The First Complete Edition of Samuel Daniel’s Poetry

Daniel, Samuel (1562-1619)

The Whole Workes of Samuel Daniel Esquire in Poetrie

London: printed by Nicholas Okes, for Simon Waterson, and are to be sold at his shoppe in Paules Church-yard, at the signe of the Crowne, 1623


Quarto: 18.4 x 14.3 cm. [12], 231, [1]; [6], 180, [19], 186-479, [1] pp. Collation: π2 (=Tt5-6), A-C4, D-Q8, R4, Aa-Ss8, Tt8 (see following note); Aa-Mm8, Nn4. This copy has blank leaf A4 and lacks blank leaf Nn4). Leaves Tt5-6 (the cancel title and the letter to Prince Charles) are bound between leaves A1(engraved title) and A2 (the dedication to the Countess of Pembroke). STC note: Part 1, a reissue of the 1609 edition of "The civile wares", is preceded by a new letterpress title page and dedication leaf. Quire A of this first part is often wholly or partly lacking.” This copy is perfect.


With an engraved title by T. Cockson dated 1609, originally used for the 1609 ed. of the “Civil Wars”, separate section titles, woodcut and typographic headpieces, E4 is the usual cancel, but the often-lacking blank A4 present; a few light and mostly marginal text stains, blank margin of engraved title a little frayed, short clean tear entering the engraving with no loss. Bound in contemporary limp vellum, re-cased. A wonderful copy. Provenance: Thomas Hurst (contemporary owner inscription on verso of final leaf), John Drinkwater (bookplate, signature and penciled note), Edward Hubert Litchfield (bookplate; Parke-Bernet, 3 December 1951, lot 270)

The contents are as follows. Dates refer to the year in which a given work was composed or, where that is unknown, when it was first published:

“The Civil Wars”(1595, complete 1609), with Daniel’s dedicatory epistles to Prince Charles and the Countess of Pembroke; “The Tragedie of Philotas”(1605), with a verse dedication to Prince Henry; “Hymen's Triumph”(1614); “Vlisses and the Syren”(1605); “The Queenes Arcadia: A Pastorall Trage-Comedie”(1605) with a verse dedication to Queen Anne; The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses (1604); “The Tragedie of Cleopatra”(1594) with a verse dedication to Mary, Countess of Pembroke, “A Letter sent from Octavia to her husband Marcus Antonius into Egypt”(1599) with a dedicatory sonnet to Margaret, Countess Cumberland; “Funerall Poeme: Upon the death of the Late Noble Duke of Devonshire”(1607); “A Panegyric Congratulatory” to King James I (1603); Certain Epistles, addressed to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Henry Howard, Lucy, countess of Bedford, Margaret, countess of Cumberland, Lady Anne Clifford, and Henry, earl of Southampton (1601); “Musophilus: Containing a Generall Defence of All Learning”(1599) with a verse dedication to Sir Fulke Greville; “The Complaint of Rosamond”(1592); “To Delia”(1592); “A Description of Beauty, Translated out of Marino”; “To the Angell Spirit of the Most Excellent Sr. Phillip Sidney”; “A letter written to a worthy countesse”; “To James Montague, Bishop of Winchester.”

Samuel Daniel’s first published poetry appeared in 1591, when twenty-eight of his “Delia” sonnets were published surreptitiously as an appendix to an unauthorized edition of Sidney’s “Astrophel and Stella”. The publication brought Daniel to the attention of Sidney’s sister Mary, the Countess of Pembroke and in the following year he dedicated to her the “Delia” sonnets, by then fifty in number, and the narrative poem “The Complaint of Rosamond”, an account by the ghost of Rosamond Clifford of how she was seduced by Henry II and poisoned by his queen.

The Countess of Pembroke invited Daniel to join her at Wilton House, where she commissioned him to write a companion piece to her own ‘Tragedy of Antony.’ For his play “The Tragedy of Cleopatra”, “Daniel drew on the same sixteenth-century French Senecan models and conventions (a text for reading not acting, a chorus, much of the action narrated by a messenger), but he caught at something new in English, at least among the Elizabethan writers, the grace and pathos of a great woman who was suffering.”(DNB)

“By 1594 Daniel had established himself as the new poet of the English dolce stile—perfect in melody, phrasing, and idiom—and as a writer whom other writers had to keep an eye on. Spenser in 1595, in ‘Colin Clout's Come Home Again’, described him as surpassing everyone in sight, and Shakespeare had begun to borrow from him freely, especially for his narrative poems and sonnets…

Next followed his heroic poem on the medieval civil wars fought between the houses of Lancaster and York, the impact of which “was felt throughout the literary scene at once. This time, however, it was not just his writing that contemporaries remarked upon, but the depth and subtlety of his exposition of kingship, matters of state, and the causes of rebellion. Shakespeare was drawing on it for aspects of Richard II within weeks of the poem going on sale (probably November 1595).”(Ibid.)

