1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/King, Edward (poet)

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KING, EDWARD (1612-1637), the subject of Milton's Lycidas, was born in Ireland in 1612, the son of Sir John King, a member of a Yorkshire family which had migrated to Ireland. Edward King was admitted a pensioner of Christ's College, Cambridge, on the 9th of June 1626, and four years later was elected a fellow. Milton, though two years his senior and himself anxious to secure a fellowship, remained throughout on terms of the closest friendship with his rival, whose amiable character seems to have endeared him to the whole college. King served from 1633 to 1634 as praelector and tutor of his college, and was to have entered the church. His career, however, was cut short by the tragedy which inspired Milton's verse. In 1637 he set out for Ireland to visit his family, but on the 10th of August the ship in which he was sailing struck on a rock near the Welsh coast, and King was drowned. Of his own writings many Latin poems contributed to different collections of Cambridge verse survive, but they are not of sufficient merit to explain the esteem in which he was held.

A collection of Latin, Greek and English verse written in his memory by his Cambridge friends was printed at Cambridge in 1638, with the title Justa Edouardo King naufrago ab amicis moerentibus amoris et χάριν. The second part of this collection has a separate title-page, Obsequies to the Memorie of Mr Edward King, Anno Dom. 1638, and contains thirteen English poems, of which Lycidas[1] (signed J. M.) is the last.


  1. J. W. Hales, in the Athenaeum for the 1st of August 1891, suggests that in writing King's elegy Milton had in his mind, besides the idylls of Theocritus, a Latin eclogue of Giovanni Baptista Amalteo entitled Lycidas, in which Lycidas bids farewell to the land he loves and prays for gentle breezes on his voyage. He was familiar with the Italian Latin poets of the Renaissance, and he may also have been influenced in his choice of the name by the shepherd Lycidas in Sannazaro's eclogue Phillis.