Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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of Desmond's servants, calculated to appeal to the feelings
of a woman, and probably inserted with that object. In
any case the accounts of Irish prosperity which Sidney
sent home ten years later, before the Desmond rebellion,
are difficult to reconcile, in view of the shortness of the
interval, with the earlier one. Thus

Their land was never more universally tilled nor fuller of
cattle than presently. Their citties and towns more populous
than ever in memory of man. Their houses so far exceeding
their ancestors, that they may be thought rather to be another
and a new People than descendants of the old.^

Similarly the desolation attributed to Munster, ap-
parently some fourteen years back, by the writer of the

' In this connection it is of interest to inquire whether the " plotte of
water-cresses or sham-rokes " is a correct piece of "local colour." I cannot
speak with certainty on this subject, but I observe that Bagwell holds that
"the original shamrock was the wood-sorrel" (iii. 99, 435). He does not
however discuss the reference to " water-cresses," and I think it very possible
that it comes from the following passage in Holinshed's Description of Ireland
(ch. 8) : " Watercresses, which they tearme shamrocks, roots and other herbs
they feed ujion," etc.

2 .Sir I lenry Sidney to the Queen, 20th May 1577. Compare this again with
his enthusiastic account, from the point of view of the people as well as of the
Crown, of the good results in Munster of Sir William Drury's government :
" Mounster, Thankes be to God, contynueth in good Quiet," etc. — To the
Council, 17th March 1576.


View seems inconsistent with the reference to it, as it was
before the rising in 1598, by Spenser, in his petition to
the Queen (no doubt from the point of view of the
settlers), as " a Countrie so rich, so well peopled." ^

There follows the defence of Lord Grey's government,
whose recall is attributed (by Eudoxus) to the clemency
of the Queen's disposition, who, he says, was induced,
contrary to the public interest, to listen to charges of
cruelty against him. This seems to be another instance
of the courtier's attitude, which was always the attitude
of Bacon ; for it appears probable that the Queen's real
reason for recalling Grey was that he spent too much
money, and she had decided in her own mind at that
time from motives of economy, and in view of Continental
affairs, to let things go in Ireland for the present. Bagwell
states that, with regard to the affair of Smerwick, she
" censured Grey rather for sparing some of the principals
than for slaying the accessories." ^ This, however, may
not have been known to the author of this treatise, and it
is noticeable that it was also not known to Bacon (writing
in his own name), or, at any rate, not admitted by him.
See his remarks about Smerwick in 1624, quoted
below. Apart from this question, however, there seems
no doubt that Lord Grey in his government of Ireland
was atrociously severe. On the other hand, it must
be remembered that Spain and the Papal power were
behind the Irish rising, that the Papacy had pretended to
depose the Queen and claimed to absolve her subjects
from their allegiance,^ and had no disapproval for the
practices against her life and that of the Prince of Orange.
Moreover, when Lord Grey went to Ireland only eight
years had passed since the massacre of St. Bartholomew's
day in Paris, of which the Pope had publicly expressed
his approbation.* It is not surprising, in these circum-
stances, that men were fanatical. Lord Grey was

^ See p. 571 n. below. ^ Ireland under the Ttidors, iii. 75.

3 Bull of Pius v., 1570.

* " The scene of the massacre was painted by the Pope's orders, with an
inscription \Ponti/ex Colignii necem probat] immortalising his own gratification
and approval." — Froude, History of England, x. 410.


evidently deeply imbued with this spirit, but Spenser
declines, on that account, to regard him as a cruel man,
or other than as a good man, which from all accounts he
was. In his poem he goes further, and sets him up as
the type of moral greatness in a high position.

