Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Sir John Denham
"O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my theme!
Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;
Strong without rage, without o erflowing full."
Brought into royal notice by his poems, Denham was appointed high sheriff for Surrey and governor of Farnham Castle; but he showed no military talent, and soon followed the king to Oxford. During the civil war he served the queen mother, and was intrusted with the letters in cipher that Cowley wrote to the king, which he managed to deliver into Charles's hands. Being detected, however, he was obliged to escape into France. In April 1648 he is said to have conveyed the young duke of York from St James's to Paris; it is certain that, later in that year, he was sent in company with Lord Crofts, as ambassador to Poland, to obtain money for the king, and he succeeded in bringing back £10,000. In 1652 he returned, a ruined man, to England, and resided as the guest of the earl of Pembroke at Wilton for a year. He now disappears until the Restoration. When Charles II. returned, Denham was made surveyor-general and Knight of the Bath, and seems to have been well provided for; but his subsequent life was far from happy, for his second wife, a young woman of great beauty, was seduced by the duke of York, and became his mistress. This catastrophe, which is abundantly noticed in the current literature of that day, shattered the old poet's reason; and he recovered from his insanity only to die, at his house near Whitehall, on the 10th of March 1668. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. In the same year, 1668, his works were collected in a single volume, entitled Poems and Translations. This included, besides Cooper's Hill and The Sophy, a fragment of an epic on the destruction of Troy, some beautiful lines on the death of Cowley, written a few months before his own decease, a didactic poem on the progress of learning, and some translations. Notwithstanding the fame of Cooper's Hill, which Pope imitated in his Windsor Forest, Denham's poems have not been edited in modern times. He was one of the very first to note the tendency towards rhetorical and gallicized forms in public taste, and to gratify the new fashion. But to speak of him, as was once customary, as a great reformer of metre and fashioner of language, is to fail to realize the limitations of his talent.