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Today's Featured Biography

Geoffrey Chaucer

      It is very difficult to get even a correct outline of the figure of Geoffrey Chaucer. We think we have a perfect view of him; we congratulate ourselves upon knowing the man just as he moved and spoke among his contemporaries; when suddenly we discover that we are looking at a puppet cunningly dressed up by some imaginative biographer. We believe that we have got him into a good historical light, when all at once a doubt whether he was or was not an actor in such and such events throws him again into shadow. We try to conjure him up, but he comes in so many forms that we grow utterly bewildered. Yet, notwithstanding all this, we reverence him so deeply and love him so dearly, that we cannot help striving to gain some idea of what he was like.

      The dates given of Chaucer's birth are very varied, and range from 1328 to 1348. Probably some year midway between these two may be the right one. The accounts of his parentage are just as uncertain. Some give him a vintner for a father, some a merchant, and some a knight. In our opinion the former of these is the most likely origin for Geoffrey Chaucer. His rich but broad humor seems as if it must have sprung from the merry, vigorous heart of the common people, and the variety of characters depicted in the "Canterbury Tales" proves that he must have mixed with all sorts of men and women, both high and low. In after-life he was familiar with courts, and knights and ladies; but we fancy that in his youth he must have known int...

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