1805 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ben Jonson

Henry John Todd, in Works of Spenser (1805) 1:cxxxvi-vii.



Jonson relates, that the poet and his wife escaped the violence of the rebels; although he notices no other child than that which was burnt. But two children, at least, were preserved; for a wife and children, as we shall presently discover, survived the poet. What then! would the tender-minded Spenser, with a wife and children participating his temporary distress, think only of himself on the melancholy occasion, and decline the offer of assistance so seasonable at least to them? I must require the corroboration of such a fact from the mouth of more witnesses than that of Jonson; especially when I consider what Drummond has recorded of his friend Ben, that he was guilty of "interpreting the best sayings, and deeds, often to the worst." If the Earl of Essex sent Spenser a donation, which is very probable, I am persuaded that it was not declined with the ungrateful and unnatural answer alleged by Jonson. To fugitives from their own abode, not possessed of an immediate supply for their wants, and resident at an inn; the generosity of Essex was well-timed, and it corresponds with the friendship which he had always shewn to Spenser.