Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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in his defence, that

his vertues and his vvorthinesse.
Being seene so farre above his weaknesse,
Must ever shine.

* The allusion is to Essex.


who never more was knowne
To use immodest act, or speech obscene,
Or any levity that might have showne
The tone but of a thought that was uncleane,

and concludes with a relation of his cheerfulness and
Christian fortitude in his last sickness.

It may be said that the " Delia " sonnets provide
an answer to my contention that Daniel was deficient
in the power of invention. I do not think so ; on the
contrary, they seem to me to bear it out. The emotion of
love finds its expression in certain imagery all the world
over, and many men who never become poets may write
passably well under its influence. It is not surprising,
therefore, that the " Delia " sonnets should be more
imaginative than Daniel's other works, and as the work
of a man whose ambition was to succeed as a writer
they are naturally carefully wrought. But they are
marked by poverty of ideas ; in fact there is practically
only one idea, which is worn threadbare long before
the close. There is no form of poetry, except perhaps
blank verse, which is so intolerant of poverty of thought
as the sonnet. These sonnets can, in my opinion, be
only pronounced interesting as an experiment. In them
Daniel seems to me to have been trying his hand at the
new art which came from Italy and France. But his
mind was too purely English for it, and he is only really
himself in the simple directness of his native thought
and speech. A clue to the connection between Daniel
and Bacon is perhaps visible in the " M. P." sonnet quoted
above. Grosart says that it appeared only in one edition
of the "Delia" sonnets, the 2nd of 1592. It has
been supposed that the initials are intended for Mary,
Countess of Pembroke, but, as Grosart says, the form
is very familiar for a dependant to make use of, and
he draws attention to the occurrence of the same
initials, in allusion to some one who is a man, in the
letter of " N. W." addressed to Daniel which precedes
Paulas Jovius (1585). The passage is as follows :

A frend of mine, whom you know, M. P. climing for an Egies


nest, but defeated by the inallaknt of fortune, limned in his
studie a Pine tree striken with Ughtning, carrying this mot, //
mio sperar, which is borrowed also from Petrarch. Allor che
fulminato e morto giaacque il mio sperar che tropp'' alto viintana.
(A/y hopes.) Yet in despight of fortune he devised also a
Pinnace or small Barke, tossed with tempestious stormes, and
in the saile was written expectanda dies, hoping as I think for
one Sunne shine day to recompence so many gloomy and
winter monethes.

The expression " a frend of mine, whom you know,"
appears to me to be a form of the Latin est qui, and,
read with the context, it seems evidently intended as a
description of the writer himself, and it is a description
which applies exactly to the case of Francis Bacon, as
he thought of himself and his prospects at the age of
twenty-four. Compare with this the reference to The
clyniing of an Eagles neast by " G. T.," p. 2 i 5 above.

There is in the same letter an allusion to " conceled
philosophers " (" neither must wee depend upon the
verdite of some conceled Philosophers "), which Grosart
also notices in connection with the well-known remark
about " concealed poets " in one of Bacon's letters.^
Grosart is careful to repudiate any taint of " heresy " on
that subject, but he says " it seemed worth making a note
of" (v. 305).

To return to Spenser's Colin Clout, conjectures as to
the identity of the other poets referred to in the poem
will be found in Todd. I have nothing to add to
what is said there except to say that I think " Corydon "
probably stands for Donne. The last syllable suggests
the name,^ and the description tallies with the facts :

And there is Corydon though meanly waged.
Yet hablest wit of most I know this day.

As a poet Donne's range is not extensive, but he was
probably the strongest intellect of his time, and is described

' "So desiring you to be good to concealed poets." — Letter to "Mr.
Davys [Sir John Davies, poet] then going to the King," aSth March 1603.
Spedciing, Life, iii. 65.

^ Cf. the pun on the name of " Somerset " in the Prothalamion (st. 4).


by Dryden as " the greatest wit, though not the greatest
poet, of our nation." I am not aware that anything is
known of his movements at the time when this poem was
published, but he is said to have taken service in the
expedition of Essex against Cadiz in 1596, so it is quite
possible that he was previously employed (after quitting
Lincoln's Inn, where he read law) in some capacity in
the Earl's establishment. On his return to England he
became Secretary to Lord Keeper Egerton, whose niece
he subsequently married. His name appears in Aubrey's
notes on Bacon among his " admirers and acquaintances."

