1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Basse

Thomas Corser, in Collectanea Anglo-Poetica 1 (1860) 199-200.



Few readers of Isaac Walton's delightful and fascinating Angler can forget the praise bestowed upon William Basse for "The Angler's Song," composed at Walton's request, and sung by him, who also refers to him as being the author of the choice songs of "The Hunter in his Career," and of "Tom of Bedlam," and many others of note. These two songs are printed at length in the appendix to Sir Harris Nicholas's edition of Walton's Complete Angler, 8vo, 1836, pp. 420. Basse's name is also remembered in connection with our immortal bard from his lines "On William Shakespeare who died in April 1616," which appeared in the edition of his Poems in 1640, and are reprinted in Malone's and other modern editions of Shakespeare. Another poem by Basse will be found in the Annalia Dubrensia, upon the yearely celebration of Mr. Robert Dover's Olympick Games upon Cotswold Hills, 4to. 1636, consisting of ten stanzas of eight lines each. He was likewise the author of a poem, Great Brittaines Sunnes-set, bewailed with a Shower of Teares, on the death of Prince Henry, in 12mo, at Oxford, printed by Joseph Barnes, 1613, of which a fragment only is known to exist, and is now in the possession of Mr. Payne Collier; and also, according to Ritson, of Three Pastorall Elegies of Anander, Anytor, and Muridella, entered to Joseph Barnes 28 May 1602. These, with the addition of a poem called Sword and Buckler, or Serving-Mens Defence, in six-line stanzas, 4to Lond. imprinted in 1602, and noticed in the next article, if this is by the same William Basse, of which there may be some doubt, appear, as far as we can ascertain, to be the only known publications of this author with his name attached to them. Other works, however, have been attributed to him from the similarity of the initials, but probably without much foundation. Mr. Malone was of opinion that he was the writer of A helpe to Discourse, or a Miscellany of Merriment, &c. by W. B. and E.P. second edition, 8vo Lond. 1620, which went through several editions. Ritson also, though perhaps with little truth, attributes to him the authorship of Scacchia ludus, Cheese-play; a poetical translation of Vida's celebrated poem, found at the end of Ludus Scacchia: Cheese-play. By W. B. 4to Lond. 1597. And Mr. Octavius Gilchrist, in describing a very scarce little volume in Restituta, vol. i. p. 41, entitled That which seemes best is worst: Exprest in a paraphrastical Transcript of Juvenals tenth Satyre; Together with the tragicall narration of Virginias death interserted, by W. B. sm. 8vo. 1617, and alluding to the difficulty of determining to whom these initials belong, mentions William Basse as one, to whom, along with William Barkstead, the claim may be allotted; but is more inclined, from the circumstance of his having paraphrased another tale in a similar manner, to assign it to the latter.

We learn from Ant. Wood in his Ath. Oxon. vol. iv. p. 222, that Basse was a native of Moreton near Thame in Oxfordshire, and was for some time a retainer of Sir Richard Wenman Knt., afterwards Viscount Wenman in the peerage of Ireland. He seems afterwards to have been attached to the noble family of Norreys of Ricot in Oxfordshire, which is not far from Thame, and addressed some verses to Francis Lord Norreys Earl of Berkshire....