1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Chamberlayne

George Gilfillan, in Specimens with Memoirs of the less-known British Poets (1860) 2:227-28.



Chamberlayne was, during life, a poor man, and, till long after his death, an unappreciated poet. He was a physician at Shaftesbury, Dorsetshire; born in 1619, and died in 1689. He appears to have been present among the Royalists at the battle of Newbury. He complains bitterly of his narrow circumstances, and yet he lived to a long age. He published, in 1658, a tragic comedy, entitled Love's Victory, and in 1659, Pharonnida, a heroic poem.

The latter is the main support of his literary reputation. It was discovered to be good by Thomas Campbell, who might say,

I was the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

Silent, however, it continues since, and can never be expected to be thronged by visitors. The story is interesting, and many of the separate thoughts, expressions, and passages are beautiful, as, for instance — "The scholar stews his catholic brains for food;" and this—

—Harsh poverty
That moth which frets the sacred robe of wit.

but the style is often elliptical and involved; the story meanders too much, and is too long and intricate; and, on the whole, a few mutilated fragments are all that are likely to remain of an original and highly elaborate poem.