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troduced in the folio edition of the Faerie Queene, printed in 1609, as a part of the lost book, entitled The Legend of Constancy.
It is necessary, however, in this place, to notice a question which has been started, and contested with much eagerness by Spenser's biographers and critics, namely, whether any part of the Faerie Queene has been lost, or whether the author did not leave the work unfinished as we now have it. Sir James Ware informs us that the poet finished the latter part of the Faerie Queene in Ireland," which was soone after unfortunately lost by the disorder and abuse of his servants, whom he had sent before him into England." The authority of sir James Ware, who lived so near Spenser's time, and gave this account in 1635, seems entitled to credit; but it has been opposed by Fenton, who thinks, with Dryden, that “ upon sir Philip Sidney's death, Spenser was deprived both of the means and spirit to accomplish his design,” and treats sir James Ware's account as a hearsay or a fiction. Dr. Birch, on the other hand, contends that the event of sir Philip Sidney's death was not sufficient to have prevented Spenser from finishing his poem, since he actually gave the world six books of it after his patron's death. The author of Spenser's life in the Biographia Britannica, after gaining some advantage over Dr. Birch's inferences from incorrect dates, argues against the probability of a manuscript of the last six books, principally from the shortness of the poet's life after the year 1596. The late Dr. Fariner is of the same opinion, but appears to me somewhat too hasty in asserting that the question may be effectually answered by a single quotation. The quotation is from Brown's Britannia's Pastorals, 1616, and merely amounts to this, that Spenser died
Ere he had ended his melodious song.
Mr. Todd has advanced a similar evidence from sir Aston Côkain, in 1658, intimating that Spenser would have exceeded Virgil had he lived so long
As to have finished his faery song.
But Mr. Todd produces afterwards a document, more to the purpose, in support of the belief that some of Spenser's papers were destroyed in the rebellion of 1598. This is an epigram written by John (afterwards sir John) Stradling, and published in 1607, and plainly intimates that certain manuscripts of Spenser were burnt in the rebellion. Two years after the publication of this epigram, part of the Legend of Constancy, the only manuscript that had escaped the fury of the rebels, was added to the second edition of the Faerie Queene. It appears therefore highly probable that among the manuscripts destroyed was some part of the six last books of the Faerie Queene, although they might not have been transcribed for the press, nor in that progress towards completion which ran in Fenton's mind when he contradicted sir James Ware with so little courtesy.
The same year, 1596, appears to have been the time when Spenser presented his political, and only prose work, The View of the State of Ireland, to the queen. Mr. Todd, having seen four copies of it in manuscript, concludes that he had presented it also to the great officers of state, and perhaps to others. Why it was allowed to remain in man script so long as until 1633, when sir James Ware published it from archbishop Usher's copy, has not been explained. If, as Mr. Todd conjectures, it was written at the command of the queen, and in order to reconcile the Irish to her government, why did it not receive the publicity which so important an object required? I am more inclined to think, from a perusal of this work, as we now have it, that it was not considered by the court as of a healing tendency; and the extracts from some of the manuscript copies which Mr. Todd had an opportunity of procuring, seem to confirm this conjecture. Viewed in another light, it displays much political kuowledge, and traces the troubles of that country, in many instances, to their proper causes. It is valuable also on account of the author's skill in delineating the actual state of Ireland. “ Civilization,” says Mr. Ledwich, the learned Irish antiquary," having almost obliterated every vestige of our ancient manners, the remembrance of them is only to be found in Spenser; so that he may be considered, at this day, as an Irish antiquary." It ought not to be omitted that in a note on one of the manuscript copies of this work, Spenser is styled,"clerke of the counsell of the province of Mounster."
