Wayne Erickson
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Spenser and Ralegh
Friendship and Literary Patronage
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In the context of Sir Walter Ralegh's large, varied, and turbulent life, Edmund Spenser must be accorded a very small place, as any historian's assessment or any biography of Ralegh attests. The same kind of contextual adjustment should apply to Ralegh's patronage of Spenser, which looms large in accounts of Spenser's literary career. Indeed, the relationship between Spenser and Ralegh offers an especially complex instance of an issue of irresolvable contention among early modern scholars, how to read rank, class, and status. Much of that critical commentary concerns supposed differences of opinion between Spenser and Ralegh about the kind and value of the poetry they write, though issues of competition and class-consciousness creep into these discussions of poetic value. According to Patrick Cheney, when Spenser writes about Ralegh's poetry, he aims to suggest that 'Ralegh's verse inverts the honourable end of Spenser's civic verse'.

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