1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Daniel

George Gilfillan, in Specimens with Memoirs of the less-known British Poets (1860) 1:172-73.



This ingenious person was born in 1562, near Taunton, in Somersetshire. His father was a music-master. He was patronised by the noble family of Pembroke, who probably also maintained him at college. He went to Magdalene Hall, Oxford, in 1579; and after studying there, chiefly history and poetry, for seven years, he left without a degree. When twenty-three years of age, he translated Paulus Jovius Discourse of Rare Inventions. He became tutor to Lady Anne Clifford, the elegant and accomplished daughter of the Earl of Cumberland. She, at his death, raised a monument to his memory, and recorded on it, with pride, that she had been his pupil. After Spenser died, Daniel became a "voluntary laureat" to the Court, producing masques and pageants, but was soon supplanted by "rare Ben Jonson." In 1603 he was appointed Master of the Queen's Revels and Inspector of the Plays to be enacted by juvenile performers. He was also promoted to be Gentleman Extraordinary and Groom of the Chambers to the Queen. He was a varied and voluminous writer, composing plays, miscellaneous poems, and prose compositions, including aDefence of Rhyme, and a History of England, — an honest, but somewhat dry and dull production. While composing his works he resided in Old Street, St. Luke's, which was then thought a suburban residence; but he was often in town, and mingled on intimate terms with Selden and Shakspeare. When approaching sixty, he took a farm at Beckington, in Somersetshire — his native shire — and died there in 1619.

Daniel's Plays and History are now, as wholes, forgotten, although the former contained some vigorous passages, such as Richard II.'s soliloquy on the morning of his murder in Pomfret Castle. His smaller pieces and his Sonnets shew no ordinary poetic powers.