brief lives


THOMAS ALLEN - b. 1542, mathematician. Educated at Trinity College, Oxford. He obtained the patronage of the Earl of Northumberland, but refused the offer of a bishopric from the Earl of Leicester, as he preferred a life of retirement. He was described by Fuller as having succeeded to the skill and scandal of Friar Bacon. Died 1632.

MR ALLEN was a very cheerfull, facetious man, and every body loved his company, and every Howse on their Gaudie-dayes were wont to invite him. The great Dudley, Earle of Leicester, made use of him for casting of Nativities, for he was the best Astrologer of his time. Queen Elizabeth sent for him to have his advice about the new Star that appeared in the Swan or Cassiopeia (but I think the Swan) to which he gave his Judgement very learnedly.

In those darke times, Astrologer, Mathematician, and Conjurer were accounted the same things; and the vulgar did verily beleeve him to be a Conjurer. He had a great many Mathematicall Instruments and Glasses in his Chamber, which did also confirme the ignorant in their opinion, and his servitor (to impose on Freshmen and simple people) would tell them that sometimes he should meet the Spirits comeing up his staires like Bees. Now there is to some men a great Lechery in Lying, and imposing on the understandings of beleeving people, and he thought it for his credit to serve such a Master.

He was generally acquainted, and every long Vacation he rode into the Countrey to visitt his old Acquaintance and Patrones, to whom his great learning, mixt with much sweetnes of humour, rendred him very welcome. One time being at Hom Lacy in Herefordshire, at Mr John Scudamore's (grandfather to the Lord Scudamor) he happened to leave his Watch in the Chamber windowe. (Watches were then rarities.) The maydes came in to make the Bed, and hearing a thing in a case cry Tick, Tick, Tick, presently concluded that that was his Devill, and tooke it by the String with the tonges , and threw it out of the windowe into the Mote (to drowne the Devill). It so happened that the string hung on a sprig of an elder that grew out of the Mote, and this confirmed them that 'twas the Devill.

So the good old Gentleman gott his Watch again.


MRS. ELIZABETH BROUGHTON was daughter of Edward Broughton of Herefordshire, an ancient Family. Her father lived at the Mannour-house at Cannon-Peon. Whether she was borne there or no, I know not; but there she lost her Mayden-head to a poor young fellow, then I beleeve handsome, but, in 1660, a pittifull poor old weaver, Clarke of the Parish. He had fine curled haire, but gray.

Her father at length discovered her inclinations and locked her up in the Turret of the house, but she getts down by a rope; and away she gott to London, and did sett up for her selfe. She was a most exquisite beautie, as finely shaped as Nature could frame; had a delicate Witt. She was soon taken notice of at London, and her price was very deare - a second Thais. Richard, Earle of Dorset, kept her (whether before or after Venetia I know not, but I guess before).

At last she grew common and infamous and gott the Pox, of which she died. I remember thus much of an old Song of those dayes, which I have seen in a Collection: 'twas by way of litanie, viz:

From the Watch at Twelve a Clock,
And from Bess Broughton's buttond smock,
Libera nos Domine.

In Ben Johnson's Execrations against Vulcan, he concludes thus:

Pox take thee, Vulcan. May Pandora's pox
And all the Ills that flew out of her Box
Light on thee. And if those Plagues won't doe,
Thy Wive's Pox take thee, and Bess Broughton's too.

I see that there have been famous Woemen before our times.

I doe remember her father in 1646, neer 80, the handsomest shaped man that ever my eies beheld, a very wise man, and of an admirable Elocution. He was a Committee man in Herefordshire and Glocestershire; he was Commissary to Colonel Massey. He was of the Puritan Party heretofore, had a great guift in Praying, etc. His wife (I have heard my grandmother say, who was her neighbor) had as great parts as he.

He was the first that used the Improvement of Land by Soape-ashes when he lived at Bristowe, where they then threw it away, and the Haven being like to be choaked up with the Soape-ashes (for which severall Complaints and Indictments) considering that grounds were improved by Compost, he made an experiment of improving by Soape-Ashes, having land neer the city; and mightily emproved it. This I had from himself.

