Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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The View of the Present State of Ireland was probably
presented to the Queen through Essex or Ralegh, and
she would naturally hand it over to Burghley or Robert
Cecil. Essex would consult Anthony or Francis Bacon
about this further paper, and the suggestion might have

> Did. Nat. Piogr., art. " Sir Thomas Wilson."


been made by them that it should be dressed up, so as to
appear to come from the same source, by the adoption of
the names of Spenser's sons (Spenser himself being dead).
The paper, on being presented by Essex to the Queen,
would take the same course as the previous one, and tend
to strengthen it and reinforce the policy therein advocated.
I find no trace, however, of Bacon's hand in any part of
the composition.

Grosart states, as the result of his researches, that
Spenser's widow was married again to one Roger
Seckerstone between 1601 and 1603, and that a petition
of Sylvanus Spenser, the eldest son, was addressed to
the Chancellor of Ireland in 1603 against the seizure by
his mother and her new husband of Kilcolman and other
lands belonging to his father, Edmund Spenser.^ He
observes that " Sylvanus Spenser could not have been
born sooner than 1595 (the marriage iith June 1594),
and thus in 1603 was only in his ninth year, and hence
others, not himself, acting herein." He also gives, from
the Exchequer Records, another instance of litigation by
him, "of course through his advisers," in 1605. But
there is nothing in the cases quoted to show that he was
not acting in person ; quite the contrary ; and the situation
suggested, if the children were infants, is improbable and
unnatural. If, however, the eldest son had been left in
England, and had grown up there, the action of the widow
becomes intelligible.'"^

I must say a word, in conclusion, as to Spenser's
petition to the Queen, which Dr. Grosart produced from
the Record Oi^ce ( Works of Spenser, i. App. V.). The
most remarkable feature of this document, in contradis-
tinction with the " advocacy " of the Vieiv, is the fairness
of statement, even in the terrible situation in which the
writer finds himself. He writes not from the point of
view of the central Government, but from that of the

' Works 0/ Spenser, i. 554 sq.
2 See further on this question in Chapter XIV.


colonists, by whom, he says, all its mistakes were
expiated.^ He recounts the invasion of Munster by
Tyrone's troops, and the consequent rising, by which they
had lost everything, and their wives and children, who
had escaped, were begging in the streets of the port
towns, reviled by the common people, and he says that
" the first cause and Roote thereof was the indirect
desire of one psons privat gaine to whom yo"^ Ma"^
comitted this unfortunat goum'." It was " wrought by
most inuste and dishonorable meanes. For after that
he had receaved A. B. into y"" faith and pteccon pmssing
him to make him M'Mahon for lOO beefes, afterwards
whereas an other of his kinsmen offerred 300 he uniustly
tooke and honge him and in stede invested the other."
Whereat the other Irish chiefs being terrified, they applied
to Tyrone, who " begann to finde greuance at the gounm*
(as in deede under correction meseemes some cause he
had)." " He then expresses the opinion that Tyrone
should have been allowed to come to England to state
his case ; but that even as it was matters might have
been so arranged as that he might have been contained in
reasonable terms. Also when he broke forth openly he was
faintly prosecuted owing to divisions between Russell and
Norris ; the latter of whom, as some thought, acted in this
way " to obtaine the absolute gounm' to him selfe." The
death of Burrows, who succeeded Russell, and divisions in
the Council had brought things to the present pass, the
object of the Irish now being entirely to shake off the
English yoke. " And even now the vennyme is crept
upp hither into this Prouince of Mounster which hath
hitherto continued in reasonable good quietnes. The
w^*^ nowe so much as it was lately [less] euill then the
rest so much is it nowe worse then all the rest." He
proceeds to say that people would hardly believe such a
thing could have come about without their having had a

' The opening words of the Petition are quoted at p. 42 above.

