Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Copley, Anthony

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COPLEY, ANTHONY (1567–1607?), poet and conspirator, third son of Sir Thomas Copley [q. v.], was born in 1567. He was left in England when his father went abroad, but in 1582, ‘being then a student at Furnivals Inn,’ he ‘stole away’ and joined his father and mother at Rouen. At Rouen he stayed for two years, and was then sent to Rome. There he remained for two years in the English college, having a pension of ten crowns from Pope Gregory. On leaving Rome he proceeded to the Low Countries, where he obtained a pension of twenty crowns from the Prince of Parma, and entered the service of the King of Spain, in which he remained until shortly before 1590. In that year he returned to England without permission, and was soon arrested and put in the Tower, whence we have a letter from him dated 6 Jan. 1590–1 to Wade, then lieutenant of the Tower, giving an account of his early life, and praying for pardon and employment. Other letters from him (printed by Strype) give information respecting the English exiles. Soon after we find him residing as a married man at Roughay, in the parish of Horsham, and on 22 June 1592, in a letter from Topcliffe to the queen, he is described as ‘the most desperate youth that liveth. … Copley did shoot a gentleman the last summer, and killed an ox with a musket, and in Horsham church threw his dagger at the parish clerk. … There liveth not the like, I think, in England, for sudden attempts, nor one upon whom I have good grounds to have watchful eyes’ (Strype, Annals, vol. iv.) He appears to have been an object of great suspicion to the government, and to have been imprisoned several times during the remainder of Elizabeth's reign. His writings, however, breathe fervent loyalty and devotion to the queen. In 1595 he published ‘Wits, Fittes, and Fancies fronted and entermedled with Presidentes of Honour and Wisdom; also Loves Owle, an idle conceited dialogue between Love and an olde Man,’ London, 1595 (Bodleian). The prose portion of this work is a collection of jests, stories, and sayings, chiefly taken from a Spanish work, ‘La Floresta Spagnola,’ and was reprinted in 1614 with additions, but without ‘Love's Owle’ (Brit. Mus.) This work was followed in 1596 by ‘A Fig for Fortune’ (Brit. Mus.), reprinted by the Spenser Society in 1883. It is a poem in six-line stanzas, and, like ‘Love's Owle,’ does not convey a very high idea of Copley's poetical powers. Extracts from it will be found in Corser's ‘Collectanea,’ ii. 456–9.

At the end of Elizabeth's reign Copley took an active part in the controversy between the Jesuits and the secular priests, and wrote two pamphlets on the side of the seculars, ‘An Answere to a Letter of a Jesuited Gentleman, by his Cosin, Maister A. C., concerning the Appeale, State, Jesuits,’ 1601, 4to (Brit. Mus.) This was followed by ‘Another Letter of Mr. A. C. to his Disjesuited Kinsman concerning the Appeale, State, Jesuits. Also a third Letter of his Apologeticall for himself against the calumnies contained against him in a certain Jesuiticall libell intituled A manifestation of folly and bad spirit,’ 1602, 4to (Bodleian); in this he announces ‘my forthcoming Manifestation of the Jesuit's Commonwealth,’ which, however, does not seem to have appeared. On the accession of James to the crown, Copley was concerned in the plot for placing Lady Arabella Stuart on the throne. (A proclamation for his apprehension in 1603 is in the Brit. Mus.) He and the other conspirators were tried and condemned to death (see State Trials), but Copley was afterwards pardoned (pardon dated 18 Aug. 1604), having made a confession relating the entire history of the plot, which is printed in extenso in the appendix to vol. iv. of Tierney's edition of Dodd's ‘Church History.’ We afterwards find him in 1606 (1607?) a guest, from January to April, in the English college at Rome, after which he disappears from view.

[Calendars of State Papers, Dom. Series, 1591–1594, 1603–10; Strype's Annals; Dodd's Church History (Tierney); Corser's Collectanea.]

R. C. C.