Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Turberville, George

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TURBERVILLE or TURBERVILE, GEORGE (1540?–1610?), poet, born about 1540, was the second son of Nicholas Turbervile of Whitchurch, Dorset, by a daughter of the house of Morgan of Mapperton. To an elder brother, Troilus, who died in 1607, the parsonage of Shapwick in Dorset was let by the commissioners in April 1597, and again in April 1600 (Cal. State Papers, Dom.) He was descended from an ancient Dorset family [see Turberville, Henry de], and James Turbervile [q. v.], bishop of Exeter, was his great-uncle (see Hutchins, Dorset, i. 139).

Born at Whitchurch, says Wood, of a ‘right ancient and genteel family,’ the poet was admitted scholar of Winchester College in 1554 at the age of fourteen, became perpetual fellow of New College in 1561, left it before he was a graduate the year following, and went to one of the inns of court, where he was much admired for his excellencies in the art of poetry. Afterwards, being esteemed a person fit for business as having a good and ready command of his pen, he was entertained by Thos. Randolph, esq., to be his secretary, when he received commission from Queen Elizabeth to go ambassador to the Emperor of Russia.’ Thomas Randolph (1523–1590) [q. v.] set out on his special mission to Ivan the Terrible in June 1568, returning in the autumn of the following year; and it was apparently during this interval that Turbervile indited from Moscow his first volume, entitled ‘Poems describing the Places and Manners of the Country and People of Russia, Anno 1568.’ No copy of this work, as cited by Wood, appears to be known, but some of the contents were evidently included among his later verse (‘Tragical Tales’) under the heading ‘The Author being in Moscouia wrytes to certaine his frendes in Englande of the state of the place, not exactly but all aduentures and minding to have descrybed all the Moscouites maners brake off his purpose upon some occasion.’ There follow three extremely quaint epistles upon the manners of ‘a people passing rude, to vices vile enclinde,’ inscribed respectively to ‘Master Edward Dancie,’ ‘to Spencer,’ and ‘to Parker.’ The three metrical epistles were reprinted in Hakluyt's ‘Voyages,’ 1589. ‘After his return from Muscovy,’ says Wood, who remains our sole authority, ‘he was esteemed a most accomplished gentlemen, and his company was much sought after and desired by all men.’

Turberville had already appeared as an author with ‘Epitaphs, Epigrams, Songs, and Sonets, with a Discourse of the Friendly Affections of Tymetes to Pyndara his ladie. Newly corrected with additions,’ 1567; imprinted by Henry Denham, b. 1. 8vo (Bodleian Library; no earlier edition seems known. The British Museum has only the impression of 1570; it was reprinted by Collier in 1867). The title recalls ‘the Songs and Sonnets’ of Tottel's miscellany, and the ‘Eglogs, Epitaphes, and Sonettes’ (1563) of Barnabe Googe, whom Turbervile had studied with care. A number of his own epigrams (e.g. ‘Stand with thy Snoute,’ on p. 83) were appropriated verbatim and without acknowledgment by Timothy Kendall in his ‘Flowers of Epigrammes,’ 1577. Turbervile has epitaphs upon Sir John Tregonwell, Sir Join Horsey, and Arthur Broke [q. v.]

Turbervile's next venture appears to have been a compilation entitled ‘The Booke of Faulconrie, or Hawking. For the onely delight and pleasure of all Nobleman and Gentlemen. Collected out of the best authors, as well Italian as Frenchmen, and some English practices withall concerning Faulconrie, the contents whereof are to be seene in the next page folowying. Imprinted by Christopher Barker at the signe of the Grashopper in Paules Churchyard,’ 1575, 4to, b. l., with woodcuts; dedicated to the Earl of Warwick. Another edition appeared in 1611, ‘newly revised, corrected, and augmented,’ with a large cut representing the Earl of Warwick in hawking costume (the engraving is coloured by hand in the British Museum copy). A versified commendation of hawking and an epilogue are supplied by the author. In the second edition James I is substituted for Elizabeth in the woodcuts. Bound up with both editions generally appears ‘The Noble Art of Venerie, or Hunting,’ which is also ascribed to Turbervile. The 1575 edition of this is dedicated by the publisher to Sir Henry Clinton, and both are prefaced by commendatory verses by Gascoigne and by ‘T. M. Q.’