It will be observed that in the passage in the View
(which I am about to quote) the defence of Lord Grey's
action at Smerwick (where Ralegh was one of the two
captains to whom it fell to carry out the orders) is not
directed to the charge of killing the garrison, but to that
of breach of faith. On this point Ralegh, after Lord
Grey, would be the best authority. But whatever
actually happened, no English writer at that time (least
of all Bacon, whose patriotism overbore every other
consideration) would admit that there was a breach of
faith. In this connection it is interesting to observe that,
in a memorandum for Prince Charles (the future King)
written by Bacon two years before his death, he notices
the charge against Lord Grey, and on that occasion
excuses the slaughter itself, on a somewhat extraordinary
plea, that there were no ships to take the prisoners away.
Presumably he meant, or would have explained, that
there were none available for this purpose, for he can
hardly have been unaware that a detachment of the fleet
was there, and that the ships' guns were used to reduce
the fort

The following is an extract from the account of this
affair in the View :

Eudox. . . . Soe I remember in the late government of the
good Lord Graye, when, after long travell and many perilous
assayes, he had brought ihinges allmost to this pass that ye speake
of, and that when it was even made readye for reformation, and
might have bene brought to what her Majestic would, like com-
playnte was made agaynst him, that he was a bloudye man, and re-
garded not the life of her subjectes noe more than dogges, but had
wasted and consumed all, soe as nowe she had nothing almost left,
but to raigne in theyr ashes ; her Majesties eare was soone lente
thereunto, and all suddaynly turned topsy turvy ; the noble Lord
eft-sones was blamed ; the wretched people pittyed ; and new
counsells plotted, in which it was concluded that a general


pardon should be sent over to all that would accept of it, uppon
which all former purposes were blaunked, the Governour at a
baye, and not onely all that greate and long charge, which she
had before bene at, quite lost and cancelled, but also that hope
of good which was even at the doore putt backe, and cleane
frustrated. All which, whether it be true^ or noe, your selfe can
well tell.

Iren. To true, Eudoxus, the more the pittye, for I may not
forgett soe memorable a thing : neither can I be ignoraunte of
that perillous devise, and of the whole meanes by which it was
compassed, and very cunningly contrived by sowing first dissen-
tion betwene him and an other Noble Personage, wherin they
both founde at length howe notably they had bene abused, and
howe therby, under-hand, this universal alteration of thinges was
brought aboute, but then to late to staye the same.

Eudox. Indeede soe have I hearde it often here spoken, and
I perceave (as I allwayes verely thought) that it was most un-
justlye ; for he was allwayes knowen to be a most just, sincere,
godly, and right noble man, farr from such sterness, farr from
such unrighteousnes. But in that sharpe execution of the
Spanyardes at the Forte of Smerwicke, I heard it speciallye noted,
and, yf it were true as some reported, surelye it was a great
touche to him in honour, for some say that he promised them
life ; others that at least he did putt them in hope therof.

Iren. Both the one and the other is most untrue ; for this I

can assure you, my selfe being as neere them as any, that he was

soe farr from either promising, or putting them in hope, that

when first theyr Secretarye, called, as I remember, Jacques

Geffray, an Italian, being sent to treate with the Lord Deputye

for grace, was flatlye denyed ; and afterwardes theyr Coronell,

named Don Sebastian, came foorthe to intreate that they might

parte with theyr amies like souldiours, at least with theyr lives,

according to the custome of warre and lawe of nations, it was

strongely denyed him, and tolde him by the Lord Deputye him-

selfe, that they could not justlye pleade either custome of warre,

or lawe of nations, for that they were not any lawfull enemyes ;

and yf they were, he willed them to shewe by what commission

they came thither into another Princes dominions to warre,

whether from the Pope or the King of Spayne, or any other : the

which when they sayd they had not, but were onely adventurers

that came to seeke fortune abrode, and serve in warres amongest

the Irish, who desired to entertayne them, it was tlien tolde them,

that the Irish themselves, as the Earle and John of Desmonde

with the rest, were noe lawfull enemyes, but rebells and traytours ;

2 O


and therfore they that came to succour them noe better then
rogues and runnagates, specially coming with noe lycence, nor
commission from theyr owne King : Soe as it should be dis-
honorable for him in the name of his Queene to condicion or
make any termes with such rascalls, but left them to theyr choise,
to yeelde and submitt themselves, or noe. Wherupon the sayd
Coronel did absolutely yeeld himselfe and the forte, with all
therin, and craved onely mercye, which it being not thought
good to shewe them, both for daunger of themselves, yf, being
saved, they should afterwardes joyne with the Irish, and also for
terrour to the Irish, who were much emboldened by those
forrayne succours, and also putt in hope of more ere long ; there
was noe other way but to make that shorte end of them which
was made. Therfore most untruelye and maliciously doe these
evill tonges backbite and slaunder the sacred ashes of that most
just and honorable personage, whose least vertue, of many most
excellent which abounded in his heroycall spiritt, they were
never able to aspire unto.

