Edward George Harman.

Edmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon online

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work to reform the commonweal (26), but is called away

before he can complete the work (27). Here begins the

Grey analogy, and under it the poet shows what will

follow such half-measures if they are repeated. On his

return " from his late quest," two hags, " Envie " and

" Detraction," and with them " a monster which the

Blatant Beast men call," ^ combine against Arthegal,

and revile him —

Saying that he had, with unmanly guile

And foule abusion, both his honour blent,

And that bright sword, the sword of Justice lent,

Had stayned with reprochfull crueltie

In guiltlesse blood of many an innocent :

As for Grandtorto, him with treacherie

And traynes having surpriz'd, he fouly did to die.

The allusion in the last lines is, of course, to Grey's action at
Smerwick,for which he incurred the charge of breach of faith.
This gives the poet his opportunity of showing Lord Grey
as a noble example in conduct, and at the same time of
denouncing the attitude of certain people at home :

Thereto the Blatant Beast, by them set on,
At him began aloud to barke and bay
With bitter rage and fell contention,
That all the woods and rockes nigh to that way
Began to quake and tremble with dismay ;
And all the aire rebellowed againe,
So dreadfully his hundred tongues did bray :
And evennore those hags them selves did paine
To sharpen him, and their owne cursed tongs did straine.

' Here mentioned for the first time. It represents, no doubt, the malcontent
Puritans and sectaries on that side. Ben Jonson is reported by Urummond
to have said "that in that paper S. W. Raughly had of the Allegories of
the Fayrie Queen, by the Blating Beast the Puritans were understood, by the
false Duessa the Q. of Scots." This construction of the Blatant Beast is
obvious (see particularly VI. xii., stanzas 24, 25), and I only mention it
because Grosart maintained that it meant I'opery (IVorks, i. 35). But
Grosart, for all the admirable work he did, is a very unsafe guide. The
"hideous monster" in Book V. x. 29, and xi. 20, is Popery. The " Idoll "
there mentioned is presumably Alva's statue set up at Antwerp by himself.


And still among most bitter wordes they spake,
Most shamefull, most unrighteous, most untrew,
That they the mildest man alive would make
Forget his patience, and yeeld vengeaunce dew
To her, that so false sclaunders at him threw :
And more, to make them pierce and wound more deepe,
She with the sting which in her vile tongue grew
Did sharpen them, and in fresh poyson steepe :
Yet he past on, and seem'd of them to take no keepe.

But Talus, hearing her so lewdly raile.
And speake so ill of him that well deserved.
Would her have chastiz'd with his yron flaile,
If her Sir Artegall had not preserved,
And him forbidden, who his heast observed :
So much the more at him still did she scold,
And stones did cast ; yet he for nought would swerve
From his right course, but still the way did hold
To Faerie Court ; where what him fell shall else be told.

(V. xii. 4I-43-)

Among the complimentary sonnets prefixed to the
first three books, there is one to Essex in which it
is expressly stated that he is in the poem, and the
writer promises, at a later stage, " to make more famous
memory, Of thine Heroicke parts." This promise he
fulfilled in Part II.

" Scudamore " I believe to be Ralegh ; and though
this interpretation involves difficulties, I feel convinced,
after trying others, that it is sound. Timias is supposed
to be Ralegh, but for reasons which will appear in a later
chapter ^ I have come to think that, though the author
intended that the incidents should bear a Ralegh con-
struction, they are mainly vehicles for the expression
of some of his own troubles and aspirations. It is
impossible that Ralegh, who was the Queen's new
favourite in the latter days of Leicester, and the rival
later of the younger Essex, should have been represented
in the poem by so mean a person, especially as the
author, in my belief, was more attracted by Ralegh, and
had more in common with him, than with any other man of

^ See below, p. 83, note, and Chapter XVII.


the time. The rivalry of Essex and Ralegh is indicated
in Book IV. vi., where Arthegal and Scudamore both
prepare to fight with Britomart.