In 1597 he is said to have returned to Ireland; and by a letter which Mr. Malone has discovered, from queen Elizabeth to the Irish government, dated Sept. 30, 1598, it appears that he was recommended to be sheriff of Cork. The rebellion of Tyrone, however, took place in October, and with such fury as to compel Spenser and his family to leave Kilcolman. In the confusion of flight, manuscripts would be forgotten, for even one of his children was left behind; and the rebels, after carrying off the goods, burnt the house, and this infant in it. Spenser arrived in England, with a heart broken by these misfortunes, and died January following, 1598-9, in the forty-sixth year of his
There are some circumstances respecting Spenser's death which have been variously represented. Mr. Todd, from unquestionable evidence, has fixed the day January 16, 1598-9; and the place, an inn, or lodging-house, in King-street, Westminster; the time, therefore, which elapsed from his arrival in England to his death was very short. But it has been asserted that he died in extreme poverty; which, considering how recently he was in England, and how highly favoured by the queen only a month before he was compelled to leave Ireland, seems wholly incredible. The only foundation for the report appears to be an expression of Camden, intimating that he returned to England poor; which surely might be true, without affording any reason to suppose that he remained poor. His pension of fifty pounds, no inconsiderable sum in his days, continued to be paid ; and why he should have lost his superior friends, at a time when he was a sufferer in the cause of government, is a question which may be asked without the risk of a satisfactory answer. The whining of some contemporary poets' afford no proof of the fact, and may be rejected as authority; but the reception Mr. Warton has given to the report of Spenser's poverty, is entitled to higher regard. It might, indeed, be considered as decisive, if Mr. Todd's more successful researches did not prove that he founds all his argument upon the mistaken supposition that Spenser died in Ireland. Nor will Mr. Warton's agree with the lamentations of the poets; for they represent Spenser as poor by the neglect of his friends and country, and Mr. Warton, as dying amidst the desolations of rebellion.
Spenser's remains were interred in Westminster Abbey, near those of Chaucer, and the funeral expenses defrayed by the earl of Essex, a nobleman very erroneous in political life, but too much a friend to literature to have allowed Spenser to starve, and afterwards
Phineas Fletcher, in his Purple Island, speaks most decisively in favour of Spenser's poverty at the time of his death. C.
insult his remains by a sumptuous funeral. His monument, however, which has been attributed to the munificence of Essex, was erected by Anne, countess of Dorset, about thirty years after Spenser's death. Stone was the workman, and had forty pounds for it. That at present in Westminster Abbey was erected, or restored, in 1778.
It does not appear what became of Spenser's wife and children. Two sons are said to have survived him, Sylvanus and Peregrine. Sylvanus married Ellen Nangle, or Nagle, eldest daughter of David Nangle, of Moneanymy, in the county of Cork, by whom he had two sons, Edmund and William Spenser. His other son, Peregrine, also married, and had a son, Hugolin, who, after the restoration of Charles II. was replaced by the court of claims in as much of the lands as could be found to have been his ancestors. This Hugolin, however, attached himself to the cause of James II. ; and, after the Revolution, was outlawed for treason and rebellion. Some time after, his cousin William, son of Sylvanus, became a suitor for the forfeited property, and recovered it, by the interest of Mr. Montague, afterwards earl of Halifax, who was then at the head of the treasury. He had been introduced to Mr. Montague by Congreve, who, with others, was desirous of honouring the descendant of so great a poet. Dr. Birch describes him as a man somewhat advanced in years, but unable to give any account of the works of his ancestor which are wanting. The family has been since very imperfectly traced.
It remains to be observed, almost in the words of Mr. Todd, that Spenser is the author of four Sonnets, which are admitted into this edition of his works, of which three are prefixed to separate publications, and the fourth occurs in letters by his friend Harvey. He is conjectured to be the author of a Sonnet, signed E. S. addressed to master Henry Peacham, and entitled, A Vision upon his Minerva; and of some poor verses on Phillis, in a publication called Chorus Poetarum, 1684. The verses on queen Elizabeth's picture at Kensington, have been likewise given to Spenser ; but lord Orford ascribes them to the queen herself. As Britain's Ida has been usually printed with the works of Spenser, it is here retained, although the critics are agreed that it was not written by him. The lost pieces of Spenser are said to be, 1. His Translation of Ecclesiasticus; 2. Translation of Canticum Canticorum; 3. The Dying Pelican; 4. The Hours of our Lord; 5. The Sacrifice of a Sinner; 6. The Seven Psalms; 7. Dreams; 8. The English Poet; 9. Legends; 10. The Court of Cupid ; 11. The Hell of Lovers; 12. His Purgatory; 13. A Se'nnights Slumber; 14. Pageants; 15. Nine Comedies ; 16. Stemmata Dudleiana ; 17. Epithalamion Thamesis. If his pen was thus prolific, there is very little reason to suppose that he might not have had leisure and industry to have nearly completed his Faerie Queene, before the fatal rebellion, which terminated all his labours.
