A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Wither, George

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Wither, George (1588-1667).—Poet, b. near Alton, Hampshire, was at Oxf. for a short time, and then studied law at Lincoln's Inn. In 1613 he pub. a bold and pungent satire, Abuses Stript and Whipt, with the result that he was imprisoned for some months in the Marshalsea. While there he wrote The Shepheard's Hunting, a pastoral. Withers Motto, Nec Habeo, Nec Careo, Nec Curo (I have not, want not, care not) was written in 1618, and in 1622 he coll. his poems as Juvenilia. The same year he pub. a long poem, Faire Virtue, the Mistress of Philarete, in which appears the famous lyric, "Shall I wasting in despair." Though generally acting with the Puritans he took arms with Charles I. against the Scotch in 1639; but on the outbreak of the Civil War he was on the popular side, and raised a troop of horse. He was taken prisoner by the Royalists, and is said to have owed his life to the intercession of a fellow-poet, Sir John Denham. After the establishment of the Commonwealth he was considerably enriched out of sequestrated estates and other spoils of the defeated party; but on the Restoration was obliged to surrender his gains, was impeached, and committed to the Tower. In his later years he wrote many religious poems and hymns, coll. as Hallelujah. Before his death his poems were already forgotten, and he was referred to by Pope in The Dunciad as "the wretched Withers." He was, however, disinterred by Southey, Lamb, and others, who drew attention to his poetical merits, and he has now an established place among English poets, to which his freshness, fancy, and delicacy of taste well entitle him.