Sidney: The Critical Heritage

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66.

Life of Spenser

1679

Earlier biographical accounts had stated that Sidney advanced Spenser at court; this much expanded and intensified version contributed another strand to the Sidney myth. It continued to be cited in eighteenth century lives of Spenser; John Upton dismisses the story, but quotes the whole of it (Spenser’s Faerie Queene, London, 1758, pp. v-vii). Aubrey reports it more briefly (No. 63b). By the mid- to late eighteenth century it is probable that many readers were more closely familiar with Sidney as an adjunct of Spenser than with Arcadia.

For a suggestion that the author of the life was Brooke Bridges (1630-1702), see Alexander C. Judson, ‘The Seventeenth Century Lives of Edmund Spenser’, Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 10, 1946-7, p. 45.


From ‘A Summary of the Life of Mr. Edmond Spenser’, in The Works of that Famous English Poet, Mr. Edmond Spenser, London, 1679, sigs A1-A1v

Mr. Sidney (afterward Sir Philip) then in full glory at Court, was the Person, to whom [Spenser] design’d the first Discovery of himself; and to that purpose took an occasion to go one morning to Leicester-House, furnish’t only with a modest confidence, and the Ninth Canto of the First Book of his Faery Queen: He waited not long, e’re he found the lucky season for an address of the Paper to his hand; who having read the Twenty-eighth Stanza of Despair, (with some signs in his Countenance of being much affected, and surpris’d with what he had read) turns suddenly to his Servant, and commands him to give the Party that presented the Verses to him Fifty Pounds; the Steward stood speechless, and unready, till his Master having past over another Stanza, bad him give him an Hundred Pound; the Servant something stagger’d at the humour his Master was in, mutter’d to this purpose, That by the semblance of the Man that brought the Paper, Five Pounds would be a proper Reward; but Mr. Sidney having read the following Stanza, commands him to give Two Hundred Pounds, and that very speedily, least advancing his

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