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  • Fulke Greville's Friendly Patronage
  • Kelly A. Quinn

Practical exigencies and theoretical prescriptions suggest that patronage and Renaissance friendship are mutually exclusive. Patronage relies upon power difference: it is after all difference in status, however defined, that enables one person to help another as patron. Richard Saller includes "asymmetry, as opposed to friendship between equals" as a defining characteristic of patronage relationships, 1 and socio-anthropological theories of patronage demonstrate that it is essential that the exchange of patronage (the benefaction of the patron, for instance, reciprocated by the gratitude of the client) maintain this imbalance: the client must not reciprocate to a degree equivalent to the initial benefaction.2 This may be contrasted to gift-giving between friends, in which one would seek to exchange gifts of equal or greater value. Correspondingly, Renaissance writers, heavily influenced by classical predecessors, define friendship in terms of parity, equality, similarity, and balance.3 It is not just that the friend is, in the familiar idiom, another self. Differences in status or temperament are a definitive impediment to friendship: Montaigne insists that differences in power negate the possibility of friendship, so that men and women, and parents and children, cannot be friends. As Cicero's De Amicitia puts it (in Harington's translation), "unlykenesse of condycyons [End Page 417] doeth breake of all frendshyp."4 When one adds friendship to initial resemblance, the result is indistinguishability: to quote Montaigne again, friends "entermixe and confound themselves one in the other, with so universall a commixture, that they … can no more find the seame that hath conjoyned them together."5 The power differences that patronage relies upon, therefore, would seem to preclude the possibility of friendship.

This is the theory, at least, as stated by Renaissance writers and as endorsed by more recent scholars who are similarly distrustful of the possibility of friendship between unequals. We are well served, however, to look not just at what theorists of either period have to say about patronage and friendship, but also at how people in the period conducted their patronage relationships and their friendships. When we consider literary patronage, we are likely to find that the clear distinctions between patronage and friendship in theory do not always apply in practice. This is particularly so when the relationship between author and patron is not limited exclusively to the patronage relationship, such as when the patron is also a writer. For instance, in his analysis of Spenser's dedicatory sonnet to Sir Walter Ralegh in the Faerie Queene, William A. Oram argues that Spenser saw Ralegh neither "simply as a patron … [nor] simply as a fellow poet engaged on a common literary enterprise."6

In this essay, I consider another pair of fellow poets who are also patron and client: Fulke Greville and Samuel Daniel. The patronage relationship between the two is conventional, with Greville, as influential courtier, aiding Daniel both in his livelihood and his career, but it is complicated by the fact that they are literary peers—and intellectual disputants. In this way, their relationship reflects another aspect of friendship theory. In a multitude of writings derived from Plutarch's "How to Tell a Friend from a Flatterer," the frank expression of disagreement is identified as the distinguishing mark of true friendship.7 In "The [End Page 418] Incommodity of Greatness," for instance, Montaigne addresses the propensity of subjects to let kings win athletic competitions or arguments, a situation he finds both necessary and disrespectful. But whereas the subject (or, perhaps, client) finds it necessary to let the king (or patron) win the argument, the friend demonstrates his amity by disagreeing: in Montaigne's words, "admonitions and corrections . . . are the chiefest offices of friendship."8 Taking into account the writings of both Greville and Daniel, especially Daniel's dedications to Greville, I argue that this patronage relationship is broad enough to accommodate some attitudes commonly ascribed to friendship and unexpected in patronage, including disagreement. My object in making this argument is not to return to the view that the patronage system simply consisted of "an idyllic prospect of harmony and accord" (a position that has been ascribed to "old historicist" studies of patronage).9 Nor, however, would...


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