Stevenson, Matthew (DNB00)

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STEVENSON, MATTHEW (fl. 1654–1685), minor poet, was probably of Yorkshire origin, and a resident for the greater part of his life in Norfolk. He was occasionally seen in London, moving in a circle of minor wits of royalist tendencies, who haunted the law courts in the years following the Restoration. The coterie was dominated by such faint luminaries as Henry Bold, Valentine Oldys, Alexander Brome, and Edward Baynard (all of whom are separately noticed). Stevenson's publications were: 1. ‘Occasion's Offspring. Or Poems upon Severall Occasions. By Mathew Stevenson. London, for Nathaniell Ekins,’ 1654; dedicated ‘To my best friend & courteous cousin Mr. Benjamin Cook’ and adorned by a portrait of the author by R. Gaywood. 2. ‘The Tvvelve Moneths, or a pleasant and profitable discourse of every action, whether of Labour or Recreation, proper to each particular Moneth, branched into directions relating to Husbandry, as Plowing, Sowing, Gardening, Planting, Transplanting, Plashing of Fences, felling of Timber, ordering of Cattle and Bees & of Malt &c. As also of Recreations, as Hunting, Hawking, Fishing, Fowling, Coursing, Cockfighting. To which is likewise added a necessary advise touching Physick, when it may and when not be taken. Lastly every Moneth is shut up with an Epigrame, with the fairs of every month; London for Thomas Jenner, Royal Exchange,’ 1661. A quaint woodcut illustrates the occupations of each month. Donaldson (Agricult. Biogr. p. 29) remarks upon the singularity of the work, which is evidently based less upon research than upon oral tradition and current folklore (Brydges, Censura, iv. 410). 3. ‘Bellum Presbyteriale. Or as much said for the Presbyter as may be. Together with their Covenants Catastrophe. Held forth in an Heroic Poem,’ London, 1661, 4to. The catastrophe refers to the burning of the covenant by the common hangman on 22 May 1661 and the consequent confusion of the ‘Phanaticks,’ at which the author rejoices. 4. ‘Florus Britannicus; or an exact Epitome of the History of England From William the Conquerour to the Twelfth Year of the Reign of his Sacred Majesty Charls the Second now flourishing. Illustrated with their perfect Portraictures in exact Copper Plates very delightfull to the reader: as also, every King and Queens Elegie, with a Panegyrick upon his Maiesties Happy Returne. London for Thos Jenner, Royal Exchange,’ 1662, 4to. The volume, which is very rare in a perfect state, was dedicated to the writer's cousin ‘Mrs. Grace Killingbeck of Baroughby Grange, near Weatherby in Yorkshire,’ and dated ‘from my study in F. Street,’ London, 12 March 1661. The letterpress, amounting to a page and a half for each monarch, was evidently written to accompany the plates, which are by Elstrack. 5. ‘Poems by Matthew Stevenson. London for Lodowick Lloyd,’ 1665. The work, again preceded by Gaywood's portrait, is inscribed to ‘Edward [Somerset] Lord Marquess of Worcester,’ upon whose ‘inimitable Water-Commanding Engine’ there is an elaborate panegyrick, and it is recommended by ‘Val. Oldis, Henry Bold, Edw. Baynard, and E. Bostocke.’ Many of the poems, as the author avows, had seen the light before. 6. ‘Norfolk Drollery. Or, a compleat Collection of the Newest Songs, Jovial Poems, and Catches, &c. By the author, M. Stevenson,’ London, 1673, 12mo. Two dedicatory letters are addressed respectively to ‘Madam Mary Hunt of Sharington Hall’ and ‘My Very noble Friend Thos. Brown of Elsing Hall.’ There are commendatory verses by ‘Arth. Tichborne.’ There are several reissues, with fresh title-pages. In one of 1673 the work is styled simply ‘Poems;’ in another of 1685 it is headed ‘The Wits.’ Many of the verses had already done duty before, and the additions are mostly of a frivolous nature. The author celebrates the East Anglian labourer's practice of demanding ‘largesse’ from fieldfarers; but there is little distinctive of Norfolk about the various collections, which are remarkable chiefly for their quaint originality of manner.

[Hunter's Chorus Vatum, vol. i. in Add. MS. 24487, f. 68; Gent. Mag. 1835, i. 277; Granger's Biogr. Hist. of Engl. iv. 56; Ellis's Specimens, iii. 336; Nichols's Select Poems, ii. 141; Colman's Bibliotheca Norfolciensis, p. 505; Walpole's Cat. of Engravers, s.v. ‘Gaywood’; Hazlitt's Handbook, p. 578; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.