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Samuel Daniel (1562-1619)

SAMUEL DANIEL, an English poet and historian, was the son of a music-master, and was born near Taunton, in Somersetshire, in 1562. In 1579 he was admitted a commoner of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he remained for about three years, and then gave himself up to the unrestrained study of poetry and philosophy. He succeeded in being appointed tutor to Anne Clifford, daughter of the Earl of Northumberland, and thus commenced a life of not ignoble dependence on several of the great houses of that day. He was first encouraged and, if we may believe him, taught in verse, by the famous Countess of Pembroke, whose honor he was never weary of proclaiming.

His first known volume of verse is dated 1592; it contains the cycle of sonnets to Delia and the romance called The Complaint of Rosamond. We learn by internal evidence that Delia lived on the banks of Shakespeare's river, the Avon, and that the sonnets to her were inspired by her memory when the poet was in Italy. To an edition of Delia and Rosamond, in 1594, was added the tragedy of Cleopatra, a severe study in the manner of the ancients, in alternately rhyming heroic verse, diversified by stiff choral interludes. The First Four Books of the Civil Wars, an historical poem in ottava rima, appeared in 1595. The bibliography of Daniel's works is attended with great difficulty, but as far as is known, it was not until 1599 that there was published a volume entitled Poetical Essays, which contained, besides the "Civil Wars," "Musophilus," and "A letter from Octavia to Marcus Antonius," poems in Daniel's finest and most mature manner. On the death of Spenser, in the same year, Daniel received the somewhat vague office of poet-laureate, which he seems, however, to have shortly resigned in favor of Ben Jonson. In 1601 he published his Epistles to Great Personages in Verse.

In 1603 Daniel was appointed Master of the Queen's Revels. In this capacity he brought out a series of masques and pastoral tragi-comedies,—of which were printed A Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, in 1604; The Queen's Arcadia, in 1606; and Hymen's Triumph, in 1615. Meanwhile had appeared, in 1605, Certain Short Poems, with the Tragedy of Philotas, which latter was a study in the same style as Cleopatra. In 1604 the Civil Wars had been completed in eight books. In 1612 Daniel published a prose History of England, from the earliest times down to the end of the reign of Edward III. This work was afterward continued and published toward the close of Daniel's life, without a date.

He was made a gentleman-extra-ordinary and groom of the chamber to Queen Anne, sinecure offices which offered no hindrance to an active literary career. He was now acknowledged as one of the first writers of the time. Shakespeare, Selden, and Chapman are named among the few intimates who were permitted to intrude upon the seclusion of a garden-house in Old street, St. Luke's, where, Fuller tells us, he would "lie hid for some months together, the more retiredly to enjoy the company of the Muses, and then would appear in public to converse with his friends." Late in life Daniel threw up his titular posts at court and retired to a farm-house ,which he rented at Beckington, in his native County of Somerset, where he died on October 14, 1619.

      Excerpted from:

      Americanized Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Ed. Vol III.
      Chicago: Belford-Clarke Co., 1895. 1912.

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