The following is Bacon's account in his memorandum,
" Considerations touching a War with Spain," written in
1624, two years before his death :

The first dart of war which was thrown from Spain or Rome
upon the realm of Ireland, was in the year 1580. For the
design of Stukely blew over into Afric ; and the attempt of
Saunders and Fitz-Maurice had a spice of madness. In that
year Ireland was invaded by Spanish and Italian forces under
the Pope's banner and the conduct of San Josepho, to the
number of seven hundred or better, which landed at Smerwick
in Kerry. A poor number it was to conquer Ireland to the
Pope's use ; for their design was no less : but withal they
brought arms for five thousand men above their own company,
intending to arm so many of the rebels of Ireland. And their
purpose was, to fortify in some strong place of the wild and
desolate country, and there to nestle till greater succours came ;
they being hastened unto this enterprise upon a special reason
of state, not proper to the enterprise itself; which was, by the
invasion of Ireland and the noise thereof to trouble the
council of England, and to make a diversion of certain aids that
then were preparing from hence for the Low Countries. They
chose a place where they erected a fort, which they called the
Fort del Or; and from thence they bolted like beasts of the
forest, sometimes into the woods and fastnesses, and sometimes
back again to their den. Soon after, siege was laid to the fort


by the Lord Gray, then deputy, with a smaller number than
those were within the fort ; venturously indeed \ but haste was
made to attach them before the rebels came in to them. After
the siege of four days only, and two or three sallies with loss
on their part, they that should have made good the fort for
some months, till new succours came from Spain, or at least
from the rebels of Ireland, yielded up themselves without con-
ditions at the end of those four days. And for that there were
not in the English army enough to keep every man a prisoner ;
and for that also the Deputy expected instantly to be assailed
by the rebels ; and again there were no barks to throw them
into, and send them away by sea ; they were all put to the
sword ; with which Queen Elizabeth was afterwards much

Irenaeus then sets out in detail his scheme for the
military occupation of Ireland, and as he is " noe martiall
man," he explains that his scheme is derived from what
" the Lord Graye who was well experienced in that
service agaynst him [Feagh Mac Hugh] did laye dovvne."
But as some sixteen years had passed since then, it
seems more probable that the author founded himself
on information derived from Ralegh, who suggested a
scheme to Lord Grey when he was serving in Ireland,
as the following extract from one of his letters, dated
from Cork, ist May 1581, to Grey, as Lord Deputy, with
a marginal comment by him, indicates. In this letter
Ralegh alleges mismanagement of the war by the Earl
of Ormonde under whom he was serving, defends himself,
and mentions intrigues with the rebels by which the
Earl of Desmond was able to hold out. The letter is
printed by Edwards " from an official and annotated
copy sent by the Lord Deputy to Francis Walsingham."
Extract :

If it please your Honor to give commission ther may bee an
other hundreth soldier layd uppon the cuntre heire aboute. I
hope it willbe a most honorable matter for your Lordshipe, most
acceptable to her Majestie and profitable for the cuntre ; and
the right meane to banish all idle and frutles galliglas and
kerne, the ministers of all miseryes.

' Spedding, Life, vii. 484.


In the margin Lord Grey has written, " This is the
beeginnyng of that platt which, by Mr. Fent, I have
advertizement of, for the fynding of a certayne garrison
gratis to Her Majestie." (Edwards, ii. i6.)

In the treatise there is a certain tone of self-sufficiency
on the part of the writer, as well as a sanguine forecast
of results, if his reconnmendations are adopted, and a
blindness to defects or impracticabilities, which are all
very characteristic of Bacon, but hardly likely to be found
in a writer who had spent ten years in facing the
conditions of the Munster plantation. The scheme of
garrisons was, in fact, that which had always been
advocated by officers on the spot, but from lack of
resources it was never made effective until Mountjoy's
campaign (1600- 1603). But Ralegh, who was consulted
by the Queen on Irish affairs, was the person who
advocated the policy in England. Extracts from one
more letter from him to illustrate this point may be
given — a letter, dated loth May 1593, to Sir Robert
Cecil from Sherborne, written in a very disgusted spirit,
with unusually outspoken criticism of the Queen's
proceedings, after his loss of favour in 1592:

