Heywood, John

, one of the oldest English dramatic writers, was born at North Mims, near St. Alban’s in Hertfordshire, and received the first rudiments of his education at Oxford; but the sprightliness of his disposition not being well adapted to the sedentary life of an acader mician, he went back to his native place, which being in the neighbourhood of the great sir Thomas More, he presently contracted an intimacy with that Maecenas of wit and genius, who introduced him to the knowledge and patronage of the princess Mary. Heywood’s ready aptness for jest and repartee, together with the possession of great skill both in vocal and instrumental music, rendered him a favourite with Henry VIII. who frequently rewarded him | highly. On the accession of Edward VI. he still continued in favour, though the author of the “Art of English Poetry” says, it was “for the mirth and quickness of conceit, more than any good learning that was in him.” When his old patroness queen Mary came to the throne, he stood in higher estimation than ever, being admitted into the most intimate conversation with her, on account of his happy talent of telling diverting stories, which it is said he did to amuse her painful hours, even when she was languishing on her death-bed. His stories must have been diverting indeed if they soothed the recollections of such a woman.

At the decease of that princess, however, being a bigoted Roman catholic, perceiving that the protestant interest was likely to prevail under the patronage of her successor queen Elizabeth, and perhaps apprehensive that some of the severities, which had been practised on the protestants in the preceding reign, might be retaliated on those of a contrary persuasion in the ensuing one, and especially on the peculiar favourites of queen Mary, he thought it best, for the security of his person, and the preservation of his religion, to quit the kingdom. Thus throwing himself into a voluntary exile, he settled at Mechlin in Brabant, where he died in 1565, leaving several children behind him, to all of whom he had given liberal educations. His character in private life seems to have been that of a sprightly, humourous, and entertaining companion. As a poet, he was held in no inconsiderable esteem by his contemporaries, though none of his writings extended to any great length, but seem, like his conversation, to have been the result of little sudden sallies of mirth and humour. His longest work is entitled “A Parable of the Spider and the Fly,” and forms a pretty thick quarto in old English verse, and printed in the black letter, 1556. Our honest chronicler Holinshed describes this poem in the following words “One also hath made a booke of the Spider and the Flie, wherein he dealeth so profoundlie, and beyond all measure of skill, that neither he himselfe that made it, neither anie one that readeth it, can reach unto the meaning thereof.” Description of England, p. 229. By way of Frontispiece to this book, is a wooden print of the author at full length, and most probably in the habit he usually wore; for he is drest in a fur gown, somewhat resembling that of a master of arts, excepting that the bottom of the sleeves reach no | lower than his knees. He has a round cap on his head, and a dagger hanging to his girdle; and his chin and lips are close shaven. There are seventy-seven chapters in this work, at the beginning of each of which is the portrait of the author, either standing or sitting before a table, with a book on it, and a window near it hung round with cobwebs, flies, and spiders. A perfect copy of this work is now of rare occurrence, and on that account only very dear, for, as Warton justly observes, there never was so dull, so tedious, and trifling an apologue, without fancy, meaning, or moral.

His other works are, a dialogue composed of all the proverbs in the English language; and three quarto pamphlets, containing six hundred epigrams. Of both of these there were numerous editions before the year 1598. None of his dramatic works, which are six in number, have extended beyond the limits of an interlude. The titles of them are as follow: 1. “A Play between Johan the husband, Tyb the wife, and sir Johan the priest,1533, 4to. 2. “A merry Play between the Pardoner and the Friar, the Curate and Neighbour Prat,1533, 4to. 3. “The Play called the Four Pp. A newe and a very merry Interlude of a Palmer, a Pardoner, a Potycary, a Pedlar,N. D. D. C. 4to. 4. “A Play of Genteelness and Nobility,N. D. Int. 4to. 5. “A Play of Love,” Int. 1533, 4to. 6. “A Play of the Weather, called, A new and a very merry Interlude of Weathers,1553, 4to, amply described in Cens. Lit. vol. III. Phillips and Winstanley have attributed two other pieces to him, viz. “The Pindar of Wakefield,” and “Philotas, Scotch.” But Langbaine rejects their authority, with very good reason, as both those pieces are printed anonymous, and both of them not published till upwards of thirty years after this author’s death. A poem of his, however, entitled “A Description of a most noble Lady,” princess Mary, occurs among the Harleian Mss. and some of his “witty sayings,” among the Cotton Mss. in the British Museum. He left two sons, both eminent men the eldest of whom, Ellis Heywood, was born in London, and educated at All Souls’ college in Oxford, of which he was elected fellow in 1547. Afterwards he travelled into France and Italy continued some time at Florence, under the patronage of cardinal Pole and became such an exact master of the Italian tongue, that he wrote a book in that language, entitled “II Moro,” Firenz. 1556, | 8vo. He then went to Antwerp, and thence to Louvain, where he died in the twelfth year after his entrance into

the society of the Jesuits; which was about 1572.—The youngest, Jasper, was born in London about 1535, and educated at Merton college in Oxford of which he was chosen fellow, but obliged to resign, for fear of expulsion, on account of his immoralities, in 1558. He was then elected fellow of All Souls, but left the university, and soon after England. In 1561, he became a popish priest and the year after, being at Rome, was entered among the Jesuits. After he had passed two years in the study of divinity, he was sent to Diling in Switzerland; whence being called away by pope Gregory XIII. in 1581, he was sent into England, where he was appointed provincial of the Jesuits. After many peregrinations, he died at Naples Jan. 9, 1598. Before he left England the first time, he translated three tragedies of Seneca and wrote “Various Poems and Devices” some of which are printed in “The Paradise of Dainty Devices,1573," 4to. 1


Cibber's Lives. Biog. Dram. Philips’s Theatrum. Ellis’s Specimens. —Ath. Ox. vol. I. new edit, Cens. Lit. vol. III. IX. Warton’s Hist. British Bibliographer, vol. III. Dodd’s Ch. Hist. vol. II.