Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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Queen's Majesty, beginning —

Muse not at all, most mighty Prince,

though on this lake you see
Me, Triton, float, that in salt seas

among the gods should be.

And, assuring the Queen that she only can deliver the
Lady of the Lake from the persecution of " Sir Bruce," it
ends —

Until such time this puissant Prince

Sir Bruce hath put to flight :
And that the maid released be

by sovereign maiden's might.

I cite these homely lines, and others like them, not for
purposes of ridicule ; far from it, for they are full of
patriotism and sincerity.^ My purpose is to show what
the normal standard of literary composition was in
England at that time, so that it may be more easily
realised what the performance of the " new poet " (as he
terms himself in connection with the "Spenser" publica-
tions) really was.

This brings to a close the account of " as much as I
could recover hitherto of the devices executed there, the
Coventry shew excepted, and the merry marriage [both
described in Lancham^s Letter'] : the which were so plain
as needeth no further explication."

The author then proceeds to recount " a shew " which
" was prepared to have been presented before her Majesty
in the forest," but which " never came to execution,"
though it was, he says, " prepared and ready (every Actor
in his garment) two or three days together. . . . The
cause whereof I cannot attribute to any other thing than
to lack of opportunity and seasonable weather." Though
the writer states that " this shew was devised and penned
by Master Gascoigne," I feel very certain that some of it

' Cf. Shakespeare: "The best in this kind are but shadows; and the
worst are no worse, if imagination amend them." — Midsummer Nighfs
Dream, v. i.


at any rate is the work of another hand. I have three
reasons for holding this opinion, the first being that
portions of the device are in a different style from the
rest ; the second that the flattery of Queen Elizabeth is
more exaggerated and fantastic than Gascoigne, left to
himself, would have been capable of, or than had ever
been adopted before ; the third that the " Farewell,"
with which the piece and the book closes, though stated to
have been spoken by Gascoigne ex tempore, is obviously a
most careful and finished composition, utterly foreign to
Gascoigne's style, and, judging from his undoubted works,
I should say repugnant to his feelings. In justification
of this opinion I invite reference to the dedication of The
Steele Glas which I have discussed above. Even making
all allowance for the artificial tone adopted by courtiers
in addressing Queen Elizabeth, there is no possibility,
in my judgment, of reconciling the two utterances, the
one being that of a young, enthusiastic, untried aspirant,
the other of a serious and saddened man who had run his
course, and was only concerned in redeeming such time
as was left to him.

Gascoigne's health had apparently given way early in
I 576, if not before, and it is not likely that a man in his
condition would have had the spirit to put together such
a book of toys and trifles ; but, being in want, he may
well have lent his name to it in the hope of gaining the
Royal favour. It must also not be forgotten that present
ideas of literary honesty belong to a later epoch, when
writing had become a business in which people engaged
as an honourable means of livelihood. In the days of
which we are speaking there was no general interest in
letters, and Gascoigne's " hall-mark," Tmh Marti quam
Merairio, is, in itself, evidence of the contempt in which a
mere writer was held, and of the feeling that, except by
way of occasional expression, his craft was not a suitable
occupation for a gentleman who bore arms.

The purpose of the " shew " which was prepared but
not presented was to suggest to the Queen that she
should leave her virgin condition and marry the Earl of


Leicester. It takes the form of a contention for her,
under the name of " Zabeta," by Diana and Juno. The
verses, in my opinion, mark the beginning of that
fantastic, allegoric style, which grew, in laudation of
Queen Elizabeth, to such monstrous proportions in the
verses of Spenser, the prose plays of Lilly, and other
writings emanating, as I think, from the same source.
The opening lines, in a flowing, melodious vein, quite
unlike that of Gascoigne, furnish an interesting example
of the figure often referred to as " hunting," " coursing,"
or " alTecting the letter " ; and in the fine line in the
address to the maidens of the Court —

The stately tower of your unspotted minds —

we have, as I think, an early example of the author's
unapproachable felicity in bringing together, for the
purpose of enforcing an idea, things not obviously

Diana, Goddess of Chastity, loq. —

Mine own dear nymphs, which 'knowledge me your Queen,

And vow (like me) to live in chastity ;
My lovely nymphs (which be as I have been),

Delightful Dames, and gems of jollity:
Rejoicing yet (much more) to drive your days

In life at large, that yieldeth calm content.
Than wilfully to tread the wayward ways

Of wedded state, which is to thraldom bent.
I need not now with curious speech persuade

Your chaste consents in constant vow to stand ;
But yet beware lest Cupid's knights invade,

By slight, by force, by mouth, or mighty hand,
The stately tower of your unspotted minds :

Beware (I say) least while we walk these woods,
In pleasant chase of swiftest harts and hinds.

