Merlin, Ambrose

, a British writer, who flourished towards the latter end of the fifth century, but of whom little memorial remains, except such as is wholly disfigured by fiction, was reputed to be both an enchanter and a prophet, and to have been begotten by an incubus. For want of more authentic materials, we may be allowed to give the account of Spenser, in his Faery Queen, b. iii. canto 3. where, after speaking of his supposed magical powers, he thus tells his progeny:

And sooth men say that he was not the sonne

Of mortal syre, or other living wight,

But wondrously begotten and begonne

By false illusion of a guileful spright

On a faire lady nonne, that whilome hight

Matilda, daughter to Pubiclius,

Who was the lord of Mathtraval by right,


And coosin unto king Ambrosius,

Whence he indued was with skill so marvellous.

Merlin is said to have foretold the arrival and conquests of the Saxons, to which allusion is made by Andrew of Wyntown, in his fifth book, ch. 12.

The Saxonys of Duche-land

Arrywyde that tyme in Ingland,

Merlyne alsud mystyly

That tyme made his prophecy,

How Vortygerne wyth hys falsheede

Of Brettane made the kyngis dede, &c.

It was supposed that Merlin did not die, but was laid asleep by magic, and was, after a long period, to awake and live again. Spenser alludes to this fable also. Extravagant prophecies, and other ridiculous works are ascribed to Merlin, and some authors have written Commentaries on them, as ridiculous as the text. In the British Museum is “Le compte de la vie de Merlin et de ses faiz, et compte de ses prophecies,” 2 vols. fol. on vellum, without date or place. There is a French edition, 3 vols. small folio, black letter, dated 1498. There are also other French and Italian editions. In English we have 46 The Life of Merlin, surnamed Ambrosius. His prophesies and predictions interpreted: and their truth made good by our English annals, published by T. Heywood," Lond. 1641, 4to. This was Hey wood the actor, of whom some notice is taken in our seventeenth volume. 1


Spenser’s Faery Queen. —Warton’s Hist, of Poetry. Macpherson’s Andrew of Wyntown, vol. J. p. 118. Tanner.