Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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being reported to be one of the rarest things that euer any
Englishman set abroach, I haue thought good to publish it under
your name. . . .

and he adds that- —

being spred abroade in written coppies, it had gathered
much corruption by ill Writers : I have used their helpe and
advice in correcting and restoring it to his first dignitie, that I
knowe were of skill and experience in those matters.

Who could have done this office for such exceptional
work ? Certainly not Sidney's relatives or friends, if, as is
suggested, they objected to the publication. Are we then
to suppose that Thomas Nashe, who writes an Address to
the Reader, was the " editor " ? But Nashe was a youth
at Cambridge when Sidney died in 1586, nothing under
his name appeared until 1589, he could have had no
experience of Sidney's entourage, and from his own
accounts of himself and his circumstances he was the last
person in the world to be in a position to undertake such
a delicate task. The addresses by Newman and Nashe
are, in my opinion, only the machinery by which the real
author effected the launching of the " impersonation "
under which he lies concealed.

The style of Nashe's address is one of brilliant
effrontery, as may be seen from the following extracts :

Somewhat to reade for Them that list

Tempus adest plausus, aiirea pompa venil, so endes the Sceane
of Idiots, and enter Astrophel in pompe. Gentlemen that have
scene a thousand lines of folly, drawn forth ex uno puticto impu-
denticB, ... let not your surfeted sight, new come from such puppet
play, think scorne to turn aside into this Theatre of pleasure, for
here you shall find a paper stage streud with pearle, an artificial
heau'n to ouershadow the faire frame, and christal wals to
encounter your curious eyes, whiles the tragicommody of loue is


performed by starlight. The chiefe Actor here is Melpomene,
whose dusky robes dipt in the ynke of teares, as yet seeme to
drop when I view them neere. The Argument cruell chastitie,
the Prologue hope, the Epilogue dispaire, videte quceso ei Unguis
animisque fauete.

He continues :

Long hath Astrophel (Englands Sunne) withheld the beames
of his spirite, from the common view of our darke sence, and
night hath houered over the gardens of the nine Sisters, while
Ignis fat jws, and grosse fatty flames (such as commonly arise out
of Dunghilles) haue tooke occasion in the middest eclipse of his
shining perfections, to wander a broade with a whispe of paper at
their tailes like Hobgoblins, and leade men up and downe in a
circle of absurditie a whole weeke, and neuer know where
they are.

There is some extravagant and, in the circumstances,
rather familiar eulogy of the Countess of Pembroke, in
which she is referred to as " the fayre sister of Phcebus, and
eloquent secretary to the Muses, most rare Countesse of
Pembroke . . . whom Artes doe adore as a second
Minerua, and our Poets extoll as the Patronesse of their
inuention . . ." ; and the address is signed, " Yours in all
desire to please, Tho: Nashe."

The volume contains, in addition to the " Astrophel
and Stella" sonnets, twenty-seven sonnets by Daniel, and
sundry short pieces by " Content," " E. O." (Edward Vere,
Earl of Oxford), and one unsigned piece, with which the
volume ends, "If flouds of teares could dense my follies
past," which would appear to be by Nashe himself.

After the suppression of this book Daniel brought
out an " authorised " edition of the " Delia " sonnets in
the ensuing year (1592), with an address, of which the
following is the material portion :

To the Right Honourable the Ladie Mary Countesse of Pembroke

Right Honorable, although I rather desired to keep in the
private passions of my youth, from the multitude, as things
utterd to myselfe, and consecrated to silence : yet seeing I was
betraide by the indiscretion of a greedie Printer, and had some
of my secrets bewraide to the world, uncorrected : doubting the
like of the rest, I am forced to publish that which I never ment.


But this wrong was not onely doone to mee, but to him whose
unmatchable lines have endured the hke misfortune ; Ignorance
sparing not to commit sacriledge upon so holy reliques. Yet
Asirophel flying with the wings of his own fame, a higher pitch
then the gross-sighted can discerne, hath registered his owne
name in the Annals of eternitie, and cannot be disgraced, howso-
ever disguised. And for myselfe, seeing I am thrust out into
the worlde, and that my unboldned Muse is forced to appeare
so rawly in publique ; I desire onely to be graced by the counten-
ance of your protection : whome the fortune of our time hath
made the happie and judiciall Patronesse of the Muses (a glory
hereditary to your house) to preserve them from those hidious
Beestes, Oblivion and Barbarisme. . . .

