1837, 1845 (1850), 1856
The great contribution to Chaucer studies from the USA begins with Emerson (1803-82), man of letters and trans-cendentalist, who refers to Chaucer several times. He associates Chaucer with other great writers in a timeless unity of world literature, as in extract (a) from the lecture on The American Scholar, delivered in 1837 (Centenary Edition, I, pp. 91-2). In extract (b), from the lecture on Shakespeare in the series ‘Representative Men’ given in 1845 (first published 1850), he perceives how a writer such as Chaucer, not seeking an idiosyncratic originality, is as it were a spokesman of, not a legislator for, a whole tradition of culture, though here timelessness becomes so independent of chronology and historical process as to make Chaucer the borrower from Caxton (Centenary Edition, IV, pp. 196-8, 215-17). But Emerson recognised some difference in extract (c) from ‘English Traits’ (1856), where he praises Chaucer’s plainness of speech as emphatically as Lydgate has praised his ornateness (Centenary Edition, V, pp. 233-4). Emerson groups Chaucer with other major poets who create a general significance of meaning in human life extending beyond utilitarian practicality, though in English, as he seems to claim, based on a feeling for material reality.