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Spurning at a Dead Dog: Patronage, Politics, and Allegory
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Spurning at a Dead Dog: Patronage, Politics, and Allegory

Of Johnson's original six anomalies in the otherwise consistent layout of the
skeleton-formes and running-titles in the printing of The Faerie Queene in 1590,
then, several have already begun to disclose information about the sequence of
printing the gatherings of the poem. The doubled pattern in the deployment of
skeleton-formes in gathering Cc, interpreted alongside fresh evidence of related


Page 136
inconsistencies in the appearance of running-titles in contiguous gatherings, sug-
gests that this kind of anomaly provides evidence of a slowing, or perhaps even
a halt, to the printing at such points in the text. A similar pattern of doubling
in the skeleton-formes in gatherings A and B seems likely to be associated with
the stop-press corrections made to the recto and verso of A1, witness to another
point in the printing where the compositors were probably suddenly faced with a
problem in their immediate copy. But there is one further point in the sequence
of gatherings, in gathering T, where the pattern of usage of the skeleton-formes
shows exactly the same kind of doubling, a pattern that could only have occurred
if the compositors were working very slowly, and at single press. The evidence
of interruption in the printing of gathering T takes us back, again, to Nashe's
satirical comments on the printing of The Faerie Queene in 1590, and once again
implicate the tangled threads of Spenser's allegory, his dedications, and the pa-
tronage politics of his carefully-tendered epic.

Toward the close of the 'priuate Epistle of the Author to the Printer'
that Nashe added to the second edition of Pierce Penilesse, he vomits up a few
characteristically dark sayings about his satirical intent in the ensuing work, com-
ments that serve above all to link Pierce Penilesse to The Faerie Queene, and both
texts to the recent Martinist controversy, to the legacy of the Earl of Leicester,
and to the now-fallen Ralegh:

Beggerly lyes no beggerly wit but can inuent: who spurneth not at a dead dogge? but I
am of another mettal, they shall know that I liue as their euil Angel, to haunt them world
without end, if they disquiet me without cause.[23]
As Charles Nicholl has demonstrated in his careful reading of the 'Tale of a
Battle-Dore' in Pierce Penilesse, much of Nashe's satire is directed, in an ad hominem
attack, at the memory of the Earl of Leicester (d. 1588).[24] Leicester's legacy as a
patron of 'Swiss' bishops and precisian preachers was politically charged in 1592
for the same reasons that it had been charged in 1591, when Spenser published
Complaints, including Virgil's Gnat, 'long since dedicated to the most noble and ex-
cellent Lord, the Earle of Leicester, late deceased'. Leicester's public support for
precisian causes, such as his patronage of the radical 'puritan' preacher Thomas
Cartwright, or his support for bishops and archbishops like Edmund Grindal,
was compromised by the salacious, and likely true, stories of his rapacious sexual
appetite and the occasionally murderous means he compassed to satisfy it. The
cupiditas that supposedly characterized his sexual and 'personal' life was taken by
his detractors as evidence of the self-interested ambitions and designs that Leices-
ter had for Elizabeth herself, for the crown, and for the realm; Leicester's sexual
licentiousness was read by his contemporaries as a sign for his own ambitions for
power, and for his final disregard for common weal in the face of his own self-


Page 137
satisfaction.[25] It was thus essential for allies and survivors of Leicester's factional
support of precisian causes—Walsingham, the Sidney family, Ralegh, Robert
Beale, Sir Francis Knollys, and others, probably including Spenser himselfS—to
defend Leicester's reputation, and to vitiate the supposedly automatic link be-
tween cupidity and self-interested political ambition.

This project became the more urgent for the Sidney faction in the early 1590s
as a result of the death of Sir Francis Walsingham (d. 1590), and the rise of Sir
Walter Ralegh. Ralegh's character was open to the same ad hominem attacks as
Leicester's had been: the same stories of sexual depravity, of enforced maids, of
illegitimate children, and of an almost psycho-sexual enchantment of Elizabeth
herself circulated in anti-Protestant and anti-Ralegh circles. Ralegh's association
with the Throckmorton family, through his clandestine marriage to Bess Throck-
morton, upon its public exposure in the summer of 1592 suddenly realized his
threat as a new Leicestrian patron of puritans: Bess's uncle Job Throckmorton
was probably the author of most, if not all, of the Martin Marprelate tracts of the
late 1580s, and the family had strong ties to the Cartwright-Penry-Udall circle
responsible for a dramatic upsurge in precisian preaching and nonconformity
in the early 1590s.[26] To attack Leicester publicly between 1590 and 1592 was to
attack Ralegh covertly; to defend Leicester publicly, as Spenser did, was in the
same period to defend Ralegh.

When Nashe promises to be an 'euil Angel' to anyone who disquiets him
without cause, in his preface to the second edition of Pierce Penilesse in the au-
tumn of 1592, he is responding directly to a very specific and charged bit of the
historical allegory of The Faerie Queene, published two years previously—one as-
sociated directly with the legacy of the dead Leicester, and the new incarnation
(at that time) of his political and religious agenda in Walter Ralegh. The begin-
ning of Book II, canto viii of The Faerie Queene finds Guyon, the patron knight
of temperance, lying in a swoon outside the delve of Mammon: oppressed with
the 'exceeding might' of the temptations offered him 'below the earth', Guyon's


Page 138
'life did flit away out of her nest', leaving him apparently dead and defenceless
to the predations and infamies of his enemies. Pyrochles and Cymochles, the two
sons of Acrates whom Guyon had defeated in cantos v and vi, discover his body,
and set about despoiling it, determined to take their revenge upon his honor, if
not upon his life. Guyon's only protection comes from his guide the Palmer, to
whom his body is committed in trust, at the opening of the canto, by the 'faire
young man', an angel sent by God to preserve Guyon's life and person. As the
angel tells the Palmer:
The charge, which God doth vnto me arret,
Of his deare safetie, I to thee commend;
Yet will I not forgoe, ne yet forget
The care thereof my selfe vnto the end,
But euermore him succour, and defend
Against his foe and mine…. (FQ II.viii.8)
Where Spenser promises Guyon an angel to defend and succour him 'euermore',
Nashe promises his own enemies an 'euil Angel, to haunt them world without
end'. Guyon's, and the angel's, 'foe' is any man who will dishonor Guyon's dead
(in fact merely sleeping) body, an abstract quickly realized, upon the angel's
departure, when Archimago, Pyrochles, and Cymochles appear full of 'coles of
contention and whot vengeance' (FQ II.viii.11).

