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This chapter surveys previous biographies by Alexander Grosart (1882–84), Alexander Judson (1945), and Andrew Hadfield (2012), re-examining the evidence concerning Spenser’s lineage and concludes that we know only that he was born in 1554. His father’s name and occupation are unknown – although conjectures that he was a journeyman merchant tailor have found their way into reference works. From an important manuscript source, the ‘Nowell Account Book’, Manchester, Chetham’s Library, MS A.6.50, we know that Spenser was the protégé of a circle of London clergymen, who expected him to take holy orders. This important documentary source details funds distributed from the estate of Robert Nowell, Attorney of the Queen’s Court of Wards, and brother of Alexander Nowell, Dean of St Paul’s. Spenser’s name does not appear in the admission records for Merchant Taylors’ School. We know that he attended Merchant Taylors’ School only because of bequests he received in the ‘Nowell Account Book’.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80

This chapter examines Cambridge, University Library MS Ff.2.38. When this paper household manuscript has been addressed in scholarship, it has been found remarkable for its representative qualities as a marker of the devotion and ‘modest’ intellectual accomplishments typically assumed to belong to the provincial gentry audience with whom so many fifteenth-century household books can be associated. Radulescu takes issue with this point, arguing that the inclusion of two popular texts in the Cambridge book—the penitential romance, Roberd of Cisely and Pety Job, a Middle English retelling of the Lessons of the Dead—indicates the connections existing between the ‘microcosm’ of the Leicestershire household associated with the manuscript and the ‘macrocosm’ comprising national developments in political poetry that linked expressions of penitence with assertions of royal power. Indeed, Radulecu points out, the particularly Job-like portrayal of king Roberd in the Cambridge text of the poem suggests that the poem was selected, or doctored, in response to the contemporary vogue for Job-like portrayals of royalty. The ‘provincial’ household audience of Cambridge MS Ff.2.38 is thus shown to be well connected with cultural developments taking place concurrently in the metropolitan London milieu.

in Household knowledges in late-medieval England and France
Spenser, Sidney, and the early modern chivalric code

The early Spenser, once he decided not to take holy orders, fully subscribed to the early modern chivalric code as it was practiSed by Sir Henry and Sir Philip Sidney. Little has previously been said about Sir Henry Sidney, but Brink shows that he and Lady Mary were likely to have been in London at Baynard’s Castle or Leicester House while Sir Henry attended Privy Council meetings. Also, it remained a possibility that he would again be sent to Ireland with Philip Sidney as his deputy until February 1600. The literary evidence of contact between Spenser and the Sidneys consists principally of commendatory poems, but in this chapter Brink shows that Lodowick Bryskett, a close friend of Spenser’s in Ireland, was resident in London from 1579 to 1581. Earlier Bryskett accompanied Philip Sidney on his Grand Tour, and, as Sir Henry’s protégé, held the position of Clerk of the Council in Ireland. Bryskett, thus, was a connecting link for Spenser, the Sidneys, and Ireland.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80
London, British Library MS Harley 2253 and the traffic of texts

To date, scholarship on Harley 2253 has sought to determine how this fourteenth-century book might have served the interests and priorities of a small group of West Midlands families with which its scribe can be identified. While acknowledging the usefulness of this context for understandings of the manuscript, Critten argues that Harley 2253 also demonstrates the connections pertaining between such insular audiences and a pan-European network of textual transmission. His chapter explores the relative connotations of Latin, French, and English across the texts compiled in Harley 2253 and demonstrates that the shifting associations of French in particular both enabled and inflected the cross-Channel traffic of texts. Most importantly, Critten shows that native English facility in French and Latin meant that the main scribe of Harley 2253 and his readers could conceive of themselves not only as passive recipients of texts from beyond England but also as active participants in the transfer of texts into and throughout the Continent.

in Household knowledges in late-medieval England and France

Chapter 3 describes the conflict at Cambridge between Thomas Cartwright, Lady Margaret lecturer in divinity, and John Whitgift, future Archbishop of Canterbury. Cartwright, a gifted lecturer, threatened the establishment by supporting the election of bishops on scriptural grounds. As an undergraduate, Spenser witnessed the ‘takeover’ by Whitgift and Andrew Perne, who ‘reformed’ the university statutes, making them more restrictive than they had been under Catholic Mary Tudor, to oust Cartwright. Heads of colleges had to approve degrees before they could be awarded. A spin-off from these conflicts affected Gabriel Harvey’s receipt of the M.A. in 1573. Since Spenser received the B.A. from Pembroke College in 1573, Harvey cannot have served as Spenser’s tutor. His M.A. was not awarded until after Spenser had graduated, and it required the intervention of John Young, Master of Pembroke College, for the degree to be awarded.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80
Theatre and image in an age of emergencies

This book is about the relationship between emergencies and the spectator. In the early twenty-first century, ‘emergencies’ are commonplace in the newsgathering and political institutions of western industrial democracies. From terrorism to global warming, the refugee crisis to general elections, the spectator is bombarded with narratives that seek to suspend the criteria of everyday life in order to address perpetual ‘exceptional’ threats. I argue that repeated exposure to these narratives through the apparatuses of contemporary technology creates a ‘precarious spectatorship’, where the spectator’s ability to rationalise herself, or her relationship with the object of her spectatorship, is compromised.

