Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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meeting with no better success. The incidents in this and
the following canto, though they must be accepted with
reserve as history, refer to Elizabeth's distrust of their
loyalty, and their alleged intrigues with the Guises and
the Scottish Queen. The particular passage (i. 36, 37),
in which the personality of Britomart and Amoret are
confused (purposely, I think), is a further piece of evidence
for the view already expressed that Amoret represents the
" woman " side of Queen Elizabeth, and the hatred of
Blandamour and Paridell for Scudamore (39 sq^ becomes
one of the strongest points for the Ralegh interpretation
in the case of the latter.

A similar incident occurs earlier in the canto, where
a certain " young knight " challenges Britomart for
Amoret. As it is practically a repetition of the affair
between Britomart and Paridell in III, ix. 16, 20-25, the
allusion is probably to Arundel and the Queen's clemency
towards him on more than one occasion. Being over-
thrown, Britomart attaches him to her service, and the
following scene, in which her sex is disclosed to Amoret
as well as the young man, takes place :

With that, her glistring helmet she unlaced ;
Which doft, her golden lockes, that were upbound
Still in a knot, unto her heeles downe traced.
And like a silken veile in compasse round
About her backe and all her bodie wound :
Like as the shining skie in summers night,
What time the dayes with scorching heat abound,
Is creasted all with lines of firie light,
That it prodigious seemes in common peoples sight.

Such when those Knights and Ladies all about
Beheld her, all were with amazement smit.
And every one gan grow in secret dout
Of this and that, according to each wit :


Some thought that some enchantment faygned it ;
Some, that Bellona in that warHke wise
To them appear'd, with shield and armour fit ;
Some, that it was a maske of strange disguise :
So diversely each one did sundrie doubts devise.

But that young Knight, which through her gentle deed
Was to that goodly fellowship restor'd,
Ten thousand thankes did yeeld her for her meed,
And, doubly overcommen, her ador'd.
So did they all their former strife accord ;
And eke fayre Amoret, now freed from feare,
More franke affection did to her afford.

{/did. 13, 14, I 5-)

Upton's suggestion (in which he has been followed by
others) that Sir Philip Sidney appears in Sir Calidore,
the knight of Courtesie (Book VI.), and Walsingham and
his daughter Frances, who was Sidney's wife, in " Old
Meliboe " and Pastorella (Canto ix. sg.), has the appear-
ance of being right, and I think it is so as regards the
two last characters. Walsingham is promised a higher
celebration of his praises in the sonnet which accompanies
the first three books ; but he died, shortly after their
appearance, in April 1590. An eclogue "upon the death
of the Right Honorable Sir Francis Walsingham," called
" Meliboeus," in Latin and English, by Thomas Watson,
appeared in the same year. His death is also alluded to
by Spenser under the same name (" good Melibce ") in
T/ie Rtiines of Time, which appeared early in 1591. But
there is nothing very characteristic in the figure of Sir
Calidore, and it might contain an allusion, as well, to
Essex, who is described as having " a certain innate
courtesy," which was one of the qualities which endeared
him to the people. Also he married Sidney's widow.^

* Presumably shortly before Walsingham's death in 1 590. Sidney's death
occurred in 1586. If Goodman's relation is to be depended upon, this
marriage was probably one of policy, with a view to enabling Essex to
obtain possession of Walsingham's papers. Burghley, however, was too
quick for him. This story would also account for the Earl marrying out of
his rank, in doing which the Queen told him he had disgraced himself, and
for the short time during which her displeasure lasted. Goodman says that
his informant was Bishop Overall, who had the account from Essex himself
on an occasion when he visited him in the lime of his latter troubles : " The


For reasons, however, which will be given in a later
chapter, I think Sir Calidore, in the main, represents
the author himself under another phase, and that Sir
Calepine is probably intended for Sir Philip Sidney, or
possibly Essex. The name " Serena " (the love of Sir
Calepine) may have been suggested by the letters in the
name " Frances." These points, however, involve diffi-
culties, and must be reserved for further consideration.
In stanza 24 of Canto ix. there is presumably an allusion
to Walsingham's labours and his poverty, which the Queen
neglected to relieve, at the close of his life. The
characters of Calidore, Meliboe, and Pastorella in this
episode reappear in the Winter's Tale as Florizel, the
" Old Shepherd," and Perdita.' The " Castle of Belgard "
(Canto xii. 3), where the discovery of Pastorella's parent-
age takes place, is thought by Upton to be an allusion to
Belvoir, in which case one of the Earls of Rutland is
intended in " the good Sir Bellamoure " ; but I can
express no opinion on this. By " the mightie Oberon,"
in II. X. 75, Henry VIII. is intended, and, when this is
seen, the interpretation of the rest of that curious stanza
follows.^ The " embatteld cart " of the " Souldan "

