Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Baxter, Nathaniel

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BAXTER, NATHANIEL (fl. 1606), poet and preacher, was tutor in Greek to Sir Philip Sidney, and has been proved by Joseph Hunter, in his ' New Hlustrations of Shakespeare ' (1845), to be the author of ' Ourania,' a work previously ascribed to Nicholas Breton. By the fact that he was 'tutor' to Sidney, his birth probably preceded 1550. "We learn that he was probably of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1569, from an entry in the ' Spending of the Money of Robert Nowell' (Spending, edited by Dr. Grosart, 1879). Baxter was one of the signatories to the famous letter addressed to the puritan, Thomas Cartwright, dated London, 25 May 1577 (brook's Lives, ii. 245-6; MS. Register, p. 896). Several puritanic books were issued by him about the same time. One of them, bearing no date, is entitled: 'A Soueraigne Salue for a Sinfull Soule, comprising a Necessarie and True Meanes wherby a sinfull conscience may be vnburdened and reconciled to God; wherein you shall find nil the Epithetons or Titles of the Son of God which for the most part are found in Scripture.' Another of his works was called 'Calvin's Lectures or Daily Sermons upon the Prophet Jonas, translated into English by Nathaniel Baxter,' with a complaint in verse and a long dedication to Sir John Brockett (1578), another edition being dedicated to Sir Francis Walsingham from ' Redbourn,' 22 Jan. 1577; and he also published 'A Catholique and Ecclesiastical Exposition of the last Epistle of John, collected out of the Works of the best Writers by Augustine Marlorat,' dedicated to Lady Walsingham (1578). A few years later a treatise of a very different type was published by him: 'D. Nathanaelis Baxteri Colcestrensis quces<iones et responsa in Petri Ilanii [qu. Rami P] dialecticam, London, 1585 (watt's Bibl. Brit.).

He became warden of St. Mary's College, Youghal, Ireland, in 1592, and was inducted into the office of warden 23 May 1592 by Dr. William Lyon,(protestant) bishop of Cork and C'loyne (patent at Lismore). Though originally a popish establishment, the wardenship became one of the sinecures which abounded in those days. The college itself had been 'spoiled and wellnigh demolished' in 1579, but the warden's house either remained or was rebuilt, and to-day a house, which is nowpointed out at Youghal as Sir Walter Raleigh's residence when he was there, is said to have been the warden's. On 25 Aug. 1597 Baxter, who had hitherto continued in the enjoyment of his wardenship without interruption, found that the revenues of the college were threatened with the fate of other monastic foundations, and was obliged to give his bond of 1,000 marks that he would, within forty days after demand, resign his office. On 26 April 1598 complaint was made to the court of revenue exchequer, that Baxter had refused to allow the officer of the court to sequestrate the revenues of the college. An attachment was issued against him, and anew sequestration issued. On 30 June 1598 Baxter, having resisted the surrender of his office, availed himself of the 'forty days'license,'and before the time had expired privately passed his letter of attorney to three gentlemen, authorising them to dispose of the college revenues. They accordingly demised them and the college house to Sir Thomas Norris. Baxter then resigned; but the commissioners, finding that the revenues had been disposed of, refused to accept the trust (ha Yuan, Kotes and Records of the Ancient Religious Foundations at Youghal, co. Cork, Youghal (Lindsav), 1855). Baxter left Ireland in 1599. He is next found vicar of Troy, in Monmouthshire, and compounding for his first-fruits of the ' living' 26 May 1602. It was while in this obscure retreat that he composed and published the poem whereby he is now mainly remembered, viz. 'Sir Philip Sydney's "Ourania." That is, Endimiones Song and Tragedie, containing all Philosophie. Written by N. B. London: Printed by Ed. Alkie for Edward White, and are to be solde at the little north doore of Saint Paules Church, at the signe of the Gun, 1606' (4to). This is now one of the rarest of books, and has never been reprinted. In Corser's 'Collectanea Anglo-Poetica' (pt. ii. pp. 216-23) will be found a full account of it, with characteristic and fairly representative quotations. 'Ourania' frequently describes its author's tutorial relation to Sir Philip Sidney, and there are various details of the poet's history and of his house in Troy. The name 'Tergaster' reveals the playful title given by Sidney to his tutor; and so the N. B. of the title-page ' Tergaster,' i.e. Back or Bax-ter. There are a multitude of addresses in verse to contemporary 'fair ladies and brave men,' each signed N. B., and evidently written with a view to some pecuniary reward. 'Ourania' resembles Sir Robert Chester's 'Rosalind, or Love's Martyr.'

Our last notice of Baxter shows him still contending in 1633 for his first puritan teaching. He published 'The Answer of Nathanael Baxter, Bachelor in Divinitie and Warden of New Colledge in Youghal, to the arguments of Mr. Jo. Downes, Bachelor in Divinitie, in a Controversie of Justifying Faith preached by the said Mr. Downes in Bristoll,' 1633. According to Downes, who in 1635 replied to, if he did not answer Baxter, the book by his assailant was so hard to be obtained that it had taken him two years to get possession of it–a convenient euphemism for a willing delay in 'answering' a formidable opponent. Nathaniel Baxter, having long before left Youghal, exposed himself to this retort by Downes: 'In the inscription though it please him in such sort to stile himselfe, I thinke to make the reader beleeve that I had met with my peer at least; and if I were a Bithus (Horat. lib. i. Sat. 7) he were no lesse then a Bacchius; yet could he not without great arrogance challenge these titles to himselfe, having never taken such degree in either of the universities, and being no more warden of Yoghul then was Captaine Stukelie marques of Ireland, or Robert Venantius in the Council of Trent archbishop of Armagh' (To the Reader). Nothing later is known of Baxter. He must have reached a ripe old age in 1633-35; for in 'Ourania,' written before 1606, he described himself thus:

And now comes creeping old Endymion.

He has escaped Anthony à Wood, but doubtless was of Oxford.

[Besides authorities as given, see Hunter's MS. Chorus Vatum in Brit. Mus., and Baxter's books.]

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