1747 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Alleyn

Anonymous, in Biographia Britannica (1747-66) 1:115.



A celebrated Comedian in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth, and King James I, and a laudable benefactor, by his charitable foundation of a college in the county of Surrey; which flourishes with great improvement to this day. He was born of reputable parents, who lived in good fashion and credit.... He was born in the city of London; in the parish of St Botolph, without Bishopsgate; on the first day of September, anno 1566, as we collect from a memorandum of his own writing; and more particularly according to Dr Fuller, near Devonshire-house, where now, says he, is the sign of the Pye. The same author adds, that he was bred a Stage-player; which is not improbable, though in his younger days, his father might be in good circumstances, if his son proved intractable to a more severe education, or serious course of life. For it does not appear, by what he has left of his writing, that he had ever engaged himself very deeply in scholastic studies; though he was, as may be gathered from the several testimonies which have been given of him, a man of excellent natural parts; and in person, as appears by the picture preserved of him, of a stately port and aspect; all which might well induce a young man, to initiate and exert himself in that gay and popular profession. And indeed there are not wanting other authorities, whereby it seems to be confirmed, that he was engaged betimes in that vocation. For if before Christopher Marloe, the poet, died, Alleyn did not only act in several of his tragedies, but was arrived to that superlative degree, of being inimitable, or peerless therein; as it has been asserted in some verses [by Thomas Heywood].