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It was on none of these great occasions that Chaucer made his pilgrims go eastward from the Tabard Inn to the Cathedral city, but in the spring-time of some year between 1380 and 1390. The engraving which forms the frontispiece to this volume is from Stothard's picture, as modelled by Henning. The Miller is seen leading the way, and the Host, the moving spirit of the whole expedition, is busy at his post. The picture was produced about the same time as the poet Blake painted his so-called “Fresco,” which, though hard in style, is full of character; and engravings from both are now very scarce, although they can occasionally be purchased at sales. The original “Fresco" forms one of the treasures in the possession of Sir John Stirling Maxwell of Pollok. We have also engravings made by Corbould, and in more recent times by Mr Hole, R.S.A.; while all lovers of Chaucer will, no doubt, feel much interest in the latter artist's new painting of the pilgrims, which is to appear in the approaching Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Academy." All these pictures are of very great merit, but none of them can, in clearness and impressiveness, surpass the word - painting by means of which Chaucer himself in the Prologue has presented his various characters to our view. Each of them stands out clear and full; all are portraits, and types of the various divisions of middle-class society as it then existed. He was the first poet who presented a great work of this nature to the English people. Previous writers, living much apart from the world, had busied themselves over mental abstractions, or had laboured to recount pleasant dreams of chivalry, mainly illustrative of the doings of high-born knights and dames; but Chaucer, in his immortal work, gives us the life of the streets and of ordinary English homes such as it was in his day, with the joys and sorrows, the laughter, the tears, and the long periods of colourless existence which all must pass through. All the members of his group are thoroughly English in their natures and habits, and our interest in them will ever continue to be fresh and permanent, because they are true idealised representatives of ordinary human nature such as we find it every day around us. In some respects what he has held up to our view is discouraging enough; for we can see how in his day, just as in our own, many of those who had it in their power to lead men to high and noble aims had shamefully betrayed their trust; although, at the same time, there were not wanting those who counted it their highest privilege “to drawé folk to heven by fairéness.”
1 December 1891. B
WHAN that Aprillé" with his schowrés swoote
* It has been thought advisable to mark the letter e and cer. tain syllables which, contrary to modern usage, have to be pronounced separately, by the accent ', and certain other syllables which require to have stress laid on them after the French manner, by the accent ".