“NOW HIDDEN HATRED PRESENTS A PAINTED FACE OF LOVE”: GOWER’S CONFESSION OF A LOVER, 1857, HANDSOMELY PRINTED AND BOUND
GOWER, John. Confessio Amantis (Confession of a Lover). Edited and Collated with the Best Manuscripts by Dr. Reinhold Pauli. London: Bell and Daldy (Chiswick Press), 1857. Three volumes. Tall octavo, early 20th-century three-quarter maroon morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled boards, patterned endpapers, top edges gilt, uncut and partially unopened. $650.
Chiswick Press edition of this classic of 14th-century English literature, standing with Boccaccio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as the most valuable contemporary “reviews of the condition of the human race,” handsomely bound.
Confessio Amantis stands as one of the great works of late 14th-century English literature. Written around 1390 and first published by William Caxton in 1483, John Gower recounts tales of the seven deadly sins by using the confession of an ageing lover to the chaplain of Venus as a framework for a collection of shorter narrative poems— over 100 individual stories, making it larger than the Decameron, and much longer than the Canterbury Tales or the Legend of Good Women. In his Prologue, Gower “reviews the condition of the human race… and avows to deal with a subject which is of universal interest, namely love. At the same time, he will not wholly renounce his function of teaching, for love is a matter in which men need very much guidance, but, at least, he will treat of the subject in such a way as to entertain as well as instruct: the stories are to be ‘between the tweie, Somwhat of lust, somwhat of lore… told in a simple and pleasing style by one who clearly had a gift for story-telling. The best-known tales are those that have analogues in other English writers, since these are often studied for comparison. These include the ‘Apollonius,’ which served as a source for the Shakespearean Pericles, and the tales shared with Chaucer, such as the tales of ‘Constance’ (also told by Chaucer’s Man of Law) and ‘Florent’ (also told by the Wife of Bath)” (Cambridge History). This edition was beautifully printed at the Chiswick Press, famous for its revival of fine printing in England, when in 1844 it brought Caslon type back into use, and for having published some of William Morris’ early designs. Bookplate.
A fine copy, with only light foxing to first and last few leaves, handsomely bound.