It is with the arrival of this trio of despoilers that Nashe's other two references
to this passage—to 'mettal' and to the 'dead dogge'—become clear. Pyrochles
and Cymochles quickly set about 'disarraying' Guyon's body of his shield and
helm, deaf to the pleas of the effectless Palmer, but are immediately interrupted
by the arrival of Prince Arthur, whom Archimago recognizes as their natural
enemy. Archimago has by this point purloined Arthur's sword, intending (as he
indicates in stanza 18 of canto iii) to bestow it on the braggart Braggadocchio;
Pyrochles, addressing himself swordlessly to confront Arthur, demands Mord-
dure of Archimago, but is refused by the enchanter because the sword's power is
'contrarie to the worke, which ye intend':

For that same knights owne sword this is of yore,
Which Merlin made by his almightie art
For that his noursling, when he knighthood swore,
Therewith to doen his foes eternall smart.
The metall first he mixt with Medœwart,
That no enchauntment from his dint might saue;
Then it in flames of Aetna wrought apart,
And seuen times dipped in the bitter waue
Of hellish Styx, which hidden vertue to it gaue.
The vertue is, that neither steele, nor stone
The stroke thereof from entrance may defend;
Ne euer may be vsed by his fone,
Ne forst his rightfull owner to offend,
Ne euer will it breake, ne euer bend.
Wherefore Morddure it rightfully is hight.
In vaine therefore, Pyrochles, should I lend
The same to thee, against his lord to fight,
For sure it would deceiue thy labour, and thy might. (FQ II.viii.20–21)


Page 139
Pyrochles, defying Archimago, seizes the sword and tries to fight Arthur with it;
sure enough, at the two critical points in the ensuing battle when Pyrochles deliv-
ers the death-blow to the Prince, the 'faithfull steele such treason no'uld endure',
and Arthur survives to triumph over both brothers. Nashe's joke about being 'of
another mettal' locates his comments on satire, alongside the 'euil Angel' allu-
sion, as a direct reference to this passage from The Faerie Queene: when his metal
bites, Nashe indicates, it will not swerve.

But it is the third part of the allusion—'who spurneth not at a dead dogge?'—
that takes us furthest and most fruitfully into Nashe's reading of this episode, and
discloses the meaning of both Spenser's historical allegory and Nashe's criticism
of it. On their first arrival on the scene, the two sons of Acrates engage the
Palmer in the same argument—over Guyon's honor—in which they later con-
test Prince Arthur. Pyrochles, disdaining to be impeded by a weak and sanctimo-
nious palmer, will not stay like his brother to argue, but pushes straight in:

Good or bad (gan his brother fierce reply)
What doe I recke, sith that he dyde entire?
Or what doth his bad death now satisfy
The greedy hunger of reuenging ire,
Sith wrathfull hand wrought not her owne desire?
Yet since no way is left to wreake my spight,
I will him reaue of armes, the victors hire,
And of that shield, more worthy of good knight;
For why should a dead dog be deckt in armour bright? (FQ II.viii.15)
It is clear, given the intertextual conversation in which we can now situate this
episode from The Faerie Queene, that Guyon's swoon, during which his detractors
seem to despoil and dishonor his apparently dead corpse, functions as a historical
allegory for Leicester's patronage of the precisian cause. Leicester's intemper-
ance, like Guyon's weakness in the delve of Mammon and later in the Bowre of
Blis, remained the Achilles heel of the Sidney-Walsingham faction at court, and
their clients in Parliament. In the period after his death, Leicester's old causes
were exposed to the mercy of his detractors, defended only by the ineffectual
intervention of less powerful men, Palmer figures like Walsingham, Sir Francis
Knollys, and Walsingham's brother-in-law Robert Beale. Nashe's brief comments
on satire in his preface to the second edition of Pierce Penilesse rely on an intimate
knowledge of canto viii of Book II of The Faerie Queene: the triple allusion to the
guardian/evil angel, the 'metall' of Nashe's wit, and the 'dead dog'—for Nashe,
as for Spenser, a reference to Leicester—position Pierce Penilesse as a satirical
response to this episode from Guyon's quest.

But why should Nashe take such careful pains to focus the reader's attention
so precisely on a few stanzas from Spenser? Why should both authors associate
Leicester with a 'dead dog'? And what has this to do with the interruption of the
printing of The Faerie Queene in gathering T? The opening volley of Nashe's at-
tack on Leicester in 1592, like Spenser's defence of Leicester in 1590, relies on a
history of further intertextual associations, both Biblical and historical, that join
Leicester's sexual intemperance to his political ambition. Anti-Leicestrian at-
tacks proliferated in manuscript and occasionally print works throughout the late
1570s and 1580s; the most notorious example is the well-known 1584 The copy of
a letter written by a Master of Art of Cambridge
(or Leicester's Commonwealth, as it came


