HENRY PEACHAM, a writer of considerable note in his day, appears to have been the son of Mr. Henry Peacham of Leverton, in Holland, in the county of Lincoln, and was born in the latter part of the seventeenth century, unless he was the Henry Peacham who published The Garden of Eloquence, a treatise on rhetoric, in 1577, 4to, and then he must be referred to the early part of the reign of queen Elizabeth. But we are more inclined to think, with Mr. Malone, that the Garden of Eloquence was a production of his father's. Very little is known with certainty of his history, and that little has been gleaned from his works, in which he frequently introduces himself. In his Compleat Gentleman, he says he was born at North Mims, near St. Alban's, where he received his education under an ignorant schoolmaster. He was afterwards of Trinity college, Cambridge, and in the title to his Minerva, styles himself master of arts. He speaks of his being well skilled in music, and it appears that he resided a considerable time in Italy, where he learnt music of Orazio Vecchi. He was also intimate with all the great masters of the time at home, and has characterized their several styles, as well as those of many on the continent. His opinions, says Dr. Burney, concerning their works are very accurate, and manifest great knowledge of all that was understood at the time respecting practical music.
He informs us also of his skill in painting; that he could take likenesses, and on one occasion took his majesty's (James I.) as he sat at dinner. He also made, perhaps engraved, a map of Cambridge. Lord Orford mentions his engraving of a good print, after Holbein, of sir Thomas Cromwell, knight, afterwards earl of Essex. From his Gentleman's Exercise we learn that he either kept school, or had private pupils. Lord Orford says that he was tutor to the children of the earl of Arundel, whom he accompanied to the Low Countries. In the same work, Peacham says he translated king James's Basilicon Doron into Latin verse, and presented it to prince Henry, to whom he also dedicated his Minerva Britannica in 1612. He also published in 1615, Prince Henry revived; or a poem upon the birth of prince H Frederick, heir apparent to Frederick Count Palatine of the Rhine. The only other particulars we derive from his own hints are, that he lived for some time in St. Martin's in the Fields, and was addicted to melancholy. It is said that he was reduced to poverty in his old age, and wrote penny pamphlets for bread. This last is asserted in a MS note by John Gibbon, Bluemantle, on a copy of one of Peacham's tracts sold at Mr. West's sale. It is entitled A Dialogue between the cross in Cheap and Charing crosse. Comforting each other, as fearing their fall, in these uncertain times. By Ryhen Pameach (Henry Peacham). The chief merit of this, Mr. Gough says, is that its wooden frontispiece exhibits the ruined shaft of Charing Cross, and the entire cross of Cheap. It has no date. Cheapside cross, we know, was taken down in 1640.
The work by which Peacham is best known is his Complete Gentleman, a 4to volume, printed in 1622, and reprinted in 1627, 1634, 1654, and 1661. This last edition received some improvements in the heraldic part from Thomas Blount, author of the Jocular Tenures. It treats of "nobilitie in generall; of dignitie and necessitie of learning in princes and nobilitie; the time of learning; the dutie of parents in their children's education; of a gentleman's carriage in the universitie; of style in speaking, writing, and reading history; of cosmography; of memorable observation in the survey, of the earth; of geometry; of poetry; of musicke; of statues and medalls; of drawing and painting in oyle; of sundry blazonnes both ancient and modern; of armory or blazing armes; of exercise of body; of reputation and carriage; of travaile; of warre; of fishing."
His other works are, 1. Minerva Britannica, or a garden of Heroical Devises, &c. 1612, 4to. This is a collection of emblems in verse, with a plate to each. Mr. Ellis has selected several specimens from this curious volume. 2. The period of Mourning, in memory of the late prince. Together with Nuptial Hymnes in honour of this happy marriage betweene Frederick count Palatine and Elizabeth daughter of our Sovereigne, 1613, 4to. 3. A most true relation of the affairs of Cleve and Gulick, &c. 1614, 4to, in prose. 4. Thalia's Banquet, a volume of epigrams, 1620, 12mo. 5. The Valley of Varietie, 1638, 12mo. 6. The Duty of all true subjects to their king; as also to their native country in time of extremity and danger, in two books, 1639, 4to. 7. The worth of a penny, or a caution to keep money; with the causes of the scarcity and misery of the want thereof, in these hard and merciless times; as also how to save it, in our diet, apparel, recreations, &c. 4to. This piece of humour, which appeared first in 1647, was reprinted in 1667, 1677, and 1695, and perhaps oftener. 8. The Gentleman's Exercise; or an Exquisite Practise as well for drawing all manner of beasts in their true portraiture, as also the making of colours for limning, painting, tricking, and blazoning of coats of arms, &c. 1630, and 1634, 4to. All these are works of considerable merit, Peacham being a man of general knowledge, good taste, and acute observation, and were very popular during the seventeenth century. His Complete Gentleman particularly was in high estimation with the gentry of that age. Sir Charles Sedley, who had been guilty of an offence against good manners, and was indicted for it, was asked on his trial by the chief justice, sir Robert Hyde, whether he had ever read the Complete Gentleman?