Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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where I have come across it, and it will be sufficient for
the purpose to transcribe it.

" Angel " = Queen Elizabeth.

F.Q. III. iii. 56-58. The Nurse to Britomart : "I saw a
Saxon Virgin," etc. :

"Ah ! read" (quoth Britomart), "how is she hight ? "
" Fayre Angela " (quoth she) " men do her call,"

and Britomart dons the armour, " which long'd to Angela,
the Saxon Queene." This is the locus classicus.

II. iii. 22 :

Her face so faire as flesh it seemed not,
But hevenly pourtraict of bright Angels hew.

(First appearance of Belphoebe.)

II. X. 71 :

Angell. (Fairy origin of Glorian.)

III. V. 35 :

To send thine Angell from her bowre of blisse
To comfort me.

(Timias and Belphoebe.)

IV. iii. 39 :

Of Angels brood. (Of Cambina — obviously Q. Elizabeth.)

IV. V. 13:

The heavenly pourtraict of bright Angels hew.

(Of Amoret — said also of Belphoebe. See above.)

IV. vi. 19 :

Her angels face. (Of Britomart.)

V. ix. 29 :

She, Angel-like, the heyre of ancient kings

And mightie Conquerors, in royal! state,

Whylest kings and kesars at her feet did them prostrate.

(Of Mercilla.)


Coliti Clout:

That Angels blessed eie.

Much like an Angell.

(Of the Queen.)

To Cy}ithia :

Such force her angelic appearance had.

(Poem attributed to Ralegh : Hannah, p. 36.)

Sir W. Ralegh, letter from the Tower :

Singing like an angell.^ (Of the Queen.)

Sir A. Gorges, letter about Ralegh in the Tower :
If the bright Angelica.^ (Of the Queen.)

Sir R. Cecil, letter :

Whose angelical quality.' (Of the Queen.)

The following examples occur in the Sonnets :

When ye beholde that Angels blessed looke.

Sonnet i.

Thrugh your bright beams doth not the blinded guest
Shoot out his dart to base affections wound ;
But Angels come to lead fraile minds to rest
In chaste desires.

Sonnet viii.

The glorious pourtraict of that Angels face.

Sonnet xvii.

For being, as she is, divinely wrought,
And of the brood of Angels hevenly borne.

Sonnet Ixi.

Sonnet xxxiv. deals apparently with some temporary
loss of favour. " Helice " is a play on Elizabeth (cf
" Helicon," Sonnet i.) :

So I, whose star, that wont with her bright ray
Me to direct, with cloudes is over-cast,
Uoe wander now, in darknesse and dismay.
Through hidden perils round about me plast :

' See letter at p. 426 below. ^ See p. 446, note.

"* Edwards, Life of Ralegh, i. 155.


Yet hope I well that, when this storme is past,

My Helice, the lodestar of my lyfe,

Will shine again, and looke on me at last.

The allusions in the Sonnets to the Faerie Queene
present a difficulty under the accepted interpretation of
the sequence. In Sonnet xxxiii. (to " Lodwick ") the
writer reproaches himself for the wrong he is doing —

To that most sacred Empresse, my dear dred,
Not finishing her Queene of faery,

and in Sonnet Ixxx. he announces apparently that he has
completed six books :

After so long a race as I have run

Through Faery land, which those six books compile.

Give leave to rest me . . .

The six books (with the second instalment of three) were
not published till 1596, and I think it most improbable
that they were finished in the early part of 1594 (which
is the necessary inference from this under the accepted
chronology) and held over, especially as other poems
were being published in 1595.

Sonnet Ixxx. closes with a reference apparently to the
love celebrated in F.Q. VI. x. (see above, p. 2)^6) :

But let her prayses yet be low and meane,
Fit for the handmayd of the Faery Queene.

Such a description is not rationally applicable to the wife
of Spenser in Ireland. Moreover, in the canto in ques-
tion of the Faerie Queene, and in Colin Clout, the love
referred to appears to be a vision of the past rather than
an actuality of the present.^ But, as I said at the end of
the last chapter, I shall endeavour to offer some further
remarks on this subject."

* It is necessary, under the accepted interpretation of these poems, to
regard the love celebrated in them as Spenser's wife, or to believe that
Spenser published a poem within less than a year of his marriage in which
he declares that he is devoted till death to the memory of another woman. .

