“A CLERK from Oxford was there also,
Who’d studied philosophy, long ago.
As lean was his horse as is a rake,
And he too was not fat, that I take,
But he looked emaciated, moreover, abstemiously.
Very worn off was his overcoat; for he
Had got him yet no churchly benefice,
Nor he was worldly to accept secular office.
For he would rather have at his bed’s head
Some twenty books, all bound in black or red,
Of Aristotle and his philosophy
Than rich robes, fiddle, or gay psaltery.
Yet, and for all he was philosopher in base,
He had but little gold within his suitcase;
But all that he might borrow from a friend
On books and learning he would swiftly spend,
And then he’d pray diligently for the souls
Of those who gave him resources to attend schools.
He took utmost care and heed for his study.
Not one word spoke he more than was necessary;
And that was said with due formality and dignity
And short and lively, and full of high morality.
Filled with moral virtue was his speech;
And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.”
Geoffrey Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales, “General Prologue” (lines 287-310)
The Clerk of Oxford, from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, is most remembered as a poor student who spends all of the little money he has on new books. Even though I have since left my student days behind (at least for now), I too have always tended to spend far too much money on books, and while I do not require that my treasures be bound only in black or red, there is no question of what I prefer at my bed’s head. Because of this desire “on books and learning” to “swiftly spend,” it seems that with every passing year the Clerk and I have more in common than either of us would like to admit. He, however, has decided to remain strangely quiet on the issue…
The Contemporary Clerk is a website dedicated mainly to book reviews, with the occasional foray into film, television, and narrative video games. While I make my own plans for reviews in advance, visitors to the site should feel free to recommend or request works for review!
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– The Clerk
The Contemporary Clerk is run by the Clerk himself, J. Andrew Gothard, who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Miami in 2017. He is a widely read and internationally published scholar in such areas as working class studies, modern film and drama, and the novel.
The Clerk’s current projects include a comic fantasy novel, literary and philosophical essays, and stuffing his apartment with as many books as is physically possible.