Of this Irish combinaction Her Majestye shall find it
remembred to her sealf not longe since : but the Troien
Southsayer cast his spear against the wooden horse, but not
beleved. I did also presume to speake somewhat how to
prevent this purpose ; and I thinck it not over hard to be yet
donn. . . . Less then that number men apoynted, I tacke it,
will serve the turn, if the garrisons be placed aright to impeach
the assemblies. . . . We ar so busyed and dandled in thes French
warrs, which are endless, as we forgett the defens next the hart.
Her Majesty hath good cause to remember that a million hath
bynn spent in Inland not many yeares since. A better kingdome
myght have bynn purchased att a less prize, and that same
defended with as many pence, if good order had bynn taken. . . .
If her Majestye conseder it aright, she shall fynde it no small
dishonor to be vexed with so beggerly a nacion, that have
neather amies nor fortificasion ; but that accursed kingdome
hath always bynn but as a trafique, for which Her Majestye
hath paid both fraight and custome, and others receved the


marchandize ; and other then such shall it never be. The
Kinge of Spayne seeketh not Irlande for Irlande, but havinge
raysed up troops of beggers in our backs, shall be able to inforce
us to cast our eyes over our shoulders, while thos before us
strike us on the braynes.

Ralegh is here writing " with the gloves off," and, of
all the letters which can with certainty be attributed to
his composition, it is on that account perhaps the most
interesting and characteristic. He had great financial
interests in Ireland, and in the rising in October 1598,
which caused the destruction of the Munster settlement,
his losses were great. " At Tallow," writes Bagwell, " in
Ralegh's seignory, there were 60 good houses and 120
able men, of whom 30 were musketeers; but they all
ran away and the rebels burned the rising town to the
ground." Ralegh therefore had the strongest motive
for advocating a vigorous policy in Ireland, and would
have rendered Bacon every assistance in presenting the
case as it is found stated in the View.

P. 678. Like Bacon, Spenser considers that justice
must be movable and summary, and wishes, therefore,
in order to deal with persons who should "straggle up
and downe the countrey, or miche in corners amongest
theyr frendes idlye, as Carooghs, Bardes, Jesters and such
like," that " there were a Provost Marshall appoynted,
in everye shire which should continuallye walke through
the countrey, with halfe a douzen, or half a score of
horsemen, to take up such loose persons as they should
finde thus wandring, whom he should punnish by his owne
authoritye, with such paynes as the persons should
seeme to deserve," etc. ; this measure to supplement the
powers of the sheriffs, but the latter to be deprived of
power of life and death which they have hitherto
exercised, on the ground that they may benefit, as " it
hath often come to pass," in the seizure of lands, by
the party's death.

Finally the establishment of towns is advocated, as in
Bacon's memoranda :

Further, that there should bo in sundrye convenient places,


by the high wayes, townes appoynted to be builte, the which
should be free Bouroughes, and incorporate under Bayhffes, to
be by theyr inhabitaunts well and strongly intrenched, or other-
wise fenced with gates at each side therof, to be shutt nightlye,
like as there is in manye places of the English Pale, and all the
wayes about it to be stronglye shutt up, soe that none should
passe but through those townes : To some of which it were good
that the priviledge of a markett were given, the rather to strengthen
and enable them to theyr defence, for nothing dothe sooner
cause civilitye in anye countreye then manye markett townes, by
reason that people repairing often thither for theyr needes, will
daylye see and learne civill manners of the better sort. Besides,
there is nothing doth more staye and strengthen the countreye
then such corporate townes, as by proofe in many rebellions
hathe bene seene ; in all which when the countreyes have swarved,
the townes have stood stifle and fast, and yeelded good relief to
the souldiours in all occasions of service. And lastly there doth
nothing more enriche any countreye or realme then manye
townes ; for to them will all the people drawe and bring the
fruites of theyr trades, as well to make money of them, as to
supplye theyr needefuU uses ; and the countreynien will also be
more industrious in tillage, and rearing all husbandrye comodityes,
knowing that they shall have readye sale for them at those
townes : and in all those townes should there be convenient
Innes erected for the lodging and harbourghing of all travellers,
which are now oftentimes spoyled by lodging abrode in weake
thatched howses, for wante of such safe places to shrowde
themselves in.

