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On his Lady's nct coming to London ..... 393 Eclogue I.
Majesty's Privy Chamber
VII. Florimel, Lelipa, Najis, Codrus a
LIFE OF MICHAEL DRAYTON.
BY MR. CHALMERS.
This once eminent poet was of an ancient family which derived its name from the town of Drayton in Leicestershire ; but bis parents having removed into Warwickshire, he was born in the village of Harsbul or Hartshill, in the parish of Atherston' in that county, near the river Anker, about the year 1563. In what situation or circumstances his parents were is not recorded; but they were probably not opulent, as we find him very soon indebted to patronage for the benefits of education. His early discovery of talents, and sweetness of disposition and manners, recommended him to some person of distinction, whom he served in quality of page, and who bestowed what was needful for the cultivation of his mind.
In his youth he discovered a propensity to read poetry, and was anxious to know “ what kind of creatures poets were.” To gratify this curiosity, the works of Virgil, and other classics, were put into his hands, which inspired him with a taste superior to his years, and made him dislike vulgar ditties, especially the ballads of one Elderton, a drunken poet, at that time in much fame among common readers. Whether sir Henry Godere of Polesworth was his first patron, is uncertain; but that gentleman is said to have maintained him for sometime at Oxford, where, however, his name does not occur among the scholars of any college or hall. From his description of the Spanish invasion in 1568, it has been supposed that he was an eye-witness of the defeat of the armada, and held some commission in the army; and this, however doubtful, is the only ntimation we have of his having applied to any regular profession.
Besides sir Henry Godere, he found a liberal patron and friend in sir Walter Aston of Tixball in Staffordshire, to whom he gratefully dedicates many of his poems; and sir Henry Godere, sometime before his death, recommended him to the countess of Bedford. By means of sir Walter Aston and sir Roger Aston, gentlemen of the bedchamber to king James in his minority, he is said to have been employed as a confidential agent in a correspondence between the young king of Scotland and queen Elizabeth : but this part of his history rests on no very solid foundation. It is more certain that
Fuller, mistaking this for Atherston on the Avon, says, that "he was born within few miles of William Shakspeare, his countryman and fellow-poet, and buried within fewer paces of Jeffrey Chaucer and Edward Spencer." Worthies. C.
Aubrey says that his father was a butcher, “which is probably false." Philips's Theatrum, new edit. C.
he rendered the services and homage of a poet to king James, among the first who congratulated him on his accession to the British throne, and even condescended to praise his majesty's poetical talents in a sonnet of which he was afterwards ashamed'. On the same happy occasion, he appeared as one of the squires who attended sir Walter Aston, when he was created a knight of the Bath. His duty to his king, however, was so ill repaid, that he gave up all hopes of rising at court, and his fable of The Owl, published a year after the coronation, is supposed to glance at persons and incidents connected with his disappointment. He adverts to the same subject, but so obscurely as to convey no information, in the preface to his Poly-olbion, nor from this time have we any account of his personal history; and can only conjecture from certain hints in his dedications and prefaces, that although he obtained the additional patronage of the justly celebrated Thomas Sackville, lord Buckhurst, earl of Dorset, and retained the esteem and kind offices of many private friends, he rose to no situation of wealth or eminence, and did not always derive much advantage from his numerous publications. He died Dec. 23, 1631, and was buried in Westminster Abbey under the north wall, near a door which then opened to one of the prebendal houses. His monument, a tablet of blue marble, with a bust, and some lines by Ben Jonson, was erected at the expense of the countess of Dorset in the south aisle. Aubrey, from whose MSS. this information was obtained, attributes the verses, not to Jonson, but to F. Quarles.
It is not very easy to recover the exact dates of his various pieces, as some of them were printed without that necessary appendage, and the titles of a few were changed on republication. Mr. Ritson, whose accuracy may be in general relied upon, arranges them in the following order. 1. The Harmonie of the Church, containing the spiritual Songs, and holy Hymnes of godly Men, Patriarches and Prophets, all sweetly sounding to the Glory of the Highest ; printed by R. Jones, 1591, 4to. This, which is a very rare book, and was unknown to his editor Oldys, has not been reprinted in any edition of his works. 2. Idea: the Shepherd's Garland, fashioned in nine Eglogs: and Roland's Sacrifice to the nine Muses ; printed for T. Woodcocke, 1593, 4to. From the title of this last performance Drayton was sometimes called Rowland by his contemporaries. The Shepherd's Garland was afterwards reprinted by the author under the title of Pastorals, containing Eglogues, with the Man in the Moon. In subsequent editions we find a tenth Eglogue added. 3. Matilda, the fair and chaste Daughter of Lord Robert Fitzwalter; 4to. one of his heroical epistles. 4. Mortimeriados; the lamentable Civil Warres of Edward the Second and the Barons ; printed by J. R. for Matthew Lownes, 1596, 4to. and published afterwards under the title of The Barons Wars. 5. England's Heroical Epistles ; 1598, 8vo. 6. A gratulatorie Poem to the Majestie of K. James ; 1603, 4tprinted in any edition of his works. 7. The Owle; 1604, 4to. 8. Moses in a map of his Miracles ; 1604, 4to. 9. A Pæan triumphall, composed for the Society of Goldsmiths of London, on king James's entering the city; 1604, 4to. not reprinted. 10. Poems; 1605, 8vo. 11. The Legend of Great Cromwell ; 1607, 4to. added afterwards to his other Legends. 12. Poly-olbion : the first eighteen books', 1612; and the whole thirty books in 1622, fol. 13. Poems, viz. The Barons Warres, England's Heroical Epistles,
See Addenda. C. * In a Letter to his friend Drummond, he informs him of his having made further progress in the Poly-olbion, but adds, it lyeth by me; for the booksellers and I are not in terms, and they are a company of base knaves, whom I both scorn and kick at." Drummond's works, 1711, p. 155. C.
· Ritson says the first “twelve," and the whole “ twenty-two books." C.