Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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published in 1590, for which the signature "Ed. Spenser"
was used. The "Complaints," which followed in 1591,
were designated as by " Ed. Sp." ^

It might be supposed that a writer who was a
beginner, and who was so confident of his powers as to
announce at the end of his first production that it would
" continewe till the worlds dissolution," and was of a
quality " that Steele in strength, and time in durance,
shall outweare," "^ would not have left the " glosse " " for
the exposition of old wordes and harder phrases " to
another. The explanation given by " E. K.," the writer
of these extraordinary notes, is as follows :

* So far as I am aware, no mention is made of Spenser as a writer of
poetry in any published work until shortly before the appearance of the first
portion of the Faerie Queene, when Nashe, a new writer, referred to him in a
preface for Greene's Menaphon in 1589 as " divine Master Spencer, the miracle
of wit to bandie line for line, in the honor of England, gainst Spaine, France,
Italic, and all the worlde."

In the anonymous Arte of Evglish Poesie (attributed at a later epoch to
one "George Puttenham "), published in the same year (though probably
written a few years earlier), Spenser is alluded to, without name, as " that
other Gentleman who wrote the late Shepheardes Callender."

2 To make this claim was, perhaps, more or less a convention among verse-
writers of that age. Daniel, for instance, does it ; but not with such self-
assurance. The notable feature in the case of Spenser is the unusual con-
fidence of tone, which is also found in his two contemporaries, Shakespeare and
Bacon. Speaking of his Essays, in the dedication to the Duke of Buckingham,
Bacon says, " For I do conceive that the Latin volume of them (being in the
universal language) may last as long as books last."


Hereunto have I added a certain Glosse, or scholion, for
thexposition of old wordes, and harder phrases ; which maner of
glosing and commenting, well I wote, wil seeme straunge and
rare in our tongue : yet, for so much as I knew many excellent
and proper devises, both in wordes and matter, would passe in
the speedy course of reading, either as unknowen, or as not
marked, and that in this kind, as in other, we might be equal to
the learned of other nations, I thought good to take the paines
upon me, the rather for that by meanes of some familiar acquaint-
aunce I was made privie to his counsell and secret meaning in
them, as also in sundry other works of his, which albeit I know
he nothing so much hateth as to promulgate, yet thus much have
I adventured upon his friendship, him selfe being for long time
furre estraunged, hoping that this will the rather occasion him to
put forth divers other excellent works of his, which slepe in
silence ; as his Dreames, his Legendes, his Court of Cupide, and
sondry others, whose commendations to set out were verye
vaine, the thinges though worthy of many, yet being knowen
to few,

" Him selfe being for long time furre estraunged "
must mean, if anything, that the author was abroad. But
the pretence is too transparent, and it will be found that
this is only a device, commonly adopted by this writer,
for concealing his identity. We shall also find that he
almost invariably takes the opportunity in such introduc-
tions of advertising other works, so as to keep awake the
expectations of his readers. Thus in his address "To His
Booke," signed " Immerito," he says :

And, when thou art past jeopardee.
Come tell me what was sayd of mee,
And I will send more after thee.

The title-page of the book bears an inscription, " To
the noble and vertuous Gentleman, most worthy of all
titles both of learning and chevalrie, M. Philip Sidney."
Then, after the lines " To His Booke," comes the letter
signed " E. K.," headed " To the most excellent and
learned both orator and poete, Mayster Gabriell Harvey, his
verie special and singular good friend E. K. commendeth
the good lyking of this his labour, and the patronage of the
new Poete." This letter, to my mind, is indistinguishable,
both in substance and in style, from the Harvey- Spenser


letters. The writer says that " our new Poete " is unknown
to fame, but that he doubts not that " so soone as his
name shall come into the knowledge of men and his
worthines be sounded in the tromp of fame," he will be
" beloved of all, embraced of the most, and wondred at
of the best " ; and then follows an enthusiastic eulogy of
his work. As we shall meet with more of this kind of
thing in this writer's method, it may be well to say at
once that it is his invariable habit to praise his own work,
sometimes in such extravagant terms as to present a
phenomenon which cannot be accounted for under any
ordinary explanation. But without entering far into this
matter here, it may be said that the writer, concealed
under an assumed name, is unrestrained by ordinary
considerations of modesty, and the eulogies of his own
performance are partly dispassionate criticism, partly in
a spirit of fantasy, sometimes of " megalomania," and
partly because, being entirely convinced of his own extra-
ordinary powers, he is intensely anxious to propagate his
ideas and opinions, and so long as he does this he cares
little how he does it. It is probable that later on he
was not wholly indifferent to pecuniary profit, but at the
foot of this early work he places the legend " Merce Non

