1738 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir John Davies

Elizabeth Cooper, in The Muses Library (1738) 331-33.



Sir John Davies was the Son of a wealthy Tanner of Chisgrove, in the Parish of Tysbury in Wiltshire; and, at Fifteen Years of Age, enter'd a Commoner of Queen's College in Oxford; from whence, after several Years Residence, He remov'd to the Middle-Temple, to study the Law, tho', 'tis said, against his Inclination, and was call'd to the Bar: But having a Quarrel with one Mr. Richard Martyn, (afterwards Recorder of London) He bastinado'd him in the Temple-Hall, at Dinner-Time, in the Sight of the whole Society. For which Contempt He was forthwith expell'd, and retir'd, somewhat uneasy, to Oxford; where he, again, follow'd his Studies closely; but without resuming the Scholar's Gown, and compos'd the excellent Poem annex'd. — After this, we find him honour'd with the Protection of Thomas Lord Ellesmore, Lord-Keeper of the Great Seal; and, not only restor'd to his Chambers in the Temple, but return'd a Member of Parliament, Ann. 1601. Upon the Death of the Queen, He, with several other Gentlemen, accompany'd the Lord Hunsdon into Scotland, to congratulate King James on his Accession to the Throne of England: And, being introduc'd to his Majesty, by Name, the King immediately inquir'd if he was Nosce Teipsum? (The Title of his first Poem!) and, being inform'd He was, most graciously embrac'd Him, and speedily made him his Sollicitor, and Attorney-General for Ireland. (It being a Mistake that he received those Preferments from Queen Elizabeth.) Beside which, He was one of the King's Serjeants in England; several Times an Assistant-Judge, and had the Honour of being Knighted by His Majesty, at White-Hall, An. 1607. — At length being appointed Lord Chief-Justice of the King's-Bench, He dy'd suddainly, before He could take Possession of that eminent Dignity; But left behind Him more valuable Witnesses of his Merit, than all the Titles that Heraldry can invent, or Monarchs bestow: The joint Applauses of Cambden, Sir John Harington, Ben Johnson, Selden, Donn, Corbet, &c! These are great, and unquestionable Authorities in Favour of this Author, and I shall only presume to add, That, in my humble Opinion, no Philosophical Writer, I have met with, ever explain'd their Ideas more clearly, or familiarly even in Prose; or any so beautifully or harmoniously in Verse. There is a peculiar Happiness in his Similies, being introduc'd to illustrate, more than adorn; which renders them as useful, as entertaining; and distinguishes his from those of every other Author. — But his Memory has already received the highest Compliments that can be paid to it. The late excellent Lord Dorset admir'd his writings so much, that he recommended such of them as remain, to be republish'd by Mr. Tate; which was, accordingly done, under His Protection; and the World has justify'd his Lordship's Taste so effectually, that another Edition appear'd in the Year 1714, from whence the following Piece is extracted. 'Tis call'd there an Introduction to his Essay, on the Nature, and Immortality of the Soul: But, without Question, is the Nosce Teipsum, for which He was so highly caress'd by King James; as fully appears by the Contents of the Poem it self.