Page 140
to be known), which the Privy Council sought to suppress, and which spurred
Sir Philip Sidney to the composition of a curious written defence of his maternal
uncle. Leicester stood accused in Leicester's Commonwealth of having murdered
his first wife, to make himself available to Elizabeth; of having poisoned the first
Earl of Essex, so that he might marry Lettice Knollys, his wife; and of cajoling or
enforcing many of Elizabeth's younger maids and ladies. The charge that he had
poisoned Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex, in Dublin in 1577, made for particu-
larly cunning libels from the intelligentsia, as Leicester could be associated in ap-
parent innocence by a range of intertextual allusions with two other figures, one
Biblical and one historical, who had cleared their way to a woman by making off
with an inconvenient husband. King David, as recorded in 2 Samuel chapter 13,
directed his general, Joab, to put Uriah the Hittite in the vanguard of an as-
sault on Rabbah, so that, Uriah having been dispatched, David might take to
him Uriah's wife Bathsheba, already pregnant with the king's child. The Roman
emperor Heliogabalus, similarly, alienated his Praetorian guard by indulging in
extravagant spectacles of underage sexual depravity with men, women, animals,
and the wife of a man who he had specially murdered for the occasion. As Cas-
sius Dio, Herodian, and Aelius Lampridius report, when the Praetorian Guard
finally assassinated Heliogabalus, at age eighteen, they desecrated his body by
dragging it about the streets of Rome before chopping it up and dumping it in a
privy, after which it was flushed through a sewer to the Tiber.[27]

These two stories matter to Spenser because they became part of the stan-
dard attack of Catholic libels on Leicester. The author of Leicester's Commonwealth,
for example, has one of the interlocutors of his dialogue, the scholar, comment
on Leicester's supposed escapades:

I never heard nor read the like to this in my life, yet have I read much in my time of the
carnality and licentiousness of divers outrageous persons in this kind of sin, as namely
these whom you have mentioned before: especially the Emperor Heliogabalus, who passed
all other and was called Varius, of the variety of filth which he used in this kind of carnal-
ity or carnal beastliness. Whose death was, that being at length odious to all men, and
so slain by his own soldiers, was drawn through the city upon the ground like a dog and
cast into the common privy, with this epitaph: Hic projectus est indomitae et rabide libidinus
—Here is thrown in the whelp of unruly and raging lust, which epitaph may also
one day chance to serve my Lord of Leicester (whom you call the Bearwhelp) if he go
forward as he hath begun and die as he deserveth.[28]
The author of this influential manuscript and print tract against Leicester pro-
voked Sir Philip Sidney to write a defence of his uncle, which, crucially, picked
up on the charge of Leicester's beastliness, and focused on the description of


Page 141
him as a 'dog' and a 'bearwhelp'.[29] The association of Leicester with bears is a
direct reference to the Dudley family badge—a bear and ragged staff—but it
is also conveniendy linked to a well-known passage from 2 Samuel, chapter 17,
where the counsellor Hushai dissimulatingly advises David's son Absolom not to
attack his father in his flight, 'for … thou knowest thy father and his men, that
they be mighty men, and they be chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her
whelps in the field: and thy father is a man of war, and will not lodge with the
people.' 2 Samuel is also the source, in two locations, for Spenser's two uses in
Book II of The Faerie Queene of the derisive insult, 'dead dog'; the first Spenserian
use comes in Trompart's submission to Braggadocchio in canto iii of Book II,
which echoes the submission of Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, to David
in 2 Samuel chapter 9, verse 8: 'What is thy seruant, that thou shouldest looke
vpon such a dead dogge as I am?'[30] The second Spenserian use comes, as we (like
Nashe) have seen, in Pyrochles' impatient dismissal of the Palmer in canto viii
of Book II, when the two sons of Acrates begin to strip Guyon of his arms. The
emphasis here on the honor due to the fallen, in association with the use of 'dead
dog', echoes the other place in 2 Samuel where the insult occurs, chapter 16,
verse 9. Abishai offers to punish Shimei (a son of the house of Saul) for abusing
David and throwing stones at him in his ignominious flight from Jerusalem, say-
ing, 'Why doeth this dead dog curse my lorde the King? let me goe, I pray thee,
and take away his head.'[31]

Where Pyrochles' dismissal of the Palmer invokes the example of David dis-
honored by Shimei, Cymochles gets his turn at the same argument when he
upbraids Arthur for intervening, this time invoking another source:

To whom Cymochles said; For what art thou,
That mak'st thy selfe his dayes-man, to prolong
The vengeance prest? Or who shall let me now,
On this vile bodie from to wreake my wrong,
And make his carkasse as the outcast dong? (FQ, II.viii.28)
In repeating the argument, and making the association between the dishonor-
ing of Guyon's body, on the one hand, and 'outcast dong' on the other, Cy-


Page 142
mochles moves the association from David to Heliogabalus—whose body, as
we have seen, was hacked into pieces, thrown into a privy, and finally flushed
through the sewers of the Tiber. When Arthur finally receives from the Palmer
the sword of the fallen Guyon, and addresses himself to the fight, Spenser ties off
the set of intertextual associations in an epic simile, recalling at once the 'bear
whelp' of Leicester's Commonwealth and the whelpless bears and lions of 2 Samuel
chapter 17:
Then like a Lion, which hath long time saught
His robbed whelpes, and at the last them fond
Emongst the shepheard swaynes, then wexeth wood and yond…. (FQ II.viii.40)
As God delivered David from the revolt of Absalom, despite his sins and
'bloody deeds', so God, Arthur reasons, must be the one to judge Guyon's appar-
endy posthumous honor. Unlike Heliogabalus, whose body had been disgraced
and dismembered, and then made as 'the outcast dong' in a Tiberian latrine,
Guyon's honor must be preserved. The intertextual associations make it obvious
that, for at least the brief period of this episode, the fallen hero whom Arthur
is defending is (at the level of the historical allegory) none other than Robert
Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose honor was still a sensitive political issue for the
precisian preachers and divines (to say nothing of the poets) who had depended
on his patronage. Crucially, too, Guyon will shordy wake from his apparent
death, to carry on renewed with his quest; similarly, Ralegh (as it was thought in
1590) would take up the precisian cause. Where Pyrochles offers the example of
David, and Cymochles the precedent of Heliogabalus, Arthur rebuffs them both,
and preserves Guyon's honor and agenda—to fight another day.