THOMAS HARCOURT - b. 1618. Jesuit. His real name was Whitbread, and he was born in Essex. He spent thirty-two years as a missionary in England. Upon Titus Oates's revelation of an alleged Popish Plot, he was tried and executed in June 1679.

PETRIFICATION of a Kidney. - When Father Harcourt suffered at Tyburne, and his bowells, etc, throwne into the fire, a butcher's boy standing by was resolved to have a piece of his Kidney which was broyling in the fire. He burn't his fingers much, but he got it; and one Roydon, a Brewer in Southwark, bought it, a kind of Presbyterian. The wonder is, 'tis now absolutely petrified. But 'twas not so hard when he first had it. It being alwayes carried in the pocket hardened by degrees, better then by the fire - like an Agate polished. I have seen it. He much values it.

MARY HERBERT, COUNTESS OF PEMBROKE - b. 1561. She spent her childhood chiefly at Ludlow Castle, where her father, Sir Henry Sidney, resided as President of Wales, and she was carefully educated, acquiring a knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Her brother Philip was her constant childhood companion. On Queen Elizabeth's suggestion she became a member of the Royal Household in 1575, and accompanied the Queen on her progresses round the country. In 1577 she became the third wife of Henry, Earl of Pembroke, and the Earl of Leicester advanced a part of her dowry, owing to her father's poverty. She suggested the composition of her brother's Arcadia, which she revised and added to. For in 1586 she lost her mother, her father, and her brother and; when she had recovered from these blows, she applied herself to the literary tasks which Sir Philip Sidney had left unfinished or had contemplated, and took under her protection the many men of letters to whom he had acted as patron: Edmund Spenser, Samuel Daniel, Nicholas Breton, Thomas Moflat, Thomas Nashe, Gabriel Harvey, John Donne, and Ben Jonson. Her poetry, according to Sir John Harrington, should "outlast Wilton's Walls". Died 1621.

MARY, Countesse of Pembroke, was sister to Sir Philip Sydney: maried to Henry, the eldest son of William Earle of Pembroke; but this subtile old Earle did see that his faire and witty daughter-in-lawe would horne his sonne, and told him so, and advised him to keepe her in the Countrey and not to let her frequent the Court.

She was a beautifull Ladie and had an excellent witt, and had the best breeding that that age could afford. Shee had a pritty sharpe-ovall face. Her haire was of a reddish yellowe. She was very salacious, and she had a Contrivance that in the Spring of the yeare, when the Stallions were to leape the Mares, they were to be brought before such a part of the house, where she had a vidette (a hole to peepe out at) to looke on them and please herselfe with their Sport; and then she would act the like sport herselfe with her stallions. One of her great Gallants was Crooke-back't Cecill, Earl of Salisbury.

In her time, Wilton House was like a College, there were so many learned and ingeniose persons. She was the greatest Patronesse of witt and learning of any Lady in her time. She was a great Chymist, and spent yearly a great deale in that study. She kept for her Laborator in the house Adrian Gilbert (vulgarly called Dr Gilbert) halfe-brother to Sir Walter Raleigh, who was a great Chymist in those dayes and a Man of excellent naturall Parts; but very Sarcastick, and the greatest Buffoon in the Nation; cared not what he said to man or woman of what quality soever. 'Twas he that made the curious wall about Rowlington-parke, which is the parke that adjoynes the howse at Wilton.

Mr Henry Sanford was the Earle's Secretary, a good scholar and poet, and who did penne part of the Arcadia dedicated to her (as appeares by the preface). He haz a preface before it with the two letters of his name. She also gave an honourable yearly Pension to Dr Mouffet, who hath writt a Booke De Insectis. Also one Boston, a good Chymist, a Salisbury man borne, who did undoe himselfe by studying the Philosophers-stone, and she would have kept him, but he would have all the golde to himselfe, and so dyed, I thinke, in a Gaole. And I cannot imagine that Mr Edmund Spencer could be a stranger here.

