FRANCIS QUARLES, an English poet, was born in the year 1592, at Stewards, near Romford in Essex, and baptized on May 8 of that year. His family was of some consideration in the county of Essex, and possessed of several estates in Romford, Hornchurch, Dagenham, &c. In Romford church are registered the deaths of his grandfather, sir Robert Quarles, and his two wives and daughters, and James Quarles, his father, who died Nov. 16, 1642. He was clerk of the green cloth, and purveyor of the navy, to queen Elizabeth. Our poet was educated at Christ's college, Cambridge, and Lincoln's-inn, London. His destination seems to have been to public life, for we are told he was preferred to the place of cup-bearer to Elizabeth, daughter of James I. electress palatine and queen of Bohemia; but quitted her service, very probably upon the ruin of the elector's affairs, and went over to Ireland, where he became secretary to archbishop Usher. Upon the breaking out of the rebellion in that kingdom, in 1641, he suffered greatly in his fortune, and was obliged to fly for safety to England. But here he did not meet with the quiet he expected; for a piece of his, styled "The Royal Convert," having given offence to the prevailing powers, they took occasion from that, and from his repairing to Charles I. at Oxford, to hurt him as much as possible in his estates. But we are told, that what he took most to heart was, being plundered of his books, and some manuscripts which he had prepared for the press. The loss of these is supposed to have hastened his death, which happened Sept. 8, 1644, when he was buried in the church of St. Vedast, Foster-lane, London. Quarles was also chronologer to the city of London. What the duties of this place were, which is now abolished, we know not; but his wife Ursula, who prefixed a short life of him to one of his pieces, says that "he held this place till his death, and would have given that city (and the world) a testimony that he was their faithful servant therein, if it had pleased God to blesse him with life to perfect what he had begun." Mr. Headley observes, that Mr. Walpole and Mr. Granger have asserted, that he had a pension from Charles I. though they produce no authority; and he thinks this not improbable, as the king had taste to discover merit, and generosity to reward it. Pope, however, asserted the same thing, and probably had authority for it, although he did not think it necessary to quote it:
The hero William, and the martyr Charles;
One knighted Blackmore, and one pensioned Quarles.
Wood, in mentioning a publication of Dr. Burgess, which was abused by an anonymous author, and defended by Quarles, styles the latter "an old puritanical poet, the sometimes darling of our plebeian judgments;" and Phillips says of his works, that "they have been ever, and still are, in wonderful veneration among the vulgar." And this certainly has been the case until within the last thirty years several critics of acknowledged taste studied Quarles's various works with attention, and have advanced proofs that some of them deserve a better fate. Of these, Mr. Headley, and Mr. Jackson of Exeter, appear to have pleaded the cause of this neglected poet with best effect; and although they do not convince us that reprinting the whole of any of his pieces would be an acceptable labour, there can be no doubt that a judicious selection would prove Quarles a man of real genius and true poetical spirit. Quarles (says Mr. Headley) has been branded with more than common abuse, and seems often to have been censured merely from the want of being read. "If his poetry," adds this amiable critic, "failed to gain him friends and readers, his piety should at least have secured him peace and good-will. He too often, no doubt, mistook the enthusiasm of devotion for the inspiration of fancy. To mix the waters of Jordan and Helicon in the same case was reserved for the hand of Milton; and for him, and him only, to find the bays of Mount Olivet equally verdant with those of Parnassus. Yet, as the effusions of a real poetical mind, however thwarted by untowardness of subject, will be seldom rendered totally abortive, we find in Quarles original imagery, striking sentiment, fertility of expression, and happy combinations; together with a compression of style, that merits the observation of the writers of verse. Gross deficiencies of judgment, and the infelicities of his subjects, concurred in ruining him."
