Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Parrot, Henry

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PARROT or PERROT, HENRY (fl. 1600–1626), epigrammatist, author of ‘Springes for Woodcocks,’ published six little volumes of profligate epigrams and satires during the first quarter of the seventeenth century. Some lines in one of his satires have been regarded as an indication that he was at one time a player at the Fortune Theatre. He wrote mainly for the delectation of choice spirits among the templars, and there seems little doubt that he was himself a member of one of the inns of court. The fact that the phrase ‘springes for woodcocks’ occurs twice in Hamlet, combined with the fact that another of Parrot's works is entitled ‘The Mous-trap’ (the name of the play which Hamlet presented to entrap the king), suggests that the epigrammatist sought to make capital out of the current popularity of Shakespeare's play. His verses contain allusions to Tom Coryate, Bankes's horse, and many other topics of contemporary interest. His epigrams (which have not been reprinted) contain probably more spirit than those of such rivals as Heywood, Bastard, and William Goddard, though infinitely less humour than the satirical writings of Dekker or Nicholas Breton.

The following are Parrot's works: 1. ‘The Mous-Trap. Uni, si possim, posse placare sat est. Printed at London for F[rancis] B[urton], dwelling at the Flower de Luce and Crowne in Pauls Churchyard,’ 1606, 4to. A very rare little volume of epigrams, purchased for 9l. at the Nassau sale in 1820 for the British Museum (Catalogue under P., H.; Arber, Transcript of the Stationers' Reg. iii. 144). 2. ‘Epigrams by H. P. Mortui non mordent. Imprinted at London by R. B., and are to be soulde by John Helme at his shop in St. Dunstan's Churchyard,’ 1608, 4to (Bodleian and Brit. Mus.). The Stationers' Company Register gives this book the alternative title of ‘Humors Lottrye.’ 3. ‘Laquei Ridiculosi, or Springes to catch Woodcocks. Caveat Emptor. London, printed for John Busby, and are to be sould at his shop in St. Dunstans Churchyarde in Fleet Street,’ 1613, 8vo (Brit. Mus., Bodleian, Britwell). The volume contains 216 epigrams, mostly licentious. On the title-page a cut represents two woodcocks caught in snares and another flying away with the motto ‘Possis abire tutus.’ The writer says the epigrams were written some two years before, and printed without his privity. The work seems to have been well known; John Taylor, the water-poet, purposes in his ‘epigram’ (No. vii.) to ‘catch a parrot in the woodcocke's springe.’ 4. ‘The Mastive, or Young-Whelpe of the Old-Dogge. Epigrams and Satyrs. Horat. verba decent iratum plena minarum. London, printed by Tho. Creede for Richard Meighen and Thomas Jones, and are to be solde at S. Clements Church, without Temple,’ 1615, 4to (ib. iii. 262, s. a. 1615, July. There are copies in the British Museum, at Britwell, and in the Huth Library; that in the Huth Library is alone quite complete; the others lack the date, which has consequently been wrongly given). There is a large cut of a mastiff upon the title-page, which seems to have been modelled upon that of the ‘Mastif-Whelp’ of William Goddard [q. v.] The epigrams, which are often smart and generally coarse, are surmounted by clever Latin mottoes, and are followed by three satires and a paradox upon war. ‘The faults escaped in the printing or any other omission,’ says a note at the conclusion, ‘are to be excused by reason of the author's absence from the press, who thereto should have given more due instructiōs.’ ‘Certain scurrilities,’ the note admits, ‘should have bene left out.’ Hunter conjectured that this collection might have been the work of Henry Peacham (d. 1640) [q. v.], but the internal evidence is convincingly in favour of Parrot's authorship. 5. ‘Cures for the Itch. Characters, Epigrams, Epitaphs, by H. P. Scalpat qui tangitur. London, printed for Thomas Iones at the signe of the Blacke Raven in the Strand,’ 1626 (Bodleian Libr.) The epitaphs and epigrams, according to the preface, were written in 1624 during the long vacation, and the characters, which ‘were not so fully perfected as was meant, were composed of later times.’

Attributed to Parrot's initials in the ‘Stationers' Register’ is also ‘Gossips Greeting,’ 1620, 4to; a copy, which belonged to Heber, has not been traced to any public collection.

[Addit. MS. 24489, f. 253 (Hunter's Chorus Vatum); Brydges's Censura Literaria, ii. 232, and Restituta, ii. 416; Hazlitt's Handbook, p. 145, and Collections and Notes, 1567–1876, p. 321; Collier's Bibliographical Cat. ii. 112–14; Huth Libr. Cat. iv. 1098; Warton's Hist. of English Poetry, ed. Hazlitt, iv. 416; Beloe's Anecdotes of Literature, vi. 115; Earle's Microcosmographie, ed. Bliss, p. 276; Lowndes's Bibliogr. Manual; Bibl. Heberiana; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. i. 413.]

T. S.