Earl said further unto him, that when he was a suitor unto his lady, he came
to Sir Francis Walsingham and told him that he came to be a suitor unto his
daughter not for any wealth or portion, for it was thought he had little, but
only that he might be so enabled by his good council as that he may be fit to
do his prince and his country some service. Whereupon his father-in-law
did assure him, that what directions he could give him would not be wanting.
The match went on, and the Queen hearing thereof, was much offended :
then did the Earl of Essex fall out of her favour, and it was thought fit that
he should retire himself from the Court for a time until the Queen's anger
were a little over ; during which time of his absence, Secretary Walsingham
suddenly died ; and immediately the Lord Treasurer Burleigh informed the
Queen, that he being Secretary, no doubt but he had many notes and papers
which concerned the State ; that they should be seized upon : and the Queen
gave orders accordingly. Whereupon all his notes and instructions came to
the hands of the Cecils, and he could never after regain them." — The Court
0/ A'tHi^ James the First (ed. Brewer), i. 147.

* Shakespearian critics, so far as I have observed, neglect to notice this,
and refer only to Greene's tale Pandosto as the basis of the play. The .«ame
characters occur there under the names of Dorastus, Borrus, and Fawnia.
Greene's tale was published in London in 1588.

2 Warton seems to have been the first to notice this. It is fairly obvious
when the poet's method is recognised. .See Todd, 2, xciv.


(V. viii. 34) represents, no doubt, the galleons of the
Spanish Armada, and in the fight between him and
Prince Arthur (28-44) the course of events in that contest,
ending in the utter destruction of the Spanish fleet, is

It has been suggested that in Radigund, the Amazon
Queen (Book V. iv. and v.), there is an allusion to Mary,
Queen of Scots, and her power over men ; but, while this
may be intended, I think the episode has a more extended
application, and is intended to represent the results which
follow from the reversal of the natural relation between
the sexes, the opportunity being taken by the poet to
express his disapprobation of that type of woman ; see
particularly Canto v. 25 — "Such is the crueltie of
womenkynd," etc. (In that stanza "base" is used of
relativity, and is the French bas, soumis}')

A local allusion, of much interest from my point of
view, occurs in the episode of Pollante and Lady Munera,
in Book V. ii. The poet leaves us in no doubt as to the
meaning of the allegory of the " cursed cruell Sarazin "
and " his Bridge," because he says that he lets no one
pass without making him " his passage-penny pay " (6).
He has a " groome," with a " skull all raw " who " pols
and pils the poore," while he himself " uppon the rich
doth tyrannize." In these proceedings he is helped by
his daughter —

Who all that comes doth take, and therewith fill
The coffers of her wicked threasury.

Arthegal kills the toll-collector, and after a desperate
encounter with Pollant^, smites off his head in the
water, and

His corps was carried downe along the Lee.

The castle is then forced, and Lady Munera meets
with a dreadful end, " withouten pitty," at the hands of

* Cf. II. ix. 22, the material of which probably comes from books; but,
in any case, it is physiological, and does not refer to the soul,



