1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Beaumont, Sir John

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BEAUMONT, SIR JOHN (1583-1627), English poet, second son of the judge, Sir Francis Beaumont, was born at Grace-Dieu in Leicestershire in 1583. The deaths of his father (in 1598) and of his elder brother, Sir Henry Beaumont (in 1605), made the poet early the head of this brilliant family; the dramatist, Francis Beaumont, being a younger brother. John went to Oxford in February 1597, and entered as a gentleman commoner in Broadgates Hall, the present Pembroke College. He was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1600, but on the death of Henry he no doubt went down to Grace-Dieu to manage the family estates. He began to write verse early, and in 1602, at the age of nineteen, he published anonymously his Metamorphosis of Tabacco, written in very smooth couplets, in which he addressed Drayton as his “loving friend.” He lived in Leicestershire for many years as a bachelor, being one “who never felt Love's dreadful arrow.” But in process of time he became a tardy victim, and married a lady of the Fortescue family, who bore him four stout sons, the eldest of whom, another John, was accounted one of the most athletic men of his time. “He could leap 16 ft. at one leap, and would commonly, at a stand-leap, jump over a high long table in the hall, light on a settle beyond the table, and raise himself straight up.” This magnificent young man was not without literary taste; he edited his father's posthumous poems, and wrote an enthusiastic elegy on him; he was killed in 1644 at the siege of Gloucester. Another of Sir John Beaumont's sons, Gervaise, died in childhood, and the incidents of his death are recorded in one of his father's most touching poems. Sir John Beaumont concentrated his powers on a poem in eight books, entitled The Crown of Thorns, which was greatly admired in MS. by the earl of Southampton and others, but which is lost. After long retirement, Beaumont was persuaded by the duke of Buckingham to move in larger circles; he attended court and in 1626 was made a baronet. This honour he did not long survive, for he died on the 19th of April 1627, and was buried in Westminster Abbey ten days later. The new Sir John, the strong man, published in 1629 a volume entitled Bosworth Field; with a taste of the variety of other Poems left by Sir John Beaumont. No more “tastes” were ever vouchsafed, so that it is by this volume and by the juvenile Metamorphosis of Tobacco that Beaumont's reputation has to stand. Of late years, the peculiarities of John Beaumont's prosody have drawn attention to his work. He wrote the heroic couplet, which was his favourite measure, with almost unprecedented evenness. Bosworth Field, the scene of the battle of which Beaumont's principal poem gives a vaguely epical narrative, lay close to the poet's house of Grace-Dieu. He writes on all occasions with a smoothness which was very remarkable in the first quarter of the 17th century, and which marks him, with Edmund Waller and George Sandys, as one of the pioneers of the classic reformation of English verse.

The poems of Sir John Beaumont were included in A. Chalmers's English Poets, vol. vi. (1810). An edition, with “memorial introduction” and notes, was included (1869) in Dr A. B. Grosart's Fuller Worthies' Library; and the Metamorphosis of Tabacco was included in J. P. Collier's Illustrations of Early English Popular Literature, vol. i. (1863). (E. G.)