Edmund Spenser: Commentary

Thomas Crofton Croker
James Hardiman
A. M. & S. C. Hall
Louise Imogen Guiney
W. B. Yeats
Lady Gregory
C. L. Falkiner
Pauline Henley
Constantia Maxwell
Robin Flower
Russell Alspach
Patricia Coughlan
Colm Toibín
Edward Said
Willey Maley
Andrew Hadfield
Lorna Hutson
Jonathan Bate

See also a synopsis of the Irish material cited in Rodulf Gottfried, ed., Prose Works: A View of The Present State of Ireland; A Variorum Edition (Baltimore 1945) - [attached].

Thomas Crofton Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland (1824): ‘This stage of unprincipled warfare was dignified by a crowd of illustrious men, amongst whom Spencer [sic] and Raleigh are conspicuous; the latter commenced his extraordinary and ill-fated career in these scenes of butchery and carnage, and in almost the first action recorded of that young soldier his arms were sullied by the execution of a piece of deliberate cruelty, which called down the censure of his royal mistress on Lord Grey, and will ever remain a stain on the page of British history, notwithstanding Spencer’s vindication or rather apology for such conduct.’ (p.6.) [Cont.] Note that Croker spells Spenser var. as Spenser or Spencer in both his table of contents and his text.

Croker gives an account of Kilcolman - together with an engraved plate of the ruin in Researches in the South of Ireland (1824), as infra - or see a full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics”, via index or direct.

Thomas Crofton Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland (1824): ‘The account given by Spencer [sic] of the state of Desmond’s country, who was a spectator of it, exhibits a dreadful and impressive picture of the calamitous effects of civil warfare. He tells us, that “any stony heart would rue the same. Out of every corner of the woods and glynns they” (the people of Munster) “came creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs could not bear them - they looked like anatomies of death. They spake like ghosts crying out of their graves; they did eat the dead carrions, happy where they could find them, yea, and one another soon after, insomuch, as the very carcases they spared not to scrape out of their graves; and if they found a plot of water-cresses or shamrocks, there they flocked as to a feast for the time, yet not able to continue there withal; - that in short space there was none almost left, and a most populous and plentiful country suddenly became void of man and beast.” (p.74.) [Cont.]

Thomas Crofton Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland (1824): ‘Kilcolman Castle is distant three English miles from Doneraile, and is seated in as unpicturesque a spot as at present could have been selected. Many of the delightful and visionary anticipations I had indulged, from the pleasure of visiting the place where the Fairy Queen had been composed, were at an end on beholding the monotonous reality of the country. Corn fields, divided from pasturage by numerous intersecting hedges, constituted almost the only variety of feature for a considerable extent around; and the mountains bounding the prospect, partook even in a greater degree of the same want of variety in their forms. The ruin itself stands on a little rocky eminence. Spreading before it lies a tract of flat and swampy ground, through which, we were informed, the “River Bregog hight” had its course, and though in winter, when swoln by mountain torrents, a deep and rapid stream, its channel at present was completely dried up.’ (p.108.) [See a full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics”, via index or direct.]

James Hardiman, Irish Minstrelsy (1831), Vol. I, Note on “Bridget Fergus”], Notes, pp.319-23: ‘The admirers of this celebrated English Poet may be gratified by a few particulars concerning him and his family, (extracted from original documents,) which may serve to correct some errors of his biographers, or supply information which they do not appear to possess. On 12th of August, 1580, Arthur, Lord Grey, accompanied by Edmund Spenser, his secretary, arrived in [319] Dublin, and on the 7th of September following, was sworn lord deputy of Ireland. On the 22nd of March following, Spenser was appointed clerk of the decrees and recognizances of chancery, and his patent was given “free from the seal in respect [that] he is secretary to the Right Honorable the Lord D.” In this, department he was succeeded on the 22nd of June, 1588, by Arland Usher, kinsman of the celebrated archbishop of that name, and Spenser was appointed clerk of the council of Munster, an office afterwards filled by Richard Boyle, first earl of Cork. On the plantation of that province, queen Elizabeth, by letters patent, dated 26th of October, 1591, granted him the manor and castle of Kylcolman, with other lands, containing 3,028 acres, in the barony of Fermoy, county Cork, also chief rents “forfeited by the late lord of Thetmore, and the late traitor, Sir John of Desmond.” (Orig. Fiant, Rolls office, Dublin.) [For full text, see infra.]

A. M. & S. C. Hall, in Hall’s Ireland: Mr & Mrs Hall’s Tour of 1840 [abridged 2-vol. edn., ed. Michael Scott] (London: Sphere Books 1984): ‘Spenser first visited Ireland in the year 1580, as secretary to the Lord Deputy, Lord Grey de Wilton, and he discharged his duties of the office with ability and integrity. In 1582 he returned to England and in 1586 he obtained a grant, dated the 27th June, for 3028 acres of the fortified estates of the Earl of Desmond at the rent of seventeen pounds, thirteen shillings and sixpence. He received it on the same conditions as the other undertakers - conditions which implied a residency on the property thus acquired, the policy of the Queen being to people the province of Munster with English families. / Spenser took up his residence at the castle of Kilcoleman, and spent four years here, working upon the first three books of the Faerie Queene. He then journeyed to London with his friend, Sir Walter Raleigh, and published them. On his return to Ireland he married a country lass of mean birth, whose name was Elizabeth. During the following six years, he wrote the fourth, fifth and sixth [39] books of the Faerie Queene and printed an able and statesmanlike view of the condition of Ireland. / In 1598 the Tyrone rebellion broke out, his estate was plundered and burned and in the flames his youngest child perished, and he was driven into England with his wife and remaining children - a wretched exile. He never recovered from this affliction and died a year later in an obscure lodging in London in extreme indigence, if not in absolute want. (pp.39-40.)

