Churchyard, Thomas (DNB00)

From Wikisource
 
Jump to: navigation, search

CHURCHYARD, THOMAS (1520?–1604), miscellaneous writer, was born at Shrewsbury about 1520, and in his youth was attached to the household of the famous Earl of Surrey, whose memory he fondly cherished throughout his long life. He commenced his literary career when Edward VI was on the throne, and he continued writing until after the accession of James. His earliest extant production is a poetical tract of three leaves, 4to, without title-page, headed 'A myrrour for man where in he shall see the miserable state of thys worlde,' which the colophon shows to have been printed in the reign of Edward VI. At this early date he had a controversy with a person named Camel, against whom he directed some satirical broadsides (Lemon, Catalogue of Printed Broadsides in Soc. of Antiq. pp. 7-10), which were collected, with CameFs rejoinders, in 1660, under the title of 'The Contention betwyxte Churchyeard and Camell upon David Dycers Drame . . . Newlye Imprinted,' 4to, 28 leaves ; 2nd ed. 1566. In 'Churchyards Challenge,' 1603, there is a list of 'The Books that I can call to memorie alreadie Printed,' in which he informs us that 'The Legend of Shore's Wife,' first printed in the 1563 edition of Baldwin's 'Myrroure for Magistrates,' was written in the days of Edward VI. 'Shore's Wife' was the most popular of Churchyard's poems, and the best ; it was reprinted with additions in his 'Challenge.' From the same source we learn that in Queen Mary's reign he wrote a book (now unknown) 'called a New-yeares gift to all England, which booke treated of robellion,' and that he was the author of ' Many things in the Booke of Songs and Sonets (i.e. 'Tottell's Miscellany,' 1557). Churchyard was early trained to arms, and for many years he was actively engaged both at home and abroad in military service. In a poem entitled 'A tragicall discours of the vnhappie mans life ' (printed in 'The Firste part of Churchyardes Chippes,' 1575), he gives a long account of his adventures. His first campaign was served under Sir William Drury in Scotland, where he was taken prisoner, but by his fair words induced his captors to treat him well. Afterwards he went to Ireland, where by his military exploits he gained 'of money right good stoer.' From Ireland he crossed to England in the hope of obtaining preferment at court, but meeting with no success, he served as a volunteer, first in the Low Countries, and afterwards in France. He was more than once taken prisoner, endured much hardship, and gained little reward. For some time he was a prisoner in Paris, whence he escaped (by breaking his parole, it would seem), and made his way to Kagland in Monmouthshire. Afterwards, for eight years, he served under Lord Grey, and was present at the siege of Leith in 1660. Then, having rested awhile at court, he proceeded to Antwerp, where he assisted in suppressing some domestic disturbances, ana made nimself so unpopular with the malcontents that he narrowly escaped assassination, and was glad to make his way to Paris in the disguise of a priest. From Paris he set out for St. Quentin, and passed through some surprising adventures on the road. Later he went to Guernsey, and afterwards repaired once more to the court in the hope of finding proferment. He constantly complains of his povertv and his many disappointments. Feeling tne need of sympathy and encouragement he chose 'from couutrie soile a sober wife;' but his marriage served only to heighten his afflictions. He was indefatigable in issuing tracts and broadsides : they attracted little notice at the time of publication, and are now exceedingly scarce. The following broadsides are preserved in the Britwell collection : 1. 'The Lamentacion of Freyndshyp,' n. d. 2. 'A greatter thanks for Churohvaroies welcome home,' n. d. 3. 'A Farewell cauld Churcheyeards round,' n. d. 4. 