Rankins, William (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 47
Rankins, William

by Sidney Lee
Dates baptised 1565, died in or after 1609, according to the ODNB.

RANKINS, WILLIAM (fl. 1587), author, published in 1587 a venomous attack on the theatre, resembling the earlier diatribes of Stephen Gosson, Northbrooke, and Philip Stubbes. It was entitled ‘Mirrour of Monsters, wherein is plainly described the manifold vices and spotted enormities that are caused by the infectious sight of Playes,’ &c., London, 1587 (British Museum and Bodleian; cf. Collier, Poetical Decameron, pp. 246–8). Some years later Rankins proved false to his own professions of hostility to the stage by turning playwright. On 3 Oct. 1598, Philip Henslowe, the theatrical manager, paid 3l. for a play by Rankins called ‘Mulmutius Dunwallow,’ which was probably an adaptation of another's work (Henslowe, Diary, p. 135). Subsequently he joined with Richard Hathway in writing for Henslowe a piece called ‘Hannibal and Scipio.’ Thomas Nabbes printed in 1637 a tragedy of the same name, which may have been indebted to the earlier effort. Between January and April 1600–1 Henslowe lent Hathway and Rankins many small sums on account of two pieces, in one of which the jesters Scogan and Skelton were leading characters (ib. pp. 97, 174–5); the other was called ‘The Conquest of Spain by John of Gaunt.’ None of these plays are extant.

There seems little doubt that Rankins was also author of ‘The English Ape, the Italian imitation, the Foote-steppes of Fraunce. Wherein is explained the wilfull blindnesse of subtill mischiefe, the striuing for Starres, the catching of Mooneshine, and the Secrete Sounde of many hollowe heartes. By W. R.,’ London, by Robert Robinson, 1588, 4to (Huth and Bodl. Libr.). In the dedication to Sir Christopher Hatton, the author mentions an earlier work, entitled ‘My Roughcast Conceit of Hell,’ which he had inscribed to the same patron. ‘The English Ape’ is a strenuous denunciation of the Englishman's habit of imitating foreign fashions in dress and the like (Collier, Bibliographical Catalogue, i. 27–8).

Rankins secured a somewhat more stable reputation by publishing, in 1598, ‘Seaven Satyres applyed to the weeke, including the worlds ridiculous follyes. True felicity described in the Phœnix. Maulgre. Whereunto is annexed the wandring Satyre. By W. Rankins, Gent. Imprinted at London by Edw. Allde,’ &c. 1598; ‘dedicated to his noble-minded friend John Salisbury of Llewenni, Esq.’ (Bridgwater Library). ‘True felicity described in the Phœnix’ is a pious poem. The seven satires, which are in seven-line stanzas, are not impressive, and are respectively entitled ‘Contra Lunatistum,’ ‘Contra Martialistam,’ ‘Contra Mercurialistam,’ ‘Contra Jovialistam,’ ‘Contra Venereum,’ ‘Contra Saturnistam,’ ‘Contra Sollistam.’ Meres, in his ‘Palladis Tamia’ (1598), names Rankins with Joseph Hall and John Marston as the three satirists of the age. Prefixed to the ‘Belvedere’ (1600) by John Bodenham are three seven-line stanzas called ‘A Sonnet to the Muse's Garden,’ and signed ‘W. Rankins, Gent.’

[Collier's Bibliographical Catalogue, ii. 227 sq.; Hazlitt's Handbook.]

S. L.