1781 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Wither

Thomas Warton, in History of English Poetry (1774-81; 1840) 3:463-64.



George Wither, of Manydowne in Hampshire, educated at Magdalene College in Oxford, and at Lincoln's inn, afterwards an officer in Cromwell's army, and popular even among the puritans as a poet, published ABUSES stript and whipt, or Satyricall Essayes. Divided into two Bookes, in 1613. For this publication, which was too licentious in attacking establishments, and has a vein of severity unseasoned by wit, he suffered an imprisonment for many months in the Marshalsea. Not being debarred the use of paper, pens and ink, he wrote during his confinement, an apology to James the First, under the title of A SATYRE, printed the following year, for his censures of the government in the first book. But, like Prynne in the pillory railing at the bishops, instead of the lenient language of recantation and concession, in this piece he still perseveres in his invectives against the court. Being taken prisoner in the rebellion by the royalists, he was sentenced to be hanged; but sir John Denham the poet prevailed with the king to save his life, by telling his majesty, "So long as Wither lives, I shall not be the worst poet in England." The revenge of our satirist was held so cheap, that he was lampooned by Taylor the water-poet.