Having praised the author's work as far beyond
anything yet attempted in English, and defended his
use of antique words as giving " great grace, and, as one
would say, auctoritie to the verse," " E. K. " proceeds to
denounce the performance of contemporary " rymers "
who professed to be poets :

Now, for the knitting of sentences, whych they call the joynts
and members therof, and for al the compasse of the speach, it
is round without roughnesse, and learned without hardnes, such
indeede as may be perceived of the leaste, understoode of the
moste, but judged onely of the learned. For what in most
English wryters useth to be loose, and as it were ungyrt, in this
Authour is well grounded, finely framed, and strongly trussed up
together. In regard wherof, I scorne and spue out the rakehellye
route of our ragged rymers (for so themselves use to hunt the
letter) which without learning boste, without judgement jangle,


without reason rage and fonie, as if some instinct of Poeticall
spirite had newly ravished them above the meanenesse of common
capacitie. And being, in the middest of all theyr bravery,
sodenly, eyther for want of matter, or of ryme, or having forgotten
theyr former conceipt, they seeme to be so pained and traveiled
in theyr remembrance, as it were a woman in childebirtli, or as
that same Pythia, when the traunce came upon her : Os rabidum
/era corda domans, &c.

Nethelesse, let them a Gods name feede on theyr owne folly,
so they seeke not to darken the beames of others glory.

Much in this racy and uncomplimentary kind will
be found in the Harvey and Nashe writings, but
"Immerito" himself furnishes us with an example in a
letter to Harvey included in the " Letter-book " and pub-
lished in Two othervery conuneyidable Letters, etc., in i 580 :
" And nowe they have proclaimed in their apeiwird'^w a
generall surceasing and silence of balde Rymers." A
similar passage also occurs in William Webbe's book,
which I deal with below.

The epistle concludes with personal touches and a
profession of intimacy with the author's mind which
could, in my opinion, only come from the author of the
poems himself. Thus :

Now, as touching the generall dryft and purpose of his
Mg\ogvLQs, I mind not to say much, him selfe labouring to
conceale it. Only this appeareth, that his unstayed yougth
had long wandred in the common Labyrinth of Love, in which
time to mitigate and allay the heate of his passion, or els to
warne (as he sayth) the young shepheards, s. his ecjualls and
companions, of his unfortunate folly, he compiled these xij
jeglogues. . . .

It is in this manner that the poet always speaks of
the effects of love on himself.'

There is a postscript appealing to Harvey to bring
forth to " eternall light " " those so many excellent
English poemes of yours which lye hid," which I regard
as an afterthought, to make way for the publication of
some of his own pieces under Harvey's name. We shall
find, if I am right, that this is the habitual practice of
this writer, and that he exercised his extraordinary faculty

' Cf. p. 18.


through fictitious personalities, bearing the names of
living people, and created, to some extent, out of their
circumstances. This method was rendered possible by
the absence of publicity and other conditions of the times.
It had the advantage not only of effectively concealing
the author's identity, but of dispersing his personality
in such a way as to enable him to write in a great
number of styles. It also enabled him to speak his
mind comparatively freely, and from many points of
view, on subjects which the author himself, owing to his
social position and connections, his desire for an official
career, and for other reasons connected with the circum-
stances of that time, could not safely, or suitably, have
handled in print. It enabled him also to publish poems
and to produce plays, which in those days was not
thought suitable for a man of position.^ I could not, of
course, expect the reader to accept these views on such a
statement of them at this stage, but I will ask him to do
so provisionally, and so to admit for the purpose of the
argument such a statement as that made above about
Harvey, as the nature of this subject is such that it would
not be possible, without interminable digressions, to make
good every statement at the earlier stages. The argu-
ment of this book is cumulative, and I hope, if the
reader has the kindness to follow me through it, that he
will find justification for the conclusions in the end.

