Preston, Thomas

, an English dramatic writer, who flourished in the earlier part of queen Elizabeth’s reign, was first M. A. and fellow of King’s college, Cambridge, and afterwards created a doctor of civil law, and master of Trinity-hall in the same university, over which he presided about fourteen years, and died in 1598. In 1564, when queen Elizabeth was entertained at Cambridge, this gentleman acted so admirably well in the Latin tragedy of | Dido, composed by John Ritvvise, one of the fellows of King’s college, and disputed so agreeably before her majesty, that as a testimonial of her approbation, she be* stowed a pension of twenty pounds per annum upon him; nor was she less pleased with him on hearing his disputations with Mr. Cartwright, and called him “her scholar,” and gave him her band to kiss. The circumstance of the pension Mr. Steevens supposes to have been ridiculed by Shakspeare in the “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” at the conclusion of act the fourth. On the 6th of Sept. 1566, when the Oxonian Muses, in their turn, were honoured with a visit from their royal mistress, Preston, with eight more Cantabrigians, were incorporated masters of arts in the university of Oxford. Mr. Preston wrote one dramatic piece, in the old metre, entitled “A Lamentable Tragedy full of pleasant Mirth, conteyning the Life of Cambises King of Percia, from the beginning of his Kingdome unto his Death, his one good Deed of Execution after the many wicked Deeds and tyrannous Murders committed by and through him, and last of all, his odious Death by God’s Justice appointed, doon on such Order as folio weth.” This performance Langbaine informs us, Shakspeare meant to ridicule, when, in his play of Henry IV. part i. act 2. he makes Falstaff talk of speaking “in king Cambyses’ vein.” In proof of which conjecture, he has given his readers as a quotation from the beginning of the play, a speech of king Cambyses himself. 1

1 Biog. Dram. Harwood’s Alumni Etonenses. Peck’s Desiderata. Coote’s Catalogue of Civilians, p, 59. Fuller’s Hist, of Cambridge.