In 1599 Daniel published his first epistolary poem, “A Letter from Octavia to Marcus Antonius”, “a major contribution to the Renaissance genre of Ovidian verse letter”(Hiller & Groves), in which Antony’s loyal and suffering wife Octavia attempts to recover her husband from Cleopatra and to reconcile him with Octavian. The poem is believed to reflect the marital woes of Daniel’s new patron, Margaret Clifford, Lady Cumberland.

Daniel’s “Musophilus, or a Defense of all Learning”, written at a time of artistic and personal crisis, is “perhaps the single most important poem in Daniel’s career, and certainly the most innovative”(DNB). “Musophilus” is a defense of poetry and all intellectual pursuits, in which the poet “insists on the superiority of intellectual values over materialistic, of active virtue over the easy imitation of corrupt times, and of the power of poetry to provide fame for the worthy with greater certitude than any memorial.”(Ibid.)

When James I assumed the throne Daniel gained, in the person of Queen Anne, his most powerful patron.

“The following years were the most difficult of Daniel's life. The first disaster was with ‘The Tragedy of Philotas’, performed before the king by the Children of the Queen's Revels early in January 1605. Daniel was immediately called before the privy council to answer the charge that his treatment of the subject—the downfall of Philotas, a favourite of Alexander the Great—was seditious comment on the trial and execution of Robert, earl of Essex, in 1601. He protested that he had only written the play ‘to reduce the stage from idlenes to those grave presentments of antiquitie used by the wisest nations’, and he was sure, he told the council, that his patron Mountjoy, who had seen ‘Philotas’ in manuscript, would speak on his behalf. But Mountjoy, who had just about steered clear of the failed Essex coup, was furious when Daniel dragged in his name like this. The letters of apology that Daniel wrote to Mountjoy and to Robert Cecil in May show how complete was his humiliation. Whether or not he did intend ‘Philotas’ as a comment on behalf of the Essex cause (modern scholars believe that he did), the scandal and the stain on his reputation hurt him deeply. But he cannot have been out of favour for long, if at all, since his pastoral tragicomedy ‘Arcadia Reformed’ (published in 1606 as ‘The Queen's Arcadia’) was played before the queen and Prince Henry at Christ Church in August when the royal family visited Oxford (the auditorium set up in the hall in Christ Church was designed by Inigo Jones). ‘Philotas’ too, despite Daniel's offer to Cecil to withdraw the play altogether, was judged acceptable; it appeared late in 1605, with a dedication to Prince Henry, in the third collected edition, ‘Certain Small Poems.’

“Daniel was a major not a minor poet, whose development was marked by a gradual loosening of the ties that bound together literary forms. Daniel began with the ‘Delia’ sonnets, with honeyed rhymes and a cruel lady, but he linked these to ‘Rosamond’, a hybrid of Ovidian and Gothic lament, in which popular Tudor medievalism (the tradition of ‘The Mirror for Magistrates’) sat uneasily with his more accurate and sensitive reading of medieval history. From there, through further experiments in vernacular epic, neo-classical drama, Italian lyric, and other genres, Daniel arrived at his greatest but most perturbing achievements, ‘Musophilus’ and the verse epistles of 1603—achievements which, although they have been much praised since Coleridge and Wordsworth first discerned their quality, have few literary precedents and even fewer literary successors. It is true that in ‘Musophilus’ can be discerned the influence of Castiglione and the humanist colloquy, and a bedrock of commonplaces from Seneca, Horace, and Erasmus, but Daniel had few guides (perhaps only Montaigne) in making a poetry that shows the mind actually thinking, analyzing, at work. And it might be argued too that Daniel attempted to occupy a space where the self had rarely been, in English poetry before the Renaissance, and where few Elizabethan writers would wish to follow, as he tested out ideas about integrity, in social rank, kingship, virtue, and poetic form. What kept him this side of literary greatness, but made him of immense importance to modern understanding of the 1590s and of the Jacobeans, was that all of this mental work had to be done in the verse—as C. S. Lewis put it, meaning it as the highest praise, Daniel always thinks arduously and deeply in his poetry.”(John Pitcher, ODNB)

H. Sellers, A bibliography of the works of Samuel Daniel, 1585-1623, p. 44; Tannenbaum, Samuel Daniel, a concise bibliography, #215; STC 6238; ESTC S109853; Grolier, Langland to Wither, 64; Greg, I, 325(b); III, p. 1054-5