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“With guiltles blood oft stained”: Spenser’s Ruines of Time and the Saints of St. Albans

Mottram, Stewart


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Dr Stewart Mottram
Director of Research, School of Humanities, and Reader in English Literature


Alban is conspicuously absent from Spenser’s Ruines of Time. Although Camden writes that Verulamium was “famous for […] bringing foorth Alban,” Spenser’s Verlame is silent on Alban and again departs from Camden to claim Verulamium had been built on the Thames. This article argues that the key to Spenser’s puzzling approach to Alban and the Thames lies in Verlame’s description of the Thames’s “pure streames with guiltles blood oft stained.” Camden attributes the legend of the errant Thames to “a corrupt place in Gildas,” whose account of Alban’s martyrdom recounts his miraculous transit through that river. The article explores Spenser’s borrowings from Gildas and other medieval lives, arguing that Spenser supplies a shadowy allusion to the “guiltles blood” of Alban and other saints of St Albans that root his poem within the “protestant” traditions of Britain’s pre-Saxon church. Complicating this, however, are Spenser’s several departures from Foxe’s reformed account of Alban, for Foxe dismisses many of the “Monkish miracles” found in Gildas and the later life of John Lydgate to which Spenser significantly alludes. Spenser’s inclusion of these “Monkish” legends thus works both to affirm and deny his poem’s protestant foundations, in the process shedding new light on Spenser’s religious sensibilities.


Mottram, S. (2018). “With guiltles blood oft stained”: Spenser’s Ruines of Time and the Saints of St. Albans. Spenser studies, 31(1), 533-556.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 12, 2016
Online Publication Date Mar 13, 2018
Publication Date Mar 13, 2018
Deposit Date Sep 6, 2017
Publicly Available Date Mar 14, 2019
Journal Spenser studies
Print ISSN 0195-9468
Electronic ISSN 2167-8529
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 31
Issue 1
Pages 533-556
Keywords Edmund Spenser, Ruines of Time
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Published article (564 Kb)

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