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the other; and the manner of the connexion is such that we must assume that the Arcades preceded Comus. Now, as the date of Comus is 1634, the immediately preceding year, 1633, has been taken as the probable year for the Arcades; but there are arguments which might push it as far back as 1631, or even 1630. It is chiefly necessary to bear in mind that the Arcades did precede Comus, and that the lady in whose honour it was composed was one of the same noble family for whom Comus was subsequently written.

That lady was Alice, Countess-Dowager of Derby, who, in 1631, was about seventy years of age. The life of this lady had been one that would have made her venerable in the social and literary history of England even had there not been this association of her later years with the youth of Milton. Born, about the year 1560, one of the daughters of Sir John Spencer of Althorpe, Northamptonshire-from whom are descended the Earls Spencer and their branches--she had been married in early life to Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, eldest son of the fourth Earl of Derby. One of her sisters, Elizabeth Spencer, was then, by marriage, Lady Carey, and another, Anne Spencer, was Lady Compton. The three sisters seem to have at that time been especially well known to the poet Spenser, who, indeed, claimed to be related to the Spencers of Althorpe. Spenser's earliest known publication, Muiopotmos (1590), was dedicated to Lady Carey; his Mother Hubberd's Tale (1591) was dedicated to Lady Compton; and to the youngest of the three sisters-the one with whom we are at present concerned-was dedicated in the same year (1591) his Tears of the Muses. In paying this honour to Alice, Lady Strange, Spenser had regard not only to her own accomplishments and his connexion with her family, but also to the reputation of her husband, Lord Strange. No nobleman of the day was of greater note in the world of letters than Lord Strange. He was himself a poet; among the dramatic companies of the time was one retained by him and known as "Lord Strange's Players ;" and among his clients and panegyrists were Nash, Greene, and others of Shakespeare's seniors in the English drama. All this is recognised in Spenser's dedication of the Tears of the Muses to Lady Strange. "Most brave and noble Lady," he says, "the things that make ye so much honoured of the world as ye be are such as, without my simple lines' testimony, are throughly "known to all men: namely, your excellent beauty, your virtuous behaviour, "and your noble match with that most honourable Lord, the very pattern of



right nobility. But the causes for which ye have thus deserved of me to be "honoured (if honour it be at all) are both your particular bounties and also some private bonds of affinity which it hath pleased your Ladyship to acknowledge. Vouchsafe, noble Lady, to accept this simple remem"brance, though not worthy of yourself, yet such as perhaps, by good acceptance thereof, you may hereafter cull out a more meet and memorable "evidence of your own excellent deserts." Some time after this dedicationto wit, in September 1593-the lady so addressed rose still higher in the peerage by the accession of her husband to the earldom of Derby on his father's death. Ferdinando, fifth Earl of Derby, however, enjoyed his new dignity but a few months. He died on the 16th of April, 1594, in his thirty-sixth year, much regretted. From that day his widow was known as Alice, Countess-Dowager of Derby. The earldom of Derby went to the next male heir; and the Countess-Dowager, with her three young daughters by her deceased husband-Lady Anne Stanley, Lady Frances Stanley, and Lady Elizabeth Stanley-lived on to form new alliances. Spenser, who had honoured



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her during her husband's life, continued to honour her in her widowhood. In his pastoral of Colin Clout's come Home again (completed in 1595), the poet, having enumerated the chief "shepherds" or poets of the British isle, and having proceeded thence to a mention of some of the chief “shepherdesses" or "nymphs," introduces three of these ladies thus:

"Ne less praiseworthie are the sisters three,
The honour of the noble familie

Of which I meanest boast myself to be,
And most that unto them I am so nie,
Phyllis, Charillis, and sweet Amaryllis.
Phyllis the fair is eldest of the three ;
The next to her is beautiful Charillis;
But the youngest is the highest in degree."

These three ladies were the three married daughters of Sir John Spencer of Althorpe, honoured some years before by dedications of Spenser's earliest poems to them respectively; and Amaryllis, the youngest of them, and "the highest in degree," was the one to whom he had dedicated his Tears of the Muses-then Lady Strange, but now Countess-Dowager of Derby. Indeed, there are special allusions in Colin Clout's come Home again to the widowed condition of this lady:

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The lady, however, did marry again. In 1600, when Spenser was no longer alive to approve or to regret, she contracted a second marriage with Lord Keeper Egerton then only Sir Thomas Egerton and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal to Queen Elizabeth, but afterwards (1603) Baron Ellesmere and Lord Chancellor to King James, and finally (1616) Viscount Brackley. This eminent lawyer and statesman had already been twice married, and was a man of about sixty years of age, with grown-up children, when he made his splendid match with the Countess-Dowager of Derby. The Countess-who, of course, retained that title in her new condition as the Lord Keeper's wife-was brought once again conspicuously into society by her husband's connexion with public affairs. In 1601 she and her husband jointly purchased the estate of Harefield in Middlesex -a charming property, with a fine mansion upon it, on a spot of well-wooded hill and meadow, on the river Colne, about four miles from Uxbridge. Here, or in London, the Lord Keeper and his wife mainly resided, doing the honours of their position, and receiving in return the recognitions due to persons of their rank. One very memorable incident in their life at Harefield was a visit of four days paid them there by Queen Elizabeth (July 31-August 3, 1602), when all sorts of pageants were held for her Majesty's recreation. The story that these included the first known performance of Shakespeare's Othello by "Burbidge's players" is now universally rejected; but a long "avenue of elms," leading to the house, was the scene of a kind of masque of welcome at the Queen's reception, and of another of leave-taking on her departure, and

