1690 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas May

Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (1690-91; 1721) 2:414-15.



As for Tho. May before-mention'd, he was the Son of Th. May of Maysfield in Sussex Knight, by his Wife, the Daughter of ... Rich. of Hornden on the hill in Essex, was educated in all kind of humane learning when he was a Youth, and in Academical in his manly Years in Cambridge. Afterwards, his geny being chiefly enclined to Poetry, he retired to, and mostly lived in, the City of Westminster, where performing divers things for the honour of this nation, never paralell'd by any English Man before, was graciously countenanced by K. Ch. I. and his royal Consort; but he finding not that preferment from either, which he expected, grew discontented, sided with the Presbyterians upon the turn of the times, became a Debauchee ad omnia, entertained ill Principles as to Religion, spoke often very slightly of the Holy Trinity, kept beastly and atheistical Company, of whom Tho. Chaloner the Regicide was one; and endeavour'd to his power to asperse and invalidate the King and his Cause. Among several things that he hath written and translated, some are these. (1) The Trag. of Antigone the Theban Princess. Lond. 1631. oct. (2) The Heir, a Com. Acted 1620. Lond. 1633. qu. (3) The victorious reign of K. Ed. 3 in 7 Books. Lond. 1635. oct. Written in verse by the special command of K. Ch. I. (4) The reign of King Henry II. in 7 Books, Title torn, dedicated to King Charles I. in a Poem in octavo, and hath at the end in Prose, A Description of King Henry II. with a short survey of the changes in his reign. Bib. Sheld. (5) Trag. of Cleopatra Qu. of Aegypt, acted 1626. Lond. 1639. oct. (7) Supplementum Lucani, lib. vii. Lug. Bat. 1640. oct. Written in so lofty and happy Lat. Hexameter, that he hath attained to much more reputation abroad, than he hath lost at home. (8) The old couple, Com. Lond. in qu. (9) Historiae Parliamenti Angliae Breviarum, tribus partibus explicitum, Lond. 1649 or thereabout, in oct. It was afterwards translated into English by the Author, with this title, Breviary of the History of the Parliament of England, in three parts, &c. Lond. 1655. oct. sec. edit. Before which is the Picture of the Author in a Cloak, with a wreath of Laurel over his head. He hath also translated from Lat. into Engl. (1) Lucan's Pharsalia; or, the civil Wars of Rome, between Pompey the Great and Julius Ceasar. In 10 Books, Lond. 1635. oct. third edit. with annotations made by Th. May on each Book. (2) A continuation of the subject of Lucan's Historical Poem, till the Death of Julius Caesar. in 7 Books. Lond. 1635. oct. sec. edition, with annotations made by Tho. May on each Book. (3) Virgil's Georgics, four Books. Lond. 1622. oct. with annotations on each Book. (4) Selected Epigrams of Martial. Lond. 1629. oct. At length this Person Tho. May (who had been favoured by the rebellious Parliament so much, as to be made their Historian) going to bed, was therein found next Morning Dead, an. 1650, occasion'd, as some say, by tying his night-cap too close under his fat chin and cheeks, which choak'd him, when he turned on the other side. Afterwards his body being conveyed to the Abbey Church of S. Peter in Westminster, was buried on the West side of the large South Isle or transcept there: And soon after had a large Monument of white Marble set in the W. Wall over his Grave, with this inscription thereon made by Mach. Nedham. Quem Anglicana Respub. habuit vindicem, ornamentum Literaria, saecli sui Vatum celeberrimus, delicae futuri, Lucanus alter plusquam Romanus, Historicus fidus, Equatis aurati filius primogenitus, Thomas Maius b. s. c. Qui paternis titulis claritatis suae specimen usque adco superaddidit, ut a supreme Anglicorum senatu ad annales suos conscribendo fuerit ascitus. Tandem fide intermata Parliamento praestita, morte inopina noctu correptus diem suum obiit id. Nov. A libertatis humane Anglicae restitutae M.DC.L.II. Aetatis sue LV. Hoc in honorem servi tam bene meriti, Parliament. Reipubl. Angl. P. P. Soon after was an Epitaph made in answer to it, beginning thus. Asta, viator, & poetam legas Lucani interpretem, quem ita feliciter Anglicanum fecerat, ut Maius simul & Lucanus videbatur, &c. But before his body had rested in the said South Isle eleven Years, 'twas taken up, with other bodies that had been unwarrantably buried there, from 1641, to his Majesty's Restoration, and buried in a large Pit in the Yard belonging to S. Margaret's Church in Westminster, where to this day it continueth. At the same time his Monument also was taken down, and thrown aside; and in the place of it was set up that of Dr. Tho. Triplet, an. 1670.