Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-7479d7b7d-fwgfc Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-14T15:06:25.382Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

11 - John Gower

from Part II - Authors

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2009

Larry Scanlon
Affiliation:
Rutgers University, New Jersey
Get access

Summary

“And for that fewe men endite . . . ”

In the early to mid 1470s, George Ashby's Active Policy of a Prince ranked the poet John Gower, his more famous contemporary Geoffrey Chaucer, and Chaucer's successor John Lydgate as the “Primier poetes of this nacion.” Ashby celebrated them as vernacular writers, responsible for rhetorical, linguistic, and formal innovations, which he associated with the formation of an English identity and saw as the starting point of a distinctive English literary tradition. Ashby's views were not unique, and, although gradually tastes changed to Gower's disadvantage, Gower, Chaucer, and Lydgate continued to be viewed as a triumvirate well into the sixteenth century. But how accurate is Ashby's appraisal of Gower's achievement, and is he justified in linking his name not just to Chaucer, but to Lydgate, and thus implicitly to other of Chaucer's disciples such as Thomas Hoccleve?

Relatively little is known about Gower's life. We are not certain when he was born (his birth date is taken to be 1330), or where he was brought up. We do not know anything definite about his education, or even about his choice of career, but the consensus, based largely on the evidence of “insider” knowledge displayed in his poetry and of surviving records of various property dealings, is that he trained as a lawyer. We do know that in the 1370s he moved to the Priory of St. Mary Overeys in Southwark, that in 1378 Chaucer granted him power of attorney when he traveled to Italy, that in 1398 Gower married, and that shortly after he went blind, and that in 1408 he died. It is also clear that toward the end of his life, Gower benefited from the patronage of Henry of Derby both before and after he became king. Gower's surviving poetry seems to have been written in the second half of his life, up to around 1400.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

  • John Gower
  • Edited by Larry Scanlon, Rutgers University, New Jersey
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Literature 1100–1500
  • Online publication: 28 November 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521841672.012
Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

  • John Gower
  • Edited by Larry Scanlon, Rutgers University, New Jersey
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Literature 1100–1500
  • Online publication: 28 November 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521841672.012
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • John Gower
  • Edited by Larry Scanlon, Rutgers University, New Jersey
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Literature 1100–1500
  • Online publication: 28 November 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL9780521841672.012
Available formats
×