Samuel Daniel

Thomas Arnold, in A Manual of English Literature (1862; 1885) 195.

The great intellectual activity which pervaded the English nation during this period, the sanguine aspiring temper which prevailed, the enthusiastic looking forward to an expanding and glorious future which filled the hearts of most men, are certified to us in the works of a crowd of writers of the second rank of whom, though scarcely one did not attempt many things for which he was ill qualified, almost all have left us something that is worth remembering. Among these one of the most remarkable was Samuel Daniel. He had an ambition to write a great epic, but in this he signally failed. His Wars of the Roses, a poem in eight books, written in the eight-line stanza — the ottava rima of Italy — is a heavy, lifeless production, in which there are innumerable descriptions, of men's motives and plans, but not one description of a battle. He had no eye for a stirring picturesque scene, no art to make his characters distinct and natural; the poem, therefore, produces the effect of a sober and judicious chronicle done into verse, in which the Hotspurs, Mortimers, and Warwicks are, all very much of a piece. His eyes seem at last to have been opened to the fact that he was only wasting his time, for the poem breaks off suddenly just before the battle of Tewkesbury. But the meditative temper of Daniel stood him in good stead in other attempts. His Epistle to the Lady Magaret, Countess of Cumberland, is marked by an elevated idealism. But his best work is certainly the Musophilus. This is in the form of a dialogue between a man of the world, disposed to ridicule and contemn the pursuits of men of letters, and the poet himself. The progressive and hopeful character of the age is well illustrated in the fine passages in which the poet foretells an approaching vast expansion of the field of science, and dreams of great and unimagined destinies (since then how fully realised!) reserved for the English tongue.