1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joshua Sylvester

Thomas Campbell, in Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1845) 79.



JOSHUA SYLVESTER who in his day obtained the epithet of the Silver-tongued, was a merchant adventurer, and died abroad at Middleburgh, in 1618. He was a candidate, in the year 1597, for the office of secretary to a trading company at Stade; on which occasion the Earl of Essex seems to have taken a friendly interest in his fortunes. Though esteemed by the court of England (on one occasion he signs himself the pensioner of Prince Henry) he is said to have been driven from home by the enmity which his satires excited. This seems very extraordinary, as there is nothing in his vague and dull declamations against vice, that needed to have ruffled the most thin-edged enemies — so that his travels were probably made more from the hope of gain than the fear of persecution. He was an eminent linguist, and writes his dedications in several languages, but in his own he often fathoms the bathos, and brings up such lines as these to king James.

So much, O king, thy sacred worth presume I on,
James, the just heir of England's lawful union.

His works are chiefly translations, including that of the Divine Weeks and Works of Du Bartas. His claim to the poem of the Soul's Errand, as has been already mentioned, is to be entirely set aside.