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Chatti—Chaucer

The Chatterton MSS., originally in the possession of William Barrett of Bristol, were left by his heir to the British Museum in 1800. Others are preserved in the Bristol library.

Chatterton’s genius and his tragic death are commemorated by Shelley in Adonais, by Wordsworth in “Resolution and Independence,” by Coleridge in “A Monody on the Death of Chatterton,” by D. G. Rossetti in “Five English Poets,” and John Keats inscribed Endymion “to the memory of Thomas Chatterton.” Alfred de Vigny’s drama of Chatterton gives an altogether fictitious account of the poet. Herbert Croft (q.v.), in his Love and Madness, interpolated a long and valuable account of Chatterton, giving many of the poet’s letters, and much information obtained from his family and friends (pp. 125-244, letter li.). There is a valuable collection of “Chattertoniana” in the British Museum, consisting of separate works by Chatterton, newspaper cuttings, articles, dealing with the Rowley controversy and other subjects, with MS. notes by Joseph Haslewood, and several autograph letters.

Among biographies of Chatterton may be mentioned Chatterton: A Biographical Study (1869), by Daniel Wilson; Chatterton: A Biography (1899; first printed 1856 in a volume of essays), by D. Masson; “Thomas Chatterton” (1900), by Helene Richter, in Wiener Beiträge zur engl. Philologie; Chatterton, by C. E. Russell (1909).


CHATTI, an ancient German tribe inhabiting the upper reaches of the rivers Weser, Eder, Fulda and Werra, a district approximately corresponding to Hesse-Cassel, though probably somewhat more extensive. They frequently came into conflict with the Romans during the early years of the 1st century. Eventually they formed a portion of the Franks and were incorporated in the kingdom of Clovis probably with the Ripuarii, at the beginning of the 6th century.

Tacitus, Annals, i. 2, II, 12, 13; Germania, 30-31; Strabo p. 291 f.


Chaucer, Geoffrey (? 1340–1400), English poet. The name Chaucer, a French form of the Latin calcearius, a shoe-maker, is found in London and the eastern counties as early as the second half of the 13th century. Some of the London Chaucers lived in Cordwainer Street, in the shoemakers’ quarter; several of them, however, were vintners, and among others the poet’s father John, and probably also his grandfather Robert. Legal pleadings inform us that in December 1324 John Chaucer was not much over twelve years old, and that he was still unmarried in 1328, the year which used to be considered that of Geoffrey’s birth.Life. The poet was probably born from eight to twelve years later, since in 1386, when giving evidence in Sir Richard le Scrope’s suit against Sir Robert Grosvenor as to the right to bear certain arms, he was set down as “del age de xl ans et plus, armeez par xxvij ans.” At a later date, and probably at the time of the poet’s birth, his father lived in Thames Street, and had to wife a certain Agnes, niece of Hamo de Compton, whom we may regard as Geoffrey Chaucer’s mother. In 1357 Geoffrey is found, apparently as a lad, in the service of Elizabeth, countess of Ulster, wife of Lionel, duke of Clarence, entries in two leaves of her household accounts, accidentally preserved, showing that she paid in April, May and December various small sums for his clothing and expenses. In 1359, as we learn from his deposition in the Scrope suit, Chaucer went to the war in France. At some period of the campaign he was at “Retters,” i.e. Rethel, near Reims, and subsequently had the ill luck to be taken prisoner. On the 1st of March 1360 the king contributed £16 to his ransom, and by a year or two later Chaucer must have entered the royal service, since on the 20th of June 1367 Edward granted him a pension of twenty marks for his past and future services. A pension of ten marks had been granted by the king the previous September to a Philippa Chaucer for services to the queen as one of her “domicellae” or “damoiselles,” and it seems probable that at this date Chaucer was already married and this Philippa his wife, a conclusion which used to be resisted on the ground of allusions in his early poems to a hopeless love-affair, now reckoned part of his poetical outfit. Philippa is usually said to have been one of two daughters of a Sir Payne Roet, the other being Katherine, who after the death of her first husband, Sir Hugh de Swynford, in 1372, became governess to John of Gaunt’s children, and subsequently his mistress and (in 1396) his wife. It is possible that Philippa was sister to Sir Hugh and sister-in-law to Katherine. In either case the marriage helps to account for the favour subsequently shown to Chaucer by John of Gaunt.