Now this is not in Daniel's manner or style. The
style, to my mind, is clearly that of the writer of the
address of 1591, namely Nashe, It was superseded
in 1594, in a later edition of the "Delia" sonnets,
by an address to the Countess of Pembroke in verse,
in the respectful style which Daniel always adopts
on such occasions.^ Moreover the sonnets do not bear
out the allegation that he was " forced to publish " that
which he " never ment " ; there are expressions in them
which show that they were written for publication, and
that Daniel was anxious to come before the world.
Daniel, being dependent on the Countess of Pembroke,
and others in a similar position, for a livelihood, was
probably very much disturbed by the proceedings in con-
nection with the volume of 1591, and it seems likely that
the address of 1592 was written for him by " Nashe,"
with the object of clearing him from suspicion (under

' Wonder of these, glory of other times,
O thou whom Envy ev'n is forst t'admyre :
Great Patronesse of these my humble Rymes,
Which thou from out thy greatnes doost inspire :
Sith only thou hast deign'd to rayse them higher,
Vouchsafe now to accept them as thine owne,
Begotten by thy hand, and my desire,
W'herein my Zeale, and thy great might is shovvne.
And seeing this unto the world is knowne,
O leave not still to grace thy worke in mee :
Let not the quickning seede be over-throwne
Of that which may be borne to honour thee.
Whereof, the travaile I may challenge mine.
But yet the glory (Madam) must be thine.


which he would naturally fall) of some responsibility for
the offending publication.

It is relevant to observe that the " Astrophel and Stella "
sequence was not published until after the Arcadia^
the first edition of which appeared in 1590 as "The
Countesse of Pembroke's Arcadia," with the Sidney arms
on the title-page.^ This cleared the way for the sonnet
sequence in Sidney's name. I think that the " Astrophel "
collection in Spenser of 1595, which we have been con-
sidering, represents an attempt on the part of the author
to undo the damage to Sidney's reputation caused by the
publication of the sonnets, by representing " Stella " as
Sidney's wife. This may have been done at the request
of the Countess of Pembroke, who was perhaps ignorant
of the history of the 159 1 publication, but this need not
necessarily have been so. It would account for Spenser's
tardy and artificial tribute, and for the inclusion with it of
inferior poems by other writers bearing similar testimony.

The author of the " Astrophel and Stella " sonnets,
when he began them, was evidently very young. The
passion represented is, to my mind, genuine (at least up
to a point), not fictitious. But it is " cerebral " rather than
normal, and is marked all through by the irresolution
which proceeds from excessive sensibility and conscious-
ness of motive. In the portrait which the writer draws of
the woman — or girl — appears tenderness combined with
a sense of duty, which takes the form of an appeal to his
higher nature, as much on his account as on hers. For
himself there is a conflict between passion and duty, not
so much on moral grounds as from the point of view of
the distraction of mind occasioned, and loss of time which
is devoted to purposes beyond the satisfaction of individual
feeling. The same thought is developed in Spenser and
in Shakespeare, and an interesting illustration of it may
be seen in the letters of Keats. It is probably present,
more or less, in the mind of every man who is conscious

' After the first edition these arms disappear, and in their place a fancy
design is substituted of a boar sniffing a rosemary (?) bush, on which is the
motto " Non tibi spiro." The porcupine of the crest is also transformed
into a boar. (See editions of 1593, etc.)


of a mission, whether in the field of reh'gion, art, or
practical ambition. To illustrate these points from the
sonnets would take me too far, but I will quote three in
which the author more particularly takes stock of his own
nature. It is important to bear in mind that the last
lines in each case belong, more or less, to the conventions
of the sonnet-sequence form, and are not therefore neces-
sarily of the same interest as those which precede them.


The curious wits, seeing dull Pensiveness
Bewray itself in my long-settled eyes,
Whence those same fumes of melancholy rise,
With idle pains and missing aim, do guess.
Some, that know how my spring I did address.
Deem that my Muse some fruit of knowledge plies ;
Others, because the prince my service tries.
Think that I think State errors to redress :
But harder judges judge ambition's rage —
Scourge of itself, still climbing slippery place —
Holds my young brain captiv'd in golden cage.
O fools, or overwise : alas, the race
Of all my thoughts hath neither stop nor start
But only Stella's eyes and Stella's heart.


