Nonfiction > G. Gregory Smith, ed. > Elizabethan Critical Essays
G. Gregory Smith, ed.  Elizabethan Critical Essays.  1904.
Spenser-Harvey Correspondence: Letters on Reformed Versifying, &c. 1579–80
Edmund Spenser to Gabriel Harvey [I]
[Letters I and II, dated 5 [?16] Oct. and 23 Oct. 1579, respectively, were printed at London in 1580 by H. Bynneman, ‘dwelling in Thames streate, neere unto Baynardes Castell,’ and entitled Two other | very commendable Letters | of the same mens writing: | both touching the foresaid | Artificiall Versifying, and cer | tain other Particulars || More lately deliuered vnto the | Printer. The later letters, III and IV, dated April 1580, were printed earlier in the same year by the same printer, and, with a third (placed second in the book-order), constituted the Three Proper | and wittie familiar Letters: | lately passed betweene two V- | niuersitie men: touching the Earth- | quake in Aprill last, and our | English refourmed Versifying. || With a Preface of a well willer to them both. The second letter in the earlier publication, which is omitted here, contains Gabriel Harvey’s reflections on the recent earthquake. The text has been copied from the rare volume in the British Museum, C 40. d. 16, pp. 51 and 61 (I and II), and pp. 1 and 31 (III and IV). The concluding extracts, which have a direct bearing on this correspondence, are from the Letter-Book of Gabriel Harvey (1573–1580) B. M. Sloane 93.]

To the Worshipfull His Very Singular Good Friend, Maister G. H., Fellow of Trinitie Hall in Cambridge.

GOOD Master G., I perceiue by your most curteous and frendly Letters your good will to be no lesse in deed than I alwayes esteemed. In recompence wherof, think, I beseech you, that I wil spare neither speech nor wryting, nor aught else, whensoeuer and wheresoeuer occasion shal be offred me: yea, I will not stay till it be offred, but will seeke it in al that possibly I may. And that you may perceiue how much your Counsel in al things preuaileth with me, and how altogither I am ruled and ouerruled thereby, I am nowe determined to alter mine owne former purpose, and to subscribe to your aduizement, being notwithstanding resolued stil to abide your farther resolution. My principal doubts are these. First, I was minded for a while to haue intermitted the vttering of my writings, leaste, by ouermuch cloying their noble eares, I should gather a contempt of my self, or else seeme rather for gaine and commoditie to doe it, for some sweetnesse that I haue already tasted. Then also me seemeth the work too base for his excellent Lordship, being made in Honour of a priuate Personage vnknowne, which of some ylwillers might be vpbraided not to be so worthie as you knowe she is: or the matter not so weightie that it should be offred to so weightie a Personage: or the like. The selfe former Title stil liketh me well ynough, and your fine Addition no lesse. If these and the like doubtes maye be of importaunce in your seeming to frustrate any parte of your aduice, I beeseeche you, without the leaste selfe loue of your own purpose, councell me for the beste: and the rather doe it faithfullye and carefully, for that in all things I attribute so muche to your iudgement, that I am euer more content to annihilate mine owne determinations in respecte thereof. And indeede for your selfe to, it fitteth with you now to call your wits and senses togither (which are alwaies at call), when occasion is so fairely offered of Estimation and Preferment. For, whiles the yron is hote, it is good striking; and minds of Nobles varie as their Estates. Varum ne quid durius.
  I pray you bethinke you well hereof, good Maister G., and forthwith write me those two or three special points and caueats for the nonce, De quibus in superioribus illis mellitissimis longissimisque Litteris tuis. Your desire to heare of my late beeing with hir Maiestie muste dye in it selfe. As for the twoo worthy Gentlemen, Master SIDNEY and Master DYER, they haue me, I thanke them, in some vse of familiarity: of whom, and to whome, what speache passeth for youre credite and estimation, I leaue your selfe to conceiue, hauing alwayes so well conceiued of my vnfained affection and zeale towardes you. And nowe they haue proclaimed in their [areio pago] a generall surceasing and silence of balde Rymers, and also of the verie beste to: in steade whereof, they haue, by autho[ri]tie of their whole Senate, prescribed certaine Lawes and rules of Quantities of English sillables for English Verse, hauing had thereof already greate practise, and drawen mee to their faction. Newe Bookes I heare of none, but only of one, that writing a certaine Booke, called THE SCHOOLE OF ABUSE, and dedicating it to Maister SIDNEY, was for hys labor scorned, if at leaste it be in the goodnesse of that nature to scorne. Suche follie is it not to regarde aforehande the inclination and qualitie of him to whome wee dedicate oure Bookes. Suche mighte I happily incurre, entituling my SLOMBER and the other Pamphlets vnto his honor. I meant them rather to MAISTER DYER. But I am, of late, more in loue wyth my Englishe Versifying than with Ryming; whyche I should haue done long since, if I would then haue followed your councell. Sed te solum iam tum suspicabar cum Aschamo sapere: nunc Aulam video egregios alere Poëtas Anglicos. Maister E. K. hartily desireth to be commended vnto your Worshippe: of whome what accompte he maketh youre selfe shall hereafter perceiue, by hys paynefull and dutifull Verses of your selfe.  2
  Thus much was written at Westminster yesternight; but comming this morning, beeyng the sixteenth of October, to Mystresse Kerkes, to haue it deliuered to the Carrier, I receyued youre letter, sente me the laste weeke; whereby I perceiue you otherwhiles continue your old exercise of Versifying in English: whych glorie I had now thought shoulde haue bene onely ours heere at London and the Court.  3
  Truste me, your Verses I like passingly well, and enuye your hidden paines in this kinde, or rather maligne and grudge at your selfe that would not once imparte so muche to me. But once or twice you make a breache in Maister DRANTS Rules: quod tamen condonabimus tanto Poëtae tuaeque ipsius maximae in his rebus autoritati. You shall see when we meete in London (whiche, when it shall be, certifye vs) howe fast I haue followed after you in that Course: beware leaste in time I ouertake you. Veruntamen te solum sequar (vt saepenumero sum professus), nunquam sane assequar dum viuam. And nowe requite I you with the like, not with the verye beste, but with the verye shortest, namely with a fewe Iambickes: I dare warrant they be precisely perfect for the feete (as you can easily iudge) and varie not one inch from the Rule. I will imparte yours to Maister SIDNEY and Maister DYER at my nexte going to the Courte. I praye you keepe mine close to your selfe, or your verie entire friendes, Maister PRESTON, Maister STILL, and the reste.

