Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/397

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

Hubberd's Tale). He was still in London on 1 Jan. 1590–1, when he dated thence ‘Daphnaïda,’ an elegy on Lady Douglas, daughter of Viscount Howard of Bindon, and wife of Arthur Gorges [q. v.] Ponsonby published it immediately, and Spenser dedicated it to Helena, marchioness of Northampton. Next month the queen gave proof of her appreciation by bestowing a pension on the poet. According to an anecdote, partly reported by Manningham, the diarist (Diary, p. 43), and told at length by Fuller, Lord Burghley, in his capacity of lord treasurer, protested against the largeness of the sum which the queen first suggested, and was directed by her to give the poet what was reasonable. He received a formal grant of 50l. a year in February 1590–1. But there is no ground for the common assumption that the pension carried with it the formal dignity of poet-laureate.

Spenser soon afterwards resumed residence at Kilcolman, and amid the sorrows of disillusion penned a charming account of his travels and court experiences, which he entitled ‘Colin Clouts come home againe.’ A vivid description, under disguised names, is given of the literary men and women whose sympathy he had won. Allusion is doubtless made to Shakespeare under the name of Aetion. Spenser sent the manuscript with a letter ‘dated from my house of Kilcolman the 27 of December 1591’ to Ralegh, to whom he expressed indebtedness for ‘singular favours and sundrie good turnes shewed’ to him at his ‘late being in England.’ The poem was not printed till 1595.

Meanwhile the success of the ‘Faerie Queene’ led Ponsonby, its publisher, to collect ‘such small poems of the same author as I heard were disperst abroad in sundry hands.’ A license for the publication was obtained on 29 Dec. 1590, and the volume appeared next year with the title ‘Complaints, containing sundrie small poems of the world's vanitie.’ These were nine in number, viz. ‘The Ruines of Time;’ ‘The Teares of the Muses;’ ‘Virgils Gnat’ (a translation of the ‘Culex,’ erroneously ascribed to Virgil); ‘Prosopopoia, or Mother Hubberd's Tale;’ ‘The Ruines of Rome, by Bellay;’ ‘Muiopotmos, or the Tale of the Butterflie;’ ‘Visions of the World's Vanitie;’ ‘Bellayes Visions,’ and ‘Petrarches Visions.’ Most of the poems were probably juvenile efforts, which had been in part rewritten. The last two pieces were revised versions of his contributions to Van der Noodt's volume of 1569. The ‘Gnat’ was described as ‘long since dedicated to the most noble and excellent Lord, the Earl of Leicester, late deceased.’ The title of ‘The Teares of the Muses,’ an interesting criticism of contemporary literary effort, in which each muse in turn deplored her waning power, was drawn from that of a Latin poem written by Harvey in 1578. ‘Mother Hubberd's Tale’ was stated to have been ‘long sithens composed in the raw conceipt of my youth.’ The best poem in the volume, ‘Muiopotmos,’ an allegorical account of a proud butterfly who is swept by a gust of wind into a spider's web, is the most airily fanciful of all Spenser's works. But the collection gave by its satiric freedom some offence in high quarters. Shakespeare, in ‘Midsummer Night's Dream’ (v. i. 52–4), described ‘The Teares of the Muses’ as ‘some satire keen and critical.’ ‘The Ruines of Time,’ in Chaucerian stanza (dedicated to Sidney's sister, the Countess of Pembroke), lamented the deaths of Lords Leicester and Warwick, Sidney, and Walsingham, but it incidentally reflected on Lord Burghley, with the result (according to John Weever's ‘Epigrams,’ 1599) that the poem was ‘called in.’ A like fate attended ‘Mother Hubberd's Tale,’ a satire on court vices and follies.

Ponsonby held forth the hope that he might hereafter issue other neglected or lost pieces by Spenser—viz. ‘“Ecclesiastes” and “Canticum Canticorum” translated, “A sennight's Slumber,” the “Hell of Lovers,” “His purgatorie”—being all dedicated to ladies; besides some other pamphlets looselie scattered abroad, as “The dying Pellican” [already noticed as ready for the press in the correspondence with Harvey], “The howers of the Lord,” “The sacrifice of a Sinner,” “The seven Psalms,” &c.’ None of these works were recovered.

In 1592 Spenser fell in love again; in 1593 the lady after some hesitation accepted his suit. In sonnets, called ‘Amoretti,’ he kept a sort of diary of his wooing, and we learn from one of them (No. 74) that the lady's Christian name was Elizabeth. She was probably daughter of one James Boyle, a kinsman of Richard Boyle, first earl of Cork [q. v.] Spencer and Elizabeth Boyle were married on 11 June 1594, either in the cathedral of St. Finbarr at Cork, or in St. Mary's Church, Youghal, in the neighbourhood of which town Elizabeth's father had property. Spenser celebrated his marriage in a splendid epithalamion—‘one of the grandest lyrics in English poetry.’

Meanwhile Spenser's neighbour, Lord Roche, was still pursuing him with litigation. In 1593 Roche presented two petitions against him, besides one against a certain Joan Ny Callaghan, whom Spenser, ‘a heavy adversary unto your suppliant,’ supported and main-