Marchette Gaylord Chute’s Geoffrey Chaucer of England is a remarkable achievement. In only twenty chapters, she has synthesized most of the documentary evidence available on Chaucer’s life and career with social and political history, as well as summaries and interpretations of most of Chaucer’s works. Her own drawings, which illustrate the book, imitate medieval artistic style and are amusingly decorative. Because much of the data available on Chaucer’s life consists of such sparse material as entries in account books, signatures on receipts and deeds, and the proceedings of court cases in which he was involved, Chute has provided a detailed background of fourteenth century English culture against which to examine these bare facts.
Chute begins, after a brief preface, with the life of John Chaucer, Geoffrey’s father, in order to introduce the connection between the Chaucer family and the house of Lancaster. John Chaucer served in two military campaigns under the earl of Lancaster, and Geoffrey was to serve the grandchildren of that earl in various capacities. The next chapter deals with Geoffrey Chaucer’s probable childhood activities and education. Lacking specific information on Chaucer’s childhood, Chute uses what is known from the Middle Ages about the Thames Street area of London, domestic architecture, and education to create a sufficiently probable picture of Chaucer’s adolescence.
(The entire section is 554 words.)