1738 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Daniel

Elizabeth Cooper, in The Muses Library (1738) 381-82.



Samuel Daniel was born of a wealthy Family in Somersetshire, and, in 1579, being then but Seventeen, became a Commoner of Magdalen-Hall, Oxford; where he continu'd about Three Years, and greatly improv'd himself in academical Learning. But his Genius devoting him principally to History and Poetry, he left the University, before he was of sufficient standing for a Degree; and, for some Years after, we know nothing certain of him, but that he publish'd a Translation of a Tract of Paulus Jovius on Rare Inventions, &c. But I think it may very probably, be conjectur'd that 'twas in this Interval, he was Tutor to the great Lady Ann Clifford, Daughter and Heiress to the Earl of Cumberland, afterwards Countess of Pembroke, Dorset, and Montgomery: A Lady who did him as much Honour by her magnificent, and Princely Manner of Living, as by the grateful Monument, and Epitaph, which she erected to his Memory. It is very natural, likewise to imagine, that 'twas by the Interest, and Patronage of this Noble Family he was afterwards recommended to the Favour, and Encouragement of Ann, Queen Consort to James the First, who not only did him the Honour of frequent Conversations, but made him first a Gentleman-Extraordinary, and then one of the Grooms of her Chamber. — Mr. Daniel himself, in the Introduction to his Poem of the Civil Wars, farther acknowledges one of the noble Family of Montjoy to have been his great Friend, and Patron; and this Acknowledgment of his his the more grateful, and sincere, as it was publish'd after the Death of his Benefactor.

But, notwithstanding all this Sunshine of Favour, and the joint Applauses of almost all the great Writers of his Time, we find him complaining that both his Reputation and Interest were in their Wane: Which, I suppose, was the Reason why he retir'd from Court, some Years before he died, to a Farm at Beckington near Philips-Norton in Somersetshire; where he died An. Dom. 1609.

Mr. Daniel's Works are very various, and consist of History, Plays, and Poems; in all which he appears to me a Person of great Good-Sense, and unbiass'd Integrity; both Clear, and Concise in his Expression; rather too simple and void of Ornament, and not comparable in his Numbers either to Fairfax or Spencer; But, on the whole, highly worthy of Esteem and Reputation; as will, I think, be sufficiently evinc'd by the following Quotations, particularly that from the Civil Wars, which, in my Judgment, is one of the finest Scenes of Distress that can be met with in any Author.