Some harmful heart entrap your harmless moods :
You know these holts, these hills, these covert places,

May close convey some hidden force unseen :
You see likewise the sundry gladsome graces,

Which in this soil we joyfully have seen,
Are not unlike some Court to keep at hand :

Where guileful tongues, with sweet enticing tales,
Might (Circe like) set all your ships on sand :

And turn your present bliss to after bales.



In sweetest flowers the subtle snake may lurk :
The sugar'd bait oft hides the harmful hooks ;

The smoothest words draw wills to wicked work,
And deep deceits do follow fairest looks.

There are other portions of the device which are
equally remote from Gascoigne's manner, even in his
earlier writings. For instance —

Some courteous wind come blow me happy news ;

Some sweet bird sing and shew me where she is ;
Some forest god, or some of Faumis^ crew,

Direct my feet if so they tread amiss.

Similarly —

O Muses, now come help me to rejoice,

^\nz& Jove hath changed my grief to sudden joy ;
And since the chance whereof I craved choice,
Is granted me to comfort mine annoy :

O praise the name Gi Jove, who promised plain
That I shall see Zabeta once again.

O gods of woods, and goddess Flora eke.

Now clear your breasts and bear a part with me :
My jewel she, for whom I wont to seek.
Is yet full safe, and soon I shall her see.

O praise the name oi Jove, who promised plain
That I shall see Zabeta once again.

Finally we come to the " Farewell." " The Queen's
Majesty hastening her departure from thence, the Earl
commanded Master Gascoigne to devise some farewell
worth the presenting ; whereupon he himself clad like
unto Sylvamis, god of the woods, and meeting her as
she went on hunting spake {ex tempore) as followeth " —
an obviously impossible performance, seeing that the
oration extends over some fifteen pages of print,^ twelve
of which (in prose) are stated to have been spoken by
Gascoigne running beside the Queen's horse, so as not
to " presume to stay your hunting for the hearing of my
needless, thriftless, and bootless discourse." Gascoigne,
as I have said, fell into bad health in 1576. He had
suffered great hardship in the wars in Holland, and his

' In an edition of 1825 (spelling modernised), which has been used for
this piece.


picture (of this period) shows it in his face. For this
reason, as well as from his character as disclosed in his
writings, it is incredible that he could have submitted
himself to the arduous and somewhat abject performance

The main purpose of the speech is to recommend the
Queen to marry the Earl of Leicester. As they had
been intimate for more than twenty-five years, it required
a good deal of assurance to give advice on that subject,
but the writer is apparently quite unconscious of this.
After several pages of discourse he says :

Her Majesty stayed her horse to favour Sylvanus^ fearing lest
he should be driven out of breath by following her horse so fast.
But Sylvanus humbly besought her Highness to go on, declaring
that if his rude speech did not offend her, he could continue
this tale to be twenty miles long. And therewithal protested
that he had rather be her Majesty's footman on earth, than a god
on horseback in heaven.

These puerilities are entirely foreign to the manner
of Gascoigne, and strike a new note in flattery. Moreover,
they are incompatible with his circumstances at this time.
The attentions of " Sylvanus " are, in my opinion, entirely
imaginary, and represent the hopes of the youthful
aspirant who conceived them ; as, for example, " To be
short, O peerless Princess, you shall have all things that
may possibly be gotten for the furtherance of your
delights. And I shall be most glad and triumphant,
if I may place my godhead in your service perpetually."
This was Francis Bacon's earliest aspiration, and one
which he never relinquished.

Allegory follows, and the youth of the author seems
to me apparent in the didactic sententiousness of the
writing, combined with entire unconsciousness of simplicity.
I refer to such sentences as these addressed to an experi-
enced woman like Queen Elizabeth : " For believe me,
most Excellent Princess, Vain Glory may well begin
hastily, but seldom continueth long " ; " And by your
leave, good Queen, such is the unthankful nature of
cankered ambitious minds, that commonly they malign


them by whom they have risen, and never cease until 1

they have brought them to confusion." At the same 1

time here is, in embryo, the author of the famous Essays.

