The consonance between the character of Derek Brewer and the character of much medieval literature was elegantly noted in the fine obituary which Barry Windeatt wrote for The Independent newspaper:
People often commented that it was the moral concerns of English medieval literature – courtesy, honour, loyalty and integrity – that they observed to be lived out in Brewer's life.
Here Windeatt evokes the gentlemanly virtues – the remnants of a knightly value-system wherein great store was set by honour and gentilesse (nobility of birth or rank together with the attendant moral qualities of nobility of character or manners; generosity, kindness, gentleness, graciousness and the like). Indeed, it was no surprise to read, in the Telegraph obituary, Derek Brewer being described as ‘a gentlemanly, kindly man’. The thought that I want to offer in this paper is that those same virtues enabled Derek to gain some of his greatest insights into Chaucer's mind and art (to use a phrase in vogue in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he was producing much of his best work). I am going to celebrate some of those insights – expanding them here, qualifying them there – because I believe they have withstood very well the buffets of changing academic fashions.
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