Paul Strohm’s Chaucer’s Tale: 1386 and the Road to Canterbury charts Chaucer’s growth as a writer from his time as a bureaucrat living in very modest quarters in London’s Aldgate Tower to his banishment in Kent. Chaucer wrote at a time of transition in manuscript production, increases in circulation, and expansion of audiences.
Strohm walks you through Chaucer’s London: a time of political intrigue; unscrupulous merchants; traitors’ heads dangling on the tower scaffold; streets teeming with life; church bells peeling at regular intervals; people shouting and jostling through narrow, cobbled streets; strangers accosting each other, eager to share the latest gossip; and the stench of open sewers wafting through the atmosphere. Incredibly, against this chaotic and noisy and smelly background, Chaucer somehow managed to carve out time and space to write.
Strohm's lively portrayal of London while charting Chaucer's progression as a literary genius is a must read for lovers of Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales.