Campion, Thomas (DNB00)

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CAMPION, THOMAS (d. 1619), physician, poet, and musician, was probably the second son of Thomas Campion of Witham, Essex, gent., by Anastace, daughter of John Spittey of Chelmsford, and was born about the middle of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Edmund Campion, the Jesuit [q. v.], was in some way connected with the Witham family, and one member of that family at least fell under grave suspicion of harbouring the Roman 'missioner,' and suffered much inconvenience in consequence. Nothing is known of the early years or education of Thomas Campion, who certainly was not the writer of that name mentioned by Wood as incorporated at Oxford in 1624. That Thomas Campion was of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and he graduated B.A. of that university in 1621. Thomas Campion, the musician, was probably educated at home and on the continent, and his M.D. degree was obtained in some foreign university. It was by no means unusual at this time for young men who abhorred the new oath of supremacy to give themselves to the study of medicine. Campion does not appear to have practised as a physician till somewhat late in his life. He appealed first to the public as a poet in 1595, when he printed a small volume entitled 'Thomæ Campiani Poemata,' containing Latin elegiacs and epigrams, which were issued from the press of Richard Field in octavo. The book is one of excessive rarity, and has been passed over by almost all our early bibliographers. It contained among other trifles a very pretty song which was sung at the elaborate masque performed in Gray's Inn, February 1594-5; it was then that Campion first came into notice and his popularity as a poet and musician began. The little collection of 'Poemata' was reprinted in 1619. In 1602 he put forth his 'Observations on the Art of English Poesie,' in which, among other things, he set himself to disparage 'the childish titilation of riming.' The book was answered at once by Daniel in his 'Panegyrike Congratulatory … With a Defence of Ryme against a Pamphlet entituled Observations on the Art of English Poesie.' Daniel's answer seems to have been well received, and reached a second edition within the year. We lose sight of Campion from this time till January 1606-7, when he appears first as 'doctor of phisicke,' and as the 'inventor' of a masque presented before James I at Whitehall on the occasion of Lord Hay's marriage. The merit of the performance evidently consisted in the care taken with the musical part of the performance. Campion had now become an authority in music, and in 1610 he published 'Two Books of Ayres; being songs with accompanyments,' which were followed in 1612 by 'The Third and Fourth Books of Ayres.' Next year Prince Henry died, and Campion thereupon published a collection of 'Songs of Mourning bewailing the untimely death of Prince Henry.' They were issued in folio, the accompaniments being written by a certain 'John Coprario,' whose real name was plain John Cooper. On 14 Feb. 1612-13 the Princess Elizabeth was married to the elector, and Campion was chosen to bring out his curious entertainment known as 'The Lord's Masque,' which was followed in April by the performance of another masque at Caversham House—the seat of Lord Knollys—exhibited before the queen, who was the guest of honour. This masque too seems to have been conspicuous for its elaborate musical apparatus. In December of the same year Campion was once more employed to bring out a masque on the occasion of Lord Somerset's marriage with the divorced Countess of Essex. It was performed on 26 Dec., and was followed next day by Ben Jonson's 'Challenge at the Tilt.' During this same year Campion brought out 'A new Way of making foure parts in Counterpoint, by a most familiar and infallible rule, with some other Discourses on the Theory of Music.' This work was dedicated to Prince Charles. It is hardly possible that while so much of his time was given up to music and literature (and it is evident that he had become a recognised authority on musical matters), Campion can have devoted himself much to practising in physic. Nevertheless we meet with him once in that capacity when Sir Thomas Monson [q. v.] was in the Tower on a charge of complicity in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, and ‘Dr. Campion, physician,’ was allowed to have access to the prisoner ‘on matters relating to his health.’ This was in January 1616. Next year the Earl of Cumberland, writing to his son, Lord Clifford, suggests that Dr. Campion should be consulted on the subject of a masque which was then preparing. After this we hear no more of him till we find his burial entered in the register of St. Dunstan's-in-the-West, London, on 1 March 1619. Campion's publications have never been collected; he seems to have enjoyed a high reputation in his lifetime, and Camden speaks of him in terms of perhaps exaggerated praise. All his works are regarded as very precious by collectors; his masques have been reprinted by Nichols in his ‘Progresses’ of Elizabeth and James I.

[Brit. Mus. Cat. of Early English Books; Hazlitt's Handbook of Poetical and Dramatic Literature; Nichols's Progresses of Eliz. iii. 310, 349 et seq.; Progresses of James I, ii. 105, 505, 558, 629, 707; Wood's Fasti, i. 417; Visit. of London (Harl. Soc. 1880), i. 134; Cal. of State Papers, Dom. 1611–18, p. 321; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. 671; Grove's Dict. of Music, sub nom.]

A. J.