'The Epitaphe of the Honorable Earle of Pembroke, 1670 (reprinted in 'Churchyard's Chance,' 1680). In 1575 Churchyard published a voluminous collection of pieces, in prose and verse, under the title of 'The Firste Parte of Churchyardes Chippes, contayning twelve severall Labours,' &c., 4to, with a dedication to 'Maister Christofor Hatton, Esquier.' In the dedicatory epistle he quaintly explains why he had given such an odd title to nis book: 'And for that from my head, hand, and penne, can floe no farro fatched eloquence nor sweete sprinklyng speaches (seasoned with spiced termes) I call my workes Churchyardes Chips, the basnes whereof can beguild [sic] no man with better opinion then the substance it selfe doth import.' The dedication is followed by a poetical address 'To the dispisers of other mens workes that shoes nothing of their owne,' in which he threatens that wnen his chips have 'maed a blaes' he will bring 'a bigger ... to make you worldlings smiel.' One of the poems gives a description of the siege of Leith, at which the author was present. In 1578 apjieared 'A Lamentable and Pitifull Description of the wofull Warres in Flaunders,' 4to, with a dedicatory epistle to Sir Francis Walsingham. It was followed by 'The Miserie of Flaunders, Calamitie of Fraunce,' &c. (1579), 4to, and 'A generall rehearsall of Warres,' &c. (1579), 4to. The latter work, which is dedicated to Sir Christopher Hatton, in an epistle dated 15 Oct. 1579, has the running title 'Churchyardes Choise.' It contains a general review of the exploits of English soldiers and sailors from the reign of Henry VIII to the early days of Elizabeth ; moral discourses, poems, &c. In celebration of Elizabeth's progress of 1578, Churchyard published ' A Disco vrse of the Queenes Maiesties entertainement in Suffolk and Norfolk . . . Whereynto is adioyned a Commendation of Sir Humfrey Gilberts ventrous ioumey ' (1579), 4to. Some copies of this tract contain 'A welcome home ' to Martin Frobisher, whose exploits Churchyard had recounted in an interesting tract entitled 'A Prayse and Reporte of Maister Martyne Froboishers Voyage to Meta Incognita,' 1578, 12mo. In 15S) Churchyard published the following pieces : 1. 'A Plaine or most True Report of a dangerous seruice stoutely attempted and manfully brought to passe by English men, Scottes men, Wallons and other worthy soldiers, for the takynjj of Macklin on the Sodaine, a strong Citee in Flaunders,' 8vo. 2. 'A warning to the wise . . . Written of the late earthquake chanced in London and other places, tne 6th of April, 1580,' 8vo. 3. 'The Services of Sir William Drury, Lord Justice of Irelande in 1578 and 1579,' 4to. 4. 'A pleasaunte Laborinth called Churchyardes Chance,' 4to. 5. 'A light Bondell of liuly discourses called Churchyardes Charge,' 4to, dedicated to the Earl of Surrey, grandson of Churchyard's earliest patron. 6. 'Ovid de Tristibus,' reprinted for the Roxburghe Club in 1810. The most valuable of Churchyard's works is 'The Worthines of Wales,' 1587, 4to, a long chorographical poem full of his- torical and antiquarian interest ; it was reprinted in 1776, and a facsimile edition was issued in 1871 by the Spenser Society. In 1588 appeared 'A Sparke of Friendship and Warme Goodwill,' 4to, dedicated to Sir Walter Raleigh ; in 1592 'A Handefvl of Gladsome Verses giuen to the Queenes Maiesty at Woedstocke,' 4to ; and in 1593 'A Pleasant Conceite penned in verse . . . presented on New-yeeres day last, to the Queen's Maiestie at Hampton Courte,' 4to. The 'Pleasant Conceite was presented to the queen in gratitude for a pension that she had bestowed upon the old poet. At the close of the tract there is a laudatory notice of Nashe, with some reflections on Nashe's opponent Gabriel Harvey. There had been a quarrel, of which the particulars are unknown, between Nashe and Churchyard, and in his 'Foure Letters,' 1592 (Gabriel Harvey, Workstcd. Grosart,i. 199), Harvey says that Nashe, 'in