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was born, the only evidence is a respectable tradition which no fact at present known confirms or contradicts, and which rests on a note written by an unknown person at least fifty--perhaps more than a hundred-years after the poet's death. We have to grant, therefore, the possibility of error, when we say that Spenser was born in East Smithfield, near the Tower.
There is more certain knowledge of his place of education, from a source that must be first accounted for. Robert, a younger son of John Nowell, of Reade Hall, in Lancashire, was born in or before the year 1520. He was educated with his brother Alexander, afterwards Dean of Saint Paul's, at the Middleton Grammar School and at Brasenose College, Oxford ; then he entered to Gray's Inn, and prospered as a lawyer. In February, 1561, he was appointed for life Queen Elizabeth's Attorney of the Court of Wards. He obtained many lucrative appointments, and acquired a large fortune. He had chambers in Gray's Inn, and a house at Hendon. In his chambers at Gray's Inn he died, on the sixth of February, 1569, and left a will by which he settled that, after payment of funeral, debts, and legacies, the
poor should have all his remaining goods. This established a considerable fund for benefactions. Robert Nowell's brothers, Alexander, Dean of St. Paul's, and John, Dean of Lichfield, with John Towneley, were appointed his executors, and Alexander Nowell, Dean of St. Paul's, as acting executor, had at his own discretion the distribution of the trust fund. Dean Nowell lived till February, 1602. He faithfully carried out the wishes of his brother Robert, and there remains a list of the persons to whom money was paid out of the fund, set down in groups, as a record of the way the money had been spent. The list shows who the poor women were who had black gowns, and the poor men who had black coats, at the funeral; what was eaten and drunk at the funeral dinner ; who were the poor
prisoners, poor parishioners, poor scholars who were befriended, and what was given to each ; what money was given towards the marriage of poor maids, what cloth and money to poor widows, what was given to poor women and men in their times of trouble. It set forth what gowns and what money had been given to the relief of poor ministers, and among
groups there were two of especial interest to students of literature. These show “what was given to poor scholars of divers grammar schools,” and what was given to poor students at the universities. There are thirty-nine pages of the MS. setting forth details of help given to scholars of Oxford and Cambridge. These lists of persons helped are all set down with names, dates, and exact particulars. Young Edmund Spenser has his place with the poor scholars and poor students, among whom are some others who also lived to make for themselves an abiding
This full account of the spending of the money left in trust was put together apparently from detached papers by a secretary or steward in Dean Nowell's service, and was interlined where necessary by the Dean himself. Upon Dean Alexander Nowell's death, his brother Lawrence having died before him, the papers of the trust came into the keeping of the third executor, John Towneley. This MS., from which we learn that Spenser was at Merchant Taylors' School before he went to Cambridge, was discovered at Towneley Hall by Mr. H. B. Knowles in the course of his search for valuable records as a member of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. The discovery of this MS., with full disclosure of the light it threw upon the life of Spenser, was Mr. Knowles's chief contribution to the fourth report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, published in 1837. The whole MS. was printed in 1877 by Dr. Grosart, with a full index of names and many notes. *
*“The Spending of the Money of Robert Nowell of Reade Hall, Lancashire, Brother of Dean Alexander Nowell, 1568-1580. Edited
At Mer chant Taylors' School.
In the manuscript of the Spending of the Money of
Robert Nowell, the name of Edmund Spenser appears among the “ 'poor scholars” assisted in 1568. This alone would not identify the
poet; but the twenty-eighth of April, 1569, is the date of another gift “ To Edmund spensore scholler of the m’chante tayler scholl, at his gowinge to pembrocke hall in chambridge, xs.”. As Spenser left the school in 1569 at the age of about seventeen, he probably was sent to it at eight years old in the year 1561 when it was opened, with Dr. Richard Mulcaster for its head master. at Pembroke Hall corroborates the entry in the Spending of Robert Nowell. Spenser matriculated as a sizar on the twentieth of May, 1569. The twenty-fifth of May, in the same year, is the date of the preface to a book, entered at Stationers' Hall on the twenty-second of July, which was the English version of a work first published in Dutch and French by John van der Noodt. In this English version certain poems by Bellay and Petrarch that had been adopted as a popular text for van der Noodt's religious argument, were translated into verse by Edmund Spenser, when he was a boy of sixteen about to pass from school to college.
