Gower Bibliography

Fraud, Division, and Lies: John Gower and London

Bertolet, Craig E. "Fraud, Division, and Lies: John Gower and London." In On John Gower: Essays at the Millenium. Ed. Yeager, R.F. Studies in Medieval Culture (46). Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2007, pp. 43-70.


Bertolet sets Gower's many comments on the legal and social life of his city into the context of the concerns and anxieties embodied in the surviving civic records of London, particularly the Letter-Books and the Plea and Memoranda Rolls. He finds that both the governing authorities and the poet found "the principal threats to the civic order . . . to be deceptive trading, sedition, and dangerous speech" (45), or more concisely, in the three terms of Bertolet's title. His discussion of each of these in turn, each with particular examples drawn from the records, illuminates passages in each of Gower's three major poems and puts into relief some of the many differences in assumption between Gower and ourselves regarding the relation between the individual and the polis. "Common profit" (together with its opposite, "singular profit") assumes a literal economic sense in Bertolet's analysis as he discusses the background to the poet's protests against fraud and "division." He also documents a prevailing fear of disorder reflected in the many restraints upon what we would consider "free speech." "The charge then to the governors of London and its guilds, as Gower would agree," he concludes, "[was] to regulate the behavior of their members in their words and deeds, so that they eschew divisive practices and instead benefit the city through honest work and communal love" (62). [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 27.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Backgrounds and General Studies

Gower Bibliography Editors Only: edit metadata