Churchyard, Thomas

, a voluminous poet of the sixteenth century, w,as born in Shrewsbury about the year 1520. Wood, who has given a long account of him, says he was of a genteel family, and well educated; and that at the age of seventeen, his father gave him a sum of money, and sent him to court, where he lived in gaiety while his finances lasted. He does not seem, however, to have gained any thing by his attendance at court, except his introduction to the celebrated earl of Surrey, with whom he lived some time as domestic, and by whose encouragement he produced some of his poems. He certainly had no public employment either now or in queen Elizabeth’s | reign, although some have denominated him poet laureat, merely, as Mr. Malone thinks, “because he had addressed many of the noblemen of Elizabeth’s court for near forty years, and is called by one of his contemporaries, the old court poet.” He appears, however, to have continued with the earl of Surrey, until this virtuous and amiable nobleman was sacrificed to the tyrannical caprice of Henry VIII. Churchyard now became a soldier, and made several campaigns on the continent, in Ireland, and in Scotland. Tanner is inclined to think that he served the emperor in Flanders against the French in the reign of Henry VIII.; but the differences of dates between his biographers are not now so reconcileable as to enable us to decide upon this part of his history. Wood next informs us that he spent some time at Oxford, and was afterwards patronized by the earl of Leicester. He then became enamoured of a rich widow; but his passion not meeting with success, he once more returned to the profession of arms, engaged in foreign service, in which he suffered great hardships, and met with many adventures of the romantic kind; and in the course of them appears to have been always a favourite among the ladies. At one time, in Flanders, he was taken prisoner, but escaped by the “endeavours of a lady of considerable quality;” and at another time, when condemned to death as a spy, he was reprieved and sent away by the “endeavours of a noble dame.” On his return he published a great variety of poems on all subjects; but there is reason to think that by these he gained more applause than profit, as it is very certain that he lived and died poor. The time of his death, until lately was not ascertained; Winstanley and Cibber place that event in 1570, Fuller in 1602, and Oldys in 1604, which last is correct. Mr. George Chalmers, in. his “Apology for the believers in the Shakspeare Mss.” gives us an extract from the parish register, proving that he was buried April 4, of that year, in St. Margaret’s church, Westminster, near the grave of Skelton. Mr. D’Israeli, who has introduced him in his “Calamities of Authors,” very aptly characterises him as “one of those unfortunate men, who have written poetry all their days, and lived a long life, to complete the misfortune.” His works are minutely enumerated by Ritson in his “Bibliographia Poetica,” and some well- selected specimens have lately appeared in the Censura Literaria. The best of his poems, in point of genius, is his “Legende of Jane Shore,| and the most popular, his “Worthiness of Wales,1580, 8vo, of which an edition was published in 1776. It may be added, as it has escaped his biographers, that he is mentioned by Strype, in his life of Grind*!, as “an excellent soldier, and a man of honest principles,” who in 1569 gave the secretary of state notice of an intended rising at Bath (where Churchyard then was) among the Roman catholics. 1


Wood’s —Ath. Ox. vol. I. Tanner. Fuller’s Worthies. Winstanley’s Poets, Warton’s Hist, of Poetry, vol. III. p. 11, 214, 215, 260, 280, 381, 291, 421. Philips’s theatrum, by sir E. Brydges, p. 71. Censura Literaria, vol. II. Hi, and IV. Cooper’s Muses’ Librury, p. 117. —Strype’s Grindal, 117.