Ambition and hopefulness of youth appear in the
following : " for your Majesty must understand that I
have not long held this charge, neither do I mean long ^

to continue in it ; but rather most gladly to follow your
Highness wheresoever you shall become " ; in other words,
to pass from the service of the Earl of Leicester to that
of the Queen. ^

Lastly, in the song of Deep-Desire, with which the
" Farewell " concludes, there is a sense of rhythm and
lyric feeling which are beyond anything compassed by
Gascoigne or the writers of that time :

Come, Muses, come and help me to lament,

Come woods, come waves, come hills, come doleful dales.
Since life and death are both against me bent,
Come gods, come men, bear witness of my bales.
O heavenly Nymphs, come help my heavy heart,
With sighs to see Dame Pleasure thus depart.

Then farewell sweet, for whom I taste such sour ;

Farewell, delight, for whom I dwell in dole :
Free will, farewell, farewell my fancy's flower.

Farewell, content, whom cruel cares control.

farewell life, delightful death, farewell,

1 die in heaven, yet live in darksome hell.

' Laneham describes himself as having been appointed to an office in the
household. See pp. 263, 276, and cf. p. 248.


"laneham's letter"

Let us now consider Lanehavi^s Letter, the companion
piece to The Princely Pleasures. This curious document
was edited by Mr, Furnivall, and from his edition ^ I
have made some extracts which will give the reader
an idea of the style and matter. It purports to be an
account of the festivities at Kenihvorth written by a
city merchant staying at the Castle to another merchant
in London. I think a careful inspection will show the
absurdity of this pretence. The writer^ is far too well
educated and widely read for such a person, and his wit
and power of writing are such that he must have written
much more. Nothing else, however, is to be found from
Laneham's pen, and beyond the record of this pamphlet
nothing whatever is known of the writer. Moreover, the
writing, clever as it is, is not the writing of a man. No
adult man, let alone a man of business, could have por-
trayed himself in such a ridiculous light, ridiculous, that is
to say, for a man. If, however, it is regarded (as I regard
it) as the work of a boy, the piece becomes intelligible.
It reflects the impressions of a sensitive and delighted
spirit ; in short, of the young poet on his entry, freed for
the first time from academic pupillage, into the great
world. " Laneham " is an impersonation ; the real
author is, I have no doubt, Francis Bacon. Part of the
disguise is in the spelling, which appears to be perverted

^ Captain Cox, his Ballads and Books; or, Robert Laneham^ s Letter
(Ballad Society), 187 1. (A later edition is 1907).

^ Some account of the writer has already been given in the previous
chapter (pp. 248-9), to which the reader is referred.



to suggest provincialism or the affectation of a " fantastic."
In preparing this volume I have necessarily examined
many books of this period in the original editions which
are to be found in the British Museum, and I have never
seen any spelling in the least like it. The immense
resources and reading of the writer indicate that he was
highly educated, and therefore would not, except with
intention, spell otherwise than in accordance with the
normal practice of the time, which, however unfixed, was
regular compared with this.

The difference between the account of these festivities
in Laneham's Letter and the account in The Princely
Pleasures (I refer to the greater freedom and vivacity of
the former) is, in my opinion, due to the fact that, in the
former, the author is writing under an imaginary person-
ality, and is not trammelled by having to adapt his style
to that of a living person. In any case I believe there
was so little curiosity about literary matters in those
times, and people were so uncritical, that, so long as no
offence was given to great people and " seditious " matter
was avoided, a book would be accepted at its " face
value " if it was interesting or amusing. Among the
host of retainers who followed the Court to Kenilworth
there might be some who could write an entertaining
letter, and if inquiry was made for the author it would
excite no great surprise if, in those days of difficult
communication, he could not be found. As " Robert
Laneham," therefore, the ingenious young author (as I
regard him) of this work is able to " let himself go "
without much fear of being brought to book, and the
strangely interesting medley of impressions and specula-
tions, of which examples follow, is the result. The
footnotes to these extracts are Mr. Furnivall's, except
those in brackets initialled by me.

Robert Laneham's Letter

(F. J. Furnivall)

VVhearin part of the entertainment untoo the Queenz


Maiesty at Killingwoorth Castl, in Warwik Sheer in this Soomerz
Progress 1575 iz signified : from a freend officer attendant in the
Coourt, unto hiz freend a Citizen, and Merchaunt of London.

De Regina Nostra Illustrissima.