2 See Chapter XVII.

2 C


Sonnets Ixii. and Ixv. are love sonnets in a sincere
vein, without admixture of flattery, and are applicable to
the case of any mutual affection. From there onwards
the sequence becomes less marked, and the artificial note,
which is so pronounced in these poems, is less felt.
Sonnet Ixvii. may or may not have been suggested by
the circumstances of Ralegh's wooing of Elizabeth
Throgmorton, but it certainly describes the subjugation
of a woman to the will of a man.

The last four sonnets, beginning " Venemous tongue,"
etc., are clearly a sequence, and deal with a serious
breach between the lovers, and with that the sonnets end ;
surely an extraordinary ending for a published collection
if a marriage followed. It has been suggested by Grosart
that these four pieces belong to a different and earlier
episode. But this is a very arbitrary method of inter-
pretation. My own view of them is that they deal in
appearance, under a poetical figure, with Ralegh's breach
with the Queen in 1592 on her discovery of his relations
with Elizabeth Throgmorton, but in reality more with the
author's own troubles. The " Culver on the bared
bough " of the last sonnet is the same image as that used
for the disconsolate " Timias " in the Faerie Qiieene, Book
IV., and it would appear that the design in that episode
was to work on the Queen's feelings. This question, how-
ever, will be more fully discussed in another chapter.^

Even more difficult than the problem of the Amoretti
is that presented by the Epithalamion^ which was published
at the same time. It is supposed to be the culmination
of the Sonnets, written in celebration of the poet's own
m.arriage in June 1594. The poem has received the
highest praise from critics, and is accepted as a spon-
taneous expression of personal feeling. It is customary
to describe it as a poem of sustained rapture ; but I

' See Chapter WII.


really cannot see it. The poem seems to me extremely
artificial, and the tone, in places, unpleasant. No doubt
it is highly imaginative, and contains some very beautiful
workmanship, but that is a different matter. Is it natural
that a man should sit down on the eve of his marriage
and pen an elaborate poem describing his nuptial anticipa-
tions ? And is it really true (as is alleged in justification
of this poem) that Englishmen of that day were such
children of nature as to see no unfitness in public ex-
pressions of feeling of this character .? The ancients, where
the women of their family life were concerned, were always
reticent, and what evidence is there that Englishmen were
otherwise ?

An even greater difficulty presents itself in the age
and circumstances of the supposed writer. Spenser was
about forty-three when this poem appeared, and " rapture,"
in relation to the sense of love, does not belong to that
age, at any rate where sensibility has developed early.
The rapture of the thinker, still more of the saint, may
persist and increase, but not the rapture of love. It can
no more be recaptured after a certain age than the rapture,
in the poet, of the imagination. Both the one and the
other come under the domination, for necessary ends, of
reason and experience, or, if they do not, the life of the
spirit is arrested. At the age when Spenser is supposed
to have written this poem, love, though it may be deeper
and more disinterested than in earlier years, does not
express itself in rapturous imagery of physical idealisation,
and therefore, on psychological grounds, the accepted theory
of this poem is, to my mind, unacceptable. The same
remarks apply in the case of Francis Bacon, who in 1595
was thirty-four. In a very interesting passage (interesting
because, I believe, personal ^) with which the essay on

^ The Essays, which are written in such a way as to produce the imi)res-
sion of detached observation of the world, are, in my opinion, much more
self-regarding than appears to be generally supposed. In one instance at
any rate this was recognised even by contemporaries — I refer to the essay on
" Deformity" which appeared in the 1612 edition after the death of the Earl
of Salisbury in that year. It concludes with the words, "and Socrates may
go likewise amongst them, with others " ; and Chamberlain writes with regard


" Youth and Age " ^ opens, he refers to the brief period of
imaginative spontaneity :

A man that is young in years may be old in hours, if he have
lost no time ; but that happeneth rarely. Generally, youth is like
the first cogitations, not so wise as the second : for there is a
youth in thoughts as well as in ages ; and yet the invention of
young men is more lively than that of old, and imaginations
stream into their minds better, and as it were more divinely.

When the Epitlialaviion was written Bacon was no
longer young in the sense described. Indeed he speaks
of himself as old, that is, old in feeling, at thirty-one.^ A
young man could not have written this poem (which is
artificial, not spontaneous), and I do not think any man
of mature age would have written it as an expression of
his own experience. The conclusion, therefore, at which
I arrive is that it was written for some one else. To
provide a poem for special occasions has always been the
business of Court poets, and there is, therefore, nothing
extraordinary about this. An examination, however, of
the poem in detail will throw further light on the problem.

