« PreviousContinue »
There is something so interesting in the particulars Wood has left us of the life of the author of the following poems, that I shall do little more than abstract his account. Richard Lovelace, the eldest son of Sir William Lovelace of Woolwich, in Kent, was born in 1618; and entered on his studies at the Charter-house, from whence he went to Oxford and became a gentleman commoner of Gloucester-hall in 1634, being then 16 years old. He was accounted the most amiable and beautiful person that ever eye beheld, of innate modesty, virtue, and courtly deportment, which made him then, but especially after when he retired to the great city, much admired and adored by the female sex. In 1636, on the king and queen's visit to Oxford, he was “at the request of a great lady belonging to the queen" created Master of Arts, although but of two years standing; his conversation and conduct on this occasion displayed his ingenuity and generous soul, and he became as much the idol of the male as he was before of the female sex.
On leaving the university he attended the court in great splendour, and being patronized by Lord Goring (afterward Earl of Norwich), was by him sent with the Scotch expedition, in 1639, serving as an ensign; in the second expedition he obtained a captain's commission: and it was about this time he wrote a tragedy called the Soldier, which has never been printed; and, the stage being soon after suppressed, was never acted.
After the pacification at Berwick he retired to Lovelace-place, in the parish of Bethersden, at Canterbury: his estate there and at Chart Halden, &c. is said by Wood to have been worth at least £500. per annum, a handsome gentlemanly provision at that time. Such was the public estimation in which he was held, that he was made choice of by the county to deliver the Kentish petition for the restoration of the king, &c. to the House of Commons. He was for this obnoxious measure committed to the prison of the Gatehouse at Westminster; it was here that he wrote that most exquisite little song to Althea, from prison, beginning, “When love with unconfined wings," which alone would have entitled him to an honourable niche in the temple of poetic fame.
After an imprisonment of three or four months he was released upon the enormous bail of