Louise Imogen Guiney, Selected Poems of James Clarence Mangan (London: John Lane; NY & Boston Lamson, Wolffe & Co. 1897): ‘If our dear friend, Master Edmund Spenser, had had his way in the south of Ireland, we should hardly have occasion to be thankful for a contemporary poet in the north, and his Roisin Dubh. In A View of the Present State, Spenser puts in the mouth of Irenaeus a plea for the extermination of the bards, already greatly injured by the penal statutes under Elizabeth. “I have caused divers of them to be translated unto me that I might understand them, and surely they savored of sweet wit and good invention ... sprinkled with some pretty flowers of their own natural device, which gave good grace and comeliness unto them. ... But they seldom use to choose unto them-selves the doings of good men for the ornaments of their poems; but whomsoever they find to be most licentious of life, most bold and lawless in his doings, most dangerous and desperate in all parts of disobedience and rebellious disposition, him they set up and glorify in their rhymes, him they praise to the people, and to young men, make an example to follow.” Had they but sung Gloriana!’ (Note 1, p.343; referring to “My Dark Rosaleen”, p.115.)

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W. B. Yeats, (Preface to The Poems of Spenser (1906): ‘Like Sidney, whose charm, it may be, led many into slavery, he persuaded himself that we enjoy Virgil because of the virtues of Aeneas, and so planned out his immense poem that it would be set before the imagination of citizens, in whom there would soon be no great energy, innumerable blameless Aeneases. He had learned to put the State, which desires all the abundance for itself, in the place of the Church, and he found it possible to be moved by expedient emotions, merely because they were expedient, and to think serviceable thoughts with no selfcontempt. He loved his Queen a little because she was the protectress of poets and an image of that old Anglo-French nation that lay a-dying, but a great deal because she was the image of the State which had taken possession of his conscience […]. When Spenser wrote of Ireland he wrote as an official, and out of thoughts and emotions that had been organised by the State. He was the first of many Englishmen to see nothing but what he was desired to see. Could he have gone there as a poet merely, he might have found among its poets more wonderful imaginations than even those islands of Phaedria and Acrasia. He would have found among wandering storytellers, not indeed his own power of rich, sustained description, for that belongs to lettered ease, but certainly all the kingdom of Faery, still unfaded, of which his own poetry was often but a troubled image. He would have found men doing by swift strokes of the imagination much that he was doing with painful intellect, with that imaginative reason that soon was to drive out imagination altogether and for a long time. […] Spenser, the first poet struck with remorse, the first poet to give his heart to the State, saw nothing but disorder, where the mouths that have spoken all the fables of the poets had not yet become silent. All about him were shepherds and shepherdesses still living the life that made Theocritus and Virgil think of shepherd and poet as the one thing; but though he dreamed of Virgil’s shepherd he wrote a book to advise, among many like things, the harrying of all that followed flocks upon the hills, and of all the wandering companies that keep the wood.’ (Yeats, W. B. Yeats, ‘From Edmund Spenser’, Selected Criticism, ed. Norman jeffares, Macmillan 1963, pp.111-14; cited in Sean Golden, ‘Post-Traditional English Literature: A Polemic’, in The Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies [Vol. 3, No. 2 1979], 1982, pp.427-34, p.434.)

W. B. Yeats, “Edmund Spenser”, Pt. IV [1906]: ‘Allegory and, to a much greater degree, symbolism are a natural language by which the soul when entranced, or even in ordinary sleep, communes with God and with angels. They can speak of things which cannot be spoken of in any other language, but one will always, I think, feel some sense of unreality when they are used to describe things which can be described as well in ordinary words. Dante used allegory to describe visionary things, and the first maker of The Romance of the Rose, for all his lighter spirits, pretends that his adventures came to him in a vision one May morning; while Bunyan, by his preoccupation with Heaven and the soul, gives his simple story a visionary strangeness and intensity: he believes so little in the world that he takes us away from all ordinary standards of probability and makes us believe even in allegory for a while. Spenser, on the other hand, to whom allegory was not, as I think, natural at all, makes us feel again and again that it disappoints and interrupts our preoccupation with the beautiful and sensuous life he has called up before our eyes. It interrupts us most when he copies Langland, and writes in what he believes to be a mood of edification, and the least when he is not quite serious, when he sets before us some procession like a Court pageant made to celebrate a wedding or a crowning. One cannot think that he should have occupied himself with moral and religious questions at all. He should have been content to be, as Emerson thought Shakespeare was, a Master of the Revels to mankind. [368] I am certain that he never gets that visionary air which alone can make allegory real, except when he writes out of a feeling for glory and passion. [...] He had been made a poet by what he had almost learnt to call his sins. If he had not felt it necessary to justify his art to some serious friend, or perhaps even to “that rugged forehead”, he would have written all his life long, one thinks, of the loves of shepherdesses and shepherds, amog whom there would have been perhaps the morals of a dovecot. One is persuaded that his morality is official and impersonal - a system of life which it was his duty to support - and it is perhaps a half understanding of this that has made so many generations believe that he was the first Poet Laureate, the first salaried moralist among the Poets.’ (Ibid.; rep. in The Cutting of an Agate [1903-1915] 1918, and also also in Essays and Introductions, pp.356-83; p.368-39.)

