1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Daniel

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 1:97.



SAMUEL DANIEL was the son of a music-master. He was born in 1562, near Taunton, in Somersetshire, and seems to have been educated under the patronage of the Pembroke family. In 1579, he was entered a commoner of Magdalen Hall, Oxford, where he chiefly devoted himself to the study of poetry and history; at the end of three years, he quitted the university, without taking a degree, and was appointed tutor to Anne Clifford, daughter of the Earl of Cumberland. After the death of Spenser, Daniel became what Mr. Campbell calls "voluntary laureate" to the court, but he was soon superseded by Ben Jonson. In the reign of James (1603), he was appointed Master of the Queen's Revel's, and inspector of the plays to be represented by the juvenile performers. He was also preferred to he a Gentleman-Extraordinary and Groom of the Chamber to Queen Anne. Towards the close of his life, he retired to a farm at Beckington, in Somersetshire, where he died in October 1619.

The works of Daniel fill two considerable volumes; but most of them are extremely dull. Of this nature is, in particular, his History of the Civil War (between the houses of York and Lancaster), which occupied him for several years, but is not in the least superior to the most sober of prose narratives. His Complaint of Rosamond is, in like manner, rather a piece of versified history than a poem. His two tragedies, Cleopatra and Philotas, and two pastoral tragicomedies, Hymen's Triumph and The Queen's Arcadia, are not less deficient in poetical effect. In all of these productions, the historical taste of the author seems to have altogether suppressed the poetical. It is only by virtue of his minor pieces and sonnets, that Daniel continues to maintain his place amongst the English poets. His Epistle to the Countess of Cumberland is a fine effusion of meditative thought.