Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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significant. His accoutrements suggest splendour and
power in the highest degree. Thus, of his helmet :

His haughtie Helmet, horrid all with gold,
Both glorious brightnesse and great terrour bredd :
For all the crest a Dragon did enfold
With greedie pawes, and over all did spredd
His golden winges : his dreadfull hideous hedd,
Close couched on the bever, seemd to throw
From flaming mouth bright sparckles fiery redd,
That suddeine horrour to faint hartes did show ;
And scaly tayle was stretcht adowne his back full low.

Upon the top of all his loftie crest,
A bounch of heares discolourd diversly,
With sprincled pearle and gold full richly drest,
Did shake, and seemd to daunce for jollity,
Like to an almond tree ymounted hye
On top of greene Selinis all alone,
With blossoms brave bedecked daintily ;
Whose tender locks do tremble every one
At everie little breath that under heaven is blowne.

(Stanzas 31 and 32.)

Still more remarkable is the account of his shield :

His warlike shield all closely coveHd was,
Ne might of mortall eye be ever seene ;
Not made of Steele, nor of enduring bras,
Such earthly mettals soon consumed bcene,
But all of Diamond perfect pure and cleene
It framed was, one massy entire mould,
Hewen out of Adamant rocke with engines keene,
That point of speare it never percen could,
Ne dint of direfull sword divide the substance would.

The same to wight he never wont disclose,
liut whenas monsters huge he would dismay,
Or daunt unequall armies of his foes,
Or when the flying heavens he would affray ;
For so exceeding shone his glistring ray,

a new style of speech wliich was known by tlic name of his first book ; yet
he never wrote a line after about 1 590, when he is supposed to have been
thirty-six, though he is said to have lived for sixteen years after that date. I
have had occasion to note the same extraordinary phenomenon in tlie cases of
Gabriel Harvey, Kirke, Webbe, Laneham, and Meres.


That Phoebus golden face it did attaint,

As when a cloud his beames doth over-lay ;

And silver Cynthia wexed pale and faynt,

As when her face is staynd with magicke ai'ts constraint.

No magicke arts hereof had any might,
Nor bloody wordes of bold Enchaunters call ;
But all that was not such as seemd in sight
Before that shield did fade, and suddeine fall :
And when him list the raskall routes appall,
Men into stones therewith he could transmew,
And stones to dust, and dust to nought at all ;
And, when him list the prouder lookes subdew,
He would them gazing blind, or turne to other hew.

Ne let it seeme that credence this exceedes ;
For he that made the same was knowne right well
To have done much more admirable deedes.
It Merlin was, which whylome did excell
All living wightes in might of magicke spell :
Both shield and sword, and armour all he wrought
For this young Prince, when first to armes he fell ;
But, when he dyde, the Faery Queene it brought
To Faerie lond, where yet it may be seene, if sought.

(Stanzas 33-36.)

The idea of the shield is, no doubt, reminiscent of the
" shield of faith " of St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians,^
and under that aspect it would be representative of the
reformed religion, potent against Orgoglio and Duessa
(Spain in the person of Philip, and Rome in that of Mary,
Queen of Scots) — see Book I. vii. and, at a later date,
V. viii. (the fight with the Souldan) ; but that interpreta-
tion does not account for the description, or for the very
definite, but obscure, allusion in Stanza 36. I think the
poet is here giving expression to his consciousness of the
power of his own genius," and that the character of Prince

* It is to be noticed that this is referred to in the introductory letter to
Ralegh, but in connection with the Redcrosse knight, not Prince Arthur.

2 St. 34, " the flying heavens." There is a passage in Greene's writings in
which I believe the same writer (under colour of an impersonation) is similarly
alluding to the power of his own genius, only in an intentionally bombastic
vein :

" I keep my own course still, to palter up something in prose, using mine
old posy still, oinnc tiilit ptinctum : although lately two gentlemen poets
made two madmen of Rome beat it out of their paper bucklers, and had it in
derision, for that I could not make my verses jet upon the stage in tragical


Arthur throughout is intended to represent that side of it
which was concerned with Government and the national
life. Bacon, as his acknowledged writings show, was
intensely patriotic, and considering the range, repre-
sentative character, and aspiring nature of his genius, and
the thought which he devoted to the affairs and destiny
of his country in Church and State, there is nothing very
extravagant (though it may seem strange — but we are
dealing with a strange personality) in the identification of
himself with the legendary national hero. Generally, I
think. Prince Arthur is intended to represent the pride
and power of England, and the character, intended in the
" particular " originally for Leicester, is made to serve for
individuals in charge of national enterprises. But it also
has a more intimate significance.

