1839 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Francis Davison

Robert Aris Willmott, in Lives of Sacred Poets (1834) 20-21.



Francis Davison, well known as the editor of the Poetical Rhapsody, was the son of William Davison, the unfortunate secretary of Queen Elizabeth; a man whose probity and excellence appear to have been unquestioned, even by his enemies, and who may be considered the victim of the deceit of Elizabeth, and the treachery of her ministers. In 1593, Francis became a member of Gray's Inn, and, before the completion of his twentieth year, he wrote the speeches of the Gray's Inn Masque, printed in Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth. In 1595 he was on the Continent, and, on his return, appears to have relinquished his former pursuits, and devoted himself to poetry. Mr. John Chamberlain, writing to Sir Dudley Carleton, on the 8th of July, 1602, alludes to the circumstance: — "It seems young Davison means to take another course, and turn poet; for he has lately sent out certain sonnets and epigrams." The first edition of the Poetical Rhapsody was published in 1602. The fall of his father from his rank and dignities, and his subsequent imprisonment and poverty, must have blighted the prospects of the poet. After 1619 nothing has been discovered respecting him; and it has been supposed that he shared what has been called, with melancholy truth, the common lot of genius — "an obscure life and an early grave." It was, perhaps, during hours of sorrow and penury, that these beautiful versions of the Psalms were composed; and the reader may coincide with Sir Egerton Brydges in esteeming them more honourable to the author, than his lighter compositions, written, as he tells us, in his younger days, "at idle times," as he journeyed "up and down" in his travels.