London: printed by Thomas Creede for VVilliam Ponsonbie, 1595.
Quarto: 18 x 13 cm.  p. Signatures: A-K4
FIRST EDITION. The colophon reads: “London Printed by T.C. for William Ponsonbie. 1595.”
An attractive copy in early 20th c. calf. Very nice internally, the last leaf with 16th c. verses in Latin and English on the verso of the final leaf. With a woodcut printer’s device (McKerrow 299) and decorative border to the title page, and numerous head- and tailpieces throughout. A lovely copy of the first edition. This copy has the second state of sheet C, with the reading "worthily" on C1r, line 24.
With a dedicatory epistle to “The Right worthy and noble Knight Sir Walter Raleigh” dated “from my house of Kilcolman, the 27. Of December. 1591.” In addition to “Colin Clout”, this volume also includes Spenser’s “Astrophel: A pastorall Elegie upon the death of the most Noble and valorous Knight, Sir Phillip Sidney” (dedicated to Sidney’s widow, who had by then become the Countess of Essex); An untitled poem beginning “Ay me, to whom shall I complaine…” often referred to as “The dolefull lay of Corinda”; “The mourning Muse of Thestylis” (by Ludowick Bryskett); “A pastorall Aeglogue upon the death of Sir Phillip Sidney Knight” signed L.B. (Ludowick Bryskett); “An Elegie, or friends passion for his Astrophill” (by Matthew Roydon); “An Epitaph upon the right honourable sir Phillip Sidney Knight: Lord governor of Flushing” (by Walter Raleigh); “Another of the Same” (almost certainly by Sir Edward Dyer).
Spenser’s “Colin Clout’s Come Home Again’, a pastoral poem in the tradition of Petrarch, was inspired by the poet’s visit to England from 1590 to 1591, a journey undertaken at the urging of Walter Raleigh. Spenser wrote the poem, dedicated to Raleigh, upon his return to Kilcolman castle in Ireland –the ‘Home’ referred to in the poem’s title.
Spenser's adoption of an Anglo-Irish identity was publicly expressed in the title poem, where the 'home' that Colin refers to rather bitterly in the poem is Ireland, not England. At the same time, the elegies on Sidney as the English nation's poet imply Spenser's claim to be his successor.
The poem has been called Spenser’s most biographical, and indeed it includes not only the visit from Raleigh to Spenser’s home in Ireland in 1589 but also an account of Spenser’s sea voyage and his time in England, during which he presented the first three books of his ‘Faerie Queen’ to Queen Elizabeth.
The poem fits neatly into a tradition of advice literature that exempts the monarch from the general failings of his or her courtiers, and includes strong criticisms of the court, as well as attacks on the vanity, ignorance, and greed of courtiers in general. It is possible that Colin Clout was intended as a criticism of Elizabeth's regime in the 1590s, especially if we bear in mind Spenser's own lack of preferment in England and his posthumous criticisms of the queen in 'Two cantos of Mutabilitie' (A. Hadfield, Edmund Spenser's Irish Experience, 1997, chap. 6).
Ashley V, 194; Pforzheimer 967; STC 23077