It will be observed from the relation in I. ix., quoted
above, that Prince Arthur says he has been seeking out
the Fairy Queen for " nyne monethes in vain" (15). In
Book II. ix. (Alma's house, viz. the body controlled by
the mind) occurs the following stanza :

" Certes," (then said the Prince) " I God avow,
That sith I armes and knighthood first did plight.
My whole desire hath beene, and yet is now,
To serve that Queene with al my powre and might.
Seven times the Sunne, with his lamp-burning hght,
Hath walkte about the world, and I no lesse,
Sith of that Goddesse I have sought the sight,
Yet no where can her find : such happinesse
Heven doth to me envy, and fortune favouriesse."


Lower down, the Prince and Guyon choose each a
damsel, who represents, under the allegory, their own
several dispositions. In the Prince's case the description
is as follows :

" Fayre Sir," said she, halfe in disdaineful wise,
" How is it that this mood in me ye blame,
And in your selfe doe not the same advise ?
Him ill beseemes anothers fault to name,

buskins, every word filling the mouth with the fa-burden of Bowbell, daring
God out of heaven with that atheist Tamburlain, or blaspheming with the mad
priest of the Sun." — Introduction to Perinifdes, 1588.

2 I


That may unwares bee blotted with the same :

Pensive I yeeld I am, and sad in mind,

Through great desire of glory and of fame ;

Ne ought, I weene, are ye therein behynd,

That have three years sought one, yet no where can her find."

The Prince was inly moved at her speach,
Well weeting trew what she had rashly told ;
Yet with faire semblaunt sought to hyde the breach,
Which chaunge of colour did perforce unfold.
Now seeming flaming whott, now stony cold :
Tho, turning soft aside, he did inquyre
What wight she was that Poplar braunch did hold ?
It answered was, her name was Prays-desire,
That by well doing sought to honour to aspyre.

(38, 39.)

In Guyon's case his disposition is indicated in the
beautiful lines :

She answerd nought, but more abasht for shame
Held downe her head, the whiles her lovely face
The flashing blood with blushing did inflame.
And the strong passion mard her modest grace,
That Guyon mervayld at her uncouth cace ;
Till Alma him bespake : " Why wonder yee,
Faire Sir, at that which ye so much embrace ?
She is the fountaine of your modestee :
You shamefast are, but Shamefastnes it selfe is shee."


This I believe to be the author under two aspects, the
one eager for public employment and honour, the other in
his private relations, as he thought of himself.^ I think
it is also possible, having regard to the extreme candour
and " simplicity " of Bacon's self-expression when writing
under disguise (as I believe), that in the periods mentioned
— I refer to the " nine months " and the " three years " —
he is stating what he had actually experienced since his
return from France in March 1579, and, in that case,
we have the dates of composition of these two books

1 Compare with this Bacon's defence of his conduct (aet. 25) to his uncle,
Lord Burghley, who had taken him to task for pride or presumption: "I
find also that such persons as are of nature bashful (as myself is) . . . are
often mistaken for proud." (Spedding, Life, i. 59.) Compare also the
Sidney sonnet quoted at p. 363.


Prince Arthur is accompanied by the squire, Timias,
who is supposed to represent Ralegh. There seems Httle
doubt that a reference to Ralegh is intended under this
character in the scene with Belphoebe in Book III. v., if
only from the suggestion that the herb by which she
heals his wounds may have been "divine Tobacco" (32).
The episode in IV. vii., where Belphoebe finds him with
Amoret, and turns from him with the words " Is this
the faith?" (36), may relate, as is generally supposed, to
Ralegh's marriage with Elizabeth Throgmorton in 1592.^
But how under this construction is the appearance of
Timias to be accounted for in Book I., which, if the Irish
official were the author, was probably completed before he
went to Ireland, and in any case before he knew Ralegh,
and (what is still more important, whoever be the author)
before Ralegh was known to fame? It may be said that
the description (see especially the account of the virtues
of the Squire's bugle in Canto viii. 3-5) is only the
traditional language of romance, but this, as I have
already said, is not in this writer's manner, his genius
being too objective and practical to be content with
writing in the air. The conclusion to which I have come
is this : that just as under Prince Arthur the writer sees
himself idealised as the representative of his nation, so
under Timias he sees the aspirant of reality, himself, that
is, as he was, waiting for his opportunity and in ready
attendance on the State. This accounts for the stress
laid on the " mean estate" of Timias in III. v. 44, and for
such lines as these, which are quite inappropriate to the
personality of Ralegh, or to his circumstances after he had
won the favour of the Queen :

