Gower Bibliography

Specimens of the Early English Poets, to which is prefixed an historical sketch of the rise and progress of the English Poetry and Language; in three volumes

Ellis, George. "Specimens of the Early English Poets, to which is prefixed an historical sketch of the rise and progress of the English Poetry and Language; in three volumes." London: W. Bulmer and Co., 1801

Review

The 1801 edition of Ellis's work, an expanded version of the one-volume edition of 1790 (which covered only poetry form the fifteenth to the seventeenth century), for the first time includes a chapter on Gower (pp. 169-98 of volume 1). The basic approach of this anthology is to provide brief sketches of the authors and short selections from their works. Gower is slotted in under the reign of Edward III. Ellis gives Gower's birth-date as approximately 1326 (see the table on p. xi), and suggests that he died in 1402. According to Ellis, little is known about Gower's life, except that he must have been well-born, and indeed well-off, if he could afford to study at the Inns of Court and contribute financially to the priory of St. Mary Overeys. Ellis believes that Gower's earliest compositions were his French ballads, and he quotes one as an example. A summary overview of the VC and MO follows, and the rest of the chapter focuses on the CA. Ellis argues that Gower's decision not to write in English until later in life is explained by the prominence of French at the court of Edward III. Much of Ellis's overview of the CA is borrowed from Thomas Warton (particularly the account of Gower's sources). Ellis adds some final observations, including a critique of Gower's adaptation of Ovid. According to Ellis, when we read Gower's retellings, "we feel a mixture of surprise and despair, at the perverse industry employed in removing every detail, on which the imagination had been accustomed to fasten. The author of the Metamorphosis was a poet, and at least sufficiently fond of ornament; Gower considers him as a mere annalist" (177). Ellis therefore considers that Gower's popularity "is, perhaps, not very likely to revive" (177-78), but he mentions some narratives worth reading and suggests that books 4 and 7 of the CA are useful as compendia of learning. As a specimen of Gower's writing, Ellis offers the tale of "Florent," not only because it provides an analogue to Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale, but also because "the story has considerable merit" (179). [CvD]

Item Type:Book
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Vox Clamantis
Biography of Gower
Cinkante Balades
Facsimiles, Editions, and Translations
Confessio Amantis
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

Gower Bibliography Editors Only: edit metadata