Who then is " Amoret," whose enlevement by
Scudamore forms one of the finest of the cantos (IV. x.)?
She represents, in my opinion, the " woman " side of
Queen Elizabeth, which the sovereignty compelled her to
repress.^ There seems to be no doubt that Elizabeth had
a genuine passion as a girl for Seymour, because on his
execution she fell ill and was long in recovering, though
normally her health was perfect. Her experience at that
time was a terrible one (as books such as those of Miss
Strickland and the late Bishop Creighton have related), and
may account to some extent for the fact that thereafter
she never let herself go, or treated love affairs as much
more than a distraction. She seems, however, to have
had a strong passion of a kind for Ralegh, and Scudamore's
account of his victory may have been designed to please
Elizabeth with the description of her irresistible charm,
and the audacity of the knight in braving the dangers of
such an intimacy. I express no opinion on what Ralegh's
real relations with the Queen were, but considering his
nearness to her, and that he was not a man of high
family, such a glorious presentment of him as the knight
Scudamore would presumably have been grateful to
her. It will be noticed that Scudamore's adventure is
related by himself, as having happened in the past. When
this book was published Ralegh was under the Queen's
heavy displeasure for his marriage with Elizabeth Throg-
morton some time in 1592. This is apparently alluded
to in the scene in Book IV. vii. between Timias and
Amoret, which is interrupted by Belphoebe (" Is this the
faith ? "). But Amoret, as the love of Scudamore, could
not possibly, in my opinion, refer, except in this special
allusion, to Ralegh's wife. There is more to be said on
this subject, but I must leave it for the later chapter.
The fact that the Queen is represented (as she obviously

' Amoret is repicsentcd as the twin sister, hy a miraculous birth, of
Belphoebe (III. vi.).


is) as " Venus " in the Scudamore-Amoret episode does
not preclude the foregoing interpretation, as under this
aspect she is shown as the sovereign. The suggestion is
that, as the goddess of love, she should be more tolerant
of love in her courtiers, as its power is irresistible. At
the time this part of the poem appeared (1596) most of
the Queen's favourite courtiers of the younger generation
then living had offended her by marrying — Ralegh, Essex,
Robert Carey ; Southampton was only twenty-three, but
his turn was to come two years later ; Charles Blount,^
being in love with Lady Rich (Penelope Devereux),
remained single. Canto x. must be considered as a
whole, but the last three stanzas of Scudamore's story of
his adventure more especially illustrate the foregoing
remarks :

" And evermore upon the Goddesse face
Mine eye was fixt, for feare of her offence ;
Whom when I saw with amiable grace
To laugh at me, and favour my pretence,
I was emboldned with more confidence ;
And nought for nicenesse nor for envy sparing,
In presence of them all forth led her thence,

* Mountjoy. Elizabeth was evidently very fond of him, and had a high
opinion of his capacity. See, for instance, her letter of encouragement to him
when, as Lord Deputy, he was engaged against Tyrone, given at vol. iii. p. 386
of Bagwell's Ireland undei the Tudors (spelling modernised). It is stated to
be in the Queen's own hand, in reply to complaints from Mountjoy about his
position in which he had likened himself to a scullion. The following
is an extract : " Mistress Kitchenmaid, I had not thought that precedency
had been ever in question, but among the higher and greater sort ; but now
I find by good proof that some of more dignity and greater calling may by
good desert and faithful care give the upper hand to one of your faculty, that
with your frying-pan and other kitchen stuff have brought to their last home
more rebels, and passed greater break -neck places, than those that promised
more and did less. Comfort yourself, therefore, in this, that neither your
careful endeavour, nor dangerous travails, nor heedful regards to our service,
without your own by-respects, could ever have been bestowed upon a prince
that more esteems them, considers, and regards them than she for whom
chiefly, I know, all this has been done, and who keeps this verdict ever in
store for you ; that no vainglory nor popular fawning can ever advance you
forward, but true vow of duty and reverence of prince, which two afore
your life I see you do prefer. . . . And learn this of me that you must
make a difference betwixt admonitions and charges, and like of fiithful advices
as your most necessariest weapons to save you from blows of princes' mislike.
And so I absolve you a poena et culpa, if this you observe. And so
God bless and prosper you as if ourself was where you are. — Your Sovreign
that dearly regards you."


All looking on, and like astonisht staring,

Yet to lay hand on her not one of all them daring.

" She often prayd, and often me besought,
Sometime with tender teares to let her goe,
Sometime with witching smyles ; but yet, for nought
That ever she to me could say or doe.
Could she her wished freedome fro me wooe ;
But forth I led her through the Temple gate,
By which I hardly past with much adoe :
But that same Ladie, which me friended late
In entrance, did me also friend in my retrate.

