1690 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Chapman

Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (1690-91; 1721) 1:592.



GEORGE CHAPMAN, A Person much famed in his time for the excellency of his Muse, and for the great Repute he obtained for his admirable Translations, and advance of the English Stage by his Dramatic Writings, was born in the year 1557, but of what Family, unless of that, sometimes of Stone-Castle (of which they were Owners) in Kent, I cannot tell. In 1574, or thereabouts, he being well grounded in School-Learning, was sent to the University, but whether to this of Oxon, or that of Cambridge, is to me unknown: Sure I am that he spent some time in Oxon, where he was observed to most excellent in the Lat. and Greek Tongues, but not in Logic or Philosophy, and therefore I presume that that was the reason he took no Degree here. Afterwards he settled in the Metropolis, and became much admired by Edm. Spencer, Sam. Daniel, Will. Shakespeare, Christoph. Marlow, &c. by all whose Writings, as also by those of Sir Phil. Sydney, Will. Warner, and of those of our Author Chapman, the English Tongue was exceedingly enriched, and made quite another thing than what 'twas before. He was much countenanced in his virtuous and elaborate Studies by Sir Tho. Walsingham Knight, who always had a constant Friendship for him, as also by his toward and worthy Son Tho. Walsingham Esq; whom Chapman lov'd from his Birth. He was also respected and patroniz'd by Prince Henry, and by Sir Rob. Carr E. of Somerset, but the first being untimely snatch'd away, and the other as untimely laid aside, his hopes of future advance were frustrated. However, if I am not mistaken, he was a sworn Servant either to K. James I. or his Royal Consort Queen Anne; thro' all whose time he was highly valued, but not so much as Ben. Johnson, who then, as in part of the Reign of K. Ch. I. carried all before him. He (Chapman) was a Person of most reverend aspect, religious and temperate, qualities rarely meeting in a Poet, and was so highly esteemed by the Clergy and Academicians, that some of them have said, that 'as Musaeus, who wrote the Lives of Hero and Leander, had two excellent Imitators of him in the same Argument and Subject, viz. Christoph. Marlow and George Chapman'; which last, whose name stands upon Record for one of the famous Dramatists of his time, hath written these things following [list omitted]. At length this most eminent and Reverend Poet having lived 77 Years in this vain and transitory World, made his last Exit in the Parish of S. Giles's in the Fields near London, on the twelfth day of May, in sixteen hundred thirty and four, and was buried in the Yard on the South-side of the Church of S. Giles. Soon after was a Monument erected over his Grave, built after the way of the old Romans, by the Care and Charge of his most beloved Friend Inigo Jones before-mentioned; whereon is this engraven, Georgeius Chapmanuus, Poeta Homericus, Philosophicus verus (esti Christianus Poeta) plusquam celebris, &c. I find this Chapman highly extolled in an old Copy of Verses called, A Censure of the Poets, thus:

First reverend Chapman, who hath brought to us
Musaeus, Homer, and Hesiodus.
Out of the Greek; and by his skill hath rear'd
Them to that height, and to our Tongue indear'd,
That were those Poets at this Day alive
To see their Books, that with us thus survive;
They'd think, having neglected them so long,
They had been written in the English Tongue.