- Spenser, Edmund
- (ca. 1552-1599)English poet. He is best known for his allegorical romance The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596). Born in London, he was educated at the Merchant Taylors' School, an institution that emphasized the value of humanistic education to pre-pare boys for public service. He entered Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, as a sizar (a student supported by work as a servant) and received his B.A. degree in 1573 and M.A. in 1576. In 1578 he became personal secretary to the bishop of Rochester, then entered the household of the Earl of Leicester in London, where he became a friend of Sir Philip Sidney. Spenser married in 1579 and not long afterward be-came private secretary to Lord Grey of Wilton, the new lord deputy of Ireland. Stationed first in Dublin and then in Cork, he acquired a number of administrative positions that permitted him to hire a deputy to do most of the work while keeping most of the income for himself. He also engaged in land speculation. Though Lord Grey soon left Ireland, Spenser lived there for the rest of his life.Publication of the first part of The Faerie Queene in 1590 brought literary fame and also an annual stipend from the queen. An uprising of Irish peasants in 1598 destroyed his country estate. Although he regarded Ireland as his home, his sympathies lay with English colonists like himself, not with the native Irish.In Ireland Spenser won the patronage of Sir Walter Raleigh, who introduced him at the royal court when he visited London in 1590 to present the first three books of The Faerie Queene to Queen Eliza-beth. In addition to The Faerie Queene, Spenser published a satire di-rected against Lord Burghley, Mother Hubberds Tale, which was sup-pressed by the government. In 1579 he made his contribution to a major Renaissance literary genre, the pastoral poem, with The Shep-heards Calendar. The Faerie Queene, which was originally planned for 12 books but never completed, was a poetic romance. It aimed to glorify England and its queen, who appears in the poem as Gloriana. In 1591 Spenser published Complaint, a collection of his poems. His Colin Clout's Come Home Againe (1595), dedicated to Raleigh, is an allegorized account of his visit to the royal court in 1590. His prose dialogue A Veue of the Present State of Ireland (1596, first published in 1633) advocated harsh enforcement of English hegemony in the troubled Irish colony. Spenser was not very convincing in writing al-legory or constructing a coherent narrative for his long poems, but his mastery of poetic forms and his remarkable facility in exploiting the resources of the English language made him famous in his own time and have maintained his rank as one of the major English poets. He died in 1599 while visiting London and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.