Among the ladies of the Court occur, under various
names, those to whom the poems are dedicated : the
Queen (" Cynthia ") ; Mary, Countess of Pembroke
("Urania"); Anne,^ Countess of Warwick (" Theana ") ;
Margaret, Countess of Cumberland (" Marian ") ; ^ Helena,
Marquess of Northampton (" Mansilia ") ; the three sisters,
the Ladies Hunsdon, Dorset and Derby, daughters of Sir
John Spencer (" Phyllis," " Charyllis " and " Amaryllis ").
" Stella " is, of course, supposed to be Penelope, Lady Rich,
sister of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, an interpreta-
tion which is incompatible with Spenser's " Astrophel "
poem of the same year, to be dealt with presently.

In connection with the question of the place and date
of the dedication, " From my house of Kilcolman, the
27 of December, 1591," four points may be noted :

1. The death of Ferdinando, 5th Earl of Derby, who
is evidently referred to under " Amyntas," ^ did not occur
until April 1594.

2. Spenser was hardly likely to hear of the publication
of Daniel's sonnets in Ireland.

3. The statement that —

There learned arts do florish in great honor.
And Poets wits are had in peerlesse price,

is inconsistent with the " complaints " on this subject in

1 Called "Marie" in the dedication to the Fowre Hymms, but "Anne"
is the recognised name, and so appears in the Beauchamp mortuary chapel
at Warwick. But " Marie" may be intentional ; see p. 504 below.

2 Todd. 3 Cf. p. 65 above.


the Teares of the Muses published the same year (see
Chapter VI.).

'-: 4. Ralegh disclaims, in one of his letters, any loss of
favour at Court in 1589,^ though there is evidence that
he took the opportunity of going to Ireland in that year
owing to some temporary quarrel arising out of the
rivalry of Essex. But no serious breach with the Queen
occurred until 1592, when he was imprisoned in the
Tower, and refused access for several years, owing to
his marriage with Elizabeth Throgmorton. During the
greater part of 1595, when this poem was published,
Ralegh was exploring the Orinoco.

The explanation usually given is that the poem was
revised by the author before it was published in 1595 ;
but he was in Ireland, and even if he was able, and had
the necessary information, to revise the poem in com-
munication with Ralegh in London, why should he have
left the date of the dedication ? My own belief is that
the poem was written in London in 1594 or 1595, and
was intended to prepare the way for the second portion
of the Faerie Queene, which appeared in 1596, and
incidentally to plead with the Queen in Ralegh's favour.
I think also that the purpose of the dedication, as well
as of the very general Irish allusions, was to give colour
to the pretence that the poem was written by Spenser in
Ireland after his return from his first visit.

The poem Astrophel, which belongs to 1595, though
comparatively a poor and artificial piece, is interesting
from its bearing on the problem of the identity of " Stella."
The poem is an elegy on the death of Sir Philip Sidney
(which occurred in 1586), and is dedicated to his widow,
Frances VValsingham, who was then, and since the year
1590, the wife of the Earl of Essex. The words used
are : " Dedicated to the most beautifuU and vertuous
ladie, the Countesse of Essex." In language of " pastoral "

1 See p. 418, notCy and letter given at p. 445 below.


verse the devotion of Sidney, under the name of
" Astrophel," to " Stella " is described :

For one alone he cared, for one he sigh't,
His life's desire, and his deare loves delight.

Stella the faire, the fairest star in skie,

Her he did love, her he alone did honor.

His thoughts, his rimes, his songs were all upon her.

Of onely her he sung, he thought, he writ.

Lady Sidney nursed her husband, and was with him
at his death, at Arnhem, and this is alluded to in the
poem :

They stopt his wound, (too late to stop it was !)
And in their armes then softly did him reare :
Tho (as he wild) unto his loved lasse,
His dearest love, him dolefully did beare.

At his death her grief is represented as so great that
she could not bear to live without him, and they are
transformed by the gods —

pittying this paire of lovers trew,
. . . into one flowre.

