1690 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir John Denham

Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (1690-91; 1721) 2:422.



JOHN DENHAM the only Son of Sir John Denham Knight, sometime chief Baron of the Exchequer in, and one of the Lords Justices of, Ireland, by Eleanor his Wife one of the Daughters of Sir Garrret More Kt. sometime Baron of Mellifont in that Kingdom, was born within the City of Dublin, but being brought thence very young, at what time his Father was made one of the Barons of the Exchequer in England, an. 1617, he was educated in Grammar learning either in London or Westminster, and being made full ripe for the University, was sent to Trinity Coll. where he became a Gent. Comm. in Michael. term, an. 1631, aged 16 years. But being looked upon as a slow and dreaming young Man by his Seniors and Contemporaries, and given more to Cards and Dice, than his Study, they could never then in the least imagine, that he could ever inrich the World with his Fancy, or issue of his Brain, as he afterwards did. From Tin. Coll. where he continued about three years, and had been examined in the public Schools for the degree of Bach. of Arts, he went to Lincolns Inn, where tho' he followed his Study very close to the appearance of all Persons, yet he would game much, and frequent the company of the unsanctified crew of Gamesters, who rook'd him sometimes of all he could wrap or get. But his Father having received notice of these matters, took him severely to task, with many threatnings to cast him off, if he did not forbear from so doing. Whereupon he wrote a Little Essay against Gaming, shewing the Vanities and Inconveniences, which he presented to his Father to let him know his detestation of it. After his Father's death, (who died 6 Jan. 1638, and was buried in Egham Church in Surrey) he fell to gaming again, and shortly after squandered away several thousands of Pounds that were left him, &c. In the latter end of the year 1641 he published the Tragedy called The Sophy, which took extremely much and was admired by all ingenious Men, particularly by Edm. Waller of Beaconsfield, who then said of the Author, that he broke out like the Irish Rebellion, threescore thousand strong, whom no Body was aware, or in the least suspected it. Shortly after he was prick'd High Sheriff for Surrey, and made Governour of Farnham-Castle for the King: But he being an inexpert Soldier, soon after left that Office, and retired to his Maj. at Oxon, where he printed his Poem called Cooper's-hill: which Hill is in the Parish of Egham in Surrey above Runey Mead, hath a very noble Prospect, and the Author of it, from thence doth admirably well describe several places in his view there, which he mentions in that most celebrated Poem. In Apr. 1648, he conveyed or stole away James Duke of York from S. James's in Westminster, then under the tuition of Algernon Earl of Northumberland, and carried him into France to the Prince of Wales and the Qu. Mother, and not long after was sent with William (afterwards Lord) Crofts as Envoies to the King of Poland by the said Prince, then K. Ch. 2. In 1652 or thereabouts, he return'd into England, and being in some streights (for by gaming and the War he had squandred away much of his Estate at Egham and elsewhere, and the rest ordered to be sold by the Parliament 15 July 1651) he was kindly entertain'd by the Earl of Pembroke at Wilton; where, and sometimes at London, he continued with that Count more than a year: In which time he did translate one of Virgil's Aeneids and burlesqu'd it, but whether he ever publish'd it, I know not. K. Ch. 1. did grant to him the reversion of the place of Surveyor of his Buildings after the decease of Inigo Jones: K. Ch. 2 an. 1660 (for the said Jones died 21 July 1651, aged 79 years or thereabouts, and was buried in the Church of S. Bennet near to Pauls-warf in London) he enjoyed it to the time of his death, and got by it 7000. In the year following he was made Knight of the Bath at the Coronation of K. Ch. 2. and became much renown'd in the Court of that King for his ingenuity; but upon some discontent arising from a second Match, he became craz'd for a time, and so consequently contemptible among vain Fops. Soon after being cured of his Distemper, he wrote excellent Verses on the Bath of Abr. Cowley the Prince of Poets, and some Months after followed him. Things that he hath written and translated have been many, but those that are published are only these [list omitted]. He died at his Office (near to Whitehall) which he before had built, in March, in sixteen hundred sixty and eight, and was buried on the 23d of the same month, in the S. cross Isle or Transcept of the Abby Church of S. Peter in Westminster, near to the Graves of Jeffry Chaucer, and Abr. Cowley.