" No lesse did Daunger threaten me with dread,
Whenas he saw me, maugre all his powre.
That glorious spoyle of beautie with me lead,
Then Cerberus, when Orpheus did recoure
His Leman from the Stygian Princes boure :
But evermore my shield did me defend
Against the storme of every dreadfull stoure :
Thus safely with my love I thence did wend."
So ended he his tale, where I this Canto end.

I may now put the question whether, regard being
had to the subject matter and point of view of the poem,
a man living in Ireland could reasonably be supposed to
have written it. The question derives further force from
the fact (perhaps not generally known) that in all the six
books (excluding the posthumous cantos) there are no
local Irish allusions, except in the description of the
Irish rivers in Canto xi. of Book IV. (and one by way
of illustration — noticed below — in Book 11.);^ and it is
significant that, whereas the description of the English
rivers is full and detailed, when the poet comes to the
Irish rivers he says :

Though I them all according their degree
Cannot recount, nor tell their hidden race,
Nor read the salvage countries through which they pace.

(St. 40.)

This canto is a digression, and is evidently composed
of an early work referred to in the following passage in
a letter of" Immerito" to Harvey published anonymously

' See note at p. 78.


in I 580/ where the writer says he derived much assistance
from " Ilolinshed " :

Trust me, you will hardly beleeve what greate good liking
and estimation Maister Dyer had of your Satyricall Verses, and
I, since the viewe thereof, having before of my selfe had speciall
liking of Englishe VersiJ}'i?}g, am even nowe aboute to give you
some token, what, and howe well therein I am able to doe : for,
to tell you trueth, I minde shortely at convenient leysure, to
sette forth a Booke in this kinde, whiche I entitle Epithalamion
Thamesis ; whyche Booke, I dare undertake wil be very
profitable for the knowledge, and rare for the Invention and
manner of handling. For in setting forth the marriage of the
Thames : I shewe his first beginning, and offspring, and all the
Countrey, that he passeth thorough, and also describe all the
Rivers throughout Englande, whyche came to this Wedding,
and their righte names, and right passage, &c. A worke,
beleeve me, of much labour, wherein notwithstanding Master
Holinshed hath muche furthered and advantaged me, who
therein hath bestowed singular paines, in searching oute their
firste heades and sources : and also in tracing and dogging oute
all their Course, til they fall into the Sea.

The Irish rivers were probably put in when Part 11.
of the poem was being prepared,^ because the author
enters a plea for unity :

Sith no lesse famous than the rest they bee,

And joyne in neighbourhood of kingdome nere.

Why should they not likewise in love agree? (St. 40.)

The reason for his perfunctory sketch of them (limited
to four stanzas) seems to me evidently because Holinshed,
who describes the English rivers in great detail, gives no
detailed description of the Irish rivers, and the author
therefore had to make them out as best he could.^

' " Three proper and wittie familiar letters," etc. See "Globe" edition
of Spenser's Works, p. 709.

2 Another instance occurs of this in the reference to " Oranochy, though
but knowen late," which is not earlier than the latter part of 1595, when
Ralegh returned from his voyage of discovery. The appeal to " Britons "
not to lose the fruits of it (22) anticipates Ralegh's book (to be dealt
with later) of 1596.

' I am inclined to think that the mistake in the description of the
Cumberland Eden, "Eden though but small" (st. 36), is due to a mis-
reading of Holinshed, and is evidence of the poet's habit of rapid and


There is nothing indicating any local knowledge in the
description, except the well-known " Mulla mine, whose
waves I whilom taught to weep," which is the conventional
language of pastoral poetry.

It is most important to note that there are no allu-
sions to Irish affairs in the first three books, which appeared
in 1590.^ Against this conclusion the character of Sir
Satyrane might be cited, whom Upton regarded as a
representation of Sir John Perrot." I agree that Satyrane
is Perrot, but there is no distinctive reference to any
Irish experience, and as Perrot was not appointed Lord
Deputy until June 1584, Spenser's introduction of him
in Book I. has no significance (as the references, of
course, are to his earlier exploits in Ireland and else-
where) ; nor have the later episodes. Perrot is said to
have been a man of great physical strength and courage,
with a violent and arbitrary disposition, which led him
to many brawls. Though very gross in his language, he
had a generous disposition, and he left a name among
the Irish for fair dealing. He was reputed, and believed

cursory reading. In the description of the Eden, HoHnshed does not get
further than the tributary coming from Ullswater, which he says "runneth
forth in a meane and indifferent bottome."

