Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Woodhouse, Peter

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WOODHOUSE, PETER (fl. 1605), poet, was the author of ‘The Flea,’ or, adopting the subsidiary title, ‘Democritvs his Dreame, or the Contention betweene the Elephant and the Flea.’ The poem, which appeared in 1605, was printed for John Smethwick, whose shop was ‘in St. Dunstans Churchyard in Fleet Street, vnder the Diall.’ The only copy known to be extant is in possession of Earl Spencer at Althorp; a reprint, limited to fifty copies, was made in 1877, under the editorship of Alexander Balloch Grosart. Woodhouse was by no means destitute of merit as a poet, but ‘The Flea’ is the only memorial of him that exists. Although he disclaims any personal applications in his poem, and declares that his censures are directed at ‘some kinde of faultes and not some faultie men,’ it is possible that the elephant, the flea, and the other actors in the tale typify persons whom it might have been dangerous to satirise more openly. The poem is prefaced by an ‘Epistle to the Reader,’ some verses ‘in laudem authoris’ signed ‘R. P., Gent.,’ and an ‘Epistle Dedicatorie to the Giddie Multitude,’ in which there is a reference to ‘Justice Shallowe’ and ‘his cousen Mr. Weathercocke.’

[Grosart's Reprint of the Flea, 1877; Arber's Transcript of the Stationers' Register; Gray's Index to Hazlitt.]

E. I. C.