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January 28, 1894

Lecturing on “Chaucer as Seen in His Works,” Assistant Professor of English George Lyman Kittredge from Harvard University “told us nothing new,” observed The Vassar Miscellany, but “we enjoyed hearing him demolish the long accepted Chaucer legends.” Professor Kittredge reviewed the scant evidence available, finding that Chaucer, while not a scholar, was learned in Latin, French, Italian, mathematics and chemistry and that he “was not in sympathy with the alchemists and astrologists of the time; he was a reverent son of the church though not a devotee—by no means Paganist as is claimed…. As to his wife, we know that she was named Philippa and was some time lady of the Queen’s chamber. She might have been a shrew or a saint. All is conjecture.”

A leading Shakespeare scholar and editor, Kittredge was credited with the establishment of Chaucer in the American college curriculum through such works as Observations on the Language of Chaucer’s Troilus (1894), Chaucer and Some of his Friends (1903) and Chaucer and his Poetry (1915.) He spoke at Vassar on several occasions, and in October 1915 he spoke on “The Scholar and the Pedant” at the inauguration of his former student, Henry Noble MacCracken, as Vassar’s fifth president.

The “entire college,” according to The Miscellany News, turned out and overflowed in Avery Hall when, in May 1937, Professor Kittredge gave a “brilliant address” on Shakespeare’s Villains.“ This last visit was also marked by a minor domestic catastrophe. Reported by The Misc under the headline ”‘Mechanics’ of Faucets on Tub Baffle Kittredege,“ the distinguished visitor awakened his hosts, President and Mrs. McCracken, on the morning after his lecture, with cries for help. Bathing, he had be unable to turn off the water and had flooded a bathroom. Rescued by Mrs. MacCracken, “said the eminent Shakespeare scholar, ‘Well, I never was any good at anything mechanical.’”

The Years