1750 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Churchyard

William Oldys, Adversaria, 1750 ca.; Notes and Queries S2 11 (9 March 1861) 182.



CHURCHYARD. — Thomas Churchyard, who was called the old Court Poet almost all Queen Elizabeth's reign, was a gentleman born: by his studies at Oxford and his travels, a man of learning and experience: by his services and sufferings in the wars, a man of valour and merit: by his attendance on courts and great men, a man of manners, address, polite conversation, and other engaging qualities; and with all this he died a beggar, without ever having it in his power to make himself so by extravagance. All who have spoken of him know little of his story, as Fuller, Winstanley, and even Anthony Wood, who says, he laboured much to recover the titles of his writings, in that very imerfect catalogue he gives us of them in his life. [Wood's Athenae, by Bliss, i. 727.] But from some of them he never saw we collect, he was born in Shrewsbury about the year 1520; came to Henry's court in 1537; had served in the wars abroad; and was subject at home under eight [?] crowned heads: had also been in the service of two or three of the noblest families in England: had dedicated books and pamphlets, in poetry and prose, of his own composing and translation, from Latin and some modern languages, to above twenty great personages of fortune and distinction: most generously recorded the praises and celebrated the memories of half the great men of his time. Yet with all his fighting and writing; loss of much blood and time in camps and courts, in a fearful and fruitless attendance and dependence upon the ungrateful great for above sixty-seven years, never could get more than a scanty pension from Queen Elizabeth, and that, according to his own words, seems to have been through the interest of Sir Walter Ralegh; but so scanty, that upon the death of Dr. John Underhill, Bishop of Oxford, one of his best friends, he had no better prospect or resource, in 1592, of sustaining himself to the end of his natural course, than exposing again his aged and scarified limbs to the hardships of war in foreign service, as he miserably complains in his poem of The Unhappy Man's Dear Adieu. He did struggle on, abroad and at home, to salute King James with a congratulation soon after his entrance and coronation, anno 1604 [1603?], when he could not be less than eighty-four years of age, if not more. What notice was then taken of him we find not, nor when he died, but it could not be long after, when somebody did cover his bones in Westminster Abbey, and hide as much as they could such a shameful monument and testimony to their country of the ingratitude that reigns in courts and courtiers, in masters and patrons, towards their servants and dependants.