P. I.

ster Humfrey Martin, Mercer

After my hartie commendacionz, I commende mee hartily
too yoo. Vnderstande yee, that sins throogh God & good
freends, I am placed at Coourt heer (as yee wot) in a woorship-
full room : whearby I am not onhe acquainted with the most,
and well knoen too the best, and euery officer glad of my
company : but also haue poour, a dayz, (while the Councell sits
not,) to go and too see things sight worthy, and too bee prezent
at any sheaw or spectacl, only whear this Progresse reprezented
vnto her highness : And of part of which sportez, hauing takin
sum notez and obseruationz, (for I can not bee idl at ony hand
in the world,) az well too put fro me suspition of sluggardy, az
too pluk from yoo doout of ony my forgetfulnes of friendship : I
haue thought it meet too impart them vntoo yoo, az frankly, az
friendly, and az fully az I can.

A description of the grounds :

P. 2. And on the oother side. North and West, a goodlie
Chase : wast, wyde, large, and full of red Deer and oother
statelie gamez for hunting : beautified with manie delectabl,
fresh & vmbragioous Boow[r]z, Arberz, Seatz, and walks, that
with great art, cost, & diligens, wear very pleazauntly appointed :
which also the naturall grace by the tall and fresh fragrant treez
& soil did so far foorth commend, az Diana her selfe might haue
deyned thear well enough too raunge for her pastime. The
leaft arme of this pool Northward, had my Lords adoourned
with a beautifuU bracelet of a fayr tymbred bridge. . . .

Imaginary history (of which examples occur in
Spenser's Faerie Queene) :

P. 3. . . . auncienty of the Castl, that (az by the name &
by storiez, well mey be gathered) waz first reared by Kenulph,
and hiz young sun and successor Kenelm ^ : born both indeed

^ This is all gammon. "Sir William Dugdale says, that the land on
which the Castle is situate was given by King Henry I. to a Norman, named
Geoffry de Clinton, his Lord Chamberlain and Treasurer, by whom the
building was first erected." Note in Gascoigne's Princ. Pleas., ed. 1 821,
p. 81.


within the Ream heer, but yet of the race of Saxons : and
reigned kings of Marchlond from the yeer of oour Lord .798.
too .23. yeerz toogyther, aboue 770. yeer ago.

P. 4. Noow touching the name, that of olid Recordes I
vnderstand, and of auncient writers I finde, iz calld Kenelworth.
Syns most of the Worths in England stand ny vntoo like lakez,
and ar eyther small Ilandz, such one az the seat of this Castl
hath been, & eazly may bee, or is londground by pool or riuer,
whearon willoz, alderz, or such like doo gro : which Althamerus ^
writez precizely that the Germains cal Werd : loyning these too
togither, with the nighness allso of the woords, and sybred - of
the toongs, I am the bolder to pronoouns, that az our English
Woorth, with the rest of our auncient langage, waz leaft vs from
the Germains : eeuen so that their Werd and our Woorth is all one
thing in sign[i]fiauns, common too vs both, een at this day.
I take the case so cleer, that I say not az mooch as I moought.
Thus preface ye with the Preface. And noow to the matter.

Shows and Devices ; a Bride-ale ; the Coventry Men's
Play and Captain Cox :

P. 14. For aboout nien a clock, at the hither part of the Chase,
whear torchlight attended : oout of the woods, in her Maiestiez
return, rooughly came thear foorth Hombre Saluagio, with an
Oken plant pluct vp by the roots in hiz hande, himself forgrone
all in moss and luy : who, for parsonage, gesture, and vtterauns
beside, coountenaunst the matter too very good liking, and had
speech to effect : "That continuing so long in theez wilde wastes,
whearin oft had he fared both far and near, yet hapt hee neuer
to see so glorioous an assemble afore : and noow cast intoo great
grief of mind, for that neyther by himself coold hee gess, nor
knew whear else to bee taught, what they should be, or whoo
bare estate. Reports sum had he hard of many straunge thinges,
but brooyled thearby so mooch the more in desire of knoledge.
Thus in great pangz bethought he & cald he vpon all his familiarz
& companionz : the Fawnz, the Satyres, the Nymphs, the
Dryades, and the Hamadryades ; but none making aunswear,
whearby hiz care the more cncreasing, in vtter grief & extr^em
refuge calld hee allowd at last after hiz olid freend Echo, that he
wist would hyde nothing from him, but tel him all if she wear heer."

* Andrew Althamer, a Lutheran minister of Nuremberg, who lived about
1560; he wrote several controversial works, and some valuable notes on
Tacitus, from which the passage in the text is taken. See Dictiontiaire
Universel. — V>\x\n, p. 95 ; Nichols, i. 429.

