FENTON, SIR GEOFFREY (c. 1539–1608), English writer and politician, was the son of Henry Fenton, of Nottinghamshire. He was brother of Edward Fenton the navigator. He is said to have visited Spain and Italy in his youth; possibly he went to Paris in Sir Thomas Hoby’s train in 1566, for he was living there in 1567, when he wrote Certaine tragicall discourses written oute of Frenche and Latin. This book is a free translation of François de Belleforest’s French rendering of Matteo Bandello’s Novelle. Till 1579 Fenton continued his literary labours, publishing Monophylo in 1572, Golden epistles gathered out of Guevarae’s workes as other authors . . . 1575, and various religious tracts of strong protestant tendencies. In 1579 appeared the Historie of Guicciardini, translated out of French by G. F. and dedicated to Elizabeth. Through Lord Burghley he obtained, in 1580, the post of secretary to the new lord deputy of Ireland, Lord Grey de Wilton, and thus became a fellow worker with the poet, Edmund Spenser. From this time Fenton abandoned literature and became a faithful if somewhat unscrupulous servant of the crown. He was a bigoted protestant, longing to use the rack against “the diabolicall secte of Rome,” and even advocating the assassination of the queen’s most dangerous subjects. He won Elizabeth’s confidence, and the hatred of all his fellow-workers, by keeping her informed of every one’s doings in Ireland. In 1587 Sir John Perrot arrested Fenton, but the queen instantly ordered his release. Fenton was knighted in 1589, and in 1590–1591 he was in London as commissioner on the impeachment of Perrot. Full of dislike of the Scots and of James VI. (which he did not scruple to utter), on the latter’s accession Fenton’s post of secretary was in danger, but Burghley exerted himself in his favour, and in 1604 it was confirmed to him for life, though he had to share it with Sir Richard Coke. Fenton died in Dublin on the 19th of October 1608, and was buried in St Patrick’s cathedral. He married in June 1585, Alice, daughter of Dr Robert Weston, formerly lord chancellor of Ireland, and widow of Dr Hugh Brady, bishop of Meath, by whom he had two children, a son, Sir William Fenton, and a daughter, Catherine, who in 1603 married Richard Boyle, 1st earl of Cork.
Bibliography.—Harl. Soc. publications, vol. iv., Visitation of Nottinghamshire, 1871; Roy. Hist. MSS. Comm. (particularly Hatfield collection); Calendar of State papers, Ireland (very full), domestic, Carew papers; Lismore papers, ed. A. B. Grosart (1886–1888); Certaine tragicall Discourses, ed. R. L. Douglas (2 vols., 1898), Tudor Translation series, vols. xix., xx. (introd.).