In terms of the ways in which emergencies are dramatized for the spectator, this book focuses primarily on the framing and distribution of images. Because images are cheap and easy to produce; because they can be quickly and limitlessly distributed; because they are instantly affective and because they can be easily overwritten, they have become a pre-eminent tool in the performance of emergencies. In response to this, the book proposes theatrical performance as a space in which the relationship between the spectator and emergencies may be critically examined, and I analyse a range of contemporary theatrical pieces which challenge the spectator under the aegis of emergencies.

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From E.K. to Roffy’s ‘boye’ to Rosalind

Chapter 8 revisits the issue of E.K.’s identity and shows that Harvey was involved in preparing E.K.’s Gloss to the Shepheardes Calender. The Gloss introduces biographical details about Harvey’s life that Spenser by himself could not have supplied. On these grounds, Brink suggests that Harvey supplied the Gloss to Spenser, but that Spenser edited it and so assumed editorial control over the text. This textual analysis is supported by the bibliographical fact that the Gloss supplies annotations for references later cut from the text.

Brink thinks that the combination of homosexual references in the text of the Shepheardes Calender and the discussion of pederasty in the Gloss makes Harvey’s participation all the more likely. Brink suggests the possibility that Spenser insisted on his anonymity in the text of the Shepheardes Calender and references to it because he wanted to prevent reprisals against Bishop John Young. After reviewing the joking interchanges in Latin between Harvey and Immerito in Familiar Letters, Brink suggests that it seems likely that, whatever fictional identity Rosalind has in the Shepheardes Calender, his personal romance ended happily with his marriage to Machabyas Chylde.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80

This chapter participates in an ongoing reassessment of the late-medieval household book that sees such manuscripts less as testaments to an aspirational mindset among their readers—that is, as part of an attempt to assume the lifestyles and prestige associated with some of the texts that they compile—than as part and parcel of the complex ethical universes constituted by individual medieval homes. Drawing on affect theory and object-relations theory, Seaman shows how the particular configuration of people, animals, and things in The Hunting of the Hare (compiled in Advocates 19.3.1), Sir Corneus, and The Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools (both compiled in Ashmole 61) generate new lessons on the spirit of empathy and tolerance as well as on the sense of shared responsibility on which the success of the household must depend. Thus, rather than offering a brief escape from the moralising and devotional works alongside which they are compiled, these comic works offer a route towards the renovation of the home and of the complex assemblage of agents that it comprises.

in Household knowledges in late-medieval England and France

This chapter argues that, after leaving Cambridge, Spenser was employed in London from 1574 to 1578 by John Young, Master of Pembroke College. Previously, it has been assumed that he was employed by Young only after he became Bishop of Rochester in 1578. The only source for the assumption that Spenser was the ‘secretary’ to an Elizabethan bishop is a note written inside the book that Spenser gave Gabriel Harvey for Christmas in 1578. During Spenser’s sojourn in London, he met his future wife, became disillusioned with the Church of England, and decided against taking holy orders. A re-examination of topical satire in the ecclesiastical eclogues shows that Spenser attacked John Aylmer, Bishop of London, for selling timber on church lands to enrich his offspring. This satire in the Shepheardes Calender, later echoed in the Marprelate tracts, indicates that Spenser no longer planned to take holy orders. In an eclogue such as Maye, Spenser has been identified as a Puritan, Church of England Protestant, and even a Catholic. In the ecclesiastical eclogues, he deliberately uses a dialogic structure to conceal his religious persuasion.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80

This chapter explains that the Elizabethan grammar school education, which Spenser and Shakespeare would have received, involved learning to read Latin texts in Latin and to engage in double translation, i.e., sophisticated exercises in translating from Latin to English and back again. Brink surveys the unusually liberal education that Spenser would have received at Merchant Taylors’ School and suggests that Richard Mulcaster influenced Spenser’s decision to write in English. Mulcaster forcefully advocated educating the lower classes and even supported educating women. In this chapter, the reader is introduced to the typological reading encouraged by studying Alexander Nowell’s Catechism. The reader is shown how typological reading is likely to have influenced Spenser’s symbolism in Book I of the Faerie Queene.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80