1662 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Alabaster

Thomas Fuller, in History of the Worthies of England (1662) 3:70.



WILLIAM ALABASTER was born at Hadleky in this County, and by marriage was Nephew to Doctor John Still, Bishop of Bath and Wells. He was bred Fellow in Trinity Colledge in Cambridge. A most rare Poet as any our Age or Nation hath produced: witnesse his Tragedy of Roxana admirably acted in that Colledge, and so pathetically; that a Gentle-woman present thereat (Reader I had it from an Author whose credit it is sin with me to suspect) at the hearing of the last words thereof, "sequar, sequar," so hideously pronounced, fell distracted, and never after fully recovered her senses.

He attended chaplain in [the] Calis-voyage on Robert Earl of Essex, where he was so affected with the beauty of Popish Churches and the Venerable aspect the Papists gave to their Priests, that he staggered in his own Religion. There wanted not those of the Romish party to force his fall, whom they found reeling; working on his Ambition, who complained of the slownesse of preferment in England, which followed not so fast as in due time to overtake his deserts; so that soon after he turned a Papist.

Yet it was not long before he was out of love with that perswasion; so that, whether because he could not comport with their discipline, who would have made him (who conceived himself at the top) begin again (according to their course) at the bottom of Humane Learning; Or, because (which I rather charitably beleeve) that upon second thoughts he seriously disgusted the Romish superstition, he returned into his own Country.

It was not long before he was made Prebendary of Saint Pauls, and Rector of the rich Parsonage of Therfield in Hertford-shire. He was an excellent Hebrician, and well skilled in Cabalistical Learning; witnesse his Clerum in Cambridge when he commenced Doctor in Divinity, taking for his Text the first words of the first Book of Chronicles, Adam, Seth, Enos.

Besides the literal sense, as they are proper names of the Patriarchs, he mined for a mystical meaning, Man is put or placed for pain and trouble.

How well this agreeth with the original belongs not to me to enquire; This I know, it had been hard (if not impossible) for him to hold on the same rate, and reduce the proper names in the Genealogies following to such an Appellativeness, as should compose a continued sense. He died Anno Domini 163-.