Chapman, George (1559?-1634) (DNB00)
CHAPMAN, GEORGE (1559?–1634), poet, was born in the neighbourhood of Hitchin about the year 1569. Wood gives 1557 as the date of his birth, but the portrait prefixed to 'The Whole Works of Homer' inscribed 'Georgius Chapmannus Homeri Metaphrastes. Aeta: LVII. MDCXVL' In 'Euthymias lUiptus, or the Teares of Peace,' 1609 Chapman alludes to the fact that he had been brought up in the neighbourhood of Hitchin. William Browne, in the second book of 'Britannia's Pastorals,' styles Chapman 'The learned Shepheard of faire Hitching hill.' Passages effectually dispose of Wood s conjecture that the poet belonged to the family of Chapmans of Stone-Castle in Kent. Wood is confident that Chapman was educated at Oxford, but he gives no precise information. It is usually assumed that he spent some time at Oxford and afterwards proceeded to Cambridge. 'In 1574, or thereabouts,' writes Wood, 'he being well grounded in school learning was sent to the university, but whether first to this of Oxon, or that of Cambridge, is to me unknown; sure I am that he spent some time in Oxon, where he was observed to be most excellent in the Latin tongues, but not in logic or philosophy, aud therefore I presume that that was the reason why he took no degree there.' Warton in his 'History of English Poetry,' states (without giving any authority) that Chapman passed two years at Trinity College, Oxford.
In 1594 Chapman published 'Σκὶα [sic] νυκτὸς. The Shadow of Night; Containing Two Poeticall Hvmnes. Deuised by G. C. Gent.,' 4to, with a dedicatory epistle to Matthew Roydon. In the second hymn Chapman describes with much minuteness of detail an incident in Sir Francis Vere's campaign in the Netherlands; and it has been suggested that the poet may have served in the Netherlands as a volunteer. There is much obscurity of conception and harshness of expression in these hymns, nor do the appended 'Glosses' lighten the difficulties. In 1595 appeared 'Ouid's Banquet of Sence. A Coronet for his Mistresse Philosophie, and his amorous Zodiacke. With a translation of a Latine coppie, written by a Fryer, Anno Dom. 1400,' with a dedicatory epistle to Matthew Roydon. Prefixed are commendatory verses by Richard Stapleton, Thomas Williams, and 'J[ohn?] D[avies] of the Inner Temple.' Another edition, without the dedication and commendatory verses, was issued in 1639. The first poem, 'Ouid's Banquest of Sense,' in which fine poetry alternates with frigid pedantry, seems to have been held in high esteem; for in Allott's 'England's Parnassus,' 1600, it is quoted no less than twenty-five times. 'A Coronet for his Mistresse Philosophie' consists of a series of ten obscure sonnets; and the 'Amorous Zodiacke' is a singularly unattractive poem in praise of the beauty of an imaginary mistress. Very different in style is 'The Amorous Centention of Phillis and Flora,' a light and graceful pastoral poem. Chapman states that the Latin original was written by a friar in 1400, but Ritson showed that the poem is of older date and was probably written by Walter de Mapes. A certain 'R.S. Esquire' republished Chapman's translation in 1598 as a work of his own. Possibly 'R. S.' was Chapman's friend, Richard Stapleton, to whom, perhaps, the verses may legitimately belong. To William Jones's 'Nennio,' 1595, Chapman contributed a complimentary sonnet; and in 1596 he prefixed to 'A Relation of the Second Voyage to Guiana . . . By Lawrence Keymis, Gent.' a poem of nearly two hundred lines entitled 'De Guiana, carmen epicum,' a glowing tribute to English enterprise and valour. In 1598 appeared the first edition of Marlowe's fragment of 'Hero and Leander,' which was followed in the same year by a second edition containing the whole poem as completed by Chapman. Of the 1598 edition of the complete poem, only two copies (preserved at Lamport are known. To Chapman's continuation is prefixed in the edition of 1508 a dedicatory epistle (not found in later editions) to Lady Walsingham, whose patronage Chapman gratefully acknowledges. A passage in the third sestiad would lead us to suppose that Marlowe enjoined upon Chapman the task of completing the poem; but the meaning of the passage is far from clear. In Chapman's continuation, notably in the 'Tale of Teras' (fifth sestiad), there is much fine poetry; but the reader is wearied by tedious conceits and useless digressions.
