Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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In which that fairest Faery Queene doth dwell,

The fairest citty was that might be seene ;

but he now thinks the other far surpassed it. The hermit,
however, bids him return :

ne maist thou yitt
Forgoe that royal maides bequeathed care. (63.)

Cleopolis is, of course, London, e.g. —

Of Gloriane, great Queene of glory bright,

Whose kingdomes seat Cleopolis is red. (I. vii. 46.)

and compare H. x. 72, where London is again referred to
under that name.

In the same way the choice between the contemplative
and the active life is figured in the final canto of Book L,
where after marrying Una and long enjoying her company,
the knight remembers his proinise —

Unto his Faery Queene backe to retourne ;

The which he shortly did, and Una left to mourne. (41.)


All this is, to my mind, plain enough. It describes a
young man of great parts and great aspirations, who has
a strong sense of an intellectual mission, but who is also
ambitious for an active career in the service of the State.
He is represented, in effect, as postponing the prosecu-
tion of the one until he has achieved success in the other.
This is precisely what occurred, or what he thought had
occurred, when he took stock of himself, in Bacon's case,
and it becomes in his writings the subject alike of self-
reproach and self-justification, according as he was looking
inwards or towards the world. The legendary story
which is interwoven in these episodes has not, in my
view, the importance in the writer's mind which is some-
times attached to it. I think it is wholly subordinate to
the purposes of self-expression, being the machinery by
which this is attained under forms which appeal to the

A similar conflict of choice is shown in the " Astrophel
and Stella " sonnets, between reason and sense (" wit " and
"will"), which is substantially the theme of Book II.
of the Faerie Queene, and in the loth sonnet the state of
feeling in which the writer finds himself is contrasted with
his early intentions :

Reason, in faith thou art well serv'd, that still
Wouldst brabbling be with Sense and Love in me ;
I rather wish'd thee climb the Muses' hill ;
Or reach the fruit of Nature's choicest tree ;
Or seek heav'n's course or heav'n's inside to see :
Why shouldst thou toil our thorny soil to till ?
Leave Sense, and those which Sense's objects be ;
Deal thou with powers of thoughts, leave Love to Will.

As the vocabulary of the writer in dealing with this
subject is specialised, and his meaning expressed with
great economy of language, I make no apology for giving
a paraphrase. The writer is addressing his " Reason "
as something within, but apart from, himself as a man in
the world :

Surely, Reason, you have only yourself to blame that you
should be wasting time over problems of love and passion in me,


seeing that I wished you rather to devote yourself to the pursuit
of the Arts, or Natural Philosophy, or Divinity. Why should
you labour in the thorny soil in which bodily sense is placed ?
Leave alone sense and the objects to which it is directed : deal
rather with the functions of thought, and leave Desire to the
natural appetites.

It will be noticed that the fifth line is, in epitome,
the substance of the vision — the narrow path and the
heavenly city to which it leads — of the Redcrosse knight,
referred to above :

From thence, far off he unto him did shew
A little path that was both steepe and long,
Which to a goodly Citty led his vew, . . .

(I. X. 55.)

I referred in Chapter III. to the three posthumous
" Mutabilitie " cantos. The last is, or purports to be, a
fragment :

The VIII. Canto, Unperfite

When I bethinke me on that speech whyleare
Of Mutabilitie, and well it way !
Me seemes, that though she all unworthy were
Of the Heav'ns Rule ; yet, very sooth to say,
In all things else she beares the greatest sway :
Which makes me loath this state of life so tickle.
And love of things so vaine to cast away ;
Whose flowring pride, so fading and so fickle,
Short Time shall soon cut down with his consuming sickle.


Then gin I thinke on that which Nature sayd,
Of that same time when no more Change shall be,
But stedfast rest of all things, firmely stayd
Upon the pillours of Eternity,
That is contrayr to Mutabilitie ;
For all that moveth doth in Change delight :
But thence-forth all shall rest eternally
With Him that is the God of Sabaoth hight :
O ! that great Sabaoth God, grant me that Sabaoths sight.

This canto, with the other two, was published, as previ-
ously noted, in 1609, at a time when Bacon was working


at the Novum Ofgamim, and in the closing sentences
(couched in the form of a prayer) of the " Plan of the
Work " {Distribtctio Operis) the following passage occurs :

Tu postquam conversus es ad spectandum opera quae fecerunt
manus tuae, vidisti quod omnia essent bona valde ; et requievisti.
At homo conversus ad opera quae fecerunt manus suae, vidit
quod omnia essent vanitas et vexatio spiritus ; nee ullo modo
requievit. Quare si in operibus tuis sudabimus, facies nos
visionis tuae et sabbati tui participes.

