Geoffrey Chauser Geoffrey Chauser was an English poet from middle ages. He is widely celebrated as the Father of English Literature and the greatest English poet of middle ages. Before Geoffery, the primary literary languages of England were French and Latin. He was the first one to use Middle English Vernacular, a version of English language spoken post Norman Conquest.
He earned acclaim as a poet, author and philiospher but was also a full time bureaucrat, courtier and diplomat. Geoffrey’s best known work is ‘The Canterbury Tales’, a collection of 24 stories. He was the first person to be buried in the poet’s corner in Westminster Abbey, a great honor and acknowledgment of his literary accomplishments.
Early Life of Chauser: Geoffrey was born in London in 1343. His father, John Chauser was a winemaker and worked in London. As a teenager, Geoffrey started an apprenticeship when he joined the household of Elizabeth de Burgh, Countess of Ulster. Elizabeth was married to Lionel, the Duke of Clarence, son of King Edward III. His position in the household of Lionel provided him an opportunity to move in court circles.
He also worked for King Edward as his clerk for a few years. In 1359, he accompanied Duke of Clarence as a part of English Army on invasion of France during early part of Hundred Years War. In 1360, he was taken as prisoner during the siege of Reims. Lionel, the Duke of Clarence had to pay a ransom amount of £16 for his release. Chauser subsequently performed different duties in the Royal court. During these days he wrote his first book ‘The Book of Duchess’ in honor of Blanche Lancaster, late wife of Edward III’s son John the Gaunt.
In 1366, he married Philippa Roet, daughter of Sir Payne Roet and a lady in waiting for Philippa of Hainault, wife of King Edward III. This marriage helped him in furthering his career in royal court. He held several diplomatic positions in royal service. In 1373, Chauser visited Genoa and Florence and was introduced to the Italian medieval poetry. He was greatly influenced by it and it was reflected in his own work in later years. Chauser was a close friend of John the Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. His wife Philippa was the sister of John’s third wife, Katherine.
Work: Geoffrey Chauser is credited with instituting the use of Middle English vernacular in his works. Prior to this, Latin and French were primarily used as literary languages in England. The best among his many works are The Book of the Duchess (he wrote it to commemorate death of Blanche Lancaster, wife of Duke of Lancaster), Parliament of Fouls, The House of Fame, The Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde. However; his best known work is ‘The Canterbury Tales’, a collection of twenty four stories. His non-fiction essay ‘A Treatise on Astrolabe’ is also a well known work in which he elaborates the use of Astrolabe, an instrument used by astronomers to locate position of sun, moon and planets.
Later Life: In the later years of his life, Geoffrey acted as Clerk of Works during the reign of Richard II. He found this job to be stressful and not very rewarding. By then his pension had been stopped. In 1391, he resigned from his job and took work as a sub-forester in King’s Park in Somersetshire. In 1399, Richard II’s successor, Henry IV reinstated Geoffrey’s pension which helped him live his remaining days with some dignity.
After a bout of brief illness, this celebrated poet and author met his maker on October 25, 1400 in London. He was buried in Westminster Abbey at a place which was later named poet’s corner. Famous British authors like Robert Browning and Charles Dickens are also buried at the same location..