It is not known in what year Chapman began to write for the stage. In 1698 he is mentioned in Meres' 'Wit's Treasury' as one of the best writers of comedies and tragedies. The earliest entry concerning him in Henslowe's 'Diary' (ed. J. P. Collier, p. 64) is dated 12 Feb. 1595-6, on which day was first produced ' The Blind Beggar of Alexandria (printed in 1598), the crudest of Chapman's plays, but very profitable to Henslowe, as it never failed to draw large audiences. In May 1598 Chapman received an advance of forty shillings for a play of which the name is not given; in June of the same year he was engaged on a play called 'The Will of a Woman,' of which nothing further is known; and in the following year he wrote a (lost) play called 'The Fount of New Fashions.' On 23 Oct. 1598 Chapman received three pounds 'one [on] his playe boocke and ij ectes of a tragedie of bengemens plotte.' The latter part of the entry seems in 1598-9 Chapman was paid for an unnamed tragedy (probably the 'playe boocke' just mentioned), and later in the month he received an advance for a play called 'the world rones on whelles' (i.e., 'The World runs on Wheels '). Under date 2 July 1599 is the curious entry : — 'Lent unto thomas Dowton to pay Mr. Chapman, in full paymente for his boocke called the world rones a whelles, and now all foolles, but the foolle, some of . . . xxxs.' From this entry it may be inferred that 'The World runs on Wheels,' which had been rechristened 'All Fools but the Fool,' is to be identified with the admirable comedy printed in 1605 under the title of 'All Fools.' Only one other play of Chapman's is mentioned in the diary; it is an unpublished piece entitled 'A pastrall tragedie,' and Chapman received an advance of forty shillings for it on 17 July 1599. In the same year was published 'An Humerous dayes Myrth,' which, though superior to the 'Blind Beggar,' has little interest; and about this date Chapman seems to have temporarily withdrawn his attention from the stage in order to devote himself to his translation of Homer.
The first instalment towards the complete translation of Homer was published in 1698, with the title 'Seaven Bookes of the Iliades of Homere, Prince of Poets. Translated according to the Greeke in iudgement of his best Commentaries.' It is dedicated to the Earl of Essex, and comprises the first, second, and seventh to eleventh books inclusive. In the dedicatory epistle, an address of stately dignity. Chapman speaks of his straitened circumstances and deplores the frivolity of an age in which poetry was accounted but 'idleness and vanity.' The metre adopted in this preliminary essay was the rhymed verse of fourteen syllables, which Chapman afterwards employed in his complete translation of the 'Iliad.' Later in 1598 Chapman published 'Achilles Shield. Translated as the other seven Bookes of Homer, out of his eighteenth booke of Iliades,' 4to. The dedicatory epistle to the Earl of Essex contains a fervid vindication of Homer against the aspersions of Scaliger, for whom Chapman had a profound contempt. Following the dedicatory epistle is an address to the 'Understander,' from which we learn that the dedicatory epistle prefixed to the 'Seaven Bookes' had been 'accounted too dark and too much laboured,' an objection which Chapman combats with much earnestness and scorn. In the translation of 'Achilles Shield' Chapman uses rhymed lines of ten syllables, the metre in which the 'Odyssey' is translated. Some years elapsed before the publication of 'Homer, Prince of Poets: translated according to the Greeke in twelve Bookes of his Iliads,' fol., which bears no date on the title-page, but was certainly not issued before 1609. This edition has the engraved title by William Hole, which was afterwards used for the complete translation of the 'Iliad' and for the 'Whole Works of Homer.' The book is dedicated in a poetical epistle of remarkable dignity to Prince Henry; and there are also prefixed a complimentary sonnet to Queen Anne and a 'Poem to the Reader.' At the end of the volume are fourteen sonnets to noble patrons; and one of these sonnets is addressed to the Earl of Salisbury, who is styled lord treasurer, an office conferred upon him on 4 May 1609. The translation of books i-ii, vii-xi, is the same as in the edition of 1598. On 8 April 1611 the complete translation of the 'Iliad' was entered on the Stationers' register. The book was published (doubtless in the same year) under the title 'The Iliads of Homer, Prince of Poets. Never before in any language truely translated. With a Comment upon some of his chiefe places,' n. d., fol. In this edition Chapman gave a fresh translation of books i. and ii. (down to the catalogue of the ships). From the 'Preface to the Reader ' we learn that the last twelve books had been translated in less than fifteen weeks. Some malicious critics had asserted that Chapman made his translation not from the original Greek, but from Latin or French versions; and to these assertions Chapman gives an indignant denial, referring readers to his commentary as a proof of his sufficiency in the Greek tongue. It must be confessed that the commentary does not bear any marks of deep or accurate scholarship. In this edition Chapman withdrew three of the sonnets (addressed to Lady Arabella Stuart, Lord Wotton, and Lord Arundel) that he had appended to the translation of books i-xii., and added five others. After completing the translation of the 'Iliad' he set himself to translate the 'Odyssey.' On 2 Nov. 1614 there is an entry in the Stationers' register to Nathaniel Butter of 'Twenty-four Bookes of Homer's Odisses by George Chapman.' The first twelve books had been previously published, but few copies of this separate impression are found. When the translation was completed the last twelve books were united with the previous impression of the first twelve; a blank leaf was inserted after book xii., and the pagination was made continuous. Some copies of the 'Odyssey' have a printed title; in others the title is engraved. The book was dedicated to Robert Carr, earl of Somerset, in an epistle written partly in verse and partly in prose. Finally the translations of the 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey' were united in one folio volume, and issued under the title of 'The Whole Works of Homer, Prince of Poets, in his Iliads and Odysses.' On the verso of the engraved title is a portrait of Chapman, with an inscription dated 1616; and on the next page is an engraving of two Corinthian coumns surmounted by the Prince of Wales' plume and motto; beneath are some verses to the memory of Prince Henry. At length, circ. 1624, Chapman concluded his Homeric labours by issuing 'The Crowne of all Homer's Workes, Batrachomyomachia or the Battaile of Frogs and Mise. His Hymn's and Epigrams, translated in ten-syllabled rhymed verse (the metre used in the translation of the 'Odyssey'). The engraved title by William Pass contains a fine portrait of the venerable translator.
Chapman's Homer is one of the great achievements of the Elizabethan age, a monument of skill and devotion. The mistranslations are many and grievous, and it is clear that Chapman's knowledge of Greek was not profound; but through the whole work there breathes a spirit of sleepless energy that amply atones for all crudities and conceits. Among Chapman's contemporaries the translation was received with applause. Daniel in 'A Defence of Ryme (1602-3), written when only a portion of the 'Iliad' had been published, showed happy discrimination in styling Chapman 'our Homer-Lucan.' Drayton in his 'Epistle to Henry Reynolds' (published in 1627) names Chapman first in the list of translators. Ben Jonson, though he told Drummond that 'the translations of Homer and Virgil in long Alexandrines were but prose,' in some complimentary verses prefixed to Chapman's 'Hesiod' warmly praises his friend's Homeric translutions, with special reference, it would seem, to the 'Odyssey' and 'Hymns.' Chapman's Homer has never been without admirers. Dryden, in the dedication to the third volume of his 'Miscellanies,' writes:— 'The Earl of Mulgrave and Mr. Waller, two of the best judges of our age, have assured me they could never read over the translation of Chapman without incredible transport.' Pope acknowledges the merits of his predecessor's labours; and Dr. Johnson affirms that Pope never translated any passage of Homer without consulting Chapman's version. Coleridge said that Chapman's Homer was as truly an original poem as the 'Faerie Queene;' Lamb was a fervid admirer of the rough old translation; and Keats has a noble sonnet 'On first looking into Chapman's Homer.' Among more recent panegyrists are Emerson and Mr. Swinburne.
