Sir John Denham was born in Dublin, the son of the lord chief justice of the King's Bench in Ireland; he studied at Oxford (1631-34) before marrying and passing on to Lincoln's Inn (1634). Denham, the very type of the cavalier poet, fought in the wars and was exiled to France; after the restoration he was Surveyor of the King's Works (1660-69). He spent his last years in a mental asylum. Regarded as the great refiner of the heroic couplet, Denham once pleaded for the life of George Wither because, while Wither lived, he "should not be the worst poet in England." Denham's Coopers Hill was a foundational work for English georgic.
A letter sent to William Laud. 1641.
The Sophy. 1642.
Coopers Hill. 1642, 1655.
Mr. Hampton's speech. 1643.
Second advice to the painter. 1667.
The anatomy of play. 1651.
The destruction of Troy. 1656.
Panegyrick on Monck. 1659.
A relation of a Quaker. 1659.
Prologue to his Majesty at the first play at the Cock-pit. 1661.
The true Presbyterian without disguise. 1661.
Poems and translations, with The Sophy. 1668.
Cato major, of old age. A poem. 1669.
Version of the psalms. 1714.
Poems, ed. T. H. Banks. 1928.
Expans'd hieroglyphicks: a critical edition of Sir John Denham's Coopers Hill, ed. Brendan O Hehir. 1969.