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Art. I.-1. The Prologue and Knight's Tale, of the Canterbury
Tales, in six parallel Texts (from six MSS.), together with Tables, showing the Groups of the Tales, and their varying order in thirty-eight MSS. Published by the Chaucer
Society. London: 1869. 2. The Miller's, Reeve's, and Cook's Tales, with an Appendix
of the Spurious Tale of Gamelyn, in six parallel Texts. 3. English Pronunciation, with especial reference to Shak
spere and Chaucer. By ALEXANDER J. ELLIS, Esq.,
F.R.S. Parts I. and II. London: 1869-70. 4. Essays on Chaucer, his Words and Works: 1. Professor
EBERT's Review of Sandras's Étude sur Chaucer, translated by J. W. van REES HOETS, M.A. ; 2. A 13th-century Latin Treatise on the Chilindre (of the Shipmans Tale)
edited by Mr. E. BROCK. London: 1869. 5. A Temporary Preface to the Society's Six-Text edition of
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Part I., attempting to show the right Order of the Tales, and the Days and Stages of the Pilgrimage, 8c., 8c. By F. J. FURNIVALL, Esq., M.A.
1870. 6. The Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer.
Edited by RICHARD MORRIS. 1870. 7. The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer. A New Text
with Illustrative Notes. By Thomas WRIGHT, Esq.,
M.A., F.S.A., &c. 1847. IT T is a national reproach that after the lapse of nearly five
hundred years we are still without a critical and illustrative edition of Chaucer's poetical works. Excepting Shakspeare, no English poet so thoroughly requires and deserves VOL. CXXXII, NO, CCLXIX.
careful editing as Chaucer; and, in the essential characteristics of his genius, no English poet comes nearer to Shakspeare. In breadth of dramatic insight, power of individual portraiture, fertility of invention, and command over the resources of pathos and humour, Chaucer is essentially Shakspearian. He has, moreover, the intense love of nature, the delicacy and truth of observation, and the vivid descriptive power which appear so conspicuously in Shakspeare's early poems. Above all, he has the same wide human interest, the large toleration, and the inexhaustible sympathy with life in every form. His pictures of contemporary society, though rich in local colouring, are thus still richer in dramatic power. The 'Canterbury Tales,' while presenting us with graphic pictures of mediæval costume and manners, contain delineations of humours and passions that reappear in every age, and are of universal interest. No doubt Chaucer lacks the higher qualities of Shakspeare, his depth of passion, subtile and profound reflectiveness, and peerless creative imagination. Yet Chaucer's poetical genius is not only dramatic, but broadly and variously dramatic, including a wide range of keen observation, truthful portraiture, and effective incident. The Canterbury Tales' are in substance, if not in form, a diversified, though unfinished drama. The descriptions of the Monk and Prioress, the Reeve and Franklin, the Friar and Pardoner, of Dame Alison and the Wife of Bath, are well-known masterpieces. Some of the lighter tales, such as those of the Miller and the Reeve, are short comedies full of genuine humour; while others, such as those of the Nun Priest and the Manciple, abound with well-directed strokes of incisive irony, and keen but quiet satire. Again, the picture of the wave-tossed Constance mazed in the sea,' and, after a brief gleam of happiness, committed again with her weeping infant to its cruel mercies, and that of the much-enduring Griselda's parting and reunion with her children, may rank as pathetic images with those of the wildered Ophelia distributing her floral gifts, and the footsore heart-wearied Imogen passing dream-like through the wild in the one thought of her absent lord.
Next to his command over the fountains of laughter and tears comes Chaucer's rare power of felicitous expression. His style in his later writings, while easy and flexible, is at the same time vigorous and pointed, having rarely a sentence or even a word of repetition or needless amplification. At a time when inordinate diffuseness and prolixity was the vice of English versification, he gave an example of artistic concentration, of terse and vigorous clearness in narrative, description, and dia