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Modern English poetry may be said to have begun in London. Chaucer was born in London, was the descendant of a long line of Londoners, and lived in London the greater part of his life. Many of his contemporaries, including Gower, Occleve, and Lydgate, were connected with London, and spent much of their time there.
Chaucer’s father was a citizen and vintner in London, and owned a house in Thames Street, close to Walbrook. Geoffrey Chaucer was in all probability born in this house; it became his own property, and he parted with it in 1380. Six years before this he acquired the lease of the dwelling-house above the city-gate of Aldgate, on 53 condition that he kept it in good repair; he seems to have made this his usual residence till 1385. In it he must have composed several of his poems, including the Parlement of Foules, The House of Fame, and Troilus. He did not commence the Canterbury Tales until the following year.
To all persons to whom this present writing indented shall come, Adam de Bury, Mayor, the Aldermen and the Commonalty of the City of London, greeting. Know ye that we, with unanimous will and assent, have granted and released by these presents unto Geoffrey Chaucer the whole of the dwelling-house above the Gate of Aldgate, with the rooms built over, and a certain cellar beneath, the same gate, on the Soth side of that gate, and the appurtenances thereof; to have and to hold the whole of the house aforesaid, with the rooms so built over, and the said cellar, and the appurtenances thereof, unto the aforesaid Geoffrey, for the whole of him, the same Geoffrey. And the said Geoffrey shall maintain and repair the whole of the house aforesaid, and the rooms thereof, so often as shall be requisite, in all things necessary thereto, competently and sufficiently, at the expense of the same Geoffrey, throughout the whole life of him, the same Geoffrey. And it shall be lawful for the Chamberlain of the Guildhall of London, for the time being, so often as he shall see fit to enter the house and rooms aforesaid, with their appurtenances, to see that the same are well and competently, and sufficiently, maintained and repaired, as aforesaid. And if the said Geoffrey shall not have maintained or repaired the aforesaid house and rooms competently and sufficiently, as is before stated, within forty days after the time when by the same Chamberlain he shall have been required to do so, it shall be lawful for the said Chamberlain wholly to oust the before-named Geoffrey therefrom, and to re-seize and resume the same house, rooms, and cellar, with their appurtenances, into the hand of the City, to the use of the Commonalty aforesaid; and to hold the same 54 in their former state to the use of the same Commonalty, without any gainsaying whatsoever thereof. And it shall not be lawful for the said Geoffrey to let the house, rooms, and cellar, aforesaid, or any part thereof, or his interest therein, to any person whatsoever. And we, the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty aforesaid, will not cause any gaol to be made thereof, for the safe-keeping of prisoners therein, during the life of the said Geoffrey; but we and our successors will warrant the same house, rooms, and cellar, with their appurtenances unto the before-named Geoffrey, for the whole life of him, the said Geoffrey, in form aforesaid: this however excepted, that in time of defence of the city aforesaid, so often s it shall be necessary, it shall be lawful for us and our successors to ender the said house and rooms, and to order and dispose of the same, for such time, and in such manner, as shall then seem to us to be most expedient. And after the decease of the same Geoffrey, the house, rooms and cellar aforesaid, with their appurtenances, shall wholly revert unto us and our successors. In witness whereof, as well the Common Seal of the City aforesaid as the seal of the said Geoffrey, have been to these present indentures interchangeably appended.
Given in the Chamber of the Guildhall of the city aforesaid, the 10th day of May, in the 48th year of the reign of King Edward, after the Conquest the Third.