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its first head master, was a keen scholar with a generous conception of the aims of education. It is not a mind,' he wrote, 'not a body, that we have to educate, but a man; and we cannot divide him.' The conception derives from the enthusiastic culture of the Renaissance, and something both of the ideal and the practice of the perfect courtier, which Spenser was later to emulate and to portray, must have been instilled into him in early youth. Mulcaster grounded his pupils in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, he trained them daily in music both vocal and instrumental, and was a convinced advocate of the study of the mother tongue, and of the educational value of acting. He presented plays yearly before the court, in which his boys were the actors, and
by that means taught them good behaviour and audacity'. (It is highly probable that Spenser, as among Mulcaster's leading scholars, made his first appearance before the queen as an actor.)
At school, too, Spenser acquired some knowledge of French, and made his first experiments as a poet. In 1569 appeared a small volume entitled A Theatre, wherein be represented as wel the miseries and calamities that follow the voluptuous worldlings as also the greate joyes and pleasures which the faithfull do enjoy. An argument both profitable and delectable to all that sincerely love the Word of God. Derised by S. John v'ander Noodt. It contained translations from Marot's version of one of the canzoni of Petrarch and from some sonnets by. Dū Bellay, which were afterwards included in Spenser's Complaints of 1591. A few of them were then rewritten, others left as they had stood in 1569, but all are clearly enough from Spenser's hand; and though the lines are often rough and boyish, they anticipate, however faintly, the liquid fluency of his later versification.
Of his years at Cambridge (1569-76) there is little detail to record. But though, as Dr. Johnson has remarked, 'a scholastic life is very uniform' and would put him ‘little in the way of extraordinary casualties ', its influence was none the less potent both upon his intellectual development and his subsequent career. During his residence the entry books of Pembroke College refer to him on several occasions as the recipient of allowances, 'aegrotanti', and it is possible that chronic ill-health tended to develop the dreamy and reflective side of his nature. But it does not seem to have affected the avidity of his reading, and it may well be that his bodily infirmities, like Herbert's, “ betrayed him to a lingering book," and preserved him from the distractions of the world. He is among the most learned of our poets, and if some have been better scholars, none has been more widely read. Of his contemporaries, Ben Jonson, and perhaps Chapman, could rival his knowledge of the classics ; but Ben Jonson, as Drummond informs us, 'did neither understand French nor Italiannes', and Spenser was widely conversant with both. His scholarship would be accounted superficial to-day. There are signs enough that, reading his authors for their spirit and matter, he inclined to disregard the
niceties of grammatical structure. Yet in his own time he was accounted a proficient Greek scholar ;1 and in Greek poetry, except the tragedians, so strangely neglected by the Elizabethans, he was well read. But he was attracted rather by the thought than by the art of Greece. He was an enthusiastic student of Plato and Aristotle. By the mystical element in Plato, more particularly as it is revealed in the Symposium, Phaedo, Phaedrus, and parts of the Republic, he was profoundly influenced ; and
1 he knew both the originals and the chief Italian commentators upon them, Bembo, Ficino, and Bruno, who gave to Platonic teaching so wide a currency in his time. The poetry of Rome attracted him both by its wealth of material which he could shape to his own purpose, and by virtue of its style. It is significant too that while most Elizabethans turned chiefly to Ovid, Spenser was more vitally affected by the finer art of Virgil.
At Cambridge Spenser formed a deep and lasting friendship with Gabriel Harvey, who was elected Fellow of Pembroke a year after the poet had come into residence, and was among the most notable figures at the University. Biographers of Spenser have wondered at this friendship between men who dir so widely in temperament and ideals, and have inclined to minim.
