Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brathwaite, Richard
BRATHWAITE, RICHARD (1588?–1673), poet, belonged to a Westmoreland family who variously spelt their name Brathwaite, Brathwait, Brathwayte, Braithwaite, Braythwait, and Braythwayte. The poet uses indifferently the first three of these forms. His great-grandfather, also Richard, the squire of Ambleside, had one son, Robert, who had two sons, Thomas and James, and five daughters. Thomas, the poet's father, was a barrister and recorder of Kendal, and purchased the manor of Warcop, near Appleby, where he lived until his father's death put him in possession of an estate at Burneshead or Burneside, in the parish of Kendal. He married Dorothy, daughter of Robert Bindloss of Haulston, Westmoreland. Richard Brathwaite was their second surviving son. He was born about 1588, and it is supposed at Burneside, since in two of his pieces he speaks of Kendal as his 'native place.' That 1588 was the year of his birth is clear from the inscription on his portrait, 'An° 1626, Æt. 38,' and from the statement of Anthony à Wood that he 'became a commoner of Oriel College A.D. 1604, aged 16.' 'He was matriculated,' Wood adds, 'as a gentleman's son.' He remained at Oxford for several years, enjoying a scholarly life, until his father desired him to take up the law as a profession. To prepare for this he was sent to Cambridge, probably to Pembroke, since he was under the authority of Lancelot Andrewes, who was master of that college. On leaving this university he went up to London, and according to his own account in 'Spiritual Spicerie : containing sundrie sweet tractates of Devotion and Piety,' 1638, devoted himself at once to poetry, and particularly to dramatic writing. These early plays, however, are entirely lost, and probably were never printed. Thomas Brathwaite died in 1610, soon after his son came up to London, and the latter seems soon after this to have gone down to live in Westmoreland on the estates his father had left him.
In 1611 he published his first volume, a collection of poems entitled 'The Golden Fleece,' in which he refers to family bickerings, caused by his father's will, all which are by this time happily concluded. This book is dedicated to his uncle, Robert Bindlosse, and to his own elder brother, Sir Thomas Brathwaite. An appendix contains some 'Sonnets or Madrigals,' but an essay on the Art of Poesy,' which appears on a subsidiary title-page, does not occur in any known copy of the very rare volume. In 1614 Brathwaite published three works: a book of pastorals, entitled 'The Poet's Willow ;' a moral treatise, 'The Prodigals Teares ;' and 'The Schollers Medley,' afterwards reprinted as 'A Survey of History, or a Nursery for Gentry,' 1638 and 1651. In 1615 he began to emulate Decker, Rowlands, and Wither, with a collection of satires entitled 'A Strappado for the Devil'—a volume founded directly on 'The Abuses Whipt and Stript' of George Wither, whom Brathwaite calls 'my bonnie brother.' The second part of the volume is entitled 'Love's Labyrinth,' an adaptation of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe. He continued for many years after this to pour forth volumes from the press, few of them of much merit. The most interesting of his early works is 'Nature's Embassie: or the Wilde-mans Measvres: Danced naked by twelve Satyres,' a collection of his odes and pastorals, published in 1621. The titles of his other works are given below.
In May 1617 he was married at Hurworth, near Darlington, to Frances, daughter of James Lawson of Nesham. This lady bore him nine children, five of them sons. His elder brother, Sir Thomas Brathwaite, died in 1618, leaving a son, George, who matriculated at St. John's College 6 July 1631 (Mayor's Admissions, p. 7), but Richard was henceforth regarded as the head of the family. He lived at Burneside, and became captain of a company of foot in the trained bands, deputy-lieutenant of the county of Westmoreland, and justice of the peace. His wife died on 7 March 1633, and the pathetic terms in which he speaks of her merit and his loss prove that he was sincerely attached to her. On 27 June 1639 he married a widow, the daughter of Roger Crofts of Kirtlington in Yorkshire. He was lord of the manor of Catterick, and drew up a conveyance at the time of his second marriage making the property over to his wife in the event of his death. They had one son, afterwards the gallant Sir Strafford Brathwaite, who was killed in a sea-fight with Algerine pirates.