That Nashe should have fixed on this episode of The Faerie Queene, with its
strong links to Leicester's Commonwealth, to Sidney's Defence, and to 2 Samuel and
the various Roman histories of the reign of Heliogabalus, suggests that he as-
sumed his readers would be able to reconstruct the intertextual associations on
which his satire depended. This is not the far-fetched assumption it might at first
seem: Leicester's Commonwealth circulated vigorously in the 1590s,[32] when it seems
to have been as popular as in its early heyday of the mid 1580s; it was still con-
sidered relevant enough in the early years of the seventeenth century to warrant
Thomas Rogers's verse redaction in Leicester's Ghost (ca. 1601–1604). Similarly,
the 'dead dog' passages from 2 Samuel continued to have important resonances,
for Spenser at least, throughout the 1590s—and though it is a complicated story,
it is worth pausing for a moment, with the patience of an archaeologist's brush,
to excavate it. Frank B. Evans demonstrated as early as 1965 (in this journal)
that Spenser introduced a substantial revision to Book V during the 1596 print-
ing of The Faerie Queene, rearranging the last two cantos to accommodate new
material allegorizing in the history of Sir Burbon the defection of Henri IV (i.e.
of Navarre) from the Protestant faith.[33] As Evans showed, Artegall's meeting


Page 143
with Sir Sergis in canto xi of Book V—affecting stanzas 37—43—was added
during printing as a transitional sequence that would enable Spenser to move
the matter of Sir Burbon from canto xii back to canto xi. After this change was
made (in some haste, it seems: note the clumsy transitional stanza 36 in canto xi
of Book V), Spenser obviously forgot to update the argument to canto xii, which
continues to suggest that the final canto includes both the Burbon material and
the defeat of Grantorto.[34] As A. C. Hamilton has observed in his annotations to
this passage, it is obvious that Spenser was interested in consolidating the mate-
rial of canto xi—including the rescue of Belgae, or the Netherlands, by Arthur's
hand—in order to provide a comprehensive account of Elizabeth's defense of
Protestant causes on the continent. What Evans did not observe and Hamilton
does not note, but which continues to make sense of the printing of the first part
of the poem six years earlier, was that this material was almost certainly also
moved back from canto xii so that Spenser might make space to accommodate
an addition to the final canto—a set of stanzas not mentioned in the (unchanged
original) argument to the canto, and one that appears after another obviously ter-
minal, unaltered stanza. What is now stanza 27 of canto xii was almost certainly
originally intended as the final stanza of Book V: Artegall 'through occasion' is
called away from the reformation of Irena's government before completing his
task, and the final alexandrine sounds the perfect, tight-lipped thud that Spenser
would have wanted for Artegall's (failed) conclusion: 'So hauing freed Irena from
distresse, / He tooke his leaue of her, there left in heauinesse.' Suddenly, though,
a new section was available—the episode describing Artegall's return from the
salvage island and defaming by the hags Envy and Detraction—beginning with
another clumsy segue: 'Tho as he backe returned from that land …'. Fun-
nily enough, this passage recalls again, six years later, the same episode from
2 Samuel, chapter 16 that had guided revision in 1590: Artegall's restraint of
Talus in the final stanza 43 echoes David's restraint of Abishai, when he sought
permission to punish Shimei of the house of Saul for throwing stones at David
and reviling him:
But Talus hearing her so lewdly raile,
And speake so ill of him, that well deserued,
Would her haue chastiz'd with his yron flaile,
If her Sir Artegall had not preserued,
And him forbidden, who his heast obserued.
So much the more at him still did she scold,
And stones did cast, yet he for nought would serue
From his right course, but still the way did hold
To Faery Court, where what him fell shall else be told. (FQ V.xii.43)
This time, no Prince Arthur is on hand to protect the honor of the reviled mag-
istrate, as he passes back to the court of his sovereign, recalled, disgraced, and
beaten. Much had changed since 1590 in the Protestant patronage circles in


Page 144
which Spenser had been wont to move: Walsingham had died, Grey had died,
Ralegh had fallen from favor, Essex had been obliged publicly to disavow his
precisian clients, Robert Beale (after his disastrous attack on the High Com-
mission in the 1593 Parliament) had been exiled from court, and Sir Francis
Knollys, the last surviving champion of Puritan causes on the Privy Council, had
been silenced and banned from the Queen's presence, and had, in 1596, finally
died.[35] Those who had faithfully served Elizabeth's Protestant foreign and do-
mestic policy had been ruined and impoverished, or were dead, and were being
defamed; where Arthur had reassured the Palmer in 1590 that he could rely on
him for his 'knights last patronage' (FQ II.viii.26), no such patron was available
in 1596. Spenser was determined to insert a complaint, and that complaint would
refer the reader back, through its intertextual links with 2 Samuel, to the other
magistrate so nearly left succourless in Book II, Guyon as the Earl of Leicester.

Nashe's interest in canto viii of Book II in 1592 was surely motivated by his
overall plan to set up Pierce Penilesse as an attack on Leicester and Ralegh based in
a satirical account of the patronage fiasco of the 1590 edition of The Faerie Queene.
Nashe may or may not have known that the printing of gathering T, which con-
tains canto viii of Book II, was marred by some anomaly that probably indicates
a slowing or even breakdown in the printing process; but he almost certainly
recognized that Spenser had meticulously revised this part of the poem so as to
include a pointed historical allegory defending the reputation of Leicester and
allying that defence not only with Prince Arthur, but with one of the only direct
Christian interventions, and certainly the most extended, in the entire gothic
world of The Faerie Queene. The pattern of skeleton-forme usage in gathering T,
as in A and B, and later in Cc, shows a doubling (here, of skeleton-forme III on
both formes of the outer sheet; II was not used) that indicates that printing must
have slowed, or perhaps even stopped. The psychology of this slowing is however
to be distinguished from the likely unfolding of constraints and solutions in the
earlier and later cases: where the doubling in gatherings A and B involved sheets
from two gatherings that could be alternated on the two presses, keeping up the
pace, and where the later doubling in gathering Cc was followed by a reverse of
skeleton-formes I and IV in the imposition of the formes of the inner sheet from
Dd (or, as we have seen, Ff) onward, in the case of gathering T it was skeleton-
forme III, and not II, that was used to impose both formes of the outer sheet, with
no corresponding shift in the use of skeleton-formes I or IV. As III would have
been in use to impose the inner forme of the outer sheet of S during the setting
of type for the first formes of T, it seems very likely that the delay evidenced in
the doubling of skeleton-formes in gathering T was specifically associated with
the outer sheet of the gathering—otherwise the compositors would have been
able to use skeleton-forme II to impose the outer forme of the outer sheet during
the printing of S, rather than waiting to impose the outer sheet until the printing
of the outer forme of the inner sheet of T (using skeleton-forme I). The process


