1776 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Thomas Overbury

John Nichols, Note in Original Works of William King (1776) 3:152-53n.



Sir Thomas Overbury, a gentleman of eminent parts and learning, and of judgement and experience beyond his years, was long the friend and confident of Robert Car, earl of Somerset. His abilities were of singular service to that favourite, who did nothing without his advice and direction; and was accustomed to make use of his pen in his addresses to the king and to his mistress. Overbury, who was naturally haughty and overbearing, presumed to oppose the earl's marriage with the countess of Essex, and expected the same deference to be paid to his judgement on this as upon every other occasion. This opposition drew upon him the rage of the earl, and the fury of the countess; who determined on his ruin, and speedily effected it. In the guise of friendship, Car represented to the king that it was necessary to remove Overbury from the court by some honourable employment, and advised his being sent ambassador to Muscovy. The king consented. But the perfidious minion requested the monarch to punish him for his refusal. He was committed to The Tower; where his death, which was several times in vain attempted, was at last effected, by a poisoned clyster, Sept. 15, 1613. A tragedy founded on this sad event, is among the works of Mr. Savage. — Mrs. Turner, who has been mentioned vol. I. p. 162, was an active accomplice in this murder. We are told by Oldmixon, in "The Life and Posthumous Works of Arthur Maynwaring, esq." p. 3, that she was a known mistress of that gentleman's grandfather, Sir Arthur; who was a courtier in the reign of James I, a favourite of Prince Henry, and a man of gallantry. When the Countess and Mrs. Turner intended to practise their infernal experiments on the Earl of Essex by powders and philtres, they were assisted with drugs by Dr. Foreman, of Lambeth, an eminent Quack; and Mrs. Turner, to try how effectively they would operate, gave them first to Sir Arthur Maynwaring, who was so enflamed by them, that he rode fifteen miles, through a storm of rain and thunder, to Turner's house. Wilson, in his Life of King James, says, he scarce knew where he was, till he was there.