Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rawlins, Thomas

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RAWLINS, THOMAS (1620?–1670), medallist and playwright, born about 1620 (see commendatory verses prefixed to The Rebellion), appears to have received instruction as a goldsmith and gem engraver, and to have worked under Nicholas Briot [q. v.] at the mint. He first comes into notice in 1640, when he published ‘The Rebellion,’ a tragedy which is stated on the title-page to have been acted nine days together and divers times since by his majesty's company of revels. It is ‘far from a bad play,’ though the verse is rather halting and bombastic (Genest, English Stage, x. 113–14). The scene is laid in Seville, and a prominent part is taken in the play by the tailors of that city. ‘The Rebellion’ (London, 1640, 4to, reprinted in ‘The Ancient British Drama,’ vol. iii., and in Dodsley's ‘Old English Plays,’ vol. xiv.) was dedicated by Rawlins to his ‘honoured kinsman Robert Ducie, esq., of Aston, Staffordshire.’

Rawlins's first dated medal is of 1641. Shortly afterwards, upon the outbreak of the civil war, he repaired to the king's headquarters at Oxford. His signature appears on coins of the Oxford mint, 1644–1646, and in 1644 he produced the crown piece known as the ‘Oxford crown,’ from the view of Oxford introduced beneath the ordinary equestrian type of the obverse of the coin. In 1643 he prepared the badge given to the ‘Forlorn Hope,’ and received a warrant (1 June 1643) for making the special medal conferred on Sir Robert Welch. He struck at Oxford a medal commemorating the taking of Bristol by Prince Rupert's forces (1643), and until 1648 was actively employed in making medals and badges for the king's adherents. Rawlins also designed a pattern sovereign of Charles I, and the so-called ‘Juxon medal,’ probably the pattern for a five-broad piece. He was formally appointed chief engraver of the mint in the twenty-third year of Charles I (March 1647–March 1648).

About 1648 Rawlins appears to have fled to France. He returned to England in 1652, and from that time till the Restoration earned a precarious livelihood, partly by making dies for tradesmen's tokens. He engraved the town-tokens of Bristol, Gloucester, and Oxford, and produced dies for London tradesmen in Broad Street, Hounsditch, St. Paul's Churchyard, and the Wardrobe (Boyne, Trader's Tokens, ed. Williamson). On 27 Feb. 1657 he was in prison for debt at the ‘Hole in St. Martin's,’ and wrote for assistance to John Evelyn, whom he had met in Paris. Evelyn endorsed the letter as being from ‘Mr. Tho. Rawlins … an excellent artist, but debash'd fellow.’ Some pattern farthings of Cromwell are supposed to have been the work of Rawlins (Montagu, Copper Coins, 2nd edit. p. 35).

At the Restoration Rawlins was reinstated as chief engraver at the mint, Thomas Simon [q. v.] being then styled ‘Chief Engraver of Arms and Seals.’ He had a residence in the mint, and in June 1660 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, p. 78) was ordered to engrave the king's effigies for the coins. Five patterns for copper farthings of Charles II were perhaps designed by Rawlins in the same year. From 30 July to 24 Sept. 1660 he was engaged in engraving a privy seal for Ireland and five judicial seals for the Welsh counties. For these six seals he was paid 274l. 2s. 6d. (ib. 1660–1 pp. 185, 299, 1663–4, pp. 109, 257). Rawlins died in 1670. He was married, and Walpole (Anecdotes, i. 401) mentions a print of his wife inscribed ‘Dorothea Narbona, uxor D. Thomæ Rawlins supremi sculptoris sigilli Carol. I. et Carol. II.;’ this is probably identical with the engraving by Anton Van der Does in the print-room at the British Museum.

The signature of Rawlins on his coins and tokens is ‘R.’ His medals—most of which are cast and chased—are signed R., T. R., and with his full name. In technical finish and sureness of touch Rawlins is inferior to Thomas Simon, the great medallist of the Commons, yet much of his work is decidedly pleasing and elegant. Evelyn says that he excelled in medals and in intaglios; and in Flecknoe's ‘Miscellanies’ there is a poem on that excellent cymelist or sculptor in gold and precious stones, Thomas Rawlins. The following is a list of his principal medals: 1. ‘William Wade,’ 1641. 2. ‘Declaration of Parliament,’ 1642. 3–7. ‘Peace or War,’ rev. Sword and olive-branch; ‘Forlorn Hope’ badge; ‘Sir Robert Welch’ (Medallic Illustrations, i. 302); ‘Bristol taken;’ ‘Meeting of Charles I and Henrietta Maria at Kineton,’ 1643. 8–9. ‘Sir William Parkhurst;’ ‘Badges of Charles I and Henrietta Maria,’ 1644. 10. ‘Sir Robert Heath,’ 1645. 11. ‘Thomas Harper of Alveton Lodge, Staffordshire,’ 1647. 12. ‘Sir Robert Bolles,’ 1655. 13. ‘Coronation Medal,’ rev. Charles II as a Shepherd (‘Dixi custodiam’), 1661. 14. ‘Dominion of the Sea,’ rev. ‘Nos penes imperium,’ 1665. He also executed numerous badges with portraits of the Royal Family, and the medals ‘Death of Charles I,’ (1) rev. Hammer striking diamond on anvil, 1648; (2) rev. Rock buffeted by Winds; and (3) rev. Salamander amid flames, 1648.

Two comedies, both printed after the year of his death, are usually assigned to Rawlins: 1. ‘Tom Essence, or the Modish Life’ (sometimes erroneously attributed to Ravenscroft), a successful play which owes much to Molière's ‘Cocu Imaginaire;’ it was licensed for performance at Dorset Garden on 4 Nov. 1676, and printed in 1677, 4to. 2. ‘Tunbridge Wells, or a Day's Courtship,’ an indifferent comedy, printed in 1678, 4to. A collection of poems called ‘Calanthe’ (subjoined to ‘Good Friday, being Meditations on that Day,’ 1648, 8vo) is signed ‘T. R.’, initials which Oldys identified with Thomas Rawlins. Complimentary verses by Rawlins are prefixed to ‘Messallina,’ a tragedy, by his friend Nathaniel Richards [q. v.], and to Lovelace's ‘Lucasta.’

[Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, i. 400, 401; Hawkins's Medallic Illustrations, ed. Franks and Grueber; Numismatic Chronicle, xiii. 129 f.; Grueber's Guide to English Medals in Brit. Mus.; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; numismatic works of Ruding, Hawkins, and Kenyon; Hunter's Chorus Vatum, Addit. MS. 24489, ff. 32–3; Evelyn's Numismata, p. 239; Oldys's Notes and Collections, ed. Yeowell, 1863, p. 33; Langbaine's English Dram. Poets, 1699, p. 117; Baker's Biogr. Dram.; Genest's English Stage; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Coins, Medals, and Tokens, by Rawlins, in Brit. Mus.; authorities cited above.]

W. W.