Page 145
of imposing the formes in gathering T, and in the adjacent gatherings, can be
summarized as follows:

Press 1  Press 2 
I (β o
III (α i
IV (β i
III (α o

A hitherto unnoticed mistake in the pagination in gathering V indicates that
the inner forme of the outer sheet of gathering T was printed before the outer
forme of the outer sheet. Position 8r in gathering V reads '217' for '317', a mis-
take that would have been impossible if the conservative compositors had reset
running-title 15 from an immediately preceding use at position 8r in gathering T
(where the pagination reads '301'); the '2' of '217' is rather clearly retained from
an immediately preceding use at position 7r (page 299) of gathering T, where
running-title 15 was used in the printing of the outer forme of the outer sheet.
This particular '2', it should be noted, is different from the '2' that appears in
the pagination for running-title 15 in position 8r of gathering S; had the outer
forme of the outer sheet of T been printed before the inner forme, we would have
expected to see this '2' retained, but instead the '3' of'301' (at position 8r of T)
intervened. That the compositors did not then merely switch skeleton-formes II
and III after printing the inner forme of the outer sheet of T, and continue print-
ing at pace from that point, suggests that there was still residual lag, or some
further delay, with the outer forme of the outer sheet, which was, again, imposed
during the printing of the inner forme of the inner sheet (using IV), on skeleton-
forme III; it is also possible that, having reduced production of the poem to a
single press during this period, Wolfe had set up another short job on the idle
press, which forced the compositors to work in straitened circumstances on the
Spenser job until gathering V. It should be noted that, if the doubling effect in T
had been merely the result of Wolfe's decision to co-opt one of the presses tem-
porarily for another (concurrent) job, we should expect to find skeleton forme II
in use for the outer forme of the outer sheet of T, and not III.

When we map the bibliographical evidence of the sequence of printing in
gathering T against what we have seen of the topical intertextual allusions of
Book II, canto viii, the picture seems reassuringly clear: nearly all of the intertex-
tual allusions to 2 Samuel, to the history of Heliogabalus, and to the anti-Leicester
polemics like Leicester's Commonwealth occur squarely within the bounds of the inner
sheet of T; the outer sheet contains, in its share of the latter half of the gathering,
the fight between Arthur and the sons of Acrates, up to and including the epic
simile of the 'robbed whelps' at stanza 40. Given that skeleton-forme II re-appears
as usual in gathering V, and that its use throughout the rest of the printing is en-
tirely consistent, it seems likely that the decision to use skeleton-forme III for both
formes of the outer sheet of T was possible, and was ultimately taken, because the
copy from which to set the gathering was not available when II became free, in
the normal way, during the imposition of gathering S. The pattern of skeleton-
forme use in gathering T, in short, indicates that the printing actually stopped be-


Page 146
fore T was printed. When it restarted, it proceeded for the space of one gathering
on a single press; and the compositors for some reason completed setting the inner
sheet first, followed (irregularly!) by the inner forme of the outer sheet—perhaps
because the Argument to canto viii, which appears in position 2v, in the outer
forme of the outer sheet, was not yet complete. In any case, the confusion attend-
ing the printing of T, and the salience of 'the canto viii problem', seem to have led
the compositors to make one of the more prominent mistakes in the running-titles
observed by Johnson: positions 1r, 1v, and 2r of gathering T (running-titles 6 and
14, twice) all mistakenly read 'Canto VIII' for stanzas actually still part of canto
vii. This is a mistake consistent with the fact that the outer forme of the inner sheet
(fully within canto viii) was unusually the only thing printed, using skeleton-forme I,
before the inner forme of the outer sheet was imposed; compositors used to mak-
ing only partial changes to the canto headings across transitional formes could
be forgiven, in the confusion of imposing gathering T, for forgetting that, having
imposed a forme fully within canto viii, they needed to return to a forme only
partly contained in that canto. It should be noted that it was during the printing
of this gathering that skeleton-forme I was corrected by the addition of a period
to 'The Faerie Queene' in running-title 10 (11), which may have something to do
with the delays in this part of the printing, and with the recognition that these
confusions had already led to careless mistakes.

If anxiety about matters of 'patronage' led to the eleventh-hour revisions of
Book II, canto viii, that later so exercised Thomas Nashe, it would not be the
last time in the course of printing the poem that such anxieties would interrupt
Wolfe's better business sense. Although the patterns of skeleton-forme usage seem
to have no further secrets to divulge, a very odd error in pagination—duly ob-
served by both Johnson and Yamashita et al., though not interpreted—suggests
at least one further, perhaps final hiccup in the printing after the headache of
gathering Cc. At position 8v of gathering Ii, running-title 4 inexplicably reads
'600' where it ought to read '510'. This is not the kind of mistake that a composi-
tor would make if Ii were being printed sequentially after Hh (where the page
number at position 8v, the last time running-title 4 had supposedly been used,
reads '494')—we might expect an error of '4' for '5' in the hundreds place, per-
haps, but certainly not '600'. The mistake makes sense, though, when one places
it next to position 5v in gathering Pp, the 'final' gathering of 'prefatory' materials
that Wolfe supposedly printed last; here the page number reads, in exacdy the
same setting of type, '600'. As it happens, position 5v in Pp corresponds exactly
to position 8v in Ii, if we assume that skeleton-forme II was used, between the
imposition of gatherings Hh and Ii, to print Pp; in fact, no other explanation can
plausibly account for this irregular mistake in pagination.

