Open main menu

Bancroft, Thomas (fl.1633-1658) (DNB00)


BANCROFT, THOMAS (fl. 1633–1658), poet, was a native of Swarston, a village on the Trent, in Derbyshire. This we learn from one of his own epigrams, and from Sir Aston Cokaine's commendatory lines. He has also an epigram in celebration of his father and mother, ‘buried in Swarston Church.’ He was a contemporary of James Shirley at Catherine Hall, Cambridge, to whom he addresses an epigram. He seems to have lived for some time in his native Derbyshire. Sir Aston Cokaine, as a neighbour and fellow-poet, appears to have visited and been visited by him. He had apparently only a younger son's fortune, his elder brother, ‘deceased in 1639,’ having broken up the little family-property.

Bancroft's first publication was ‘The Glutton's Feauer,’ 1633. This is a narrative, in verse of seven-line stanzas, of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Thomas Corser, in his ‘Collectanea Anglo-Poetica’ (pt. i.), writes of it: ‘There is a smoothness and grace, as well as force and propriety, in Bancroft's poetical language, which have not, as we think, been sufficiently noticed.’ Bancroft's next and better-known book was his ‘Two Bookes of Epigrammes and Epitaphs. Dedicated to two top-branches of Gentry: Sir Charles Shirley, Baronet, and William Davenport, Esquire, 1639.’ The interest of these epigrams lies in the number of the men of letters whom they celebrate, including Sidney, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Donne, Overbury, John Ford, Quarles, Randolph, Shirley, the Beaumonts, &c. In 1649 Bancroft contributed to Brome's ‘Lachrymæ Musarum, or the Teares of the Muses,’ a poem ‘To the never-dying memory of the noble Lord Hastings.’ Finally he published, in 1658, ‘The Heroical Lover, or Antheon and Fidelta’—a work smooth rather than strong, in spite of Cokaine's laudation. In 1658 Bancroft was living in retirement at Bradley, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire. It is probable that he continued there until his death, of the date of which we have no knowledge. Incidental notices inform us that Bancroft was ‘small of stature,’ and that he was talked of as ‘the small poet,’ partly in reference to his littleness, and partly in allusion to his ‘small’ poems and epigrams.

[Corser's Collectanea (Chetham Society); Hunter's MS. Chorus Vatum; Lysons's Derbyshire; Glutton's Feaver, reprinted for the Roxburghe Club; Bancroft's Works.]

A. B. G.