1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Aston Cokayne

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 9:517-18.



SIR ASTON COKAYNE, an English poet, the son of Thomas Cokayne, esq. of Ashbourne-hall, in Derbyshire, and of Pooley, in Warwickshire, was born in 1608, at Elvaston, in Derbyshire, the seat of the family of his mother, Anne, daughter of sir John Stanhope, of Elvaston, knt. He was educated at Trinity-college, Cambridge, and in 1632 set out on his travels through France and Italy, of which he has given an account in a poem to his son Mr. Thomas Cokayne. On his return he married Anne, daughter of sir Gilbert Kniveton, of Mercaston, in Derbyshire, knt. and retiring to his lordship of Pooley, gave himself up to his books and boon companions. He boasts, among his poetical friends, of Donne, Suckling, Randolph, Drayton, Massinger, Habington, Sandys, and May; and appears also to have cultivated the acquaintance of sir William Dugdale, and other antiquaries. During the civil war, he suffered greatly for his religion, the Roman Catholic, and for what was then as obnoxious, his loyalty to Charles I. under whom he claimed the title of a baronet. His losses also were increased by his want of oeconomy, and he was obliged to part with his estates during his life, which terminated in Feb. 1684, when he was privately buried in the chancel of Polesworth church. His poems and plays, with altered title-pages, were printed and reprinted in 1658, and are now purchased at high prices, chiefly as curiosities. His mind appears to have been much cultivated with learning, and it is clear that he possessed considerable talents, but be scarcely exhibits any marks of genius. He is never pathetic, sublime, or even elegant; but is generally characterized by a kind of familiarity which amounts to doggrel, and frequently to flatness and insipidity. Still, as our valuable authority adds, it is impossible to read notices of so many of his contemporaries, whose habits of life are recalled to our fancies, without feeling a subordinate kind of pleasure that gives these domestic rhymes a lively attraction.