Corbet, Richard

, an English prelate, but better known and perhaps more respected as a poet, was the son of Vincent Corbet, and was born at Ewell in Surrey, in 1582. His father, who attained the age of eighty, appears to have been a man of excellent character, and is celebrated in one of his son’s poems with filial ardour. For some reason he assumed the name of Pointer, or, perhaps, relinquished that for Corbet, which seems more probable: his usual residence was at Whitton in the county of | Middlesex, where he was noted for his skill in horticulture, and amassed considerable property in houses and land, which he bequeathed to his son at his death in 1619. Our poet was educated at Westminster school, and in Lenu term, 1597-8, entered in Broadgate hall (afterwards Pembroke college), and the year following was admitted a student of Christ Church, Oxford, where he soon became noted among men of wit and vivacity. In 1605 he took his master’s degree, and entered into holy orders. In 3612 he pronounced a funeral oration in St. Mary’s church, Oxford, on the death of Henry, prince of Wales; and the following year, another on the interment of that eminent benefactor to learning, sir Thomas Bodley. In 1618 he took a journey to France, from which he wrote the epistle to sir Thomas Aylesbury. His “Journey to Fiance,” one of his most humorous poems, is remarkable for giving some traits of the French character that are visible in the present day. King James, who showed no weakness in the choice of his literary favourites, made him one of his chaplains in ordinary, and in 1627 advanced him to the dignity of dean, of Christ Church. At this time he was doctor in divinity, vicar of Cassington near Woodstock, in Oxfordshire, and prebendary of Bedminster Secunda in the church of Sarum.

On the 30th of July, 1629, he was promoted to the see of Oxford, and on the 7th. of April 1632 was translated to that of Norwich. He married, probably, before this time, Alice, the daughter of Dr. Leonard Hutton, vicar of Flower, or Flore, in Northamptonshire, who had been his contemporary at the university, and with whom he appears to have renewed his acquaintance during his Iter Boreale. By this wife he had a son, named after his grandfather, Vincent, to whom he addresses some lines of parental advice and good wishes. Of the rest of his life little can be now recovered. He died July 28, 1635, and was buried at the upper end of the choir of the cathedral church of Norwich. Besides his son Vincent, he had a daughter named Alice. They were both living in 1642, when their grandmother, Anne Hutton, made her will, and the son administered to it in 1648, but no memorial can be found of their future history. It would appear that his wife died before him, as in his will he committed his children to the care of their grandmother.

His most accurate biographer, Mr. Gilchrist, to whom, this sketch is greatly indebted, has collected many | particulars illustrative of his character, which are, upon the whole, favourable. Living in turbulent times, when the church was assailed from every quarter, he conducted himself with great moderation towards the recusants, or puritans; and although he could not disobey, yet contrived to soften by a gracious pleasantry of manner, the harsher orders received from the metropolitan Laud. In his principles he inclined to the Arminianism of Laud, in opposition to the Calvinism of his predecessor, archbishop Abbot; and it is evident from his poems, entertained a hearty contempt for the puritans, who, however, could not reproach him for persecution. As he published no theological works we are unable to judge of his talents in his proper profession, but his munificence in matters which regarded the church has been justly extolled. When St. Paul’s cathedral stood in need of repairs, he not only contributed four hundred pounds from his own purse, but dispersed an epistle to the clergy of his diocese, soliciting their assistance. This epistle, which Mr. Gilchrist has published, is highly characteristic of his propensity to humour, as well as of the quaint and quibbling style of his age.

Wood has insinuated that he was unworthy to be made a bishop, and it must be owned he often betrayed a carelessness and indifference to the dignity of his public character. Of this we have abundant proof, if credit be due to Aubrey’s Mss. in the Ashmolean museum, from which Mr. Headley has made a curious extract.

Fuller says of him that he was “of a courteous courage, and no destructive nature to any who offended him, counting himself plentifully repaired with a jest upon him.

His poems, after passing through three editions, were lately very carefully revised and published by Mr. Gilchrist, with the addition of an excellent life, notes, and illustrations. As a poet, it will npt be found that Corbet stands eminently distinguished. His thoughts, however, are often striking and original, although delivered in the uncouth language of his times, and seldom indebted to correctness of versification. His faults are in general those of the age in which he wrote, and if he fills no conspicuous place in poetical history, it ought not to be forgot that he wrote for the amusement of the moment, and made no pretensions to the veneration of posterity. His principal objects were gaiety and merriment at the expence of the more glaring follies of his day; of his serious efforts it | may be justly said that his feeling was without affectation, and his panegyric without servility. 1


Poems and Life as above. Headlcy’s Beauties. Johnson and Chalmers’s English Poets.