As in the Amoretti, so in the Epithalajnion, there are
a number of expressions which are only really appropriate
in speech about a sovereign, and there are others which
seem to contain barely disguised allusions to Queen
Elizabeth. In stanza 9 we read :

Loe ! where she comes along with portly pace,
Lyke Phoebe, from her chamber of the East.

Queen Elizabeth is referred to by Spenser under the
names of the moon.
In the same stanza :

that ye would vveene
Some Angell she had beene.

to it to Carleton : "Sir Francis Bacon hath set out new Essays, where, in a
chapter of Deformity, the world takes notice thai he paints out his hltlc
cousin to llie life."

' First published in 1612.

- Sj)e<ldinfi, I.i/e^ i. 108. Cf. also ii. 162.


This is the "Angel" allusion (see p. 383 above), and it
is repeated in stanza i 3 :

That even th' Angels . . . about her fly.
Again, in the description in stanza 9 :

Her long loose yellow locks lyke golden wyre,
Sprinckled with perle.

The hair of Belphoebe and of Britomart (both represent-
ing Queen Elizabeth) is described in the same way :

Her yellow lockes, crisped like golden wyre,
About her shoulders weren loosely shed.

F.Q. II. ill. 30.

And round about the same her yellow heare,

Like to a golden border did appeare,
Framed in goldsmithes forge with cunning hand :
Yet goldsmithes cunning could not understand
To frame such subtile wire, so shinie cleare.

F.Q. IV. vi. 20.

Compare also Sonnet xv. :

her locks are finest Gold on ground.

It is true that the image of " golden wire " for hair is
used by Spenser in other connections, as, for instance, F.Q.
III. viii. 7, and Ruines of Time, 1. 10 ; but the point in
the present connection is at least noteworthy.

Again —

seeme lyke some mayden Oueene,

is an undisguised allusion, and it seems very unlikely that
any writer of that day would have had the hardihood to
compare his bride to the Queen. For a man to do so
situated as Spenser was would also be very absurd.

The description in stanza 10, which corresponds to
Sonnet xv., is in the manner of Spenser when he is
alluding to the physical charms of the Queen. Compare,
for instance, the description of Belphoebe in F.Q. II. iii.
21 sq.\ also of the Queen (" Elisa ") in the Eclogue for
" April."


Tell me, have ye seen her angelick face,
Like Phoebe fayre ?

The Redde rose medled with the White yfere,i
In either cheeke depeincten lively chere :

• ■ • • •

With these again compare Bacon's description (which
includes the " white and red") in his " Discourse in Praise
of his Sovereign " {circ. 1592):

Nobility extracted out of the royal and victorious line of the
kings of England ; yea both roses white and red do as well
flourish in her nobility as in her beauty . . .

Let no light poet be used for such a description, but the
chastest and the royalest.

Of her gait, Et vera incessu patuit Dea ;

of her voice, Nee vox honiinem sonat ;

of her eye, Et Icetos omlis afflavit /wnores ;

of her colour, Indian sanguineo veluti violaverit ostro

Si quis ebur ;
of her neck, Et rosea cervice refulsit ;
of her breast, Vesie sifuis collecta fluentes ;
of her hair, AmbrosicEque cotfia divviutn vei'tiee odorevi


If this be presumption, let him bear the blame that oweth
the verses. 2

The magnificent image at the end of stanza 10 is
peculiarly adapted to a description of a Queen :

And all her body like a pallace fayre,
Ascending up, with many a stately stayre.
To honors seat and chastities sweet bowre.

Stanza i i contains another royal analogy :

There virtue raynes as Queene in royal throne,
And giveth lawes alone.
The which the base affections doe obay.
And yeeld theyr services unto her will :

' "White and red" is a phrase used by Spenser to describe beauty, e.g.
" Hath while and red in it such wondrous powrc?" Ilymne in Honour of
Beautie ; " that same goodly hew of white and red," ibid. Also similarly used
in the " Astrophel and .Stella" sonnets: " Marble, niixM red & white" (of
cheeks), Sonnet ix. But the allusion is also to the Queen's lineage. Cf. pp.
20, 21 above. 2 Spedding, Life, i. 138.


and "this Saynt " (12) and "the Bryde"(i7) seem to
have a similar significance.

