1747 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir John Davies

Anonymous, in Biographia Britannica (1747-66) 3:1616-17.



An eminent Lawyer and Poet of the last century, was born at Chisgrove in the parish of Tysbury in Wiltshire, being the son of a wealthy Tanner of that place, and became a Commoner of Queen's-College in Oxford in Michaelmas Term 1585; where having laid a good foundation of academical learning, and taken the degree of Bachelor of Arts, he removed to the Middle-Temple, and, applying himself to the study of the Common Law, was called to the Bar. Some time after, being expelled that society for beating a Gentleman at dinner in the Common-Hall, he retired to Oxford, and prosecuted his studies there. Afterwards, by the favour of Thomas Lord Ellesmore, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, being reinstated in the Temple, he practised as a Counsellor, and became a Burgess in the Parliament held at Westminster in 1601. Upon the death of Queen Elizabeth, our author, with Lord Hunsdon, went into Scotland, to congratulate King James, who afterwards made him his Solicitor, and then his Attorney-General in Ireland; where, in 1606, he was made one of his Majesty's Serjeants at Law, and was afterwards Speaker of the House of Commons in that kingdom. The year following, on the 11th of February, he received the honour of knighthood from the King at Whitehall. In 1612, he quitted the post of Attorney-General in Ireland, and was made one of his Majesty's English Serjeants at Law. After his settling in England, he was often appointed one of the Judges of Assize on the Circuits. He married Eleanor Touchet, youngest daughter of George Lord Audley, afterwards Earl of Castlehaven; by whom he had a son, an idiot, who died young, and a daughter named Lucy, married to Ferdinand Lord Hastings, afterwards Earl of Huntington. In 1626, Sir John was appointed Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench: but, before the ceremony of installation could be performed, he died suddenly, of an apoplexy, the seventh of December, at his house in the Strand, in the 57th year of his age; and was buried in the church of St Martin in the Fields, leaving behind him the character of a bold spirit, a sharp and ready wit, and a man completely learned, but in truth more a Scholar than a Lawyer.