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MEMOIR OF CHARLES COTTON.
"All he desires, all that he would demand,
The family of Cotton, of which the subject of this memoir was a younger branch, is both ancient and honourable ; and his immediate ancestor, Sir Richard Cotton, Comptroller of the Household and Privy Councillor to Edward the Sixth, was settled at Warblenton, in the county of Sussex, and at Bedhampton, in Hampshire.3 His grandfather, Sir George Cotton, who died in 1613, left issue by Cassandra Mac William,4 his wife, two children, Charles and Cassandra. The latter died unmarried before the year 1649, and an elegy was written on her decease by the friend of her father and brother, Colonel Richard Lovelace.5
Charles Cotton, the father of the poet, and the only son of Sir George Cotton, is said to have lived at Ovingdean in Sussex; but having married Olive, the daughter of Sir John Stanhope, of
'Sir George Cotton (the poet's grandfather) who died in 1613, is described in the Heralds' Visitation of Staffordshire in 1664, as "a younger son of Cotton, of Warblenton, in the county of Sussex, and of Bedhampton, in the county of Hants ;" but though coir siderable trouble has been taken to ascertain the connection, it has not been successful. Sir George Cotton of Warblenton was living in 1595, and by Mary, daughter of John Shelley, of Michelgrove, in Sussex, had several children, but none ol the name of Charles or George are mentioned in the pedigrees of the family; and it is doubtful whether Sir George Cotton (the grandfather of the poet) was a younger son of Sir George Cotton by Mary Shelley, or whether he was that identical Person* who may have married Cassandra Mac William to his second wife, and by her have been the father of a son named Charles, who was possibly so called after Charles Earl of Kent, the husband of Susan Cotton, sister of the said Sir George Cotton of Warblenton.
4 It is most probable that Cassandra Mac William was the daughter of Henry Mac William, by Margaret or Maria, daughter and coheir of Richard Hill, Sergeant of the Wine-cellar to Henry VIII., and widow of Sir John Cheelce, Secretary of State and Preceptor to Edward VI. The said Maria Hill was one of the maids-of-honour to Queen Elizabeth. Vide Harleian MS. Box, f. 49, and Anthony Wood's MSS. 8469, f. ioa"» Cassandra Mac William is said, in the Visitation of Staffordshire in 1664. to have been the "daughter and heiress of Mac William," but the pedigree in the Harleian MS. 891, states that Henry Mac William had by Margaret (or Maria) Hill two sons, Henry and Ambrose, ana three daughters, Susan, the wife of Edward Saunders, Cicely, and Cassandra.
4 Lucastn, 8vo, 1649, p. 112 *'An E'egie on the death of Mrs Cassr.nlra Cotton, only sister to Mr C- Cotton.*'
Elvaston in Derbyshire, by his first wife Olive, daughter and heiress of Edward Beresford, of Bercsford in Staffordshire, and of Bentley in the county of Derby, he succeeded to those estates in her right, and settled at Beresford. Mr Cotton was distinguished for his talents and accomplishments, and was the friend and companion of many of the most eminent of his contemporaries, including Ben Jonson, Sir Henry Wotton, Dr Donne, Selden, Fletcher,6 Herrick,7 Carew, Lovelace, Davenant, and May, the Lord Chief Justice Vaughan, and the great Lord Clarendon. Some of those writers celebrated his merits in their verses; and Lord Clarendon has particularly mentioned him in his well-known autobiography.8
Mr Cotton's marriage connected him with the families of Stanhope, Cokayne, Aston, Port, and others of the highest rank in the counties of Derby and Stafford. Mrs Cotton died at Beresford between 1650 and 1658, in the thirty-eighth year of her age; and her cousin, Sir Aston Cokayne, wrote some verses to her memory.9
fl Vide Cokayne's Poems, p. 91, and the Apology to the Reader.
7 Herrick inscribed one of his poems to the elder Cotton, 8vo, 1648, p. 352.
8 *'Charles Cotton was a gentleman born to a competent fortune ; and so qualified in his person and education, that for many years he continued the greatest ornament of the town, in the esteem of those who had been btst bred. His natural parts were very great, his wit flowing in all the parts of Conversation; the superstructure of learning not raised to a considerable height: but having passed some years in Cambridge, and then in France, and conversing always with learned men, his expressions were ever proper and significant, and gave great lu>tre to his discourse upon any argument ; so that he was thought by those who were not intimate with him, to have been much better acquainted with books than he was. He had all those qualities which in youth raise men to the reputation of being fine gentlemen; such a pleasantness and gaiety of humour, such a sweetness and gentleness of nature, and such a civility and delight fulness in conversation, that no man, in the court or out of it, appeared a more accomplished person: all these extraordinary qualifications being supported by as extraordinary a clearness of courage and fearlessness of spirit, of which he gave too often manifestation. Some unhappy suits in law, and waste of his fortune in those suits, made some impression on his mind; which, being improved by domestic afflictions, and those indulgences to himself which naturally attend those afflictions, rendered his age less reverenced than his youth had been, and gave his best friends cause to have wished that he had not lived so long."—
Clarendons Life* vol. i. p. 36, ed. Oxford, 1827. • Cokayne's Poems, 8vo, 1658. "On the death of my dear cousin germane Mrs Olive Cotton, who deceased at Beresford the 38th year of her age, and lyes buried at Bently by Ashbourne."—He also wrote verses "To my cousin german Mrs Olive Cotton," p. 138; and " Of my slaying supper with my cousin Mrs Olive Cotton," p. 139 ■ and the following
BriTAPH ON MY DEAR COUSIN GERMAN MRS OLIVE COTTON.