Nothing could be more explicit than these statements,
and they clearly point, if words mean anything, to Sidney's
widow. Moreover, it is inconceivable that such a poem
should have been dedicated to the widow if the " Stella "
of it was any one but herself. Further, she was actually
at the time not only Sidney's widow, but, by her marriage
with the Earl of Essex, sister-in-law of Penelope Rich,
the lady of whom Sidney is supposed to have been

With this poem was published a collection of similar
tributes to Sidney. The first, "The Doleful Lay of
Clorinda," purports to be by Sidney's sister, the Countess
of Pembroke ; but the internal evidence shows, in my
opinion, that it is written for her, or in her person, by
Spenser himself. It evades the subject of " Stella,"


merely referring generally to Sidney's pleasant vein in
" love-layes " and " riddles," and ends by introducing
other elegies, the first being by " Thestylis." A note,
presumably by the editor of the "Globe" edition, states
that " this and the succeeding Poem [which is initialled
* L. B.'] are supposed to have been written by Lodowick
Bryskett." They are very feeble compositions, and I only
allude to them in connection with the question of the
identity of "Stella." In the first she is again (as in
Spenser's elegy) clearly alluded to as Sidney's widow :

Ah ! that thou hadst but heard his lovely Stella plaine
Her greevous losse,

'As here with thee on earth I liv'd.'

' Alas, if thou my trustie guide
Were wont to be, how canst thou leave me thus alone
In darknesse and astray ; weake, wearie, desolate,
Plung'd in a world of woe, refusing for to take
Me with thee to the place of rest where thou art gone ! '

The second elegy is in " pastoral " form, and in the
course of it the writer refers to himself (in the person of
" Lycon ") as having accompanied Sidney (" Phillisides ")
over the " Alps and Appenine " —

Still with the Muses sporting.

There is no evidence in the Languet correspondence that
Sidney at this time took any interest in poetry, or in
literary pursuits, apart from their use in his training for
public affairs. This, and the manifest incapacity of the
writer in the art of versifying, suggest that the allusion
is a general one in which "the Muses" represent (as
frequently in Spenser, and elsewhere) general studies.
Lower down occur, in the conventional language of the
pastoral, " his sweet caroling," " his pipe," and the lines —

Loe where engraved by his hands yet lives
The name of Stella \n yonder bay tree.

The next elegy is said to be written by Matthew
Roydon, and, though not a very good poem, is attractive.


from its quaintness and individuality of style. Among
Sidney's various accomplishments, his interest in learning
generally is alluded to :

Within these woods of Arcadie

He chiefe delight and pleasure tooke,

And on the mountaine Parthenie,

Upon the chrystall liquid brooke,

The Muses met him ev'ry day

That taught him sing, to write, and say.

His grave habit, so much admired by the English of
the day, is alluded to :

A sweete attractive kinde of grace,

A full assurance given by lookes,

Continuall comfort in his face.

The lineaments of Gospell bookes ;
I trowe that countenance cannot lie
Whose thoughts are legible in the eie.

A reference then evidently follows to the " Astrophel
and Stella " sonnets, and as the writer apparently does not
regard Sidney's wife as " Stella," he takes the line that
Sidney's intentions were honourable. The passage is of
studied vagueness, and is worth close attention in connec-
tion with the references to this subject in the preceding
poems :

Then being fild with learned dew.
The Muses willed him to love ;
That instrument can aptly shew,
How finely our conceits will move :
As Bacchus opes dissembled harts.
So Love sets out our better parts.

Stella, a Nymph within this wood,
Most rare and rich of heavenly blis.
The highest in his fancie stood,
And she could well demerite this :

Tis likely they acquainted soone ;

He was a Sun, and she a Moone.

Our Astrophill did Stella love ;
O Stella, vaunt of Astrophill,
Albeit thy graces gods may move,
Where wilt thou finde an Astrophill I

The rose and lillie have their prime.

And so hath beautie but a time.

2 A


Although thy beautie do exceed,
In common sight of ev'ry eie,
Yet in his Poesies when we reede,
It is apparant more thereby,

He that hath love and judgement too

Sees more than any other doo.

Then Astrophill hath honord thee ;
For when thy bodie is extinct,
Thy graces shall eternall be
And live by vertue of his inke ;

For by his verses he doth give

To short-livde beautie aye to live.

Above all others this is hee,
Which erst approoved in his song,
That love and honor might agree,
And that pure love will do no wrong.

Sweet saints ! it is no sinne nor blame.

To love a man cf vertuous name.

Did never love so sweetly breath

In any mortall brest before,

Did never Muse inspire beneath

A Poets braine with finer store :

He wrote of love with high conceit.
And beautie reard above her height.

