A Chaucer Handbook

A Chaucer Handbook

A Chaucer Handbook

A Chaucer Handbook

Excerpt

There are few poets who owe so much to scholarship as Geoffrey Chaucer. The labors of many men, extending over nearly two centuries and including the work of some of the best minds that have been dedicated to the study of English literature, have rescued the text of his poetry from the corruption into which it had been allowed to fall. The forgotten facts of his career have been brought together, out of the obscurity of scattered documents; and fantastic legends, which had gathered about his name, have been laid to rest. The sources from which he may have drawn materials have been explored, and we have been put in a position to know what books influenced his thinking and upon what foundations he built his works. If we are able, more than five hundred years after his death, to form something like a just estimate of the singular power of his genius, it is because scholarship has made clear the way.

The serious student of Chaucer, even though he make no especial pretense to learning, will naturally wish to derive as much benefit as possible from all this labor on the part of the learned. The teacher of Chaucer, moreover, will hardly feel that his duty has been done, if he has not been able to set before his students the material which scholarship has made available, for a truer estimation of the great poet whose works it is his privilege to interpret.

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