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The fourth lecture of the Rev. MR. Dibdin, on the rise and progress of English literature, was devoted entirely to the life and writings of Chaucer.
He began by observing that the chronological priority of Gower to Chaucer, was by no means decided from the word
disciple', used by the former in his • Confession of a Lover;' for it appeared that this word was spoken by Venus as applicable to Chaucer's being her disciple and poet*, and not by Gower in reference to Chaucer's connexion with himself. T. Warton, Johnson, and Ritson, had concluded, from this very expres
* The goddess addresses Gower in the following manner :
Grete well Chaucer, when ye mete,
sion, that Gower was anterior to our venerable bard; who it seems had composed all his principal works, except the Canterbury Tales, before the appearance of the Confession of a Lover,' in 1392-3.
The biographical accounts of Chaucer were then rather minutely entered into: and it was remarked that hardly one material fact, of the very few with which we were acquainted of Chaucer's life, was found in subsequent biographers, that had not been already noticed by Tyrrwhit.
A succinct account was then given of all the works of Chaucer, in poetry and prose; and the character of the poet was delineated from some strong descriptive passages, in the anonymous biography prefixed to Urry's edition of his works.
The · Canterbury Tales' formed the next subject of discussion. Dryden's criticism on the poem, and Tyrrwhit's edition of it, were brought forward to particular notice: the latter was pronounced, on the authority of the late Mr. Ritson, to be the most erudite, curious, and valuable performance that has yet appeared in this country.'
Mr. D. concluded with adducing the testimonies of a number of antient and niodern English authors, in praise of Chaucer, from Ascham to Warton; and remarked, that the incorrect state in which the Poet's works now appeared, was, in a great measure, to be attributed to the mutilated and imperfect condition of the MSS. Still there was room for an improved edition : MSS. had been carelessly collated and transcribed; and it was hoped, that our antient Bard would one day receive the same advantages of editorship as were already bestowed on Shakspeare, Milton, and Spenser.
Published by LONGMAN, HURST, Rees, and ORME,
Paternoster Row; J. HATCHARD, Bookseller to Her Majesty, 190, Piccadilly; and WILLIAM MILLEP, Albemarle Street.
William Savage, Printer, Bedford Bury.
No. 5. SATURDAY, FEB. 21, 1807.
Studious exercise imparts to youth, temperance, to the aged gratification, wealth to the indigent, and honour to the wealthy.
DIOGENIS DICTUM CUM DIOGENE LAERTIO.
I did not retire from the fertile subject of Greece, and those who adorn the Grecian annals by the wonderful efforts of their genius, because the theme was exhausted, but because my proposed limits allowed only of cursory remark; and it is necessary to pass into other scenes and other regions.
When I reflect on the splendid cata.
logue of illustrious names deservedly celebrated in Greece, and observe how very few of them occur in the preceding essay, I can hardly expect the reader to give me credit for more than desultory observation, the highest claim of which is transitory amusement. He will be inclined, from the stores of his memory, or from the ardour of his attachment to particular studies, to reproach me for omitting characters and incidents which merit perpetual celebrity. Did not King Attalus, says one, give Aristides of Thebes a bundren talents for a single picture ? Did not Candaules, another may exclaim, cover a picture of Bularchus, of no inconsiderable dimensions, with pieces of gold, in testimony of its merit? Did not, again abserves a third, Demetrius Expugnator forbear to burn Rhodes, lest a picture painted by Protogenes might be destroyed ? I am aware of these and of numerous other examples, nevertheless having apologised, for my conciseness, I pass to other coun tries.