The collection closes with two short poems, the author-
ship of which is stated in a note to be unknown. The first
is entitled " An Epitaph," etc. ; the second is described as
" Another of the Same." From the style of these two
poems, respectively, it can hardly be doubted that they
are by different hands. The first is a really fine poem,
the best in the collection. The metre is an example —
I suppose one of the earliest ^ — of that used by Tennyson
for his In Memoriam, the tone is noble and dignified,
and the mastery of form is such as only a practised writer
could attain. The poem deals with Sidney's lineage, his
gifts, his achievements as a representative Englishman,
and his untimely death, and the onl}' reference to him as a

' One in Sidney's Psalms is mentioned in the Pnct. Nat. Biogr. (art.
P. .Sidney), but it is not a true example, the 2nd and 3rd lines having " weak "
endings, which are incongruous with the strong endings in lines i and 4.


poet is contained in the splendid but vague allusion in
the last stanza. The eighth, ninth, and last stanzas may
be quoted :

Whence to sharpe wars sweet honor did thee call,
Thy countries love, rehgion, and thy friends :
Of worthy men the marks, the lives, and ends,
And her defence, for whom we labor all.

There didst thou vanquish shame and tedious age,
Griefe, sorrow, sicknes, and base fortunes might :
Thy rising day saw never wofull night,
But past with praise from off this worldly stage.

• • • • •

That day their Hanniball died, our Scipio fell ;
Scipio, Cicero, and Petrarch of our time !
Whose vertues, wounded by my worthlesse rime.
Let Angels speake, and heaven thy praises tell.

In his Life of Spenser, J. Payne Collier pointed out
that it is " established by the evidence of a contemporary "
that this poem is by Sir Walter Ralegh :

And our English Petrarke, Sir Philip Sidney, or (as Sir
Walter Raleigh, in his epitaph, worthily calleth him) the Scipio
and the Petrarke of our time, often comforting himselfe in the
Sonets of Stella. — Sir John Harington : note in his translation
of the Orlando Furioso, Canto xvi., published 1591.

Drummond of Hawthornden also says : " S. W, R., in an
epitaph on Sidney, calleth him our English Petrarch."

It is evident from this that the poem was in circulation
in Ralegh's name, but the features and occupations of his
life up to this time, and the quality of his correspondence,
preclude, in my opinion, the possibility of his having been
the author of such a poem. This will be further ex-
plained when I come to deal with what I believe to be
the Ralegh " impersonation." ^

The second epitaph, entitled " Another of the Same,"
is a very inferior production, in the old-fashioned
six and seven metre.^ It appears to be written by some
one who was an intimate friend of Sidney on equal terms,

* See Chapter XVI. - See p. 227 above.


possibly Sir Fulke Greville. It contains no allusion

to " Stella," but praises Sidney's qualities in general

terms, e.g. —

He was (wo worth that word !) to ech well thinking minde
A spotlesse friend, a matchles man, whose vertue ever shinde.
Declaring in his thoughts, his life, and that he writ,
Highest conceits, longest foresights, and deepest works of wit.

From the foregoing extracts the reader who is familiar
with the " Astrophel and Stella " sonnet sequel will perceive
that a difficult problem presents itself, because it is held
to be beyond question that the " Stella " of these sonnets
was Penelope Devereux, the wife of Lord Rich.

Philip Sidney was born in November 1554. Penelope
Devereux was the eldest daughter of Walter Devereux, first
Earl of Essex, by his wife Lettice Knollys. It is considered
that she was born probably about i562ori563. In July
1575 the Queen was entertained by the Earl of Leicester
at Kenilworth, where the Countess of Essex was among
the guests. From there the Court moved to Chartley
(August 1575), the seat of the Earl of Essex, where
Sidney is supposed to have first met Penelope, then a
girl of twelve or thirteen. Subsequently they became
betrothed, and the Earl, who died in September of the
following year, expressed the earnest hope that the
marriage, which apparently met with the approval of Sir
Henry Sidney, should take place. For reasons, however,
which are not known (but which I suspect were connected
with money) the match was broken off, and Penelope was
married, apparently against her own inclinations, to Lord
Rich. It is not known for certain when this marriage
took place, but it was after March i 5 8 i and probably in
that year. By him she is said to have had seven children.
At some time before 1595 — perhaps about 1590 —
Charles Blount (Lord Mountjoy) became her lover, and
after the execution of her brother Robert, Earl of Essex,
in 1 60 1, her husband left her by some arrangement, and
she lived with Mountjoy. By him she had several children.
Later she was legally divorced from her husband. Though
living with Mountjoy as his wife she was recognised and


