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Forthwith her ghost out of her corpse did flit,
And followed her mate, like turtle chaste;
And pitying this pair of lovers true,
Into one flower, that is both red and blue: It first grows red, and then to blue doth fade, Like Astrophel, which thereinto was made.
And in the midst thereof a star appears,
As fairly form'd as any star in skies,
Forth darting beams of beauty from her eyes;
That herb of some Starlight is call'd by name,
Of others Penthea, though not so well;
From this day forth do call it Astrophel ;
We shall venture to make one remark only upon this poem. It is a little extraordinary that Spenser though he has dedicated his elegy to Sidney's widow, then Countess of Essex, should make no mention of that lady in any part of it. We are assured that she accompanied her husband in his unfortunate expedition, and assiduously watched over bim in the anxious interval from the time of his being wounded, until his death.
The introduction of Lady Rich, or Stella, is still more extraordinary, when the dedication is considered in connection with the following lines :
For one alone he car'd, for one he sighed,
Mr. Todd remarks, that “the early love of Sir Philip Sidney for Lady Rich is converted into a beautiful fic tion in Spenser's Elegy of Astrophel.” To the present writer, this fiction appears in a directly opposite light, as one particularly unfortunate, and considering the party to whom the Elegy is dedicated, almost indecorous; very much unlike the manner of the gentle and courtly Spenser. It may, however, perhaps, admit of the following explanation -Spenser's Elegy was written before the publication of Sidney's poetry entitled “ Astrophel and Stella,” which was probably never communicated to him in manuscript. The Poet had doubtless heard of the poetic designation of Sidney's mistress, but her real name was unknown to him.The haughty and high-born Sidney, though he condescended to patronize and encourage the lowly strains” of Spenser, was not very likely to select the plebeian bard for a confidant in an affair of so much delicacy. May we not then presume that Spenser, in celebrating the loves of Astrophel and Stella, had no other person in his view than the Countess of Essex herself, whom he considered as the original oi Stella? This conjecture receives support from some expressions in the " Mourning Muse," where Stella, lamenting the death of Sidney, is made to call him her “ true and faithful Pheer,"* and her " trusty guide."
Of all the flowers a Lilly once I loved,
Whose labouring beauties branched itself abroad,
Of the personal history of John Lilly, very little has been handed down to us. From the authority of the Oxford historian, we find that he was entered of Magdalen College in 1569, when he was about sixteen years old, and by the titles of his books. it appears that he took a master's degree. Perhaps the following account of himself delivered in a fictitious character, is the best extant.--" I was born in the wild of Kent, of honest parents and worshipful, whose tender cares, if the fondness of parents may be so termed, provided all things, even from my very cradle, until their graves, that might either bring me up in good letters, or make me heir to great livings. I, without arrogance be it spoken, was not inferior in wit to many, which finding in myself, I flattered myself, but in the end deceived myself: for being of the age of twenty years, there was no trade or kind of life that either fitted
humour or served my turn, but the court; thinking that place the only means to climb high and sit sure. Wherein I followed the vein of young soldiers, who judge nothing sweeter than war till they feel the weight. I was there
entertained as well by the great friends my father made, as by mine own forwardness; where it being now but honey-moor, I endeavoured to court it with a grace, almost past grace, laying more upon my back than nay friends could well bear; having many times a brave cloak, and a thread-bare purse. Who so conversant with the Ladies as I? Who more prodigal ? Who more pleasant? Insomuch as I thought the time lost which was not spent either in their company with delight, or for their company in letters."*
That John Lilly has, in the above passage, drawn his own character fairly, is proved by his various publications. He was a literary courtier; and spent the whole of his days in ministering to the vanity of the Queen and her ladies. It would be pleasant to record the fact that he received an adequate reward for his pains; it is however much too probable that empty faine, and perhaps, in his case, the labor ipse voluptas constituted bis only reward. The age of Elizabeth, though fertile in learned men, was by no means celebrated for patronage, and much greater writers than Lilly were repaid with neglect. That our courely anthor was however, led by promises to expect some substantial reward, appears by a letter he addressed to the Queen in 1597, in which he reminds her majesty, that he had been during thirteen years in expectation of receiving the appointment of Master of the Revels. Whether he ever did acquire that, or any other recompence, does not satisfactorily appear.
* Euphues and his England.
Mr. Ellis supposes Lilly to have died about the commencement of the 17th century; but he was probably alive so late as 1616, that being the year in which the volume was published from whence the annexed motto is taken, which does not speak of him as dead, but as being in old age.
It has been the fate of John Lilly to suffer equally from the exaggerated praises of his contemporaries, and from the ridicule and neglect of posterity; and consequently an impartial estimate of his talents has never been made at any period of time. The following amusing contrast of opinions will sufficiently illustrate this remark. William Webbe, the author of a scarce pamphlet, published in 1586, with the title of “ A Discourse on English Poetry,” speaking of the eloquence of his contemporaries, thus expresses himself respecting our author :-" There is none, I think, will gainsay but that Master John Lilly hath deserved most bigh commendations, as he that hath stepped one step further than any. Whose works surely, in respect of bis singular eloquence, and brave composition of apt words and sentences, let the learned examine, and make a trial thereof through all parts of rhetoric, in fit phrases, in pithy sentences, in gallant tropes, in flowing speech, in plain sense, and surely in my judgment. I think he will yield him that verdict, which Quintilian giveth of both the best orators, Demosthenes and Tully: that from the one nothing may be taken, and to the other nothing may be added.' -Mr. Ellis on the contrary, gives the following character of the same writings :-" He is said to have gained the admiration of Queen Elizabeth's court, by the invention of a new English, a model of which he exhibited in two prose