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He acted a part in all the various functions of public life, military, naval, and civil; and was illustrious in all. He was a projector on the grandest scale, an improver of naval architecture, a founder of colonies, a promoter of distant commerce. As the introducer or disseminator of two inportant articles of subsistence and luxury, he in a vast degree contributed to augment the food, and to modify the habits of all the nations of Europe. His fortunes were alike remarkable for enviable success and pitiable reverses. Raised to eminent station through the favour of the greatest female Sovereign of England, be perished on the scaffold through the dislike and cowardly policy of the meanest of her kings. To crown all, his fame in letters, particularly as the
author of that memorable work with which ‘his prison hours enriched the world,' placed his name in glorious association with those of Bacon and Hooker, as it otherwise was with those of Essex and Vere, of Hawkins and Drake. With respect to his moral character, we can find little that is favourable in the sentiments of his contemporaries. Though unquestionably possessed of friendly dispositions, kindly affections, and much tenderness of heart; and though all his opinions and feelings, as expressed in his writings, were strongly on 'virtue's side,' he never was considered as a man whose conduct was steadily regulated by either truth or probity. Even where his aims appeared great and worthy, they were believed to be contaminated by the admixture of an impure and a grasping ambition. Though always 'gazed at as a star,' the feelings with which his path was viewed were far from those of love, confidence, or reverence. But the grand and devout demeanour displayed at his execution, made men unwilling to dwell upon his faults, and threw all unpleasing recollections into the shade. Had James been a worthy and magnanimous, instead of a mean and pusillanimous prince, the name of Raleigh, though it would have, no doubt, been recorded along with the other conspicuous characters of his time, would not have descended to us with that halo of literary and martyr-like glory which surrounds it, and will, in all probability, accompany it to a far more distant posterity.”
BORN, 1553; DIED, 1598.
My Master dear arose to mind,
And still insatiate of the growing joy;
He whose green bays shall bloom for ever young,
And whose dear name whenever I repeat,
Sweet Spenser-sweetest bard; yet not more sweet
SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH contributed an essay to “The Edinburgh Review,” in which he sketches, with a masterly hand, the state of English literature during the reigns of Elizabeth and James. “The age of Queen Elizabeth," says this admirable writer, "was by far the brightest in the history of English literature, or indeed of the human intellect. There never was anywhere any thing like the sixty or seventy years that elapsed from the middle of Elizabeth's reign to the period of the Restoration. In point of real force and originality of genius, neither the age of Pericles, nor the age of Augustus, nor the times of Leo X., nor of Louis XIV., can come at all into comparison ; for, in that short period, we shall find the names of Shakspeare, and Bacon, and Spenser, and Sidney, and Hooker, and Taylor, and Barrow, and Raleigh ; of Napier, Milton, Cudworth, Hobbes, and many others—men, all of them, not merely of great talents and accomplishments, but of vast compass and reach of understanding, and of minds truly creative and original; not perfecting art by the delicacy of their taste, or digesting knowledge by the justness of their reasonings, but making vast and substantial additions to the materials upon which taste and reason must hereafter be employed, and enlarging to an incredible and unparalleled extent, both the stores and resources of the human faculties.”
