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of very curious learning, and far remote from the flowery paths loved and frequented by the Muses, The lord Falkland, in his elegy, celebrates him as an admirable scholar; and says, that the extracts hę took, and the observations which he made on the books he read, were themselves a treasure oflearning, though the originals should happen to be lost. In his friendships he was cautious and sincere, yet accused of levity and ingratitude to his friends : but his accusers were the criminals, insensible of the charms, and strangers to the privileges of friendship. For the powers of friendship, not the least of virtues, can be only experienced by the virtuous and good; and with these Jonson was happily connected in the bonds of intimacy and affection, Randolph and Cartwright revered him as the great reformer, and as the father of the British stage, and gloried in the bonorary title of his adopted sons : and Selden has acknowledged the good offices which Jonson did him by his interest at court, when he had incurred the royal displeasure by publishing his “History of Tithes.” Stern and rigid as his virtue was, shis Cato of poets was easy and social in the convtvial meetings of his friends, and the laws of his Symposia, inscribed over the chimney of the Apollo, a room in the Devil-Tavern near Temple-Bar, where he kept his club, shew us that he was neither averse to the pleasures of conversation, nor ignorant of what would render it agreeable and improving. It is true that he was sparing in his commendations of the works of others, which probably gave occasion to accuse
him of envy and ill nature; but when he commends, he does it with sincerity and warnith. A man of sense is always cautious in giving characters; nor will an honest man applaud where he cannot approve; and Jonson well knew the people may admire, but that to praise is an act of knowledge and of judgment.
By the death of Jonson his family itself became extinct, the only issue he left being his Plays and Poems; and their fate has in some measure resembled his. Yet such is the felicity of their better fortunes, that surviving the attacks of envious contemporary rivals, they have received, from the justice of discerning unprejudiced posterity, a fair and an increasing fame. With those, whose taste for simple and striking copies of nature is yet uncorrupted by the fastidious delicacy of fashionable refinements, the works of Jonson stand high in esteem : and as they are read from age to age, so they will perpetuate his name with all the honours which his genius and bis learning deserve.
SPENSER In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, so fruitful in genius, flourished Edmund Spenser the most eminent of English Poets till that time, unless we except Chaucer, who was, in some respects, his master and original. The accounts we have of his birth and family are but obscure and imperfect; and it has happened to him, as to many other men
of genius and learning, to be much better known by his works than by the history of his life. He was born in London, at what period is uncertain, and had his education at Pembroke Hall in Cambridge, where he stood for a fellowship in competition with Nir. Andrews, afterwards Bishop of Winchester, but without success. This disappointment, added to the narrowness of his circumstances, forced him to quit the univerzity; and we next find him residing with some friends in the North, where he fell in love with his Rosalind, whom he so beautifully celebrates in his pastoral poems, and of whose cruelty he so palhetically complains.
Poetry is frequently the offspring of love and retirement; it is, therefore, probable his genius began first to distinguish itself about this time; for the Shepherd's Calendar, which is so full of his unsuccessful passion for Rosalind, was the first of his works which obtained distinction. This he addressa ed, by a short dedication in verse, to Sir Philip Sidney, under the humble signature of Innmerito. Sir Philip was then in the highest reputation for wit, gallantry and polite accomplishment; and seems, indeed, to have been the most universally admired and beloved of the Gentlemen of the age in which he lived. He was himself a very good writer, and excelled niore especially in the fabulous or inventive part of poetry; it is, therefore, not to be wondered that he soon became sensible of the merit of our author. He was one of the first who discovered it, and recommended it to the notice of the best judges of that time; and, so long as this
great man lived, Spenser never wanted a judicious. friend and a generous patron.
After a residence of some time in the North, Spenser yielded to the suggestions of some friends, who advised him to quit his obscure retirement, and go to London, that he might be in the way of promotion. He alludes to this circumstance in his sixth Eclogue, where Hobbinol, a name by which he designates his intimate friend Mr. Gabriel Harvey, persuades Colin to leave the hilly conntry, as barren and unthriving solitude, and remove to a better soil. The first step he afterwards made towards preferment was, as has already been observed, his acquaintance with Sir Philip Sidney; but whether that acquaintance began inmediately on his addressing to him the Shepherd's Calendar, or some time after, appears uncertain. The reason of this uncertainty is, that he is said to have been a stranger to Sir Philip when he had begun to write his “Fairy Queen," and that he went to Leicester-house and introduced himself by sending in to Sir Philip, then Mr. Sidney, a copy of the ninth Canto of the first book of that Poem. Mr. Sidney vas struck with surprise at the description of Despair in that Canto; and, after having read some stanzas, turned to his steward with an unusual kind of transport, and ordered him to give the person who brought those verses fifty pounds; and, having read the next stanza, ordered the sum to be doubled. The steward was no less surprised than his master, and thought it his duty to make some delay in executing so sudden and lavish a bounty;
but Mr. Sidney, having read one stanza more, raised his gratuity to two hundred pounds, and commanded the steward to give it immediately, lest, as he read further, he might be tempted to give away his whole estate. From this time he admitted the author to his acquaintance and conversation, and prepared the way for his being known and received at court..
He did not, however, immediately reap any great benefit from this introduction. He was indeed created Poet Laureat to the Queen, but for some time he wore a barren laurel, the place without the pension. The Lord Treasurer Burleigh had not, as it seems, the same taste of Spenser's merit with Sir Philip Sidney; and whether from neglect, or some particular resentment, or from whatever cause, he is said to have intercepted the Queen's bounty to this unfortunate and ingenious man.
This made a deep impression on Spenser's mind, which seems to have continued through a great part of his life : accordingly we find him, in many parts of his works, pouring forth his heart in complaints of so hard and undeserved a treatment. The absence of his noble patron Sir Philip Sidney by his employments abroad, and particularly in the wars of the Low Countries, rendered this treatment the more unfortunate.
In a poem called the Ruins of Time, which was written some time after Sidney's death, Spenser seems to allude to this discouragement; and in the poem called the “ Tears of the Muses” he reproaches persons of rank and fortune with their total disregard of learning.