Roydon, Matthew (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 49
Roydon, Matthew

no contributor recorded
attribution to Sidney Lee by Fenwick

ROYDON, MATTHEW (fl. 1580–1622), poet, was possibly son of Owen Roydon who co-operated with Thomas Proctor in 1578 in the latter's 'Gorgious Gallery of Gallant Inventions.' Owen Roydon signs commendatory verses addressed to the 'curious company of sycophantes;' his initials, 'O. R.,' are attached to the first poem in the work itself, and he doubtless was responsible for many of the pieces that immediately follow. There were Roydon families settled in Kent, Surrey, Essex, and Norfolk, but to which branch Owen and Matthew Roydon belonged is doubtful. The latter is doubtless identical with 'Mathew Royden' who graduated M.A. at Oxford on 7 July 1580. He was soon afterwards a prominent figure in literary society in London, and grew intimate with the chief poets of the day, including Sidney, Marlowe, Spenser, Lodge, and Chapman. His friendship with Sidney he commemorated in his 'Elegie, or Friends passion for his Astrophill,' a finely conceived poem on Sidney's death. It was first published in the 'Phrenix Nest,' 1593, and was printed with Spenser's 'Astrophel ' in Spenser's 'Colin Clout,' 1595; and it reappears in all later editions of Spenser's works. In Nashe's 'Address to the gentlemen students of both universities,' prefixed to Greene's 'Arcadia' (1587), Roydon is mentioned with Thomas Achlow and George Peele as 'men living about London who are most able to provide poetry.' Roydon, Nashe proceeds, 'hath shewed himselfe singular in the immortall epitaph of his beloued "Astrophell," besides many other most absolute comike inuentions (made more publike by euery mans praise, then they can bee by my speech).' Francis Meres, in his 'Palladis Tamia' (1598), describes Roydon as worthy of comparison with the great poets of Italy. Apart from his elegy on Sidney, the only other compositions by Roydon in print are some verses before Thomas Watson's 'Sonnets ' (1581), and before Sir George Peckham's 'True Reporte ' (1583).

Meanwhile Roydon fell under the fascination of Marlowe, and he, Harriot, and William Warner are mentioned among those companions of the dramatist who shared his freethinking proclivities (cf. Harl. MS. 7042 f. 206; and arts. Marlowe, Christopher, and Ralegh, Sir Walter). Another of his literary friends, Chapman, dedicated to him his 'Shadow of Night' in 1594, and Ovid's 'Banquet of Sence' in 1595. In the former dedication Chapman recalls how he first learned from 'his good Mat' of the devotion to learning of the earls of Derby and Northumberland and of 'the heir of Hunsdon.' John Davies of Hereford addressed to Roydon highly complimentary verse in the appendix to his ' Scourge of Folly,' 1611.

In later life Roydon seems to have entered the service of Robert Radcliffe, fifth earl of Sussex, a patron of men of letters. Robert Armin [q. v.], when dedicating his 'Italian Taylor and his Boy' (1609) to Lady Haddington, the Earl of Sussex's daughter, refers to Roydon as 'a poetical light … which shines not in the world as it is wisht, but yet the worth of its lustre is known.' Armin expressed the hope that 'that pen-pleading poet, grave for years and knowledge, Maister Mathew Roidin,' may 'live and die beloved' in the Earl of Sussex's service. This friendly hope does not seem to have been realised. The poet fell on evil days in old age, and appealed for charity to Edward Alleyn, the actor and founder of Dulwich Hospital. From Alleyn he received 8d. in 1618, and 6d. in 1622 (Collier, Memoirs of Alleyn, p. 155).

The poet should doubtless be distinguished from Matthew Roydon who became fourth minor canon in St. Paul's Cathedral in 1603, and was still holding the office in 1621.

[Hunter's manuscript Chorus Vatum in Addit. MS. 24487 ff. 294-5; Armin's Nest of Ninnies (Shakespeare Soc. 1842), p. xviii; Brydges's Restituta, ii. 51-4.]