A Critical Companion to Spenser Studies by Bart Van Es

By Bart Van Es

This publication offers an authoritative advisor to discuss on Elizabethan England's poet laureate. It covers key themes and gives histories for the entire basic texts. a few of modern-day such a lot fashionable Spenser students supply debts of debates at the poet, from the Renaissance to the current day. crucial for these generating new learn on Spenser.

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As Child acknowledges, his “sketch, while it is a summary of all that can now be ascertained of the uneventful life of the writer, does not afford a satisfactory insight into the character and spirit of the man” (1: xlix). This, he adds, “can only be attained by reading his works in the light derived from a knowledge of his life and fortunes” (1: xlix). Child thus concludes with some judicious insights about that character and spirit: “if Spenser’s imagination was not comprehensive, precise, and bold, it was fertile, rich, and various.

On the history of Spenser’s reception, from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries more broadly, three volumes are important, especially the last, which is the most recent: Wurtsbaugh (1936); Mueller (1959); and Radcliffe (1996). 4 We shall mention 4 On the eighteenth-century lives, see Judson (1946). Dr Johnson does not include Spenser in his Lives of the Poets, for reasons outlined by Frushell (1999, 123). Frushell also includes a judicious evaluation of Hughes’ life (106). Patrick Cheney 27 four biographies, together with the first freestanding life, which together significantly extend the short biography of Hughes, even if much in them now looks fanciful and speculative.

Anticipating Judson, this is very much Spenser in his life and times (minus, we shall see, Judson’s talent for storytelling). Principally, Church sees Spenser as “the harbinger and announcing sign” of “a new poetry, which with its reality, depth, sweetness and nobleness took the world captive,” the fulfillment of which emerges where we should expect: with “Shakespere” (35–6). Church is admirably aware of the historical significance of Spenser’s time in Ireland: “The first great English poem of modern times, the first creation of English imaginative power since Chaucer, and like Chaucer so thoroughly and characteristically English, was not written in England” (87).

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