1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Cartwright

George Gilfillan, in Specimens with Memoirs of the less-known British Poets (1860) 1:282-83.



CARTWRIGHT was born in 1611, and was the son of an innkeeper-once a gentleman-in Cirencester. He became a King's scholar at Westminster, and afterwards took orders at Oxford, where he distinguished himself, according to Wood, as a "most florid and seraphic preacher." One is reminded of the description given of Jeremy Taylor, who, when he first began to preach, by his "young and florid beauty, and his sublime and raised discourses, made men take him for an angel newly descended from the climes of Paradise." Cartwright was appointed, through his friend Bishop Duppa, Succentor of the Church of Salisbury in 1642. He was one of a council of war appointed by the University of Oxford, for providing troops in the King's cause, to protect, or some said to overawe, the Universities. He was imprisoned by the Parliamentary forces on account of his zeal in the Royal cause, but soon liberated on bail. In 1643, he was appointed Junior Proctor of his University, and also Reader in Metaphysics. At this time he is said to have studied sixteen hours a-day. This, however, seems to have weakened his constitution, and rendered him an easy victim to what was called the camp-fever, then prevalent in Oxford. He died December 23, 1643, aged thirty-two. The King, then in Oxford, went into mourning for him. His works were published in 1651, and to them were prefixed fifty copies of encomiastic verses from the wits and poets of the time. They scarcely justify the praises they have received, being somewhat crude and harsh, and all of them occasional. His private character, his eloquence as a preacher, and his zeal as a Royalist, seem to have supplemented his claims as a poet. He enjoyed, too, in his earlier life, the friendship of Ben Jonson, who used to say of him, "My son Cartwright writes all like a man;" and such a sentence from such an authority was at that time fame.