1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Thomas Overbury

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 1:277-78.



SIR THOMAS OVERBURY was another witty and ingenious describer of characters. He at one time was an intimate associate of Robert Car, the minion of James I.; but having opposed the favourite's marriage with the infamous Countess of Essex, he incurred the hatred of the abandoned pair, and through their influence was confined and poisoned in the Tower. The way in which this murder was screened from justice, leaves a foul blot on the memory of the king, and on the history of the age. Overbury wrote two didactic poems, called The Wife, and The Choice of a Wife, but, though popular at the time, these are now held in no estimation, either as preceptive or as literary productions. Some of his prose Characters, or "Witty Descriptions of the Properties of Sundry Persons," are, however, excellent, though, like many other productions of James's reign, disfigured by far-fetched conceits.