1866 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Christopher Brooke

John Payne Collier, in "Britannia's Pastorals" in Bibliographical and Critical Account of the Rarest Books (1866) 1:114-15.



Christopher Brooke, above mentioned, was partner with Browne in Elegies on the death of Henry Prince of Wales, 4to, 1613; but in 1614 he published a separate poem of great merit, entitled, The Ghost of Richard the Third. The dedication to Sir John Crompton is only subscribed C. B., but there can be no hesitation in assigning those initials to Christopher Brooke, whose production was ushered by commendatory verses from several eminent poets of the day, viz., George Chapman, W. Browne, (whose name might of course be looked for,) George Wither, Robert Daborne, and Ben Jonson. Only two copies of it are, we believe, in existence, but its interest and importance may at once be established by the following stanzas, directly referring to Shakspeare and to his popular tragedy, put into the mouth of Richard's Ghost:—

To him that impt my fame with Clio's quill,
Whose magick rais'd me from Oblivion's den,
That writ my storie on the Muses' hill,
And with my actions dignifi'd his pen;
He that from Helicon sends many a rill,
Whose nectared veines are drunke by thirstie men,
Crown'd be his stile with fame, his head with bayes,
And none detract, but gratulate his praise!

Yet if his scaenes have not engrost all grace,
The much fam'd action could extend on stage;
If time or memory have left a place
For me to fill, t' enforme this ignorant age,
To that intent I shew my horrid face,
Imprest with feare and characters of rage:
Nor wits nor chronicles could ere containe
The hell-deepe reaches of my soundlesse braine.

The piece is divided into two portions, and the above commences the second; but throughout, Brooke had Shakspeare's historical drama in his eye and memory, and could not avoid waking many allusions to, and quotations from it. Of the author we may add that he was educated for the Bar, to which he was called about the year 1610, and that he attained eminence, especially as a real-property lawyer: he enjoyed the patronage of Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, who possessed several of his legal MSS., including opinions upon cases submitted to him. Still Brooke did not altogether relinquish poetry or its professors, and as late as 1625 he wrote a funereal tribute to the memory of Sir Arthur Chichester, reviewed, at more length than its real merits claim, in Brit. Bibl. II. 235.