Barclay, Alexander

, was an elegant writer in the | sixteenth century but whether he was English or Scotch by birth is disputed. It seems most probable that he was Scotch, but others have contended that he was born in Somersetshire, where there is both a village called Barcley, and an ancient family of the same name, yet there is no such village, except in Gloucestershire, and Mr. Warton thinks he was either a Gloucestershire or Devonshire man. But of whatever country he was, we know nothing of him, before his coming to Oriel college in Oxford, about 1495, when Thomas Cornish was provost of that house. 'Having distinguished himself there, by the quickness of his parts, and his attachment to learning, he went into Holland, and thence into Germany, Italy, and France, where he applied himself assiduously to the* languages spoken in those countries, and to the study of the best authors in them, and made a wonderful proficiency, as appeared after his return home, by many excellent translations which he published. His patron was now become bishop of Tyne, and suftragan under the bishop of Wells, who first made him his chaplain, and afterwards appointed him one of the priests of St. Mary, at Ottery in Devonshire, a college founded by John Grandison bishop of Exeter. After the death of this patron, he became a monk of the order of St. Benedict, and afterwards, as some say, a Franciscan. He was also a monk of Ely, and upon the dissolution of that monastery in 1539, he was left to be provided for by his patrons, of which his works had gained him many. He seems to have had, first, the vicarage of St. Matthew at Wokey, in Somersetshire, on the death of Thomas Eryngton, and afterwards was removed from that small living to a better, if indeed he received not both at the same time. It is more certain, that in Feb. 1546, being then doctor of divinity, he was presented to the vicarage of Much-Badew, or, as it is commonly called, Baddow-Magna, in the county of Essex and diocese of London, by Mr. John Pascal, on the death of Mr. John Clowes; and the dean and chapter of London, upon the resignation of William Jennings, rector of Allhallows, Lombard-street, on the 30th of April 1552, presented him to that living, which he did not however enjoy above the space of six weeks. He was admired in his lite-time for his wit and eloquence, and for a fluency of style not common in that age. This recommended him to many noble patrons though it does not appear that he was any great gainer by their favour, otherwise than in his reputation. He lived to | a very advanced age, and died at Croydon in Surrey, in month of June, 15-52, and was interred in the church there. Bale has treated his memory with great indignity he says, he remained a scandalous adulterer under colour of leading a single life but Pits assures us, that he employed all his study in favour of religion, and in reading and writing the lives of the saints. There is probably partiality in both these characters but that he was a polite writer, a great refiner of the English tongue, and left behind him many testimonies of his wit and learning, cannot be denied.

Of his works, we have not a complete catalogue, but the following are best known. 1. “The Castell of Labour, wherein is Rychesse, Vertue, and Honour,” an allegorical poem, in seven- line stanzas, translated from the trench, printed by Wynken de Worde, 1506. 2. “The Shyp of Folys,” or the Ship of Fools, printed by Pynson, in 1509, and Cawood in 1570. 3. “A right frutefu 11 treatyse, intituled, the myrrour of good maneYs, conteyning the four vertues, called cardinal!,” printed by Pynson. 4. “Egloges,” or the miseries of courts and courtiers, five in number, printed by Pynson. 5. His “Answer to John Skelton the poet,” probably in poetry, but not printed, or known to exist in manuscript. Bale and Pits also mention what are as little known, the lives of St. George, of St. Catherine, and other saints, all translations, and a translation of Sallust, which was printed in 1557. His Ship of Fools, an excellent satire on the follies of all ranks, is partly a translation, or imitation of a work of the same title, published in 1494, by Sebastian Brandt, afterwards translated into French, and then into Latin. From this original and the two translations Barclay formed his poem, in the octave stanza, with considerable additions gleaned from the follies of his countrymen. Mr. Warton has given an elaborate account of the whole of Barclay’s writings. 1


Biog. Brit. Bale. Pits. Tanner. —Warton’s Hist, of Poetry, vol. II. p. 240-56.- Ritson’s Bibl.Poetica.~—Ath. Ox. vol. I. Dibdin’s Ames, vol. II.