Authors: Samuel Daniel

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English poet

Author Works


Delia, 1592

The Complaynt of Rosamonde, 1592

The First Fowre Bookes of the Civile Warres Between the Two Houses of Lancaster and Yorke, 1595, enlarged in 1599 and 1601

Musophilus: Or, A Defence of Poesie, 1599, 1601, 1602, 1607, 1611, 1623

Poeticall Essayes, 1599

The Works of Samuel Daniel, 1601

Certaine Small Poems, 1605

Songs for the Lute, Viol and Voice, 1606


Cleopatra, pb. 1594

The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, pr., pb. 1604

The Tragedy of Philotas, pb. 1605


The Defence of Ryme, 1603

The Collection of the Historie of England, 1618


The Works of Samuel Daniel, 1601

The Complete Works in Verse and Prose of Samuel Daniel, 1885-1896, 1963 (5 volumes; Alexander B. Grosart, editor)


Samuel Daniel was one of the most prolific verse writers of late sixteenth century England, though some have questioned the quality of his works. Ben Jonson’s brief judgment in the Drummond Conversations is often cited: “Samuel Daniel was a good honest man, had no children, but no poet.” However, the clarity and smoothness of Daniel’s sonnets, the dignity of his philosophical, reflective poems, and the emotional appeal of the dramatic monologue The Complaynt of Rosamonde entitle him to a kinder judgment.{$I[AN]9810000615}{$I[A]Daniel, Samuel}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Daniel, Samuel}{$I[tim]1562;Daniel, Samuel}

Daniel was born into a middle-class family near Taunton, Somerset, about 1562; his father was a music master. In 1581 the poet entered Magdalen College, Oxford, where he is reported to have studied under John Florio, the translator of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne’s Essais. He left without a degree and seems to have spent the rest of the decade studying, writing, and traveling. In 1585 his first published work, a translation of an Italian treatise on emblems, appeared with a dedication to his earliest patron, Sir Edward Dymoke. Daniel was on the staff of the English ambassador to Paris for a few months in 1586 and went with Dymoke to Italy in 1590 or 1591. On this trip Daniel met the noted Italian pastoral poet and dramatist Battista Guarini, whose play Il pastor fido served as a model for numerous English works, including several of Daniel’s own.

Daniel was fortunate throughout his creative years in having the patronage of the most cultivated noble ladies of the age. About 1592 he joined the circle of Mary, Countess of Pembroke, the sister of Sir Philip Sidney, possibly acting as tutor to her son, William Herbert. The countess was herself a writer as well as an appreciative patron, and early in the 1590’s she published her translation of the French playwright Robert Garnier’s Tragedy of Antonie, a Senecan closet drama based on classical principles. Daniel’s Cleopatra, an original play in the style of Garnier, was written as a companion piece to Antonie. During this period Daniel dedicated his sonnet sequence, Delia, to the countess and composed the first books of his The First Fowre Bookes of the Civile Warres Between the Two Houses of Lancaster and Yorke, which may have served as a source for William Shakespeare’s Richard II.

About 1599 Daniel became tutor to Lady Anne Clifford and soon afterward won the friendship of Lucy, Countess of Bedford, who was the confidante of James I’s queen, Anne of Denmark. It was probably at Lucy’s urging that Anne chose Daniel to write the first court masque of the Jacobean age; his The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses inaugurated a series of spectacular mythological entertainments by various writers that combined poetry, music, dance, and elaborate stage effects.

Daniel served the queen in many capacities. He was in 1604 made the licenser of all productions given for her by the Children of the Queen’s Revels; he wrote a masque, Tethys Festival, for the celebrations when her eldest son, Henry, was named prince of Wales in 1610. He also composed two pastoral plays, the Queenes Arcadia and Hymen’s Triumph, for her entertainment on other occasions. He was made a Groom of the Queen’s Privy Chamber in 1607 and in this role marched in the funeral procession of Prince Henry in 1612 and in that of the queen herself in May, 1619, just a few months before his own death.

