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S every original work, whether of the poet, philosopher, or historian, represents, mirrour-like, the sentiments,
ideas and opinions, of the writer; fo the knowledge of what relates to the life, family, and friendships of such an author, must in many instances illustrate his writings; and his writings again reflect the image of the inward man. What wonder therefore, if our curiosity is excited to get some kind of intimacy with those, whom from their writings we cannot but esteem, and that we listen to every tale told of them with any degree of probability, or even suffer ourselves to be imposed on by invented stories? We have several traditionary tales of very uncertain authority recorded of ancient authors; because commentators and critics, knowing the inquisitive dispositions of the readers, and oftentimes not furnished with true materials, set their inventions to work to impose with mere conjectures. But while they are thus inventing, they often forget to attemper their tales with proper time and circumstances; and consequently the ill-supported story falls to the ground; and if not well invented is soon despised. There are various sorts of traditionary tales told of Spenser; some of which want chronology to support them, and others, better fupported, have gain'd credit. The following is one of those ill-timed stories handed down to us, first mentioned, I believe, by the editor of his works in Folio, anno 1679. “ Mr. Sidney (after“ wards Sir Philip) then in full glory at Court was the person, " to whom Spenser designed the first discovery of himself; and
C E. “ to that purpose took an occasion to go one morning to Lei« cester-house, furnisht only with a modest confidence, and the « IXth canto of the ift Book of his Fairy Queen. He waited « not long e're he found the lucky season for an address of the
paper to his hand; who having read the XXVIIIth stanza of “ Despair (with some signs in his countenance of being much - affected and surpriz'd with what he had read) turns fuddenly " to his servant, and commands him to give the party, that pre“ sented the verses to him 50 pounds; the steward stood speech
lefs, and unready, till his master, having part over another “ ftanza, bad him give him a hundred pounds; the servant fome" thing stagger'd at the humour his master was in, mutter'd to “ this purpose, That by the semblance of the man that brought “ the paper, five pounds would be a proper reward; but Mr.
Sidney having read the following stanza commands him to “ give him 200 pounds, and that very speedily, least advancing “ his reward proportionably to the height of his pleasure in read“ ing, he should hold himself obliged to give him more than he “ had: Withal he sent an invitation to the poet, to see him at « those hours, in which he would be moft at leisure. After this “ Mr. Spenfer by degrees fo far gained upon him, that he be
came not only his patron, but his friend too; entred him at “ Court, and obtained of the Queen the grant of a pension to « him as Poet Laureat: But in this his fate was unkind; for it “ prov'd only a poetical grant; the payment after a very fhort “ time being stopt by a great councellour, who studied more “ the Queen's profit than her diversion, and told her 'twas be“ yond example to give so great a pension to a ballad-maker.” This story is deficient in point of Chronology, otherwise not illinvented, because 'tis plain from Spenser’s Pastorals, first published in the year 1579, and from the notes printed with them by his friend E. K. (whose name was Kerke, if I guess right) that he was known to Sir Philip Sidney before the publication of them. Hear what Hobbinol says in the Fourth Eclogue.
Colin thou kenst the Southern Shepheards boy,
Him Love hath wounded with a deadly dart. Hobbinol means Gabriel Harvey, Colin Spenser, and the Southern Shepbeard Sir Philip Sidney. His friend E. K. in his notes says, « It seemeth that Colin pertaineth to some Southern noble-man, “ and perhaps in Surrey or Kent; the rather because he so often " nameth the Kentish downs: And before, As lithe as lase of “ Kent.” Again in the Sixth Eclogue Hobbinol thus speaks to Colin,
Then if by me thou lift advised be
And fruitful flocks been every where to see. “ This is no poetical fiction (says his friend E. K.) but unfainedly thfpoken of the poet selfe, who for special occasion of private « affairs (as I have been partly of himselfe informed) and for his « more preferment, removed out of the North partes, and came “ into the South, as Hobbinol indeed advised him privately.”
