1670 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas May

Lord Clarendon, 1670 ca.; Censura Literaria 9 (1809) 341-42n.



Thomas May was the eldest son of his father, a Knight, and born to a fortune, if his father had not spent it; so that he had only an annuity left him not proportionable to a liberal education; yet since his fortune could not raise his mind, he brought his mind down to his fortune by a great modesty and humility in his nature, which was not affected, but very well became an imperfection in his speech, which was a great mortification to him, and kept him from entering upon any discourse but in the company of his very friends. His parts of nature and art were very good, as appears by his translation of LUCAN, which being entirely his own, for the learning, the wit, and the language, may be well looked upon as one of the best epic poems in the English language. He writ some other commendable pieces of the reign of some of our Kings. He was cherished by many persons of honour, and very acceptable in all places; yet to shew that pride and envy have their influences upon the narrowest minds, (and which have the greatest semblance of humility,) though he had received much countenance and a very considerable donative from the King, upon his Majesty's refusing to give him a small pension, which he had designed and promised to another very ingenious person, whose qualities he thought inferior to his own, he fell from his duty and all his former friends; and prostituted himself to the vile office of celebrating the infamous acts of those who were in rebellion against the King; which he did so meanly, that he seemed to all men to have lost his wits, when he left his honesty, and so shortly after died miserable and neglected, and deserves to be forgotten.