Boccacio in England, from Chaucer to Tennyson

Boccacio in England, from Chaucer to Tennyson

Boccacio in England, from Chaucer to Tennyson

Boccacio in England, from Chaucer to Tennyson

Excerpt

This study was completed in 1954 but owing to various causes its appearance has been postponed. It was begun some twenty-five years ago in the over-sanguine expectation that it would be completed in two. The richness and complexity of the material and the need for detailed preliminary investigations account for the long delay. My object throughout was to see Boccaccio, so far as was possible, in relation to the personality of the writers to whom he appealed and simultaneously to observe the changing taste of successive ages as it was revealed by their choice among Boccaccio's writings. It also appeared desirable to bear in mind that Boccaccio was a European literary phenomenon, and I attempted, within the limits of my capacity, to consider his fortunes on the Continent.

I have profited by the labours of older writers such as Attilio Hortis, A. C. Lee, Mary A. Scott, Arturo Farinelli, Henri Hauvette and Emil Koeppel, not to speak of a large number of scholars of the present day. I have not thought it necessary to record every single book or article on literary indebtedness to Boccaccio, sometimes real, sometimes imaginary, but have restricted myself to what seemed to me the most relevant to my purpose.

Chaucer offered a special problem because so much important work had been done on him in recent years, particularly in America. While taking all this into account, I have examined Chaucer's poems afresh in the hope that here and there I may have added a point or two. In this connexion I have studied the Italian original closely in order to ascertain the precise nature of the English adaptation or transformation. Inevitably this has led to a certain fullness of treatment which is perhaps justified in a monograph of this kind. For the same reason various minor figures in the history of English literature are dealt with at some length because in the survey of Boccaccio's influence their importance is greater than their intrinsic merit.

The organization of the somewhat recalcitrant material was difficult. In the end I thought it best to investigate the fortune of Boccaccio's writings one by one. I was especially reluctant to apply this method to Chaucer, for it is obvious that in this way justice is hardly done to his work as a living whole. Truly, one may say 'We murder to dissect'. Moreover, the stimulus of Boccaccio's example as an artist is not . . .

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