Fenton, Sir Geoffrey

, an eminent writer and statesman during the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. was brother to the preceding, but the time of his birth does not appear. He was certainly educated liberally, though we cannot tell where; since, while a young man, he gave many proofs of his acquaintance with ancient and modern learning, and of his being perfectly versed in the French, Spanish, and Italian languages. He is well known for a translation from the Italian of “The History of the Wars of Italy, by Guicciardini,” the dedication of which to queen Elizabeth bears date Jan. 7, 1579. This was, however, his last work. He had published before, 1. “Certaine Tragical Discourses written oute of French and Latin,1567, 4to, reprinted 1579. Neither Ames nor Tanner appear to have seen the first edition. The work is, says Warton, in point of selection and size, perhaps the most capital miscellany of the kind, a. e. of tragical novels. Among the recommendatory poems prefixed is one from Turberville. Most of the stories are on Italian subjects, and many from Bandello. 2. “An Account of a Dispute at Paris, between two Doctors of the Sorbonne, and two Ministers of God’s Word,1571, a translation. 3. “An Epistle, or Godly Admonition, sent to the Pastors of the Flemish Church in Antwerp, exhorting them to concord with other Ministers: written by Antony de Carro, 1578,” a translation. 4. “Golden Epistles; containing variety of discourses, both moral, philosophical, and divine, gathered as well out of the remainder of Guevara’s works, as other authors, Latin, French, and Italian. Newly corrected and amended. Mon heur viendra, 1577.” The familiar epistles of Guevara had been published in English, by one Edward Hellowes, in 1574; but this collection of Fenton’s consists of such pieces as were not contained in that work. The epistle dedicatory is to the right honourable and vertuous lady Anne, countess of Oxen ford; and is dated from the author’s chamber in the Blackfriars, London, Feb. 4, 1575. This lady was the daughter of William Cecil lord Burleigh; and it appears from the | dedication, that her noble father was our author’s best patron. Perhaps his chief purpose in translating and publishing this work, was to testify his warm zeal and absolute attachment to that great minister.

"What the inducements were, which engaged him to leave his own country, in order to serve the queen in Irelaud, cannot easily be discovered; it is, however, certain that he went thither well recommended, and that being in particular favour with Arthur lord Grey, then lord deputy in that kingdom, he was sworn of the privy-council about 1581. It is more than probable that his interest might be considerably strengthened by his marriage with Alice, the daughter of Dr. Robert Weston, some time lord chancellor of Ireland, and dean of the arches in England, a man of great parts, and who had no small credit with the earl of Leicester, and other statesmen in the court of Elizabeth; and when he was once fixed in the office of secretary, his own great abilities and superior understanding made him so useful to succeeding governors, that none of the changes to which that government was too much subject in those days, wrought any alteration in his fortune. One thing, indeed, might greatly contribute to this, which was the stron<r interest he found means to raise, and never was at a loss to maintain, in England; so that whoever was lord lieutenant in Ireland, sir Geoffrey Fenton continued the queen’s counsellor there, as a man upon whom she depended, from whom she took her notions of state affairs in that island, and whose credit with her was not to be shaken by the artifices of any faction whatever. He took every opportunity of persuading the queen that the Irish were to be governed only by the rules of strict justice, and that the safety and glory of her government in that island depended on her subjects enjoying equal laws and protection of their property. The queen frequently sent for her secretary Fenton, to consult with him on her Irish affairs, which shews the high opinion she entertained of his understanding, though it often happened that when he was returned to his duty, the advisers of Elizabeth persuaded her to adopt measures the reverse of what Fenton had recommended. He was the means of extinguishing more than one rebellion, and of totally reducing the kingdom to submit to English government.

In 1603, sir Geoffrey married his only daughter Katherine to Mr. Boyle, afterwards the great earl of Corke; and | died at his house in Dublin, Oct. 19, 1608. He was interred with much funeral solemnity at the cathedral church of St. Patrick, in the same tomb with his wife’s father, the lord chancellor Weston; leaving behind him the character of a polite writer, an accomplished courtier, an able statesman, and a true friend to the English nation, and protestant interest in Ireland. His translation of Guicciardini, and his Guevara’s Epistles, have lately risen in price, since the language of the Elizabethan period has been more studied; and the style of Fenton, like that of most of his contemporaries, is far superior to that of the authors of the succeeding reign, if we except Raleigh and Knowlles. 1


Biog. Brit. Lloyd’s Worthies. Fuller’s Worthies. Warton’s Hist, of Poetry, vol. 111. p. 479-481.