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Philip Sidney." This deduction, so confidently made by Mr. Todd, is by no means so clear as he represents it. The letter does not show that Spenser knew Sidney before the publication of "The Shepheards Calender.” What it does show, is, that Spenser knew Sir Philip Sidney at the date of the letter; that is, the latter part of that year in which "The Shepheards Calender" was published. But Mr. Todd appears to have overlooked the circumstance that the Epistle of E. K., prefixed to this work, bears date the 10th of April, 1579; and, as this part of a publication is usually written the last, we may fairly assume that "The Shepheards Calender" was published in the spring of that year, in the autumn of which this letter is dated. To this evidence of the inaccuracy of Mr, Todd's conclusion we may add, that Spenser, in the letter itself, speaks of his having been "minded for a while to have intermitted the uttering of his writings;" plainly alluding to the antecedent publication of "The Shepheards Calender," the only one of his works which had then been printed. However, it is not improbable that he did know Sidney before the publication of it, for he resided, at the time of his writing it, in Kent; and it might be, as another biographer asserts, at Penshurst. The only evidence of this fact, of which we are aware, is, that E. K. intimates, in his "Gloss to the Sixth Eclogue," that Spenser was then resident in Kent. For the same reason, we may remark that this letter does not affect the credibility of Spenser's pretended introduction to Sir Philip Sidney on account of his presentation of the Ninth Canto of the First Book of "The Faerie Queene." The credibility of that romantic and agreeable anecdote, in accordance, as it is in some measure, with the turn of Sir Philip Sidney's mind, is much more affected by its own internal evidence of improbability. The story is, that Spenser one morning repaired to Leicester House, an entire stranger, "furnished only with a modest confidence, and the Ninth Canto of the First Book of The Faerie Queene."" Having obtained admission to Sidney, he presented his poem to that poet and lover of poetry, who, having read part of the "Allegory of Despair," ordered his steward to give the person who presented the verses fifty pounds; and, proceeding to the next stanza, he raised the gift to a hundred; which, on reading a third stanza, he doubled,
and commanded the steward to give it him immediately, lest, advancing his reward in proportion to the pleasure he received in reading the poem, he should give him more than he had.
From the before-mentioned letter of the 16th Oct. 1579, Spenser appears, but rather from complaisance than conviction, to have entered into the absurd scheme, formed by Harvey and patronized by Sidney, of introducing the use of quantity into English verse. Speaking of Sidney and Sir Edward Dyer, he says, they have proclaimed "a general surceasing and silence of bald rhymes, and also of the very best too; instead whereof they have, by authority of their whole senate, prescribed certain laws and rules of quantity of English syllables for English verse; having had already thereof great practice, and drawen me to their faction." And again: "But I am of late more in love with my English versifying than with rhyming; which I should have done long since if I would then have followed your counsel." To this letter he subjoins a specimen, which by no means makes us regret that he did not indulge more in that style of composition.
Unhappie verse! the witnesse of my unhappie state,
Whether lying reastlesse in heavy bedde, or else
If in bed; tell hir that my eyes can take no reste:
Asked why? Waking love suffereth no sleepe:
Tell hir that her pleasures were wonte to lull me asleepe;
Now doe I nightly waste, wanting my kindlie reste:
And if I waste, who will bewaile my heavy chance?
Spenser did not apparently pursue this unprofitable study, but devoted himself with great assiduity to the cultivation of “English undefiled." It appears, also, from this letter, that Spenser was then about to be sent on some mission to France by the Earl of Leicester; but which it does not seem was ever carried into effect, for he was in London in the following April. Harvey, in a letter dated 7th April, 1580, mentions several productions of our author, in addition to those already referred to,— his Dying Pellicane, and his Dreams, his nine English Comedies, and Stemmata Dudlæana. Spenser had, in a letter dated 10th April, which seems to have crossed this on the road, desired Harvey to return "The Faerie Queene," with his long-expected judgment on it. Harvey anticipates this request, and returns it with his last-mentioned letter, which contains the following criticism:— "In good faith, I had once againe nigh forgotten your Faerie Queene: howbeit, by good chance, I have now sent hir home at the laste, neither in better nor worse case than I founde hir. And must you, of necessitie, have my judgement of her indeede? To be plaine: I am voyde of all judgement, if your nine Comedies, whereunto, in imitation of Herodotus, you give the names of the Nine Muses, (and in one mans fansie not unworthily,) come not nearer Ariostoes Comœdies, eyther for the finenesse of plausible eloqution, or the rarenesse of poetical invention, than that Elvish Queene doth to his Orlando Furioso. Which, notwithstanding, you will needes seeme to emulate, and hope to overgo, as you flatly professed yourself in one of your last letters. Besides that, you know it hath bene the usual practise of the most exquisite and odde wittes in all nations, and especially in Italie, rather to shewe and advaunce themselves that way than any other; as namely, those three dyscoursing heads, Bibiena, Macheavel, and Aretine, did, (to let Bembo and Ariosto passe,) with the great admiration and wonderment of the whole countrey; being indeede reputed matchable in all points, both for
conceyt of witte, and eloquent decyphering of matters, either with Aristophanes and Menander in Greek, or with Plautus and Terence in Latin, or with any other in any other tong. But I will not stand greatly with you in your owne matters. If so be the Faery Queene be fairer in your eie than the Nine Muses, and Hobgoblin runne away with the garland from Apollo; marke what I saye: and yet I will not say that [which] I thought; but there is an end for this once, and fare you well, till God, or some good Aungele, putte you in a better mind."
