1690 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Daniel

Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (1690-91; 1721) 1:447.



SAMUEL DANIEL, the most noted Poet and Historian of his time, was born of a wealthy Family in Somersetshire, and at 17 years of age, in 1579, became a Commoner of Madg. Hall., where he continued about three years, and improved himself much in Academical Learning by the benefit of an excellent Tutor. But his Geny being more prone to easier and smoother studies, than in pecking and hewing at Logic, he left the University without the honour of a degree, and exercised it much in English History and Poetry, of which he then gave several ingenious Specimens. After his departure, I find nothing memorable of him for several years, only that at about 23 years of age he translated into English the worthy tract of Paulus Jovius, containing a Discourse of rare inventions both military and amorous called Imprese. Lond. 1585. oct. To which he hath put an ingenious Preface of his own writing. He was afterwards, for his merits, made Gentleman Extraordinary, and afterwards one of the Grooms, of the Privy-Chamber to Anne the Queen Consort of King James I. who being for the most part a favourer and encourager of his Muse, (as she was of Jo. Florio, who married Sam. Daniel's Sister,) and many times delighted with his conversation, not only in private, but in public, was, partly for those reasons, held in esteem, by the Men of that age, for his excellencies in Poetry and History, and partly in this respect, that in "writing the History of English Affairs, whether in Prose or Poetry, he had the happiness to reconcile brevity with clearness, qualities of great distance in other Authors." This is the opinion of a late Author [Thomas Fuller]; but one who lived in Daniel's time tells us, that "his Works contain somewhat a flat, but yet withal a very pure and copious English, and words as warrantable as any Man's, and fitter perhaps for Prose than Measure" [Hypercritica, anon. MS]. Our Author Daniel had also a good faculty in setting out a Mask or Play, and was wanting in nothing that might render him acceptable to the great and ingenious Men of his time, as to Sir Joh. Harrington the Poet, Cambden the learned, Sir Rob. Cotton, Sir H. Spelman, Edm. Spencer, Ben. Johnson, John Stradling, little Owen the Epigrammatist, &c. Spencer, as I have been informed, was Poet Laureat to Queen Elizabeth. When he died, Samuel Daniel succeeded him, and then Ben. Johnson, and Bene. Johnson Sir Will. Davenant, and Sir Will. John Dryden 1668, and John Dryden, Thomas Shadwell 1689, and Thomas Shadwell, Tate [List of works omitted].