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Chapter 7 contextualizes the relationship between events occurring in 1579–780, such as the publication of John Stubbs’s Gaping Gulf and the Shepheardes Calender. This political discussion serves as the background for close readings of the Aprill and November eclogues. Spenser’s Aprill has been described as an early offering in the cult of Elizabeth, but he undercuts his eulogy to Elizabeth in Aprill by ironic mythological references to Niobe. Rather than making use of the story of Astraea, the just maid, who ushers in a golden age, Spenser turns his back on the symbolism that would identify Elizabeth with Augustus and a golden age. In a close reading of the November eclogue, using Vergil’s Eclogues, Brink shows that this eclogue, like Virgil’s elegy on Julius Caesar, points to the possibility that Elizabeth’s death will lead to civil war. The November eclogue, instead of triumphantly commemorating Elizabeth’s accession to the throne on 17 November, becomes a dirge.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80
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This brief conclusion restates the facts of Spenser’s early life, integrating into this factual outline the points made in this biographical study. In addition, this portrait of Spenser depicts his departure for Ireland as a high point in his life. He concluded the Shepheardes Calender with the bold claim that it was a ‘Calender for euery yeare’ and the fervent hope that his pastoral would outwear ‘steele in strength’ and ‘continewe till the worlds dissolution’. The aspiration in these lines testifies to the idealism that inspired the early Spenser and that prompted him to envision a life in Ireland where he might succeed in fashioning the Renaissance epic.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80
‘Minde on honour fixed’

This revisionary biographical study documents that Spenser was the protégé of a circle of churchmen who expected him to take holy orders, but between 1574, when he left Pembroke College, and 1579, when he published the Shepheardes Calender, he decided against a career in the church. At Pembroke College and in London, Spenser watched the Elizabethan establishment crack down on independent thinking. The sequestration of Edmund Grindal was a watershed event in his early life, as was his encounter with Philip Sidney, the dedicatee of to the Shepheardes Calender. Once Spenser exchanged the role of shepherd-priest for that of shepherd-poet, he understood that his role was not just to celebrate the victories of Protestant England over the Spanish empire, immortalize in verse the virtues of Gloriana’s knights, but also to ‘fashion a noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline’. The received biography of the early Spenser emphasizes Gabriel Harvey, who is reported to have been Spenser’s tutor. Brink shows that Harvey could not have been Spenser’s tutor and argues that Harvey published Familiar Letters (1580) to promote his ambition to be named University Orator at Cambridge. Brink shows that Spenser had already received preferment. His life is contextualized by comparisons with contemporaries including Philip Sidney, Lodowick Bryskett, Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Ralegh. Brink’s provocative study, based upon a critical re-evaluation of manuscript and printed sources, emphasizes Philip Sidney over Harvey and shows that Spenser’s appointment as secretary to Lord Grey was a preferment celebrated even years later by Camden.

Familiar Letters is usually interpreted as a collaborative venture on the part of Harvey and Spenser and their joint effort to obtain preferment. This chapter shows that Harvey orchestrated the publication without Spenser’s assistance. In Familiar Letters (1580) we are told that Spenser (Immerito) gave copies of the letters to a ‘Well-Willer’ who then gave the correspondence to Harvey’s printer, Henry Bynneman. Brink is the first to point out that ‘Well-Willer’ is an English version of Benevolio, a figure in Harvey’s Letter-Book.The letters themselves are described as ‘scholarly pointes of learning’ because they focus on the science of earthquakes and prosody, not topics of general interest to courtiers or diplomats. The letters are intended to further Harvey’s career in an academic setting. Twelve years later when Harvey discusses the 1580 correspondence, he does not repeat this story, but acknowledges that the correspondence was printed to further his campaign to be University Orator at Cambridge. By references in the letters themselves, Brink shows that Spenser had already become the client of Lord Grey and that he had already received preferment. Spenser had no need to collaborate with Harvey to win preferment.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80

A principal contribution of this revisionary biography is that Gabriel Harvey’s relationship with Edmund Spenser is fully contextualized. This is the first close reading of Gabriel Harvey’s Gratulationes Valdinenses (1578), a work he intended to serve as his Shepheardes Calender. Harvey reprinted a number of poems by members of the Leicester circle, but nothing written by Edmund Spenser, suggesting that Spenser and Harvey were not especially close friends in 1578. In the tributes to Elizabeth and Leicester, he rejoices at the queen’s letting him kiss her hand and to the suggestion that he will be sent to Italy. He gloats about the queen’s comment that he already looks Italian (vultu Itali). In Book Four, he addresses a series of eulogies to Sir Christopher Hatton, the Earl of Oxford, and Sir Philip Sidney. In the eulogy to Philip Sidney, Harvey proclaims, ‘Sum iecur’ [I am all liver], a proclamation that suggests that he is consumed with lust for Sidney. The phrase ‘cogit amare iecur’ [the liver knows how to love] becomes a refrain in later satiric treatments of Harvey beginning with Pedantius (1581). Harvey’s own Gratulationes Valdinenses is the source for those taunts.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80
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This introduction considers the issue of how much weight to give to autobiographical passages in the work of a sixteenth-century poet. Brink alludes to the expectation of his early patrons that Spenser would take holy orders and become a churchman and expresses scepticism about the idea that Spenser ever had an ambition to become a court poet.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80

This chapter asks and answers the question of why Ireland was attractive to Englishmen, particularly those, like Spenser, who were intrigued by adventure and had few, if any, prospects in England. The combination of Latin debates on Roman colonization and the lurid report of Captain Thomas Smith, a patron of Gabriel Harvey’s, being boiled and fed to dogs sparked interest in Ireland. For Spenser, his appointment as secretary to Arthur, Lord Grey of Wilton, was a preferment, an extraordinary opportunity for a twenty-five-year-old poet. In the sixteenth century, Ireland resembled the England of the Wars of the Roses, and it promised medieval glamour as well as remarkable opportunities for social advancement to those, like Spenser, who traded sixteenth-century England for Ireland.

in The early Spenser, 1554–80

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
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

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