The most famous of Brathwaite's works appeared in 1638 with the title of 'Barnabæ Itinerarium, or Barnabee's Journal,' under the pseudonym 'Corymbæus.' This is a sprightly record of English travel, in Latin and English doggerel verse; it was neglected in its own age, but being reprinted under the title of 'Drunken Barnaby's Four Journeys,' achieved a considerable success during the eighteenth century, and is still in some vogue. The eleventh edition appeared in 1876. The authorship was not ascertained until the publication of the seventh edition by Joseph Haslewood in 1818. Southey pronounced the original the best piece of rhymed Latin in modern literature. The English part is best remembered by the often-quoted lines—
To Bambury came I, profane one
Where I saw a puritane one
Hanging of his cat on Monday
For killing of a mouse on Sunday.
Brathwaite is said to have served on the royalist side in the civil war. He was a short man, well proportioned and singularly handsome. He removed to Catterick, and seems to have retained his strength up to old age, for he was one of the trustees of a free school there, and is spoken of as in full possession of his authority and powers on 12 April 1673. He was, however, at that time near his end, for he died on 4 May following, at East Appleton, near Catterick, being eighty-five years of age. He was buried three days later on the north side of the chancel of the parish church of Catterick.
The writings of Brathwaite not yet mentioned are the following:
- 'A Solemne loviall Disputation,' 1617, a prose description of 'The Laws of Drinking.' A second part bears the title 'The Smoaking Age, or the man in the mist: with the life and death of Tobacco,' 1617 and 1703. This is anonymous. A Latin version, under the pseudonym 'Blasius Multibibus,' appeared in 1626.
- 'A New Spring Shadowed' (under the pseudonym of Mvsophilvs), 1619, verse.
- 'Essaies upon the Five Senses,' 1620, 1635, 1815.
- 'The Shepheards Tales,' 1621, a collection of pastorals.
- 'Times Cvrtaine Drawne,' 1621, verse.
- 'Britain's Bath,' 1625, which included an elegy on the Earl of Southampton; of this no copy is now known to be extant.
- 'The English Gentleman,' 1630, 1641, 1652.
- 'The English Gentlewoman,' 1631, 1641.
- 'Whimzies, or a new cast of characters,' 1631.
- 'Novissima Tuba,' 1632, a religious poem in Latin. A translation by John Vicars appeared in 1635.
- 'Anniversaries upon his Panarete,' 1634, 1635, a poem in memory of his first wife.
- 'Ragland's Niobe,' 1635, a poem in memory of Elizabeth, wife of Edward Somerset, lord Herbert.
- 'The Arcadian Princess,' 1635, a novel from the Italian in prose and verse.
- 'The Lives of all the Roman Emperors,' 1636 (the dedication is signed R.B.)
- 'A Spiritual Spicerie,' 1638, in prose and verse.
- 'The Psalmes of David,' (by R. B.), 1638.
- 'Ar't asleepe Husband?' 1640, a collection of 'bolster lectures,' in prose, on moral themes, with the history of Philocles and Doriclea, by Philogenes Panedonius.
- 'The Two Lancashire Lovers, or the Excellent History of Philocles and Doriclea,' by Musaeus Palatinus, 1640, a novel in prose.
- 'Astræa's Tears,' 1641, an elegy on the judge, Sir Richard Hutton, Brathwaite's godfather and kinsman.
- 'A Mustur Roll of the Evill Angels,' 1655, 1659, an account, in prose, of the most noted heretics, by 'R.B. Gent.' Some copies bore the title 'Capitall Hereticks.'
- 'Lignum Vitæ,' 1658, a Latin poem.
- 'The Honest Ghost,' 1658, an anonymous satire in verse.
- 'The Captive Captain,' 1665, a medley, by 'R. B.,' in prose and verse.
- . 'A Comment upon Two Tales of our Ancient … Poet Sr Jeffray Chavcer, knight,' by 'R. B.,' 1665.
It is very doubtful whether this long list is by any means complete. He contributed the 'Good Wife, together with an exquisite discourse of Epitaphs,' to Patrick Hannay's 'A Happy Husband,' 1619. In the marginal note to the 'English Gentleman' (1630), p. 198, Brathwaite mentions a work by himself entitled the 'Huntsman's Raunge,' which is now lost.
[The principal authority for the life of Brathwaite is Joseph Haslewood, who published a very elaborate memoir and bibliography in 1820, as a preface to the ninth edition of Barnabee's Journal. Some genealogical information has been supplied by Mr. W. Wiper of Manchester.]