But, foolish boy, what bootes thy service bace
To her to whom the hevens doe serve and sew ?
Thou, a meane Squyre of meeke and lowly place ;
She hevenly borne and of celestiall hew.


The explanation which I have suggested for the

* As to Amoret see Chapter III. The character in this scene seems to be
utilised for the special allusion.


Ralegh poems applies, in my belief, equally to the pre-
sentment of the character of Timias in the Faerie Queene,
namely that it is a vehicle for the expression of the
author's own aspirations, and, in the second portion, of his
distress at his exclusion from access (as seen in the
correspondence summarised in Chapter XV.). Into this
he has woven allusions to Ralegh, whose loss of favour
synchronised with his own, thereby appearing to plead
Ralegh's cause, and at the same time disguising from
the general world the appeals on his own behalf to
the Queen's feelings. Elizabeth had a great regard for
Bacon's father and visited him at Gorhambury. She had
been attracted by his son Francis as a child,^ and probably
therefore knew more about him than appears on the
surface. It is not impossible that these appeals, and their
origin, would have been understood by her ; but, in any
case, on such a question she would naturally preserve
silence, and she was certainly not the kind of woman to
be much affected by them, especially where matters of
State were concerned.

The passages which I have especially in mind in
these remarks are in Book IV. Cantos vii. and viii. In
the first the Squire incurs Belphoebe's wrath for apparent
inconstancy, and falls into a state of despair in which he
neglects all knightly service, even regarding " his own
deare Lord Prince Arthure " as a stranger^ (43). In
Canto viii. " The gentle Squire recovers grace " through
the help of the dove, and the interview with Belphoebe,
which begins " He her beholding at her feet downe fell "
(13), ends with his restoration to favour:

In which he long time afterwards did lead
An happie life with grace and good accord,
Fearlesse of fortunes chaunge or envies dread,
And eke all mindlesse of his own deare Lord
The noble Prince ... (18.)

Later he is represented as renewing his service with
the Prince. Under this episode the author is evidently

' Life by Rawley ; Spedding, Works, i.
2 The idea presumably is that he had lost interest even in public affairs.


imagining himself in tiie state of intimate acceptance,
independent of any intermediary, which he desired.
Similarly in the earlier episode (III. v.), where Timias is
found wounded by Belphoebe, and carried by her to an
earthly paradise to be nursed into recovery, there is the
same imagined relief from the outcast state in which
Bacon regarded himself It will be noticed that these
episodes are capable, more or less, of a dual interpretation :
in the Ralegh aspect, his hard fortunes before the Queen
took him up and her subsequent affection for him ; in the
Bacon aspect, his disappointments, his ambition for
service and the Queen's favour expressed under the
language of love, and his imagined happiness if things
were once as he wished them to be. To obtain this
result no language seemed to him too extravagant — even
to the point of being abject, as some of this writing is
— and the language used is altogether characteristic of
Bacon in such circumstances, for whom deprivation of
access, and the opportunities which alone in those days of
autocratic power it gave, was regarded with feelings
almost of anguish. His life and correspondence are
evidence of this, and the following stanza, with which
Canto viii. of Book IV. opens, is an expression of the
same disposition and habit :

Well said the Wiseman, now prov'd true by this
Which to this gentle Squire did happen late,
That the displeasure of the mighty is
Then death itself more dread and desperate ;
For naught the same may calme ne mitigate,
Till time the tempest doe thereof delay
With sufferaunce soft, which rigour can abate.
And have the sterne remembrance wypt away
Of bitter thoughts, which deepe therein infixed lay.

Like as it fell to this unhappy boy,
Whose tender heart the faire Belphoebe had
With one sterne looke so daunted, . . . (Cf. p. 381.)

