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though Spenser afterwards denied that he had ever intended to reflect on this powerful minister in any of his writings, it is impossible to understand the indignant verses, so often quoted, in the Ruins of Time and Mother Hubberd's Tale, in any other sense. Still, whatever opposition may have been offered to his interests was at last withdrawn, and a pension of fifty pounds a year was conferred upon him in Feb
in Manningham's nearly contemporaneous Diary, extracted by Mr. Collier in his Life of Shakespeare, p. cxxv.
"May 4, 1602. When her Majesty had given order that Spenser should have a reward for his poems, but Spenser could have nothing, he presented her with these verses :
'It pleased your Grace upon a time,
The account in Fuller runs thus:
"There passeth a story commonly told and believed, that Spenser, presenting his poems to Queen Elizabeth, she, highly affected therewith, commanded the Lord Cecil, her Treasurer, to give him a hundred pounds; and when the Treasurer (a good steward of the Queen's money) alleged that sum was too much, Then give him,' quoth the Queen, 'what is reason': to which the lord consented, but was so busied, belike, about matters of high concernment, that Spenser received no reward. Whereupon he presented this petition in a small piece of paper to the Queen in her progress:
I was promised on a time,
From that time unto this season,
Hereupon the Queen gave straight order (not without some check to her Treasurer) for the present payment of the hundred pounds she first intended unto him."-Fuller's Worthies, by Nuttall, II. 379.
1 In the Sixth Book of the Fairy Queen, Canto XII. 41.
ruary, 1591: from which time it is thought that he should be considered as filling the office of PoetLaureate, though he is not named by the title in his patent.1
We are unable to determine with exactness the duration of Spenser's visit to England. He came over in the autumn of 1589. The dedication of Daphnaida is dated from London, the 1st of January, 1591; 2 that of Colin Clout 's come Home again, from Kilcolman, the 27th of December, 1591. It is probable, moreover, that he was in the country when he received his pension from the Queen, in February of the same year. He would seem, therefore, to have passed at least a year and a half at court. The miseries which he endured in his pursuit of the favor of the great, he has described in his Mother Hub
1 Todd's Life of Spenser, p. lxvi.
2 According to the custom of dating then prevalent, this would be understood to mean January 1, 1592; but if Spenser was in London then, he could not have been in Ireland five days before. Malone and Todd, to be sure, consider the date of the dedication of Colin Clout 's come Home again to be wrongly printed, and would change 1591 to 1594 or 1595; their reasons, however, are not satisfactory. In the Amoretti and the Shepherds' Calendar, Spenser begins the year with January, and we have only to suppose him to have done the same in the dedication of his Daphnaida, to make all the facts known about this visit consistent, and to save him an unaccountable and unrecorded journey to Ireland.
3 It has already been noticed (ante, p. xxv.) that Mr. Hardiman, quoting an original document in the Rolls Office, Dublin, gives the 26th of October, 1591, as the date of the letters by which Spenser obtained his Irish estate. It is, however, perfectly certain that he was one of the undertakers among whom the forfeited lands of the Earl of Desmond were divided in 1586. Some additional favors may have been granted him while in England, which required the issue of a second patent.
berd's Tale, with an intensity of feeling which nothing but the bitterest experience could inspire:
"To fret thy soule with crosses and with cares; To eate thy heart through comfortlesse dispaires; To fawne, to crowche, to waite, to ride, to ronne, To spend, to give, to want, to be undonne Unhappie wight, borne to desastrous end, That doth his life in so long tendance spend! But all this time was not so ill bestowed. During his residence in England he wrote several poems, and retouched others for publication. Early in 1591 appeared Daphnaida, an elegy written on the death of Douglas Howard, wife of Arthur Gorges, a poet and scholar to whom Spenser felt a particular attachment. In the course of the same year, Ponsonby, the publisher of the Fairy Queen, collected into a small quarto nine short poems, some of them written several years before, which, he says, in his address to the reader, "were dispersed abroad in sundry hands, and not easy to be come by by [the author] himself; some of them having been diversly embezzled and purloined from him since his departure over sea," that is, his ten years' expatriation in Ireland. To this volume the printer gave the name of COMPLAINTS, a title which indicates a strong tendency in the author's mind, and which would not inappropriately describe nearly the whole collection of his minor poems.
The first poem in this volume, The Ruins of Time, is principally devoted to the commemoration of Spenser's earliest patrons, Sir Philip Sidney and the Earl of Leicester, together with other members of that family, and may in fact be regarded as a sort of
posthumous compensation for the Stemmata Dud leiana, which, it will be remembered, was never published. From the dedication to the Countess of Pembroke we learn that it was written in England, and at the suggestion of some friends who thought that Spenser had not shown proper gratitude to his deceased benefactors. As Sir Francis Walsingham is spoken of as dead in the course of the piece, it could not have been finished before April 6th, 1590, when that event occurred.
The second piece in this volume, The Tears of the Muses,1 if not remarkable for poetical merits, is extremely interesting, from the light it throws on the condition of literature at the time when it was written. This must have been in 1590, while Spenser was still fretting at the insensibility of those mighty peers who would spend nothing in the patronage of genius, but wasted their revenues in sumptuous pride and vulgar pleasures. In the excess of his resentment he penned this lamentation of "the thrice three Muses" on the contempt into which poetry had fallen, reiterating at greater length, and in general terms (which still invite a particular application), those complaints which the supposed hostility of Burleigh had evoked in the Ruins of Time. But although the occasion and the principal burden of these doleful strains seem to be the private grievances of the author, they sometimes take a wider
1 This was dedicated to Lady Strange, sixth daughter of Sir John Spencer of Althorpe, and a relative of the poet. It was for her and her daughter's husband, the Earl of Bridgewater, that Milton composed his Arcades and Comus.
range. The Mar-prelate controversy was now raging violently, and, while the mind of the nation was occupied with polemics, a writer who did not join one side or the other was not likely to receive much attention. No talents are too mean for such disputes, and it must have been humiliating indeed to a man like Spenser to be eclipsed by a crowd of vulgar and ignorant wranglers. The controversy was carried into the theatres, and their license to entertain the people was abused by a free handling of "matters of state and religion." The consequences which ensued are depicted in striking terms in the Complaint of Thalia. Shameless ribaldry and scurrilous folly drove out innocent mirth and "seasoned wit"; and that gentle spirit who had already, at the age of twenty-six, extinguished the fame of every rival on the comic stage, OUR PLEASANT WILLY, withdrew himself from the revolting scene, until the reign of reason and taste should be restored.1
Next follows Virgil's Gnat, a skilful and pleasing paraphrase of the Culex. We read on the title-page that this had long before been dedicated to the Earl of Leicester. It must, therefore, have been written between 1579 and 1588, the year in which Leicester died, and (as it has reference to some offence which Spenser had undesignedly given his patron) probably as early as 1580, while the poet was still in the Earl's service. This, then, would be one of those poems
1 There can be no longer any question whether Shakespeare is meant by our pleasant Willy." See Collier's Life of Shakespeare, Chap. VII.; Knight's Biography, pp. 342–348.