One of England's greatest poets
SPENSER, Edmund The Works of that Famous English Poet, Mr. Edmond Spenser., viz. The Faery Queen, The Shepherd's Calendar, The History of Ireland, &c. Whereunto is added, An Account of His Life; With other new Additions Never before in Print. London: Henry Hills for Jonathan Edwin, 1679.
Folio. Sometime rebound in half brown morocco, gilt lettering to spine, marbled boards, marbled endpapers, t.e.g.; pp. [x],339,[i],16,,2,10-11,9-11,10-11, 14-258, 369-391, [i], frontispeice engraving of Spenser's tomb; hinges a little rubbed, occasional spotting, previous owner's signature partially erased from title page, very good.
First complete edition, first state. The pagination of this volume is extremely eccentric but is as issued. This is the third folio edition of Spenser's poetry but the first to contain his complete works, including his prose View of the Tate of Ireland and Bathurst's Latin translation of The Shepherd's Calendar. It has been suggested by the DNB that John Dryden was the anonymous editor of this edition.
Edmund Spenser is probably best known for his allegorical poem The Faery Queene, at one time the longest poem in the English language. The poem was published with the help of Sir Walter Raleigh, who persuaded Spenser to accompany him back to England to present the completed portion of the work to Queen Elizabeth. Another item, Mother Hubberd’s Tale, caused the authorities to withdraw unsold copies of the volume because it contained a covert attack on Lord Burghley, who was one of the most powerful figures of the court. Nevertheless, in 1591 Queen Elizabeth gave Spenser a small pension for life, in recognition of his writing.
An equally important poem is The Shepheardes Calender, one of the first works of the English literary Renaissance. Spenser's first major poetic work, it consists of twelve eclogues, each named after a different month, and representing the turning of seasons. This poem in fact formed the ground-work for his later publication of The Faery Queen.
This volume also contains Spenser's essay A View of the State of Ireland, in which he passionately argues for reform, with the laws, customs and religion forming the basis of the decline in society. He writes that "Ireland is a diseased portion of the State, it must first be cured and reformed, before it could be in a position to appreciate the good sound laws and blessings of the nation."
Spenser had a strong influence upon his immediate successors, and the sensuous features of his poetic style, as well as his nine-line stanza form, were later admired and imitated by such poets as Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley in the Romantic period of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He was buried with ceremony in Westminster Abbey close to the grave of Geoffrey Chaucer.