UCL English


Samuel Daniel

Works of Samuel Daniel 1601

Samuel Daniel (1562-1619) was a very considerable and prolific poet, writer, historian and man of letters. He is however the least studied and least understood of the major Elizabethans. He was taught at Oxford by John Florio, and he did much to introduce Italian sweetness and ease of writing into the bloodstream of English poetry. He was also an impressive historian. He had extensive personal connections with the rich and powerful of the day, and with leading scholars, antiquarians, lawyers and academics. Daniel’s brother, John Danyel (?1564-1625), was a musician of the first rank, who wrote songs and lute pieces that by general agreement keep company with Dowland's finest compositions. The Daniel brothers, who were personally very close, collaborated fruitfully on several occasions, but their work together has rarely been looked at. The current projects to edit Daniel and to provide ways to appreciate his writing are connected to this website.It should be noted that Daniel has been praised by the cleverest and most profound of literary minds. “Mr Wordsworth strikingly resembles Samuel Daniel”; this is the key phrase in the paragraph that Coleridge wrote about Daniel in 1818 in chapter 22 of the Biographia Literaria:

Mr. Wordsworth strikingly resembles Samuel Daniel, one of the golden writers of our golden Elizabethan age, now most causelessly neglected: Samuel Daniel, whose diction bears no mark of time, no distinction of age which has been, and as long as our language shall last, will be so far the language of the to-day and for ever, as that it is more intelligible to us, than the transitory fashions of our own particular age. A similar praise is due to his sentiments. No frequency of perusal can deprive them of their freshness. For though they are brought into the full day-light of every reader’s comprehension; yet are they drawn up from depths which few in any age are privileged to visit, into which few in any age have courage or inclination to descend.

This is the highest praise Daniel has ever received, though Wordsworth himself saw the deep connections he had with Daniel and thought a great deal of him, as recent criticism has shown. Nonetheless, despite this heavyweight support, Daniel remains, at least in terms of diction and language, “causelessly neglected.” A few current poet-critics have emphasized just how tough-minded yet subtle a writer he was, but his distinctive way of writing, and what underpins it, has still not been given full critical attention.

The quality and complexity of Daniel’s work was rediscovered in the twentieth century, along with a large number of new poems, manuscripts and life documents. Daniel’s central place in the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts and elite society, and his prominence in literary, dramatic, and intellectual culture — including his influence on Shakespeare who drew freely on his every publication — is being increasingly recognized by scholars. The projects associated with this website aim to begin a full revaluation of his work and life, and his crucial significance in our understanding of early English high culture and writing.