Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cotton, Roger

COTTON, ROGER (fl. 1596), poet, was the fifth son of Ralph Cotton, esq., of Alkington, in the parish of Whitchurch, Shropshire, by Jane, daughter and heiress of John Smith, alias Tarbock, of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. He had five brothers, most of whom were patrons of literature; and Allen, the youngest, became lord mayor of London and received the honour of knighthood. Roger was born at Whitchurch and probably educated in the newly founded free school there. He settled in London and carried on the business of a draper in Canning Street, having been admitted a member of the Drapers' Company. His mind became deeply imbued with the religious sentiment in consequence of his friendship with the celebrated Hugh Broughton [q. v.] He proved to be ‘a true scholar of such a master, and so constantly plied the Scriptures, according to the admonitions he had received from him, that he read over the Bible twelve times in one year’ (Lightfoot, Life of Broughton). The Cotton family esteemed Broughton so highly that when he was abroad they sent him frequently large tokens of their love—occasionally 100l. at a time. The date of Roger Cotton's death is not recorded, but by his will he bequeathed 50s. to be annually paid by the Drapers' Company for the use of the poor of Whitchurch. He married Katherine [Jenkes] of Drayton, Shropshire, and left two sons, Samuel and Alexander.

He was author of the following rare works: 1. ‘A Direction to the waters of lyfe. Come and beholde, how Christ shineth before the Law, in the Law, and in the Prophetes: and withall the iudgements of God upon all Nations for the neglect of his holy worde, wherein they myght haue seene the same,’ London, 1590, 1592, 4to. This prose discourse is dedicated to Hugh Broughton. A third edition appeared with the title: ‘A Direct Way, whereby the plainest man may be guided to the Waters of Life,’ London, 1610, 8vo. 2. ‘An Armor of Proofe, brought from the Tower of Dauid, to fight against Spannyardes, and all enimies of the trueth,’ London, 1596, 4to, dedicated to Gilbert Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury. A poetical tract, in six-line stanzas. 3. ‘A Spirituall Song: conteining an Historicall Discourse from the infancie of the world, untill this present time: Setting downe the treacherous practises of the wicked, against the children of God: Describing also the markes and overthrow of Antichrist, with a thankesgiuing to God for the preseruation of her Maiestie, and of His Church. Drawen out of the holy Scriptures,’ London, 1596, 4to, dedicated to Sir Francis Drake. In five-line stanzas.

Some of Ireland's forged manuscript remarks, purporting to be by Shakespeare, were made in copies of Cotton's two poetical works.

[Corser's Collectanea, ii. 484–97; Bibl. Anglo-Poetica, pp. 54, 55; Ritson's Bibl. Poet. p. 174; Brydges's Restituta, iii. 138–44; Addit. MS. 24487, f. 107; Addit. Charter, 5979; Lowndes's Bibl. Brit. (Bohn), p. 535.]

T. C.