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Scogan [Scoggin], Henry (c.1361–1407), poet, of Norfolk, succeeded his brother John as lord of the manor of Haviles, near Great Rainham, in 1391. The suggestion in the Dictionary of National Biography that he studied at Oxford seems to have arisen from a confusion with . He was in the service of Richard II and at some time resided in London. He is almost certainly the Scogan who was a friend of Chaucer, who addressed to him a short poem, ‘Lenvoy a Scogan’, an entertaining verse epistle, rather Horatian in tone, probably in the later 1390s. It jestingly suggests that, since Scogan has not been faithful in an affair, Venus is weeping so copiously that all will be drowned by her tears and that Cupid will take revenge on all those ‘that ben hoor [grey] and rounde of shap’ (Chaucer, ‘Lenvoy a Scogan’, line 31). Scogan may say, ‘Lo, olde Grisel [old grey horse?] lyst to ryme and playe’ (ibid., line 35), but Chaucer is not able or willing to write verse. In the envoy Scogan, ‘that knelest at the stremes hed Of grace’ (ibid., line 43), is asked to remember his friend, and never defy love again. Whether the poem, which survives in three manuscripts and the editions of Caxton (1477–8) and Thynne (1532), has any ulterior purpose is not known. He was probably the Henri Scoggan who in 1390 had a loan (of 26s. 8d.) from the merchant Gilbert Maghfeld—like Chaucer and others associated with Chaucer. He was one of three persons bound as mainpernors for a detinue of 106s. 8d. on 7 September 1390, and this may have something to do with an apparent need of ready money. On 11 August 1394 he was granted protection for six months, and on 16 April 1399 for one year, on going to Ireland with the king.

Scogan was tutor to the four sons of Henry IV, who may well be the recipients of his Moral Balade addressed to ‘my noble sones, and eek my lordes dere’. This poem, surviving in BL, Harley MS 2251, and Bodl. Oxf., MS Ashmole 59, found its way into the Chaucer editions of Caxton and Thynne (1542). In the Ashmole manuscript it is said by the scribe John Shirley to be to the princes, at a supper of a meeting of merchants in the Vintry, at the house of Lewis John; in the printed editions it is said to be addressed to the lords and gentlemen of the king's house. Scogan calls it a ‘litel tretys’, ‘writen with myn owne hand full rudely’ (‘Scogan's Ballade’, ll. 3–4). In age he laments that in his misspent youth he cherished vices rather than virtues: this ‘complaint’ is to warn them and to urge them to follow virtue, for lordship without virtue cannot endure. He cites Chaucer's views on true nobility and quotes his balade of Gentilesse. Lords nowadays do not wish to hear about virtue, and act like a ship without ‘governaunce’, but:
vertuous noblesse
Roted in youthe, and with good perseveraunce,
Dryveth away al vyce and wrecchednesse.
(ibid., ll. 158–60)
Tullius Hostilius and Julius ‘the conquerour’ rose from humble origins to high estate through virtue; Nero, Belshazzar, and Antiochus fell because of their vices. The poem, written after Chaucer's death in 1400, dates perhaps from 1406 or 1407. Scogan died in 1407 and was succeeded in his estates by his son Robert.

Douglas Gray


Emden, Oxf., 3.1656–6 · G. L. Kittredge, ‘Henry Scogan’, Harvard Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature, 1 (1892), 109–17 · E. Rickert, ‘Extracts from a fourteenth-century account book’, Modern Philology, 24 (1926–7), 111–19, 249–56 · M. N. Hallmundson, ‘Chaucer's circle: Henry Scogan and his friends’, Medievalia & Humanistica, 10 (1981), 29–34 · ‘Scogan's Ballade’, Chaucerian and other pieces, ed. W. W. Skeat (1897), [vol. 7] of The complete works of Geoffrey Chaucer (1894–7), 237–44 · The Riverside Chaucer, ed. L. D. Benson, 3rd edn (1989), 655 · F. Blomefield and C. Parkin, An essay towards a topographical history of the county of Norfolk [2nd edn], 11 vols. (1805–10), vol. 7, p. 141