1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Habington

Thomas Campbell, in Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1845) 200.



The mother of this poet, who was daughter to Lord Morley, is reported to have written the famous letter of warning, in consequence of which the gunpowder plot was discovered. His father, who had been suspected of a share in Babington's conspiracy, and who had owed his release to his being Godson to Queen Elizabeth, was a second time imprisoned, and condemned to death on the charge of having concealed some of the agents of the gunpowder plot; but by Lord Morley's interest was pardoned, on condition of confining himself to Worcestershire, of which county he lived to write a voluminous history.

The family were Catholics; and his son, the poet, was sent to St. Omer's, we are told, with a view to make him a Jesuit, which he declined. The same intention never failed to be ascribed to all English families who sent their children to that seminary. On his return from the Continent he lived chiefly with his father, who was his preceptor. Of the subsequent course of his life nothing more seems to be on record than his marriage and his literary works. The latter consisted of effusions entitled Castara, the poetical name of his mistress; the Queen of Aragon, a tragi-comedy; a History of Edward IV.; and Observations upon History.

Habington became a poet from the courtship of the lady whom he married, Lucy, daughter to Lord Powis. There is no very ardent sensibility in his lyrics, but they denote a mind of elegant and chaste sentiments. He is free as any of the minor poets of his age from the impurities which were then considered as wit. He is indeed rather ostentatiously platonic, but his love language is far from being so elaborate as the complimentary gallantry of the preceding age. A respectable gravity of thought, and succinct fluency of expression, are observable in the poems of his later life.