"^ This occurred in 1589, and the person referred to is Sir William
Fitzwilliam, who succeeded Perrot. He utterly denied the charge of
corruption, and the other side of the case can be read in Bagwell's Ireland
under the Tudor s, iii. 201-203.


chance of striking a blow in self-defence/ and " therefore
it is nott a misse to consider by what meanes and euill
occasions all this mischeefe is happened ; the rather for
the better redressing thereof and avoyding the like
hereafter." He lays it down that the Irish will not take
example for civilisation from the English settlers among
them ; firstly, because " to be brought into anie better
order they accompte it to be restrained of theire libertie
and extreame wretchednes " ; secondly, "because they
naturallie hate the English," because they have been
conquered by them, " so that theire fashons they also
hate." He concludes that it would not have been right
to root them out (" that were to bloudie a course "), but
that they should have been disarmed, and strong
garrisons set over them, to be maintained by themselves.
It would have cost no more than the existing adminis-
tration of Munster, which he implies was wasteful and
extortionate, and people would have been content, as
knowing what they had to pay. " But in the meane
season wee poore wreches w*^^ now beare the burden of
all oversight, power out o"^ moste humble and pittiouse
plainte unto yo"" moste excellent Ma"^ that it may please
you to caste yo"^ graciouse minde unto the cairfull regarde
of o"" miseries ; w^^' being quite banished out of o"^ inhabi-
tace and the lands vpon w*^*" wee haue spent all the small
porcon of o"" abilities in building and erecting such traides
of husbandries as wee haue betaken, haue nowe nothing
left but to crye unto you for tymelie aide before wee be
brought to vtter distruction and o' wreched Hues (w*^*^
onelie now remaine vnto us) be made the pray of doggs
and sauage wilde beastes." He then calls upon the
Queen to adopt a firm policy, so as to redeem her and
their honour, and put an end once for all to the continual
drain of men and treasure ; or, failing that, to call the
surviving settlers away, " that at least we may die in o"'

* " Truly to think that a Countrie so rich, so well peopled, so firmlie
fenced and fortified, with so manie stronge Castles, with manie faire walled
townes . . . should be suddeinlie wunne . . . it is . . . hardlie to be
beleeved of man,"


Countrie and not see the horrable calamities which will
thereby come vpon all this land."

It will be observed that the attitude towards the Irish
authorities of the writer of this Petition is not the same
as that of the writer of the View, and the style of the
two documents is entirely different. They agree as to
the natural hatred of the Irish for any form of control,
and the impossibility, at that stage, of retaining them
under the government of England except by the strong
hand. But that was the universal opinion, and in this
feature the Irish were probably not different from other
races, who however, in the western world, owing to a less
sheltered geographical situation, had been consolidated by
external forces at an earlier period.

Spenser's petition concludes with a document setting
out, in official form, " Certaine points to be considered of
in the recouery of the Realme of Ireland." It is interest-
ing as evidence of his official training, and of the care
which was evidently bestowed on such papers in those
days, with a view to setting out a question requiring an
immediate decision in a form in which it could be readily
apprehended with the arguments. That, at least, was
the idea of the form used. The best-known examples of
it are in Burghley's memoranda, which were probably
models for others ; and there is another in Secretary
Davison's letter on travel, referred to at p. 191 above.

While these pages were in the press there was
published a very interesting book entitled Gabriel Hai-vey's
Marginalia, collected and edited by Professor G. C.
Moore Smith. From a note in one of Harvey's books
it appears that in 1578 Spenser was secretary to the
Bishop of Rochester. The note is as follows : " Ex done
Edmundi Spenserij, Episcopi Roffensis Secretarij. 1578."



I PROPOSE, in conclusion, to give an account of a work
which is closely connected with the Spenser tradition,
Lodowick Bryskett's Discourse of Civill Life. The book
is usually known from the quotation which appears in all
the accounts of Spenser, purporting to be a dialogue
between Bryskett and Spenser, in the course of which the
Faerie Queene is mentioned as in a state of preparation.
Bryskett is described in the Dictionary of National
Biography as " poet, translator and Irish official," and the
writer of the article says that Bryskett " is stated to have
been the son of ' a natural Italian,' but of his early life
nothing definite is known." This may be true of the
Irish official, but it is not true of the author of the
" Discourse," because he speaks of himself, in several
passages, as an Englishman. As to Bryskett's claims
to be a " poet," since they are derived from the two
pieces upon the death of Sir Philip Sidney published
with Spenser's " Astrophel," he can only be so described in
a formal sense. They are very inferior productions, and
it is incredible that they can have come from the pen of
the author of the " Discourse." The same article gives
certain further information, viz. that Bryskett had
correspondents in Florence ; that he was a pensioner of
Trinity Hall, Cambridge, 1559, but took no degree; in
I 57 I was acting as Clerk of the Council in Ireland under
Sir Henry Sidney ; was Philip Sidney's companion on
his continental tour through Germany, Italy and Poland,
157 2- 1575; in 1577 became Clerk of the Chancery



for the faculties in Ireland, an office in which he was
succeeded by Spenser ; afterwards (1582) received from
Lord Grey de Wilton the appointment of Clerk to the
Munster Council. The article continues :