Because I oft in dark abstracted guise
Seem most alone in greatest company,
With dearth of words, or answers quite awry,
To them that would make speech of speech arise ;
They deem, and of their doom the rumour flies,
That poison foul of bubbling pride doth lie
So in my swelling breast, that only I
Fawn on myself, and others do despise.
Yet pride I think doth not my soul possess
(Which looks too oft in this unflattering glass) :
But one worse fault, ambition, I confess.
That makes me oft my best friends overpass.
Unseen, unheard, while thought to highest place
Bends all his powers, even unto Stella's grace.


No more, my dear, no more these counsels try ;
O give my passions leave to run their race ;
Let Fortune lay on me her worst disgrace ;
Let folk o'ercharged with brain against me cry ;


Let clouds bedim my face, break in mine eye ;

Let me no steps but of lost labour trace ;

Let all the earth with scorn recount my case, —

But do not will me from my love to fly.

I do not envy Aristotle's wit,^

Nor do aspire to Caesar's bleeding fame ; ^

Nor ought do care though some above me sit ;

Nor hope nor wish another course to frame,

But that which once may win thy cruel heart :

Thou art my wit, and thou my virtue art.

These sonnets appear to me to belong to one period,'^
and to be concerned, probably from the beginning, with
a woman who was married. If she was Lady Rich,
they would have been begun in 1581, perhaps in 1580.
Whether they more fitly describe the staid and sober son
of Sir Henry Sidney, then a man of twenty-six or twenty-
seven, firm in his friendships and in high favour with the
Queen, or the young genius of nineteen or twenty who,
without any assured prospects, had taken the highest
sphere of action, as well as all knowledge, to be his
portion, I leave the reader to weigh and consider.^ For
my own part I believe them to be the work of the latter.

It might be suggested that, in that case, " Rosalind,"
described in the " April " eclogue of the SJiepheards
Calender as " the Widdowes daughter of the glenne," was
also Penelope Devereux, as in September 1576 the
Countess of Essex was a widow, until, in September
1578, she married the Earl of Leicester. " E. K." also
is careful to explain that she was " a Gentlewoman
of no meane house, nor endewed with anye vulgare and
common gifts, both of nature and manners." But it is
unlike the poet's method to give a clue which might lead
so readily to identification ; rather it is his habit in such
cases to mislead, while at the same time leaving an indica-

' These are examples to which Bacon perpetually refers in his writings.
See, for example (as regards Aristotle), the extract given at p. 156. His
criticisms of Aristotle do, in fact, suggest envy of his influence, and his admira-
tion of Caesar is, in part, that of the man of thought for the man of action.

2 Arber suggests 158 1 to 1584. Sidney left England in November 1584.

3 Compare the letter of Bacon (act. 31) to Burghley, where, from obvious
motives, he disclaims political ambition and discusses his projects in the
field of intellect (.Spedding, Life, i. 108).


tion in some other direction of his real meaning. Yet it
seems probable that there was some woman, poetically
described as " Rosalind," who, during the whole period of
time covered by the Spenser poems, appealed to the
imagination of the writer, and if that was so, she could
not naturally (on my theory of the authorship) have been
any one but the love addressed, at some time in the same
period, as " Stella." The following passages from the
Spenser poems will enable the reader to see the grounds
for this statement.

In the Hymne in Honour of Beautie (an early work)
is the phrase —

. . . she, whose conquering beautie doth captive
My trembling heart in her eternall chaine.

At the close of Colin Clouts where " Rosalind " is blamed
for using him so hardly, Colin defends her in a speech
containing the following lines :

Not then to her that scorned thing so base,
But to my selfe the blame that lookt so hie :

And long affliction which I have endured ;

That hers I die, nought to the world denying
This simple trophe of her great conquest.

In that poem also he alludes, as I think, to the same
love in the lines —

For that my selfe 1 do professe to be
Vassall to one, whom all my dayes I serve,

To her my thoughts I daily dedicate,

My thought, my heart, my love, my life is shee,
And I hers ever onely, ever one ;
One ever I all vowed hers to bee,
One ever I, and others never none.^

In Book VI. Canto x. of the Faerie Queene, where —

Calidore sees the Graces daunce
To Colins melody,

1 As this poem was published the year after Spenser's supposed marriage,
these allusions present a great difficulty. See Chapter XIV.


the same love apparently is referred to as " another
Damzell," and is seen with the three Graces :

That with her goodly presence all the rest much graced. (12.)

She was, to weete, that jolly Shepheards lasse,

Pype, jolly shepheard, pype thou now apace

Unto thy love that made thee low to lout ;

Thy love is present there with thee in place ;

Thy love is there advaunst to be another Grace. ^ (16.)

