Edmund Spenser (1552?-1599)

It is said that upon his presenting some poems to the Queen she ordered him a gratuity of one hundred pounds, but the Lord Treasurer Burleigh objecting to it, said with some scorn of the poet, of whose merit he was totally ignorant, 'What, all this for a song?' The Queen replied, 'Then give him what is reason.'

Spenser for some time waited, but had the mortification to find himself disappointed of Her Majesty's bounty. Upon this he took a proper opportunity to present a paper to Queen Elizabeth, in which he reminded her of the order she had given, in the following lines:

I was promised on a time
To have reason for my rhyme.
From that time, unto this season,
I received nor rhyme, nor reason.

The paper produced the intended effect, and the Queen, after sharply reproving the Treasurer, immediately directed the payment of the hundred pounds she had first ordered.

(— From Cibber, Lives, i. 95.)

Edmund Spenser, born at London, and a student in Cambridge.... had so happy a genius for poetry that he outwent all the poets before him, not excepting his fellow-Londoner, Chaucer himself; but through a fate common to that fraternity he was always poor, though he had been Secretary to the Lord Grey, Lord-Deputy of Ireland. For he had scarce fixed himself in his new retirement, and had got a little leisure to pursue his studies, but the rebels rifled and threw him out of house and home, so that he returned into England in a bare condition, where he died not long after, and was interred in Westminster not far from Chaucer, at the Earl of Essex's charge.

His hearse was attended by the gentlemen of his faculty, who cast into his tomb some funeral elegies, and the pens they were wrote with.

(— From William Camden, Annales
reprinted in "A Complete History of England with the Lives of all the Kings and Queens thereof" (2nd edn.,1719), ii. 612, col. 2.)

« NEXT » « Anecdotes » « All Anecdotes » « Humour » « Library »