About the same time he made the acquaintance of the poet
Spenser, Lord Grey's Secretary, and Spenser relieved the tedium
of official life by teaching his new friend Greek. Bryskett
remained in Munster for many years. In 1594 he sought to be
re-appointed clerk of the Irish Council, but failing to obtain that
post he was granted the " clerkship of the casualties " in the
following year. ... In 1606 he was reputed to hold large
estates in Dublin, Cavan, and Cork. He is stated to have been
alive in 1 6 1 1 .

This account overlooks certain statements in the
" Discourse." The author, for instance, states that he
resigned his post owing to the severity of the work.
In any case the picture of the " tedium of official life,"
and of the two government clerks filling up the time by
reading Greek (an inference from the Discourse), is surely
a very conventional one, hardly suited to those troublous
times. Spenser and Bryskett were pushing their fortunes
in most corrupt surroundings, and judging by the fore-
going account Bryskett did as well for himself as Spenser.
Moreover, in the dedicatory letter to the Discourse,
which was first published in 1606, Bryskett, or the author
of the treatise in his behalf, writes to Robert Cecil, then
Earl of Salisbury, expressing his " private obligations for
your manifold favours (among which the great benefite of
my libertie, and redeeming from a miserable captivitie
ever fresh in my remembrance)." The explanation, so
far as one can be given, must be sought in the notice of
Bryskett in the Letters from Sir Robert Cecil to Sir George
Carew, edited by John Maclean, Camden Society, No. 88.
Among the " abstracts of letters not of sufficient interest
to be printed in extenso " occurs the following:

Lamb. MSS. 604, 59. Original. Sir Rob' Cecyll to the

Lord President. In behalf of Mr. Bryskett, an ancient servitor

of the realm of Ireland, and now employed by her Majesty

beyond the seas. He hath an interest in the abbey of Bridge-


town from her Majesty for many years yet to come. He had
bargained with the Lord Roche, and received part of the pay-
ment for the same, but his lordship had Aiiled to make good
the subsequent payment and had gone into rebeUion ; whereby
Bryskett's interest in the abbey had again reverted to him, and
he requests that he may be put into possession. From the Court
at Whitehall 19 Nov. 1600.

Note by the Editor. — Lodowick Bryskett is mentioned in the
Irish State Papers as early as 1590. On ist Sept. 1594 the Lord
Chancellor of Ireland wrote to Lord Burghley for the stay of the
letters procured in favour of Lodowick Bryskett to be Clerk of
the Council, Avhich office is already passed to William Uscher.
He says " Lodowick Bryskett's father was a natural Italian ; he
keeps a continual correspondence with Florence."

From this it is evident that the Irish Chancellor
regarded him as undesirable on the ground of being an
Italian. It may be inferred also that the captivity to
which Bryskett alludes in his letter to Cecil of 1606
occurred abroad, and that he was probably made a prisoner
of war, or arrested as a spy.

The " Discourse " itself throws further light on the
author, so clearly indeed that it becomes manifest that he
is not the same person as the " ancient servitor of the
realm of Ireland," of Italian birth, above described. The
work is entitled "A Discourse of Civill Life : containing the
Ethike part of Morall Philosophie. Fit for the instructing of
a Gentleman in the course of a virtuous life. By Lod: Br.
Virtute Suinina : Caetera Fortund} London, 1606." It
opens with a short address to Cecil, the style of which
has nothing very distinctive about it, and it is immaterial
whether it is the work of Bryskett himself or of the author
of the treatise, with whom it seems probable he had an
understanding. An Address to the Reader follows, in a
more distinctive style, in which the following account of
the work is given :

The booke written first for my private exercise, and meant to
be imparted to that honorable personage,^ gui Jiobis haec ofia

' The same motto is placed at the end of the " Pastorall .Kglogue "
attributed to Bryskett, which is included in Spenser's works.

