Chamberlain, Robert (fl.1640-1660) (DNB00)

CHAMBERLAIN, ROBERT (fl. 1640–1660), poet, born in 1607, son of Robert Chamberlain of Standish, Lancashire, was clerk to Peter Ball, solicitor-general to Henrietta Maria. Ball, apparently impressed with Chamberlain’s literary promise, sent him to study at Exeter College in 1637, when he was thirty years old. At Oxford Chamberlain was popular with the university wits, and issued several volumes while in residence. He never took a degree. The date of his death is not known. His literary work consists of original apophthegms, a comedy, some short poems, and collections of ancient jokes. He was the intimate friend of Thomas Rawlins and Thomas Nabbes, and was much attached to Peter Ball and his son William [q. v.] His works are: 1. ‘Nocturnal Lucubrations: or Meditations Divine and Morall. Whereunto are added epigrams and epitaphs, written by Rob. Chamberlain.' London, 1638, 16mo. The first part, dedicated to ‘Peter Balle, esquire,’ consists of apophthegms, pointedly expressed; the second, dedicated to Ball's son William, is preceded by a rough sonnet by Thomas Nabbes, and includes a number of short poems, many of them inscribed with the names of various members of the Ball family and of other personal friends. Another edition appeared of 1852, ‘printed by T. F. for the use and benefit of Andrew Pennycuyke, gent.' Pennycuyke was a well-known actor of the day. A unique copy of this edition is in the Huth Library. 2. ‘The Swaggering Damsell, a comedy, written by R. C.,’ London, 1840. The dialogue is spirited, but the plot is coarse. A little blank verse is interspersed with the prose, in which the greater part is written.

There is no positive evidence that it was acted, although clearly written for the stage (Genest, x. 116). 3. 'Jocabella, or a Cabinet of Conceits. Whereunto are added epigrams and other poems, by R. C.,' London, 1640, dedicated to John Wild. The 'merry conceits' — 439 in number — are of the usual character. One (391) relates a poor joke in Shakespeare's 'Works;' another is headed 'On mr. Nabbes, his Comedie called the Bride;' and a third concerns ' the Swinesfac't Lady.'

Mr. W. C. Hazlitt attributes to Chamberlain three other anonymous collections of jests: 'The Booke of Bvlls, Baited with two centuries of Bold Jests and Nimble Lies, . . . collected by A. S., gent.,' London, 1636;' A New Booke of Mistakes, or Bulls with Tales and Bulls without Tales,' London, 1637; and 'Conceits, Clinches, Flashes, and Whimzies,' London, 1639. These books were all published by Chamberlain's own publisher, Daniel Frere, of Little Britain. The 'Booke of Bulls' contains commendatory lines signed 'R. C.,gent.,' i.e. probably Chamberlain himself, and it is on the whole unlikely that Chamberlain was the compiler. Of the second book the same may be said. But the third book, the 'Conceits, which has been frequently attributed to John Taylor, the Water-poet, contains commendatx)ry lines from the pen of Chamberlain's friend, Rawlins, and resembles the 'Jocabella' in sufficiently numerous points to support the conclusion that it was a first edition of Chamberlain's acknowledged jestbook. It was reprinted by Mr. J. O. Halliwell-Phillippe in 1860, and by Mr. W. C. Hazlitt in his 'Old English Jest Books' (iii.) in 1864. In the Luttrell Collection of Broadsides at the British Museum is a sheet of verse justifying the restoration of the established clergy, signed 'Rob. Chamberlaine' and entitled 'Balaam's Asse Cudgeld, or the Cry of Town and Country against Scandalous and Seditious Scriblers,' London, 1661. A sheet of verse (by William Cook) written in reply, was entitled 'A Dose for Chamberlain and a Pill for the Doctor,' 1661.

Chamberlain contributed commendatory verses to Nabbes's 'Spring's Glory,' 1638; to Rawlins's tragedy of ' The Rebellion,' 1640; to Tatham's 'Fancies Theatre,' 1640; and to Leonard Blunt's 'Asse upon Asse,' 1661. He has been erroneously credited by Wood and others with the authorship of Phineas Fletcher's 'Sicelides, a Pastoral,' 1633.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 675; Corser's Collectanea (Chetham Soc.); Brit. Mus. Cat.; Huth Library Cat.; W. C. Huzlitt's Handbook to English Literature.]

S. L. L.