#20 Edmund Spenser, Works (1617)
The most important poet of the Elizabethan period was Edmund Spenser, whose work influenced and was imitated by generations of English writers, including Shakespeare. Spenser modelled his career on the classical poet Virgil, but combined several influences (particularly Chaucer, see item 21) to fashion a distinctly English literary style. His epic poem The Faerie Queene was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth and effectively made him into the national poet, and he was widely mourned at his death in 1599. His first major work was The Shepheard’s Calender, a series of twelve poems—one for each month of the year—which combined classical pastoral poetry with the form of common English almanacs. Each poem was accompanied by an image and scholarly notes, thereby making a claim for the value of English poetry. The “October” poem, on display here, praises poetry and argues that poets deserve greater support. This copy of the book has been annotated by a twentieth-century reader in a striking pink ink: visible here is the name of Spenser’s friend and collaborator Gabriel Harvey, which has been underlined.