Niccols, Richard (DNB00)

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NICCOLS, RICHARD (1584–1616), poet, born in London in 1584, may possibly have been son of Richard Niccols or Nichols of London, who entered the Inner Temple in 1575, and is usually (according to Wood) styled ‘the elder.’ Richard Niccols died before 1613, and after his death there appeared in London in that year a volume assigned to his pen containing ‘A Treatise setting forth the Mystery of our Salvation,’ and ‘A Day Star for Dark Wandring Souls; showing the light by a Christian Controversy.’

The younger Richard Niccols accompanied the Earl of Nottingham, when only in his twelfth year, on the voyage to Cadiz, and was on board the admiral's ship Ark at the taking of the city, when a dove rested on the mainyard of the ship and did not leave it till the vessel arrived in London. Niccols thrice refers to the picturesque incident in his published poems (cf. Winter Nights Vision, Ded.; England's Eliza, pp. 861 and 869). Niccols matriculated from Magdalen College, Oxford, on 20 Nov. 1602, but soon migrated to Magdalen Hall, whence he graduated B.A. on 20 May 1606. He was then ‘numbered,’ according to Wood, ‘among the ingenious persons of the university.’ Coming to London, he spent his leisure in studying Spenser's works, and in writing poetry somewhat in Spenser's manner. At the same time he followed a profession, which neither he nor his biographers specify. But all his avocations left him poor. The families of the Earl of Nottingham, and Sir Thomas Wroth and James Hay, earl of Carlisle, were his chief literary patrons.

His earliest publication, which appeared while he was an undergraduate, was entitled ‘Epicedium. A Funeral Oration upon the death of the late deceased Princesse of famous memorye, Elizabeth. Written by Infelice Academico Ignoto,’ London, 1603, 4to. In one of the poems the author makes sympathetic reference to Spenser and Drayton. Appended is ‘The true Order and formall Proceeding at the Funerall’ of the queen, with which verse is intermixed. There followed in 1607 a very attractive narrative poem called ‘The Cuckow,’ with the motto ‘At etiam cubat cuculus, surge amator, i domum’ (Brit. Mus.). The volume, which is dedicated to Master Thomas Wroth, and was printed by F[elix] K[ingston], has no author's name, but in his later ‘Winter Nights Vision’ Niccols describes himself as having ‘Cuckow-like’ sung ‘in rustick tunes of Castaes wrongs.’ It tells the story of a contest between the cuckoo and nightingale for supremacy in song, and frequently imitates Spenser, who is eulogised in the course of his poem (Corser, Collectanea, ix. 72 seq.). The work seems to have been suggested by Drayton's ‘Owl,’ 1604.

One of Niccols's largest undertakings was a new and much revised edition of the ‘Mirror for Magistrates,’ which had originally been issued by Baldwin in 1559, with Sackville's famous ‘Induction.’ Since its first appearance nine editions had appeared with continuations by Thomas Blenerhasset [q. v.], John Higgins [q. v.], and others. The latest edition before Niccols turned his attention to the work was supervised by Higgins, and was dated 1587. In 1610 Niccols's version was printed by Felix Kingston. In an address to the reader he stated that he had rearranged the old poems and improved their rhythm, and had added many new poems of his own. He, moreover, omitted Baldwin's ‘James I of Scotland,’ Francis Segar's ‘Richard, Duke of Gloucester,’ the anonymous ‘James IV of Scotland,’ and Dingley's ‘Battle of Flodden Field.’ His main additions were inserted towards the close of the volume, and were introduced by a new title-page: ‘A Winter Nights Vision. Being an addition of such princes especially famous who were exempted in the former historie.’ The princes dealt with by Niccols include King Arthur, Edmund Ironside, Richard I, King John, Edward II, Edward V, Richard, duke of York, and Richard III. Niccols dedicated his own contribution to the Earl of Nottingham, and prefaced it with a ‘poeticall Induction.’ There followed, with another title-page and separately numbered pages, Niccols's ‘England's Eliza, or the victorious and triumphant Reigne of that Virgin Empresse of sacred memorie, Elizabeth, Queene of England, France, and Ireland, &c.’ The dedication was addressed to Elizabeth, wife of Sir Francis Clere. Another poetical induction, in which he pays a new tribute to Spenser, precedes the poem on Elizabeth, which, Niccols states, he wrote at Greenwich, apparently in August 1603, when the plague raged in London. Niccols's edition of the ‘Mirror’ was reissued in 1619 and 1628. All Niccols's continuations are reprinted in Haslewood's edition of the whole work in 1815.

On 15 Feb. 1611–12 a play by Niccols, entitled ‘The Twynnes Tragedie,’ was entered on the ‘Stationers' Registers’ (ed. Arber, iii. 478). It is not otherwise known. But in 1655 William Rider published a tragi-comedy called ‘The Twins,’ which Mr. Fleay suggests may be a printed copy of Niccols's piece.

Niccols also issued: ‘Three precious teares of blood, flowing … in memory of the vertues … of … Henry the Great,’ a translation from the French, printed with the French original, London (by John Budge), 1611, 4to (Brit. Mus.); ‘The Three Sisters Teares: shed at the late solemne funerals of the royall deceased Henry, Prince of Wales,’ London, 1613, 4to, dedicated to Lady Honor Hay (Brit. Mus.); ‘The Furies with Vertues Encomium, or the Image of Honour in two bookes of Epigrammes satyricall and encomiasticke,’ London (by William Stansby), 1614, 8vo, dedicated to Sir Timothy Thornhill (reprinted in ‘Harleian Miscellany,’ x. 1 seq.); ‘Monodia, or Waltham's Complaint upon the death of the Lady Honor Hay,’ London (by W. S. for Richard Meighen and Thomas Jones), 1615, 8vo, dedicated to Edward, lord Denny, Lady Honor's father (reprinted in ‘Harleian Miscellany,’ x. 11 seq.); ‘London's Artillery, briefly containing the noble practise of that worthie Societie: with the moderne and ancient martiall exercises, natures of armes, vertue of magistrates, antiquitie, glory, and chronography of this honourable cittie,’ London, 1616, dedicated to Sir John Jolles, lord mayor—a tedious antiquarian poem (Brit. Mus.); and ‘Sir Thomas Overbvrie's Vision with the ghoasts of Weston, Mris Turner, the late Lieftenant of the Tower, and Franklin, by R. N., Oxon. … Printed for R. M. & T. I. 1616’—a poetical narrative of Overbury's murder (Brit. Mus.). It was reprinted in the ‘Harleian Miscellany’ (vii. 178 seq.) and by the Hunterian Club, Glasgow, in 1873, with an introduction by James Maidment. An anonymous work, ‘The Begger's Ape, a poem,’ London, 1627, 4to, was published posthumously (Brit. Mus.). Niccols seems to claim it for himself in the induction to ‘Winter Nights Vision.’ In it the author apparently imitated ‘Spenser's Mother Hubberds Tale.’

Niccols is said to have died in 1616. In March 1793 William Niccols, a labouring man, who died at Lench, Worcestershire, in his 101st year, was described as ‘descended from Richard N., student of Magdalen College, Oxford, in the reign of James I, and one of the distinguished poets of that period’ (Gent. Mag. 1793, pt. i. p. 282).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 166, Warton's English Poetry; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Corser's Collectanea, ix. 67–78; Overbvrie's Vision, ed. Maidment, 1873; Hunter's MS. Chorus Vatum in Addit. MS. 24489, ff. 408–9; Brydges's Censura, iii. 158; Haslewood's Mirror for Magistrates, pp. xliv, xlv; Collier's Bibliographical Catalogue.]

S. L.