Talus (25-27). This description may raise a smile now,
but it was evidently written quite seriously by the author.
In order to satisfy the conditions of the story the locality
must have been a populous one, where money was in use
among the common people, and where there was a bridge
over a river or stream which could not otherwise be
conveniently crossed. The author must also have been
familiar with the circumstances in order that his indigna-
tion should have been so aroused. None of these condi-
tions prevailed in Ireland at that time, and the Irish Lee
is moreover many miles from Kilcolman, and is only
referred to in the list of Irish rivers in IV. xi. as it
appears at Cork, " the spreading Lee." I conclude that
the "Lee" referred to is the Hertfordshire and Middlesex
Lea, which enters the Thames below the City through a
district which was a fairly populous one in those days.
A similar instance of the introduction of the Hertfordshire
Lea occurs in the ProtJialamion, and it is done in the
same unobtrusive way, so that it easily escapes notice.
The " Meadow " in that poem appears, from stanzas i
and 2, to be on the Thames, but the scene passes in-
sensibly to the banks of the " Lee," and at some distance
from London, which is only reached " at length " (stanza 8).
I attach, however, no significance to this, as the poet
required a more idyllic scene for the brides (in the shape
of the swans) — who had also to be brought from the
country — than the banks of the tidal river below Essex
House. The device also gives movement to the poem. I
mention it to show how elusive the poet's method is. He
trusts to the invention and melody to beguile the reader
into accepting the treatment, however arbitrary, without
further explanation. The Hertfordshire Lea (spelt
" Lee ") is also mentioned in the Ruines of Time.

I have said little about Prince Arthur and Timias,
because I propose to discuss those characters in a later
chapter. I will close this chapter with a word about
the " Maske of Cupid," which forms part of the conclu-
sion of the first portion of the poem. The seriousness


and intensity of this description arrest the attention
perhaps even more than the marvellous power of in-
vention which it displays. The cause of this, in my
opinion, is that it is a piece of self-expression, and it
is interesting to observe that at the head of the pro-
cession of figures, all representing unhappiness and
disaster in one form or another, the poet places
" Fansy " :

The first was Fansy, like a lovely Boy
Of rare aspect, and beautie without peare,

His garment nether was of silke nor say,
But paynted plumes in goodly order dight,
Like as the sunburnt Indians do aray
Their tawney bodies in their proudest plight :
As those same plumes so seemd he vaine and light,
That by his gate might easily appeare ;
For still he far'd as dauncing in delight.
And in his hand a windy fan did beare.
That in the ydle ayre he mov'd still here and theare.

(III. xii. 7, 8.)

The figure accompanies " Desyre," and is not in-
cluded in the pageant as a mere poetical flourish, but,
in my opinion, deliberately, in accordance with Bacon's
ideas as to the nature of the soul, as will be hereafter

The " grave personage," who appears before the
entry of the Masque, is evidently the poet's idea of
himself, outside and in control of the shapes which
stream from his imaginative faculty. The action is
taken from what was known as the " dumb show." The
name " Ease " seen on his robe is, I think, the poet's
way of hinting that the labourer is worthy of his hire,
and that the work of this nature which he had in view
could not be properly done except under conditions of
leisure and independence. The anonymous Arte of
English Poesie, addressed to the Queen, to which allusion
has been made, contains hints of this kind, and they
occur elsewhere. The stanzas (3 and 4) are as follow :

All suddeinly a stormy whirlwind blew
Throughout the house, that clapped every dore.


With which that yron wicket open flew,
As it with mighty levers had bene tore ;
And forth yssewd, as on the readie flora
Of some Theatre, a grave personage
That in his hand a braunch of laurell bore,
With comely haveour and count'nance sage,
Yclad in costly garments fit for tragicke Stage.

Proceeding to the midst he stil did stand.
As if in minde he somewhat had to say ;
And to the vulgare beckning with his hand,
In signe of silence, as to heare a play,
By lively actions he gan bewray
Some argument of matter passioned :
Which doen, he backe retyred soft away,
And, passing by, his name discovered.
Ease, on his robe in golden letters cyphered.

Among the various strange figures of the Masque
there is one which is altogether human :

With him went Hope in rancke, a handsome Mayd,
Of chearefull looke and lovely to behold :
In silken samite she was light arayd.
And her fayre lockes were woven up in gold :
She alway smyld, and in her hand did hold
.An holy-water-sprinckle, dipt in deowe.
With which she sprinckled favours manifold
On whom she list, and did great liking sheowe.
Great liking unto many, but true love to feowe.

It is not difficult to see that in this beautiful picture
a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, as a young woman, is



In this chapter I shall say something on the attitude of
Spenser, Shakespeare and Bacon towards the " crowd,"
and on their use of the word " spirits," which will involve
an account of Bacon's ideas as to the nature of the soul.