Iambicum Trimetrum.
Vnhappie Verse, the witnesse of my vnhappie state,
  Make thy selfe fluttring wings of thy fast flying
  Thought, and fly forth vnto my Loue, whersoeuer she be:
Whether lying reastlesse in heauy bedde, or else
  Sitting so cheerelesse at the cheerfull boorde, or else
  Playing alone carelesse on hir heauenlie Virginals.
If in Bed, tell hir that my eyes can take no reste;
  If at Boorde, tell hir that my mouth can eate no meate;
  If at hir Virginals, tel hir I can heare no mirth.
Asked why? say, Waking Loue suffereth no sleepe;
  Say that raging Loue dothe appall the weake stomacke;
  Say that lamenting Loue marreth the Musicall.
Tell hir that hir pleasures were wonte to lull me asleepe;
  Tell hir that hir beautie was wonte to feede mine eyes;
  Tell hir that hir sweete Tongue was wonte to make me mirth.
Nowe doe I nightly waste, wanting my kindely reste;
  Nowe do I dayly starue, wanting my liuely foode;
  Nowe do I alwayes dye, wanting thy timely mirth.
And if I waste, who will bewaile my heauy chaunce?
  And if I starue, who will record my cursed end?
  And if I dye, who will saye, this was Immerito?
  I thought once agayne here to haue made an ende, with a heartie Vale of the best fashion; but loe an ylfauoured myschaunce. My last farewell, whereof I made great accompt, and muche maruelled you shoulde make no mention thereof, I am nowe tolde (in the Diuels name) was thorough one mans negligence quite forgotten, but shoulde nowe vndoubtedly haue beene sent, whether I hadde come or no. Seing it can now be no otherwise, I pray you take all togither, wyth all their faultes: and nowe I hope you will vouchsafe mee an answeare of the largest size, or else I tell you true you shall bee verye deepe in my debte, notwythstandyng thys other sweete but shorte letter, and fine but fewe Verses. But I woulde rather I might yet see youre owne good selfe, and receiue a Reciprocall farewell from your owne sweete mouth.  5
  Ad Ornatissimum virum, multis iamdiu nominibus clarissimum, G. H. IMMERITO sui mox in Gallias nauigaturi [Greek].  6
[Here follow 114 lines of Latin verse]

I was minded also to haue sent you some English verses, or Rymes, for a farewell; but, by my Troth, I haue no spare time in the world to thinke on such Toyes, that you knowe will demaund a freer head than mine is presently. I beseeche you by all your Curtesies and Graces let me be answered ere I goe: which will be, (I hope, I feare, I thinke) the next weeke, if I can be dispatched of my Lorde. I goe thither, as sent by him, and maintained most what of him: and there am to employ my time, my body, my minde, to his Honours seruice. Thus, with many superhartie Commendations and Recommendations to your selfe and all my friendes with you, I ende my last farewell, not thinking any more to write vnto you before I goe; and withall committing to your faithfull Credence the eternall Memorie of our euerlasting friendship, the inuiolable Memorie of our vnspotted friendshippe, the sacred Memorie of our vowed friendship, which I beseech you Continue with vsuall writings, as you may; and of all things let me heare some Newes from you, as gentle M. SIDNEY, I thanke his good Worship, hath required of me, and so promised to doe againe. Qui monet, vt facias, quod iam facis; you knowe the rest. You may alwayes send them most safely to me by MISTRESSE KERKE, and by none other. So once againe, and yet once more, farewell most hartily, mine owne good MASTER H. and loue me, as I loue you, and thinke vpon poore IMMERITO, as he thinketh vppon you.

  Leycester House. This 5 [?16] of October 1579.
  Per mare, per terras, Viuus mortuusque, Tuus Immerito.

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