Daniel was the son of a music-maker near Taunton, and having the good fortune to be patronized by the Pembroke family, was placed as a commoner at Magdalen Hall, Oxford; afterwards he pursued those studies to which inclination led him, at Wilton, a house, which, he says, had been his best school. He was then made tutor to the Lady Anne Clifford, a noble-minded woman, worthy of her rank and ancestry, though, by some strange infelicity of choice, she married, for her second husband, that Earl of Pembroke, who was, perhaps, the most despicable person of his age. She always remembered her tutor with affectionate respect.
It has been said that Daniel succeeded Spenser as poet laureate, because he composed some of those masques and pageants which were then the refined amusements of the court. Queen Anne of Denmark was fond of his writings, and liked his conversation; and he was appointed one of the grooms of her chamber, with a fair salary. At this time his place of abode was in a "garden house" in Old Street; where he enjoyed the society and friendship of such men as Chapman, Marlowe, Camden, Sir Fulke Greville, and Shakspeare. He lived, however, to feel that his reputation was on the wane; and retiring to a farm at Beckington, between Marlborough and Devizes, he there ended his days in 1619. He was a married man, but left no issue. His History of the Civil Wars, which is the longest of his poems, was published, after his death, by his brother, who was a musician, and who appears in that capacity to have been employed by the court.
Daniel frequently writes below his subject and his strength; but always in a strain of tender feeling, and in language as easy and natural as it is pure. For his diction alone he would deserve to be studied by all students or lovers of poetry, even if his works did not abound with passages of singular beauty. Thoughtful, grateful, right-minded, and gentle-hearted, there is no poet, in any language, of whom it may be inferred with more certainty, from his writings, that he was an amiable, and wise and good man.