attribute it to the modesty of the younger and the arrogance
der. It is, indeed, easy enough to represent Harvey as a pelucholar, vain of his own absurd achievements, an intellectual bully, so censorious that he could hardly find it in his heart to commend any man', quarrelsome, forcing his opinions upon men of finer genius than himself, unable to appreciate any art that did not conform to his own mechanical rules, and finally routed and held up to eternal scorn by the nimbler wit of Nashe. But this is mere caricature. Harvey was a scholar of eminence, deeply versed in all that was accounted learning in his day. His lectures on rhetoric drew crowded audiences, and enhanced a reputation that was already assured. His fame was not confined to his own University; Leicester and Sidney held him in high esteem and took a personal interest in his career. He was certainly unpopular. The son of a Suffolk rope-maker, he may well have been resented as an upstart by well-born colleagues who were intellectually his inferiors,3 and his bearing towards them was not conciliatory. He was, moreover, a strong Puritan, and at Cambridge, the hot-bed of those ecclesiastical controversies which harassed the minds of Elizabeth and her advisers, the odium theologicum was peculiarly virulent; so that it is less to be wondered at that Harvey had many enemies than that Still and Preston, who favoured the more moderate party, were ranked among his friends. Harvey's literary theory and practice have
Cf. Bryskett, quoted infra, pp. xxv, xxvi. • Vide Spenser's Belesenheit
, von W. Reidner : Leipzig, 1908. Vide McKerrow (Nashe, v. 66 f.), who suggests this point, and has influenced my view of Harvey.
often been ridiculed. He followed Ascham in his contempt for 'the rude and beggarly habit of rhyming’; and at a time when contemporary poetry had not yet justified itself, made an attempt to impose classical prosody upon English verse. In this he tried to influence his younger friend, but without any success; for it was not till later, when Spenser came under the spell of Sidney, that he wavered, even momentarily, from following the true bent of his own genius. As to style, Harvey had the taste typical of the Renaissance scholar. Phrases like a rarenes of poetic invention !, - lively Hyperbolicall Amplifications', 'rare, queint, and odde in every point, above the reache of a common schollers capacitie', to be met with in his criticism of Spenser's early and unpublished work, sufficiently indicate that side of Spenser which he was able to appreciate, and also that style which both in his prose and verse he himself attempted to achieve. Like many another minor poet, he thought too well of his own compositions, and the fact that they were written upon a scholastic theory tended only to harden his heart. Naturally, then, he was disappointed with the Shepheardes Calender, and tried to turn his friend from the composition of the Faerie Queene. The obtuseness of his judgement on the parcels' of mense prpiece which were submitted to his criticism is often
us anal condemnation. But we do not know what those par
ed, or whether their contents were in a tentative or in their hum and in any case this poem, with its interweaving of classic myth and barbaric English legend, and a diction that abounds in archaisms both genuine and spurious, was not inaptly described by an avowed Humanist in his famous phrase, ‘ Hobgoblin runne away with the garland from Apollo.' And this was his final protest. For when, some ten years later, the first three books were published, he made the amende honorable in a charming poem of welcome
to the new venture. In his own day he was accused of vanity in pub( lishing his correspondence with Spenser; yet it is vanity with a difference
. Pride in his pupil is perhaps the most pardonable form of vanity in a scholar; and it should not be forgotten, that if these letters reveal an intimacy on which Harvey may well have congratulated himself, they reveal the fact, less pleasing to him, that the triumphs of the pupil had been won in defiance of the literary principles of the master, There can be no doubt that Harvey was both a loyal and a valued friend of Spenser's, that he took the keenest interest in his career, and introduced him to those who were best able to further it; and, if he gave him bad advice on literary matters, in all else he was a sound and judicious counsellor. Spenser at least recognized it. Years later he delighted to refer to Harvey as his entire friend', and there is no reason to believe that his opinion ever changed, or that his love was thrown away. This friend
It is worth noting, too, that however wrong in principle, Harvey makes many sound and acute remarks on English quantity; and, in fact, practised the reformed versifying with more success than Spenser.
ship, so long and so loyally maintained with a man whose bitter tongue and cantankerous spirit had alienated many, and who certainly lacked that refinement of temper and sensibility which Spenser always prized, bears witness to his own sweetness of disposition and to the generous tolerance of his mind.
