In 1552 Edmund Spenser was born in the city of London. As the son of a poor cloth maker Spenser found himself working his way through Cambridge by serving as a waiter. Spenser received his Bachelors degree in 1573, followed by his Master’s in 1576. Soon after, Spenser served as a secretary to Bishop John Young in Kent. Within the next year, Philip Sydney, Edward Dyer, and Fulke Greville joined with Spenser to form what Spenser called the “Areopagus.” “The Areopagus was a literary group formed to support the causes of the Leicester faction in matters of religion and politics”(Freeman 50).
Soon after he left college, Spenser published “The Shepherd’s Calendar.” It was a long poem about the then popular shepherds and shepherdesses. “The Shepheardes Calender appeared at the end of the year, in time to serve as, among other things, propaganda for the Leicester position on the Queen’s proposed marriage with the Duc d’Alencon”( The poem brought him immediate success. Spenser hoped for a court appointment, but none came.
For the next ten years Spenser spent his life in Ireland. During this time Spenser wrote his most popular poem, The Faerie Queene. While in Ireland Spenser became friends with a nearby neighbor named Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh assisted Spenser in trying to persuade the Queen of England to give Spenser a job in her court. The book became very popular with the reading public, but was shot down by the Queen in similar fashion as The Shepheardes Calender.
After his disappointments with the Queen, Spenser returned once more to Ireland. About this time the Daphnaida and the Complaints surfaced. Spenser then met a young lady by the name of Elizabeth Boyle. They would soon marry and give birth to four children. Spenser continued to produce a number of poems, including the Amoretti and Epithalamion, Colin Clouts Come Home Againe, Fowre Hymnes, and Prothalamion. Unfortunately, during an insurrection of native Irishmen, Spenser’s castle was burned. He, his wife and four children were forced to flee from Ireland to England. “Many say his infant baby died in flames with some of the unpublished cantos of The Faerie Queen burned in flame” ( On January 13, 1599, a few weeks after returning to England, Spenser died a poor man in his native country of England (Freeman 46).
Edmund Spenser was popular during the Elizabethan Age because he was one of the first to compose his poems in a way that “appealed to learned men as well as the common people of England.” “The Prince of Poets in his Tyme- these are the words that were inscribed upon Spenser’s monument in Westminster Abbey, and they remain for all later generations the memorial that best expresses the impact his work makes upon them”(Freeman 47). Spenser used his natural writing skills to paint elaborate pictures in a reader’s mind.
Spring-headed Hydraes, and sea-shouldering Whales,
Great whirlpooles, which all fishes make to flee,
Bright Scolopendraes, arm’d with silver scales,
Mighty Monoceros, with immeasured tayles.
(II. xii. 23)
This type of descriptive writing found in the Faerie Queene made him so popular with the reading public during the 16th century. Spenser was truly the greatest writer of his generations. He brought to us the nine-line stanza as well as overwhelming epics, which are still in circulation to this very day. The way Spenser’s writing lives on today has taught me that he is and always will be one of the greatest writers of all time.

Works Cited

“Edmund Spenser.” 4 May 1999
“Edmund Spenser.” 4 May 1999
Freeman, Rosemary. British Writers and Their Work: No. 8. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1962
Maclean, Hugh. Edmund Spenser’s Poetry. New York: Norton &Company Inc., 1968
Spenser, Edmund. The Faerie Queene. London, 1596