[Thou when thou turnedst to look upon the works which
thy hands had made, sawest that all was very good, and didst
rest from thy labours. But man, when he turned to look upon
his work which his hands had made, saw that all was vanity and
vexation of spirit, and could find no rest therein. Wherefore if
we labour in thy works with the sweat of our brows, thou wilt
make us partakers of thy vision and thy sabbath.]

In a footnote Spedding compares this with St
Augustine's prayer at the close of the Confessions^ and
adds " Compare also the line with which the Faerie
Queene breaks off."

The sentence (" Wherefore if we labour," etc.) with
which this passage concludes occurs also, in English, in the
prayer composed by Bacon which he called " The Writer's
Prayer." The same thought occurs in the very self-
regarding Essay " Of Great Place " :

But power to do good is the true and lawful end of
aspiring. For good thoughts, though God accept them, yet
towards men are little better than good dreams, except they be
put in act ; and that cannot be without power and place, as the
vantage and commanding ground. Merit and good works is the
end of man's motion, and conscience of the same is the ac-
complishment of man's rest. For if a man can be a partaker of
God's theatre, he shall likewise be partaker of God's rest. Et
conversus Deus^ ut aspiceret opera, quae fecerunt manus suae, vidit
quod ofnnia essent bona ?iimis ; and then the Sabbath.

The " Writer's Prayer " furnishes us also with further
evidence of a most striking character in the similarity of
thought and expression between its opening words and
the second stanza of Spenser's " Hymne of Heavenly
Beautie." The Prayer begins :


Thou, O Father ! who gavest the Visible Light as the first-
born of thy Creatures, and didst pour into man the Intellectual
Light as the top and consummation of thy workmanship, be
pleased to protect and govern this work, which coming from thy
Goodness returneth to thy Glory.

The lines in Spenser's '* Hymne " are as follow :

Vouchsafe then, O thou most Almightie Spright !
From whom all guifts of wit and knowledge flow
To shed into my breast some sparkling light
Of thine eternall Truth, that I may show
Some litle beames to mortall eyes below
Of that immortall beautie, there with thee,
Which in my weake distraughted mynd I see.

A few parallels (in treatment as well as subject) of an
interesting character between Spenser and Shakespeare,
which occur in the Faerie Queeue, may be noted :

Book n. iv. — Phaon in the hands of "Furor" and
"Occasion." His story presents a close parallel with that
of Othello ; see stanzas 18-31.

Book n. X. — In the relation of the Briton kings, taken
from Geoffrey's " History," the story of Lear is told
(27-32), with certain similar deviations.

Book HL i. — Venus and Adonis on the tapestry


Book HL ii. — Britomart discovers her passion for the
knight, whom she has seen in the magic mirror, to her
nurse, Glauce. The character of the nurse here and in
Romeo and Juliet is identical, and her talk gives the grave
Muse of Spenser one of the few occasions which it takes
for the revelation of a sense of humour. I have no doubt
in my own mind that the character is drawn from the
old " Gentlewoman " mentioned by the supposed
" Puttenham " [" My mother had an old woman in her
nurserie. . . . The good Gentlewoman," etc.]. The
remarks of Haslewood on this point are worthy of
attention.^ This parallel is so striking that I quote some
of the stanzas,

' Ancient Critical Essays (edited by Joseph Haslewood, l8ll), which
includes a reprint of Puttenham's treatise. In the course of his preface the
editor writes : " One passage in his work introduces him in the nursery,



One night, when she was tost with such unrest,
Her aged Nourse, whose name was Glauce hight,
Feeling her leape out of her loathed nest.
Betwixt her feeble amies her quickly keight,
And downe againe her in her warme bed dight :
" Ah ! my deare daughter, ah ! my dearest dread,
What uncouth fit," (sayd she) " what evill plight
Hath thee opprest, and with sad drearyhead
Chaunged thy lively cheare, and living made thee dead ?


" For not of nought these suddein ghastly feares
All night afflict thy naturall repose ;
And all the day, when as thine equall peares
Their fit disports with faire delight doe chose,
Thou in dull corners doest thy selfe inclose ;
Ne tastest Princes pleasures, ne doest spred
Abroad thy fresh youths fayrest flowre, but lose
Both leafe and fruite, both too untimely shed.
As one in wilfuU bale for ever buried.


