Gower Bibliography

'The slyeste of alle': The Lombard Problem in John Gower's London

Bertolet, Craig. "'The slyeste of alle': The Lombard Problem in John Gower's London." In John Gower: Manuscripts, Readers, Contexts. Ed. Urban, Malte. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, pp. 197-218.


Gower, Bertolet remarks, "seems to be uniformly hostile to aliens in England, especially alien traders . . . but he levels his harshest criticism against the 'Lombards' (Gower's term for all northern Italians) in both his 'Mirour de l'Omme' and 'Confessio Amantis'" (197). Nonetheless, "Anti-Lombard hostility . . . is not exceptional to Gower" (197) and it was at its height during "the third quarter of the fourteenth century when Gower was writing the 'Mirour'" (197). Bertolet sets out to discover "Why did Gower and his contemporaries find the Lombards such a threat to their sense of order?" (197). To pursue this line of inquiry, Bertolet will "read Gower's comments against events in and around London from roughly 1350-80," most of which he gleans from the "London Letter-books" (197-98), and from court records. Two murder trials offer particular good evidence: those of two prominent Italian merchants, Nicholas Sardouche and Janus Imperiale, the first in 1370 and the second in 1378 (199-209). The rest of the essay consists of a close reading of passages from the MO--in which "Gower makes one of the earliest arguments in England for local and national commercial policies to be in harmony with each other" (210)--and the CA--where Gower's "hostility towards the Lombards is consistent" with his position in the MO (218). Gower's views on the Lombards becomes part of his political agenda, since "His two poetic complaints about them serve as a warning to all readers to beware of a group of men who come from a land of division and who seek to spread this division wherever they go, undermining the moral function of trade and the vital fabric of harmony which keeps all cities, especially London, together in social love and common profit" (218).] [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 30.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

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