Thomas Hoccleve was born in 1368, probably in the village of Hockliffe in Bedfordshire. At the age of around 20 he obtained a clerkship in the Office of the Privy Seal, where he was to work for some 35 years. In 1399 he received a small annuity from Henry IV. He got married around 1410 and settled down to write more serious religious and moral poems. After retiring from his job, he was granted sustenance for life in the priory of Southwick, Hampshire.
He was a contemporary and great admirer of Chaucer who may have taught him at some stage according to his lines “Fader Chaucer fayn wolde han me taught, But I was dull and learned lite or naught”, which also suggests a modest appraisal of his own ability. His Lament for Chaucer is one of his better poems.
His major works include The Regiment of Princes, a homily on virtues and vices written around 1410 for Prince Hal (later Henry V) shortly before his accession and The Series (1419-1421). Hoccleve also wrote ballads, laudatory poems to patrons, one of whom was Humphrey Of Gloucester, and devotional poems such as Complaint of the Virgin, a translation of Christine de Pisan’s Letter of Cupid (1402) which denounced the ill-treatment of women, and La Male Regle de Thomas Hoccleve, a description of his early louche life in London.