" The time that mortall men their weary cares
Do lay away, and all wilde beastes do rest,
And every river eke his course forbeares,
Then doth this wicked evill thee infest,
And rive with thousand throbs thy thrilled brest :
Like an huge Aetn' of deepe engulfed gryefe,
Sorrow is heaped in thy hollow chest.
Whence foorth it breakes in sighes and anguish ryfe,
As smoke and sulphure mingled with confused stryfe.


" Ay me ! how much I feare least love it bee I
But if that love it be, as sure I read
By knowen signes and passions which I see,
Be it worthy of thy race and royall sead,
Then I avow, by this most sacred head
Of my deare foster childe, to ease thy griefe
And win thy will : Therefore away doe dread ;

where the acuteness of the child is improperly exercised by an old woman, to
discover a riddle, which, in matter and manner, betrays the ignorance and
want of decency that characterises Juliet's loquacious nurse, and the words
* My mother had an old woman in her nurserie ' gives no faint idea that the
family establishment was not unlike that of the wealthy Capulets.''


For death nor daunger from thy dew reliefe

Shall me debarre : tell me therefore, my liefest liefe ! "


So having sayd, her twixt her armes twaine
Shee streightly straynd, and colled tenderly ;
And every trembling joynt and every vaine
Shee softly felt, and rubbed busily.
To doe the frosen cold away to fly ;
And her faire deawy eies with kisses deare
Shee ofte did bathe, and ofte againe did dry ;
And ever her importund not to feare
To let the secret of her hart to her appeare.


The Damzell pauzd ; and then thus fearfully :
"Ah! Nurse, what needeth thee to eke my payne ?
Is not enough that I alone doe dye,
But it must doubled bee with death of twaine ?
For nought for me but death there doth remaine."
" O daughter deare ! " (said she) " despeire no whit ;
For never sore but might a salve obtaine :
That blinded God, which hath ye blindly smit,
Another arrow hath your lovers hart to hit."


" But mine is not" (quoth she) "like other wownd ;
For which no reason can finde remedy."
" Was never such, but mote the like be fownd,"
(Said she) "and though no reason may apply
Salve to your sore, yet love can higher stye
Then reasons reach, and oft hath wonders donne.''
" But neither God of love nor God of skye
Can doe" (said she) " that which cannot be donne.'
" Things ofte impossible " (quoth she) " seeme, ere begonne."


" These idle wordes " (said she) " doe nought aswage
My stubborne smart, but more annoiaunce breed :
For no, no usuall fire, no usuall rage
Yt is, O Nourse I which on my life doth feed,
And sucks the blood which from my hart doth bleed :
But since thy faithful zele lets me not hyde
My crime, (if crime it be) I will it reed.
Nor Prince nor pere it is, whose love hath gryde
My feeble brest of late, and launched this wound wyde.

xvji ''THE FAERIE QUEENE'' 497


" Nor man it is, nor other living wight,
For then some hope I might unto me draw ;
But th' only shade and semblant of a knight,
Whose shape or person yet I never saw.
Hath me subjected to loves cruell law :
The same one day, as me misfortune led,
I in my fathers wondrous mirrhour saw.
And, pleased with that seeming goodly-hed,
Unwares the hidden hooke with baite I swallowed."


" But thine, my Deare, (welfare thy heart, my deare !)
Though straunge beginning had, yet fixed is
On one that worthy may perhaps appeare ;
And cartes seemes bestowed not amis :
Joy thereof have thou and eternall blis ! "
With that, upleaning on her elbow weake.
Her alablaster brest she soft did kis.
Which all that while shee felt to pant and quake.
As it an Earth-quake were : at last she thus bespake.


" But wicked fortune mine, though minde be good.
Can have no ende nor hope of my desire,
But feed on shadowes whiles I die for food.
And like a shadowe wexe, whiles with entire
Affection I doe languish and expire.
I, fonder then Cephisus foolish chyld.
Who, having vewed in a fountaine shere
His face, was with the love thereof beguyld ;
I, fonder, love a shade, the body far exyld."


" Nought like," (quoth shee) " for that same wretched boy
Was of him selfe the )-dle Paramoure,
Both love and lover, without hope of joy,
For which he faded to a watry flowre :
But better fortune thine, and better howre,
Which lov'st the shadow of a warlike knight ;
No shadow but a body hath in powre :
That body, wheresoever that it light.
May learned be by cyphers, or by Magicke might.

