Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Chalkhill, John

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CHALKHILL, JOHN (fl. 1600), poet, was the author of a work which was published under the title of 'Thealma and Clearchus. A Pastoral History in smooth and easie Verse. Written long since by John Chalkhill, Esq., an Acquaintant and Friend of Edmund Spencer,' London, 1683, 8vo. The poem, which possesses considerable merit, was edited by Izaak Walton, whose preface is dated 7 May 1678, though the work was not published till five years later, when the editor was ninety years old. Walton, who had known the writer, says of him: 'And I have also this truth to say of the author, that he was in his time a man generally known and as well belov'd; for he was humble and obliging in his behaviour, a gentleman, a scholar, very innocent and prudent: and indeed his whole life was useful, quiet, and virtuous.' In the 'Compleat Angler,' published thirty years before, there occur two songs—'O, the sweet contentment' and 'O, the gallant fisher's life'—signed 'Io Chalkhill.' So meagre were the facts known of the author of 'Thealma and Clearchus' until a comparatively recent period that the Rev. Samuel W. Singer, in the introduction to a reprint of the poem issued from the Chiswick Press in 1820, advanced the theory, afterwards adopted by a writer in the 'Retrospective Review,' that Walton was its author as well as its editor, and that Chalkhill was altogether 'a fictitious personage.' But Mr. F. Somner Merryweather, in two letters in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for 1860, has shown from the Middlesex county records that towards the close of Queen Elizabeth's reign Ivon or Ion Chalkhill, Gent., was one of the coroners for that county, and that he subscribed his name 'Ion' and sometimes 'Io Chalkhill,' just as it is subscribed to the songs in Walton's 'Angler.' It is conjectured, therefore, that the coroner may have been identical with the poet. Moreover it is worthy of note that Walton married Ann Ken, a sister of Bishop Ken and daughter of Thomas Ken, an attorney, by his first wife. This Thomas Ken married a second wife, Martha Chalkhill, the second daughter of John Chalkhill of Kingsbury in Middlesex, and of Martha his wife, daughter of Thomas Brown, great-aunt to John Brown, who was clerk of the parliament.

Chalkhill has been conjecturally credited with the authorship of another poem, 'Alcilia, Philopartheus Louing Follie,' but that he did not write that work is conclusively shown by Dr. A. B. Grosart in the introduction to his reprint of that work (Manchester, 1879) from the unique copy of the original edition (1595) preserved in the town library at Hamburg.

[Addit. MS. 24493, f. 108; Beloe's Anecdotes, i. 69–74; Bibl. Anglo-Poetica, 54; Campbell's Specimens of the British Poets (1819), i. 171; Cooper's Muses' Library, 315; Corser's Collect. Anglo-Poetica, i. 16, 17, iii. 260; Gent. Mag. xciii. (ii) 418, 493, new series i. 283, ccviii. 278, 388; Grosart's Introd. to Alcilia; A Layman's Life of Bishop Ken, 4; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), 403; Pedigree of Ken family in Markland's Life of Bishop Ken; Nicolas's Life of Izaak Walton, pp. iv, xcvi, xcvii; Notes and Queries, 4th series, iv. 93; Retrospective Review, iv. 230–249; Ritson's Bibl. Poetica, 155; Todd's Life of Spenser; Walton's Complete Angler, ed. Nicolas, i. 126, ii. 259, 422, ed. 1851, p. 124.]

T. C.