Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bysshe, Edward (fl.1712)

BYSSHE, EDWARD (fl. 1712), miscellaneous writer, describes himself as ‘gent.’ on the title-pages of his books. He probably belonged to the Surrey family of the name [see Bysshe, Sir Edward], but all that is positively known about him is that he sought a livelihood as a literary hack in London. In 1702 appeared the book by which he is remembered. Its title runs: ‘The Art of English Poetry: containing I. Rules for Making Verses. II. A Dictionary of Rhymes. III. A collection of the most Natural, Agreeable, and Noble Thoughts, viz. Allusions, Similes, Descriptions, and Characters of Persons and Things: that are to be found in the best English Poets.’ Bysshe addresses his dedication to ‘Edmund Dunch, Esq., of Little Wittenham in Berkshire.’ The first part of the volume is a business-like treatise on the laws of English prosody, with illustrations which prove Bysshe to have been an enthusiastic admirer of Dryden. The work was extraordinarily popular; a fifth edition was issued in 1714; a seventh, ‘corrected and enlarged,’ in 1724; an eighth is dated 1737. In 1714 the second and third parts were published separately under the title of ‘The British Parnassus; or a compleat Common Place-book of English Poetry’ (2 vols.), and this was reissued in 1718 with a new title-page (‘The Art of English Poetry, vols. the iiid and ivth’). Thomas Hood the younger reprinted Bysshe's ‘Rules’ as an appendix to his ‘Practical Guide to English Versification’ in 1877. Bysshe also edited in 1712 Sir Richard Bulstrode's ‘Letters,’ with a biographical introduction and a dedication addressed to George, lord Cardigan. In the same year there appeared a translation by Bysshe of Xenophon's ‘Memorabilia,’ which was dedicated to Lord Ashburnham from ‘London, 24 Nov. 1711,’ and was reissued in 1758.

[Bysshe's Works.]

S. L. L.