1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Winstanley

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 32:206



WILLIAM WINSTANLEY, originally a barber, was author of the Lives of the Poets; of Select Lives of England's Worthies; Historical Rarities; The Loyal Martyrology; and some single lives; all in 8vo. Granger says he is a fantastical writer, and of the lowest class of biographers: but we are obliged to him for many notices of persons and things, which are mentioned by no other writer, which must account for his England's Worthies being a book still in request; and, as some of the vampers think, even worthy of being illustrated by prints. It is not, however, generally known, that it is necessary to have both editions of this work; those of 1660 and 1684, in order to possess the whole of his biographical labours: Winstanley, who could trim in politics as well as trade, omitted from the latter all the republican lives, and substituted others in their room. He flourished in the reigns of Charles I. II. and James II. and was probably alive at the publication of his second edition, in which he changed his dedication, adopting new patrons. In the Censura Literaria, vol. V. is an account of The Muses Cabinet, 1655, 12mo, containing his original poetry, which is called in the title-page "both pleasant and profitable;" but now we are afraid will not be thought either. He was a great plagiary, and took his character of the English poets from Phillips's Theatrum, and much from Fuller and others, without any acknowledgment.