Although it is unclear why Wolfe decided to interrupt the 'regular' sequence
of printing after Hh in order to print Pp, it seems likely that the impetus came not
from a need to produce the commendatory and dedicatory materials, but rather
from a need to stall before the printing of Ii. Wolfe had already by this point left
Dd and Ee aside, and would not return to them until after Nn, and he may thus
have felt it unwise to skip Ii, as well. This gathering contains nearly all of Book III,
canto vii—fewer than three stanzas at the end of the canto spill over onto the
first page of gathering Kk. Wolfe must have had at least part of canto vii in hand,


Page 147
because the canto begins on 8v of Hh, but it may be that the end of the canto was
missing, or that Spenser had asked to make revisions. The narrative of Florimell's
escape from the witch and her son, and of Satyrane's rescue of the Squire of
Dames from the giantess Argante, would not seem at first glance particularly
sensitive material that needed a timely reworking. Another possibility, of course,
is that the decision to delay Ii was somehow associated with the earlier omission
of Dd and Ee; Wolfe may have seized the opportunity to stall the printing after
Hh in the hope that Spenser would complete and deliver the revisions to Dd and
Ee at that point. Something, in any case, interrupted progress.

What is far more problematic, and interesting, about this interruption is
that this error in pagination supplies certain proof that all of the commendatory,
dedicatory, and epistolary material that would go on to appear at the back of
the poem was printed well before the end of the print run. The printing of Pp
midway through Book III indicates that the disposal of the 'prefatory' material
in a final gathering was certainly not an afterthought, but rather a deliberate
choice, taken at a time when Spenser was obviously regularly in contact with
Wolfe, or even physically present in the printing house. Given that the printing
of the cancellans, gathering Qq, re-used the type from the relevant settings in Pp,[36]
it seems tempting to assume that the printing of Qq followed directly after the
printing of Pp: surely Wolfe's compositors would have needed to redistribute the
type from the dedicatory sonnets before moving ahead with the printing of Ii.
But in a printing house as well-stocked as Wolfe's, it may not have been neces-
sary to do so, especially if the compositors came to anticipate a later revision to
the dedicatory sonnets (perhaps because an irate or frustrated poet, hearing of
the disordered imposition of his dedicatory materials, had insisted that further
sonnets had been intended, and would soon arrive);[37] and one piece of evidence
suggests that, in fact, the printing of Qq did not take place until after the comple-
tion of the rest of the volume. Had Spenser supplied Wolfe with the additions to
the dedicatory sonnets immediately upon the completion of the printing of Pp,
it seems likely that Wolfe's compositors would have reprinted the sonnets using
the same skeleton-formes; because Qq has no pagination—the eight pages of
the cancellans needed to replace a four-page cancellandum, and would therefore
inevitably have thrown off the existent pagination—the compositors would have
removed the '600' from its place in running-title 4 before printing the outer
forme of the outer sheet of Ii. Had this number been removed, it would certainly
not have been restored. The likeliest construction of events, then, seems to be
that Wolfe ordered the dedicatory material printed before the imposition of Ii,
perhaps because of a potential delay with that gathering, or because he was still
trying to buy time for the completion of the material needed for Dd and Ee; but,
finding that his peremptory production of the dedicatory materials was based on
incomplete copy (regardless of whether Spenser himself had finished the sonnets,


Page 148
or not), that Wolfe determined at the end of the job to print a cancellans in order to
recover the omitted dedicatory materials. The retention of standing type from Pp
suggests that Wolfe was brought to recognize his mistake during, or immediately
upon finishing, the printing of Pp.[38]

Whatever the fine details of the timing of the cancellandum and the cancellans,
the pagination mistake evident in running-title 4 (at position 8v in gathering Ii)
seems to leave it indisputable that Spenser had a firm hand in the printing of
the dedicatory materials, and that he was involved in the decision to place them
at the back of the volume. He seems, too, to have planned this placement from
the beginning. What is more, the confusion surrounding the imposition of these
patronage-soliciting poems, along with 'A letter of the Authors … to Sir Wal-
ter Raleigh' and the commendatory verses, went hand in hand with—and was
probably caused by—similar kinds of confusion attending on other places in
the printing of the poem, where Spenser seems to have withheld or amended
his manuscript, during printing, in order to handle with particular care the deli-
cate topical allusions and historical allegories shadowing the Queen, Ralegh,
and Leicester. The overall picture that emerges from the physical witness of the
printed book, with the bibliographical record of a disordered sequence of gath-
erings, frequent and sometimes serious mistakes, and several periods of slowing
or even stopping during the printing process, is one of miscommunication, last-
minute revision, and a near desperation to position The Faerie Queene carefully
with respect to the royal and aristocratic patrons who could help a rising poet,
and lend support to the ideological positions and factions with which we now sup-
pose him to have been aligned. Nashe's derisive mocking of the 1590 printing of
The Faerie Queene in Pierce Penilesse, then, seems to have figured Spenser's travails
shrewdly and exacdy. Bold to secure a royal dedication, bold to present his new
epic to a gallery of powerful potential patrons, and bold to adjust his poem, even
at the eleventh hour, to accommodate detailed topical allusion participating in
contemporary religious and political factional debates, Spenser was perhaps too
bold. By 1592, when Nashe took a gleeful swipe at Spenser's, and Ralegh's, for-
tunes, the poet was in disgrace and all of his bids for preferment, like the glories
of his Complaints, lay in ruins.