In the grant of his pension Chaucer is called “dilectus vallectus noster,” our beloved yeoman; before the end of 1368 he had risen to be one of the king’s esquires. In September of the following year John of Gaunt’s wife, the duchess Blanche, died at the age of twenty-nine, and Chaucer wrote in her honour The Book of the Duchesse, a poem of 1334 lines in octosyllabic couplets, the first of his undoubtedly genuine works which can be connected with a definite date. In June 1370 he went abroad on the king’s service, though on what errand, or whither it took him, is not known. He was back probably some time before Michaelmas, and seems to have remained in England till the 1st of December 1372, when he started, with an advance of 100 marks in his pocket, for Italy, as one of the three commissioners to treat with the Genoese as to an English port where they might have special facilities for trade. The accounts which he delivered on his return on the 23rd of May 1373 show that he had also visited Florence on the king’s business, and he probably went also to Padua and there made the acquaintance of Petrarch.

In the second quarter of 1374 Chaucer lived in a whirl of prosperity. On the 23rd of April the king granted him a pitcher of wine daily, subsequently commuted for an annuity of 20 marks. From John of Gaunt, who in August 1372 had granted Philippa Chaucer £10 a year, he himself now received (June 13) a like annuity in reward for his own and his wife’s services. On the 8th of June he was appointed Comptroller of the Custom and Subsidy of Wools, Hides and Woodfells and also of the Petty Customs of Wine in the Port of London. A month before this appointment, and probably in anticipation of it, he took (May 10, 1374) a lease for life from the city of London of the dwelling-house above the gate of Aldgate, and here he lived for the next twelve years. His own and his wife’s income now amounted to over £60, the equivalent of upwards of £1000 in modern money. In the next two years large windfalls came to him in the form of two wardships of Kentish heirs, one of whom paid him £104, and a grant of £71: 4: 6; the value of some confiscated wool. In December 1376 he was sent abroad on the king’s service in the retinue of Sir John Burley; in February 1377 he was sent to Paris and Montreuil in connexion probably with the peace negotiations between England and France, and at the end of April (after a reward of £20 for his good services) he was again despatched to France.

On the accession of Richard II. Chaucer was confirmed in his offices and pensions. In January 1378 he seems to have been in France in connexion with a proposed marriage between Richard and the daughter of the French king; and on the 28th of May of the same year he was sent with Sir Edward de Berkeley to the lord of Milan and Sir John Hawkwood to treat for help in the king’s wars, returning on the 19th of September. This was his last diplomatic journey, and the close of a period of his life generally considered to have been so unprolific of poetry that little beyond the Clerk’s “Tale of Grisilde,” one or two other of the stories afterwards included in the Canterbury Tales, and a few short poems, are attributed to it, though the poet’s actual absences from England during the eight years amount to little more than eighteen months. During the next twelve or fifteen years there is no question that Chaucer was constantly engaged in literary work, though for the first half of them he had no lack of official employment. Abundant favour was shown him by the new king. He was paid £22 as a reward for his later missions in Edward III.’s reign, and was allowed an annual gratuity of 10 marks in addition to his pay of £10 as comptroller of the customs of wool. In April 1382 a new comptrollership, that of the petty customs in the Port of London, was given him, and shortly after he was allowed to exercise it by deputy, a similar licence being given him in February 1385, at the instance of the earl of Oxford, as regards the comptrollership of wool. In October 1385 Chaucer was made a justice of the peace for Kent. In February 1386 we catch a glimpse of his wife Philippa being admitted to the fraternity of Lincoln cathedral in the company of Henry, earl of