There is some break in Chapman's dramatic career after 1598. An anonymous comedy, 'Sir Gyles Goosecappe,' produced by the Children of the Chappel about the autumn of 1601 (and printed in 1606) is so strongly marked with Chapman's peculiar mannerisms that we must either grant that he was the author or suppose that it was written in close imitation of his style (Bullen, Old English Plays, iii. 1-2, 95-6). In 1605 appeared the admirable comedy, 'Eastward Hoe,' which Chapman wrote in conjunction with Ben Jonson and Marston. For introducing some satirical reflections on the Scots the authors were thrown into prison, and the report went that their ears were to be cut and their noses slit; but happily they were released without being put to this inconvenience. In a few of the extant copies there is found a satirical allusion to the raacity of James's Scotch followers; but the passage is suppressed in many copies. There is preserved at Hatfield an autograph letter (discovered by Birch) of Ben Jonson to the Earl of Salisbury, dated in the same year (1605), in which the writer states:— 'I am here, my most honoured lord, unexamined and unheard, committed to a vile prison, and with me a gentleman (whose name may perhaps have come to your lordship), one Mr. George Chapman, a learned and honest man.' Probably Jonson is here referring to the imprisonment which followed the production of 'Eastward Hoe,' but Gilford is of opinion that Jonson and Chapman suffered a second time for some injudicious satire introduced into another play, now unknown. 'Eastward Hoe' was revived at Drury Lane in 1751 under the title of 'The Prentices,' and again in 1775 under the title of 'Old City Manners.' It is supposed that Hogarth took from 'Eastward Hoe' the plan of his set of prints of the Idle and Industrious Apprentices. In this year of troubles (1005) was published the comedy of 'All Fools,' produced in 1598, a well-constructed and well-written play, the most artistic of Chapman's dramatic compositions. The author seems to have attached little value to this work; for in the dedicatory sonnet to Sir Thomas Walsingham (which was almost immediately withdrawn, and is found in very few copies) he describes it as 'the least allow'd birth of my shaken brain.' In 1600 appeared 'The Gentleman Usher,' which contains some love scenes of great beauty and refinement. Another of Chapman's comedies, 'Monsieur d'Olive,' was published in the same year. It opens very promisingly, but the interest is not skilfully sustained. In 1607 appeared the first edition of 'Bussy d'Ambois: a Tragedie.' This was the most popular of Chapman's tragedies. It was republished in 1608, 1610, 1641 (with a text 'corrected and amended by the author before his death '), and 1657. Nathaniel Field acted the part of Bussy with great applause; and at a later date the performances of Hart of Mountford were much admired. In 1691 Durfey 'writ the plot new,' and published his alteration under the title of 'Bussy d'Ambois; or the Husband's Revenge.' Dryden, in the dedicatory epistle prefixed to 'The Spanish Fryar' (1681), criticises Chapman's play with the greatest severity. He found in it 'a dwarfish thought dressed up in gigantic words, repetition in abundance, looseness of expression, and gross hyperboles; the sense of one line expanded prodigiously into ten; and, to sum up all, incorrect English, and a hideous mingle of false poetry and true nonsense.' Much of the writing is mere fustian; but there is also an abundance of noble poetry, The character of Bussy, a magnificent braggart of matchless self-confidence, is powerfully conceived; but the other characters are colourless. 'The Revenge of Bussy d'Ambois,' published in 1613, has even less dramatic power than the 'Tragedy of Bussy d'Ambois;' but it displays great richness of moral reflection. In 1608 appeared (in one volume) the two historical plays, 'The Conspiracie and Tragedie of Charles, Duke of Byron.' These plays had been produced as early as 1605, and in their original form contained some matter that gave offence to the French ambassador, at whose petition the players were forbidden to continue the performances. When the court removed from London, the players, in defiance of the order that had been issued, persisted in performing the plays; whereupon three members of the company were arrested, but 'the principal person, the author, escaped.' The objectionable passages must have been cancelled when the plays were put to press, for the extant printed copies contain nothing that could have given offence. In these plays there is no dramatic movement, nothing worthy to be called a plot, no attempt at development of character. The figure of Byron, as of Bussy d'Ambois, is drawn with epic grandeur. In describing the 'wild enormities' of boundless vainglory, Chapman, however undramatic he may be, is assuredly impressive. Webster, in the address to the reader prefixed to 'Vittoria Corombona,' commended 'the full and heightened style of Master Chapman.' 