Lady Gregory, &‘;Raftery’, in Poets and Dreamers (1903): ‘For Raftery had lived through the &146;98 Rebellion, and the struggle for Catholic Emancipation; and he saw the Tithe War, and the Repeal movement; and it is natural that his poems, like those of the poets before him, should reflect the desire of his people for “the mayntenance of their own lewde libertye,” that had troubled Spenser in his time.’ (p.12; available at Gutenberg Project - online; accessed 09/09/2021.)

C. L. Falkiner, ‘Spenser in Ireland’, in his Papers Relating to Ireland (1909), Spenser’s Rosalind was Elizabeth Boyle, related to Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork. Refs to P. W. Joyce, in Frazer’s Mag., NS Vol. xvii, p. 315-33, on the Irish rivers in Canto 11 [recte 3] Bk 4 of The Faerie Queene, listing the streams around Kilcolman in Colin Clouts Come Home Again. Spenser’s apologetic verses in this period frequently refer to the ‘barbaric clime’ in which he finds himself. [T.] Keightley, in Notes & Queries, Ser. 4., Vol. ii, p. 317, argues that Spenser was in a special sense an Irish poet.

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Pauline Henley, MA, Spenser in Ireland (Cork UP 1928; NY: Russell & Russell [Atheneum Publ.] 1969). 231pp. CONTENTS: Introduction; With Grey in Ireland; Spenser as Undertaker; the Poet at Kilcolman; Further Irish Influences and Allusions; The Ruin of the Plantation; Spenser and Political Thought; The Poet’s Descendants; bibliography, index. Inclu. map of Ireland, and map of Spenser’s grant. Henley takes her bearings from Yeats, ‘When Spenser wrote of Ireland, it was, as Mr Yeats puts it, out of thoughts and emotions that had been organised for him by the State, for he had begun to love and hate as it bid him. The predominance of the State was the all-prevading idea of the sixteenth century [168] ... Lord Grey exerted the strongest influence on his political opinions, and the policy that he learned from the nobleman he made peculiarly his own, and he advocated it steadily for the remainder of his life. Hence the similarity of the Briefe Note and the View. He either could not, or would not, learn anything from events ... [O]ne regrets the fact that his was the pen to place on record this unworthy exposition of violence ... fire, sword, and famine ... [169] ... Mr. Yeats says, ‘he found it possible to be moved by expedient emotions, merely because they were expedient, and to think serviceable thoughts with no self-contempt.’ But that is not always true ... [170] Henley refers to Spenser’s use of the apocryphal tale in Holinshed, of Gurgunt who ‘gave to fugitives of Spayne / Whom he at sea found wandering from their waies, / A seat in Ireland safely to remayne, / Which they should hold of him, as subject to Britayne’ (Bk.II, c.x, st.41); in the View, he also claims that Arthur ‘had all that Iland in his allegaunce and subjection’, fortifying the Elizabethan claim, as well as referring with some awkwardness to the Bull of Adrian IV (View, Globe ed., 1924, p.629). [174-75].... In the proposals that Spenser puts forward for the subjugation of Ireland, the minfluence of Machiavelli on English politics is apparent ... the essential quality for a ruler is strength ... guided not by the principles of natural law but by expediency [79] thus Spenser says ‘there should be no remorse or drawing backe for the sight of such rufull objectes as must thereupon followe, nor for compassion of theyr calamitues, seeing that by no other means it is possible to recure them, and that these are not of will but of very urgent necessite’ (View, p.654-57). Henley comments, The massacre at Smerwick, the ruin of Munster, the famine, the innumerable butcheries and cruelties are all to be condoned by the one excuse - there was no other way. [181] On the use of famine, thus the Irish custom of ‘dwelling by their septs and several nations’ would be abolished; forbidden ‘Oes and Macks’ in their names, they would ‘in shorte time learne quite to forgett this Irish nation.’ [181] Yet Spenser does not go to the length of advocating such methods as assassination [see FQ, Bk VI canto 7]; however, he does appear to consider the rights of ‘temporising’, in keeping with the accusation of broken faith aimed at Gray by the Earl of Ormond after Smerwick, ‘To temporize is not from truth to swerve, / Ne for advantage terme to entertaine / When as necessitie doth it constraine.’ Artegall replies, ‘Fie on such forgerie ... Knights must be true, and truth is one in all: / Of all things, to dissemble, fouly may befall.’ (FQ, Bk. V, canto xi. [183]. Spenser no bigot and Catholic tradition made appeal to him, but he feared the political power of the Papacy [185]. Note that Galteemore (Aherlow), is Arlo Hill [and see also Arthur Young, on ‘romantic boundary’ [q.v.].