Daniel continued to write during the early seventeenth century, sometimes at court, sometimes at his farm in Somerset. He enlarged The First Fowre Bookes of the Civile Warres Between the Two Houses of Lancaster and Yorke and composed a fine prose history of England. His The Defence of Ryme, written in answer to Thomas Campion’s Observations in the Art of English Poesie, foreshadows the clear prose style of John Dryden. His gifts were in many ways more suited to prose than to verse, and he generally succeeds best in those works where his clarity of thought is most evident.

BibliographyAttreed, Lorraine. “England’s Official Rose: Tudor Concepts of the Middle Ages.” In Hermeneutics and Medieval Culture, edited by Patrick J. Gallacher and Helen Damico. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989. Attreed places Daniel at the end of a tradition of Tudor apologists concerned with the legend of Tudor achievement and with the mythical connection to King Arthur, and she traces Daniel’s growing discomfort with the simplistic tendencies of such historiography. Although not concerned exclusively with Daniel, this article provides important context for much of his historical writing in both verse and prose.Bergeron, David M. “Women as Patrons of English Renaissance Drama.” In Patronage in the Renaissance, edited by Guy Fitch Lytle and Stephen Orgel. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981. Chronicling the importance of women as patrons of dramatic works, Bergeron shows the particular importance to Daniel of both Lucy Russell, the countess of Bedford, and Mary Herbert, the countess of Pembroke. The former arranged for Daniel to be commissioned to write The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, and the latter made him part of her circle at Wilton. Both patrons were major influences on Daniel’s career.Daniel, Samuel. Musophilus: Containing a General Defense of All Learning. Edited by Raymond Himelick. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1965. After a brief biographical introduction, Himelick explains the main argument of Daniel’s philosophical poem and examines its sources and analogues, the poet’s revisions, and the style. This volume is a helpful commentary on a rather difficult and abstract work.Harner, James L. Samuel Daniel and Michael Drayton: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980. Harner collects all the major scholarly treatments of Daniel and Michael Drayton from 1684 through early 1979 and annotates each one briefly. The two poets are treated separately. General readers, as well as students, will find this book to be an indispensable guide to secondary materials, which are of uneven quality and often rather specialized.Helgerson, Richard. “Barbarous Tongues: The Ideology of Poetic Form in Renaissance England.” In The Historical Renaissance: New Essays on Tudor and Stuart Literature and Culture, edited by Richard Strier and Heather Dubrow. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. Tracing the sixteenth century argument for quantitative verse to a choice for the civilized tradition of Greece and Rome over the barbarous one of the Goths, Helgerson shows how Daniel answers that argument by repudiating the classical model and by celebrating the gothic origins of the English language and its poetry. Daniel’s choice of rhyme is therefore patriotic as well as theoretical. Helgerson sees this choice in a consciously political context, coming as it does in 1603, the year of Queen Elizabeth’s death.Hiller, Geoffrey A., and Peter L. Groves, eds. Daniel Samuel: Selected Poetry and “A Defense of Rhyme.” Asheville, N.C.: Pegasus Press, 1998. Annotated edition of Samuel Daniel’s major poetry and selected prose which expands in scope and detail the Sprague 1930 edition. Spelling and punctuation have been modernized. Some selections are prefaced by a discussion of their literary characteristics, publication history, and thematic content.Himelick, Raymond. Introduction to “Musophilus”: Containing a General Defense of All Learning. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1965. After a brief biographical introduction, Himelick explains the main argument of Daniel’s philosophical poem and examines its sources and analogues, the poet’s revisions, and the style. This volume is a helpful commentary on a rather difficult and abstract work.Rees, Joan. Samuel Daniel: A Critical and Biographical Study. Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press, 1964. Placing Daniel and his works in detailed biographical and historical context, Rees explains important influences on the poet and elucidates his main ideas. She is particularly informative on patronage and its effects on Daniel. Unlike many critics, Rees defends Daniel’s play Cleopatra, but on the other hand, she thinks his masques show unease with the form and its symbolism. Contains four illustrations and a good, though not annotated, select bibliography.Seronsy, Cecil. Samuel Daniel. New York: Twayne, 1967. This basic critical biography of Daniel is clearly and simply presented and is ideally suited for nonspecialists as well as students. Shows the development of Daniel as a poet over the course of many years. The final chapter, “Poet and Thinker,” offers an excellent introduction to Daniel’s versification, characteristic imagery, and ideas. Includes an annotated short bibliography.
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