1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Wither

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 50.



Wither (1588-1667) was a native of Hampshire, and a prolific writer in James's reign. In 1613 he was imprisoned in the Marshalsea for having written a satire called Abuses Stript and Whipt. He was a Royalist under Charles I., but changed his politics, and having sold his estate, raised a troop of horse for the Parliament. Taken prisoner by the Royalists in 1642, he is said to have owed his life to Sir John Denham, who requested the king not to hang Wither, because, while he lived, Denham would not be thought the worst poet in England. Wither has been highly praised by Campbell, Sir Egerton Brydges, Leigh Hunt, and Charles Lamb. He was styled by Phillips (1675) "a most profuse pourer forth of English rhymes." A vein of honest, or at least earnestness in present conviction, seems to run through his inconsistencies. He died in misery and obscurity, at the age of seventy-nine.