In the accepted theory of their identity both Spenser
and Shakespeare were sprung from the people. Yet they
both write of them in a tone which probably surpasses
in contempt that of any other well-known writer. Of
the two perhaps Spenser is the more uncompromising,
and his expressions in this respect show a habit of mind,
not the adoption of a theory. There is no lack of
humanity in the abstract, or in matters indifferent, but
where the social and political order are concerned the
multitude are relegated by their nature to subordination,
and there is practically no recognition of the possibility
of their improvement as an element in the State. No doubt
this was generally in accordance with the thought of the
age, but even when due allowance for this has been made,
the fact remains that the tone in this respect is harsher
and morally lower than is usual in English writers, or
than can be accounted for by imitation of Homer or
Italian models. The expression " raskall many," which
Spenser uses in describing the multitude, is a near
approach to the French word canaille^ for which there is
no English equivalent. It is given as an instance by the
writer of the Arte of English Poesie (1589) of a word
used when a " naturall and proper terme " is lacking,
which, in that case, " is not then spoken by . . .




Metaphore . . . but by plain abuse, as he that bad his
man go into his Hbrary and fet him his bowe and
arrovves, for in deede there was neuer a booke there to
be found, or as one should in reproch say to a poore
man, thou raskall knaue, where raskall is properly the
hunters terme giuen to young deere, leane and out of
season, and not to people." The following are examples
of Spenser's use of the term and of the attitude above
referred to :

But, when as overblowen was that brunt,
Those knights began afresh them to assayle,
And all about the fields like Squirrels hunt ;
But chiefly Talus with his yron flayle.
Gainst which no flight nor rescue mote avayle,
Made cruell havocke of the baser crew.
And chaced them both over hill and dale.
The raskall manie soone they overthrew ;
But the two knights themselves their captains did subdew.

F. Q. V. xi. 59.

Similarly, when the knight slays the dragon (I. xii. 9) :

And after all the raskall many ran.

Heaped together in rude rabblement,

To see the face of that victorious man. . . .

And again in the description of the house of Busyrane
(III. xi. 46) :

Kings, Queenes, Lords, Ladies, knights, and Damsels gent.
Were heap'd together with the vulgar sort,
And mingled with the raskall rablement.
Without respect of person or of port,
To shew Dan Cupids powre and great effort :
And round about a border was entrayld
Of broken bowes and arrowes shivered short ;
And a long bloody river through them rayld,
So lively and so like that living sence it fayld.

After reading these passages it is amusing to find
Gabriel Harvey expressing himself (in reference to
Nashe's complaints) in similar terms about "sizars" :

in these and such other most -base and shamefull complaints,
scarcely beseeming the rascallest siscr in an Vniversity, or the
beggarliest mendicant frier in a country. — Foure Letters^ 1592.


The fact is there is no important work in the English
language written so exclusively and with such uncom-
promising ardour from the aristocratic standpoint as the
Faerie Quecne.

Similar language is used in this connection throughout
Bacon's works. For example :

the natural depravity and malignant dispositions of the vulgar,
which to kings is an envenomed serpent. — Wisdom of the
Ancients, " Typhon, or a Rebel."

the same vile and restless nature of the people. — Ibid. "Sister of
the Giants, or Fame."

the vulgar, to whom no moderate measures can be acceptable. —
Ibid. " Diomed, or Zeal."

the invidious and malignant nature of the vulgar. — Ibid.
" Nemesis."

but for rascal people, they were cut off every man. — History of
Henry the Seventh^ P- 456 (Chandos edition).

for high conceits do sometimes come streaming into the
imaginations of base persons, especially when they are drunk
with news and talk of the people. — Of the Lambert Simnel
imposture, ibid. p. 397.

As for the severity used upon those which were taken in Kent,
it was but upon a scum of people. — Ibid. p. 503.

On this the editor observes in a note : " Bacon's
contempt for the people belonged to his age, but is
certainly repulsive even with this excuse." Numerous
passages, however, could be cited from Bacon's acknow-
ledged writings to show that he was solicitous, in advance
of his age, for the welfare of the people. The passages
above quoted all have reference to the business of
government. Where the questions of government or
power were not at stake Bacon was humane and gentle
in disposition. Undoubtedly it is the portrait of himself,
as idealised in his own mind, which he gives us in the
Neiv Atlantis in the person of " one of the fathers of
Solomon's House " :

The day being come he made his entry. He was a man of
middle stature and age, comely of person, and had an aspect as
if he pitied men.


