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Daniel, Samuel (1562–1619) - BIOGRAPHY, CRITICAL RECEPTION

daniel’s time history system

Samuel Daniel’s biography, beyond a recitation of his published works and political connections, offers an essential context for studying his writings. Daniel exemplifies the writer indebted to a system of patronage, who was shaped by, and helped to perpetuate, the literary system of Tudor and Stuart England.

Daniel was born in 1562. His father was John Daniel, a music master, and his brother John was a musician; some would say that heredity and environment contributed to the lyrical quality of Daniel’s own poetry. The young Daniel, like other aspiring statesmen of his day, notably Sir Philip Sidney,* followed a course of learning, travel, and political apprenticeship. He attended Magdalen College, Oxford, as a commoner but left without taking a degree. His first published work was a translation of a tract on impresa or devices, The Worthy Tract of Paulus Jovius (1585); dedicated to Sir Edward Dymoke, the queen’s champion, this was Daniel’s first attempt to please a patron. He gained notoriety not with a political appointment, however, but with the publication of twenty-eight of his poems with the unauthorized edition of Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella in 1591. The following year Daniel issued his own sonnet sequence, Delia , with The Complaint of Rosamond . With apologies and praises, this work was dedicated to the countess of Pembroke,* Sidney’s* sister. Around this time, Daniel entered Pembroke’s household as a tutor to her son, William Herbert. With these two publication events, Daniel worked the literary system to his advantage. Despite his protest in the dedication of Delia that he was “betraide by the indiscretion of a greedie Printer” and “forced to appeare so rawly in publique,” I suspect he was complicit in the publication of the “unauthorized” 1591 volume. After all, he had nothing to lose and everything to gain by an association with Sidney, famous since his untimely demise in 1586. Daniel’s careful revisions in the 1592 volume, together with his modified Petrarchism, suggest to me a poet intent on pleasing his reader and convincing her that he is worthy to be Sidney’s poetic heir. While promoting himself, Daniel affirms the powerful system of patronage that Pembroke represents and on which he depends.

Daniel continued to mount the ladder of literary achievement, charting a Virgilian progression from lyric poetry, tragic complaints, and drama to epic history in verse. While associated with Pembroke, Daniel published the Senecan drama The Tragedie of Cleopatra (1594), a companion to her own translation of Garnier’s Antonie . His sympathetic and complex portrayal of Cleopatra’s heroism most surely pleased her. Between 1595 and 1609, he published installments of The Civil Wars of England , completing eight volumes and bringing the history as far as the marriage of Edward IV to Lady Grey (he never fulfilled his intention to bring the work to the eve of the Tudor dynasty). By this time he had moved on to new patrons, Fulke Greville* and Lord Mountjoy, through whom he became an acquaintance and admirer of the earl of Essex. Abandoning his Civil Wars , he turned his back on poetry, to write, in prose, The Collection of the History of England (1618). Like so many grand Elizabethan projects, this one, too, remained unfinished, ending with the death of Edward III. With the accession of the new monarch, Daniel sought favor at James’* court. His Panegyricke Congratulatorie to His Majestie was printed with A Defence of Ryme in 1603, the volume sporting six additional dedicatory epistles to various noblemen and noblewomen. With the patronage of the countess of Bedford, Daniel became a prominent figure in court festivities, authoring the masques The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses (1604), The Queens Arcadia (1605), Tethys Festival (1610), and Hymens Triumph (1615). In 1604, he was appointed licenser of the Children of the Queen’s Revels, a post he held briefly. About this time, he encountered problems with censorship of his own play, Philotas (1605). The play was suspected of containing sympathetic commentary on Essex in his trial and execution in 1601. Daniel was called before the Privy Council but was able to extricate himself from trouble with a written apology. He continued in the queen’s favor as one of the grooms of her privy chamber, receiving an annual salary of sixty pounds. He retired to Wiltshire and there he died in 1619. An oft-published poet and accomplished courtier, secure in his patronage connections, he nonetheless failed to produce the successful epic work that would have earned him a more esteemed place in literary history.


Daniel has been praised primarily as a lyric poet, hailed in his own time as “well-languaged” and admired for “sweetness of ryming.” In our time, C. S. Lewis remarks of Delia that it “offers no ideas, no psychology, and of course no story: it is simply a masterpiece of phrasing and melody.” Following Lewis, modern critics have devoted themselves to appreciating the sonnets’ lyrical qualities. But the case is not closed. Daniel’s historical verse has, however, been judged a failure, although the Civil Wars has received close attention as a source for Shakespeare’s first tetralogy. Delia has likewise been counted among Shakespeare’s reading and always, of course, pales in critical comparison to his Sonnets . Studying mainly the Civil Wars and Collection of the History of England , historians have placed Daniel at the forefront of an emergent historiography in the late sixteenth century, conflicted in its relation to poetry and shifting from a providential view of history to one emphasizing human actions and their consequences (see Ferguson and Levy). For these writers and for most readers of Musophilus and the Defence of Ryme , Daniel is appreciated for his ideas rather than his poetic expression. In sum, Daniel has been seen as a pleasant but decidedly second-tier poet, a literary “professional” rather than a laureate, to use Richard Helgerson’s distinctions. These terms are useful to new historicists seeking to reevaluate Daniel’s career in terms of the patronage system, with its shifting power relations that both impede and enable poetic self-fashioning. Appreciation of his poetry per se may come with time.

Daniels, William “Billy”(1915–1988) - Singer, actor, Chronology, Works in the Theater, Accomplishments in Television and Film, Family Life [next] [back] Daniel

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