Medieval Studies Thomas Hoccleve
Andrew Galloway
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 December 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 May 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0037


Of all Chaucer’s “literary associates,” Thomas Hoccleve (b. c. 1367–d. 1426) claims the closest knowledge of, and even poetic instruction from, Chaucer (in the Regiment of Princes, lines 2,077–2,079), though in date and literary purposes he may seem to stand the furthest away. Although Hoccleve was often disparaged in the 19th and early 20th centuries, from the mid-20th century on, his works have found increasingly stronger appreciation; in part, for the same reasons that led to disparagement earlier, especially his peculiarly intimate (if arguably somewhat conventional) confessional and desperate self-portraits in his poetry. Critics have focused on the conventional and broadly social implications of his works, especially their relation to the Lancastrian kings and princes from whom he often sought patronage, and also on how Hoccleve decries his personal failures in many pursuits, especially professional and monetary ones as a clerk at the Privy Seal. His portrayal of a long period of profound depression or madness in his late Series, and the social opprobrium that followed it, is of unique interest both as self-revealing and self-fashioning. His major works include the popular Regiment of Princes, written in c. 1410–1411 (5,464 lines), and a late, loosely linked set of poems (about 3,800 lines plus prose) from 1419 to 1421, describing the author’s conversation with a friend leading to telling tales, now known as the Series, that include the Complaint, the Dialogue, Jereslaus’ Wife (with prose moralization), Learn to Die (with prose passage on the joys of heaven), and Jonathas and Fellicula, with another prose moralization. Hoccleve also wrote many short ballads, poems of praise of various patrons or nobles, and, especially, devotional poems (such as a lyrical “Complaint of the Virgin” from Guillaume de Deguileville’s Pèlerinage de vie humaine, from which Chaucer also translated a lyric passage, the “ABC”). His smaller works include his early translation of Christine de Pisan’s Letter of Cupid (1402), denouncing the abuses inflicted on women by men, and his dashing La Male Regle de Thomas Hoccleve (1405–1406). No poetry by Hoccleve survives that is datable to the lifetime of his “dere maistir,” Chaucer (d. 1400).

Reference Works and Bibliographies

Thanks largely to the repeated studies of John Burrow, a number of guides now exist. Burrow 1994 is essential. Matthews 1972 remains useful, especially for its concision and for its summaries of the contents and sources of each of Hoccleve’s works. Bibliographies on Chaucer and Gower (as in The Essential Chaucer, the Chaucer Bibliography Online, and the Gower Bibliography) as well as on 15th-century poetry often contain information on Hoccleve. Mitchell 1968 presents a somewhat dated selection, mostly superseded by Matthews 1972 and Burrow 1994.

  • Allen, Mark, and J. H. Fisher, eds. The Essential Chaucer.

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    A “selective, annotated bibliography of Chaucer studies from 1900–1984,” valuable for its organization and annotation; includes Hoccleve studies under “Contemporary English Literary Relations.”

  • Burrow, John A. Thomas Hoccleve. Authors of the Middle Ages 4: English Writers of the Late Middle Ages. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1994.

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    Concise, authoritative guide to life and works, including summaries or excerpts from sixty-eight life records (mostly grants and payments from the Chancery and the Exchequer). The most authoritative bibliographical, biographical, and textual guide.

  • Chaucer Bibliography Online.

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    Combines in a searchable form the annual annotated bibliographic entries in Studies in the Age of Chaucer from 1975 to the present (updated annually). Routinely includes entries on Hoccleve.

  • Gower Bibliography. Designed and implemented by Mark Allen, Shashi Pinheiro, Emilio Cantu, Elaine Wong, and Nicole Provencher.

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    Online bibliography of materials from 1980 to the present (updated annually), with a growing number of entries pre-1980. Includes entries on Hoccleve, in which Gower is also mentioned.

  • Matthews, William. “Thomas Hoccleve.” In A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500. Vol. 3. Edited by Albert E. Hartung, 746–756, 903–908. New Haven, CT: Archon, 1972.

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    Brief summary of life and works, including a critical bibliography, but only to 1968 (ending with Mitchell 1968). Chronologically arranged.

  • Mitchell, Jerome. Thomas Hoccleve: A Study in Early Fifteenth-Century English Poetic. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1968.

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    Includes annotated bibliography (pp. 125–145); many works from before 1950.

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