Pauline Henley, MA, Spenser in Ireland (Cork UP 1928) - cont.: “Bibliogaphy” includes Irish texts edited and translated by Lady Gregory, Cuchulain at Muirthemne ( 1915), David Comyn, [trans.] Keating, History of Ireland (1902), Eleanor Hull, Cuchullin Saga in Irish Literature (London 1898); P. W. Joyce, ‘Spenser’s Irish Rivers’, in Wonders of Ireland, 1911, rep. from Frazer’s Mag., XVII, n.s. (1878); Keightley, ‘Spenser the Poet of Ireland’, in Notes & Queries, VII, ser. iv (1871); O’Curry (Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, 1873; Manus. Materials of Irish Hist., 1861); O’Flaherty, Ogygia, II, part iii, trans. James Hely (1793); Standish [J] O’Grady, History of Ireland, I (1878-80); Standish H. O’Grady, Silva Gadelica II (1892); Tadg Dall Ó hUiginn, Poems, ed. Eleanor Knott (1922); G. Sigerson (Bards of the Gael and Gall, 1907); Comyn (Youthful Exploits of Finn). Other references incl. John Derrick, Image of Ireland, in Somers Tracts I (Lon. 1809); anon ., Description of Ireland ... anno 1598, ed. E. Hogan (Dub 1878); Lismore Papers, ed. A B Grosart, 10 vols. (priv. 1886-88); Miles V Ronan Reformation in Dublin 1536-1558 (Lon. 1926); Spenser, complete Works, I., ed. AB Grosart (priv. 1882); Globe ed. of Works (Lon 1924); WH Welply ‘Family and Descendants of Edmund Spenser’, Cork Hist. and Arch. Journal XXVIII (1922); P Wilson, The Beginnings of Modern Ireland (Dub&Lon 1919); H. Wood Guide to Public Records of Ireland (1919); and WB Yeats, ‘Edmund Spenser, in The Cutting of an Agate (Lon. 1919). Also STATE PAPERS, Calendars of Carew Manuscripts, 1575-1600, Ed. JS Brewer and William Bullen (Lon 1867-73); Diseradta Curiosa Hibernica, ed. J Lodge (Dublin 1772); Calendar of Domestic State Papers, 1581-1590 [n.ed.]; Liber Munerum Publicorum Hiberniae, ed J Lacelles, ‘By Command’ (1824); Calendar of Patent Rolls, Ireland (Elizabethan), Ed. James Morrin (Dublin 1861-63); Register of Privy Council of Scotland, V (1592-99); Calendar of Scottish State Papers, ed. M Thorpe (Lon 1858); Calendar of Spanish State Papers, 1580-86; Calendar of State Papers Relating to Ireland, 1509-1614; State Papers of Lord Burghley, 1571-1596, ed. W. Murdin (London 1740). Gottfried further writes on the authorship of Briefe Note: ‘I feel sure that Spenser is the chief, if not the sole, author of BN, The evidence for his authorship is external as well as internal [...] accepted in the contemporary copy of part of BN in the Harleian MSS; it is hard to find a motive for wrongly ascribing to Spenser, in 1598 or 1599, a govt. document which there was no likelihood of publishing, &c’ [536]; further, ‘which of the Munster colonists, in a document addressed to the government, would use the phraseology as well as the ideas of Edmund Spenser?’ [537]. Gottfried reproduces in variorum format opinions of Grosart [taking it for granted that the Note is Spenser’s, a remarking that the endorsement “Spencer” is in the trustworthy hand of Sir Dudley Carleton]; Henley [calling it an ‘unworthy document with its angry whining tone ... his last contribution to the subject of Irish affairs]; Renwick [View, pp.329f, contending that the evidence of endorsement is outweighed by the evidence of un-Spenserian rhetoric, ‘execrably highflown’]; Heffner, MLN [noting that Renwick is unaware of Harlein MS 3787, 21 f.184 (copy)] which ascribes the work to Spenser and contains verses on Tyrone]; Hulbert [also challenging ascription, and calling attention to its trippartite composition; and remarking on improbable degree of changes in Spenser’s opinions]; Heffner, MLQ [remarking that the high style noted by Renwick is consistent with addressing the Queen]; Judson [siding with Renwick, maybe, ‘perhpas this document - which is really three documents, different from each other in tone - is the joint work of several refugees, and its endorsement a result of Spenser’s having brought it to England along with Norris’s dispatches].

