Bernard O'Donoghue

Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1344-c.1400) is rightly regarded as the Father of English Literature. His observant wit, his narrative skill and characterization, his linguistic invention, have been a well from which the language's greatest writers have drawn: Shakespeare, Pope, Austen, Dickens among them. He wrote his first poems as a young man, but it was in his thirties and forties that he composed his best known works: The House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls, and Troilus and Criseyde, at a time when he rose to prominence in public, as well as literary, life. A courtier, a trade emissary and diplomat, he fought in the Hundred Years War and was captured and ransomed; his marriage into the family of John of Gaunt ensured his influence in political society. For more than a decade, he was engaged on his most famous work of all, The Canterbury Tales, until his death around 1400; there is no record of the precise date or the circumstances of his demise, despite vivid and colourful speculation.