This volume was followed by ‘Tragical Tales, translated by Turbervile in time of his troubles out of sundry Italians, with the arguments and lenuoye to eche tale. … Imprinted by Abele Jeffs,’ 1587, b. 1. 8vo, dedicated to ‘his louing brother, Nicholas Turbervile, Esq.’ (Bodleian and University Library, Edinburgh, the latter a copy presented by William Drummond of Hawthornden; fifty copies were reprinted at Edinburgh in 1837 in a handsome quarto). Following the ‘Tragical Tales’ (all of which, ten in number, are drawn from Boccaccio, with the exception of Nos. 5 and 8 from Bandello, and two of which the origin is uncertain) come a number of ‘Epitaphs and Sonets’ (cf. Collier, Extracts from Stationers' Registers, 1557–1570, p. 203; and art. Tye, Christopher). The sonnets, as in the previous volume, are not confined to any one metre or length; the epitaphs commemorate, among others, William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, Henry Sydenham, Gyles Bampfield (probably a relative), and ‘Maister [Richard] Edwards, sometime Maister of the Children of the Chappell’ [see Edwards, Richard]. There are several allusions in the body of the work, as well as on the title, to the author's mishaps and troubles of mind, but what these troubles were we are not told. The poet may be the George Turberville who was summoned before the council on 22 June 1587 to answer ‘certaine matters objected against him’ (Privy Council Reg. xv. 135, cf. xiv. 23).

From the fact that the 1611 edition of the ‘Faulconrie’ is labelled ‘Heretofore published by George Turbervile, gentleman,’ it may be presumed that the original compiler and editor was dead prior to that year.

Turbervile has some verses before Sir Geoffrey Fenton's ‘Tragicall Discourses’ (1579) and at the end of Rowlands's ‘Pleasant Historie of Lazarillo de Tormes,’ 1596. Sir John Harington has an epitaph in commendation of ‘George Turbervill, a learned gentleman,’ in his first book of ‘Epigrams’ (1618), which concludes, ‘My pen doth praise thee dead, thine grac'd me living.’ Arthur Broke [q. v.] and George Gascoigne were apparently on intimate terms with Turbervile, who was probably the ‘G. T.’ from whom the manuscript of Gascoigne's ‘A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres’ was obtained; but there seems no very good ground for identifying the Spencer to whom he wrote a metrical epistle from Moscow with Edmund Spenser, the poet. The attempt which has been made to identify Turbervile with ‘Harpalus’ in Spenser's ‘Colin Clout's come Home Again,’ is quite inconclusive.

Besides the works already referred to, Turbervile executed some reputable translations: 1. ‘The Heroycall Epistles of the Learned Poet, Publius Ovidius Naso, in English verse. With Aulus Sabinus Aunsweres to certaine of the same,’ 1567, London, b. 1., 8vo; dedicated to Lord Thomas Howard, viscount Bindon (see Collier, Bibl. Cat. ii. 70). A second edition appeared in 1569, a third in 1570, and a fourth in 1600, all in black letter. Six of the epistles are in blank verse. 2. ‘The Eglogs of the Poet B. Mantuan Carmelitan, Turned into English Verse and set forth with the argument to every Eglog by George Turbervile, Gent. Anno 1567. By Henry Bynneman, at the signe of the Marmayde: dedicated to his uncle “Maister Hugh Bamfild”’ (Corser; the British Museum copy lacks the colophon at the end with Bynneman's device). Another black-letter edition appeared in 1572 (cf. Bibl. Heber. iv. 1486). Another was printed by John Danter in 1594, and again in 1597. These numerous editions point to the high estimation in which ‘the Mantuan’ was held at the time (cf. Holofernes in Love's Labour's Lost, iv. sc. 3). 3. ‘A plaine Path to perfect Vertue: Devised and found out by Mancinus a Latine Poet, and translated into English by G. Turberuile Gentleman ....’ imprinted by Henry Bynneman, 1568; dedicated ‘to the right Honorable and hys singular good lady, Lady Anne Countess Warwick.’ The British Museum copy bears the book-plate of (Sir) Francis Freeling [q. v.] and the manuscript inscription, dated 5 Sept. 1818, ‘I would fain hope that I may consider this as unique.’ About 1574, according to the dedication to the ‘Faulconrie,’ Turbervile commenced a translation of the ‘haughtie worke of learned Lucan,’ but ‘occasions’ broke his purpose, and, in the bantering words of a rival, ‘he was inforced to unyoke his Steeres and to make holy day’ (Second Part of Mirrour for Magistrates, 1578).

