Constable, Henry

, an English poet of the 16th century, is said to have been born, or at least descended from a family of that name, in Yorkshire, and was for some time educated at Oxford, but took his bachelor’s degree at St. John’s college, Cambridge, in 1579. Edmund Bolton, in his “Hypercritica,” says, “Noble Henry Constable was a great master of the English tongue; nor had any gentleman of our nation a more pure, quick, or higher delivery of conceit: witness, among all other, that sonnet of his before his Majesty’s Lepanto.” He was the author of “Diana, or the excellent conceitful sonnets of H. C. augmented with divers quatorzains of honorable and learned personages, divided into eight decads,1594, 8vo. Of these sonnets Mr. Ellis has given three specimens, but which he thinks can hardly entitle him to be denominated “the first sonneteer of his time.” The most striking of his productions is that entitled “The Shepheard’s song of Venus and Adonis,” which is elegantly and harmoniously expressed. Mr. Malone, who reprinted it in the notes to the 10th volume of his Shakspeare, p. 74, thinks it preceded Shakspeare’s poem on the same subject, which it far excels, | at least in taste and natural touches. Of his life, no memorials have been discovered. Dr. Birch, in his Memoirs of queen Elizabeth, thought him to be the same Henry Constable, who was a zealous Roman Catholic, and whose religion seems to have obliged him to live in a state of banishment from England. Sir E. Brydges is inclined to the same opinion. Constable afterwards came privately to London, but was soon discovered, and imprisoned in the Tower of London, whence he was released in the latter end of the year 1604. There was another of the name in the early part of the 16th century, a John Constable, the son of Roger Constable, who was born in London, and educated under the celebrated William Lilye. From thence he was sent to Byham Hall, opposite Merlon college, Oxford, where, in 1515, he took the degree of M.A. and was accounted at that time an excellent poet and rhetorician. He obtained some preferment, but of that, or of his subsequent history, we have no account. He published, in Latin, “Querela veritatis,”and “Epigrammata,1520, 4to. Like Henry Constable, he was of the Roman Catholic persuasion. 1


Warton’s Hist, of Poetry, vol. III. 277, 280, 281, 286,292, 386. Philips’s Theatrum, by Sir E. Brydges, p. 228. EHis’s Specimens. Cens. Lit. I. 235. Bibliographer, vol. III. Helicon, p. xv. —Ath, Ox, vol. I. Lodge’s Illustrations, vol. III Dodd’s Ch. Hist. Tanner.