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university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 3, summer 2004 SETH LERER Chaucer=s Sons There were, we have been led to believe, two of them. First, there was Thomas, negotiating the currents of Lancastrian politics, serving in parliament , acquiring lands and wealth. The great historian of fifteenth-century England, K.B. McFarlane, limned an approving portrait of his >political skill= in maintaining his position as Speaker in the fractious parliaments of Henry IV=s reign. He was, McFarlane states, able to retain >the confidence of both sides in what at one time threatened to become a civil war= (McFarlane, 277B78).1 Such mastery of diplomatic appeasement fits well with the recent turn in Chaucer biographical scholarship: a vision of a man, not so much detached from the political world as masterly within it; someone who could play off king and city, serve in parliament and at the court. In his biography of Chaucer, Derek Pearsall seems to endorse this position, and his vision of the poet as a civic servant informs, too, his benevolent assessment of the son. >A true son of his father,= in political savvy; and again, >Whatever ambitions the father may have entertained in his own public life were indeed amply fulfilled in the career of his son= (Pearsall, 278B79). Thomas got his coat of arms, his massive tomb, his children, and his afterlife among the de la Poles, later the Dukes of Suffolk. The deep political importance of the line of Thomas Chaucer, stressed on Pearsall=s final pages, is visually reaffirmed on the >Progenie= page of Speght=s 1598 edition of the Complete Works. Here, the line of Geoffrey=s descendants trickles down the right-hand column of the page, ending with Edmund de la Pole, the Duke of Suffolk, while on the left, the descendants of John of Gaunt (the brother-in-law of Chaucer=s mother-in-law) turn down through John Beaufort, Margaret of Richmond, and Henry VII, King of England (see the reproduction in Pearsall, 281). And Thomas, too, had something of a literary afterlife. Close with the best-known propagandist of the Lancastrian cause, John Lydgate, he was made the dedicatee of a ballad on his >departing= B a ballad that refigures this son as a new >mayster Chaucer= for the patronized poet; a son who may be reinscribed into the elegiac gestures of post-Chaucerian literary subjection. 1 For a review of biographical studies of Thomas Chaucer, see Pearsall, 342n4. For a provocative argument about the role of Thomas Chaucer in the maintenance of Chaucer=s later literary reputation, see Bowers. Lat him not now out of remembraunce chaucer=s sons 907 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 3, summer 2004 But euer amonge haue him in memorye. ... And for my part, I sey right as I think, I am pure sory and hevy is myn hert More þan I express can wryte with ink, Þe want of him so sore doþ me smert. (>Departing,= ed. Norton-Smith, lines 7, 64B65, 71B74) And then there is Lewis, seemingly without afterlife or issue, trapped eternally in history as the little ten-year-old intended reader of the Treatise on the Astrolabe, surviving elsewhere, if at all, in the bare reference to a >Ludowicus Chaucer= in the records of the garrison of Camerthen Castle in Wales in 1403 (Crow and Olson, 544B45). This Lewis has been relegated to the margins of Chaucerian biography, a son, at times, brought into the immoral ambit of that most vexed of Chaucerian biographical questions, the raptus of Cecily Chaumpaigne. If the Treatise is to be dated 1391, then tenyear -old Lewis could have been, it has been argued, the product of that brief and perhaps criminal liaison.2 Even late medieval readers had trouble with this elusive scion. The best manuscript of the Astrolabe (Cambridge University Library MS Dd.3.53) offers a Latin colophon that places Lewis in Oxford as a student of Strode (though the scribe denotes him >N Strode= rather than the Ralph Strode, familiar from the envoy to Troilus and Criseyde) B but Ralph Strode was dead by 1387, when Lewis would have been six; and if there were...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 906-916
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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