Universal benevolence, however, is quite compatible
with callousness in dealing with individuals, and it is
here where Bacon's deficiencies become apparent. His
habit of seeing things from the universal standpoint
made him indifferent to individuals. " In profusion," he
writes, " there is no room for desire." An enthusiast for
truth he had little regard for the truth, and though in
this he was perhaps no worse than others who were
similarly engaged in affairs, and better than some, yet
he had more pretensions than they had and more light.
But I think it will be found, if once the view is accepted
as to the phenomenal character of Bacon's imaginative
faculty, that there was a corresponding deficiency on the
emotional side, which accounts for the deficiency in moral
sense which his character and writings suggest. In the
quality of philosophic judgment Bacon is supreme, and
as no man has really good judgment in matters beyond
the everyday experience who is deficient in imagination,
it seems reasonable to conclude that the one follows to
some extent from the other. In any case the greater
the genius the greater the necessity, in order to make it
effective, for judicial control. In Bacon imagination and
judgment worked together, but on the emotional side
and in moral sense he was relatively weak. There is,
however, another cause to which Bacon's attitude towards
the people, which we are here considering, may partly be
attributed, namely, his passion for order and completeness
(or finality). This is essentially a passion of the soul,
to which the complexity and shifting nature of phenomena
are abhorrent. In Spenser's poetry, laments over " muta-
bility " are constant, and the sense of it is stamped on
Shakespeare's greatest work. In the region of politics
it took the form with Bacon of a distrust of all changes
in machinery, and of a desire to concentrate power in the
fewest hands : " therefore care would be had that (as it
fareth in ill purgings) the good be not taken away with
the bad, which commonly is done when the people is
the reformer " (" Of Superstition ").

Bacon had also a passion for distinction and magnifi-


cence, with a strong instinct for worship, and the sovereign,
in his mind, was the idealised object of these feelings.
In short, his spiritual ideas are primitive and, if one may-
use the phrase in so great an example, child-like. In
this respect he is below the standard of his age, and
seems to me to present the phenomenon of what is called
by biologists a " throwback." Spiritually, he is nearer
allied to Homer than Aeschylus was. French critics
have said that the distinguishing feature of English
poetry is the imagination displayed in it, which is
an affair of " energy." ^ Apart from the question of
experience and the trained judgment required in the
process of selection, I think there is probably a good
deal of truth in this. This " energy " has its roots in
the past, and it seems certain that the special manifesta-
tion of it in " invention " — the combined effect of
imagination with great powers of memory — was more
universal in remote antiquity than in historical times.
Bacon certainly held this opinion. In " invention "
Shakespeare and Spenser surpass all the poets, perhaps
even not excluding Homer,^ and both of them give
evidence of the same primitive spirituality which is one
of the most noticeable features in Bacon's life and
writings.^ Possibly, therefore, the presence of the power
of " invention " in an abnormal degree is necessarily
accompanied by a backward spiritual development. The
idea that the quality of imagination found in Shakespeare's
plays was a product of the times which was shared to a

' In contradistinction with "taste" (goilt), the sense of fitness and order,
in which French art excels.

2 The ancients held that the essence of poetry was "invention." In
Sidney's Apologie those poets only who display this quality are treated
as "right poets." Bacon i^Adv. of Learning) expresses the same view; so
did Dr. Johnson (see Life of Waller). Spenser, when he speaks of " the
antique Poets historicall " (by which he means "feigned history"), has the
same thought in mind (see letter to Ralegh introductory to the Faerie Queene,
and cf. Adv. of Learning, Spedding, Works, iii. 343 sq., quoted below in
Chapter V. p. 152).

^ The only difference (not an essential one) which I can perceive between
Spenser and Shakespeare is that the former ransacks books more obviously
for his examples, and writes in the trammels of an elaborately rhymed stanza,
whereas the latter draws his material more directly from life, through a
maturer self-knowledge, and is less hampered by difficulties of form.


large extent by every one is, in my belief, a misconception.

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 10 of 55)