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That far transcends the vulgar; for each line
The whimsical book of that voluminous writer, James Howell, to which these lines are appended, bears the title of “ Dodona's Grove, or the Vocal Forest.” It was popular in its day, and passed through many editions, being a political allegory, in which the great personages of the time are characterised by the several trees of the forest.
BORN ABOUT 1584.-Died ABOUT 1650,
“ Grave Father of this Muse thou deem'st ton light
To wear thy name, 'cuuse of thy youthful brain
Thy witty childhood, not thy graver strain,
Which now esteems these works of fancy vain ;
For thou art Poet born, who know thee, know it,
-If these dull times
The former of the above extracts is taken from a copy of commendatory verses prefixed to the "Purple Island," the principal poem of Phineas Fletcher, and inscribed “ to the learned author, son and brother to two judicious poets, himself the third-not second to either;" the latter from another address “ to the ingenious composer, the Spenser of his age," from his contemporary, the quaint author of the “ Emblems,” the romance of ' Argalus and Parthenia," &c.—and his own brother,
* It is to be regretted that no proofs of the possame down
Giles Fletcher, (of whose taste and judgment we shall hereafter give ample proof,) at the conclusion of his “Christ's Victory and Triumph,” hails him as
“ the KENTISH LAD, that lately taught
The willing spheres from Heav'n, to lead around
To this we may add, that he made Spenser his model,--and, Milton" was his debtor.
The principal poems of Phineas Fletcher were republished in Dr. Anderson's “complete edition of the works of the Poets of Great Britain, 1793;" and from the biographical and" critical preface, the following few particulars of his personal history are chiefly derived; including also a general notice of his family, as explanatory of the compliment paid to him by his partial friend in the first of the foregoing extracts,
He is said to have been born at Brenchley, near Penshurst; and it appears from some passages in his writings, that he' resided there during a part of his earlier life.
His father Giles Fletcher, was also born in this county, bred at Eton, and elected scholar of Benet College, Cambridge, in 1565, where he took the degree of Doctor of Laws, in 1581.' Wood says, “ he was a "learned man, and an excellent poet.* The abilities of Dr. Fletcher recommending him to Queen Elizabeth, he was employed by her as a commissioner
of of to
in Scotland, Germany, and the Low Countries. In 1588, he was sent ambassador to Muscovy, in the Dukedom of Theodore Inanovich, to reconcile the Russians to the English commerce, and published a curious account of “ The Russe Commonwealth, &c.” in 1591, which was suppressed, lest it should give offence; but afterwards reprinted in 1643 ; Camden styles it “Libellum in quo plurima observanda." He was afterwards made Master of the Requests, and Secretary to the City of London.
His uncle was Dr. Richard Fletcher, successively Bishop of Bristol, Worcester, and London, (1593.) At the time of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, in 1586, he was Dean of Peterborough, and attended her to the scaffold, where he displayed more zeal than good sense in pressing that unfortunate Queen to turn Protestant.
His cousin, the son of the Bishop, was John Fletcher, the celebrated dramatic poet, and associate of Francis Beaumont.
His brother was Giles Fletcher, "equally beloved of the Muses and the Graces.”
Phineas was educated at Eton, and in 1600, was elected to King's College, Cambridge, where he took the degree of Batchelor of Arts in 1604, and of Master in 1608. He afterwards entered into Holy Orders, and was beneficed at Hilgay, in Norfolk, on the presentation of Sir Henry Willoughby, bart. in 1621.He held this living nearly thirty years, and it seems probable that be died there.
• He died suddenly in his chair, and as he was fond of tobacoo, then little known, Camden imputes his death to an immoderate use of it.
This is all that we know of Phineas Fletcher'; * a! man," adds Dr. Anderson, “whose fame is not equal to his merit, and whose works deserve to be better khown than they are at present."
To extend that fame, and in some degree to render his merit' more conspicuous, by exhibiting specimens of talent' that might have decorated a múch 'superior station, and to make our Kentish Spenser better known to the lovers of genuine poetry, is the humble aim of this article. If it be found more extended than any other in the volume, we venture to anticipate from our readers a greater portion of praise than of blame, since, in addition to the foregoing motives, which refer to the credit of our author, we profess ourselves to be ace' tuated by the "honest desire of giving useful pleasure : **** We trust too, that we shall not be severely criticised on the comparative merits of our selections, sheftering ourselves under the allowed axiom, that to choose the best among the good is one of the most difficult duties of editorship, where selection only can be admitted.
The following is the most cortecé list" that can be procured of the works of Phineas Fletcher, of the different editions, and the dates of publication:
The Locusts, or Apollyonists, Cambridge, 4to. 1627. Sicelides; a Dramatic Piece: 4to. '1631. Commentary on the First Psalm: London, 4to. 1632.
Joy in Tribulation, or Consolation for Afflicted Spirits : London, 8vo. 1632.
The Purple Island, or Isle of Man;" with Piscatory Eclogues and other poetical miscelanies : Cambridge, 4to. 1633. Reprinted with Giles Fletcher's “ Christs Victory and Triumph” London, 8vo. 1783.
* Dr. Johnson.