2 Lord Grey de Wilton, Lord Deputy, August 1580 to August 15S2 ;
died 1593.


y^«/, hath long layne by me, as not meaning (he being gone), to
communicate the same to others. But partly through the per-
suasion of friends, and partly by a regard not to burie that which
might profit many, I have been drawne to consent to the
publishing thereof.

We have seen this device before, and it is characteristic ;
so also is the following promise to the reader of more to
come :

As my meaning herein is thy good chiefly : so let thy favour-
able censure thankfully acknowledge my labor and goodwil,
which may move me to impart after unto thee another treating of
the Politike part of Morall Philosophic, which I have likewise
prepared to follow this. . . .

The question naturally occurs why should Bryskett,
who explains that he retired from active work in order to
follow literary pursuits, have thought it necessary to keep
back his writings, and why, as he " is stated to have been
alive in 1611," did he publish nothing more? There is
no trace of the further work promised, but I have little
doubt that the ideas for it have been absorbed in some of
the other works of the real author. It will be remembered
that Spenser, at the end of his View of the State of Ireland,
similarly announces a further work, and this, in my opinion,
as I have already had occasion to notice, was part of this
writer's method, in the absence of any other channel of
announcement, of advertising his work.

The " Discourse " follows, headed " Written to the right
Honorable Arthur, late Lord Grey of Wilton : By Lod :
Bryskett," with an explanatory introduction. The author
recalls to his lordship that " it pleased you upon the
decease of maister John Chaloner, her Majesties Secretarie
of this State, which you then governed as Lord Deputie
of this Realmc, to make choice of me to supply that
place " ; that his intention did not take effect, and that
he then conferred on Bryskett a still greater favour in
granting him " libertie without offence to resigne the
office which I had then held seven yeares, as Gierke of this
Gouncell, and to withdraw my selfe from that thanklesse
toyle to the quietnes of my intermitted studies. . . . And


therefore being now freed by your Lordships meane from
that trouble and disquiet of mind, and enjoying from your
speciall favour the swectnesse and contentment of my
Muses ; I have thought it the fittest meanes I could
devise, to shew my thankfulnes, to offer to you the first
fruites that they have yeelded me . . . my translation of
these choice grafts and flowers, taken from the Greeke and
Latine Philosophic, and ingrafted upon the stocke of our
mother English tongue ... so unlocked for a present
out of this barbarous countrie of Ireland ... to furnish
this our English soile and clime withal."

The connection between Bryskett and Spenser comes
in here. Spenser was Lord Grey's secretary, and was
holding that post when Lord Grey was recalled in August
1582. In March 1581 he obtained from Bryskett by
purchase (under a prevailing custom of those times) a
clerkship in the Irish Court of Chancery held by the latter.
In 1582 it appears that Bryskett obtained from Lord
Grey the clerkship of the Munster Council, and sold this
post again to Spenser in June 1588, who was by that time,
no doubt, in Munster, having resigned his clerkship in
Dublin. These facts seem irreconcilable with the above-
quoted account of Bryskett's retirement.

There are further difficulties of chronology in connection
with the suggestion which has been made that the colloquy
at Bryskett's house took place at some time either just
before or just after Lord Grey's recall. The suggestion
overlooks the fact that Long, Primate of Armagh, who is
represented as one of the party, was not made Primate
until July 1584. As he died in 1589, the date of the
colloquy must, if it is genuine, lie between these limits,
when, as would appear, Bryskett was engaged in Munster.
The determining passage, however, is in the " third day "
of the Discourse, where allusion is made to " our late Lord
Deputie" and " our present Lord Deputie," and it proceeds:
" My Lord Grey hath plowed and harrowed the rough
ground to his hand : but you know that he that soweth
the seede, whereby we hope for harvest according to the
goodnesse of that which is cast into the earth, and the