What is above mentioned of the Lord Treasurer Burleigh's ungracious treatment of the Muses, and the Muses friend, is more particularly related by Dr. Fuller : And as the story does not carry with it any inconsistencies of time or place, I shall here transcribe it from his Worthies of England.
« Edmond Spenser born in this city (London) was brought up “ in Pembroke-Hall in Cambridge, where he became an excellent s scholar, but especially most happy in English poetry, as his works “ do declare. In which the many Chaucerisms used(for I will not “ say affe&ted by him) are thought by the ignorant to be blemishes, “ known by the learned to be beauties to his book; which not
withstanding had been more falable, if more conformed to
our modern language. There pafseth a story commonly told " and believed, that Spenser presenting his poems to Queen Eli
“ zabeth, she highly affected therewith commanded the Lord “ Cecil her Treasurer to give him an hundred pounds; and « when the Treasurer (a good steward of the Queen's money)
alledged that the sum was too much, Then give him (quoth the « Queen) what is reason; to which the Lord Treasurer consented; ç but was so busied belike about matters of higher concernment, “ that Spenser received no reward. Whereupon he presented as this petition in a small piece of paper to the Queen in her "progress,
I was promis’d on a time
I receiv'd nor rhyme nor reason. " Hereupon the Queen gave strict order (not without some check « to her Treasurer) for the present payment of the hundred pounds she first intended unto him.
“ He afterwards went over into Ireland Secretary to the Lord " Gray, Lord Deputy thereof; and though that his office under “ his Lord was lucrative, yet got he no estate; but faith my “ author (Cambden] peculiari poetis fato semper cum paupertate
confliktatus eft. So that it fared little better with him, than " with Williain Xilander the German (a most excellent linguist, antiquary, philosopher and mathematician) who was fo
poor, that, as Thuanus faith, he was thought fami non famæ fcribere. « Returning into England he was robb’d by the rebels of that " little he had, and dying for grief in great want, Anno 1598,
was honourably buried nigh Chaucer in Westminster, where « this distich concludeth his Epitaph on his monument,
Anglica te vivo vixit plaufitque poesis,
Nunc moritura timet te moriente mori. « Nor must we forget; that the expence of his funeral and mo* nument was defrayed at the charge of Robert, first Earl of that
name, Earl of Essex.” Perhaps it may not be improper here to add Cambden's Eulogy, who was our poet's contemporary and acquaintance, and whom he calls in his Poem intitled The Ruins of Time,
----the nourice of antiquitie, And lanterne unto late succeeding age. “ In the year 1598 died William Cecil Lord Burghley, Lord
High Treasurer of England. In the same year likewise died “ Edmund Spenser, a Londoner by birth, and a Scholar also, of “ the university of Cambridge, born under fo favourable an - aspect of the Muses, that he surpassed all the English poets of - former times, not excepting Chaucer himself, his fellow Citizen. os But by a fate which still follows poets, he always wrestled with “ poverty, though he had been Secretary to the Lord Grey, “ Lord Deputy of Ireland. For scarce had he there settled him « self in a retired privacy, and got leisure to write, when he was
by the rebels thrown out of his dwelling, plundered of his
shortly after died, and was interred at Westminster, near to “ Chaucer, at the charge of the Earl of Effex; his hearse being « attended by poets, and mournful elegies and poems, with the pens
that wrote them, thrown into his tomb." What I have now to offer is intended to illustrate the Fairy Queen, both in the general plan, considered as an Epic and Moral poem; and likewise in the concealed histories of the times and persons of the poet's age. 'Tis not my design to enter into any minute inquiry of his other writings; for that shall be kept for a third Volume; which will contain his Pastorals, Sonnets, &°C. together with his View of the State of Ireland, and a translation of a Socratic dialogue, entitled Axiochus or of Death; which is not taken notice of by any Editor of any part of his works. His Pastorals, like Virgil's, carry a perpetual allufion to his amorous paffion, his friendships, and other circumstances Vol. I. b