Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/395

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

volume was called ‘Two other very commendable Letters, of the same mens writing; both touching the foresaid Artificial Versifying, and certain other Particulars: More lately deliuered vnto the Printer.’ These five published epistles were drawn from the recent correspondence of Harvey and Spenser, and mainly dealt with the vexed question of English scansion and Spenser's literary projects. In each volume only one letter was from Spenser. That which opened the first he signed ‘Immerito;’ it is without date. Spenser's second letter prefaced the second volume, and was dated from Leicester House 5 Oct. 1579, and is in most copies signed ‘E. Spenser.’ Both volumes, unique examples of which are in the British Museum, throw valuable light on Elizabethan literary history (cf. Letter-book of Gabriel Harvey, 1573–80, Camden Soc. 1884).

Meanwhile Spenser was hoping for more assured preferment. At last, in July 1580, probably through the influence of Lord Leicester and his nephew, Sir Philip Sidney, he was appointed secretary to Arthur Grey, fourteenth lord Grey de Wilton [q. v.], then going to Ireland as lord deputy. He landed in Dublin with Lord Grey on 12 Aug., and although he twice revisited England in 1589–90 and in 1596, Ireland remained his home until the close of 1598, within a month of his death. For his chief and his policy he always entertained the warmest admiration (see the View, passim, especially p. 655, Spenser's Works, Globe edit., and Faerie Queene, v.; cf. Kingsley, Westward Ho, chaps. ix., xi.). He accompanied Lord Grey on his expedition to Kerry in November 1580, when the Spaniards, who had seized Smerwick, were captured and executed, and he gave a vivid picture in his ‘View of the Present State of Ireland’ of the desolation that followed in the wake of ‘those late warres in Mounster.’ As Lord Grey's secretary he had, when in Dublin, to transcribe and collate official documents, many of which, dated in 1581 and 1582, are extant with verifications in his signature. He was well paid for his services, and in 1582 received for ‘rewards’ as secretary 162l. He found a congenial friend in Lodowick Bryskett [q. v.], another Irish official. On 22 March 1581 he was appointed clerk of the Irish court of chancery. This post was given him ‘free from the seal … in respect he was secretary to the Lord deputy’ (Cal. Fiants, Eliz. No. 3694). Spenser held it for some seven years. But besides official employment he secured much landed property. On 15 July 1581 he received a lease of the abbey and castle and manor of Enniscorthy in Wexford county; but this, on 9 Dec. following, he transferred to one Richard Synot. The sale money he seems to have invested in another abbey in New Ross. In 1582 he received a six years' lease of Lord Baltinglas's house in Dublin, and on 24 Aug. of that year a lease of New Abbey, co. Kildare. During the next two years he was officially described as ‘of New Abbey,’ where he seems to have often resided. On 15 May 1583, and again on 4 July 1584, he acted as a commissioner for musters in county Kildare. That Spenser was highly appreciated by the English society in Dublin is pleasantly shown in Bryskett's ‘Discourse of Civill Life’ (1606). He spent three days apparently in 1583 at Bryskett's little cottage near Dublin, engaged in literary debate with his fellow-guests, Dr. Long, primate of Armagh, Sir Thomas Norris, and many military and civil officers stationed in Ireland. But the country of Ireland was far from congenial to the poet. He regarded the Irish as a ‘savage nation’ with whose ideas and demands he was wholly out of sympathy; and such scenes of blood and horror as he witnessed in Kerry on his arrival permanently depressed him. He was harassed, too, by pecuniary difficulties, and by reminiscences of his disappointment in love. ‘The want of wealth and loss of love,’ wrote a friend in England in 1586, scarce permitted him to ‘breathe’ (A. W. in Davison's Poetical Rhapsody, ed. Bullen, i. 65). His main solace was in literary work. To the continuation of the ‘Faerie Queene,’ of which book i. and part of book ii. were finished before leaving England, he devoted all his leisure. When at Bryskett's cottage about 1583, he described to the company the serious aim of the poem. The earliest references which he made to Ireland in the work appear in canto ix. of book ii. (see stanzas 13, 16, and 24), and that book was probably completed in the early years of his residence in Dublin. At the end of 1586 he doubtless wrote his elegy on ‘Astrophel,’ i.e. Sir Philip Sidney (first published with ‘Colin Clout’ in 1595), and the fine sonnet to his friend Harvey (which the latter appended to his ‘Foure Letters’ in 1592).

On 22 June 1588 Spenser resigned his clerkship of the court of chancery in Dublin, purchasing from Bryskett the post of clerk of the council of Munster, of which one of the party he had met at Bryskett's cottage, Sir Thomas Norris [q. v.], was acting president. He had already obtained some landed estate in the neighbourhood of Cork, where the Munster council held its sessions. In 1586 the property of the earls of Desmond