At the Bodleian Library are two manuscripts (Rawl. [Poet.] F 1 and F 4), ‘Godfrey of Bulloigne or Hierusalem rescued, written in Italian by Torquato Tasso and translated into English by Sr G. T.,’ and ‘A History of the Holy Warr, or a translation of Torquato Tasso, Englished by Sr G. T.’ In the preface to his translation of 1825 Wiffen (under the guidance of Philip Bliss) ascribed these two slightly variant versions to Turbervile, and pronounced them to occupy ‘a middle station between’ the translations of Fairfax and of Richard Carew—no small measure of praise. But Turbervile's claim to these versions is more than doubtful, as both style and writing are deemed by experts to be post-Restoration, and there seems good reason for attributing both manuscripts to Sir Gilbert Talbot, who signs a translation of Count Guidubaldo de' Bonarelli's pastoral poem, ‘Fillis of Sciros’ (Rawl. MS. Poet. 130), resembling the Tasso poems both in penmanship and in diction (see Madan, Cat. of Western MSS. in Bodleian, Nos. 14494, 14497, and 14623; note kindly communicated by the Rev. W. D. Macray).

Apart from the commendation of the witty Sir John Harington already referred to, Turbervile received the praise of Puttenham in his ‘Art of Poesie,’ and of Meres in his ‘Palladis Tamia’ (1598). Puttenham, however, afterwards speaks of him as a ‘bad rhymer,’ and it is plain from words let fall by Nashe (in lines prefixed to Greene's ‘Menaphon’) and by Gabriel Harvey (in ‘Pierce's Supererogation’ of 1593) that he came to be regarded as the worthy poet of a rude period, but hopelessly superannuated by 1590. Tofte speaks of him very justly in his translation of Varchi's ‘Blazon of Jealousie’ (1615) as having ‘broken the ice for our quainter poets that now write.’ He is rather curtly dismissed by Park and by Drake as a smatterer in poetry, and a ‘translator only of the passion of love.’ He himself writes with becoming diffidence of his poetical pretensions in the epilogue to his ‘Epitaphs and Sonets,’ where he describes himself as paddling along the banks of the stream of Helicon, like a sculler against the tide, for fear of the deep stream and the ‘mighty hulkes’ that adventured out so far. His fondness for the octave stanza would probably recommend him to the majority of modern readers, and there is something decidedly enlivening (if not seldom crude and incongruous) in the blithe and ballad-like lilt of his verse. He did good service to our literature in familiarising the employment of Italian models, he himself showing a wide knowledge of the literature of the Latin speech, and of the Greek Anthology; and also as a pioneer in the use of blank verse and in the record of impressions of travel. A far from accurate reprint of Turbervile's ‘Poems’ (i.e. ‘Epitaphs, Epigrams, Songs, and Sonets’) appeared in Chalmers's ‘English Poets’ (1810, ii. 575 sq.).

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), i. 627; Ritson's Bibliotheca Anglo-Poetica; Collier's Bibliogr. Account, 1865, ii. 450; Hunter's Chorus Vatum (Addit. MS. 24488, ff. 9–12); Brydges's Censura Lit. i. 318, iii. 72, and Restituta, iv. 359; Phillips's Theatrum Poetarum, p. 117; Corser's Collectanea Anglo-Poetica, iii. 327, iv. 331, v. 308; Harvey's Works, ed. Grosart, ii. 96; Ames's Typographical Antiquities, ed. Herbert, ii. 945; Brit. Bibliographer (Brydges), 1810, i. 483; Ellis's Specimens, 1811, ii. 180 sq.; Drake's Shakespeare and his Times, i. 456; Dibdin's Library Companion, 1825, p. 695; Warton's English Poetry, iii. 421, iv. 247; Hazlitt's Handbook; Huth Library Catalogue; Bridgwater Cat. p. 262; Watt's Bibliotheca Britannica; Lowndes's Bibliogr. Manual (Bohn); Chalmers's Biographical Dictionary; Tanner's Bibliotheca, 1748; Anglia, 1891, Band xiii. 42–71; Gent. Mag. 1843, ii. 45–8.]

T. S.