Edmund Spenser, whose touching tribute to his former teacher is often quoted.

Dear Dr. Boli: What’s all this I hear about “Dan Chaucer, well of English undefyled”? I thought his name was Jeff. —Sincerely, W. W. Skeat.

Dear Sir: You are thinking of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who died in 1400. Daniel Chaucer taught creative writing at the Merchant Taylors’ School in London in the middle 1500s. He was reputed to be rather pedantic on questions of English usage.

This article is printed in honor of the four hundredth birthday of Dr. Boli’s folio copy of Spenser’s works. When a book reaches the four-century mark, Dr. Boli believes it has earned a birthday tribute.


  1. Did Edmund Spenser have ear mites at the time of his sitting for the portrait?

    • Lice having gone out of fashion after that whole Black Death thing, by Spenser’s day, ear mites had replaced them as the trendiest of body vermin, and no fashionable gentleman would DREAM of sitting for an official portrait without at least one ear well stuffed with arthropod parasites. Of course, the humble ones would stuff the ear turned away from the painter. Sadly, neither my eyesight nor my screen resolution is up to determining which category Mr. Spenser fell into.

      Today, of course, ear mites have also fallen out of fashion, and these days it’s all about the eyelash mites.

  2. C. Simon says:

    “And therein were a thousand tongs empight,
    Of sundry kindes, and sundry quality;
    Some were of dogs, that barked day and night,
    And some of cats, that wrawling still did cry,
    And some of Beares, that groynd continually,
    And some of Tygres, that did seeme to gren,
    And snar at all, that euer passed by:
    But most of them were tongues of mortall men,
    Which spake reprochfully, not caring where nor when.”

    The Blatant Beast… as true today as when those lines were penned.

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