John Gower, 1325?-1408
Poet. Although few details of his life have come down to us, he appears to have been a man of wealth and importance, connected with Kent, well known at Court, and in possession of more than one estate. He was the friend of Chaucer, who gives him the title of “the moral Gower,” which has clung to him ever since. His first principal work was Speculum Meditantis (the Mirror of one meditating) written in French on the subject of married life. It was long believed to have been lost. It was followed by Vox Clamantis (the Voice of one crying) written in Latin, giving an account of the peasants’ revolt of 1381, and attacking the misgovernment and social evils which had led to it. His third, and only English poem, was Confessio Amantis (Lover’s Confession), a work of 30,000 lines, consisting of tales and meditations on love, written at the request of Richard II. It is the earliest large collection of tales in the English tongue.
In his old age Gower became blind. He had, when about 70, retired to the Priory of St. Mary Overies, the chapel of which is now the Church of St. Saviour, Southwark, where he spent his last years, and to which he was a liberal benefactor. Gower represented the serious and cultivated man of his time, in which he was reckoned the equal of Chaucer, but as a poet he is heavy and prolix.