FRAUNCE, ABRAHAM (c. 1558–1633), English poet, a native of Shropshire, was born between 1558 and 1560. His name was registered as a pupil of Shrewsbury School in January 1571/2, and he joined St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1576, becoming a fellow in 1580/81. His Latin comedy of Victoria, dedicated to Sidney, was probably written at Cambridge, where he remained until he had taken his M.A. degree in 1583. He was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn in 1588, and then apparently practised as a barrister in the court of the Welsh marches. After the death of his patron Sir Philip Sidney, Fraunce was protected by Sidney’s sister Mary, countess of Pembroke. His last work was published in 1592, and we have no further knowledge of him until 1633, when he is said to have written an Epithalamium in honour of the marriage of Lady Magdalen Egerton, 7th daughter of the earl of Bridgwater, whose service he may possibly have entered.
His works are: The Lamentations of Amintas for the death of Phyllis (1587), a version in English hexameters of his friend’s, Thomas Watson’s, Latin Amyntas; The Lawiers Logike, exemplifying the praecepts of Logike by the practise of the common Lawe (1588); Arcadian Rhetorike (1588); Abrahami Fransi Insignium, Armorum ... explicatio (1588); The Countess of Pembroke’s Yvychurch (1591/2), containing a translation of Tasso’s Aminta, a reprint of his earlier version of Watson, “The Lamentation of Corydon for the love of Alexis” (Virgil, eclogue ii.), a short translation from Heliodorus, and, in the third part (1592) “Aminta’s Dale,” a collection of “conceited” tales supposed to be related by the nymphs of Ivychurch; The Countess of Pembroke’s Emanuell (1591); The Third Part of the Countess of Pembroke’s Ivychurch, entituled Aminta’s Dale (1592). His Arcadian Rhetorike owes much to earlier critical treatises, but has a special interest from its references to Spenser, and Fraunce quotes from the Faerie Queene a year before the publication of the first books. In “Colin Clout’s come home again,” Spenser speaks of Fraunce as Corydon, on account of his translations of Virgil’s second eclogue. His poems are written in classical metres, and he was regarded by his contemporaries as the best exponent of Gabriel Harvey’s theory. Even Thomas Nashe had a good word for “sweete Master France.”
The Countess of Pembroke’s Emanuell, hexameters on the nativity and passion of Christ, with versions of some psalms, were reprinted by Dr A. B. Grosart in the third volume of his Miscellanies of the Fuller Worthies Library (1872). Joseph Hunter in his Chorus Vatum stated that five of Fraunce’s songs were included in Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, but it is probable that these should be attributed not to Fraunce, but to Thomas Campion. See a life prefixed to the transcription of a MS. Latin comedy by Fraunce, Victoria, by Professor G. C. Moore Smith, published in Bang’s Materialien zur Kunde des alteren englischen Dramas, vol. xiv., 1906.