Owing to this and other attempts to revive the memory of Quarles, his various pieces have become lately in much request; and the original, or best editions, are sold at high prices. The first, in point of popularity, is his "Emblems," Lond. 1635, small 8vo, with prints by Marshall and Simpson. The hint was probably taken, as many of the plates certainly were, from Herman Hugo's Emblems, published a few years before (see HUGO), but the accompanying verses are entirely Quarles's. Hugo was more mystical, Quarles more evangelical. Alciat preceded them both; of which Fuller seems to have been aware, in the following character of Quarles, which we shall transcribe, as Mr. Headley has not disdained to take a hint from it. "Had he been contemporary," says our quaint biographer, "with Plato, that great back-friend to poets, he would not only have allowed him to live, but advanced him to an office in his commonwealth. Some poets, if debarred profaneness, wantonness, and satiricalness, that they may neither abuse God, themselves, nor their neighbours, have their tongues cut out in effect. Others only trade in wit at the second hand; being all for translations, nothing for invention. Our Quarles was free from the faults of the first, as if he had drank of Jordan instead of Helicon, and slept on Mount Olivet for his Parnassus; and was happy in his own invention. His visible poetry, I mean his 'Emblems,' is excellent, catching therein the eye and fancy at one draught; so that he hath out-Alciated therein, in some men's judgments. His 'Verses on Job' are done to the life; so that the reader may see his forces, and through them the anguish of his soul. According to the advice of St. Hierome, 'verba vertebat in opera,' and practised the Job he had described." Of these Emblems there have been innumerable editions, and they continue still to be printed. His other works we shall mention in the order of publication. 2. "A Feast for Wormes, in a poem of the history of Jonah," ibid. 1620, 4to. 3. "Pentalogia, or the Quintessence of Meditation." 4. "Hadassa, or the History, of Esther," Lond. 1621. 5. "Job Militant, with meditations divine and moral," ibid. 1624, 4to. 6. "Argalus and Parthenia," a romance, ibid. 1631, 4to. 7. "History of Sampson," 1631, 4to. 8. "Anniversaries" upon his "Paranete." 9. "Enchiridion of Meditations, divine and moral," prose, ibid. 1654. 10. "The Loyal Convert." 11. "The Virgin Widow," a comedy, Lond. 1649, 4to. 12. "Divine Fancies: digested into epigrammes, meditations, and observations," 1633, 4to. 13. "The Shepheard's Oracles, delivered in certain Eglogues," 1646, 4to. 14. "Divine poems: containing Jonah, Esther, Job, Sions Sonets, Elegies, &c." 1630, 8vo; reprinted, with plates, in 1674. 15. "Solomon's Recantation," reprinted 1739. This is probably not a perfect list of his pieces, nor have we been able to see copies of the whole. Some are accurately described in Messrs. Longman's "Bibliotheca Anglo-Poetica."
By his wife he had eighteen children, one of whom, named JOHN, a poet also, was born in Essex in 1624; admitted into Exeter college, Oxford, in 1642 bore arms for Charles I. within the garrison at Oxford; and was afterwards a captain in one of the royal armies. Upon the ruin of the king's affairs, he retired to London in a mean condition, where he wrote several things purely for a maintenance, and afterwards travelled on the continent. He returned, and died of the plague at London, in 1665. Some have esteemed him also a good poet; and perhaps he was not entirely destitute of genius, which would have appeared to more advantage, if it had been duly and properly cultivated. His principal merit, however, with his admirers, was certainly his being a very great royalist.
His works, as enumerated by Wood, are, 1. "Regale Lectum Miseriae; or, a kingly bed of misery: in which is contained a dreame: with an Elegie upon the Martyrdome of Charles, late king of England, of blessed memory; and another upon the right hon. the lord Capel, with a curse against the enemies of peace; and the author's farewell to England. Whereunto is added, England's Sonnets," Lond. 1649, 8vo, 2d edit. 2. "Fons Lachrymarurn; or, a Fountain of Tears: from when doth flow England's complaint. Jeremiah's Lamentations paraphrased, with divine meditations, and an elegy upon that son of valour, sir Charles Lucas," 1648, 8vo. 3. "The Tyranny of the Dutch against the English," ibid. 1653, 8vo, a prose narrative. 4. "Continuation of the History of Argalus and Parthenia," ibid. 1659, 12mo. 5. "Tarquin banished, or the Reward of Lust," a sequel to Shakspeare's "Rape of "Lucrece," ibid. 1655, 8vo. 6. "Divine Meditations upon several subjects," &c. ibid. 1679, 8vo. 7. "Triumphant Chastity, or Joseph's self-conflict," &c. ibid. 1684, 8vo.