Of the personal character of Spenser, if we may be allowed to form an opinion from his writings, it will be highly favourable. With a few exceptions, their uniform tendency is in favour of piety and virtue. His religious sentiments assimilate so closely with those of the early reformers, that we may conjecture he had not only studied the controversies of his age, but was a man of devotional temper and affections.
Of Spenser, as a poet, little can be added to the many criticisms which have been published", since his importance in the history of English poetry became more justly
6 Jortin, Hurd, Church, Upton, but, above all, Mr. Thomas Warton, in his Observations on the Faerie Queene. There are also some ingenious remarks in Pope's Discourse on Pastoral Poetry; aud, indeed, in every writer who has treated the subject of English poetry. C.
appreciated. His lesser pieces contain many beauties. Dryden thought The Shepheards Calender the most complete work of the kind which imagination had produced since the time of Virgil. It has not, however, risen in estimation. The language is so much more obsolete than that of the Faerie Queene, the groundwork of which is the language of his age, that it required a glossary at the time of publication. It is, however, the Faerie Queene which must be considered as constituting Spenser one of the chief fathers of English poetry. Its predominant excellences are imagery, feeling, taste, and melody of versification. Its defects are partly those of his model, Ariosto, and partly those of his age. His own errours are the confusion and inconsistency admitted in the stories and allegorical personages of the ancients, and the absurd mixture of christian and heathenish allusions. Mr. Spence has fully exemplified these in his Polymetis. It is, indeed, impossible to criticise the Faerie Queene by any rules; but we find in it the noblest examples of all the graces of poetry, the sublime, the patlietic, and such powers of description as have never been exceeded. Bishop Hurd has therefore judiciously considered it under the idea of a Gothic rather than a classical poem. It certainly strikes with all the grand effect of that species of architecture; and perhaps it is not too much to say that, like that, its reputation has suffered by the predominant taste for the more correct, higher, and more easily practicable forms of the Grecian school.
Hume was among the first who endeavoured to depreciate the value of the Faerie Queene, by asserting that the perusal of it was rather a task than a pleasure, and challenging any individual to deny this. Pope ; and lord Somers are two who might have accepted the challenge with hope of success. But, in fact, Spenser will not lose much if we admit the assertion. That the perusal of the Faerie Queene must be, at first, a task, and a very irksome one, will be confessed by all who are unacquainted with any English words but what are current. If that difficulty be surmounted, the reader of taste cannot fail to relish the beauties so profusely scattered in this poem. With respect to the objections that have been made to the allegorical plan, it is sufficient to refer to its antiquity; it was one of the earliest vehicles of pleasure blended with instruction; and although modern critics object to a continued allegory, which, indeed, it is extremely difficult to accomplish without falling into inconsistencies, yet specimens of it, detached personifications, aiming at the sublimity of Spenser, still continue to be among the efforts by which our best writers wish to establish their fame. Perhaps the same remark may be extended to the stanza of Spenser, which critics have censured, and poets, praised by those critics, have imitated. After all, it is to the language of Spenser that we must look for the reason why his popularity is less than that of many inferior poets, Spenser, Chaucer, and, indeed, all the early poets, can be relished, not by common readers, but by students; and not separately, but as connected with times, characters, and manners, the illustration of which demands the skill and industry of the antiquary.
7" There is something,” said Pope, " in Spenser, that pleases one as strongly in one's old age as it did in one's youth. I read the Faerie Queene, when I was about twelve, with a vast deal of delight : and I think it gave me as much when I read it over about a year or two ago.” Spence's Anecdotes, quoted by Dr. Warton, who very justly censures Pope's Imitation of Spenser. See Pope's Works, Bowles's edit. vol. ii. 289. C.