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Constantia Maxwell, The Stranger in Ireland (1954), ‘Edmund Spenser’, [Chp. II], Grey recalled, Sept. 1582; one of the noblest of the Elizabethans but not quite right for Ireland; called by Spenser ‘that most just and honourable personage’; hero of his Legend of Justice in 5th book of FQ [vide Canto XII, stanza 26, 27]; Spenser present at the massacre at Smerick; expresses no regret, nor does Grey, in descriptive letter to the Queen; such horrible scenes not confined to Ireland; Spenser deeply impressed by horror of Irish wars, picture of desolation, ‘Out of every corner of the woods and glens they came creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs could not bear them; they looked like anatomies of death, they spake like ghosts, crying out of their graves; they did eat of the dead carrions, happy were they if they could find them, yea, and one another soon after, insomuch as the very carcasses they spared not to scrape out of their graves; and if they found a plot of water-cresses or shamrocks, there they flocked as to a feast for the time, yet not able long to continue therwithall; that in short space there were none almost left, and a most populaous and plentiful country suddenly made void of man or beast, yet sure in all that war, there perished not many by the sword, but all by the extremity of famine which they themselves had wrought.’ (View; n.p.; also cited in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.123) [23] Lodowick Bryskett, his A Discourse of Civil Life, mainly a translation of Giraldo Cintio’s Dialogues; 3028 acres in Cork, June 1589; neighbour in Cork to Sir Nicholas Walshe, author of Solon his Folly; Spenser describes his meeting with Ralegh in Kilcolman in 1589, ‘Under the foot of Mole, that mountain hoar, / Keeping my sheep amongst the cooly shade / Of the green alders by the Mulla’s shore; / There a strange shepherd chanced to find me out, / Whether allured with my pipes delight ... He piped, I sung; and, when he sung, I piped;.By change of turns, each making other merrry; / Neither envying other, nor envied,. / So piped we, until both were weary. [&c.] (Colin Clouts come home againe); accompanied Spenser to England as advised [in the poem]; Colin Clouts dated from Kilcolman, 27th Dec 1591; View written at Kilcolman; embodied ideas of Machievelli and Bodin; Conciliation useless in Ireland [30]; more tillage, more schools, more garrisons; professions and trades; his litigation with Lord roche caused him to look beneath the surface of Brehon Laws, but [sic] he was genuinely interested in Irish antiquities and in tribal customs; disapproved of Irish fighting mmen as forming a caste, but extols their horsemanship, hardiness and bravery; put his finger on the cause of hatred, Irish had lost their land and were afraid to lose more; Reformation of manners to come after, ‘it is an ill time to preach among swords’; ‘laws out to be fashioned unto the manners and conditions of the people for whom they are meant, not to be imposed on them according to the simple rule of right’; Kilcolman probably attacked 15th Oct.; Ben Jonson, quoted in Drummon of Hawthornden’s Conversations: ‘a little child, new-born perished in the flames’; tradition has it that the infant was Spenser’s; State Papers Relating to Ireland contains Briefe Note of Ireland; endorsed by ‘Spencer’ in another hand but the style has been thought too rhetorical for his pen and some of the views are not his; Judson suggests that it was endorsed as a result of having been brought over by him to England, with other official reports, such as the report from Norris, President of Munster, which he carried from Ireland, Dec. 9; d. two week after arriving Westminster; 16th Jan.; Elizabeth Boyle described as ‘kinswoman’ of Richard Boyle [as in ODNB]; quotes extensively the Utopian view of Ireland: ‘[And] sure it is yet a most beautiful and sweet country as any is under Heaven, seamed throughout with many goodly rivers, replenished with all sorts of fishe, most abundantly sprinkled with many sweet islands and goodly lakes, like little inland seas, that will even carry ships upon their waters, [adorned with goodly woods fit for building houses and ships,] so commodiously, [that if some princes in the world had them, they would hope to be lords of all the seas, and ere long of all the word; also full of good ports and havens opening to England and commodities that country can afford, besides] the soil itself most fertile, fit to yield all kind of fruit that shall be committed thereunto. [And lastly] the heavens most mild and temperate, though somewhat more moist than the part towards the West’. [37] Note the resemblence between the verses on the civilised ideal of private life, FQ, Book VI, Canto X, 23 [‘These three on men all gracious gifts bestow, / Which deck the body or adorn the mind, / To make them lovely or well-favoured shows; / As comely carriage, entertainment kind / Sweet semblance, friendly offices that bind, / And all the complements of courtesy; / they teach us how to each degree and kind / We should ourselves deman, to low, to high, / To friends, to foes; whch skill men call Civility’]; and cf. Yeats’s terza rima in ‘Prayer for My Daughter’, ‘In Memory of Robert Gregory’, &c. NOTE, Maxwell’s bibliography includes, A. C. Judson, ‘Spenser and the Munster Officals, in Studies in Philology, vol. XLIV (1947); also HR Plomer and T. P. Cross, The Life and Correspondence of Lodowick Bryskett (1927); J[ohn] Pope-Hennessy on Sir Walter Raleigh in Ireland (1883).

Robin Flower, The Irish Tradition (OUP 1947): ‘There are translations and translations. And we do not know who served Spenser in this office. It is clear that the poems he meant were bardic poems of the more formal sort extolling the deeds of chiefs. Poems of our type [lyrics] perhpas never came his way. Surely, if they had, he would have recongised a familiar note in them. For these poems are witty and well-favoured in a kind that was only being brought to perfection in Spenser’s own day.’ (Quoted in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.126; note also that there is an account of Kilcolman in Elizabeth Bowen, Bowen’s Court, which Kavanagh cites here.]

Russell Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798 (Phil: Pennsylvania UP 1959), quoting Spenser’s assertion that he had ‘caused divers of them [Gaelic poems] to be translated .... &c.’ and finding that the poets graced ‘wickedness with vice’. Alspach adds ends by remarking that these translations have not survived. (p.69.)

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Patricia Coughlan, ed., Spenser in Ireland: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, intro. by Nicholas Canny (Cork UP 1989), 125pp.+index. [Preface; notes on text; Canny, ‘Spenser and the Reform of Ireland’; Ciaran Brady, ‘The Road to the View, On the Decline of Reform Thought in Tudor Ireland’; Coughlan, ‘“Some secret scourge which shall by her come to England”: Ireland and the Incivility of Spenser’; Anne Fogarty, ‘The Colonization of Language: Narrative Strategies in A View of the Present State of Ireland and The Faerie Queene, Book VI’; Richard McCabe, ‘The Fate of Irena, Spenser and Political Violence’. Note that Fogarty summarises Henley’s ultimate dismissal of Spenser’s thought on the grounds of contemporary patterns, and refers to her view of his mind as caught in frozen polarities and ‘warring personalities’; she also cites C. S. Lewis to the tantalising effect that The Faerie Queene is the ‘work of one who is turning into an Irishman’ [76]; in her reading of Irenaeus she remarks that ‘it is noteworthy that at ... junctures Ireland becomes emblematic of pleasure which is both frustrating and endlessly enticing’ [87]. McCabe shows how the destructive nature of the necessary violence is sublimated into physic and husbandry [114]; Coughlan examines Spenser’s account of Irish incivility, and mores that ‘rue’ does not prevent him advocating barbarism lessons for the Irish Wild Man. In the intro. essay, Canny writes of the Irish critical overreaction, ‘Equally alarming ... will be the use made by Brendan Bradshaw and Ciaran Brady of such value-laden terms as holocaust and final solution to describe what Spenser had in mind for the Irish population ... in the writings of Bradshaw we are being led to believe that the adoption by policy makers of Calvinist theological belief … led inevitably ... to the point where, like Hitler, he would embark on genocide and that, in A view [ &c.], he had outlined a programme similar to that delineated in Mein Kampf’ This argument is in my opinion severely flawed ... because it assumes a moderation and a toleration among Erasmian thinkers that never existed [15]. Editions. used in this collection as J. C. Smith and E. de Selincourt, eds, Spenser, Poetical Works (OUP 1912); and prose, W. L. Renwick, ed., A View of the Present State of Ireland (1970).

