Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 22.djvu/310
in literary merit did not prevent their names being linked together for centuries as the two earliest poets of eminence in England. Thomas Hoccleve (1370–1454?) introduces into his ‘De Regimine Principum’ a lament for Gower and Chaucer, and calls Gower his master. Dunbar, in his ‘Lament for the Makaris,’ associates Chaucer, Gower, and the Monk of Bury [see Bury, Richard de] in the same verse. Skelton, in his ‘Boke of Philip Sparrow’ and his ‘Crowne of Laurell,’ writes that Gower's ‘matter is worth gold,’ and that he ‘first garnished our English rude.’ Hawes, in his ‘Pastyme of Pleasure,’ writes of moral Gower, whose ‘sentencious dewe Adowne reflareth with fayre golden beames.’ William Bullein [q. v.], in his ‘Dialogue … against the Fever Pestilence,’ 1573, describes Gower and Chaucer sitting under Parnassus near the classical poets, and writes of ‘old morall Goore with pleasaunt penne in hande, commandyng honeste loue without luste, and pleasure without pride, holinesse in the cleargie without hypocrisie, no tyrannie in rulers, no falshoode in lawiers, no usurie in marchauntes, no rebellion in the commons and vnitie among kyngdoms.’ Foxe, in his ‘Actes and Monuments,’ gives Gower and Chaucer jointly much commendation, and contrasts their learning with the ignorance of the clergy of their day. Puttenham and Sir Philip Sidney treat Gower as Chaucer's equal. ‘Greene's Vision’ (c 1599), attributed to Robert Greene, mainly consists of a pretended disputation between Gower and Chaucer as to the moral value of Greene's purely literary work. Chaucer praises it, and advises Greene to persevere. Gower urges him to renounce it for avowedly moral treatises, and Greene finally promises to follow Gower's counsel. A fanciful account of Gower's personal appearance is given in verse, and a long prose ‘Tale against Jelousie’ is put into his mouth (Greene, Works, ed. Grosart, xii. 209 sq.). Drayton, in his epistle of ‘Poets and Poesie,’ wisely notes ‘honest’ Gower's inferiority to Chaucer, and Peacham mildly censures him as ‘poore and plaine.’ The play of ‘Pericles’ (1608?), in which Shakespeare had an uncertain share, is based on the story of ‘Apollonius the Prince of Tyr,’ which figures in the eighth book of Gower's ‘Confessio,’ and which Gower avowedly derived from Godfrey of Viterbo's ‘Pantheon.’ Although the same story was ‘gathered into English by Laurence Twine,’ for the most part independently of Gower, in 1576, the authors of ‘Pericles’ were well acquainted with Gower's version. The prologue before each act of ‘Pericles’ is spoken by Gower, who opens the play with
To sing a song of old was sung,
From ashes ancient Gower is come.
Modern criticism has been unfavourable to Gower. ‘Gower has positively raised tediousness,’ writes Mr. J. R. Lowell with some asperity, ‘to the precision of a science. He is the undertaker of the fair mediæval legend. … Love, beauty, passion, nature, art, life, the natural and the theological virtues—there is nothing beyond his power to disenchant’ (My Study Windows, art. ‘Chaucer’). Hallam denies that Gower is ‘prosaic in the worst sense of the word.’ He undoubtedly lacks the poet's inspiration, but he claims to be nothing more than a moralist, an enthusiastic student of classical and mediæval literature, keenly alive to the failings of his own age. His varied erudition, his employment in his writings of the English language, in spite of his facility in both French and Latin, his simplicity and directness as a story-teller who is no servile imitator of his authorities, give his ‘Confessio’ an historical interest which the ‘frozen levels’ of its verse with ‘the clocklike tick of its rhymes’ cannot destroy. In his French ‘balades’ Gower reached a higher poetic standard. He shows much metrical skill, and portrays love's various phases with the poet's tenderness and sympathy. The literary quality of ‘Vox Clamantis’ is not great. It is marred by false quantities and awkward constructions; but its high moral tone, and its notices of contemporary society, give it an important place in historical literature.
A beautiful miniature of Gower is in British Museum Egerton MS. 1991, f. 7 b. A poor imitation is in Royal MS. 18, c. xxii. f. 1.[Warton's Hist. Engl. Poetry; Professor H. Morley's Engl. Writers, 1888, vol. iv.; Sir N. H. Nicolas's notes in Retrospective Review, new ser. vol. ii.; A. J. Ellis's Early English Pronunciation … including a re-arrangement of Prof. F. J. Child's Memoirs on the Language of Chaucer and Gower, 1871, pt. iii. 726–39; Ellis's Specimens of Early English Poets, i. 169–99; Originals and Analogues, Chaucer Soc. i. iii. and v.; Taylor's St. Mary Overy, Southwark; Todd's Illustrations of Gower and Chaucer; and the editions of Gower's works mentioned above. The notices in Leland, Bale, Pits and Tanner are worth little.]
GOWER, RICHARD HALL (1767–1833), naval architect, youngest son of the Rev. Foote Gower, M.D. [q. v.], was baptised at Chelmsford 26 Nov. 1767, and after spending some time at Ipswich grammar school obtained a scholarship at Winchester in 1778 (Kirby, Winchester Scholars, p. 271). In 1780 he entered as midshipman on board a vessel in the East India Company's service.