Thomas Usk

(c. 1354—1388) scrivener, author, and administrator

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(d. 1388),

the author of The Testament of Love, formerly ascribed to Chaucer. He was under‐sheriff of London in 1387, by the mandate of Richard II, and he was proceeded against and executed by the ‘Merciless Parliament’ in 1388. The Testament of Love is an allegorical prose‐work perhaps written by Usk in prison to elicit sympathy; it is sometimes (though unreliably) dated 1385. Skeat noticed that the first letters of the sections formed an acrostic reading ‘Margaret of virtu have merci on TSKNVI’, and Henry Bradley rearranged the text so that the last letters read THINUSK, i.e. ‘thine Usk’. This cryptogram is typical of the allusiveness of the poem, part of which is now impenetrable.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval).

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