We observed in our sketch of Lord Surrey's life, that from the time of Chaucer until the publication of that nobleman's works, the spirit of English poetry had been gradually retrograding. About the period, however, when Spenser came forth to delight the world, various causes, both religious and political, had concurred to stimulate the progress of human improvement, and to brighten the horizon of England's literary glory. Among the most distinguished of the many writers who then appeared, and whom Hazlitt has designated the "Giant Sons of Genius, that stood indeed upon the earth, but towered above their fellows, and who rose by clusters and in constellations, never so to rise again," was the sweetest of bards, Edmund Spenser. Of his parentage and birth various contradictory accounts bave been published. He repeatedly alludes to this subject in his works, and claims kindred with persons of rank. It is generally supposed that he was a descendant of the ancient family of the Spensers, of Northamptonshire. "The nobility of the Spensers," says Gibbon, the liistorian of the Roman empire," has been illustrated and enriched by the trophies of Marlborough ; but I exhort them to consider the · Faerie Queene' as the most precious jewel in their coronet.” Edmund's parentage, however, was humble. Like Chaucer, he was a native of London, where he was born in the year 1553, in East Smithfield. The place of his early education is not known with certainty; but it has been ascertained, that he was admitted as a sizar of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, in 1569, and received his degree as Master of Arts in 1576, in which year he was an unsuccessful candidate for a fellowship. While in the University, his first poetical effusions were written, and it was there he formed an intimacy with the learned Gabriel Harvey. It does not appear that he acquired any collegiate distinction. On leaving Cambridge, he lived with some relations in the north of England, and is supposed to have been employed as a tutor. At this period of his life, he became attached to a lady to whom he addressed, under the name of Rosaline, some pretty verses in his “Shepherds' Calendar," which was the first work
he published, and which exhibits a beautiful model of pastoral poetry. Spenser's early affection was not returned by Rosaline, who rejected both his addresses and his pastorals. By the advice of his friend, Gabriel Harvey, he was induced to return to London, was introduced by him to Sir Philip Sidney; and through the influence of that eminent person, he obtained the patronage of the Earl of Leicester. The Sidney family procured him the office of poet-laureat, which was bestowed on him by Queen Elizabeth. The favours conferred upon him by his Sovereign, and some passages in the "Shepherds' Calendar,” which were alleged to be of a political character, created a hostile feeling towards the poet on the part of Lord Burleigh, who became his implacable enemy. Notwithstanding the enmity of that celebrated statesman and lawyer, Spenser obtained many clever and distinguished friends, one of whom was the Earl of Leicester.
In 1579 he employed Spenser to execute some commission in France; and afterwards, through this nobleman's recommendation, he was sent to Ireland. In 1580 Lord Grey de Wilton went to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant, and Spenser accompanied him as his Secretary. During the period of two years that he remained there, he discharged his public duties with ability and zeal; and on his return to that country, he composed the greater part of the “Faerie Queene,” the most brilliant and popular of his works. Lord Grey de Wilton having been recalled from the Irish Government, in 1582, Spenser returned with him to England; and as a reward for his faithful services, his Sovereign presented him with a grant of land in Ireland, consisting of 3,028 acres, in the county of Cork, out of the forfeited estates of the Earl of Desmond. By the terms of the gift, he was obliged to become resident on the lands assigned to him. The ancient castle of Kilcolman, which originally belonged to the Earl of Desmond, was the place of his residence for four years. In this delightful retreat, he was visited by Sir Walter Raleigh, then a young man, who, after Sir Philip Sidney's death, became his friend and patron. It was, probably, by the advice of Raleigh, that Spenser was
induced to prepare for publication the three first books of his “Faerie Queene," which were the fruits of his sojourn at Kilcolman. The manuscript of this delightful poem, so far as the poet had then finished it, was submitted to the friendly criticism of Raleigh, whom Spenser poetically termed the “Shepherd of the Ocean."
This charming spot is thus described in Smith's “Natural and Civil History of the County and City of Cork.” “Two miles north-west of Doneraile is Kilcolman, a ruined castle of the Earl of Desmond; but more celebrated for being the residence of the immortal Spenser, when he composed his divine poem of the Faerie Queene.' The castle is now almost level with the ground. It was situated on the north side of a fine lake, in the midst of a vast plain, terminated to the East by the county of Waterford mountains; Bally-houra hills to the North, or, as Spenser terms them, the mountains of Mole ; Nagle mountains to the South ; and the moun. tains of Kerry to the West. It commanded a view of above half the breadth of Ireland; and must have been, when the adjacent uplands were wooded, a most pleasant and romantic situation ; from whence, no doubt, Spenser drew several parts of the scenery of his poem. The river Mulla, which he more than once has introduced in his poems, ran through his grounds." Spenser describes himself whilst living there, as“ keeping his flock under the foot of the mountain Mole; among the cool shades of green alders, by the shore of Mulla, and tuning his oaten pipe, as was his custom, to his fellowshepherd swains."
“When we conceive,” says Campbell in his “Specimens of the British Poets," "Spenser reciting his compositions to Raleigh in a scene so beautifully appropriate, the mind casts a pleasing retrospect over that influence, which the enterprise of the discoverer of Virginia, and the genius of the author of the • Faerie Queene,' have respectively produced on the fortune and language of England. The fancy might even be pardoned for a momentary superstition, that the genius of their country hovered unseen over their meeting, casting her first look of regard on the poet that was destined to inspire her future Milton; and the other