I have referred above to William Webbe. " William
Webbe, Graduate" produced a treatise in 1586 called
" A Discourse of English Poetrie," which in style closely
resembles the epistle of " E. K." It is a document which
shows originality, wide reading and facility, yet the
supposed author is not known to have written anything
else. " Webbe " is, in my opinion, one of the man}'
" prosopopeias " (impersonations),^ the treatise being un-

* Even a professional writer like Daniel pleads " necessity " for the latter ;
see his Apology for Philotas, 1605.

2 " Prosopopoia " is the first title of Spenser's Mother Hiibberds Tale.
The word is the Greek Trpoo-coTroToifa =" personification, a dramatic form of
composition" (Liddell & Scott). Compare :

" His notable Prosopopeias when he maketh you, as it were, see God


mistakably (as I think) by the same hand as that which
penned the " E. K." epistle. The writer quotes from it,
and, in a similar manner, raises expectation of more
publications :

Sorry I am that I can not find none other with whom I
might couple him ^ in this Catalogue, in his rare gyft of Poetry :
although one there is, though nowe long since, seriously occupied
in grauer studies, (Master Gabriell Haruey), yet, as he was once
his most special freende and fellow Poet, so because he hath
taken such paynes, not only in his Latin Poetry (for which he
enjoyed great commendations of the best both in judgment and
dignity in thys Realme) but also to reforme our English verse,
and to beautify the same with braue deuices, of which I thinke
the cheefe lye hidde in hatefull obscurity : therefore wyll I
adventure to set them together, as two of the rarest witts, and
learnedst masters of Poetrie in England. Whose worthy and
notable skyl in this faculty, I would wysh if their high dignities
and serious businesses would permit, they would styll graunt to
bee a furtheraunce to that reformed kinde of Poetry, which Master
Haruey did once beginne to ratify : and surely in mine opinion,
if hee had chosen some grauer matter, and handled but with
halfe that skyll, which I knowe he could haue doone, and not
powred it foorth at a venture, as a thinge betweene iest and
earnest, it had taken greater effect then it did.

As for the other Gentleman, if it would please him or hys
freendes to let those excellent Foemes, whereof I know he hath
plenty, come abroad, as his Dreames, his Legends, his Court of
Cupid, his English Poet with other : he shoulde not onely stay
the rude pens of my selfe and others, but also satisfye the thirsty
desires of many which desire nothing more then to see more of
hys rare inuentions. If I ioyne to Master Haruey hys two
Brethren, I am assured, though they be both busied with great

coming in his Majestic," used of David, as a poet, in Sidney's Apologie for

" And if they raise a slaunder upon a man of a thing done at home when
he is tliousand mile off, it is but Prosopopeya, pcrsoiiae Jictio, the supposing
or faining of a person." — Naslie, Have with you to Saffron Walden, p. 178
(Grosarl's edition).

" Let them make ^\\'aX prosopopoeias they will of her Majesty's nature." —
bacon, Letter to the Earl of Essex. .Spedding, Life, ii. 41.

In the anonymous Arte of Enj^lish Poesie (1589) it is defined as " a
counterfait impersonation." — Arbor Reprints, p. 246.

' Meniii)ncd in a passage above as "the Author of the Sheepeheardes
Kalender . . . whether it was Master Sp. or what rare Scholler in Pembrooke
Hall socucr " (see p. 5).


and waighty callinges (the one a godly and learned Diuine, the
other a famous and skylfuU Phisition) yet if they lysted to sette
to their helping handes to Poetry, they would as much beautify
and adorne it as any others.

There is a great deal of mystery attaching to these
allusions to unpublished works, both in " E. K.'s " glosse
and elsewhere. Gabriel Harvey began as a writer in Latin,
and those pieces are of no real value, and full of much harm-
less absurdity. They ceased (apparently with the death of
his patron. Sir Thomas Smith) in 1578. He reappears,
however, in 1580, and again in 1592, as an English writer
of exceptional resource and power, but nothing came from
his pen after 1597, though he is reputed to have lived
until 1 63 I. A further reference by " E. K." to books by
Harvey is given below (p. 23). I shall hope to say more
on this subject later.

