Spenser’s Great Pastoral Eclogue. The First Edition, the Sole Separate Edition & The Only Edition to Appear in The 16th Century

Spenser, Edmund (ca.1552-1599)

Colin Clouts come home againe. By Ed. Spencer.

London: printed by Thomas Creede for VVilliam Ponsonbie, 1595

$27,500.00

Quarto: 18 x 13 cm. [80] p. Signatures: A-K4

FIRST EDITION. The colophon reads: “London Printed by T.C. for William Ponsonbie. 1595.”

A wonderful copy bound in fine early 20th c. burgundy morocco by Riviere & Sons. Very nice internally, the last leaf carefully washed. With a woodcut printer’s device (McKerrow 299) and decorative border to the title page, and numerous head- and tailpieces throughout. A lovely copy of the first edition. This copy has the second state of sheet C, with the reading "worthily" on C1r, line 24.

With a dedicatory epistle to “The Right worthy and noble Knight Sir Walter Raleigh” dated “from my house of Kilcolman, the 27. Of December. 1591.” In addition to “Colin Clout”, this volume also includes Spenser’s “Astrophel: A pastorall Elegie upon the death of the most Noble and valorous Knight, Sir Phillip Sidney” (dedicated to Sidney’s widow, who had by then become the Countess of Essex); An untitled poem beginning “Ay me, to whom shall I complaine…” often referred to as “The dolefull lay of Corinda”; “The mourning Muse of Thestylis” (by Ludowick Bryskett); “A pastorall Aeglogue upon the death of Sir Phillip Sidney Knight” signed L.B. (Ludowick Bryskett); “An Elegie, or friends passion for his Astrophill” (by Matthew Roydon); “An Epitaph upon the right honourable sir Phillip Sidney Knight: Lord governor of Flushing” (by Walter Raleigh); “Another of the Same” (almost certainly by Sir Edward Dyer).

The [title] poem fits neatly into a tradition of advice literature that exempts the monarch from the general failings of his or her courtiers, and includes strong criticisms of the court, as well as attacks on the vanity, ignorance, and greed of courtiers in general. It is possible that Colin Clout was intended as a criticism of Elizabeth's regime in the 1590s, especially if we bear in mind Spenser's own lack of preferment in England and his posthumous criticisms of the queen in 'Two cantos of Mutabilitie' (A. Hadfield, Edmund Spenser's Irish Experience, 1997, chap. 6) (ODNB).

Spenser's adoption of an Anglo-Irish identity was publicly expressed in the title poem, where the 'home' that Colin refers to rather bitterly in the poem is Ireland, not England. At the same time, the elegies on Sidney as the English nation's poet imply Spenser's claim to be his successor.

Ashley V, 194; Pforzheimer 967; STC 23077