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was among the first of his works of note. This work he addressed, in a short dedication, to Sir Philip Sidney,* who for wit and gallantry was the most popular of all the courtiers of his age; and, excelling as he did in the inventive part of poetry, was naturally struck with the powers of the youthful writer. The conversation and intimacy of so distinguished a personage prepared the way for his
*To this distinguished man he was introduced by his friend. Mr. Gabriel Hervey, of Trinity-Hall, by whose advice he had removed, in 1578, to London. Sidney's generous and elevating friendship speedily made the poet known to the Earl of Leicester; and from Leicester, in 1579, he received an appointment as agent in France, and other parts, though it proved abortive.
A story is related of him by Hughes, which, though disproved by his late biographer Mr. Todd, may be admitted perhaps in a note. Spenser, it is said, was an entire stranger to Sidney, when he began to write his Fairy Queen,' and introduced himself at Leicester-House by sending him a copy of the ninth canto of the first book of that poem. Sidney, surprised by the description of Despair, exhibited an unusual species of transport on the discovery of so new and uncommon a genius. After perusing a few stanzas, he turned to his steward, and bade him 'give the person who brought them fifty pounds;' a sum which, upon reading the next, he ordered to be doubled. The steward, no less surprised than his master, thought it his duty to remonstrate against so sudden and lavish a bounty; but upon reading an additional stanza, Sidney raised the gratuity to two hundred pounds, and commanded the steward to bestow it immediately, lest as he proceeded he should be tempted to give away his whole estate.' The following are said to be the stanzas, with which this accomplished scholar was first struck:
From him returning, sad and comfortless,
That cursed wight, whom I escaped whilere,
A man of hell that calls himself Despair;
being known, and received, at court. From this promising introduction, however, he did not instantly reap any advantage. He was, indeed, created poet-laureat to Queen Elizabeth, but his accompany
Who first us greets, and after fair areeds
So creeping close, as snake in hidden weeds,
• Which when he knew, and felt our feeble hearts Embosed with bole and bitter biting grief, Which love had lanced with his deadly darts,
With wounding words and terms of foul reprief;
That erst us held in love of lingering life:
The following is the Picture of the Cave of Despair:
His greasy locks, long growing and unbound,
And hid his face; through which his hollow eyne
His raw-bone cheeks, through penury and pine,
"His garment nought, but many ragged clouts,
With thorns together pinn'd and patched was,
And him beside there lay upon the grass,
All wallow'd in his own yet-lukewarm blood,
ing pension was only fifty pounds a-year. The LordTreasurer Burghley, who considered the mechanic arts as more important than the polite in a rising state, is accused of having in this instance, intercepted the annual hundred pounds of her Majesty's favour. And, as misfortunes have the strongest influence on elegant and cultivated minds, it was no wonder that Spenser was much depressed by the coldness of his reception. Accordingly, we find him pouring out his heart in complaints of his undeserved treatment; which, however, would probably have been less afflictive, if his noble patron by his employments abroad had not necessarily been absent from court. To these discouragements Spenser appears to allude, in a poem entitled The Ruins of Time,' written after Sidney's death, in the following stanza:
"O grief of griefs, O gall of all good hearts!
Of such as first were raised for virtue's parts;
Burghley afterward, likewise, conceived a dislike against him, for the satire which he apprehended was levelled at himself, in Mother Hubbard's Tale.'* In
Even the sighs of a miserable man, Hughes elegantly observes, are sometimes resented as an affront, by him who is the occasion of them. The following story, related by some as a matter of fact commonly reported at that time, reflects heavily upon the character of Burghley: it is discredited, however, by Dr. Birch. It has been said, that upon Spenser's presenting some poems to the Queen, she ordered him a gratuity of a hundred pounds; but the Lord-Treasurer objecting to it, scornfully
this poem, the author has vividly depicted the misfortune of depending on court-favours, in the following beautiful lines:
Full little knowest thou, that hast not tried,
demanded, "What, all this for a song?" The Queen replied, "Then give him what is reason." Spenser, having for some time expected in vain his remuneration, took an opportunity of presenting a paper to her Majesty, in the manner of a petition, in which he reminded her of her order by the following lines:
I was promised on a time
This produced the intended effect: the Queen, after sharply reproving the Treasurer, directed the payment to be instantly made. Mr. Todd, however, has disproved this story too.
* And yet notwithstanding the illiberal opposition of Lord Burghley, whose memory has been devoted to ignominy by every admirer of Spenser, the period during which the poet was condemned to this suffering was not long protracted; since, after a very few years of the servitude of office, at thirty-three he was rewarded by an ample and independent fortune, of which he was only deprived (twelve years afterward) by a general and national calamity. Few candidates for court-favour, with no better pretensions than great literary merit, have been so successful. That his burial was ordered by the Earl of Essex (as
When Lord Grey of Wilton was appointed Deputy of Ireland, Spenser was recommended to be his Secretary. This settled him in a scene of life very different from what he had formerly known; but that he discharged his employment with skill and capacity, is abundantly proved by his Discourse on the State of Ireland,' in which occur many most judicious remarks. He was now freed from the difficulties, under which he had hitherto struggled: but his principal being recalled in 1582, Spenser returned with him to England, and seems to have continued there till the untimely death of his first patron, Sir Philip Sidney, in 1586.
His services to the crown, as Secretary to the LordDeputy, having been recompensed by a grant from Queen Elizabeth of three thousand acres of land in the county of Cork, out of the forfeited estates of the Earl of Desmond, he determined to reside in Ireland. His house was at Kilcolman; and the river Mulla, which he has more than once beautifully introduced in his poems, ran through his grounds. About this time, he contracted an intimate friendship with Sir Walter Ralegh, who was then a captain under Lord Grey. His elegant poem, entitled Colin Clout's come home again,' in which that illustrious man is described under the name of the "Shepherd of the Ocean," is an interesting memorial of this friendship,* which springing from a similarity of taste in the polite
Mr. Todd remarks) may surely be considered as a token of that nobleman's respect for the poet, without proving that the poet was starved. Of the man, who had thus perished, a distinguished funeral might have seemed almost mockery.
• Through the recommendation of Sir Walter, Queen Eliza beth read all Spenser's writings.