'The Conspiracie and Tragedie 'are thickly strewn with striking aphorisms, expressed with fitting eloquence of language. Charles Lamb was of opinion that of all the English dramatists 'Chapman approaches nearest to Shakespeare in the descriptive and didactic in passages which are less purely dramatic.' Chapman's next play was 'May Day,' published in 1611, a broadly humorous comedy full of diverting situations. It was followed in 1612 by another comedy of intrigue, vigorously written but exceedingly coarse in tone, 'The Widow's Tears,' partly founded on the story of the Ephesian widow in Petronius. Many years elapsed before Chapman published another play. At length, in 1631, appeared 'Caesar and Pompey, a Roman Tragedy declaring their Warres,' with a dedicatory epistle to the Earl of Middlesex, from which we learn that the play had been written long before the date of publication. Possessing little dramatic power, 'Cæsar and Pompey' exhibits strikingly Chapman's depth of ethical reflection. No other plays of Chapman were published during his lifetime; but in 1654 Humphrey Moseley, a well-known publisher, issued the 'Tragedy of Alphonsus, Emperor of Germany, ... by George Chapman, Gent.,' and in the same year Richard Marriot published 'Revenge for Honour, a Tragedie, by George Chapman.' It is not easy to recognise Chapman's hand in 'Alphonsus,' an ill-digested, brutal piece of work, singularly barren of all poetic ornament, and remarkable only for the close knowledge that the author displays of German manners and German language. 'Revenge for Honour,' a very sanguinary drama, shows occasional traces of Chapman's mannerisms, but the authorship cannot be assigned to him with any confidence. The plot is conducted with more skill than we find in Chapman's undoubted tragedies. There is nothing of the turgid bombast and nothing of the exalted eloquence that deform and ennoble 'Bussy d'Ambois' and 'Byron.' A comedy entitled 'The Ball,' licensed on 16 Nov. 1632, was published in 1639, as the joint production of Chapman and Shirley. Gifford supposed that Chapman wrote the largest portion of it; but this view has not found favour with later critics, and indeed it may be doubted whether Chapman had any share at all in the composition. In Sir Henry Herbert's 'Office-book' the play is described as 'written by Sherley.' It is an agreeable comedy of manners, written in Shirley's easy fluent style, but not worthy to be placed in the front rank of his works. Another play, the 'Tragedy of Chabot, Admirall of France,' licensed on 29 April 1636, was published in the same year as the 'Ball,' and with the names of the same authors on the title-page. This play is more evenly written than Chapman's earlier tragedies; and we may suppose that, having been left imperfect by Chapman, it was revised and completed by Shirley, losing much of its original roughness in the process of revision. An anonymous tragedy of considerable power, the 'Second Maiden's Tragedy,' licensed on 31 Oct. 1611, and first printed (from a manuscript in the Lansdowne collection) in 1824, has been attributed, on very slight authority, to Chapman. At the back of the manuscript is written the name of 'William' (afterwards altered to 'Thomas') 'Goughe.' This name has been nearly obliterated, and the name of 'George Chapman' substituted. Finally, Chapman's name is scored through in favour of 'Will. Shakespear.' The authorship, in spite of many conjectures that have been put forward, is still a mystery. Winstanley and Langbaine ascribe to Chapman 'Two Wise Men and all the rest Fooles, or a Comicall Morall, censuring the follies of this age, as it hath beene diverse times acted, anno 1619;' but Langbaine is careful to add: 'I am led only by tradition to believe this play to be his.' There is not the slightest ground for fathering this absurd production on Chapman. The error probably arose from a confusion of the title 'Two Wise Men and all the rest Fooles,' with the title of Chapman's comic masterpiece, 'All Fools.' Two plays of Chapman, the 'Yorkshire Gentlewoman and her Son,' and 'Fatal Love, a French tragedy,' were entered in the Stationers' register on 29 June 1660, but were not published. These plays were among the manuscripts destroyed by Warburton's cook.
