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It has been the misfortune of this poet to realize his own aphorism, that "Shame is the chronical disease of popularity, and that from fame to infamy is a beaten road." The favourite of Lord Essex, and the "sometimes darling" of the "plebeian judgments *," is now known to many only in the ridicule of Pope. But Quarles will live in spite of the Dunciad. His manly vigour, his uncompromising independence, his disinterested patriotism, and his exalted piety, cannot be entirely forgotten. These are flowers which no neglect can wither.
Francis Quarles was born in the spring of 1592, at Stewards t, in Romford Town Ward, in the county of Essex. He was descended from a family of great respectability, and possessing estates in the adjoining parishes of Hornchurch, Dagenham, &c. His father, James Quarles, was Clerk of the Green Cloth and Purveyor of the Navy to Queen Elizabeth. He died, November the 16th, 1642, and his death is registered in the church of Romford. Our poet received his early education at a school in the country, probably in the neighbourhood, and is related to have "surpassed all his equals." He was subsequently entered of Christ's College, Cambridge, and took his bachelor's degree in 1608 J.
From Cambridge he went to Lincoln's Inn, where for some years, as we are informed by his widow, "he studied the laws of England, not so much out of desire to benefit
* Anthony Wood. t A manor purchased by his father in 1588. i Dyer's Supplement to the History of tlie University of Cambridge. himself thereby, as his friends and neighbours, and to compose suits and differences between them;" so early did the love of peace and virtue awake in his bosom. As he grew older, his attachment to the serene pleasures of a quiet life increased. "He was neither so unfit for Court preferment, nor so ill-beloved there," says his widow, "but that he might have raised his fortunes thereby, if he had had any inclination that way: but his mind was chiefly set upon devotion and study, yet not altogether so much but that he faithfully discharged the place of Cup-bearer to the Queen of Bohemia." Of his appointment to this office, I have not met with any contemporary account. Miss Benger, in her amusing Memoirs of Elizabeth, does not even mention his name. Quarles may have been an actor in the splendid pageant prepared by the members of Lincoln's Inn, in honour of the nuptials of the Princess, and which is said by Winwood to have "given great content." The fancy of. the youthful poet could hardly fail of being fascinated by one who was beautiful enough to win the heart, and accomplished and amiable enough to retain it. Her name was dear to all the poets of the age. That lovely Canzo of Sir Henry Wotton, beginning, "You meaner beauties of the night," was composed to grace "this most illustrious Princess;" and Donne, when he visited her in Holland, derived "new life" from the contemplation of the happiness of "his most dear Mistress." How long Quarles continued with the Queen is uncertain *. Mr. Chalmers conjectures that he left her service on the ruin of the Elector's affairs, and went over to Ireland. This seems probable, for we find him in Dublin in the spring of 1621, from which place he dates his Argalus and Parthenia, on
* In Ogborne's History of Essex, part i. p. 160, Quarles is said to have remained in the service of the Queen of Bohemia about four years; but the statement is unsupported.
the 4th of March in that year. His connexion with the learned Usher may have commenced at this period, although we possess no information on the subject.
In his youth, Usher had cultivated the Muse, and we may imagine, from the interesting, though apocryphal, anecdote communicated to Aubrey by Sir John Denham, that he had been acquainted with the author of the Fairy Queen. When Sir William Davenant's Gondibert appeared, Denham asked the Bishop if he had seen it. "Out upon him with his vaunting preface," he replied; "he speaks against my old friend, Edmund Spenser." But Quarks had qualities more calculated than a poetical fancy to attract the great Prelate's regard; unaffected piety, unwearied industry, and much rapidity and excellence in prose composition. When he published the History of Argalus and Parthenia, Usher had only recently returned to Ireland, on his elevation to the see of Meath; and in the preface, the poet speaks of the work as the "fruit, of a few broken hours." It is clear, therefore, that he was employed in severer studies. The poem, he tells us,, was "a scion" lately taken out of Sir Philip Sidney's orchard, and "grafted on a crab-stick of his own." The fruit in Sidney's Arcadia has been oftener praised than tasted, and Quarles's "scion" has shared a similar fate. Yet the Fair Parthenia must have been favourably received, for the poet's son, John, published a continuation of it in 1659*.
But this was not his first production: he had before written the Feast of Worms, or the History of Jonah, which must have been the earliest effort of his pen, for he calls it his "Morning Muse." In this singular poem, his
* There was also a play of the same name. Pepys says in his Diary, January 31, 1660,—" To the theatre, and there sat in the pit among the company of fine ladies, and the house was exceeding full to Bee Argalus and Parthenia, the first time that it hath been acted."
merits and defects are curiously mingled; there is the same strength, frequently degenerating into coarseness, and the same freedom of touch, and breadth of colouring. The sleepy man whose arms
A drowsy knot upon his careless breast;
and the herd of deer, which startled
at the fowler's piece, or yelp of hound,
Stand fearfully at gaze;
are natural and pleasing images.
About the same time he wrote the Quintessence of Meditation, and the History of Queen Esther.
His next work was a paraphrase upon Job, interspersed with original meditations. Of this * composition, Fuller, the church historian, thought very highly. The author in his preface calls it a "work difficult and intricate;" and in the imitative parts, he was less successful than in those more strictly original. Passages in the Meditations read like fragments from an uncorrected copy of Pope's Essay on Man; they have the strength and roughness which we may suppose to have existed in the draught of that poem, before it grew into perfect harmony beneath the lingering hand of the writer :—
0 strange Divinity! but sung by rote;
Street is the tune, but in a wilder note.
The moral says all wisdom that is given
To hoodwink'd mortals first proceeds from heaven:
Truth's error, wisdom but wise insolence,
And light's but darkness, not derived from thence;
Wisdom's a strain transcends morality;
No virtue's absent, wisdom being by.
The master-piece of knowledge is to know
But what is good, from what is good in show;
And there it rests :—Wisdom proceeds and chooses
The seeming ill, the apparent good refuses;
Knowledge designs alone; Wisdom applies;
That makes some fools; this makes none but wise.'