Chaucer’s own works, especially the Canterbury Tales; publications of the Chaucer Society; Pauli’s History of England; ordinary Histories of England which relate to the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II., especially Green’s History of the English People; Life of Chaucer, by William Godwin (4 volumes, London, 1804); Tyrwhitt’s edition of Canterbury Tales; Speglet’s edition of Chaucer; Warton’s History of English Poetry; St. Palaye’s History of Chivalry; Chaucer’s England, by Matthew Browne (London, 1869); Sir Harris Nicholas’s Life of Chaucer; The Riches of Chaucer, by Charles Cowden Clarke; Morley’s Life of Chaucer. The latest work is a Life and Criticism of Chaucer, by Adolphus William Ward. There is also a Guide to Chaucer, by H.G. Fleary. See also Skeat’s collected edition of Chaucer’s Works, brought out under the auspices of the Early English Text Society.
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A. D. 1446-1506.
About thirteen hundred years ago, when Attila the Hun, called “the scourge of God,” was overrunning the falling empire of the Romans, some of the noblest citizens of the small cities of the Adriatic fled, with their families and effects, to the inaccessible marshes and islands at the extremity of that sea, and formed a permanent settlement. They became fishermen and small traders. In process of time they united their islands together by bridges, and laid the foundation of a mercantile state. Thither resorted the merchants of Mediaeval Europe to make exchanges. Thus Venice became rich and powerful, and in the twelfth century it was one of the prosperous states of Europe, ruled by an oligarchy of the leading merchants.
Contemporaneous with Dante, one of the most distinguished citizens of this mercantile mart, Marco Polo, impelled by the curiosity which reviving commerce excited and the restless adventure of a crusading age, visited the court of the Great Khan of Tartary, whose empire was the largest in the world. After a residence of seventeen years, during which he was loaded with honors, he returned to his native country, not by the ordinary route, but by coasting the eastern shores of Asia, through the Indian Ocean, up the Persian Gulf, and thence through Bagdad and Constantinople, bringing with him immense wealth in precious stones and other Eastern commodities. The report of his wonderful adventures interested all Europe, for he was supposed to have found the Tarshish of the Scriptures, that land of gold and spices which had enriched the Tyrian merchants in the time of Solomon,—men supposed by some to have sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in their three years’ voyages. Among the wonderful things which Polo had seen was a city on an island off the coast of China, which was represented to contain six hundred thousand families, so rich that the palaces of its nobles were covered