Passenger, stay, and notice take of her
Charles COTTON, the only child1 of Mr Cotton by Olive Stanhope, was born at Beresford on the 28th of April 1630. No particulars are preserved respecting the place of his education; but he is supposed to have become a member of the University of Cambridge sometime about the year 1649, though that fact can only be reconciled with his having been a pupil of Mr Ralph Rawson, Fellow of Brazen Nose College, Oxford, by supposing that Rawson removed to Cambridge on being ejected from his fellowship by the Parliamentary visitors in 1648.2 His affection for his tutor is strongly expressed in the translation of an ode of Johannes Secundus ;3 and his cousin Sir Aston Cokayne likewise showed his esteem for him in a similar manner; but some verses by Cokayne render it doubtful whether Rawson ever removed from Oxford to Cambridge.4 If, however, Cotton was educated at either of the Universities, he did not take his degree, as his name is not mentioned by Anthony Wood among the writers of Oxford; nor does it occur in the manuscript list of graduates of Cambridge in the British Museum.5 That he possessed considerable classical
She was too good to live, and young to die,
1 In the parish register of St Dunstan's in the West the following entry occurs:
1 Athen. Oxon. ed. Bliss., vol. iv. p. 635.
3 Poems on Several Occasions written by Charles Cotton, Esq., 8vo, 1G69. **An Ode of Johannes Secundus translated. To my dear Tutor, Mr Ralph Rawson," p. 547. Rawson acknowledged his kindness in some verses addressed "To my dear and honoured p-troo. Mr Charles Cotton, Ode, occasioned by his translation of an ode of Johannes Secundus directed to me, and inserted amongst his other Poems," a copy of which occurs in a manuscript containing the greater part of Cotton's Poems, some, if not all, of which *re apparently in his own handwriting.
* Cokayne's Poems, p. 207. "To Mr Ralph Rawson. lately Fellow of Brazen Nose
"Though I of Cambridge was, and far above
aad thus concludes:—
"I far above
Had Rawson removed to Cambridge, some allusion would probably have been made to the circumstance in these verses, which were evidently written after he was ejected from his fellowship at Oxford.
5 Additional MSS. in the British Museum, No. 5S85. Cole, however, mentions Cotton among the writers who belonged to that University, in his manuscript collection-; tor an Athena Cantabrigiensis in the Additional MS- 5865, f. 47, in the British Museum.
attainments, and united with them an extensive knowledge of modern languages, particularly of French and Italian,6 together with the usual accomplishments of the age, is however unquestionable. It does not appear that he was intended for any profession,7 and the early part of his life seems to have been passed in the society of the wits and other literary men of his time. He was himself ardently attached to literature ; but except a few poems, he wrote nothing which was published until after the Restoration. Before that period the little which is known of his pursuits has been gleaned from the works of one or two of his friends, and from his own verses; but he probably went abroad before he attained his twenty-fourth year, as he certainly had travelled in France and Italy.
That Cotton wrote many of the poems which were for the first time collected and published after his decease, at an early period of his life,8 is not only proved by internal evidence, but it is placed beyond dispute, by the subjoined verses addressed to him by Sir Aston Cokayne :—
"TO MY MOST HONOURED COUSIN MR CHARLES COTTON THE
Bear back, you crowd of wits, that have so long
6 It appears that Cotton's library contained some of the best Italian authors, as Cukayne says in one of his effusions, p. 231,
"D'Avila, Bentivoglio, Guicciardine,
1 Cotton says in his " Voyage to Ireland : " " Indeed I had a small smattering of Law,* but his legal knowledge appears to have been gained from the performance of the duties of a Justice of the Peace, as he adds :—
"Which I lately had got more by practice than readings
"Among the poems attributed to the younger Cotton are an Elegy upon Henry Lord Hastings, only son of Ferdinand Earl of Huntingdon, who died in June 1649, which w;is printed in Brome's " Lachrymac Musarnm, the Tears of the Mu-.es, expressed in elegies written by divers persons of nobility and worth '* upon that young nobleman's death, 8vo, 1650, when Cotton was only twenty years of age ; and a copy of verses prefixed to Edmund Prestwich's Translation of the Hippolitus of Seneca in 1651.