Reference > Cambridge History > Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton > The Book-Trade, 1557–1625 > Patrons
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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XVIII. The Book-Trade, 1557–1625.

§ 10. Patrons.


To the professional writer, a patron, to whom he might dedicate his book, was almost as essential as a publisher; and the competition for the favour of distinguished persons who patronised literature was very keen. Prominent among these were the earl of Leicester, who befriended Spenser and Ascham; the earl of Southampton, the friend, as well as patron, of Shakespeare; Sir Philip Sidney and his sister the countess of Pembroke; and William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, the friend of Donne, who was accustomed, on the first day of each new year, to send to Ben Jonson a gift of £20 to buy books. No doubt it was an advantage to a book to be launched under the approbation of some person of mark, but the needy writer had also well in view the more substantial reward which was invariably expected in return for the flattering compliments or often fulsome eulogy, of the dedication. Occasionally, this desired recompense might be an appointment to some office or other similar recognition, but, more generally, it took the form of a gift of money, varying in amount with the generosity of the patron or the persuasive importunity of the author, though, sometimes, the mere acceptance of the dedication must have been the only solatium. In the record of his literary earnings which Richard Robinson, compiler and translator of a number of dull religious works between 1576 and 1598, has left in manuscript, 4  we get a glimpse of what the ordinary occasional dedication was worth. For a book dedicated to the master of the Leathersellers, of which company he was a member, he received 2s. 6d. from the master and 7s. 6d. more from the company. In 1579, Sir Philip Sidney, to whom he had “presented” a book, gave him four angels, increased by a gift of 10s. from Sir Henry Sidney. But, for the third series of his Harmony of King Davids Harp (1595), which he dedicated to queen Elizabeth and presented to her highness as she was “goyng to the Chappell in the morning,” he received no gratification: in fact, the queen characteristically told him that she had quite enough to do in paying and relieving her needy soldiers, and that as she had not set him on the work she did not intend to pay him any wages.   28

Note 4. “Eupolemia” (British Museum, Royal MSS., 18 A. lxvi). See Gentleman’s Magazine, April, 1906, pp. 277–284. [ back ]

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