honourably received at Court by King James and the
Queen, until Mountjoy (then Earl of Devonshire) married
her in 1605, when, owing apparently to scruples of
the King and the Archbishop as to the validity of the
marriage, and the displeasure at the scandal aroused, they
both fell into disfavour. Mountjoy died shortly afterwards
(1606), and his widow is said to have died in the following
year.^ A letter from Penelope Rich to the Earl of
Nottingham (Admiral Lord Howard of Effingham), written
after the execution of her brother (in a postscript of which
she mentions Mountjoy, then engaged on the Irish
campaign), is given in Goodman's Court of King James,
vol. ii. (ed. Brewer). It seems to indicate in the writer a
woman of good feeling and sense.

Frances Walsingham was the daughter of Sir Francis
VValsingham, diplomatist and secretary, by his second
wife, whom he married about 1567. She was married to
Sir Philip Sidney in 1583, when she was perhaps about
fifteen years old. The theory of the sonnets is that
though Sidney had every opportunity of marrying
Penelope Devereux, and was writing love sonnets about
her from the date of his first acquaintance in i57 5. it
was not until she became married to another that he
realised his passion for her, and that then it became over-
whelming and was not interrupted by his marriage in
1583. The theory takes insufficient account of the fact
that marriages in the upper classes in those days were
formal alliances which depended less on individual choice
than the interests of the respective families. It fails also
entirely to account for the emphatic contradiction of any
infidelity by Sidney, even in thought, in the poem of
Spenser, who is supposed to have been an intimate friend ;
and to account also for the fact that there is no suggestion
of any such intrigue in Sidney's correspondence, or in his
will, where his wife is mentioned with affection — " my most
dear and loving Wife, Dame Frances Sidney, whom I
make my sole Executrix " — or in the relations of his death-
bed experiences. Nor has the belated tribute of Spenser

1 Diet. Nat. Biogr., " Penelope Rich."


(nine years after Sidney's death), with the peculiar collection
attached to it, been explained.

My idea is that just as the Arcadia was fastened on
to Sidney, in that case with his consent, so his name was
used for the " Astrophel and Stella " sonnets, the bearing of
which he would not appreciate, partly because he took
little interest in literature of that kind, partly because,
being produced separately and from time to time, the
purport of the sonnets, as a sequence, would not be
recognised. A few of them, for instance, seem clearly to
be written for him, or, at any rate, in his name ; others,
by themselves, might apply to him, or indeed to any one ;
but, taken as a whole, they are utterly foreign to Sidney's
character, as preserved to us by contemporary opinion,
and as reflected in his surviving letters. So soon, how-
ever, as they appeared in a collected sequence, that is in
I 591, when, five years after Sidney's death, a printer, as
is supposed, brought them out (together with the " Delia "
sonnets above referred to), the effect of them, as I take it,
was apparent ; and for reasons which are not known, but
which have been conjectured to be the protest of Sidney's
friends, the unauthorised edition was suppressed.^

I have alluded above to the circumstances attending
the first publication of these sonnets, and I must now dis-
cuss them somewhat more fully. They appeared anony-
mously under the following description : " Sir P. S. His
Astrophel and Stella. Wherein the excellence of sweete
Poesie is concluded. To the end of which are added
sundry other rare Sonnets of divers Noblemen and
Gentlemen, Printed for Thomas Newman, 1591."

In an address to " the worshipfull and his very good

' In the article on Sir Philip Sidney in the Diet. Nat. Biogr.,
the writer (Sir Sidney Lee) states that " Sidney's friends in September
1 591 appealed to Lord Burghley to procure the suppression of this
unauthorised venture (cf. Arber, Stationers' Registers, i. 555)." This
may have been so, but it is only an inference, and it might equally well
have been the friends of Lady Rich. The entry in the Register (under
items dispensed by the Wardens between July 1 591 and July 1592) is undated,
as follows : " Item paid to John Wolf when he ryd with an answere to my Lord
Treasurer beinge with her maiestie in progress for the takinge in of bookes
intituled Sir V : S: A strophell and Stella, xv^"


Freende, Ma. Frauncis Flower, Esquire," Newman gives
the following account of his venture :

It was my fortune (right worshipful!) not many daies since, to
light upon the famous deuice of Astrophel and Stella, which
carrying the generall commendation of all men of judgement, and

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 32 of 55)