William Browne of Tavistock

Charles Mills Gayley, in Francis Beaumont (1910) 131-33.

He had been at Clifford's Inn, one of the preparatory schools for the Inner Temple, on the other side of Fleet Street, since about 1608, had migrated to the Inner Temple in November 1611, and had been admitted a member in March 1612. He was some five years younger than Beaumont, and, like Beaumont, was at just that time on intimate terms of friendship with the last of the Elizabethan pastoralists, Michael Drayton, — on terms of reciprocal admiration and friendship also with Beaumont's dramatic associates, Jonson and Chapman; and he himself, in 1613, been engaged for three years upon the composition of the charming First Book of his Britannia's Pastorals. In a letter written some years later to a lover of the Pastoral, — the translator of Tasso's Aminta, Henry Reynolds, Esq., — Of Poets and Poesy, and published in 1627, Drayton couples William Browne so closely with Sir John and Francis Beaumont that even if the trio were not, in various ways, affiliated with the same legal Society we could not escape the conclusion that the brothers were near and dear to Browne. "Then," writes Drayton, after mentioning other literary acquaintances, —

Then the two Beaumonts and my Browne arose,
My deare companions whom I freely chose
My bosome friends; and in their severall wayes,
Rightly borne Poets, and in these last dayes,
Men of much note, and no lesse nobler parts,—
Such as have freely tould to me their hearts,
As I have mine to them.

We may proceed upon the assumption that it would have been impossible for these bosom friends of Drayton, members of the same club, not to have known each other. Especially, if we recall that Browne was a literary disciple of Fletcher in pastoral poetry, between 1610 and 1616, and that he had Beaumont's masque and poetic fame in mind when, in the Dedication of his own Masque of Ulysses and Circe, presented by the same society of the Inner Temple not quite two years later, January 13, 1615, he said, "If it degenerate in kind from those other our Society hath produced, blame yourselves for not seeking to a happier Muse."