Thomas Usk


Thomas Usk

Thomas Usk (died March 4, 1388) was appointed the under-sheriff of London by Richard II in 1387.

Author of The Testament of Love

Born in London, he is the author of "The Testament of Love," which was once thought to be by Geoffrey Chaucer.

Appeal

Parliament (termed the Merciless Parliament in the work) prosecuted him in 1388 and had him executed. "The Testament of Love" is an allegorical prose work written in prison to seek aid. Walter Skeat found that the initial letters of the sections formed an acrostic saying, "MARGARET OF VIRTU HAVE MERCI ON TSKNVI." Properly decoded, the last word is "THINUSK," or "thin [e] Usk."

Usk had been servant to John Northampton when the latter was Lord Mayor of London from 1381 to 1383.

Informant

In 1384, he was arrested and released in exchange for informing against Northampton, for he had no desire, he said, to be "a stinking martyr." This earned him the enmity of the Gloucester party.

Brutal Execution

When they gained power, Usk was sentenced to be drawn, hung, and beheaded, with his head put up over Newgate. John of Malvern gives a description of the execution in his continuation of the "Polychronicon," saying that it took thirty blows from the sword to sever Usk's head.

Contemporary of Chaucer

Usk was a Collector of Customs from 1381 to 1384, when Chaucer was the Comptroller of Customs, and he was familiar with Chaucer. In "The Testament of Love," the god of Love praises "mine own true servant, the noble philosophical poet in English" who had written a poem on Troilus (i.e. Chaucer).

Lollard Then Catholic

Usk had been a Lollard, but he was brought back to the Roman Catholic Church while in prison.

ources

* [http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams/uskintro.htm "The Testament of Love"]

References


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