1691 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Daniel

Gerard Langbaine, in Account of the English Dramatick Poets (1691) 100-06.



A Gentleman living in the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth, and King James the First: and One, whose Memory will ever be fresh in the minds of those who favour History, or Poetry. He was born near Taunton in Somerset-shire, and at Nineteen years of Age, in the year 1581. he was enter'd Commoner of St. Mary Magdalen Hall in Oxford: and after having three years exercised himself in History, and Poetry, he left the University. His own Merit, added to the Recommendation of his Brother in Law, the Resolute John Florio (so well known for his Italian Dictionary) prefer'd him to the Knowledge of Queen Ann; who was pleased to confer on him the Honour of being One of the Grooms of her most Honourable Privy-Chamber: which enabled him to rent a Garden-house near London, where in private he compos'd most of his Dramatick Pieces. At last being weary of the world, he retir'd into Wiltshire; where he rented a Farm near the Devises, according to Dr. Fuller, tho' Mr. Wood says that his retreat was to Beckington, near Phillips-Norton in Somerset-shire, where he  Died in October 1619. being about Four-score years of Age, and was Buried in the same Parish-Church, where a Monument was erected at the sole Bounty of the Lady Ann Clifford, Heiress of George Earl of Cumberland, and afterwards Countess of Pembroke, Dorset, and Montgomery, whose Tutor he was.

Having given this Account of his Life, I am now to speak somewhat of his Writings; and it being at present my Subject, I shall speak first of his Dramatick Pieces, which consist of Two Pastorals; Two Tragedies; and a Masque, viz. Cleopatra, a Tragedy printed in quarto Lond. 1623. and dedicated to the Right Honourable the Lady Mary Countess of Pembroke, by a Copy of Verses written in Stanzas of Eight Lines, which the Italians (from whence we took the Measure) call Ottava Rima. This Play was first printed in octavo Lond. 1611. but this later Copy infinitly differs from the former, and far exceeds it; the Language being not only corrected, but it having another advantage in the Opinion of a Modern Poet, since that which is only dully recited in the first Edition, is in the last represented. For the Foundation of the Story, consult Plutarch in the Lives of Pompey, and Anthony, Florus, lib. 4. c. 11. Appian de Bellis Civilibus, Lib. 5. and a new Book translated out of French by Mr. Otway, in octavo Lond. 1686. call'd The History of the Three Triumvirates, where the Story is related at large.

Hymen's Triumph, a Pastoral Tragi-Comedy, Presented at the Queens Court in the Strand, at her Majesties Magnificent Entertainment of the Kings most Excellent Majesty, being at the Nuptials of the Lord Roxborough, printed in quarto Lond. 1623. and dedicated by a Copy of Verses to the most Excellent Majesty of the Highest born Princess Ann of Denmark, Queen of England, &c. This Play is not printed in the Octavo Edition. 'Tis introduc'd by a pretty contriv'd Prologue; Hymen being oppos'd by Avarice, Envy, and Jealousy, the Disturbers of quiet Marriage.

Philotas, his Tragedy, printed in quarto Lond. 1623. and dedicated to the Prince afterwards King Charles the First. Both this Play, and Cleopatra were much esteem'd in their time; they are both written with the Chorus between each Act; according to the manner of the Ancients. This Play indeed found some Enemies, not on the score of the Wit, or Conduct of the Design; but because it was reported, that under the Character of Philotas, that Great but Unfortunate Favourite of Queen Elizabeth Robert d'Evreux Earl of Essex was portrayed: but the Author in his Apology at the End of the Play has sufficiently clear'd himself from that imputation. This was the first Play that our Author writ; as for the Plot it is founded on History. See Q. Curtius, lib. 6. c. 7. Justin, lib. 12. c. 5. Plut. in Vit. Alex. Arrian, &c.