the ruffe of his freshest iollity, was faine to cry M. Churchyard a mercy in printe.' Nashe, in Ins 'Foure Letters confuted,' 1593 (Nashe, Worhtf ed. Grosart, ii. 252-3), after acknowledging that he had done Churchyard an 'unadvised indammagement,' adds that the quarrel had been 'deep buried in the grave of oblivion,' and that he was a sincere admirer of Churchyard's 'aged Muse that may well be grandmother to our grandeloquentest poets at this present.' This handsome apology, coupled with a highly complimentary notice of 'Shore's Wife,' gave Churchyard the liveliest satisfaction. The collection issued in 1593 under the title of Churchyard's Challenge,' 4to, contains a number of pieces in prose and verse, some printed for the first time, and others reprinted from earlier collections. In the address 'To the worthiest sorte of People that gently can reade and justly can juoge,' Churchyard announced that ids next work will be 'The last booke of the Worthines of Wales,' and that his last work, which is to be styled his 'Ultimum Vale,' will consist of 'twelve long tales for Christmas, dedicated to twelve honorable lords,' but the promise was not fulfilled. The 'Challenge' contains an enlanped copy of 'Shore's Wife,' dedicated to 'Lady Mount Eagle and Compton.' From the dedicatory epistle we learn that some malicious persons had spread the report that this poem was not written by Churchyard. The libellous statement caused great annoyance to the old poet, who declared that if he had been a younger man he would have challenged his detractors to open combat. In 1594 appeared a revised edition of 'The Mirror and Manners of Men,' 4to (written in the days of Edward VI), with a dedication to Sir Robert Cecil. It was followed in 1595 by 'A Mvsicall Consort of Heauenly harmonie . . . called Chvrchyards Charitie, 4to. Appended to the chief poem is 'A Praise of Poetrie,' in which mention is made of Surrey, Spenser, Daniel, Barnes, and Sidney. In 'Colin Clout' Spenser had referred to Churchyard under the name of Old PalaBmon 'that sung so long untill quite hoarse he grew,' a passage to which Churchyard makes particular allusion in 'A Praise of Poetrie.' In 1590 Churchyard published three poetical tracts : 1. 'The Honor of the Lawe, 4to. 2. 'A Sad and Solemne Funerall of the Right Honorable Sir Francis Knowles, Knight,' 4to. 3. 'A pleasant Discourse of Court and Wars,' 4to, in which he again refers to Spenser's mention of him in 'Colin Clout.' 'A wished Reformation of wicked Rebellion,' 4to, which contains a spirited attack on the Jesuits, was published in 1598, and 'The Fortvnate Farewell to the most forward and noble Earlc of Essex,' 4to, in 1599. In 'The Fortvnate Farewell' Churchyard expresses his gratitude to the old Duke of Somerset for a favour rendered in the time of Edward VI, when the poet, for publishing some verses that bad given offence, was arrested and brought before the privy council. Towards the close of his life Churchyard found a patron in Dr. {afterwards Sir) Julius CsBsar, to whom, in 1602, he dedicated * The Wonders of the Ayre, the Trembling of the Earth, and the Warnings of the World before the Judgement Day,' 4to, acknowledging in the dedicatory epistle that he was indebted to his patron 'for the little that I live upon and am likely to die withall.' In 1603 he published 'A. Psean Triumphall; upon the King's publick entry from the Tower of London to Westminster,' 4to. His two last productions appeared in the year of his deatn, 1604: 1. 'A blessed Balme to search and salve Sedition,' 4to, relating to the execution of Watson and Clarke in November 1603. 2. 'Churchyard's Good Will. Sad and heavy verses in the nature of sn Epitaph for the losse of the Archbishop of Canterbury.' The 'Good Will' is free from those eccentricities of spelling and punctualtion which Churchyard adopted in many of his writings. He was buried at St. Margaret's, Westminster, on 4 April 1604.

