language. And all this critic. He is clear, logical, and conis not mere compilation. Mr. Louns- vincing, without taint of sentimentality bury has written a chapter of literary or “impressionist” nonsense. Of the history for which no one has ever at- affected jargon which some critics seem tempted even to collect the material, and to think essential to their art there is he has written it so well that it need not a trace. Not only is the essay valunever be written again. His criticism able for its contents, but as an object of Dryden is particularly gratifying ; lesson which our day and generation for it is rarer now to find an apprecia- would do well to lay to heart. tive judge of Dryden than to find a We cannot take leave of this remarkjudicious admirer of Chaucer.

able work without congratulating the In the concluding pages of this chap- cause of sound scholarship and good ter Mr. Lounsbury has agitated a ques- taste on the possession of one proof more tion of much practical importance: How in rebuttal of the too prevalent notion is Chaucer to be spelled, and how pro- that philology and the study of literature nounced ? His answer is not quite what should be divorced. Mr. Lounsbury's one would expect. For the great body book would demonstrate, if demonstraof cultivated readers he advocates a tion were needful, that learning is not inspelling and a pronunciation reduced as consistent with the ability to write good nearly to nineteenth-century standards English, and that superficiality is not as is consistent with the preservation of

a necessary accoutrement for a literary metrical form. In no other garb, he critic.

« AnteriorContinuar »