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more complete and more correct than any former biography. In preparing this, as also in the historical illustration of the poems, important assistance has been derived from an unpretending, but valuable, work of Mr. Craik, “ Spenser, and his Poetry," published ten years ago among “ Knight's Weekly Volumes."
To Upton, a man of rare learning and sagacity, the student is more indebted than to any other writer, for elucidations of obscure passages in the Fairy Queen, particularly in the allegory, and for curious expositions of the authors whom Spenser had read or has imitated. Much is also due to Warton and to Jortin. The plan of the present undertaking did not allow of a large use of the labors of these scholars. Such notes as have been directly transferred from English commentators are indicated by their authors' full names; those of the American editors by initials.
To those readers who do not require assistance, and who are annoyed by marginal notes of any kind, it is suggested that a slight effort will enable them to disregard such superfluous aid, which, never meant to be obtrusive, is offered only to those who find a glance at the bottom of the page less an interruption to their enjoyment of the poet, than an unresolved difficulty in the meaning, or a reference to the end of the volume.
MEMOIR OF SPENSER.
EDMUND SPENSER, “the poets' poet," was born in London. From the seventy-fourth of the “ Amoretti,” ? we learn that his mother's name was Elizabeth; of his father, not even so much as this is known. They had another child, Sarah, to whom her brother gave a part of his Irish estate as a marriage portion. A tradition preserved by Oldys, the antiquary, points out East Smithfield, near the Tower, as the particular district of the capital where the poet first saw the light. Such a fact might probably be settled beyond question, were it not for deficiencies in the parish records of the city of London ; and the same unfortunate circumstance obliges us to rely exclusively on a passage in one of the Amoretti in fixing the year of his birth. These Sonnets were entered in the Stationers' Registers on the 19th of November, 1594, together with an Epithalamion in honor of the author's own nuptials, which are supposed to have taken place the same year. The 11th of June (О. S.) was the marriage day; the sixty
1 Prothalamion, v. 128 - 131, Vol. V. p. 311.
eighth Sonnet was written on Easter Sunday; the sixty-second, on the 1st of January ; the fourth, also on the first day of the year. We conclude, therefore, that the Sonnets from the fourth to the sixtysecond were composed in the year 1593, and the sixtieth towards the end of that year. This Sonnet contains the following lines :
“So, since the winged god his planet cleare
Then al those fourty which my life out-went.” 1 If, then, the poet was forty-one years old when he wrote this passage, it would appear that he was born in the year 1552.
That Spenser's immediate progenitors were in humble circumstances, has been inferred from his having been entered at the University as a sizar. His family was connected, however, as he himself boasts more than once, with “a house of ancient
1 Vol. V. p. 272.
2 The biographers, basing their statement solely upon this Son net, and upon the date of Spenser's marriage, say 1553. —- Mr. Peter Cunningham has found a notice of an Edmund Spenser who was employed in 1569 as a bearer of despatches from the English Ambassador in France to the Queen, and George Turberville addressed an epistle from Russia to one Spenser, which, though first printed in 1587, is said by Anthony Wood to have been written in 1569, and to the author of the Fairy Queen. Could either of these Spensers be shown to be our poet, questions of difficulty would arise with regard to his age; since a boy of seventeen is not likely to be selected as the messenger of an ambassador, or as a confidential friend by a man of forty. But the mere coincidence of names and the authority of Anthony Wood are easily set aside, when alleged in objection to a fact established on such evidence as the year of Spenser's birth.