Churchyard's poetic merits are not of a high order. His 'Shore's Wife' is a smoothly written copy of verses, but it has been absurdly overrated. He is at his best when he is recounting his own struggles and misfortunes ; he then writes with pathos, and shows occasional glimpses of poetic power. Fuller observes that 'he may run abreast with any of that age writing in the beginning of that reign.' Drayton in his 'Epistle to Henry Reynolds' couples him with George Oascoigue, and remarks :

 Had they
Liv'd bat a little longer, they had seene
Their workes before them to have buried beene.

Churchyard lived quite long enough to see the greater part of his multifarious writings consigned to oblivion.

In addition to the works already mentioned Churchyard published the following pieces : 1. 'An Epitaph upon the Death of Kyng Edward,' 15 six-line stanzas. 2. 'The Fantasies of a troubled mannes head' (1566), single sheet, preserved in the Huth collection. 3. 'A Discourse of Rebellion,' 1570, 8vo, 4 leaves, in verse. 4. 'The most true Reporte of James Fitz Morrice and others, the like Offenders,' n. d., 8vo, with a reprint of the preceding piece. 5. 'A Scourge for Rebels,' 1584, 4to, 11 leaves. 6. 'The Epitaph of Sir Philip Sidney' (1587), which was formerly preserved in the Bodleian, but now reposes in the libranr of some unknown collector. 7. 'A Feast full of sad cheere/ 1592, 4to, 10 leaves. 8. 'A true Discourse Historicall of the succeeding Govemours in the Netherlands . . . Translated and collected by T. C[hurchyard], Esquire, and Ric. Ro[binson], out of the Reverend E. M[eteranus] ... his fifteene bookes Historiaæ Belgicæ,' &c., 1602, 4 to. In his ' Challenge,' 1593, he mentions that he had made translations from Virgil and Du Bartas ; also that he had written ' A book of a sumptuous shew in Shrovetide by Sir Walter Rawley, Sir Robert Carey, M. Chidley, and Mr. Arthur Gorge,' which book (he assures us) 'was in as good verse as ever I made;' and that he was the author of 'an infinite number' of 'songes and sonets giuen where they cannot be recovered, nor purchase any favour where they are craned. From the dedicatory epistle to the 'Wonders of the Ayre,' 1602, we learn that he translated a part of Pliny, but put aside his translation when he heard that 'a great learned doctor called doctor Holland' had translated the whole. An unpublished work of Churchyard, entitled 'The School of War,' is preserved in MS. Cotton. Calig. B. 5, art. 74. To 'The Mirrour for Magistrates ' of 1587 Churchyard contributed 'The Story of Thomas Wolsey,' and in that edition he is credited with the authorship of 'The Tragedy of Thomas Mowbray,' a poem assigned in the 'Myrrour' of 1659 to Sir T. Chaloner. Commendatory verses by Churchyard are prefixed to : 1. Skelton's 'Workes,' 1568. 2. Huloet's 'Dictionarie,' 1572. 3. Jones's 'Bathes of Bathes Ayde,' 1572. 4. Lloyd's ' Pilgrimage of Princes,' 1574. 5. Bedingfield's ' Cardanne's Comforte,' 1576. 6. Bamabe Riche's 'Alarmeto England,' 1578. 7. Lowe's 'Whole Course of Chirurgerie,' 1597. ' The 'Censure of a loyal subject,' 1587, by G[eorge] W[hetstone], and ' Giacomo di Grassi, his true Art of Defence, &c., Englished by J. G., Gent.,' 1594, were edited by Churchyard. In Chalmers's introduction to 'Churchyard's Chips concerning Scotland,' 1817, is printed (from Lansd. MS. xi. 56) a letter of Churchyard to Sir Robert Cecil, dated from Bath, and relating to the papists in that neighbourhood. Tanner assigns to Churchyard ' Wonders of Wiltshire and the Earthquake of Kent,' 1580, 8vo. The following pieces were entered in the Stationers' Registers, but are not known to have been published : 1. 'The Comendation of Musyke,' 1562. 2. 'A ballet intituled admonition agaynste dice playe,' 1566-7. 3. 'A book of Master Churchyardes Doinge,'&c., 1603-4. The Spenser Society threatened to issue a complete collection of Churchyard's works, but 'The Worthines of Wales,' 1871, is the only piece that has yet appeared. Select works of Churchyard have been reprinted in Nichols's 'Progresses of Queen Elizabeth,' 'The Harleian Miscellany,' Alexander Boswell's 'Frondes Caducæ,' and Collier's 'English Poetical Miscellanies.'

[Wood's Athenæ. ed. Bliss, i. 727-33 ; Chalmers's Intnxluction to Churchyard's Chips concerning Scotland ; Hazlitt's Bibliographical Handbooks : Corser's Collectanea ; Collier's Bibl. Cat.; Biblioth. Heber., iv. 40-1, 46-52; Catalogue of the Huth Library.]

A. H. B.