was ever afterwards known as "the Queen's Walk." Throughout the reign of James I. there were similar recognitions of the high social rank of the Chancellor and his noble wife, besides not a few of a literary character, in the shape of poems, or dedications of poems, to them. It was not only their own marriage, however a marriage that proved childless-that now connected the pair. Not long after that marriage had taken place, the ties of family between the two had been drawn closer by the marriage of the Lord Keeper's son-then Sir John Egerton-with Lady Frances Stanley, the Countess's second daughter by her former husband the Earl of Derby. Thus, while the Countess-Dowager was the wife of the father, one of her daughters was the wife of the son. Her other two daughters made marriages of even higher promise at the time. The eldest, Lady Anne Stanley, had married Grey Bridges, fifth Lord Chandos ; and the youngest, Lady Elizabeth Stanley, had married, at a very early age (1603), Henry, Lord Hastings, who, in 1605, succeeded his grandfather as Earl of Huntingdon, and possessor of the fine estate of Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire.

On the 15th of March, 1616-17, the Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, then just created Viscount Brackley, died, and the Countess-Dowager of Derby commenced her second widowhood. She was then probably over five-and-fifty years of age, and she survived for twenty years more. These twenty years she spent chiefly in retirement at Harefield, where she endowed almshouses for poor widows, and did other acts of charity, but was surrounded all the while, or occasionally visited, by those numerous descendants and other relatives who had grown up, or were growing up, to venerate her, and whose joys and sorrows constituted the chief interest of her declining years. By the year 1630, when she was about seventy years of age, she had at least twenty of her own direct descendants alive, besides collateral relatives in the families of her sisters, Phyllis and Charillis. (1.) One group of the venerable lady's direct descendants consisted of her eldest daughter, Lady Chandos, and that daughter's surviving children by her first husband Lord Chandos, the eldest of whom was George Bridges, now Lord Chandos, a boy of about twelve years of age. Both mother and children, we chance to know, lived at Harefield, with the grandmother, in 1631; and the estate of Harefield itself, we also learn, was to descend, after the Countess-Dowager's death, to Lady Chandos, otherwise left "destitute," and so to her son, young Lord Chandos. (2.) An additional group of relatives, also sharing the affections of the venerable Lady of Harefield, consisted of the children of her youngest daughter, the Countess of Huntingdon, viz. : Ferdinando, Lord Hastings, twenty-two years of age, and heir apparent to the earldom of Huntingdon; his younger brother Henry, afterwards Lord Loughborough; a daughter, Alice, married to Sir Gervase Clifton; and another daughter, Elizabeth. These four grandchildren would sometimes be on visits to their grandmother at Harefield from their own homes in London, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and elsewhere. (3.) There was still a third group of relatives around the venerable lady. At or near the time when she herself had married the Lord Keeper Egerton, as we have seen, her second daughter by her former husband, Lady Frances Stanley, had married the Lord Keeper's son, Sir John Egerton. When his father was raised to the peerage as Baron Ellesmere (1603), this Sir John Egerton had become “baron-expectant, —a designation which rose to the higher one of "Lord Egerton” when his father was made Viscount Brackley (1616). On his father's death, a few months afterwards (March 1616-17), he succeeded him as Viscount. But his dignities


did not stop at that point. In May 1617, an earldom which had been intended for the father, in recognition of his long services as Lord Chancellor, was bestowed on the son; and he became Earl of Bridgewater. Thus, the CountessDowager of Derby saw her second daughter, as well as her youngest, take rank as a Countess. Á far larger family of children had been born to this daughter than to either of her sisters. Out of fifteen children, born in all, at least ten were alive in 1630, in order of age as follows: the Lady Frances Egerton, married to Sir John Hobart, of Blickling, Norfolk; the Lady Arabella, married to Lord St. John, of Bletso, son and heir of the Earl of Bolingbroke; the Ladies Elizabeth, Mary, Penelope, Catharine, Magdalen, and Alice, yet unmarried-the last, Lady Alice, being in her tenth or eleventh year; John, Viscount Brackley, the son and heir, in his ninth year; and his brother, Mr. Thomas Egerton, about a year younger. The head-quarters of this numerous family, or of such of them as were unmarried, were-in London, the Earl of Bridgewater's town-house in the Barbican, Aldersgate Street; in the country, the Earl's mansion of Ashridge, Hertfordshire, about sixteen miles from Harefield.

