Stephens, John (DNB00)

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STEPHENS, JOHN (fl. 1615), satirist, son and heir of John Stephens of Gloucester, came of a numerous Gloucester family, which took an active part in municipal politics during the seventeenth century, James Stephens being its mayor in 1650–1, and member of parliament 1659–60 (Fosbrooke, Gloucester, pp. 200, 205, 209; Washbourne, Bibliotheca Gloucestrensis, passim). He must be distinguished from John Stephens (d. 1613), who was attorney-general to Henry, prince of Wales, an ancestor of the Stephens of Over Lypiat, Gloucestershire (Visit. Gloucestershire; Atkyns, Gloucestershire; Burke, Landed Gentry), and also from John Stephens of Minsterley, Herefordshire (Visit. Herefordshire, 1623). On 11 Nov. 1611 he was admitted member of Lincoln's Inn, where he practised common law; but he held no office there (Dugdale, Origines Jurid. and Chronica Ser.), and attained to no eminence in his profession (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom.). His sole claim to remembrance is his authorship of ‘Satyrical Essayes, Characters, and Others, or accurate and quick descriptions fitted to the life of their subjects,’ London 1615, 8vo. A second edition, entitled ‘Essayes and Characters … with a new Satyre in defence of Common Law and Lawyers,’ appeared in the same year, and in 1631 appeared a third, which is a reprint of the second edition with the exception of the title ‘New Essayes and Characters’ (Brydges, Restituta, iv. 503 et seq.). Some of these were reprinted by Halliwell-Phillipps in his ‘Books of Characters,’ 1857, 4to, and the ‘Essay on a Worthy Poet’ has been considered, on no very conclusive grounds, to be a sketch of Shakespeare (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. iii. 550). Stephens was also author of ‘Cynthia's Revenge, or Menander's Extasy,’ London, 1613, which was not entered in the ‘Stationers' Register,’ but was published surreptitiously, with commendatory verses by Jonson. It is a long and tedious play, founded on Lucan's ‘Pharsalia’ and Ovid's ‘Metamorphoses’ (Fleay, Biogr. Hist. ii. 252–3). Stephens has three copies of commendatory verses in ‘Certaine Elegies,’ 1617, by Henry Fitzgeffrey [q. v.], also a member of Lincoln's Inn.

[Authorities cited; Works in Brit. Mus. Libr.; Lincoln's Inn Reg.; Baker's Biogr. Dram.; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. ed. Bohn.]

A. F. P.