From Harvey much critical discrimination could not be expected. He possessed neither fineness of perception nor quickness of intellect. He seems, however, to have been as firm a friend, as he showed himself, in his literary conflicts with Green and Nash, to be a good hater.
Spenser, in the last letter, also mentions the "Epithalamion Thamesis" as a book he was about to set forth; "which book,” he adds, "I dare undertake will be very profitable for the knowledge, and rare for the invention and manner of handling."
This was afterwards introduced into "The Faerie Queene;" but we doubt very much whether any reader will concur in the author's opinion of its merits.
In the summer of 1580, Spenser went to Ireland as secretary to Lord Grey, on his being appointed lord lieutenant; and on that nobleman being recalled in 1582, the poet returned with him to England. Spenser, in June, 1586, received a grant of 3028 acres of the forfeited lands of the Earl of Desmond, as a reward for his services; and, in compliance with one of the conditions annexed to that grant, he returned to Ireland for the purpose of cultivating the land assigned to him. The castle of Kilcolman, in the county of Cork, was his residence; and the River Mulla, which he frequently mentions in his poems, flowed through his grounds. Here he was visited by Sir Walter Raleigh, the Shepherd of the Ocean, as he terms him, with whom he had become acquainted during his former residence in Ireland, and who, it appears from "Colin Clouts come Home againe," persuaded the poet to accompany him to England. By Raleigh he was presented to Queen Elizabeth an event which he celebrates in his last
In 1590, Spenser published the three first books of "The Faerie
Queene," which, we collect from the Sonnets prefixed to it, had been completed in Ireland:
In February, 1590-1, Queen Elizabeth granted him a pension of fifty pounds a year; from which circumstance he has sometimes been termed poet laureate, although he was never formally invested with that title.
The favorable reception of "The Faerie Queene" induced the publisher to collect "such small Poems of the same Author as he heard were dispersed abroad in sundry hands, and not easy to be come by, by himself," and to publish them in the following year. These pieces were, The Ruines of Time; The Teares of the Muses; Virgil's Gnat; Prosopopoia, or Mother Hubberds Tale; The Ruines of Rome, by Bellay; Muiopotmos, or the Tale of the Butterflie; Visions of the World's Vanitie; Bellay's Visions, and Petrarch's Visions. The publisher also mentions some other works of the author, which he meant to publish as soon as he could procure them, viz. Ecclesiastes, and Canticum Canticorum translated; A Sennights Slumber; The Hell of Lovers; his Purgatory: The Dying Pellicane; The Hours of the Lord; The Sacrifice of a Sinner, and the Seven Psalms. There is some reason to suppose from this Address that Spenser returned to Ireland after the publication of "The Faerie Queene;" but if he did, his stay was very brief, for, from the dedication to "Daphnaida," we find that he was in London on the 1st of January, 1591-2. The second-mentioned pieces were never published. Of the former, "The Ruines of Time" is, to adopt the language of Dr. Aikin, "a fine idea inadequately executed." The subject is a grand one, and it is to be regretted that it should have been spoiled, by being merely made subservient to the celebration of a private family. "The Teares of the Muses" consist of reiterated lamentations on the decay of learning, written in polished and wellmodulated stanzas, but unvaried in sentiment and untrue in fact. "Mother Hubberds Tale" was, as he informs us in the dedication, "long sithence composed in the raw conceit of my youth." Raw conceit it was not; but we may rather say of it, "the fruits of age grew ripe in his first prime." "Simple," he adds, "is the device,