Among the Irish State papers of 1599 in the Public
Record Office, there is an unpublished manuscript in
four books, treating, in dialogue form, of outrages, etc., in
Ireland.^ Book I. treats of divers outrages committed
in the King's County from harvest 1597 until All
Saints' Day 1598; and the remaining books deal with
Leinster, Connaught, Ulster, and the country generally.
The interlocutors are named Percgryn and Silvyn, the
names of two of Spenser's sons. The work is dedicated
to the Earl of Essex, but the letter, which ends at p. 2, is
unsigned. At the foot of p. i, however, is written, in a
different hand, " Thomas Wilson." An inscription at the
head of the dedication (To the . . . Earl of Essex, etc.)

1 Ireland, vol. cciii., No. 119 (147 pages).


contains the initials " H. C." (H. C. wisheth long life, etc.).
Mr. Bagwell, in a note, remarks that the dialogue "is
very much in the style of that between Irenaeus and
Eudoxus," and he asks, " Is Thomas Wilson a stalking
horse for Edmund Spenser ? " ^ The joint authors of the
article on Spenser in the Dictionary of National Biography
report the same resemblance, and conclude " that the
dialogue probably embodies expressions of opinion which
Spenser has communicated to the author."

The appearance of the names of Spenser's sons in
this connection is, of course, very interesting, and I have
therefore (with expert assistance) read through this
document. In the result, I have no hesitation in saying
(with all respect to the writers above mentioned) that,
except in the adoption of the dialogue form, which is
clumsily managed and without any attempt at preserv-
ing character, there is no resemblance whatever between
this work and Spenser's Viezv. There is none of the
philosophical outlook and imaginative faculty of illustra-
tion and generalisation which characterise the latter ; all
is particular and individual, and is a dreary catalogue of
petty incident and local detail. The style is mean and
unrelieved by variety, and the writer vents his feelings
against the Irish by continual abuse, having evidently
endured much hard service in the country. He describes
himself in the dedication as " a poor servitor of twenty-
five years' continuance there," and he says :

After Sir Richard Binghams departure forth of Ireland whose
servant I remained many years until his death ... I took
upon me ... to make a collection of such acts which especially
have happened in the Kings County since harvest 1597 until All
Saints 1598, myself not only being eye witness of many misdeeds
there happening but also have tasted the burden thereof to my
utter undoing with the loss of that worthy man my Master.

Sir Richard Bingham is said to have died on 19th
January 1599 (three days after Spenser's death), and as
Essex went to Ireland at the end of March 1599, this
paper was presumably written in that year. The

• Ireland under the Tudors, iii. 302.


signature " Tho. Wilson " on the front page appears to be
later, and, in any case, does not belong to the dedication.
It has been suggested ^ that it may be Sir Thomas
Wilson, Keeper of the Records (d. 1629), and a supporter
of Sir Robert Cecil, which seems very probable ; also that
" H. C." may be Henry Cuffe, who was secretary to the
Earl of Essex. It is conceivable, as the signature to the
dedicatory letter is omitted, that he may have had his
initials put into the inscription in presenting the copy,
but, for the reasons given, he could not have been the

The most interesting point, however, from the point
of view of this inquiry is the adoption, for the purpose
of the dialogue, of the names of Silvyn and Peregryn at
this date, when, under the accepted view of Spenser's
marriage, his sons were still young children. The scene
of the dialogue is London, and it begins with Silvyn
saying :

I am mightily deceived, but yonder walketh my frende
Peregrine to whom I will draw nere, for he hath been missing
full one year and a half and assured I am he hath not spent so
great a time in vain.

Peregryn replies that he has been to " Pauls," then
to the Exchange, to look for Silvyn ; says he has been in
Ireland ; and proceeds to give him the account which
follows. Silvyn says, " I was never in that country."

For what it is worth this supports the argument which
I have submitted as to the Amorcttl and the EpWialaniioti^
and the theory of Spenser's earlier marriage. The names
of the interlocutors have been inserted in the margin in a
different hand, and the dialogue form was probably an
afterthought, to relieve the monotony of the treatise.

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 50 of 55)