Addendum 1.3: The Urbane Chit-Chat of Horace & Chaucer

The Urbane Chit-Chat of Horace & Chaucer

Horace and Chaucer both employ unconventional epistolary styles, which are full of play, wit, and vernacular. From the Hellenism to the early modern English verse letter: Where did medieval epistolography go? The medieval epistle consisted of five parts:

1. Salutatio (formal greeting to addressee)
2. Captatio benevolentiae (introduction of good will)
3. Narratio (statement of circumstances before request)
4. Petitio (request)
5. Conclusio (a formal valediction, leave-taking)

Chaucer’s envoys to Bukton & Scogan, says Richard P. Howath, illustrate an image of the poet himself rather than the friend to whom he is addressing the poem or even the poem itself. It is a strange case, given that the envoys feature little linguistic evidence that these are “an earnest self reflection,” but of course he neglects how Chaucer outdoes the medieval forms of address & follows in a not-so-unique way the attributes––even the raison d’être––of Horace.

Likewise, Horace inherited letter-writing conventions from Cicero & other Greek letter-writing manuals (see for example his use of tradere in a verse recommendations & his appeals to digni). Nevertheless, Horace created other forms of address in his verse letters.

Chaucer, though. What of his formula?

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The Honesty of Samuel Johnson

Prior to reading “Life of Johnson” by James Boswell, I knew very little of Samuel Johnson, and this text was very informative.  Johnson was an honest fellow, it was quite clear.  He spoke his mind and was very blunt about many things, such as his negative attitude for Americans.  Another example of this candor is when “he accepted of an offer to be employed as usher in the school of Market-Bosworth, in Leicestershire,” (Boswell, 60).  According to Johnson’s letters to Mr. Hector, “[t]his employment was very irksome to him in every respect,” (60).  Moreover, the lines I enjoyed the most from this section were, “…he did not know whether it was more disagreeable for him to teach, or the boys to learn… His general aversion to this painful drudgery was greatly enhanced by a disagreement between him and Sir Wolstan Dixey…” (60-61).  Johnson soon resigned.

The reason I am enthusiastic about these few lines of Johnson’s biography is that they are inspiring to individuals such as myself who are studying education, with aspirations to enlighten the minds of the youth.  As someone who is pursing an education to be a teacher, it is always motivating to read heartwarming stories from those who have teacher experience, such as Johnson has.  I am being sarcastic of course, because Johnson’s experience with teaching was not a heartwarming story.  Although this biography does not go into further detail of his employment of an usher, it is obvious he did not have a positive experience.  He did not enjoy teaching, nor did he enjoy the boys he taught.  This is not inspiring to an education student at all.  Being informed that someone quit their job as a teacher because they were not enthusiastic about the students they interacted with, or that they did not enjoy the job is not motivating.  Will this be me six months into my teaching profession?  I certainly hope not.  Nonetheless, it has been 200-plus years since Johnson had his go around with the employment of a teacher, and I shall not steer my career goals based off of his opinion of working with such individuals.  I wouldn’t say I have a personality that comes even close to Samuel Johnson’s.  When it comes to the job, it is all in how you make it, and Johnson didn’t bother to make the best of his experience as the usher of Market-Bosworth.  It takes a confident individual to be an educator, and Johnson was not cut out for the job.  At least this was early in his life, giving him the chance to find a new career.

Work Cited:

Boswell, James.  Life of Johnson Unabridged.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953.  Print 19-1401.