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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