1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Browne of Tavistock

George Gilfillan, in Specimens with Memoirs of the less-known British Poets (1860) 1:287-88.



This pastoral poet was born, in 1590, at Tavistock, in Devonshire, a lovely part of a lovely county. He was educated at Oxford, and went thence to the Inner Temple. He was at one time tutor to the Earl of Carnarvon, and afterwards, when that nobleman perished in the battle of Newbury, in 1643, he was patronised by the Earl of Pembroke, in whose house he resided, and is even said to have become so rich that he purchased an estate. In 1645 he died, at Ottery St. Mary, the parish where, in 1772, Coleridge was born.

Browne began his poetical career early, and closed it soon. He published the first part of Britannia's Pastorals in 1613; the second in 1616; shortly after his Shepherd's Pipe; and, in 1620, produced his Inner Temple Masque, which was then enacted, but not printed till a hundred and twenty years after the author's death, when Dr. Farmer transcribed it from a MS. of the Bodleian Library, and it appeared in Tom Davies' edition of Browne's poems. Browne has no constructive power, and no human interest in his pastorals, but he has an eye for nature, and we quote from him some excellent specimens of descriptive poetry.