The list of Chapman's non-dramatic works, excluding the Homeric translations and the poems already mentioned, was considerable. Among the 'Divers Poeticall Essaies on the Turtle and Phoenix' printed at the end of Robert Chester's 'Love's Martyr,' 1601, is a short poem by Chapman entitled 'Peristeros, or the Male Turtle.' In 1609 he published 'Euthymiæ Raptus; or the Tears of Peace, with Interlocutions,' dedicated to Prince Henry. The allegory is confused and the writing harsh; but the vision of Homer in the 'Inductio' is singularly impressive, and the 'Conclusio' contains one passage of exquisite harmony and striking imagery. In 1612 appealed 'Petrarch's Seven Penitentiall Psalms, paraphrastically translated, with other Philosopnicall Poems, and a Hymne to Christ upon the Crosse.' Some of the shorter 'philosophical poems' appended to the 'penitential psalms' are tersely and vigorously written. On 6 Nov. 1612 died Chapman's patron, Henry, prince of Wales, and his death was sincerely lamented by the poet in 'An Epicede, or Funerall Song.' Chapman's next work proved very unfortunate. The marriage of Robert Carr, earl of Somerset, to the divorced Countess of Essex was celebrated on 26 Dec. 1613, and in honour of the marriage Chapman wrote an allegoric poem, entitled, 'Andromeda Liberata; or the Nuptials of Perseus and Andromeda,' 1614. The allegory was most in felicitously chosen, and could hardly fail to give offence; but the poet seems to have had no suspicion that he was treading on dangerous ground. In 'A Free and Offenceles Iustification of a Lately pvblisht and most maliciously misinterpreted Poeme entitvled Andromeda liberata' he protests that he had not imagined it possible that the allegory could be regarded as 'intended to the dishonour of any person now living.' There had been a rumour, to which he gives an indignant denial, that he was subjected to personal chastisement for his indiscretion. It is curious to notice, in connection with the publication of the poem, the following entry in the Stationers' register, under date 16 March 1613–14: 'Laurence Lyle. Entred for his coppie vnder the handes of the Duke of Lennox, the Earle of Suffolke, the Earle of Marr, Sir Julius Caesar, Master Warden Feild, and Master Adames, a booke called Perseus and Andromede, by George Chapman' (Arber's Transcript, iii. 249). If Chapman had no suspicion that his poem was likely to give offence, it is hard to suppose that his guilelessness was shared by the persons at whose instance the poem was licensed. Jonson said that, 'next himself, only Fletcher and Chapman could make a masque.' The sole extant specimen of Chapman's talents as a masque writer is the 'Memorable Maske of the two Honorable Houses or Inns of Court, the Middle Temple and Lyncoln's Inne,' 1614, written for the Princess Elizabeth's nuptials, and performed at Whitehall on 15 Feb. 1613–14. In an anonymous unpublished masque (Egerton MS. 1994, ff. 212–23) there is a long passage which is also found in 'Byron's Tragedie.' Possibly this unpublished masque — 'which is dated 1643, but may have been written much earlier — is to be attributed to Chapman. In the same year (1614) Chapman published 'Evgenia, or Trve Nobilities Trance: for the most memorable death of the Thrice Noble and Religious William Lord Rvssel, &c.' with an epistle dedicatory to Francis, lord Russell. It is tedious and obscure, but contains some poetic touches. In 1616 appeared the 'Divine Poem of Musaeus, first of all bookes, translated according to the Originall,' with a dedication to Inigo Jones. This book, of which only one copy (preserved in the Bodleian) is known, measures two inches in length, and scarcely an inch in breadth. The translation of the pseudo 'Musaeus' was succeeded in 1618 by the 'Georgicks of Hesiod, . . . translated elaborately out of the Greek, . . . with a perpetuall Calendar of Good and Bad Daies,' dedicated 'to the Most Noble Combiner of Learning and Honour, Sir Francis Bacon, Knight. Prefixed to this vigorous translation are copies of commendatory verses by Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson. In 1622, when Sir Horace Vere was shut up in Mannheim with a handful of troops. Chapman published a spirited copy of verses entitled 'Pro Vere Autumni Lachrymoe,' in which he urged that aid should be sent to the relief of the distressed garrison. The poem is dedicated to the Earl of Somerset, who had been dismissed from court, and was now living in obscurity. It is to Chapman's credit that he remained firmly attached to the fortunes of his fallen patron. In 1629 appeared the last of Chapman's miscellaneous writings, 'A Justification of a Strange Action of Nero, in burying with a Solemne Funerall one of the cast Hayres of his Mistresse Poppæa. Also a Just Reproofe of a Romane Smell-feast, being the Fifth Satyre of Juvenall.' The translation of Juvenal's fifth Satire is very spirited.