1 It is stated in the article on Spenser in tlie Diet. Nat. Biogr. that "the
earliest references which he made to Ireland in the work appear in canto
ix. of Book II. (see stanzas 13, 16 and 24)." It is true that the name of
Ireland is mentioned in st. 24, but only descriptively, "jet or marble far
from Ireland brought " : a line which, if it suggests anything, suggests that
Ireland was a remote country to the writer's experience. The same inference
is suggested by stanza 1 6 :

" As when a swarme of Gnats at eventide
Out of the fennes of Allan doe arise,

Till the fierce Northerne wind with blustering blast
Doth blow tliem quite away, and in the Ocean cast."

The bog of Allen is about twenty miles from the coast at its nearest point,
and lies due west of Dublin. The name of this bog must have been well
known in England, like the "Great Wood." The other stanza forms part of
the allegorical description of the various evil beings which invade the "house
of Alma" (the body as the seat of the mind), and Ireland (though it may
possibly have been in the writer's mind) is not mentioned.

2 "Sir Satyrane is Sir John Perrot: whose behaviour, though honest,
yet was too coarse and rude for a Court. . . . 'Twas well known ihat he
was a son of Henry the Eighth ; and this is plainly alluded to in F. Q. I. vi.
21, 22." — Upton.


himself to be, a natural son of Henry VIII., whom he
resembled in appearance and majesty of deportment.
He was condemned to death, probably unjustly, owing
to the animosity of men whom he had offended, but
Elizabeth hesitated to sign the warrant, and in the
meantime he died in the Tower, in September 1592
(aet. 65). His appointment as Lord Deputy terminated
in June 1588.'

There is, however, a direct allusion to the district in
the neighbourhood of Spenser's house at Kilcolman in
the first of the two posthumous cantos of " Mutabilitie,"
where " Arlo-hill " is made the scene of the appeal of
" Mutabilitie " to " Nature." These two cantos were
published by a bookseller in 1609, ten years after
Spenser's death, at the end of a new edition of the
Faerie Queene, with no explanation as to their origin,
but merely with a title " Two Cantos of Mutabilitie :
which, both for forme and matter appeare to be parcell
of some following booke of The Faerie Queene, under
the Legend of Constancie." To give an appearance of
probability to this pretence (as I regard it) the two
cantos were numbered vi. and vii. At the end are two
reflective stanzas, evidently added to give a close to the
poem, headed " The viii Canto, imperfite."

The theory that these cantos were found among
papers which Spenser had rescued in his flight from
his house has never been seriously viewed, and may be
dismissed as fabulous. They are obviously the work
of the author of the previous six books, though, in my
opinion, in a later manner. The references to Irish
scenery include the mountain " Mole," and sundry Irish
rivers in the locality, under the names of Molanna, Mulla,
Bregog, Fanchin ; and " the faire Shure in which are
thousand Salmons bred" (vi. 36-55). The principal
description in which the names occur is in imitation of

1 Naunton, Fragmenla Regalia, has left us an entertaining portrait of
Perrot, and further information about him is to be found in Bagwell, Ireland
under Ike Tudors, vol. iii., and in the article in the Diet. Xat. Biog?: The
principal references in the poem are I. vi, 20 sq. ; III. vii. 30-61, and viii.
45 ; IV. iv.


the mythical stories of antiquity, designed with a view
to making a niise en scene for the episode described in
the cantos, which brings together the present and the
past. The selection of " Arlo " for this purpose is very
suitable, because it was ground hitherto unoccupied in
poetical legend, and, while known in England,^ it was
sufficiently remote for the purpose of fabulous narrative.
There is, however, the strangest mixture of imagery
and allusion. Cynthia, the Moon, contains, as usual,
an allusion to Queen Elizabeth.^ Jupiter and the other
pagan deities assemble on an Irish hill. Dame Nature,
an entirely philosophical conception (vii. 5-7), takes up
her station on an adjoining hill, and is compared, in
the brightness of her raiment, to the scriptural vision on
" mount Thabor," a comparison which is followed by an
analogy from the bridals of Peleus and Thetis on " Haemus
hill " ; and the appeal is conducted in the language of
an English law-court (13-15, etc.). But so exuberant
a fancy could not submit to straighter confinement.
The plan of the Faerie Queene gave the poet the freedom
in which he delighted, as thus he writes after completing
five books :

The waies, through which my weary steps I guide
In this delightfull land of Faer)',
Are so exceeding spacious and wyde,
And sprinkled with such sweet variety
Of all that pleasant is to eare or eye,
That I, nigh ravisht with rare thoughts delight.
My tedious travell doe forget thereby,
And, when I gin to feele decay of might,
It strength to me supplies, and chears my dulled spright.