In Webbe's treatise " E. K.'s " remarks as to the
" rakehellye route of our ragged rymers " (quoted above,
p. 7) are cited, and the writer prefaces them with some
remarks of his own in a precisely similar vein :

If I let passe the uncountable rabble of ryming Ballet makers
and compylers of sencelesse sonets, who be most busy, to stuffe
every stall full of grosse deuises and vnlearned Pamphlets : I
trust I shall with the best sort be held excused. Nor though
many such can frame an Alehouse song of five or sixe score
verses, hobbling vppon some tune of a Northern lygge, or Robyn
hoode, or La lubber etc. And perhappes obserue just number
of sillables, eyght in one line, sixe in another, and there withall
an A to make a ierke in the ende : yet if these might be accounted
Poets (as it is sayde some of them make meanes to be promoted
to ye Lawrell) surely we shall shortly have whole swarmes of
Poets : and euery one that can frame a Booke in Ryme, though
for want of matter, it be but in commendations of Copper noses
or Botle Ale, wyll catch at the Garlande due to Poets ; whose
potticall poeticall (I should say) heades, I would wyshe, at their
worshipfuU commencements might in steede of Lawrell, be
gorgiously garnished with fayre greene Barley, in token of their
good affection to our Englishe Malt. One speaketh thus homely
of them, with whose words I wyll content myselfe for thys time,
because I woulde not bee too broade with them in myne owne


He then proceeds to quote " E, K." : " I scorne . . .
Os rabidum fera corda domans, &c." (see pp. 7, 8 above).
Further on he refers to what he describes as " a fewe balde
ditties made over the Beere potts." ^ Fairly arrogant
certainly, but amusing enough. This vein, never wholly
divorced from truth, even in its most fantastic forms,
reaches its full period in ** Nashe."

To return to the Shepheards Cale7ider : the " Epistle "
is followed by a statement (unsigned, but apparently
intended to be attributed to the expositor, " E. K.") entitled
" The Generall Argument of the Whole Booke." It
begins with some observations on the history of the
Eclogue, and concludes with a learned discourse on the
propriety of beginning the year (as the poem does) with
January instead of March, the latter being the style in
more general use at that time in England, though the
new style had come into use abroad. I have not observed
any comment on this, but of course it is noticeable. The
same thing occurs in the Harvey " Letter-book," and the
editor (Camden series) draws attention to it as a curious fact.
Only a man of a reforming tendency would have adopted

' The following passage in the Arte of English Poesie (15S9) presents the
same characteristics : " Note also that rime or concorde is not commendably
vsed both in the end and middle of a verse, vnlesse it be in toyes and trifling
Poesies, for it sheweth a certaine lightnesse either of the matter or of the
makers head, albeit these common rimers vse it much, for as I sayd before,
like as the Symphonic in a verse of great length is (as it were) lost by looking
after him, and yet may the meetre be very graue and stately : so on the other
side doth the ouer busie and too speedy returne of one maner of tune, too
much annoy and as it were glut the eare, vnlesse it be in small and popular
Musickes song by these Can/a/'anqui vpon benches and barrels heads where
they haue none other audience then boys or countrcy fellowes that passe by
them in the strcete, or else by blind harpers or such like tauerne minstrels
that giue a fit of mirth for a groat, and their matters being for the most part
stories of old time, as the tale of Sir Topas, the reportes of Beuts of
Sotithamplon^ Guy of IVanvicke, Adam Bell, and Clymme of the Clough
anil such other old Romances or historicall rimes, made purposely for
recreation of the common people at Christmassc diners and bridcales, and in
laucrnes and ale-houses and such other places of base resort, also they be
vsed in Carols and rounds and such light or lasciuious Toemes, which are
commonly more commodiously vttered by these buffons or vices in playes
then by any other pers<jn. Such were the rimes of Skelton (vsurping the
name of a Poet Laureat) being in deede but a rude rayling rimer and all his
doings ridiculous, he vsed l>oth short distaunces and short measures pleasing
oncly the popular earc : in our courtly maker we banish them vtterly."


a change of this kind under the circumstances, and we may
therefore expect the author to be a man of this quality.

