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Translator of Franck's Guide to the Study of the Scriptures.
. HATchamp, Bookseller to the Queen, 190, Piccadilly; and
PH IN EAS FIL ETC HE R.
To be interested in the character and lives of those whose writings have instructed and delighted us, is natural to the human mind; nor is it reasonable that they who have laboured successfully for our advantage, should be wholly forgotten. “The Monument of Banished Mindes” is contemplated with a sort of pensive pleasure ; and such mementoes must always contribute something of life and energy to the pieces which we peruse. Brief therefore as is the following sketch of our author's history, it will not be an unacceptable introduction to his poem of the PURPle Island.
His father, Dr. GILEs FLETCHER, was a man of considerable reputation as an author, a poet, and a statesman. He was born in Kent in the middle of the 16th century; was educated at Eton; and in the year 1565 was elected scholar of King's College, Cambridge. He took the degree of A. B. in 1569, that of M.A. in 1573, and that of L. L. D. in 1581. Queen Elizabeth, who discovered so much pru
‘dence and discrimination in her choice of ministers, appointed
him her commissioner in Scotland, Germany, and the Netherlands; and in 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, she constituted him her ambassador to the court of Russia; where he concluded a commercial treaty with the Czar Theodore, much to the advantage of his native country. During his residence in that barbarous empire, he composed
his “Account of the Russe Commonwealth, or Manner of “ Government by the Russe Emperor, commonly called the “ Emperor of Moskovia, with the Manners and Fashions “ of the people of that Country.” This he printed on his return in 1590; but it was suppressed lest it should give offence. A second edition of this book appeared however in 1643. Dr. Fletcher was appointed, subsequently to his mission to Russia, Secretary to the City of London, and one of the masters of the Court of Requests. In 1597 he was chosen Treasurer of St. Paul's. Besides the work already noticed, which will be found in Hakluyt's Voyages, Dr. Fletcher was the author of a discourse, the object of which was, to }. that the Tartars are the descendants of the Ten ribes, who were led captive by Shalmaneser. Whiston adopted the same opinion, and even printed the discourse in the first volume of his Memoirs. Dr. Fletcher died in 1610.
Our author was allied to several men of eminence, besides his father. His uncle was the famous Fletcher, Bishop of Peterborough, who attended Mary, Queen of Scots, to the place of her execution, and exhorted her to change her religion; his cousin was the celebrated dramatic writer, whose name is so often mentioned in connexion with that of Beaumont; and his elder brother Giles Fletcher, was a poet of considerable merit. Benlowes in some verses which he addressed to our author, says, “ Thy very name’s a poet.”
Little is known of the life of Phineas Fletcher : but Mr. Ellis conjectures he was born in 1584; He was educated at Eton; and admitted a scholar of King's College, Cambridge in 1600, took his Bachelor's degree in 1604, and his Master's degree in 1608. He entered into the
church; and was presented to the living of Hilgay in Nor
folk, in 1621, by Sir Henry Willoughby, which he held during a period of twenty-nine years. He died about the year 1650.
Besides the poem which is here reprinted, he was the author of seven Piscatory Eclogues, Eliza an Elegy, and several minor poems. He likewise wrote a drama, entitled Sicelides, which was performed at King's College, Cambridge, and printed in 1631. “It was intended, originally,” says the editor of the Biographia Dramatica, “ to be per
“ formed before King James the First, on the 13th of May, “ 1614; but his majesty leaving the university sooner, it “ was not then represented.” The serious parts of it are mostly written in rhyme, with choruses between the acts. Some of the incidents are borrowed from Ovid, and some from the Orlando Furioso. He also published at Cambridge, in 1632, some account of the lives of the Founders and other learned men of that university, under the following title:—“ De Literatis antiquae Britanniae, praeser“ tim qui doctrină claruerunt, quique collegia Cantabrigiae “ fundarunt.” The works of Phineas Fletcher were printed at Cambridge in 1633, 4to.
The following remarks on the Poetry of our author, are from the elegant pen of the late lamented Henry Headley, A. B.-
They are extracted from his “Select Beauties of An“cient English Poetry;” and it may be observed that a distinguished place in that collection is assigned to Phineas Fletcher.
“ Were the celebrated Mr. Pott compelled to read a lecture upon the anatomy of the human frame at large, in a regular set of stanzas, it is much to be questioned whether he could make himself understood, by the most apprehensive auditor, without the advantage of professional knowledge. Fletcher seems to have undertaken a nearly similar task, as the five first cantos of The Purple Island are almost entirely taken up with an explanation of the title; in the course of which the reader forgets the poet, and is sickened with the anatomist. Such minute attention to this part of the subject was a material error in judgment; for which, however, ample amends are made in what follows. Nor is Fletcher wholly undeserving of praise for the intelligibility with which he has struggled through his difficulties, for his uncommon command of words, and facility of metre. After describing the body, he proceeds to personify the passions and intellectual