Colm Toibín, review of George Macbeth, The Testament of Spenser (Deutsch 1992) , in Times Literary Supplement (13 Nov. 1992), p.16: ‘In Ireland now, for at least half the time, history is the comedy from which we are trying to awake.’ Calls Banville’s Birchwood (1973) [‘]a seminal text of revisionism, not generally recognised by the historians as such. Macbeth’s novel is set in our own times, where one John Spenser comes to occupy a house under conditions a little like those of Spenser. At the back of the book there is a chronology of Spenser’s time in Ireland; in 1598 his castle was sacked and his newborn child perished. “We know what to expect”. An elaborate literary joke - post-modernism in a wet country.’

Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Vintage Press 1993): ‘[...] it is generally true that literary historians who study the great sixteenth-century poet Edmund Spenser [...] do not connect his bloodthirsty plans for Ireland, where he imagined a British army virtually exterminating the native inhabitants, with his poetic achievement or with the history of British rule over Ireland, which continues today.’ (p.5; quoted in part in Csilla Bertha, ‘“They Raigne Over Change, and Doe Their States Maintaine”: Change, Stasis, and Postcoloniality in Frank McGuinness’s Mutabilitie’, in Irish University Review, Autumn / Winter 2003, p.307.)

Willey Maley, ‘Rebels and Redshanks, Milton and the British Problem’, in Irish Studies Review, No. 6 (Spring 1994), quotes Spenser on Old English, ‘these doe neede a sharper reformation than the Irish, for they are more stubborne, and disobedient to law and government, then the Irish be.’ (Ware ed., 1633, p.106). Ware’s ed. of Spenser was dedicated to Sir Thomas Wentworth, and one of the indictments leading to his execution was his claim that Ireland belonged to England not by law or union but by conquest - a position urged also by John Milton, in ‘Observations upon the Articles of peace (London 1649). Further, ‘[D]oe we not all know, that the Scottes were the first inhabitants of all the north, and that those which are now called the north Irish, are indeed very Scottes, which challenge the ancient inheritance and dominion of the Countrey, to be their owne aunciently. This then were but to leap out of the pan into the fire, For the chiefest caveat and provision in reformation of the north, must be to keep out those Scottes.’ (ibid. pp.79-80).

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Andrew Hadfield, ‘The Trial of Jove: Spenser’s Allegory and the Mastery of the Irish’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, 2, 2 (Spring / Summer 1996), pp.39-53; applies model used by Kilfeather in ‘Origins of the Irish Female Gothic’ (Bullán, I, 2, Autumn 1994, pp.35-46), while evoking also the description of Spenser as unwilling ‘native’ and piggy-in-the-middle in the colonial process by which the English ‘master our own Irishness by mastering the Irish’ in Robert Welch’s Kilcolman Notebook; quotes, ‘the wearinge of mantells and longe glibbes which is as a thicke curle bushe of haire hanginge downe over theire eyes and monstrouslye disguisinge them’ (View, ed. Gottfried, in Greenlaw ed., Works, Vol. X, pp.99-101); ‘Thus necessarie and fittinge is a mantle for a badd man and surelye for a bad huswife it is no less Conveniente for some of them that be these wanderinge weomen Called of them monashul. It is haalfe a wardrope for in sommer ye shall find her arrayed comonlye but in her smocke and mantle to be more redye for her lighte services. In winter and in travell it is her Cloake and safegarde and alsoe a Coverlett for her Lewed exercisers. And when she hthe filled her vessel under it she may hide bothe her burden and her blame. Yea and when her bastarde is borne it serves in steade of all her swadlinge cloutes, her mantells, her Cradles, with which others are vainlye Combed.’ (ibid., pp.101-02; Hadfield, p.43); ‘The fact that mantles are garments worn by both sexes would further suggest that such “monstrous disguising” has a gendered implication. [43] That Irish men and women do not choose to define themselves by dint of their clothing, ipso facto, marks that clothing out as disrupting sexual distinctions. The use to which the mantle was put reinforces the notion that disruptedness is itself a feminine trait, subversive of masculine order … In Ireland the hierarchies have been overturned.’ (pp.43-44); Hadfield finally concentrates on the Mutabilitie Cantos: ‘The decision to place the debate in Ireland serves to reinforce Mutabilitie’s power, as the allegory of the changeable state reflects Mutability’s own nature and serves to undercut the arguments of both Jove and Nature that their own authority is justifiable apart from the reality of force.’ (p.50.) [Bibl. as supra; see also under Robert Welch, q.v.]