Chapman contributed commendatory verses to Ben Jonson's 'Sejanus' (1605) and 'Volpone' (1606). Jonson told Drummond of Hawthornden that 'Fletcher and Chapman were loved of him;' but the friendship between Chapman and Jonson was interrupted at a later date, for in a commonplace hook preserved among the Ashmole MSS. is a lengthy fragment of a violent 'Invective written by Mr. George Chapman against Mr. Ben Jonson.' Prefixed to Fletcher's 'Faithful Shepherdess' (1610?) is a copy of verses by Chapman, who also contributed some prefatory verses to 'Parthenia' (1611), and 'A Woman is a Weathercock ' (1612), a comedy of 'his loved son,' Nat. Field. Some verses signed 'G. C.,' prefixed to 'The True History of the Tragicke loves of Hipolito and Isabella' (1628), are probably to be assigned to Chapman. There are verses by Chapman beneath the portrait of Prince Henry in Holland's 'Heroologia,' 1620.
Wood describes Chapman as 'a person of most reverend aspect, religious and temperate, qualities rarely meeting in a poet.' From many references scattered throughout his works it may be gathered that the poet suffered from poverty and neglect. John Davies of Hereford, in the 'Scourge of Joy' (1611), alludes to Chapman's straitened circumstances in a quaint copy of verses addressed 'To my highly vallued Mr. George Chapman, Father of our English Poets.' Oldys states that in later life Chapman was 'much resorted to by young persons of parts as a poetical chronicle; but was very choice who he admitted to him, and preserved in his own person the dignity of Poetry, which he compared to a flower of the sun, that disdains to open its leaves to the eye of a smoking taper.'
Chapman died in the parish of St. Giles-in-the-Fields on 12 May 1634, and was buried on the south side of St. Giles's churchyard. The monument erected to his memory by Inigo Jones is still standing; but the inscription, which has been recut, does not tally with the inscription given by Wood. Habington in his 'Castara' (ed. 1635) alludes to Chapman's grave being outside the church, and expresses a hope that some person might be found 'so seriously devote to poesie' as to remove his relics and 'in the warme church to build him up a tombe.'
Chapman's Homer was excellently edited in 1857 by the Rev. Richard Hooper ('Iliad,' 2 vols.; 'Odyssey,' 2 vols.; 'Hymns,' &c., 1 vol.) In 1873 appeared a reprint, with the old spelling retained, of the dramatic works, in three volumes. A complete collection of Chapman's works, in three volumes, was seen through the press by Mr. K. H. Shepherd in 1873–5; the dramatic works fill one volume, the 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey' another, and the third volume is devoted to the 'Miscellaneous Poems and Translations.' To the volume of miscellaneous works is prefixed an elaborate, just, and eloquent essay (afterwards issued in a separate form) by Mr. A. C. Swinburne.
[Wood's Athen. Oxon. (ed. Bliss); Langbaine's Dramatick Poets, with manuscript annotations by Oldys; Henslowe's Diary (ed. J. P. Collier); Hooper's Introductions to Chapman's Homer; Swinburne's Essay on Chapman; Coleridge's Literary Remains, i. 259–63; Lamb's specimens of Dramatic Poets.]