1690 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir John Davies

Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (1690-91; 1721) 1:505-08.



JOHN DAVIES, the third Person of both his Names that I have hitherto mention'd among these Writers, was born at Chisgrove in the Parish of Tysbury in Wiltshire, being the Son of a wealthy Tanner of that Place, became a Commoner of Queen's Coll. about the beginning of Mich. Term in the fifteenth year of his age, an. 1585, wherein having laid a considerable foundation of Academical literature, partly by his own natural parts (which were excellent) and partly by the help of a good Tutor, he was removed (having taken a Degree of Arts, as it seems) to the Middle-Temple, wherein applying himself to the study of the Common-Law, tho' he had no great geny to it, was in fine made a Barrester. But so it was that he being a high spirited young Man, did, upon some little being a high spirited young Man, did, upon some little provocation or punctilio, bastinado Rich. Martin (afterwards Recorder of London) in the common Hall of the Middle Temple, while he was at Dinner. For which act being forthwith expell'd, he retired for a time in private, lived in Oxon in the condition of a Sojourner, and follow'd his Studies, tho' he wore a Cloak. However, among his serious Thoughts, making reflections upon his own Condition, which sometimes was an affliction to him, he composed that excellent Philosophical and Divine Poem called Nosce teipsum. Afterwards by the favour of Thomas Lord Ellesmore Lord-Keeper of the Great-Seal of England, he was again restored to his Chamber, was afterwards a Counsellor, and a Burgess for that Parliament which was held at Westminster in 1601. Upon the death of Q. Elizabeth, he, with the Lord Hunsdon, went into Scotland to congratulate K. James as her lawful Successor; and being introduced into his Presence, the King enquired the names of those Gentleman who were in the company of the said Lord, and he naming John Davies among, who stood behind them, the King straightway asked, whether he was Nosce Teipsum? and being answered that he was the same, he graciously embraced him, and thenceforth had so great a favour from him, that soon after he made him his Solicitor and then his Attorney-General in Ireland. While he held that place he was Serjeant-at-Law, (having never been Reader,) an. 1606, the Poesy of whose Rings that were then given, being Lex publica lux est. Notwithstanding the said Degree, he returned into Ireland by his Majesty's leave and dispensation, kept his Office of Attorney, and received the honour of Knighthood from his Majesty at Whitehall, 11 Feb. 1607. Afterwards he came into England for altogether, was made one of his Maj. Serjeants at Law here, in 1612, and sundry times appointed one of the Justices of the Assize in divers Circuits. At length being constituted Lord Chief-Justice of the King's Bench, had his Robes made in order to be settled in that high Office, as his Daughter hath several times reported, but died suddenly before the Ceremony of the Settlement or Installation could be performed. He was held in great esteem by the noted Scholars of his time, among whom were Will. Camden, Sir Jo. Harrington the Poet, Ben Johnson, Jo. Selden, Facete Hoskyns, R. Corbet of Ch. Ch. and others, who esteemed him to be a Person of bold Spirit, of a sharp and ready Wit, and compleatly learned, but in truth more a Scholar than a Lawyer. His works are [list omitted]. At length he died suddenly in his House in the Strand near to London, in the 57th year of his Age, for being well at Night, when he went to rest, he was on Thursday Morning, the 7th of December, in sixteen hundred twenty and six, found dead in his Bed, by an Apoplexy, as 'twas said. It was then commonly rumor'd that his Prophetical Lady had foretold his death in some manner, on the Sunday going before. For while she sate at Dinner by him, she suddenly burst out with Tears: Whereupon he asking her what the matter was, she answered, Husband, these are your Funeral Tears; to which he made reply, Pray therefore spare your Tears now, and I will be content that you shall laugh when I am dead. Her name was Elianor Touchet, youngest Daughter to George Lord Audley Earl of Castlehaven, and what she usually predicted, she folded up for the most part in dark Expressions, received from a Voice, which she frequently heard, as she used to tell her Daughter Lucy, and she others. By this Elianor, Sir Joh. Davies had Issue a Son, who was a natural Idiot, and dying young, the Father made an Epitaph of four Verses on him, beginning, Hic in visceribus terrae, &c. So that the said Lucy being sole Heiress to her Father, Ferdinando Lord Hastings (afterwards Earl of Huntingdon) became a Suiter to her for Marriage; whereupon the Father made this Epigram,

Lucinda vis oculis teneri perstrinxit amantis,
Nec tamen erravit, nam via dulcis erat.

After the body of Sir John had lain in State for some time, it was convey'd to the Church of St. Martin in the Fields near to Whitehall, where it was solemnly inter'd in the South-Isle. Soon after was a Monument fastned to the Pillar near his Grave, with a large Inscription on it, part of which runs thus [omitted]. His Widow afterwards lived mostly at Parton in Hertfordshire, had her Strange and wonderful Prophecies. — Printed in qu. an. 1649, and dying in St. Brides Parish in London, 5 Jul. 1652. was buried near to the Relics of her Husband, and soon after had a large Epitaph of Commendations put over her Grave. You may see more of her and her Prophecies in the History of the Life and Death of Dr. Will. Laud Archbishop of Cant. Part 2. lib. 4 an. 1634. See also in the Diary, or Breviat of the Life of the said Archb. — Printed 1644. p. 18. One Joh. Davies, a Bencher of the Inner Temple, was buried against the Communion Table, in the Temple Church, 20 Aug. 1631. What relation he had to the former, or whether he collected or published Reports, I know not.