At Wilton is a good Library, which was collected in this learned Ladie's time. There is a Manuscript very elegantly written, viz. all the Psalmes of David translated by Sir Philip Sydney, curiously bound in crimson velvet. There is a Ms writt by Dame Marian Of Hunting and Hawking, in English verse, written in King Henry 8th's time. There is the Legier book of Wilton, one page Saxon and the other Latin, which Mr Dugdale perused. There was a Latin Poeme, a Manuscript, writt in Julius Caesar's time; wherein amongst the Dogges, was mention of Tumblers, and that they were found no where, but in Britaine.

This curious seate of Wilton and the adjacent countrey is an Arcadian place and a Paradise. Sir Philip Sydney was much here, and there was so great love between him and his faire sister that I have heard old Gentlemen say that they lay together, and it was thought the first Philip Earle of Pembroke was begot by him, but he inherited not the witt of either brother or sister.

This Countesse, after her Lord's death, maried to Sir Matthew Lister, Knight, one of the colledge of Physitians, London. Jack Markham saies they were not maried. He was, they say, a learned and handsome Gentleman. She built then a curious house in Bedfordshire called Houghton Lodge, neer Ampthill. The architects were sent for from Italie. It is built according to the Description of Basilius's hoase in the firste booke of Arcadia. It is most pleasantly situated, and has fower Visto's; each prospect 25 or 30 miles. This was sold to the Earle of Elgin. The house did cost 10,000 pounds the building.

An epitaph on the Lady Mary, Countesse of Pembroke (in print somewhere) by William Browne, who wrote the Pastoralls:

Underneath this sable Herse
Lies the Subject of all Verse:
Sydney's Sister, Pembroke's Mother -
Death! ere thou Kill'st such another
Fair, and good, and learnd as SHEE,
Time will throw his Dart at thee.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE - b. 1564. Actor, poet, theatre manager, and playwright. Died 1616.

MR WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was borne at Stratford upon Avon in the County of Warwick. His father was a Butcher, and I have been told heretofore by some of the neighbours, that when he was a boy he exercised his father's Trade, but when he kill'd a Calfe he would doe it in a high style, and make a Speech. There was at this time another Butcher's son in this Towne that was held not at all inferior to him for a naturall witt, his acquaintance and coetanean, but dyed young.

This William, being inclined naturally to Poetry and acting, came to London, I guesse about 18: and was an Actor at one of the Play-houses, and did acte exceedingly well: now B. Johnson was never a good Actor, but an excellent Instructor.

He began early to make essayes at Dramatique Poetry, which at that time was very lowe; and his Playes tooke well. He was a handsome, well-shap't man: very good company, and of a very readie and pleasant smoothe Witt. The Humour of the Constable in Midsomernight's Dreame, he happened to take at Grendon, in Bucks (I thinke it was Midsomer night that he happened to lye there) which is the roade from London to Stratford; and there was living that Constable about 1642, when I first came to Oxon. Ben Johnson and he did gather Humours of men dayly where ever they came.

One time as he was at the Tavern at Stratford super Avon, one Combes, an old rich Usurer, was to be buryed. He makes there this extemporary Epitaph: Ten in the Hundred the Devill allowes But Combes will have twelve he sweares and vowes: If anyone askes who lies in this Tombe, Hoh! quoth the Devill, 'Tis my John o' Combe.

He was wont to goe to his native Countrey once a yeare. I thinke I have been told that he left 2 or 300 pounds per annum there and thereabout to a sister.

I have heard Sir William Davenant and Mr Thomas Shadwell (who is counted the best Comoedian we have now) say that he had a most prodigious Witt, and did admire his naturall parts beyond all other Dramaticall writers.

His Comoedies will remaine witt as long as the English tongue is understood, for that he handles mores hominum [the ways of mankind]. Now our present writers reflect so much on particular persons and coxcombeities that twenty yeares hence they will not be understood. Though, as Ben Johnson sayes of him, that he had little Latine and lesse Greek, he understood Latine pretty well: for he had been in his younger yeares a schoolmaster in the countrey.

He was wont to say that he never blotted out a line in his life. Sayd Ben Johnson, I wish he had blotted-out a thousand.



| | | | | ©2009 Mark Ynys-Mon