2 P


seasonablenesse of times, deserveth no lesse praise then
he that manureth the land. God of his goodnesse graunt
that when he also hath finished his worke, he may be
pleased to send us such another Bayly to oversee and
preserve their labours " ; and then follows an allusion to
" the quiet of the countrey since the forreine enemie had
so bin vanquished, and the domesticall conspiracies dis-
covered and met withall, and the rebels cleane rooted
out." This passage suggests that by " our present Lord
Deputie " Sir John Perrot, who succeeded Lord Grey
after two years' government by Lords Justices, is intended.
His term of office lasted from June 1584 to June 1588,
and on a comparison of the tentative allusion to his
government here with the disapproval of it expressed later
by the author of the Vieiv} the conclusion seems to follow
that the treatise was written in the early part of it (1585
or 1586), before the quarrels, which led to his recall, had
reached a head in England. On the other hand, the latter
words are much more appropriate as a description of the
events in England leading up to the destruction of the
Spanish Armada in 1588 than to the events in Ireland
in Lord Grey's time, and I think it probable that the
allusion is really to them, in which case the date of the
treatise is 1588-89. Of the origin of the machinery of
the dialogue we are given a clue at p. 31, where Bryskett,
in beginning to read his translation, says, " I will omit the
introduction of the author to his dialogue ... by which
the persons introduced by him are fitted for his purpose
... he hath divided his whole work into three dialogues
[the " three days " of the Discourse]. ... I must now
presuppose that ye, whom I esteeme to be as those gentle-
men introduced by this author, have likewise moved the
same questions which they did, to wit, what maner of
life a gentleman is to undertake and propose to himself,
to attaine to that end in this world, which among wise
men hath bene, and is accounted the best." My belief is

' " After whom [the two Lords Justices] Sir John Perrot succeeding (as
it were) into another mans harvest, founde an open way to what course he
list . . . did trcade downe and disgrace all the English, and sett up and
countcnaunce the Irish all that he could." — View, Globe ed. p. 656.


that this " colloquy " is fictitious, and that the author's
idea in devising it was to give a touch of lightness and
human interest to a treatise which otherwise would have
appeared too formidable (on his favourite principle, Oinne
tulit pjinctuni qui miscuit utile dulci), and that he used the
opportunity to bring in Spenser in order to prepare the
way for the publication of the Faerie Qucene, being a work
with a similar purpose. The first instalment, it will be
remembered, appeared in 1590. The intention, however,
was for some reason not carried out at the time. Similarly
no opportunity seems to have been found until 1592 for
publishing the " Harvey " Sonnet, which purports to be
dated by Spenser from Dublin on i8th July 1586. A
Sonnet addressed to " Lodwick," as to the non-completion
of the second portion of the Faerie Queene, appeared
among the Amoretti in 1595 (No. 33), which I believe
to have had a similar purpose, the second portion
following in i 596.^

The phrase in the foregoing extract, " our Mother
English tongue," indicates that the author was English,
not Italian.

The occasion of the " Discourse " is then described :

The occasion of the discourse grew by the visitation of
certaine gentlemen comming to me to my little cottage which I
had newly built neare unto Dublin . . . Among which, Doctor
Long, Primate of Ardmagh . . . Captain Thomas Norreis,
Captain Warham St. Leger . . . and M. Edmond Spenser, late
your Lordships Secretary [and others].

The colloquy follows, and they ask Bryskett why he
resigned so good an appointment and withdrew from the
service of the State ? He replies, ill-health, desire for
study, and the toil was " farre too high a price for the
profit " — " so free am I from ambition or covetise."

He continues : all the time he spent by his father's
direction in study he was employed in the knowledge and
principles of " Physicke " (though he never practised it), and
had since continued the study of its principles " as well
for the use thereof to mine owne behoofe, as for the

• Cf. p. 385 above.


delightfulnes which the discovery of the secret operations
and effects of nature worketh." He defends himself from
the charge of selfish inactivity by saying he accepts
occasional employment by the State, taking pains " in
the increasing of her Majesties revenue by the care I have
of her impost . . . travelling in such commissions as
the Lord Deputy and Council oft-times direct unto me
for the examining of sundrie causes . . . neither doth my
endeavour in that behalf any way oppose itself to my
desire of retiring from a painefull employment to a more
quiet life, which now (I thank God) I enjoy."

His aim, he says, is " humane felicitie " ; at which the
Lord Primate intervenes with a warning that that " is
without, not your reach only, but all mens, whiles they
are here in this low and muddie world . . . man's felicity

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 51 of 55)