Yet was she certes but a countrey lasse ;

Yet she all other countrey lasses farre did passe. (25.)

With these tributes there are sometimes mixed up
appeals to the Queen couched in the language of love,
as, for example, in the last stanza of the Hymne in Honour
of Beautie :

And you, faire Venus dearling, my deare dread !
Fresh flowre of grace, great Goddesse of my life.
When your faire eyes these fearefuU lines shal read,
Deigne to let fall one drop of dew reliefe,
That may recure my harts long pyning griefe.
And shew that wondrous powre your beauty hath.
That can restore a damned wight from death.

The episode in Book VI. Canto x. of the Faerie
Qneene, above referred to, closes with a stanza in which
the two strains of feeling are similarly interwoven :

Sunne of the world, great glory of the sky
That all the earth doest lighten with thy rayes.
Great Gloriana, greatest Majesty !
Pardon thy shepheard, mongst so many layes
As he hath sung of thee in all his dayes.
To make one minime of thy poore handmayd.
And underneath thy feete to place her prayse ;
That when thy glory shall be farre displayd
To future age, of her this mention may be made !

It is hard to believe that these expressions of feeling
had no basis in actual experience. What that may have
been lies evidently in the identification of " Rosalind " ;
but I must leave the remarks which I may have to offer
on that subject for a later chapter.

' Cf. Eclogue for "April."



Among the " Verses addressed to the Author " which are
prefixed to the Faerie Queene, some, in my opinion, are by
the same hand. The identity of style seems to me unmis-
takable, and the style is that of the author of the poem.
The first two pieces, including the famous —

Me thought I saw the grave where Laura lay,

are attributed to Sir Walter Ralegh, the second, entitled
" Another of the Same," being initialled " W. R." ; the
third is signed " Hobynoll," which is supposed to stand
for Gabriel Harvey ; the fourth, fifth and sixth bear the
initials, respectively, R. S., H. B., and W. L. ; and the last
is signed " Ignoto," a signature which belongs to a number
of poems which have been attributed on the strength of
it (though without authority) to Ralegh. It also appears
in early editions as an alternative to Ralegh's signature.
Thus the " Reply " to the song attributed to Marlowe,
" Come live with me," was printed in 1 600 with the
signature Ignoto, but in Walton's Conipleat Angler, 1653,
as " made by Sir Walter Raleigh in his younger days." ^
To " The Shepherd's Praise of his sacred Diana " in
England's Helicon, 1600, Ralegh's initials were first affixed,
but were obliterated by pasting over them a slip of paper
with the word " Ignoto.""'^ Hannah also states that Lord
Bacon's poem " The world's a bubble " is signed " Fra.

' Hannah's Courtly Poets, p. 1 1 .
2 /did. p. 77.



Lord Bacon " in all editions after the first, where it is
marked " Ignoto." ^

An even more remarkable instance of the ambiguity
which attaches to these two signatures occurs in the two
following poems (taken from pp. 29 and 120 of Hannah's
volume) :

What is our life ? The play of passion.
Our mirth ? The music of division :
Our mothers' wombs the tiring-houses be,
Where we are dressed for life's short comedy.
The earth the stage ; Heaven the spectator is,2
Who sits and views whosoe'er doth act amiss.
The graves which hide us from the scorching sun
Are like drawn curtains when the play is done.
Thus playing post we to our latest rest,
And then we die in earnest, not in jest.

S^ W. R,3

Man's life's a tragedy : his mother's womb.
From which he enters, is the tiring room ;
This spacious earth the theatre ; and the stage
That country which he lives in : passions, rage,
Folly, and vice are actors ; the first cry.
The prologue to the ensuing tragedy ;
The former act consisteth of dumb shows ;
The second, he to more perfection grows ;
I' the third he is a man, and doth begin
To nurture vice, and act the deeds of sin ;
r the fourth, declines ; I' the fifth, diseases clog
And trouble him ; then death's his epilogue.


I conclude that the claim for the Ralegh authorship
of these two poems is based on the identity of thought
and style, but that constitutes an equally good ground

• Hannah's Courtly Poets, p. 117.