Allusion to royalty is even more clearly denoted in
the classical comparisons in stanza 1 8, and the offspring
(apparently of Jove and Night) is referred to as " Majesty."
Further point is given to this in the concluding stanza,
where in a prayer to the gods the hope is expressed —

That we may raise a large posterity,

Which from the Earth, which they may long possesse

With lasting happinesse.

Up to your haughty pallaces may mount :

hardly an appropriate supplication for people in a private

The "Merchants daughters" (10) and the " roring
organs" (12) are expressions which are most naturally
applicable to London in those days.

Another, and very important, point to notice is the
change in the personal pronoun from the first to the
second person in stanza 20 — "your pleasant playne,"
" your bed " — and the change back again to the first
person in the following stanzas — " my window," " my love
with me to spy," etc. The change may possibly have been
made from motives of delicacy, the writer, in stanza 20,
treating himself and his love objectively, but this is not
a natural explanation. The conclusion to which I have
come is that the poem is a patch work, formed out of a
draft of a Royal " Epithalamion " which the writer had
at some time prepared in anticipation of the Queen's
marriage, perhaps with the Earl of Essex. This match
was not beyond the bounds of possibility, at least at the
early stages of the Queen's affection, and the poet seems
to encourage it under the story of Britomart and Arthegal.
In this view the Amoretti would also be based on the
relations of the Queen and Essex — probably Essex
originally rather than Ralegh — and are thus in part
composed of pieces written for the Earl. It is not
disputed that Bacon composed pieces for Essex, and it
came out at the trial that he wrote letters in his name


to be shown to the Queen/ For the rest, the sequence

is filled in with occasional sonnets, a form of composition

in which I believe it was Bacon's practice to express his

thoughts, as a sort of spiritual diary. The less strict

form of sonnet adopted would facilitate this. They no

doubt also contain much which has been suggested by

the study of French and Italian models. The fine sonnet,

for example, beginning " Most glorious Lord of lyfe ! "

(No. Ixviii.), seems to have had its origin from a sonnet of

Du Bellay (cxi. of L Olive) beginning " Voici le jour que

I'eternel amant," and it is an interesting example of the

way in which the writer has transmuted the thought from

a French into a wholly English form. I suppose other

such examples could be found if search were made.

In 1592 Ralegh fell into disgrace with the Queen

owing to her discovery of his attachment to Elizabeth

Throgmorton. They were both imprisoned in the Tower,

and on their liberation retired to Sherborne. Ralegh's

exclusion from access lasted five years (till June 1597).

I think this Sonnet -sequence and Epithalai)iio7i m.ust

have been dressed up by the author with the object of

utilising it in some way for the purpose of working on

the Queen's feelings in Ralegh's favour, perhaps with a

view to indicating that married love, which is necessary

for domestic life and the perpetuation of the family, was

different from, and did not preclude, a romantic passion

for a Queen so raised above ordinary humanity as Queen

Elizabeth. On the other hand, they may have been

published in this form merely as a means of preserving

work which the author thought worth preserving, and

for which there was no further private use. They were

registered at the Stationers' Hall on 19th November 1594

and published (presumably early) in 1595. Ralegh

was absent during the greater part of 1595 on the search

' "It was at the self-same time [1600] that I did draw with my Lord's
privity and by his appointment two letters, the one written as from my brother,
the other as an answer returned from my Lord, both to be by me in secret
manner shown to the Queen . . . the scope of which was but to represent
and picture forth unto her Majesty my Lord's mind to be such as I knew
her Majesty would fainest have had it." — Bacon's Apology, 1603. See the
letters given by Spcdding, Life, ii. 196.


for Eldorado — the " Guinea Voyage." The dressing up
of the original draft of the Epithalamion for its publi-
cation in that year would involve the disguising of its
application to the forbidden subject of the Queen's
marriage and the succession. This would be done by
the Spenser " impersonation " — " mine owne loves prayses "
(st. i), the Irish allusions (st. 2), and notably by stanza 2 i,
in which the jealousy of " Cynthia," one of the recognised
names for the Queen, is deprecated. These lines are quite
inapplicable to the case of a man living in a remote part of
Ireland. Compare with them the lines quoted at p. 223
above, which occur in the " Adventures of Master F. J."

