The first great Englishman and his 'calamitous' century
This first, and some would say greatest, poet of the English language stands before the gateway of the early modern age. He lived at a time when the elite languages of former conquerors, French and Latin, were both giving way to English - no longer just the vernacular of the common people, but increasingly the language of the court, the law, and of literature. Richard West weaves a fascinating picture of this extraordinary man, whose character has puzzled lovers of his comic masterpiece, "The Canterbury Tales". How did he remain so apparently cheerful and serene, through one of the cruellest eras of history? As a child he survived the Black Death, later he fought in France during the Hundred Years War, served as a diplomat in Italy, and became an MP at the angry beginnings of the Protestant Reformation, the Peasants' Revolt and the overthrow of Richard II.
'What Richard West does, in this lively and entertaining volume . . . is to tell a series of stories about Chaucer, his age, and his works . . . West provides examples of the text in both its original and modernised form, tempting his readers to enjoy the experience of meeting Chaucer face to face. - BBC History Magazine
West has written a genuinely fascinating book, the best kind of popular history . . . - Literary Review