1753 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Churchyard

Anonymous, in Cibber-Shiels, Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) 1:63-64.



THOMAS CHURCHYARD, one of the assistants in the Mirror of Magistrates. He was born in the town of Shrewsbury as himself affirms in his book made in verse of the Worthiness of Wales. He was equally addicted to arts and arms; he had a liberal education, and inherited some fortune, real and personal; but he soon exhausted it, in a tedious and unfruitful attendance at court, for he gained no other equivalent for that mortifying dependence, but the honour of being retained a domestic in the family of lord Surrey: during which time by his lordship's encouragement he commenced poet. Upon his master's death ho betook himself to arms; was in many engagements; and was frequently wounded; he was twice a prisoner, and redeemed by the charity of two noble ladies, yet still languishing in distress, and bitterly complaining of fortune. Neither of his employments afforded him a patron; who would do justice to his obscure merit, and unluckily he was as unhappy in his amours as in his circumstances, some of his mistresses treating his addresses with contempt, perhaps, on account of his poverty; for tho' it generally happens that Poets have the greatest power in courtship, as they can celebrate their mistresses with more elegance than people of any other profession yet it very seldom falls out that they marry successfully, as their needy circumstances naturally deter them from making advances to Ladies of such fashion as their genius and manners give them a right to address. This proved our author's case exactly, he made love to a widow named Browning, who possessed a very good jointure; but this lady being more in love with money than laurels, with wealth than merit, rejected his suit, which not a little discouraged him, as he had spent his money in hopes of effecting this match, which, to his great mortification, all his rhimes and sonnets could not do. He dedicated his works to Sir Christopher Hatton; but addresses of that nature don't always imply a provision for their author. It is conjectured that he died about the eleventh year of Queen Elizabeth, and according to Mr. Wood was buried near Skelton in the Chancel of St. Margaret's, Westminster. By his writings, he appears a man of sense, and sometimes a poet, tho' he does not seem to possess any degree of invention. His language is generally pure, and his numbers not wholly inharmonious. The Legend of Jane Shore is the most finished of all his works, from which I have taken a quotation [omitted, with list of works]. His death, according to the most probable conjecture, happened in 1570. Thus like a stone (says Winstanley) did he trundle about, but never gathered any moss, dying but poor, as may be seen by his epitaph in Mr. Camden's Remains, which runs thus:

Come Alecto, lend me thy torch
To find a Church-yard in a Church-porch;
Poverty and poetry his tomb doth enclose,
Wherefore good neighbours, be merry in prose.