Timias reappears in Book VI., and though the allusions
are obviously to some contemporary experience, similar
difficulties in the way of identification with Ralegh arc


present. This book was presumably written in 1595,
during the greater part of which Ralegh was abroad.
Timias is ideally represented as still secure in the Queen's
favour, but subject to many enemies, envy, detraction,
and, most of all, to —

Three mightie ones, and cruell minded eeke.

That him not onely sought by open might

To overthrow, but to supplant by slight :

The first of them by name was called Despetto,

Exceeding all the rest in powre and hight ;

The second not so strong but wise, Decetto ;

The third, nor strong nor wise, but spighfuUest, Defetto.

(VI. V. 13.)

These impersonations seem intended to represent,
respectively, the contempt of the risen man by rank
(perhaps of the man who, having risen, does not conduct
himself wisely), fraud (in others), and want of money.
We read in stanza 1 6 that " most of all Defetto him
annoyde." In a later episode Timias is overthrown by
the giant "Disdaine" (under which the same idea as in
" Despetto " is represented) and the fool " Scorne," in a
zealous attempt to rescue Mirabella ^ (vii. 49) ; and he is
rescued by Prince Arthur, who " him did oft embrace,
and oft admire" (viii. 27).^

By the agency of Despetto, Decetto and Defetto,
who could not prevail against Timias by themselves,
the " Blatant Beast " is set on as the fittest means " to
worke his utter shame," and Timias is bitten by him
owing to heedlessness (16). The same cause of disaster
is alleged in Muiopotmos (see Chapter VI.). The wounds
made by the monster are described as like those of
" infamy," which grow worse " for want of taking heede
unto the same" (vi. i and 2). Serena, the love of Sir

* It has been suggested that in the Mirabella episode the poet is taking
a revenge on "Rosalind" for her treatment of him — a suggestion not very
complimentary to Spenser. But as Mirabella is described as "of meane
parentage and kindred base " (vii. 28), and " E. K." says Rosalind was "A
Gentlewoman of no meane house" ("April" eclogue), the suggestion does
not seem to hold water. See also p. 365 above.

^ These characters disappear at this point, in the lines

" lUil Arthure with ihe rest went onward still," etc. (30.)


Calepine, has also been bitten by the Beast (iii. 23, 24),
and she and Timias are left by Prince Arthur to be
cured by a Hermit (v. 41), The remedies prescribed are
discipline and ghostly counsel (vi. 5 j-^.), and they are
advised " to avoide the occasion of the ill," to " abstaine
from pleasure and rcstraine your will," ' etc., and to
" shun secresie, and talke in open sight." All this points
to some scandal or scandalous reports in each case.

There is no evidence of Ralegh being affected by
scandal during the period subsequent to his marriage,
except as regards alleged unorthodox opinions ; but the
suggestions are not of that character. While, however,
only some of the circumstances described are applicable
to Ralegh, all of them fit in with what is known, or can
reasonably be inferred, about Bacon's life. Confirmation
of this view may possibly lie in the identification of
"Serena," a name which, as I said in Chapter III., is
perhaps formed out of the letters of " Frances," i.e.
Frances Walsingham. This idea occurred to me in
connection with a difficulty which I found in reconciling
the character of Sir Calidore with Sir Philip Sidney, the
usually accepted identification (see Chapter III.). Sir
Calidore is represented as the knight of " Courtesie," but
his main business is the pursuit of the " Blatant Beast,"
through town and country," and in the last canto he
muzzles and chains him (34), though in a later age he
gets loose again, nor spares even " the gentle Poets rime "
(40). There is nothing analogous to this, so far as is
known, in Sidney's life ; on the contrary, Sidney had
strong Protestant sympathies, and was looked up to
by their party as a leader. I think the allusion is
to the author's social and political writings, private and
public, and to his efforts in the " Martin Marprelate "
controversy to which I referred in Chapter II., and that
here again we have a representation of his own personality
and activities in another aspect. Sidney had been dead
ten years when this book was published, and his widow

1 i.e. the natural passions; see p. 491.