We come now to the poems under the several months.
Each is preceded by an " Argument " and closed with an
" Embleme," in various languages, English, French, Italian,
Latin and Greek. Then follows the " Glosse " or com-
mentary. The " Arguments," in my opinion, could only
have been written by the author of the poems, though
words are here and there inserted to give them the
appearance of being written by some one else — the
fabulous " E. K." I quote two, being characteristic
examples of the author's thought and manner :



This .^glogue is purposely intended to the honor and prayse
of our most gracious sovereigne, Queene Elizabeth. The
speakers herein be Hobbinoll and Thenott, two shepheardes :
the which Hobbinoll, being before mentioned greatly to
have loved Colin, is here set forth more largely, complayning
him of that boyes great misadventure in Love ; whereby
his mynd was alienate and withdrawen not onely from him,
who moste loved him, but also from all former delightes and
studies, as well in pleasaunt pyping, as conning ryming and
singing, and other his laudable exercises. Whereby he
taketh occasion, for proofe of his more excellencie and skill
in poetrie, to recorde a songe, which the sayd Colin some-
time made in honor of her Majestie, whom abruptely he
termeth Elysa.



In Cuddie is set out the perfecte paterne of a Poete, whiche,
finding no maintenaunce of his state and studies, com-
playneth of the contempte of Poetrie, and the causes thereof :
Specially having bene in all ages, and even amongst the
most barbarous, alwayes of singular accoumpt and honor,
and being indede so worthy and commendable an arte ; or
rather no arte, but a divine gift and heavenly instinct not to
bee gotten by laboure and learning, but adorned with both ;
and poured into the witte by a certain 'Ev^oi'criao-/Aos and
celestiall inspiration, as the Author hereof els where at large


discourseth in his booke called The English Foete, which
booke being lately come to my hands, I mynde also by Gods
grace, upon further advisement, to publish.

I believe the book here mentioned is that which
appeared under Sir Philip Sidney's name, nine years after
his death, as the Apologie for Poetrie. The style is the
same as that of the writer of these notes.

The " Glosses " are full of curious reading and reflec-
tion, and show an intimacy with the author's meaning
and sources of information which, in my opinion, renders
the pretence of editorship by a friend absurd on the face
of it. Even more absurd, if possible, is the pretence that
this is done in his absence and without his knowledge
and consent. So much has been written of the greatness
of the Elizabethan age that we are apt to forget how rude
and simple the England of that day really was. The
author presumes on the simplicity of his audience, and on
the entire absence of " publicity," which made literary
deception a very easy matter. The " glosse " under
" Januarie " is a good example of this, where the motives
of the author of the poems in adopting certain feigned
names are discussed with an intimacy and elaboration
which are quite unexampled in the case of one man
writing about another. The writer of the notes, as will
be seen from the extracts which I shall give, shows
exceptional reading and facility ; yet, so far as is known,
he never wrote anything else, though " Edward Kirke,"
with whom, under the accepted theory, he is identified,
lived to mature age.^ It is true that in the "glosse"
under " November" he mentions " my Commentarye upon
the Dreames of the same Authour," but that never
appeared ; nor did the poem referred to appear under
that title, but it was probably incorporated in another.
The following are two of these notes from "Januarie,"
which I give as examples :

Colin Cloute, is a name not greatly used, and yet have I sene
a Poesie of M. Skeltons under that title. But indecde the word

' f'dward Kirkc, according to Dr. Grosart, became rector of Risby,
Suffolk, and survived to 1613, act. 60, "as both his epitaph and will show."


Colin is Frenche, and used of the French Poete Marot (if he be
worthy of the name of a Poete) in a certein yEglogue. Under
which name this Poete secretly shadoweth himself, as sometimes
did Virgil under the name of Tityrus, thinking it much fitter then
such Latine names, for the great unlikelyhoode of the language.

Rosalinde, is also a feigned name, which, being wel ordered,
wil bewray the very name of hys love and mistresse, whom by
that name he coloureth. So as Ovide shadoweth hys love under
the name of Corynna, which of some is supposed to be Julia,
themperor Augustus his daughter, and wyfe to Agryppa. So
doth Aruntius Stella every where call his Lady Asteris and
lanthis, albe it is wel knowen that her right name was
Violantilla : as witnesseth Statius in his Epithalantium. And so
the famous Paragone of Italy, Madonna Coelia, in her letters
envelopeth her selfe under the name of Zima : and Petrona under
the name of Bellochia. And this generally hath bene a common
custome of counterfeicting the names of secret Personages.

It seems to me that only a very young writer could
have written this. He has not yet learned to use his
reading without making a display of it.

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 2 of 55)