Forrest, William (DNB00)

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FORREST, WILLIAM (fl. 1581), catholic priest and poet, is stated by Wood to have been a relative of John Forest [q. v.], the Franciscan friar. He received his education at Christ Church, Oxford, and he was present at the discussions held at Oxford in 1530, when Henry VIII desired to procure the judgment of the university in the matter of the divorce. He appears to have attended the funeral of Queen Catherine of Arragon at Peterborough in 1536. He was an eyewitness of the erection of Wolsey's college upon the site of the priory of St. Frideswide, and there can be no doubt that he was appointed to some post in the college as refounded by the king, as his name occurs among the pensioned members after its dissolution as the recipient of an annual allowance of 6l. in 1553 and 1556. In 1548 he had dedicated his version of the treatise ‘De regimine Principum’ to the Duke of Somerset, as also in 1551 his paraphrase of some of the psalms. This continued choice of patron, coupled with the character of the latter work, affords some ground for Warton's suspicion that Forrest ‘could accommodate his faith to the reigning powers.’ In 1553, however, he came forward with warm congratulations on the accession of Mary, and, being in priest's orders, he was soon afterwards nominated one of the queen's chaplains. Among Browne Willis's manuscript collections for Buckinghamshire, preserved in the Bodleian Library, double entries are found of the presentation of William Forest by Anthony Lamson on 1 July 1556 to the vicarage of Bledlow in that county; but in Lipscomb's ‘Buckinghamshire’ the name of the presentee is given as William Fortescue, and the discrepancy has not yet been cleared up. In 1558 Forrest presented to Queen Mary his poem of ‘The Second Gresyld.’ Of his career after the death of his royal mistress nothing certain is known. He was probably protected by Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk, to whom he dedicated his ‘History of Joseph’ shortly before the duke's execution in 1572. Forrest remained in the same faith to the last. This is shown by the fact that the two dates ‘27 Oct. 1572, per me Guil. Forrestum,’ and ‘1581’ occur in a volume (Harl. MS. 1703) containing a poem which in a devout tone treats of the life of the Blessed Virgin and of the Immaculate Conception. But, although a Roman catholic, he was not papal, and in one of his poems he speaks strongly of the right of each national branch of the church to enjoy self-government. He was well skilled in music, and had a collection of the choicest compositions then in vogue. These manuscripts came into the hands of Dr. Heather, founder of the musical praxis and professorship at Oxford, and are preserved in the archives belonging to that institution. Forrest was on terms of friendship with Alexander Barclay [q. v.], the translator of Brant's ‘Ship of Fools,’ of whom he gives some interesting particulars. There is a portrait of him in the Royal MS. 17 D. iii. He is represented as a young man in a priest's gown, and with long flowing hair not tonsured (Nichols, Literary Remains of Edward VI, i. p. cccxxxv).

His poetical works are:

  1. ‘The History of Joseph the Chaiste composed in balladde royall crudely; largely derived from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. In two parts.’ Dedicated to Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk, and dated as having been finished 11 April 1569, but said by the author to have been originally written twenty-four years before. The first part, written on vellum, is in the library of University College, Oxford, and the second part is in the Royal Library, British Museum, 18 C. xiii. A copy of both parts in one folio volume of 286 pages, written on paper, is in the possession of the Rev. J. E. A. Fenwick, at Thirlestane House, Cheltenham, being in the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps, which that gentleman inherited.
  2. ‘A Notable Warke called the pleasant Poesie of princelie Practise, composed of late by the simple and unlearned Sir William Forrest, priest, much part collected out of a booke entitled the “Governance of Noblemen,” which booke the wyse philosopher Aristotle wrote to his disciple Alexander the Great,’ Royal MS. in British Museum, 17 D. iii. This work, written in 1548, and dedicated to the Duke of Somerset, was intended, when sanctioned by him, for the use of Edward VI. A long extract from it is printed in ‘England in the Reign of Henry VIII. Starkey's Life and Letters’ (Early English Text Society), 1878, pt. i. p. lxxix seq. The treatise referred to in the title, ‘De regimine Principum,’ was written, not by Aristotle, but by Ægidius Romanus.
  3. A metrical version of some of the Psalms, written in 1551, and also dedicated to the Duke of Somerset. In the Royal Library, British Museum, 17 A. xxi.
  4. ‘A New Ballade of the Marigolde. Imprinted at London in Aldersgate Street by Richard Lant’ [1553]. Verses on the accession of Queen Mary. A copy of the original broadside is in the library of the Society of Antiquaries (Lemon, Catalogue of Broadsides, p. 12). The ballad was reprinted by Park in the second edition of the ‘Harleian Miscellany’ (1813), x. 253.
  5. Pater Noster and Te Deum, versified as a prayer and a thanksgiving for Queen Mary. In the first edition of Foxe's ‘Acts and Monuments’ (1563), pp. 1139–40.
  6. ‘A true and most notable History of a right noble and famous Lady, produced in Spain, entitled The Second Gresyld, practised not long out of this time, in much part Tragedious, as delectable both to Hearers and Readers,’ folio. In the manuscripts of Anthony à Wood in the Bodleian Library No. 2, being the copy presented by the author to Queen Mary. It was given to Wood by Ralph Sheldon of Weston Park, Warwickshire. The work, which was finished 25 June 1558, is a narrative in verse of the divorce of Queen Catherine of Arragon. Wood extracted some passages for his English ‘Annals of the University of Oxford.’ These are printed in Gutch's edition of the ‘Annals’ (1796), ii. 47, 115. The whole of the ninth chapter was contributed by Dr. Bliss in 1814 to Sir S. E. Brydges's ‘British Bibliographer,’ iv. 200. The entire poem has since been printed by the Roxburghe Club, with the title of ‘The History of Grisild the Second,’ London, 1875, 4to, under the editorial supervision of the Rev. W. D. Macray, rector of Ducklington, Oxfordshire, who remarks that Forrest's poems, ‘however prosaic under the form of verse, are all of them full of interest, alike as illustrations of the history and manners of his times, and as illustrations of language.’
  7. ‘An Oration consolatorye to Queen Marye.’ At the end of the preceding work. 8. Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, being a poem in praise of her and in honour of the Immaculate Conception, followed by miscellaneous, moral, and religious verses, dated from 1572 to 1581. In Harl. MS. 1703. This appears to be the volume described by Wood as having been in the possession of the Earl of Aylesbury.

[Memoir by Macray; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), i. 297; Warton's English Poetry (1840), iii. 257; Dodd's Church Hist. i. 515; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. p. 292; Addit. MS. 24490, f. 192 b; Foxe's Acts and Monuments, ed. Townsend, vii. 124; Ritson's Bibl. Poetica, p. 209; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Eliz. 1591–4, p. 297.]

T. C.