In 1576 Spenser obtained the degree of M.A. and left Cambridge for the society of his Lancashire kinsfolk. Whether this was his first visit to the North, or the renewal of an earlier acquaintance, it is not possible to determine. Some critics have thought that much of his boyhood was spent there, and have read as literal autobiography the account of Colin's youth in the December Eclogue of the Shepheardes Calender. But much of that poem is closely adapted from Clement Marot, and even if the rest recalls the actual pursuits of his own boyhood, there is no local colour which might not have been drawn from the country that lay at the gates of London. His familiarity with the dialect of the North, obvious in the Shepheardes Calender and not unmarked even in the Faerie Queene, could well be attributed in part to his residence there in 1576, in part to the influence of his parents and his schoolmaster, who must have retained, as Northernen to-dav, some traces of the pronunciation and vocabulary of their
his occupation at this time we only know that he fell in love dy whose identity he veils under the name of Rosalind in the
des Calender.) Grosart has triumphantly identified her with one Rose Dinely, but the name, even if correct, is only a label. Other evidence suggests that she was a woman of good family and high spirits, who appreciated the wit and fancy of him whom she styled her "Segnior Pegaso !,1 but preferred his rival for a husband. Others have questioned the sincerity of Spenser's love, and regarded his allusion to it as mere literary convention. The controversy on the emotional element in the love poetry of the Elizabethan age, conducted for the most part by critics who are not poets, is now become
a trifle wearisome. It must readily bë admitted on the one hand that much amorous verse was avowedly conventional and ideal, and that Spenser was quite poet enough to feign a passion, even if he never had one. On the other hand, it is obvious that love poetry only became a convention because it corresponded with a universal reality, that few men pass through early manhood without some experience of its depths and of its shallows, and that Spenser, like all poets and lovers of beauty, was by temperament peculiarly susceptible. It was his habit of mind so to rarefy and idealize his personal experience that it gained a permanent shrine in his thought and in his art, and the frame of poetic 'convention' encloses many of the pictures of his own life that are scattered about his verse. Human probability is all on the side of the sincerity of his attachment.
This love remained an integral part of his imaginative experience far on into his life, and Rosalind is alluded to with chivalrous devotion in Colin Clouts Come Home Againe.? Love is not the only emotion that gains an added beauty when it has become a memory. But whatever The depth of his feeling for Rosalind, and it would be surprising if it were not deep, it did not save him from the dangers and the delights of falling under other spells. The cautious Harvey had soon reason to warn him of the seductions of another“ Rosalindula', perhaps some lady of the court.
For Spenser did not remain long in Lancashire. Possibly in 1577, certainly in 1578, he was in London. Gabriel Harvey had not forgotten him, and had been the means of introducing him to Sidney and Leicester. It seems highly probable that Leicester employed him as a private messenger to friends at a distance, and that in this capacity he paid his first visit, in 1577, to Ireland, where Leicester's father-in-law, Sir Henry Sidney, was then Governor-General. But the greater part of his time seems to have been divided between the houses of Sidney and Leicester at Penshurst and in London.
For one of Spenser's temper and conciations no other introduction could have been so happy. To
boked up as the recognized political leader of the Puritan fag powerful favourite of Elizabeth, who had not yet lost hope that pe with the Queen might set the seal upon his fortunes ; to Sir Philip Sidney he was soon bound by a closer tie than that of patron and protégé. Though still a young man, Sidney was commonly regarded as the most brilliant figure at that brilliant court. His handsome bearing and his martial courage, his learning and accomplishments, his inflexible uprightness and gravity of demeanour had spread his reputation throughout Europe ; and by his countrymen he was proudly recognized as the ideal courtier. Moreover, he was a serious politician. An earnest Protestant, he saw in Roman Catholicism the greatest danger to his country's liberty, and he was persistent in urging upon Elizabeth, against the inaction advocated by Burghley, a bold attack upon the power of Spain. Spenser accepted Sidney's political ideals without reserve, and time only strengthened their hold upon him. In other matters too his sympathy with Sidney was close. The Puritanism of both men was deeply tinged with Platonic mysticism'; both set themselves to adapt to modern life the ideals of mediaeval chivalry, and saw in the romance of bygone days a symbol not without inspiration for the battles they had themselves to fight. The soul that was stirred like a trumpet by the rude ballad of Chevy Chase, and later found both delight and intimate expression in Arcadia, had much akin with the poet of the Faerie Queene. In judgements upon art they were not entirely in accord. Sidney, as the less exuberant poetic genius, was more subservient to
1 ll. 926-51
Spenser's Faerie Queene, ed. J. C. Smith, p. x.