Open main menu


BRYSKETT, LODOWICK or LEWIS (fl. 1571–1611), poet, translator, and Irish official, is stated to have been the son of ‘a natural Italian,' but of his early life nothing definite is known. He was generally believed to have relations in Florence, Where he certainly had many correspondents. He matriculated as a pensioner of Trinity College, Cambridge, 27 April 1559, but left the university without proceeding to a degree. On 7 April 1571 Burghley was informed that Bryskett was temporarily filling the office of clerk of the council in Ireland under Sir Henry Sidney. Before 1572 he had become the intimate friend of Sir Henry Sidney’s son, Philip Sidney, and he was young Sidney’s companion on a three years' continental tour through Germany, Italy, and Poland (1572–1575). In 1577 he became clerk of the chancery for the faculties in Ireland, an office in which he was succeeded by Spenser. Afterwards (1582) he received from Lord Grey de Wilton the appointment of secretary of the Munster council. About the same time he made the acquaintance of the poet Spenser, Lord Grey’s secretary, and Spenser relieved the tedium of official life by teaching his new friend Greek. Bryskett remained in Munster for many years. In 1594 he sought to be reappointed clerk of the Irish council, but failing to obtain that post he was granted the ‘clerkship of the casualties’ in the following year. In 1600 Sir Robert Cecil wrote to Sir George Carew in his behalf, and described him as ‘an ancient servitor of the realm of Ireland, and now employed by her majesty beyond the seas.’ He had an interest in the abbey of Bridgetown, which Cecil asked Carew to secure to him. In 1606 he was reputed to hold large estates in Dublin, Cavan, and Cork. He is stated to have been been alive in 1611.

Bryskett is more interesting as the friend of Sidney and Spenser than as an Irish official. His chief original literary work was a translation from the Italian of Baptista Giraldo’s philosophical treatise, which he entitled, ‘A Discourse of Civill Life, containing the Ethike Part of Morall Philosophie.' It was not published till 1606, but was certainly written full twenty years earlier. (There are two editions, both dated 1606—one printed for W. Aspley and the other for E. Blount.) The book is dedicated to Lord Grey, and opens with an Introduction which is of unique interest in English literature. Bryskett describes a party of friends met at his cottage near Dublin, among whom were Dr. Long, archbishop of Armagh, Captain Christopher Carleil, Captain Thomas Norris, Captain Warham St. Leger, and Mr. Edmund Spenser, ‘once your lordship's secretary.' In the course of conversation Bryskett says that he envies ‘the happinesse of the Italians' who have popularised moral philosophy by translating and explaining Plato and Aristotle in their own language.

He expresses a wish that English writers would follow the Italian example. Addressing Spenser, Bryskett entreats the poet to turn his great knowledge of philosophy to such account, and as a beginning to give them a philosophical lecture on the spot. Spenser declines to comply with the request on the ground that he had already undertaken the ‘Faerie Queene,’ ‘a work tending to the same effect;’ and finally the poet invites Bryskett to read to the company his own translation of Giraldo, which Bryskett willingly consents to do. Bryskett includes in the published work a few remarks made by Spenser in the course of the reading on various philosophical problems discussed in the book.

Soon after Sidney’s death, in 1586, Spenser collected a series of elegies under the title of ‘Astrophel.’ To this collection, which was published with ‘Colin Clout come home again’ in 1595, Bryskett contributed two elegies. One of his poems is entitled ‘A Pastorall Æclogue,’ and is signed with his initials; the other is called ‘The Mourning Muse of Thestylis.’ These two pieces were entered in the Stationers’ Register as ‘The Mourning Muses of Lod. Bryskett vpon the deathe of the most noble sir Philip Sydney, knight,’ and licensed to the printer, John Wolfe, on 22 Aug. 1587. But they do not appear to have been published separately.

In Spenser’s collected sonnets, ‘Amoretti and Epithalamion’ (1595), the one numbered 33 is addressed to Bryskett. Spenser here apologises to his friend for his delay in completing the ‘Faerie Queene.’

[Sir Robert Cecil’s Letters (Camd. Soc.), 160 and note; Fox Bourne's Life of Sir Philip Sidney; Todd’s Spenser; Ritson's English Poets: Spencer's Works (ed. Grosart), 1882; Cole MS. Athenæ Cantab.; Cal. Irish State Papers.]

S. L. L.