The title of the book in which these pieces appeared was, “A Theatre wherein be represented as wel the
miseries and calamities that follow the Voluptuous Translations Worldlings, As also the great joyes and plesures
which the faithfull do enioy. An Argument
both profitable and delectable to all that sincerely loue the word of God.” The author of the book was a refugee physician from Antwerp, John van der Noodt, who found friends in London. In the same year, 1569, William
from the Original MSS. at Towneley Hall, Lancashire, with Introduction, Notes, and Illustrations. By the Rev. Alexander B. Grosart. Printed for Private Circulation. 1877.”
Barnard, a draper of London, obtained a reissue in English of instructions that van der Noodt had published for the use of those who wished to guard themselves against taking the Plague.
It was called, “Governance and Preservation of them that fear the Plague. Set forth by John Vandernoote, Physician and Surgeon, admitted by the King his Highness. Now newly set forth at the request of William Barnard of London, Draper, 1569." A French version of his “Theatre" had been printed in London by John Day
before. * Van der Noodt's purpose in his “Theatre for Worldlings” was to lift the minds of men from earth to heaven. His book was born among the conflicts of the time; its editor-exile himself for conscience' sake- upheld among all trials of his faith the true “joys of the faithful.” Jan van der Noodt had credit as a poet with his countrymen, and it was usual with him to publish his verses in the language of Brabant, with a French version appended to them. So he produced, in 1579, his Cort Begryp der XII boeken Olympiados; in 1580, his Lofsang van Braband; and in the same year, in his native town of Antwerp, his Verscheyden poetische Werken. All these works were bilingual. There was a French version always given with the pieces he wrote in his native tongue. Poems from Bellay and Petrarch upon earthly vanities were used by him in the shaping of his “Theatre ” as pleasant piping of sweet music-bird-call to the flighty worldlings. His own prose then religiously enforced the lesson against faith in the stability of worldly joys, with much use of the imagery of
* “Le Theatre auquel sont exposés et monstrés les inconveniens et miseres qui suivent les mondains et vicieux, ensemble les plaisirs et contentements dont les fideles jouissent. J. Day, Londres, 1568.” There was a translation by B. Froe from Low into High German, published in 1572. “Theatrum das ist Schawplatz darin die Eitelkeit, &c." Here the poems from Bellay and Petrarch have part of the prose text placed before them and part after them.
the Book of Revelation. The translation of this prose part into English was made by Theodore Roest, and either Roest or van der Noodt, in looking for a translator of the poems of Bellay and Petrarch—which they used as bait for their little trap to catch the worldling—found the boy Spenser competent and willing. Theodore Roest refers to the prose pieces in saying, " I have out of the Brabants speech turned them into the English tongue," and, "I have translated them out of Dutch into English.” There is no public acknowledgment of the young Spenser's help. But, twenty-two years later, these pieces were claimed for Edmund Spenser, and inserted in his volume of "Complaints," published in 1591. The blank verse of the translation from Bellay was then re-cast into rhyme, while the sonnets representing a Canzone of Petrarch retained, with less revision, the form into which they were then said to have been “formerly translated.” Since, wherever two opinions are conceivable, each has its supporters, there are some who argue against Spenser's authorship of those pieces of verse translation in the “ Theatre for Worldlings.” I should think the fact beyond all reasonable doubt, if reasonableness also were not matter of opinion.
The book in which verse of Spenser's first appeared in print is a volume scarcely larger than six inches by four, printed
by Henry Bynneman at the sign of the Mermaid, in Knight Rider Street.
There are a hundred and seven leaves of prose text, all lings.”
following in this edition the verses and the woodcuts. Before the work itself there is a leaf of Latin verse in commendationem operis, containing a piece by M. Rabila, poet of Brabant, and an "octastich" by Dr. Gerard Goosen of Brabant, poet and physician. Next follow thirteen pages of an Epistle to the Queen, dated at London, her Majesty's City and Seat Royal,” on the twentyfifth of May, 1569, by her Majesty's “most humble servant,