2 K



" But if thou may with reason yet represse
The growing evill, ere it strength have gott,
And thee abandond wholy do possesse,
Against it strongly strive, and yield thee nott
Til thou in open fielde adowne be smott :
But if the passion mayster thy fraile might,
So that needs love or death must bee thy lott,
Then, I avow to thee, by wrong or right
To compas thy desire, and find that loved knight."


Her chearefull words much cheard the feeble spright
Of the sicke virgin, that her downe she layd
In her warme bed to sleepe, if that she might ;
And the old-woman carefully displayd
The clothes about her round with busy ayd ;
So that at last a litle creeping sleepe
Surprisd her sence : Shee, therewith well apayd,
The dronken lamp down in the oyl did steepe.
And sett her by to watch, and sett her by to weepe.


Earely, the morrow next, before that day
His joyous face did to the world revele,
They both uprose and tooke their ready way
Unto the Church, their praiers to appele
With great devotion, and with little zele :
For the faire Damzel from the holy herse
Her love-sicke hart to other thoughts did steale ;
And that old Dame said many an idle verse,
Out of her daughters hart fond fancies to reverse.


Retourned home, the royall Infant fell
Into her former fitt ; for-why no powre
Nor guidaunce of herselfe in her did dwell :
But ih' aged Nourse, her calling to her bowre.
Had gathered Rew, and Savine, and the flowre
Of Camphora, and Calamint, and Dill ;
All which she in a earthen Pot did poure.
And to the brim with Coltwood did it fill.
And many drops of milk and blood through it did spill.



Then, taking thrise three heares from off" her head,
Them trebly breaded in a threefold lace,
And round about the Pots mouth bound the thread ;
And, after having whispered a space
Certein sad words with hollow voice and bace,
Shee to the virgin sayd, thrise sayd she itt ;
" Come daughter, come ; come, spit upon my face;
Spitt thrise upon me, thrise upon me spitt ;
Th' uneven nomber for this busines is most fitt."


That sayd, her rownd about she from her turnd,
She turned her contrary to the Sunne ;
Thrise she her turnd contrary, and returnd
All contrary ; for she the right did shunne ;
And ever what she did was streight undonne.
So thought she to undoe her daughters love ;
But love, that is in gentle brest begonne,
No ydle charmes so lightly may remove :
That well can witnesse who by tryall it does prove.


Ne ought it mote the noble Mayd avayle,
Ne slake the fury of her cruell flame,
But that shee still did waste, and still did wayle,
That, through long languour and hart-burning brame.
She shortly like a pyned ghost became
Which long hath waited by the Stygian strond.
That when old Glauce saw, for feaie least blame
Of her miscaiTiage should in her be fond.
She wist not how t'amend, nor how it to withstond.

Equally characteristic of the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet
is the scene in the next canto (iii.) where they seek
counsel from Merlin, particularly where Glauce interrupts
his prophecies about the appearance in the glass by the
practical question :

How shall she know, how shall she finde the man ? (25.)

Shakespeare has, no doubt, borrowed from many sources,
but I find it hard to believe that he was not original in
this character.

The author of the Faerie Queene shows a similar
familiarity with English legal procedure and law terms as


the author of the Shakespeare play, and handles them in
metaphor with the same ease and certainty.^ The notable
examples of this occur in the second part and the
posthumous cantos : —

Book IV. xii. 31. — The legal case in the Marinell and
Florimell episode ; see Chapter III., and p. 505 below.

Book VI. vii. — The punishment of Mirabella :

Fayre Mirabella was her name, whereby
Of all those crymes she there indited was :
All which when Cupid heard, he by and by
In great displeasure wild a Capias
Should issue forth t' attach that scomefull lasse.
The warrant straight was made, and therewithal!
A Baylieffe-errant forth in post did passe,
Whom they by name there Portamore did call ;
He which doth summon lovers to loves judgement hall.

The damzell was attacht, and shortly brought
Unto the barre whereas she was arrayned ;
But she thereto nould plead, nor answere ought.
Even for stubborne pride which her restrayned.
So judgement past, as is by law ordayned
In cases like ; which when at last she saw,
Her stubborne hart, which love before disdayned,
Gan stoupe ; and, falling downe with humble awe,
Cryde mercie, to abate the extremitie of law.

(35, 36.)

In the same book, Canto iv., the lady, to whom Sir
Calepine delivers the babe he has rescued from a bear,
accepts it —

as of her owne by liverey and seisin. {2,7-)

The trial scene in the second of the " Mutabilitie "
cantos, stanzas 13-17.

