1753 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Richard Fanshawe

Anonymous, in Cibber-Shiels, Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) 2:36-42.



Sir RICHARD FANSHAW was the youngest, and tenth son of Sir Henry Fanshaw of Ware-park in Hertfordshire; he was born in the year 1607, and was in initiated in learning by the famous Thomas Farnaby. He afterwards compleated his studies in the university of Cambridge, and from thence went to travel into foreign countries, by which means he became a very accomplished gentleman. In 1635 he was patronized by King Charles I. on account of his early and promising abilities; he took him into his service, and appointed him resident at the court of Spain. During his embassy there, his chief business was, to demand repatriation and punishment of some free-booters, who had taken ships from the English, and to endeavour the restoration of amity, trade and commerce.

When the civil war broke out, he returned to England, having accomplished the purposes of his embassy abroad, and attached himself with the utmost zeal to the Royal Standard; and during those calamitous times was intrusted with many important matters of state.

In 1644, attending the court at Oxford, the degree of Doctor of Civil Laws was conferred upon him, and the reputation of his parts every day increasing, he was thought a proper person to be secretary to Charles, Prince of Wales, whom he attended into the Western parts of England, and from thence into the Isles of Scilly and Jersey.

In 1648 be was appointed treasurer of the navy, under the command of Prince Rupert, in which office he continued till the year 1650, when he was created a baronet by King Charles II. and sent envoy extraordinary to the court of Spain. Being recalled thence into Scotland, where the King then was, he served there in quality of secretary of state, to the satisfaction of all parties, notwithstanding he refused to take the covenant engagements, which Charles II. forced by the importunity of the Presbyterians, entered into, with a resolution to break them. In 1651 he was made prisoner at the battle of Worcester and committed to close custody in London, where he continued, 'till his confinement introduced a very dangerous sickness; he then had liberty granted him, upon giving bail, to go for the recovery of his health, into any place he should chuse, provided he stirred not five miles from thence, without leave from the Parliament.

In February, 1659, he repaired to the King at Breda, who knighted him the April following. Upon his Majesty's restoration, it was expected, from his great services, and the regard the King had for him, that he would have been made secretary of state, but at that period there were so many people's merits to repay, and so great a clamour for preferment, that Sir Richard was disappointed, but had the place of master of requests conferred on him, a station, in those times, of considerable profit and dignity.

On account of his being a good Latin scholar, he was also made a secretary for that tongue. In 1661, being one of the burgesses for the university of Cambridge, he was sworn a privy counsellor for Ireland, and having by his residence in foreign parts, qualified himself for public employment, he was sent envoy extraordinary to Portugal, with a dormant commission to the ambassador, which he was to make use of as occasion should require. Shortly after, he was appointed ambassador to that court, where he negotiated the marriage between his master King Charles II. and the Infanta Donna Catharina, daughter to King John VI. and towards the end of the same year he returned to England. We are assured by Wood, that in the year 1662, he was sent again ambassador to that court, and when he had finished his commission, to the mutual satisfaction of Charles II. and Alphonso King of Portugal, being recalled in 1663, he was sworn one of his Majesty's Privy Council. In the beginning of the year 1644 he was sent ambassador to Philip IV. King of Spain, and arrived February 29 at Cadiz, where he met with a very extraordinary and unexpected salutation, and was received with some circumstances of particular esteem. It appears from one of Sir Richard's letters, that this distinguishing respect was paid him, not only on his own, but on his master's account; and in another of his letters he discovers the secret why the Spaniard yielded him, contrary to his imperious proud nature, so much honour, and that is, that he expected Tangier and Jamaica to be restored to him by England; which occasioned his arrival to be so impatiently longed for, and magnificently celebrated. During his residence at this court King Philip died September 17, 1665, leaving his son Charles an infant, and his dominions under the regency of his queen, Mary Anne, daughter of the emperor Ferdinand III. Sir Richard taking the advantage of his minority, put the finishing hand to a peace with Spain, which was sufficiently tired and weakened with a 25 years war, for the recovery of Portugal, which had been dismembered from the Spanish crown in 1640; the treaty of peace was signed at Madrid December 6, 1665. About the 14th of January following, his excellency took a journey into Portugal, where he staid till towards the end of March; the design of his journey certainly was to effect an accommodation between that crown and Spain, which however was not produced till 1667, by the interposition of his Britannic Majesty. Our author having finished his commission was preparing for his return to England, when June 4, 1666, he was seized at Madrid with a violent fever, which put an end to his valuable life, the 16th of the same month, the very day he intended to set out for England. His body being embalmed, it was conveyed by his lady, and all his children, then living, by land to Calais, and so to London, whence being carried to All Saints church in Hertford, it was deposited in the vault of his father-in-law, Sir John Harrison. The Author of the Short Account of his Life, prefixed to his letters, says, "that he was remarkable for his meekness, sincerity, humanity and piety, and also was an able statesman and a great scholar, being in particular compleat master of several modern languages, especially the Spanish, which he spoke and wrote with as much advantage, as if he had been a native." By his lady, eldest daughter of Sir John Harrison, he had six sons, and eight daughters, whereof only one son and four daughters survived him.