Is it possible that I have created here merely another insubstantial 'house
of cards', neatly but inconsequentially constructed from a chain of supposals?
Any study that seeks to reconstruct historical events, much less the human inten-


Page 149

TABLE 3. Summary of the order of printing The Faerie Queene, 1590

Signature  Press 1  Press 2 
A–B  α o A (II)
α o B (IV)
α i A (II)
α i B (IV) 
β o A (I)
β o B (III)
β i A (I)
β i B (III) 
The use of the skeleton-formes in these two
gatherings establishes their characteristics. For
the anomalous deployment of the skeleton-
formes here, see pp. 133–135. 
C–S  α o (II)
α i (III) 
β o (I)
β i (IV) 
The 'regular' pattern of skeleton-forme use.
There is no evidence to suggest that sequential
printing of the gatherings was interrupted in
this part of the run. 
β o (I)
α i (III)
β i (IV)
α o (III) 
The serial use of skeleton-forme III twice in
this gathering indicates that printing must have
gone forward on a single press; see pp. 144–145. 
V–Bb  α o (II)
α i (III) 
β o (I)
β i (IV) 
A return to the 'regular' pattern. 
Cc  α o (II)
β o (I)
α i (III)
β i (I) 
The serial use of skeleton-forme I twice in this
gathering indicates that printing must have
gone forward on a single press; see pp. 131–133. 
Ff–Hh  α o (II)
α i (III) 
β o (IV)
β i (I) 
A return to the 'regular' pattern. The printing
of Ff–Nn before Dd–Ee is suggested by a
number of mutually reinforcing anomalies in
running-titles 5, 6, 8, 13, 16, and 19; see
pp. 128–130. 
Pp  β i (II)
α o (III) 
α i (IV)
β o (I) 
The use of I, III, and IV here is conjectural; both
the printing of Pp between Hh and Ii, and the use
of II, are suggested by the pagination mistake
at position 8v in gathering Ii; see p. 146. 
Ii–Nn  α o (II)
α i (III) 
β o (IV)
β i (I) 
A return to the 'regular' pattern. 
Dd–Ee  α o (II)
α i (III) 
β o (IV)
β i (I) 
The late printing of these gatherings, taken
alongside an unusual gap in the stanza layout
on Ee8r, suggests that Spenser revised the
manuscript of the poem during printing; see
pp. 130–133, 135. 
Oo  α o (II)
α i (III) 
β o (IV)
β i (I) 
A return to the 'regular' pattern. 
Qq  [no data]  Qq was not printed directly after Pp (see pp. 147–
148), but might have been printed (for example,
after Nn) at another medial point in the run. 


Page 150

tions associated with them, from bibliographical remains must pause deliberately
over this possibility. Four skeleton-formes were certainly very consistendy used
through the printing of this volume, with only one substantial change intro-
duced to a running-title over thirty-seven gatherings, and only one reversal of
the orientation of a skeleton-forme; this alone does that prove that the edition
was produced quickly, continuously, and at double press, with a single trio of
compositors working in a dedicated fashion on this project alongside two teams
of press-men. On the other hand, the coincidence of a pagination mistake across
the outer formes of both sheets in gathering F suggests concurrent machining of
these two formes at least, and, anyway, a system of four skeleton-formes makes
most sense when working at double press. The decision to devote two presses to
the job, especially considered in light of the regular nature of the stanzaic text,
and the evidence of absolute consistency in setting and printing the volume, sug-
gests speed; moreover, Wolfe printed the title-page of the volume on the recto
of A1, giving the volume a publication date of 1590 right at the beginning of the
printing process—which may suggest that he did not anticipate the kind of ex-
tended, open-ended schedule characteristic of the concurrent printing practices
described by McKenzie in 'Printers of the Mind'. The anomalies in the order
of imposition, discussed extensively above and summarized in table 3, similarly
indicate an impatience to get on with the job: why skip Dd and Ee, to return to
them later, if the whole job might have been stalled until the copy was available?
Why skip to the printing of Pp before Ii, except to keep production going dur-
ing the period of confusion occasioned by the omission of Dd and Ee? As noted
earlier, the job might have slowed between the printing of gatherings S and T, at
least in part, due to the demands of some concurrent job in the printing house;
but given that the inner forme of the outer sheet of T was, irregularly, printed
first, that the allegorical material contained in gathering T was highly topical
and sensitive, and the subject of Nashe's later jibes at Spenser, and that the
dense literary and Biblical allusions of this part of the poem would again occa-
sion late-stage revisions to Book 5 in 1596, it appears probable that we are not
here witnessing a simple interruption of the Spenser job to take up some other,
more pressing, printing project. In short, it is possible—as it always is—that the
bibliographical evidence witnesses nothing more than a series of contingencies in
a busy printing house; but the convergence of textual witness, allegorical content,
biographical record, and contemporary response leads us, I think reliably, toward
a series of meaningful interruptions—rather than mere discontinuities—in the
printing of The Faerie Queene in 1590. A house of cards is also sometimes a house
of cards.


Thomas Nashe, 'A priuate Epistle of the Author to the Printer', from Pierce Penilesse his
Supplication to the Diuell,
in The Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. Ronald B. McKerrow, 5 vols (London:
A. H. Bullen, 1904–1908 [vols 1–4]; London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1910 [vol. 5]); repr. ed.
F. P. Wilson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1966), I: 155.


See Charles Nicholl, A Cup of News: The Life of Thomas Nashe (London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1984), pp. 112–115.