(Intr. to Book VI.)

Having clothed Arlo-hill and the district with legend,
the writer gives the necessary touch of reality by
deploring the present condition of the district as the
harbour of "wolves and thieves" (vi. 55). " Aharlo "
and the " Great Wood " are mentioned in documents in
Spenser's time as the " chief fastness of the rebels," and

» "Who knows not Arlo-hill ?" (Afutab. vi. 36).
^ The Queen died in March 1603.


at the time this canto was published (1609) the district
must have been still largely waste. In the same year
Bacon sent a memorandum to the King advocating
" replantation," and the following passage which occurs in
it bears a close analogy with the train of thought and
imagery in the poem, with a similar confusion of pagan
and scriptural allusion:

For the excellency of the work, I will divide it into four
noble and worthy consequences that will follow thereupon.

The first of the four is Honour ; whereof I have spoken
enough already, were it not that the Harp of Ireland puts me
in mind of that glorious emblem or allegory wherein the wisdom
of antiquity did figure and shadow out works of this nature.
For the poets feigned that Orpheus, by the virtue and sweetness
of his harp, did call and assemble the beasts and birds, of
their nature wild and savage, to stand about him, as in a
theatre ; forgetting their affections of fierceness, of lust, and
of prey ; and listening to the tunes and harmonies of the
harp ; and soon after called likewise the stones and the woods
to remove, and stand in order about him : which fable
was anciently interpreted of the reducing and plantation of
kingdoms ; when people of barbarous manners are brought
to give over and discontinue their customs of revenge and
blood and of dissolute life and of theft and rapine, and to
give ear to the wisdom of laws and governments ; whereupon
immediately followeth the calling of stones for building and
habitation, and of trees for the seats of houses, orchards,
inclosures, and the like.

This work therefore, of all other most memorable and
honourable, your Majesty hath now in hand ; specially if your
Majesty join the harp of David, in casting out the evil spirit
of superstition, with the harp of Orpheus, in casting out
desolation and barbarism.

I cannot think that a settler in the west of Ireland
could have had sufficient leisure or detachment of mind
to write in the vein of these cantos, especially as
there was no lack of incident in Ireland to engage the
imagination ; such, for instance, as the rebellion of the
Earl of Desmond (i 579-1 583), who became the subject
of legend and romance soon after his death (November
1583); the exploits of Sir Richard Bingham, certainly



one of the greatest soldiers and perhaps one of the
greatest men of the time ; the personality and doings
of Perrot as Lord Deputy ; and, most of all, the rebellion
of Tyrone, openly declared in 1595, and thenceforward
threatening the whole country. There is not a word
or suggestion about any of these events, which must
have occupied the mind of every English settler.
Instead, we have a work written entirely from the point
of view of the Court in London, which deals, in regard
to external matters, principally with the struggle with
Spain, and only incidentally with Ireland as one of
the oversea preoccupations of the Queen's government,
and, as regards domestic matters, with the love affairs
and gossip of the Court. How could Spenser, living
in Ireland, have known about such things ? Even in
days of post-offices and newspapers it would be im-
possible to have the intimate knowledge which Spenser's
poem shows unless the writer lived in those circles.

Among such allusions, after those relating to the
principal characters, the story of Marinell and Florimell
is the most interesting, but some of the minor ones
are more purely topical, as, for instance, the episode of
iEmylia and Amyas, and of Pseana and Placidas, in
Book IV. Cantos viii. and ix. (see especially ix. 13-16),
where the poet is evidently pointing his moral by
reference to some incidents in the Court circle : otherwise
these stories would have no interest whatever. As
regards Marinell and Florimell, I have found great
difficulty in arriving at a conclusion as to their identity.
There can be no question, however, that the poet had
some real persons and incidents in his mind, and I
will therefore give the clues which I have followed, as

Online LibraryEdward George HarmanEdmund Spenser and the impersonations of Francis Bacon → online text (page 8 of 55)