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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

XI. The Poetry of Spenser

§ 2. Gabriel Harvey

At Cambridge, he came under three influences, each of which powerfully affected his opinions and imagination. The first was his friendship with Gabriel Harvey. This man, the son of a rope-maker at Saffron Walden, was a person of considerable intellectual force, but intolerably arrogant and conceited, and with a taste vitiated by all the affectations of the decadent Italian humanism. He entered Pembroke Hall as Fellow the year after Spenser matriculated, and soon secured a strong hold over the modest and diffident mind of the young undergraduate. His tone in the published correspondence with Spenser is that of an intellectual bully; and so much did the poet defer to the elder man’s judgment, that, at one time, he not only attempted to follow Harvey’s foolish experiment of anglicising the hexameter, but was in danger of being discouraged by him from proceeding with The Faerie Queene.

Again, Spenser was strongly influenced by the religious atmosphere of his college. Cambridge protestantism was, at this time, sharply divided by the dispute between the strict disciplinarians in the matter of church ritual, headed by Whitgift, master of Trinity, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, and those followers of Cartwright, Lady Margaret professor of Divinity, from whom, in course of time, came forth the Martin Marprelate faction. Pembroke Hall seems to have occupied a middle position in this conflict. Its traditions were emphatically Calvinistic. Ridley, bishop of London, one of the most conspicuous of the Marian martyrs, had been master of the college; he was succeeded by his pupil Grindal, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury; and the headship, when Spenser matriculated, had passed to Young, at a later date bishop of Rochester, whose Calvinism was no less marked than that of his predecessors. Spenser, moved by the esprit de corps of his college, eulogised both his old master and Grindal, when their mild treatment of the nonconformists brought them into discredit with the queen. It may, perhaps, be inferred from a letter of Gabriel Harvey to Spenser, that the college did not side with Cartwright in opposing the prescribed ritual; but many allusions in The Shepheards Calender show that Spenser himself disapproved of the relics of the Roman system that disguised themselves under the garb of conformity.