We are now prepared to understand the exact circumstances of the Arcades. Sometime in 1630 or 1631, we are to suppose, some of the younger members of the different groups of the relatives of the Dowager-Countess of Derby determined to get up an entertainment in her honour, at her house at Harefield. The occasion may have been the aged lady's birthday, or it may have been some incidental gathering at Harefield for a family purpose. Whatever it was, the young people had resolved to amuse themselves by some kind of festivity in compliment to the venerable lady of whom they were all so proud. What could it be but a masque? Harefield, with its avenue of elms called "the Queen's Walk" in memory of Queen Elizabeth's visit, and with its fine park of grassy slopes and well-wooded knolls, was exactly the place for a masque; besides which, was not the Countess accustomed to this kind of entertainment? Would it not be in good taste to remind her of the masques and similar poetical and musical entertainments that had pleased her in her youth, when she had been the theme of Spenser's muse, and had sat by the side of her first husband, Lord Strange, beholding plays brought out under his patronage? Masques, indeed, were even more in fashion now, in the reign of Charles I., than they had been in the reigns of Elizabeth and James, and a masque in a noble family on any occasion of family-rejoicing was the most natural thing in the world.

There was, then, to be a masque, or at least a bit of a masque, at Harefield; and the actors were already provided. But for a good masque, or even a good bit of a masque, more is required than willing actors. Who was to write the words for the little masque, and who was to set the songs in it to music?

The latter question may be answered first. There can be little doubt, I think, that the person to whom the young people of the family of the CountessDowager of Derby trusted for all the musical requisites of the masque, if not the person who suggested it originally and entirely superintended it, was Henry Lawes, gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and one of his Majesty's private musicians. Farther particulars respecting this interesting man, one of the most celebrated musical composers of his day, will be given in the Introduction to that one of Milton's Sonnets which is addressed to him (Sonnet XIII.). What we have to attend to here is that, though Lawes had

professional connexions with not a few aristocratic families, by far the most lasting and intimate of these was with the Bridgewater branch of the CountessDowager of Derby's family. As early as 1630-31, the proof tends to show, Lawes, then about thirty years of age, and already of distinction in the English musical world, though with much of his reputation still to make, reckoned among his chief patrons and employers the Earl and Countess of Bridgewater; and among his most hopeful pupils at that time were several of the children of the Earl and Countess. Others of the Countess of Derby's grandchildren may have been pupils of Lawes; but those of the Bridgewater branch were the most musical in their tastes, and it was to them, in their townhouse in the Barbican, or in their country-seat at Ashridge, that Lawes's visits were most frequent. Quite possibly, therefore, it was they that originated the notion of a masque in honour of the Countess. But, even if some of her relatives of the other groups were concerned in the plan, or admitted into it, the singing parts would fall to the Bridgewaters, and the arrangement of the music, and the general management, to their instructor, Lawes. Business of this kind was part of the profession of musical composers in those days, and Lawes, as we shall find (Introd. to Comus), was an expert in it.

An additional argument in favour of the idea that Lawes was the manager of the entertainment and arranged its music is found in the fact that the poetry for it was furnished by Milton. For Milton's intimacy with Lawes is a known fact. The friendship between the two, of which many interesting proofs remain, may have begun even in Milton's boyhood. Noted as a musician as was Milton's own father, there can have been few musical artists in London that were not occasional visitors in his house in Bread Street; and there were many things in Lawes, when once he and the younger Milton were brought together, to rivet an attachment to him. On the other hand, Milton's poetical powers must have been well known to Lawes. Accordingly, when the notion of the Entertainment at Harefield had been started, and Lawes and his Bridgewater pupils, if our idea is correct, were busy over the project, it was to Milton that Lawes applied for the necessary words or libretto. If, as has been argued, the date was 1630 or 1631, Milton may have been up in London on one of his vacation visits. Perhaps, however, his father was already in possession of his country-place at Horton, and in that case Milton may have been there, and so actually within about ten miles, cross-country, from Harefield. Wherever it was that the two met to consult, Lawes about thirty years of age and Milton eight years younger, we can see what happened. Lawes explained to Milton the circumstances of the proposed Entertainment and the kind of thing that was wanted; and Milton, meditating the affair for a few days, produced Arcades or The Arcadians.

Let the reader now go back in imagination to Harefield, on a spring or summer evening two hundred and forty years ago. Certain revels or pageants in the ground have perhaps preceded, and the time, we say, seems now to be evening. Harefield House is lit up; and in front of it, on a throne of state arranged so as to glitter in the light, is seated the aged Countess, with the seniors of the assembled party around her as spectators. Suddenly torches are seen flickering among the trees in the park, and out from among those trees, towards where the Countess is sitting, there bursts a band of nymphs and shepherds. They are, in fact, some noble persons of her family who appear on the scene in pastoral habit, moving toward the seat of state." When they have approached near enough, they pause, as if overcome by the splendour


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