Gower Bibliography

"On Gower, The Kentish Poet, His Character and Works"

Warwick,, W. ""On Gower, The Kentish Poet, His Character and Works"." Archaeologia Cantiana (1866), pp. 83-107.

Review

Warwick strengthens Gower's ties to Kent and assesses Gower's contribution to English letters. Warwick first outlines the dispute about whether Gower was from Stittenham in Yorkshire (the view of Leland and Todd), Wales (Caxton), or Kent (Weever and Nicolas). After reviewing Harris Nicolas's evidence for Kent – based primarily on deeds and on the poet’s heraldic arms – Warwick adds further proof. In particular, Warwick reveals that the close rolls of the reigns of Edward III and Richard II seemingly paint an unflattering portrait of Gower. Gower may have been "somewhat of a speculator and land-jobber" (87) in Kent and nearby counties. Most damaging to Gower's reputation is his involvement with the notorious Septvans affair, where William Septvans, while legally a minor, alienated his lands to Gower and others under a false "probatio aetatis" (88). (The details of this incident are fleshed out in a lengthy footnote to Warwick's essay by another writer under the initials T. G. F.--perhaps Fleay). Warwick's final proof of Gower's "shrewd turn for business" is that Gower acted as attorney for Chaucer in 1378. This would suggest that the poets were friends, but Warwick next examines the possibility of an "estrangement" (91) between the poets. In particular, Warwick questions whether Gower's omission of his tribute to Chaucer from later editions of the CA should be interpreted in conjunction with the nearly simultaneous omission of the panegyric to Richard II. Influenced by the idea that Chaucer (rather than Usk) had written the Testament of Love, critics believed that Gower became a timid sycophant of Henry of Lancaster at the same time as he rejected his friend Chaucer who had landed in hot water for his support of Richard II. Warwick objects that the Chaucer reference is poetic and not political in character. Moreover, removing a panegyric and inserting a new one is an act that as a matter of course sends contradictory signals: it may seem obsequious and self-serving in relation to the new patron, yet represents a bold slap in the face to the form dedicatee (93-94). The remainder of Warwick's essay assesses Gower's literary merits. He argues that Gower's clear and smooth octosyllabic verse must have seemed "something marvellous" (94) to his own generation. Gower's educational program in the CA also supplied all the learning necessary for a gentleman up till the Renaissance. To the modern reader, however, Gower seems abstract, verbose, and lacking in "life" (95). Warwick concludes with some observations about Gower's relationship with Chaucer (he suggests that Chaucer's January is a parody of Gower the old lover) and about the meaning of the word "moral" in "moral Gower" (the word is more intellectual than ethical in connotation). [CvD]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Style, Rhetoric, and Versification
Biography of Gower
Cinkante Balades
Confessio Amantis
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

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