Andrew Hadfield, ‘Another Case of Censorship?: The Riddle of Edmund Spenser’s A View of the Present State of Ireland (c.1596)’, in History Ireland (Summer 1996), pp.26-30. Hadfield summarises opposed outlooks on the View in Irish historical scholarship, viz., that it was suppressed as expressing to flagrantly the violent policy of extirpation held by the government; ‘in .... extremity of its propositions ...[it] was even then, as it has been since, a source of some embarrassment’ (Ciaran Brady); versus, a View helped to foster Anglo-Irish identity as a fitting expression of opinions and convictions commonly held by the New English (Nicholas Canny); the debate turns on the question of censorship since Canny’s interpretation is more likely to be correct if there were nothing exceptional in the text itself as requiring censorship; cites Ware’s prefatory remarks, and his general evasion of the political burden of the work in favour of its antiquarian interest as an account of the Irish of Spenser’s day: ‘As for his work now published, although it sufficiently testifieth his learning and deepe judgement, yet we may wish that in some passages it had bin tempered with more moderation. The troubles and miseries of the time when he wrote it, doe partly excuse him, And surely we may conceive, that if hee had lived to see these times, and the good effects which the last 30 yeares peace have produced in this land, both for obedience to the lawed, as also in traffique, husbandry, civility, and learning, he would have omitted those passages which may seem to lay either any particular aspersion upon some families, or generall upon the Nation.’ Ware removed passages dealing with the de Courcys, Roches, and Bremingtons (who were accused of ‘degenerating’), and omitted the words ‘barbarous’ and ‘savage’ as applied to the Irish; Hadfield notes that Lowndes had disputed the right to Spenser’s works with Ponsonby, the latter having publically testified to his co-operation with the author in ‘The Printer to the Gentle Reader’ prefaced to Spenser’s Compaints (1591), showing himself concerned about the ‘embezzlement’ of smale Poemes by Spenser when overseas; in this light, Lowndes, who had printed an unauthorised edn. of Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella in 1597, appears to be a poacher; Ponsonby was master of the Company by 1598 and could block publication; Hadfield summarises the argument: ‘The Irish, it is claimed, are hopelessly savage in their customs and pose a threat to civilised society. Their way of life marks them out as Scythian, the notorious barbarians of the ancient world. They have infected the original Anglo-Norman colonists with their customs and habits so that they have “degenerated” and become Irish rather than English..... Regrettably, the state of affairs in Ireland is so dire that reform using the legal and institutional apparatuses available is not a viable option. Instead, a huge army must be sent over and Ireland reconquered before any such reform take place. Fundamentally, the message is that one must be cruel to be kind.’ Hadfield notes that much of Spenser’s chauvinistic writing on the Irish is an elaboration of Gerald of Wales’s (Giraldus Cambrensis), and that other tracts contain similarly harsh prescriptions; he concludes on the evidence that A View failed to appear in 1598 for local reasons rather than through political censorship or conspiracy to suppress it; Hadfield finally urges a shift of opinion (away from Brady) towards a recognition that the View represents sustantially the consensual outlook of the New English. Bibl., C. Brady, ‘Spenser’s Irish Crisis: Humanism and Experience in the 1590s’, Past and Present, 111 (1986); N. Canny, ‘Edmund Spenser and the development of Anglo-Irish Identity’, The Yearbook of English Studies, 3 (1983); P. Coughlan, Spenser and Ireland: an interdisciplinary approach (Cork UP 1989); C. Hill, ‘Censorship and English Literature’, in Collected Essays of Christopher Hill, Vol. 1 (Brighton 1985); note also that an earlier version of this appeared in Notes & Queries, 239 (1994).

Andrew Hadfield, ‘Measures of Anxiety’, review of Christopher Warley, Sonnet Sequences and Social distinction in Renaissance England, in Times Literary Supplement (3 Feb. 2006), p.30: ‘[...] The key analysis is that of Spenser’s Amoretti and Epithalamion, which see Spenser twisting and turning in an effort to “define himself as an English colonist in Ireland”, lacking noble birth but not the precious commodity of land that earned him the status of a gentleman. Similarly, Shakespeare’s Sonnets praise the aristocratic pedigree of the young man, yet juxtapose his image with that of the “dark lady” who is playing the same anxious game of calculating her own worth as the poet. While the former is kept absent, free from the taint of the market force, the latter is valuable in so far as she inhabits the same world as the author. [...] Hostile critics will probably find it easy to dismiss Professor Warley’s claims. The arguments are often over-stretched and over-schematic, and far more emphasis is placed on the need to cite secondary authorities and formulate ideas in line with the pronouncement of gurus of critical theiroy than to read widely in the surviving evidence of early modern tests. This is a flaw which leaves many decent ideas under-explored and decontextualised. [...] Perhaps the strongest argument of the book is that poetry should not be seen as either a secondary discourse that needs to be read against the real world of political and economic activity, or as a transcendent work of art that bears no realtion shop to anything outher than itself. Rather, poetry was a means of articulating problems and furthering depate. When Spenser suggested that his love was beyond the powers of “tradefull merchants” to assess her, he was also acknowledging that he was participating in the same activity even as he was ostenisibly denying his involvement in such a process. His words are a clear sign of status anxiety, as well as a contribution to a conversation over the as ye inchoate category of class.’

Andrew Hadfield, review of David Armitage, The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (Cambrdige UP), 239pp., notes that ‘Empires and states were, more often than not, mutually dependent social constructions’; ‘the composite monarchy of Britain that developed throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was an imperial construction itself’; quotes: England’s relation with the rest of Britain was “triangular, encompassing Ango-Scottish, Anglo-Irish, and Hiberno-Scottish relations form the 1540s to the 1620s”, as the developmen to fhte Ulster Plantation in the early seventeenth century demonstrates. (Hadfield adds Anglo-Cambrian and calls Wales the ‘most ghostly of the British nations’.) Quotes Henry VIII: ‘This realm of England is an Empire’, and made it rest on Arthur; ‘While Ireland and Wales were conquered and formally annexed, the intention of the English Crown was always to forge a dynastic union with Scotland, despite the understandable fears of the Scots’; mentions that the Anglicae Historiae [Liber XXVI] of Polydore Vergil cast doubt on the very existence of Arthur; further, ‘Perhaps the most complete and disturbing imperial vision is to be found in the writings of Edmund Spenser, whose desire to impose a uniform English normality in Ireland left no room at all for cultural difference.’; ‘Protestantism did not provide a consistent justification for empire; it was more likely to expose ideological fissures’; Subsequent imperial developments saw attention shift to conceptions of liberty and property, and freedom of the seas; ‘when William III […] crushed Catholic rebellion in Ireland [it ended] Anglo-Dutch rivalry; ‘colonialism could foster greater freedom, a happy combination which saw trade as the key to imperial success, literally and ideologically’.