2 Compare Bacon, Adv. of Learning : "But men must know, that in this
theatre of man's life, it is reserved only for God and angels to be lookers on."
Also Spenser, Sonnet liv. :

*' Of this world's Theatre in which we stay.
My love, lyke the Spectator, ydly sits."
' " From a MS. formerly belonging to the late Mr. Pickering. It was
printed anonymously in a music-book of 1612 : see ' Censura Lit.,' vol. ii.
p. 103, 2nd edition ; and is found also in MS. Ashm. 36, p. 35, and MS.
Ashm. 38, fol. 154." (Editor's note.)

* " ' Rel. Wotton. ' Claimed without authority for Ralegh by Brydges and
the Oxford editors." (Editor's note.)


for claiming them both for " Ignoto," and I suppose even
the greatest Ralegh enthusiasts do not claim all the poems
signed " Ignoto " for Ralegh. 1 regard them as indis-
putably the work of the same hand, and the hand as that
of " Immerito" of the Shepheards Calender. I believe the
two signatures were adopted by the writer at an early
age, when he was not making use of the name of a real
person, to express the idea that he was as yet undeserving
and unknown. That a writer should address a succession
of commendatory verses to himself may seem extraordinary,
and no doubt it is ; but I have already drawn attention
to the extraordinary self-praise which appears in the body
of Spenser's poems, and I have no doubt that this was
one of the peculiarities of the genius of which we are
writing ; also, apart from this, that it was deliberate as a
means of " advertisement " in an age when there were no
press reviews. Another example of this is to be found,
in my belief, in the two sonnets signed " G. W. Senior "
and " G. W. I." (? junior) prefixed to Spenser's Avioretti.
The second, at least, seems to me to be the work of the
author. It is interesting in this connection to note that
Thomas Nashe accuses Gabriel Harvey of himself writing
the well-known sonnet addressed to him by Spenser : ^

Onely I will looke upon the last sonnet of M. Spencers to
the right worshipful! Maister G. H., Doctour of the lawes : or it
may so fall out that I will not looke upon it too, because (Gabriell)
though I vehemently suspect it to bee of thy owne doing, it is
popt foorth under M. Spencers name, and his name is able to
sanctifie anything, though falsely ascribed to it. — Foure Letters
Confuted, i593-

In both the explanatory letter and the sonnet addressed
to Ralegh and prefixed to the Faerie Queene the writer
alludes to a poem by Ralegh about the Queen, which he
is supposed to be keeping back.

1 "Harvey, the happy above happiest men
I read ; that, silting like a Looker-on
Of this worldes Stage," etc.
(Dated from "Dublin, this xviij. of July, 1586." Published by Harvey,
1592, Faun: Letters.)

2 B


In the letter he says :

For considering she beareth two persons, the one of a most
royall Queene or Empresse, the other of a most vertuous and
beautiful! Lady, this latter part in some places I doe expresse in
Belphoebe, fashioning her name according to your more excellent
conceipt of Cynthia (Phoebe and Cynthia being both names of

In the sonnet he addresses Ralegh as —

the sommers Nightingale,
Thy soveraine Goddesses most deare delight.

My rimes I know unsavory and sowre.

To taste the streams that, Hke a golden showre,

Flow from thy fruitful! head, of thy love's praise ;

Fitter, perhaps, to thonder Martial! stowre,

When so thee list thy lofty Muse to raise :

Yet, till that thou thy Poeme wilt make knowne,

Let thy fair Cynthias praises be thus rudely showne.

It will be observed that by this allusion the author of
the Faerie Queene disclaims any competition with Ralegh,
even in the field of poetry, in doing honour to Queen
Elizabeth, though in the poem itself he makes use of the
language of love, on his own behalf, in addressing her.

The same attitude is taken up in the introduction to
Book III. of the Faerie Queene, where Ralegh's poem is
referred to as beyond anything he can do :

that sweete verse, with Nectar sprinckeled,
In which a gracious servaunt pictured
His Cynthia, his heavens fayrest light, etc.

A further reference to Ralegh's mysterious poem occurs
in Colin Clouts Come Home Again.

"Harvey" refers to it in 1590 as "a fine and sweet
invention," and the anonymous author of the Arte of
English Poesie, published in 1589, commends Ralegh
as a poet in the following passage :

For ditty and amorous ode I find Sir Walter Raleigh's vein
most lofty, insolent and passionate.

In a fantastic piece of writing called " Palladis Tamia," ^

' This is another piece by a writer of genius (of the character of the
supposed •' Puttcnham ") who is never heard of in such sul)jccts again,


1598, by one Francis Meres, Sir Walter Ralegh is also
mentioned as one of " the most passionate among us to
bewail and bemoan the perplexities of love."

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 33 of 55)