The following is an account of his works,

1. An English Translation in Rhyme, of the celebrated Italian Pastoral, called Il Pastor Fido, or the Faithful Shepherd, written originally by Battista Guarini, printed in London, 1644 in 4to. and 1664 8vo.

2. A Translation from English into Latin Verse, of the Faithful Shepherdess, a Pastoral, written originally by John Fletcher, Gent. London, 1658.

3. In the octavo edition of the Faithful Shepherd, Anno 1664, are inserted the following Poems of our author, viz. 1st, An Ode upon the Occasion of his Majesty's Proclamation, 1630, commanding the Gentry to reside upon their Estates in the Country. 2d, A Summary Discourse of the Civil Wars of Rome, extracted from the best Latin Writers in Prose and Verse. 3d, An English translation of the Fourth Book of Virgil's Aeneid on the Loves of Dido and Aeneas. 4th, Two Odes out of Horace, relating to the Civil Wars of Rome, against covetous, rich Men.

4. He translated out of Portuguese into English, The Lusiad, or Portugal's Historical Poem, written originally by Luis de Camoens, London, 1655, &c. folio.

After his decease, namely, in 1671, were published these two posthumous pieces of his in 4to, Querer per solo Querer, To Love only for Love's sake, a Dramatic Romance, represented before the King and Queen of Spain, and Fiestas de Aranjuez, Festivals at Aranjuez both written originally in Spanish, by Antonio de Mendoza, upon occasion of celebrating the Birthday of King Philip IV. in 1623, at Aranjuez; they were translated by our author in 1654, during his confinement Taukerley-park in Yorkshire, which uneasy situation induced him to write the following stanzas on this work, which are here inserted, as a specimen of his versification.

Time was, when I, a pilgrim of the seas,
When I 'midst noise of camps, and courts disease,
Purloin'd some hours to charm rude cares with verse,
Which flame of faithful shepherd did rehearse.

But now restrain'd from sea, from camp, from court,
And by a tempest blown into a port;
I raise my thoughts to muse on higher things,
And eccho arms, and loves of Queens and Kings.

Which Queens (despising crowns and Hymen's band)
Would neither men obey, nor men command:
Great pleasure from rough seas to see the shore
Or from firm land to hear the billows roar.

We are told that he composed several other things remaining still in manuscript, which he had not leisure to compleat; even some of the printed pieces have not all the finishing so ingenious an author could have bestowed upon them; for as the writer of his Life observes, "being, for his loyalty and zeal to his Majesty's service, tossed from place to place, and from country to country, during the unsettled times of our anarchy, some of his Manuscripts falling into unskilful hands, were printed and published without his knowledge, and before he could give them the last finishing strokes." But that was not the case with his Translation of the Pastor Fido, which was published by himself, and applauded by some of the best judges, particularly Sir John Denham, who after censuring servile translators, thus goes on,

A new and nobler way thou dost pursue
To make translations and translators too.
They but preserve the ashes, these the flame,
True to his sense, but truer to his fame.