2 Cf. Canto i. 7 ; iii. 23 sq. ; ix. 3.


(who was three times married) was then the wife of
Essex. Bacon therefore must have met her frequently.
If she was as attractive as she is represented in
" Pastorella," he may well have admired her. The tale
of Sir Calidore and Pastorella, however, is entirely ideal,
and suggests no corresponding reality out of which
scandal could have arisen. The crudities of reality are
dealt with under different characters (the same persons,
in my opinion, being represented), namely, Timias and
Serena, who are each, for different reasons, suffering from
the same malady. Essex neglected his wife for the
interests and pleasures of the Court, and under pain of
the Queen's displeasure ; she may therefore have gone
her own way, and laid herself open to scandal. Bacon,
as is well known to all who have studied the writings
of the time, was the subject — possibly the victim — of
scandalous rumour, especially in the days of his power.
This episode is partly in the nature of a defence, and it
may be compared with the i I2th sonnet of Shakespeare.
This theory, of course, points to the conclusion that
Sir Calepine is Sidney ; or perhaps more probably Essex,
because Serena is represented as bitten by the " Blatant
Beast " when wandering from Sir Calepine and Sir
Calidore while they were talking together (iii. 23, 24).
At the same time, in view of the author's method of
confusing his characters, and his habit of diverging from
his original intention as his fancy led him, it is probable
that he had Sidney, and also Essex, in mind, for some
purposes, in that portion of the book which relates to
the courtship of Pastorella by Sir Calidore.

I will now turn back for a moment to Book I. and
offer a few remarks about it as a whole. It is from this
book that the majority of readers probably derive their
impression of the Faerie Qiieene, and perhaps from the
first canto of the book, in which the author seems to
enter on his task with a freshness of imagination and
grave simplicity and earnestness not found to the same


extent as the work proceeds. Of the many wonderful
descriptions in the poem perhaps none is so famih'ar, or
as impressive, as that of the Redcrosse knight, in the
second stanza of the poem :

And on his brest a bloodie Crosse he bore,
The deare remembrance of his dying Lord,
For whose sweete sake that glorious badge he wore,
And dead, as Hving, ever him ador'd :
Upon his shield the like was also scor'd,
For soveraine hope which in his helpe he had.
Right faithfuU true he was in deede and word,
But of his cheere did seeme too solemne sad ;
Yet nothing did he dread, but ever was ydrad.

These lines, coming at the opening of the book, have
perhaps done much to give the impression that the poem
is, in its primary intention, one of a religious character.
But the description is sentimental and pictorial ^ rather
than inspired by spiritual feeling, and if Book I., without
going further, be read through with attention, it will be
seen that the religious motive, though recognised with
reverence, is not the predominant one. The doctrine and
discipline of the reformed Church are illustrated and
applied to the training of the knight, who is thereby
brought to a distant vision of the holy city ; but the
author's genius does not really lie in that direction, and
having paid his tribute to the call of the saintly life, he
puts it aside for the present with something approaching
to a sense of relief. The renunciation involved at that
age is candidly felt to be too great. The choice is
described with all that richness of illustration which the
writer has at his command in dealing with any subject,

' For this quality perhaps the following description (in the same book)
of the world under the power of evil is as striking as any :

" And, after all, upon the wagon beame,
Rode Sathan with a smarting whip in hand,
With which he forward lasht the Jaesy teme,
So oft as Slowth still in the mire did stand.
Huge routs of people did about them band,
Showting for joy ; and still before their way
A foggy mist had covered all the land ;
And, underneath their feet, all scattered lay
Dead sculls and bones of men whose life had gone astray." (iv. 36.


but the passion, which is the soul of such descriptions (as
in Bunyan, who presumably borrowed from it), is lacking.
The device by which the writer allays his doubts and
satisfies his conscience is very characteristic. He makes
the Hermit decide the question for him, and puts into his
mouth the advice which accords with the promptings of
his own inclinations.

These remarks refer mainly to Canto x., where the
knight is brought to the " House of Holinesse," Here he
is taught repentance, and being instructed by Charity
(" Charissa ") " of love and righteousnes and well to
donne," he is brought by an ancient matron, " Mercy,"
to a hill, on the top of which was a little hermitage
inhabited by " an aged holy man " whose name was
" hevenly Contemplation " (46). He leads the knight to
a high mountain from which he shows him far off the
heavenly city, "the new Hierusalem " (57). Upon which
the knight declares that till then he had supposed —

That great Cleopolis, where I have beeiie.

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 43 of 55)