Andrew Hadfield, review of Nicholas Canny, Making Ireland British 1580-1650 (OUP 2001), 633pp., in Times Literary Supplement ( 29 June 2001), p.12: notes that Canny has previously launched the thesis that the Elizabethans were inspired to contemplate the conquest of Ireland by accounts of the Spanish experience in the Americas; here regards Cromwell’s transplantations as a continuation of the early English policy rather than the new departure it is assumed to be; locates Spenser as the key figure in the determination of English policy: ‘Spenser argued that there was little point in attempting to establish a civilised government in Ireland with a workable system of laws and institutions until the barbaric Irish had been forced into submission by a violent military conquest, as had happened in England after the invasions by the Romans and the Normans. As Canny points out, Spenser produced a blue-print, with a detailed and careful analysis of how the military campain was to be conducted, but he was only articulating what other interested figures, such as Sir Philip Sidney, Lodowick Bryskett and Sir William Herbert, had already argued in more piecemeal fashion.’ Further remarks that the best chapters are those on Spenser and his legacy, which is seen as a continuity of English policy in Ireland, expressed in the plantations forwarded by Earl of Strafford among others. [See also Jonathan Bate, review of Hadfield, ed., Cambridge Companion to Edmund Spenser (2001), infra.]

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Lorna Hutson, ‘Romances of a Viceroy’, in Times Literary Supplement (23 Jan. 1998), review of Andrew Hadfield, Edmund Spenser’s Irish Experience (Clarendon Press 1997) and Willy Maley, Salvaging Spenser (Macmillan 1997): ‘[…] Cites ‘Stephen Greenblatt’s influential recent model for reading Spenser’s poetry in an Irish context [which] bears an uncanny resemblance to the older images of the split personality Spenser. If we gloss Spenser’s “Bower of Bliss” in The Faerie Queene as the ease with which the New English might be seduced back into the insouciant lifestyle of the “wild Irish”, then, as Greenblatt says, the violence with which the poet destroys the Bower can be read as testimony to his personal emotional dilemma, his “conflicting desires” experienced in relation to a colonial homeland. / A virtue common to Willy Maley’s and Andrew Hadfield’s book-length ventures into the vexed topic of Spenser and Ireland is their refusal to have any truck with this non-issue of “reconciling” a divided Spenser with himself. Sir Thomas Elyot’s observation [re “warres agayne Irrishe men or Scottes, who be of the same rudenes and wilde disposition that [...]. the Britons were in the time of Caesar”] about the value of Latin to the goal of English dominion over the Celtic fringe shows that we need assume no conflict between the Erasmian humanism of the 1530s, with its confidence in the civilising power of literature, and the military and colonial projects of the later generation to which Edmund Spenser belonged. What is innovative about both Maley’s and Hadfield’s studies, then, is that they insist on the “salvaging / savaging” of all Spenser’s writings, whether “literary” or not that is, they consistently reread Spenser’s texts from the perspective of the New English in Ireland. Rather than plunging us into the depths of Spenser’s psyche, this sharpens and gives nuance to our sense of the alignments and identifications of New and Old English, or Irish and Scots, as the colonialists strategically conceived them. This, in turn, entails an interpretation of Spenser’s deployment of the literary forms of pastoral and romance not as manifestations of the “gentle” side of his own personality, but as poetic vehicles for expressing the specific, “salvage” concerns of a while generation of English colonial administrators in Ireland: concerns such as generational conflict, means of land-acquisition, the justification of English rule, the problematic Irish affinities of western Scotland, royal absenteeism and the legal limits of vice-royalty, and, finally, the executive powers of the law. / while Hadfield sets out to address the scandal of critical silence around Spenser’s Irish experience, Maley writes rather in response to the scapegoating of Spenser in a recently critical literature which finds “Ireland a highly marketable commodity”. ‘[Hadfield’s reading of Faerie Queene shows that it has] affinity with the imperatives of colonialism, and with its need to go beyond the taxonomies of the “civilised” world. / … / Spenser’s voice becomes audible as that of a poet speaking for a generation of New English in Ireland. For most English-speakers today, however, a deafening silence still surrounds the Irish prose and poetry of the sixteenth and early seventeenth-century, which, as Spenser himself hints, could tell us another story.’ (Note: Hadfield reviews Mark Thornton Bennett, Masters and Servants in English Renaissance Drama and Culture: Authority and Obedience, Macmillan [1997], also in Times Literary Supplement, 23, Jan. 1998.)

Jonathan Bate, reviewing Andrew Hadfield, The Cambridge Companion to Spenser (Cambridge UP 2001). writes: ‘One has some sympathy with the “senior Spenserian scholar” quoted by Andrew Hadfield as remarking “at a conference in 1996 that whilst there had been a large number of papers dealing with Spenser and Ireland, there had been none on the subject of neo-Platonism.” Hadfield adds that this situation neatly reversed that of twenty years earlier.”’ (Times Literary Supplement, 2 Nov. 2001, p.25.)

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