Brooke, Christopher (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 06
Brooke, Christopher

by Sidney Lee
Note: Revision adds [He was M.P. for York in six parliaments (1604, 1614, 1620, 1624, 1625, 1626), and was also elected for Newport (Isle of Wight) in 1624.]

BROOKE, CHRISTOPHER (d. 1628), poet, was the son of Robert Brooke, a rich merchant and alderman of York, who was twice lord mayor of that city. Wood states (Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 402) that he was educated at one of the universities. It seems probable that, like his brother Samuel [q. v.], he was a member of Trinity College, Cambridge. He subsequently studied law at Lincoln's Inn, and was 'chamber-fellow' there to John Donne, afterwards dean of St. Paul's. About 1609 he witnessed Donne's secret marriage with the daughter of Sir George More, lieutenant of the Tower; the ceremony was performed by his brother Samuel, and the father of the bride, who opposed the match, contrived to commit Donne and his two friends to prison immediately afterwards. Donne was first released, and secured the freedom of the Brookes after several weeks' imprisonment. Christopher made his way at Lincoln's Inn; he became a bencher and summer reader (1614), and was a benefactor of the chapel. While at the Inns of Court he became acquainted with many literary men, among whom were John Selden, Ben Jonson, Michael Drayton, and John Davies of Hereford. William Browne lived on terms of the greatest intimacy with him, and to Dr. Donne he left by will his portrait of Elizabeth, countess of Southampton. Brooke married Mary Jacob on 18 Dec. 1619 at the church of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields by Charing Cross. He lived in a house of his own in Drury Lane, London, and inherited from his father houses at York, and other property there and in Essex. He was buried at St. Andrew's, Holborn, 7 Feb. 1627-8. His wife, by whom he had an only son John, died before him.

Brooke's works are:

  1. An elegy on the death of Prince Henry, published with another elegy by William Browne in a volume entitled 'Two Elegies consecrated to the neverdying Memorie of the most worthily admyred, most hartily loved and generally bewailed prince, Henry, Prince of Wales,' London, 1613.
  2. An eclogue appended to William Browne's 'Shepheard's Pipe,' London, 1614.
  3. 'The Ghost of Richard the Third. Expressing himselfe in these three parts: 1, His Character; 2, His Legend; 3, His Tragedie,' London, 1614. The unique copy in the Bodleian Library was reprinted by Mr. J. P. Collier for the Shakespeare Society in 1844, and by Dr. Grosart in 1872. It is dedicated to Sir John Crompton and his wife Frances. Mr. Rodd, the bookseller, first attributed this work to Brooke at the beginning of this century. The only direct clue lies in 'C. B.,' the signature of the dedication. George Chapman, William Browne, 'Fr. Dyune Int. Temp.,' George Wither, Robert Daborne, and Ben Jonson contribute commendatory verses. Brooke was well acquainted with Shakespeare's Richard III,' and gives it unstinted praise (cf. Shakespeare's Centurie of Prayse, New Shakspere Society, p. 109); but his own piece is of small literary value; the verse is, with very rare exceptions, bombastic and harsh.
  4. 'Epithalamium—a nuptiall song applied to the ceremonies of marriage,' which appears at the close of 'England's Helicon,' 1614. A manuscript copy of this piece is in the Bodleian.
  5. 'A Funerall Poem consecrated to the Memorie of that ever honoured President of Soldyership, Sr Arthure Chichester … written by Christopher Brooke, gent.,' in 1624. This poem, to which Wither contributes commendatory verses, was printed for the first time by Dr. Grosart in 1872. The manuscript had been in the possession of Bindley, Heber, and Corser. Corser printed selections in his 'Collectanea,' and Haslewood described it in the 'British Bibliographer,' ii. 235.

Brooke also contributed verses to Michael Drayton's 'Legend of the Great Cromwell,' 1607; to Coriat's 'Odcombian Banquet,' 1611; to Lichfield's 'First Set of Madrigals,' 1614 (two pieces, one to the Lady Cheyney and another to the author); and to Browne's 'Britannia's Pastorals,' 1625. He also wrote (20 Dec. 1597) inscriptions for the tombs of Elizabeth, wife of Charles Croft (Stow, Survey, ed. Strype), and of the wife of Thomas Crompton.

William Browne had a high opinion of his friend Brooke's poetic capacity. He eulogises him in 'Britannia's Pastorals,' book ii. song 2. In the fifth eclogue of the 'Shepheard's Pipe,' 1615, which is inscribed to Brooke, Browne urges him to attempt more ambitious poetry than the pastorals which he had already completed.

[Christopher Brooke's Poems, reprinted in Dr. Grosart's Miscellanies of the Fuller Worthies Library, 1872; Corser's Collectanea Anglo-Poetica, pt. iii. pp. 123-8; Wood's Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 401.]

S. L. L.