Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Edwards, Richard
EDWARDS, RICHARD (1523?–1566), poet and playwright, a native of Somersetshire, born about 1523, was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He took his bachelor's degree in 1544, and in the same year was elected to a fellowship at Corpus. In 1547 he was nominated student of Christ Church and created M.A. At Oxford he studied music under George Etheridge. On leaving the university he entered himself at Lincoln's Inn, but does not appear to have followed the profession of the law. He became a gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and in 1561 was appointed master of the children of the chapel. In January 1564-5 a tragedy by Edwards was performed by the children of the chapel before the queen at Richmond (Collier, History of English Dramatic Poetry, 1879, i. 183). He attended the queen on her visit to Oxford in 1566, and composed for her entertainment the play of 'Palamon and Arcite,' which was acted in Christ Church Hall. The play (which has not come down) gave great satisfaction; the queen 'laughed heartily thereat, and gave the author... great thanks for his pains' (Wood). Edwards died 31 Oct. 1566 (Hawkins, Hist. of Music, 1853, p. 521).
Only one play of Edwards is extant, 'The excellent Comedie of two the moste faithfullest Freendes, Damon and Pithias,' &c., 1571, 4to; 2nd edition, 1582. This play, which has merely an antiquarian interest, is reprinted in the various editions of Dodsley's 'Old Plays.' Many of Edwards's poems were published in 'The Paradyse of Daynty Devises,' which first appeared in 1576 and passed through eight editions in twenty-four years. It is stated on the title-page of the anthology that the 'sundry pithie and learned inventions' were 'devised and written for the most part by M. Edwards, sometime of her majesties chapel.' Some of Edwards's poems are not without grace and tenderness. By his contemporaries he was greatly admired, and Thomas Twine proclaimed him to be
The flower of our realm
And Phœnix of our age.
Barnabe Googe eulogises him in 'Eglogs, Epitaphes, and Sonettes,' 1563; Turberville has an 'epitaph' on him in 'Epitaphs, Epigrams. Songs, and Sonnets,' 1567 (where the 'epitaph' by Twine also occurs); Webbe, in his 'Discourse of English Poetry,' 1586, Puttenham in his 'Art of English Poesie,' 1589, and Meres in 'Palladis Tamia,' 1598, have commendatory notices of him. A part of his song 'In Commendation of Musick' ('Where gripyng grief the hart would wound,' &c.) is given in 'Romeo and Juliet,' act iv. sc. 5. Four of his poems are preserved in Cotton MS. Tit. A. xxiv. The 'Mr. Edwardes' who wrote 'An Epytaphe of the Lord of Pembroke' (licensed in 1569) is not to be identified with the author of 'Damon and Pithias.' Warton mentions that a collection of short comic stories, printed in 1570, b.l., 'Sett forth by Maister Richard Edwardes, mayster of her maiesties revels' (Edwards was not master of the revels), was among the books of 'the late Mr. William Collins of Chichester, now dispersed.'
[Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, i. 353; Reg. Univ. Oxford, i. 208; Hawkins's Hist. of Music, 1853, pp. 362, 521, 924–7; Collier's Hist. of Engl. Dram. Poetry, 1879, i. 183–4, ii. 389–93; Warton's Hist. of Engl. Poetry, ed. Hazlitt, iv. 213–220; Dodsley's Old Plays, ed. Hazlitt, vol. iv.; Collier's Bibliogr. Cat.; Ritson's Bibl. Poet.; Corser's Collectanea.]