The use, in several places, of the word " tortious."

' Compare, for instance, such a use of legal metaphor by Shakespeare as
that in Romeo's death-speech :

" . . . and lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death ! "
and in Lovers Labour's Lost, where a girl, refusing a kiss, is made to say,
" My lips are no common, though several they be" (ii. i). With the first
of these compare the use of the same metaphor in the " Astrophel and Stella "
sonnets (85) : "Let . . . lips Love's indentures make."


The writer's impartiality and habit of writing on both
sides of a question, to which I have alluded in other
places, is well illustrated in his practice of introducing
the figure of the Queen, or a touch suggestive of her,
in passages of censure as well as praise. Thus in the
" House of Pride" (I. iv.) the false pomp and vices of the
Court, or of Court life generally, are clearly alluded to,
the Queen of it being described as " a mayden Queene "
(8). Compare the description of Philotim^ in the " House
of Mammon " (H. vii. 48), and the bold expression " that
goodly Idoll " in Sonnet 27. The bad side of the Court
(though not of the Queen) is similarly described in Colin
Clout in a passage following the eulogies.

Perhaps no better example could be found of the
similarity of the treatment of love by Spenser and
Shakespeare than the description of the effect of it in
absence. Compare the account of Britomart's restlessness
in the absence of Arthegal, and the way in which she
assails Talus on his return with a string of questions :

And where is he thy Lord, and how far hence ?
Declare at once : and hath he lost or wun ?

{F.Q. V. vi. 9)

with Rosalind's speech about Orlando, of course in a
lighter vein, in As you like it (iii. 2) :

What did he when thou sawest him ? What said he ? How
looked he ? Wherein went he ? What makes he here ? Did
he ask for me ? Where remains he ? How parted he with thee ?
and when shalt thou see him again ? Answer me in one word.

and with Cleopatra's speech about Antony :

O Charmian,
Where think'st thou he is now ? Stands he, or sits he ?
Or does he walk, or is he on a horse ?

(i- 5-)

And compare again with these the " Astrophel and Stella "
sonnet (92) :

I would know whether she did sit or walk ;

How cloth'd ; how waited on ; sigh'd she, or smil'd ;

Whereof, with whom, how often did she talk . . .


We have here reached a point when the necessary facts
have been stated for the consideration of the identity of
" Rosalind," which I endeavoured to show, at the end of
Chapter XIII., must carry with it the identity of " Stella"
of the Sidney sonnets. The solution which I have to
offer, or, rather, which offers itself, when once the identity
of the author of these works is recognised, lies in the
indications given by " E. K," in the " Glosse " to the
SJiepheards Calender. From him we learn that she was
" a Gentlewoman of no meane house, nor endewed with
anye vulgare and common giftes, both of nature and
manners " (April), and that " Rosalinde is also a feigned
name, which, being well ordered, will bewray the very
name of his loue and mistresse, whom by that name
he coloureth " (January). The obvious solution of this
anagram is " Mary Sidney," which gives all the essential
letters (R sa inde). This must have occurred to many
people, but the circumstances of Edmund Spenser have
seemed to render it inadmissible. But it is most natural
in the circumstances of Francis Bacon. The date of
Mary Sidney's birth is not known ; 1561 has been given,
but the date suggested in the Dictionary of National
Biography is 1555. She was therefore some years
older than Bacon, and it would be in consonance with
experience in cases of precocious mental development
that he should have been attracted in youth by a woman
older than himself, especially if she had superior gifts of
mind. The hints given by " Laneham " in 1575, under
the disguise of absurdity, support this conclusion (see
p. 277 above). Under it, also, the allusion in the third
sonnet of Shakespeare (on the supposition that those
sonnets were addressed to William Herbert, the Countess
of Pembroke's eldest son) falls into its natural place :

Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime.

The player could hardly have even seen the Countess
until she was between thirty and forty, and the sense of
tender recollection which these lines convey is unaccount-


able in his case. The writer seems to see the image of
his early love in the son, and this would largely account
for the abnormal warmth of address, the note of regret,
and the sense of frustrated parental instinct which render
these sonnets so enigmatical. The curious allusion to
"Immerito" and a certain lady under the name of
"Rosalinde "in one of the Harvey letters published in i 5 80 ^
also finds a perfectly natural meaning, and one which is
in consonance with Bacon's circumstances in 1578-79,

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 44 of 55)