'^ h..-'S)Z.x. sibraden, "consanguinity."


P. 18. Noow within allso in the mean time waz thear sheawed
before her highnes, by an ItaHan, such feats of agihtiee, in goinges,
turninges, tumblinges, castinges, hops, iumps, leaps, skips, springs,
gambaud, soomersauts, caprettiez and flights : forward backward,
syde wize, a doownward, vpward, and with sundry windings,
gyringe, and circumflexions : allso lightly, and with such easines,
az by mee in feaw words it iz not expressibl by pen or speech, I
tell yoo plain. I bleast me, by my faith, to behold him, and
began to doout whither a waz a man or a spirite ; and I ween
had doouted mee till this day, had it not been that anon I be-
thought me of men that can reazon «Sc: talk with too toongs, and
with too parsons at onez, sing like burds, curteiz of behauiour,
of body strong, and in ioynts so nymbl withall, that their bonez
seem az lythie and plyaunt az syneuz. They dvvel in a happy
Hand (az the booke tearmz it) four moonths sayling Southward
beyond Ethiop.

Nay, Master Martin, I tell you no iest : for both Diadorus
Siculus, an auncient Greeke historiographer, in his third book
of the acts of the olid Egypcians : and also from him, Conrad
Gesnerus a great learned man, and a very diligent writer in all
good arguments of oour time (but deceased), in the first Chapter
of hiz Mithridates reporteth the same. Az for thiz fellow, I
cannot tell what too make of him, saue that I may gesse hiz
bak be metalld like a Lamprey, that haz no bone, but a lyne
like to a Lute string.

P. 22. Well, syr, after theez horsmen, a liuely morisdauns,
according too the auncient manner, six daunserz, Mawdmarion,
and the fool. Then, three prety puzels az bright az a breast of
bacon, of a thirtie yeere old a pees, that carried three speciall spise-
cakes of a bushell of wheat, (they had it by meazure oout of my
Lord's backhouse,) before the Bryde: Syzely, with set countenauns,
and lips so demurely simpring, az it had been a Mare cropping
of a thistl. After theez, a loouely loober woorts, freklfaced, red
headed, cleen trust in his dooblet & hiz hoze, taken vp now in
deed by commission, for that hee waz so loth to cum forward,
for reuerens (belike) of hiz nu cut canuas dooblet : & woold by
hiz good will haue been but a gazer, but found too bee a meet
actor for hiz offis : that waz, to beare the bridecup, foormed of a
sweet sucket barrell, a faire turnd foot set too it, all seemly
besyluerd and parcell gilt, adourned with a bea[u]tiful braunch
of broom, gayly begilded for rosemary : from which, too brode
brydelaces of red and yelloo buckeram begilded, and galauntly
streaming by such wind az thear waz (for hee carried it aloft :)
This gentl cupbearer yet had hiz freckld fiznemy sumwhat


vnhappily infested, az hee went, by the byzy flyez, that floct about
the bride cup for the sw^etnes of the sucket that it sauored on :
but hde, Hke a tall fello, withstood their mallis stoutly (s^e what
manhood may do !), bet them away, kild them by scores, stood
to hiz charge, and marched on in good order.

P. 27. The thing, said they, iz grounded on story, and for pas-
time woont too bee plaid in oour Citee y^erely : without ill exampl
of mannerz, papistry, or ony superstition : and elz did so occupy
the heads of a number, that likely inoough woold haue had woorz
meditationz : had an auncient beginning, and a long continuauns :
tyll noow of late laid dooun, they knu no cauz why, onless it
wear by the zeal of certain theyr Preacherz : men very commendabl
for their behauiour and learning, & sw^et in their sermons, but
somewhat too sour in preaching awey theyr pastime : wisht there-
fore, that az they shoold continu their good doctrine in pulpet,
so, for matters of pollicy & gouernauns of the Citie, they woold
permit them to the Mair and Magistratez : and seyed, by my
feyth, Master Martyn, they woold make theyr humbl peticion
vntoo her highnes, that they might haue theyr playz vp agayn.

But aware, keep bak, make room noow, heer they cum ! And
fyrst, captin Cox, an od man I promiz yoo : by profession a
Mason, and that right skilfull, very cunning in fens, and hardy
az Gawin ; for hiz tonsword hangs at his tablz eend : great ouer-
sight hath he in matters of storie : For, az for king Arthurz book,
Huon of Burdeaus, The foour suns of Aymon, Beuys of Hampton,

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 24 of 55)