Barksted, William (DNB00)

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BARKSTED, WILLIAM (fl. 1611), actor and poet, was the author of the poems ‘Mirrha, the Mother of Adonis; or Lustes Prodegies’ (1607); and ‘Hiren, or the Faire Greeke’ (1611). On the title-page of the latter, he describes himself as ‘one of the servants of his Maiesties Revels.’ William Barksted in 1606 performed in Ben Jonson's ‘Epicene,’ and in 1613 in Beaumont and Fletcher's ‘Coxcomb.’ When he performed in ‘Epicene’ he was of the company ‘provided and kept’ by Kirkham, Hawkins, Kendall, and Payne, and in Jonson's famous folio of 1616 he is associated with ‘Nat. Field, Gil. Carie, Hugh Attawel, Joh. Smith, Will Pen, Ric. Allen, and Joh. Blaney.’ In the reign of Elizabeth, this company of actors was known as the ‘children of the chapel;’ in the reign of James I, as the ‘children of the queen's revels.’ ‘Of the latter,’ says Mr. J. Payne Collier, ‘Barksted was a member, not of the former,’ correcting herein an oversight of Malone. But in the title-page of ‘Hiren’ it is ‘his Maiesties,’ not the ‘queen's’ revels, so that the designation must have varied.

Certain documents—a bond and articles of agreement in connection with Henslowe and Alleyn—introduce Barksted's name in 1611 and 1615–16, as belonging to the company of actors referred to. Nothing later concerning him has been discovered, except an unsavoury and unquotable anecdote worked into the ‘Wit and Mirth’ of John Taylor, the Water Poet, in 1629. In some copies also of the ‘Insatiate Countess,’ dated 1631, the name of John Marston is displaced by that of William Barksted. But neither the wording of the one nor the fact of the other positively tells us that he was still living in 1629 or 1631. He may have in some slight way assisted Marston, but no more. It was doubtless as ‘actor’ that he became acquainted with Henry, earl of Oxford, and Elizabeth, countess of Derby. The former he calls, in the verse-dedication of ‘Hiren,’ ‘the Heroicke Heros.’ The renowned Countess of Derby is addressed as ‘Your honor's from youth oblig'd.’ There is a poor ‘Prologue to a playe to the cuntry people’ in Ashmole MS. 38 (art. 198), which Mr. W. C. Hazlitt has given to Barksted, although it is subscribed ‘William Buckstead, Comedian.’ Such unhappily is the little personal fact that research has yielded.

Barksted's two poems, ‘Mirrha’ and ‘Hiren,’ were very carelessly printed, and the abundant errors show that Barksted was ill- educated and unpractised in composition. Barksted has been identified by some with W. B., the author of a rough verse-translation of a ‘Satire of Juvenal,’ entitled ‘That which seems Best is Worst, exprest in a paraphrastical transcript of Iuvenal's tenth Satyre. Together with the Tragicall Narration of Virginius's Death interserted,’ London, 1617. This is a paraphrase resembling in method Barksted's ‘Mirrha,’ which is paraphrased from the tenth book of Ovid's ‘Metamorphoses.’ Both ‘Mirrha’ and ‘Hiren’ owe much to ‘Venus and Adonis,’ and their author pays the following tribute to Shakespeare at the close of ‘Mirrha:’—

    But stay my Muse in thine owne confines keepe,
    And wage not warre with so deere lou'd a neighbor,
    But hauing sung thy day song, rest and sleepe,
    Preserue thy small fame and his greater fauor:
    His song was worthie merrit (Shakspeare hee)
    Sung the faire blossome, thou the withered tree:
    Lawrell is due to him, his art and wit
    Hath purchas'd it, Cypres thy brow will fit.

[Dr. Grosart's reproduction of Mirrha and Hiren in Occasional Issues; Collier's Memoirs of Actors in Shakespeare's Plays, and Memoirs of Alleyn (Shakespeare Society); Henslowe's Diary; Warner's Dulwich Catalogue. Among Peele's Jests is an anecdote of one Barksted, which does not probably refer to the poet.]

A. B. G.