Queens Arcadia, a Pastoral Tragi-Comedy, presented to her Majesty and her Ladies, by the University of Oxford in Christ-Church, in Aug. 1605. printed in quarto Lond. 1623. and dedicated by a Copy of Verses, to the Queens most Excellent Majesty. Whether the Scene between Carinus and Amintas the Lovers of Cloris be borrow'd from any ancient Poet, I know not, but sure I am that in Monsieur Quinault's La Comedie sans Comedie there is a Scene betwixt Filene and Daphnis in a manner the same. As the Two next Scenes between these Shepherds, and their Mrs. Clomire, exactly resemble the Scene betwixt the Swains, Damon and Alexis, and the inconstant Nymph Laurinda; in Randolph's Amyntas.

Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, presented in a Masque the Eighth of January, at Hampton-Court, by the Queens most Excellent Majesty, and her Ladies, printed in 4to. Lond. 1623. and dedicated to the Right Honourable the Lady Lucy, Countess of Bedford. This was printed without the Authors leave, by the unmannerly presumption of an indiscreet Printer, without warrant; and so imperfect, that the Author to prevent the prejudice, which both the Masque, and the Invention suffer'd, publisht it from his own Copy. His Design under the shapes, and in the Persons of Twelve Goddesses, was to present the Figure of those Blessings, which this Nation enjoy'd in peace, under the happy Reign of King James the First: by Juno, was represented Power; by Pallas Wisdome and Defence; &c.

All these Pieces are printed together in 4to. Lond. 1623. under the Title of The Whole Works of Samuel Daniel Esq. in Poetry, by which I suppose his other Poetical Works, which were printed with his Plays in octavo Lond. 1611. are inserted in this later Edition, tho' that Volume I have by me, want them. The Names of them are, An Epistle from Octavia to M. Anthony in Aegypt; dedicated to the Lady Margaret Countess of Cumberland, and writ in Ottava Rima: Complaint of Rosomond; in Stanza's of Seven Lines. Musophilus, and containing a general Defence of all Learning, written Dialogue-wise, between Musophilus and Philocosmus; and dedicated to Sr. Fulk Grivel. A Funeral Poem upon the Death of the late Earl of Devonshire: Delia, containing Fifty Seven Love Sonnets. He writ besides, an Heroick Poem of the Civil Wars between the two Houses of York and Lancaster, in which he endeavour'd to imitate Lucan's Pharsalia, and succeeded so well in the Opinion of Mr. Speed, that he is by him call'd the English Lucan.

These are all the Poems that our Author has publisht that ever I heard of: but however his Genius was qualified for Poetry, I take his History of England to be the Crown of all his Works: It was first printed about the year 1613. and was dedicated to Queen Ann. It reaches from the state of Brittain under the Romans, to the end of the Reign of King Edward the Third, An. Dom. 1376. Of this History a late Writer has given this Character, "It is written with great Brevity and Politeness, and his Political and Moral Reflections are very fine, useful, and instructive." John Trussel continu'd this History with the like Brevity and Truth, but not with equal Elegance, till the end of the Reign of Richard III. A.D. 1484.

I have never seen any Copies made on the old Poets, but Mr. Daniel is therein mention'd with Honor. One Author stiles him in a Copy on the Time Poets,

The Pithy Daniel, whose Salt Lines afford,
A weighty Sentence in each little Word.

Another Author in a Copy call'd A Censure of the Poets says thus;

Amongst these Samuel Daniel, whom I
May speak of, but to censure do deny.
Only have heard some Wise men him rehearse,
To be too much Historian in Verse;
His Rimes were smooth, his Meeters well did close,
But yet his Matters better fitted Prose.

Having given you the Sence of the Poets of those times, concerning this excellent Author, give me leave to transcribe an Epigram written in his Commendation by his Friend Mr. Charles Fitz-Geoffry, with which I shall conclude.

Spenserum si quis nostrum velit esse Maronem,
Tu Daniele mihi Naso Brittannus eris.
Sin illum potius Phaebum velit esse Britannum,
Tum Daniele mihi tu Maro noster eris,
Nil Phaebo ulterius; si quid foret, illud haberet
Spenserus, Phaebus tu Daniele fores.
Quippe loqui Phaebus cuperet si more Britanno,
Haud scio quo poterat, ni velit ore suo.