A Biography of Edmund Spenser

 by John W. Hales


A Biography of Edmund Spenser by John W. Hales book cover
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"The life of Spenser is wrapt in a similar obscurity to that which hides from us his great predecessor Chaucer, and his still greater contemporary Shakspere. As in the case of Chaucer, our principal external authorities are a few meagre entries in certain official documents, and such facts as may be gathered from his works. The birth-year of each poet is determined by inference. The circumstances in which each died are a matter of controversy. What sure information we have of the intervening events of the life of each one is scanty and interrupted. So far as our knowledge goes, it shows some slight positive resemblance between their lives. They were both connected with the highest society of their times; both enjoyed court favour, and enjoyed it in the substantial shape of pensions. They were both men of remarkable learning. They were both natives of London. They both died in the close vicinity of Westminster Abbey, and lie buried near each other in that splendid cemetery. Their geniuses were eminently different: that of Chaucer was the active type, Spenser's of the contemplative; Chaucer was dramatic, Spenser philosophical; Chaucer objective, Spenser subjective; but in the external circumstances, so far as we know them, amidst which these great poets moved, and in the mist which for the most part enfolds those circumstances, there is considerable likeness." - Excerpt

It is said that his friend Harvey introduced him to that famous accomplished gentleman--that mirror of true knighthood--Sir Philip Sidney, and it would seem that Penshurst became for some time his home. There has already been quoted a line describing Spenser as 'the southern shepheardes boye.' This southern shepherd is probably Sidney. Sidney, it would seem, introduced him to his father and to his uncle, the Earl of Leicester. - Alibris

 

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