The enigmatical tag at the end of the poem may have
been added with reference to the hurried marriage of
Ralegh and Elizabeth Throgmorton, or it may have refer-
ence to the original purpose of the poem, and be intended
to apply (ambiguously) to the more recent event :

Song made in lieu of many ornaments,

With which my love should duly have been dect,

Which cutting off through hasty accidents,

Ye would not stay your dew time to expect,

But promist both to recompens,

Be unto her a goodly ornament.

And for short time an endlesse moniment.

As Spenser was in Ireland, these poems were brought
out with an address of a very peculiar character from the
publisher, as was done (with similar mystification) in the
case of the Cojnplaints. Sir Robert Needham was a
Cheshire gentleman who apparently had a command in
Ireland. The description and address are as follow :






Sir, to gralulate your safe return from Ireland, I had nothing
so readie, nor thought any thing so meete, as these sweete


conceited Sonets, the deedeof that wel deserving gentleman, maister
Edmond Spenser : whose name sufificiently warranting the worthi-
nesse of the work, I do more confidently presume to pubUsh it
in his absence, under your name, to whom (in my poore opinion)
the patronage therof doth in some respectes properly appertaine.
For, besides your judgement and delighte in learned poesie, this
gentle Muse, for her former perfection long wished for in Englande,
nowe at the length crossing the Seas in your happy companye,
(though to your selfe unknowne) seemeth to make choyse of you,
as meetest to give her deserved countenaunce, after her retourne :
entertaine her, then, (Right worshipfull) in sorte best beseeming
your gentle minde, and her merite, and take in worth my good
will herein, who seeke no more but to shew my selfe yours in all
dutifuU affection. W. P.


A PAGE IN bacon's LIFE, I 592-I 595, AET. 31-34

In the year 1594, when the poems which we have been
considering were prepared for pubHcation, Bacon was at a
very low ebb of his fortunes. It was about sixteen years
since he had returned from the Continent, and he was
still unplaced. In November of the next year the efforts
of Essex to obtain for him the Attorney's place, and
subsequently the post of Solicitor, had proved finally
unsuccessful, and he had no longer much reason to hope
for any permanent office in the service of the Crown during
the lifetime of the Queen. Bacon thereupon draws away
from Essex, and for the time being seems to have made
up his mind that he must place his hopes on his pen.
The brilliant success, however, of the expedition against
Cadiz in i 596 gave Essex immense popularity, and there-
after Bacon devoted himself to securing his position as
the successor (with Bacon's assistance) of Burghley in the
Queen's counsels ; but the Earl's character was too weak
for the part, and his abilities insufficient ; and his proceed-
ings in Ireland in 1599 finally put an end to such
aspirations, and left Robert Cecil without a rival. The
outlook, however, on the death of the Queen was full of
uncertainty and danger. The possibility of a renewal of
the dynastic wars was present to the mind of every one,
and under such circumstances the special abilities of Cecil
would have probably counted for little. The man of the
hour would presumably have been Ralegh, who, without
capacity for official life, had all the qualities for coming
to. the front in periods of emergency. It is said that on



the death of the Queen he was in favour of bringing the
Government into a committee of a few, so as to keep out
the Scottish King and his following, and he would
probably have been the real power under such an arrange-
ment. We may be sure that these possibilities did not
escape the foresight of Bacon, and I think when he
found that his political prospects rested on a slender
support in Essex that he drew more towards Ralegh.
Later, when Ralegh's sun set, Bacon attached himself to
Cecil, and probably did a great deal of work for him
until his own appointment to the post of Solicitor in 1607.
" There is little friendship in the world, and least of all
between equals, which was wont to be magnified.^ That
that is is between superior and inferior, whose fortunes may
comprehend the one the other." Bacon has been censured
for this sentence ; but it is one of those impartial state-
ments, based on observation, which he makes when
writing philosophically, and it is hard to say it is untrue
where competition for power, in all its forms, is concerned,
and it was probably especially true of the conditions then
prevailing. In any case those who attribute the statement
to " cynicism " are mistaken. There were two things from
which Bacon was wholly free, cynicism and affectation.
His mind was too great for either. When writing he may
conceal his identity, but he never conceals his thoughts.
He puts on paper, even about himself, what other people
only find themselves thinking. In the case of Ralegh, how-
ever, this sentiment (to which he actually appeals in a letter

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 35 of 55)