The construal of sexual appetite as a sign for political ambition is of course an explicit
polemical strategy in anti-Leicestrian tracts like Leicester's Commonwealth; but it also figures as
a—and perhaps the—central node of allegorical transmission in Philip Sidney's sonnet se-
quence of the early 1580s, Astrophel and Stella. In this 'tragicomedy of love', as Nashe called it
when he introduced the sonnets to a hungry readership in 1591, Sidney's protagonist Astrophel
wresdes with his concupiscent desire for the virtuous Stella; but the flickering intrusions of
an extra-fabular political context to this erotic plot (styled as 'ambition' throughout) acceler-
ate during the sequence until, in the penultimate sonnet, Sidney's creature Astrophel frankly
desires of Elizabeth's creature Stella (in this sonnet, 'Princesse', 'soueraigne', and 'Queene')
the office of her 'Lieftenancy'. While there is neither space nor need here to address Sidney's
sequence in detail, the conflation of cupiditas with 'ambition' throughout the work provides
another important literary context—in personal and political terms situated neatiy between
Spenser and Leicester, and well known to Nashe in the early 1590s—for the political problem
that Leicester continued to present to precisian interests in 1592.


For the extent and significance of Ralegh's connection to the Throckmorton family, see
A. L. Rowse, Ralegh and the Throckmortons (London: Macmillan, 1962). For Job Throckmorton's
role in the Martin Marprelate conspiracy, see L. H. Carlson, Martin Marprelate, gentleman: Master
Job Throkmorton laid open in his colors
(San Marino, California: Huntington Library Press, 1981),
and Patrick Collinson, 'Throckmorton, Job (1545–1601)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
(Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004).


On Heliogabalus's depravity, see for example Cassius Dio, Roman History, ed. and
transl. Earnest Carey, 9 vols (London: Loeb, 1914–27), 80. 13; Cassius Dio relates the story
of the emperor's assassination at 80. 19–20. Herodian's account of Heliogabalus appears in
Book 5 of the History of the Roman Empire. Aelius Lampridius's description of the emperor's
death, which stresses the desecration of his body, appears in The Life of Antoninus Heliogabalus,
ed. David Magie (London: Loeb, 1924), c. 17. For Cassius Dio's accusation that Heliogabalus
had Pomponius Bassus executed in order to court his wife, 'not allowing her even to mourn
her loss', see Roman History, 80. 5.


The Copy of a Letter Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge (Leicester's Commonwealth), ed.
Dwight C. Peck (Athens, Ohio: Ohio Univ. Press, 1985), p. 87.


See Sir Philip Sidney, Defence of the Earl of Leicester, in Miscellaneous Prose of Sir Philip
ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones and Jan van Dorsten (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973),
pp. 123–141. Sidney takes pains to turn or rebut the associations made between Leicester and
dogs in Leicester's Commonwealth, first likening Leicester's detractors to wolves who assail faithful
hounds: 'The old tale testifieth, that the wolves that mean to destroy the flock hate most the
truest and valiantest dogs. Therefore, the more the filthy impostume of their wolfish malice
breaks forth, the more undoubtedly doth it raise this well deserved glory to the Earl, that who
hates England and the Queen, must also withal hate the Earl of Leicester' (p. 130). Sidney then
goes on to comment on the anonymity of Leicester's libeller by fingering his Catholic 'kennel'
(p. 130), and to note that Leicester's restoration of the Dudley name (with its badge of the bear
and ragged staff) has 'brought him to this case, that curs, for only envy, bark at' (p. 133).


2 Samuel 9: 8, here in the 1590 Geneva version (all further citations from the Old
Testament will be from the same text). Mephibosheth's use of 'dead dogge' in his submission to
Davidsarcastically echoes the earlier passage from 1 Samuel 24: 15, where David first makes
the pact with Saul to preserve his house; David there laments to Saul, dissimulatively, 'After
whom is the King of Israel come out? after whom doest thou pursue? after a dead dog, and
after a flea?'


2 Samuel 16: 9.


For a summary account of the circulation of Leicester's Commonwealth at court and
abroad, and of its abiding influence on anti-Leicestrian satire in the period 1585–1605, see
Peck, Leicester's Commonwealth, pp. 5–13.


See Frank B. Evans, 'The Printing of The Faerie Queene in 1596', Studies in Bibliography,
18 (1965), 49–67.


It has occasionally been suggested that the canto arguments were devised by the
printer, or some other hand, and are not Spenser's own. It is worth noting in passing that
Evans's work on this late revision to Book V in 1596 suggests convincingly that Spenser was re-
sponsible for the composition of the arguments: the survival of an unrevised argument indicates
that the arguments were attached to the cantos before the poem arrived in the printing shop.


The best account of the disintegration of the Puritan movement in these years, and
with it the collapse of Spenser's patronage network, is still Patrick Collinson's magisterial The
Elizabethan Puritan Movement
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967). See particularly the final section
of the book, 'Discovery, Prosecution and Dissolution', pp. 385–467.


See F. R. Johnson, A Critical Bibliography of the Works of Edmund Spenser Printed Before
p. 15.


As Philip Gaskell notes in A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford: Oxford Univ.
Press, 1972), pp. 116–117, was established practice, for a printer who needed or anticipated
having to re-print a gathering, to lift the type by whole pages from the chase, bind it with a
cord, and wrap it in paper until it was required again.


This construction of the events surrounding the printing of gathering Qq is obviously
at odds with much recent scholarship addressing the meaning and importance of the cancellans,
and its 'revised' slate of dedicatory sonnets, to Spenser's attitudes to patronage issues. It might
be argued that the present account fails to explain why some copies of the 1590 edition of The
Faerie Queene
have survived without the cancellans 'properly' inserted: surely, if Wolfe had been
alerted as early as the printing of gathering Ii that he had been peremptory in producing the
back matter for the poem, this would have left ample time, upon the production of gathering
Qq at the end of the run, to make the necessary changes to every copy? On the other hand, it
is possible that Wolfe simply supplied uncancelled copies, and that it was left to the binder or,
indeed, purchaser to make up the copies as circumstances, and preferences, allowed; the wide
variety of states in which surviving copies appear, even granted some later 'sophistications'
along the lines posited by Jean R. Brink (see 'Materialist History', passim), might suggest that
no systematic attempt was made to cancel Pp6,7 in all copies.