1896 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Carew

W. H. K. Wright, in West-Country Poets (1896) 74-75.



This gentleman, distinguished both as a poet and as an antiquary, was the son of Thomas Carew, of Antony House, Cornwall; his mother, a daughter of Sir Richard Edgcumbe. He was born at Antony House, July 17, 1555. When only eleven years old he became a gentleman commoner of Christ Church, Oxford. When a scholar of three years' standing, he was called upon, as he modestly says, "upon a wrong conceived opinion touching my sufficiency," to dispute "extempore (impar congressus Achilli) with the matchless Sir Philip Sidney, in presence of the Earls Leicester, Warwick, and divers other great personages." What the issue of the contest was, Carew has omitted to state, but later historians have added that the dispute resulted in a drawn battle. Early in life he succeeded to the family estates, and in 1577 he married Juliana, the eldest daughter of John Arundel of Trerice, by his first wife, Catherine, daughter of John Coswarth, and through his marriage he inherited a part of the Coswarth property. He settled down as a country gentleman, and devoted his leisure to the study of foreign languages and the history of his native county. In 1581 he was appointed a justice of the peace, in 1586 he became High Sheriff for Cornwall, and in 1584 and 1597 he became member of Parliament for Saltash and Michell respectively. He was one of the Deputy-Lieutenants of Cornwall, and served under Sir Walter Ralegh in 1588 during the war with Spain. He was an active member of the Society of Antiquaries, and in or about the year 1589 set about compiling a historical survey of his native county. This history was a long time in hand, not being published until 1602, the subscription on the last leaf being "Deo gloria, mihi gratia, 1602, April 23." He meditated another edition, but did not carry it out; but the work was subsequently republished with a Life in 1723, again in 1769, and another edition, with notes by Thomas Tonkin, was printed for Lord de Dunstanville in 1811. Carew's history of Cornwall still remains one of the most entertaining works in the English language. He was also the author of An Epistle concerning the Excellencies of the English Tongue, which appeared in the second edition of Camden's Remains, 1605, and was reprinted with the 1723 and 1769 editions of the Survey of Cornwall. This little essay possesses the charm which is inherent in all Carew's writings, but it would have passed out of recollection by this time but for its mention in a comparison of English and foreign writers of Shakespeare's name. A manuscript volume of his poems was formerly in the possession of the Rev. John Prince, the commemorator of the Worthies of Devon. Carew died on November 6, 1620, "as he was at his private prayers in his study (his daily practice) at fower in the afternoon," and was buried in Antony Church. Against its north wall stands a plain tablet of black marble, bearing a long inscription to his memory. In addition to the works already named, it may be noted that Carew translated the first five cantos of Tasso's "Godfrey of Bulloigne, or the recoverie of Hierusalam," a very rare volume which appeared in 1594. The accuracy of his translation has been much commended, and it contains several passages of much beauty. Several other translations are credited to Carew, and an anonymous poem called A Herring's Tayle, which was as published in 1598.