Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mead, Robert

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MEAD, ROBERT (1616–1653), poet, son of Robert Mead, a stationer, was born at the Black Lion in Fleet Street in 1616. He was educated at Westminster, and while still a king's scholar contributed commendatory verses (of average merit) to his schoolfellow Abraham Cowley's ‘Poetical Blossomes’ (1633). He was elected student of Christ Church, whence he matriculated 1 Sept. 1634, and graduated B.A. 11 April 1638, M.A. 22 May 1641. While still an undergraduate he wrote a comedy entitled ‘The Combat of Love and Friendship.’ The play was acted by the students, but not printed until after Mead's death, when it appeared ‘as it hath formerly been presented by the gentlemen of Christ Church in Oxford,’ London, 4to, 1654. In 1638 he was one of the contributors to the ‘Jonsonus Virbius,’ after which he appears to have definitely relinquished literature, and in 1640 was appointed a captain in Charles I's army. He subsequently distinguished himself at the siege of Oxford, took a gallant part in the assault on Abingdon in the spring of 1646, and was one of the commissioners for negotiating the surrender of Oxford to the parliament, 17 May 1646. He was created M.D. on 23 June, the day before the surrender actually took place, but was expelled from his studentship by the parliamentary commission in 1648. He was in Jersey at the time of Charles I's execution, and soon afterwards proceeded to Gottenburg in Sweden as Charles II's agent (Cal. Clarendon State Papers, ii. 23, 30). He wrote thence to Secretary Nicholas in February 1650, expressing Queen Christina's dissatisfaction at hearing so little of the king's movements (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1650, pp. 104, 158). He subsequently submitted a diplomatic note from Charles to the queen, and entered actively into Charles's project of visiting Stockholm (ib. pp. 610, 611). He did not, however, remain long in Sweden, and in 1651 Lord Inchiquin appears to have sought to engage him as tutor for his son. He travelled, probably with a pupil, up the Rhine (‘which failed his expectation much’) into Switzerland, and then via Strasburg, Spire, Heidelberg, Frankfort, and Mainz to Cologne. He returned to England in the same year, to find his father on his deathbed, and on 21 Feb. 1652–3 he himself fell a victim to a malignant fever. He died in the house in which he had been born in Fleet Street, and was buried in the church of St. Dunstan's-in-the-West. Mead was generally regarded as possessing great literary abilities, though his writings very slenderly support the claim. Wood quotes the bookseller's epistle prefixed to ‘The Combat of Love and Friendship,’ to the effect that Mead, ‘though a little, was a stout and learned man, and excellent in the faculty of poetry and making plays. His eminent general abilities were also such that they have left him a character precious and honourable to our nation.’ Phillips has, entirely without foundation, attributed to Mead an anonymous piece, entitled ‘The Costlie Whore, a Comicall Historie,’ 1633, 4to, which was reprinted in Mr. A. H. Bullen's ‘Old Plays’ (1885), iv. 219 sq.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 342–4; Fasti, i. 468, 500, ii. 3, 98, 210; Hist. and Antiq. ii. 477, 482; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Welch's Westminster Scholars, pp. 105–6; Fleay's Chron. of English Drama, 1559–1642, ii. 85; Corser's Collect. ii. 498; Langbaine's Dram. Poets, p. 366; Add. MS. 24490, f. 384 (Hunter's Chorus Vatum); Gifford's Ben Jonson, 1846 p. 803; Burrows's Parl. Visit. of Oxford, p. 489; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–51, passim; Baker's Biog. Dram. p. 505; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

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