Alabaster, William

, an English divine, was born in Suffolk, and educated in Trinity college, Cambridge, where he took the degree of M. A. and was afterwards incorporated of the university of Oxford, June 7, 1592. Wood says, he was the rarest poet and Grecian that any one age or nation produced. He attended the unfortunate earl of Essex in his voyage to Cadiz, as his chaplain; and entertaining some doubts on religion, he was prevailed upon to declare himself a Roman Catholic, and published “Seven Motives for his Conversion,” but he soon discovered many more for returning to the church of England. He applied himself much to caballistic learning, the students of which consider principally the combination of particular words, letters, and numbers, and by this, they pretend to see clearly into the sense of scripture. In their opinion there is not a word, letter, number, or accent, in the law, without some mystery in it, and they even venture to look into futurity by this study. Alabaster made great proficiency in it, and obtained considerable promotion in the church. He was made prebendary of St. Paul', doctor of divinity, and rector of Thai-field in Hertfordshire. The text of the sermon which he preached for his doctor’s degree, was the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of Chronicles, namely “Adam, Seth, Enoch,” which he explained in the mystical sense, Adam signtfying misery, &c. He died April 1640. His principal work was “Lexicon Pentaglotton, Hebraicum, Chaldaicum, Syriacum, &c.” Lond. 1637, fol. He published also, in 1621, “Commentarius de bestia Apocalyptica,” and other works of that stamp. As a poet he has been more highly applauded. He wrote the Latin tragedy of “Roxana,” which bears date 1632, and was acted, according to the custom of the times, in Trinity college hall, Cambridge. “If,” says Dr. Johnson, in his life of Milton, “we produced any thing worthy of notice before the elegies of Milton, it was perhaps Alabaster’s Roxana.” He also began to describe, in a Latin poem entitled “Elisceis,” the chief transactions Of queen | Elizabeth’s reign, but left it unfinished at the time of his death. The manuscript was for some time in the possession of Theodore Haak, and some manuscript verses of his are in the library of Gonvil and Caius college, Cambridge, and the Elisceis is in that of Emmanuel. 1


Gen. Dict.—Wood’s Athenæ.—Fuller’s Worthies.—Todd’s edition of Spenser, Vol. I. p. 100, VIII. p. 94.