Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ashley, Robert
ASHLEY, ROBERT (1565–1641), a miscellaneous writer of the reign of Elizabeth and James I, is called by Wood, in his 'Athenæ Oxonienses,' 'an esquire's son and Wiltshire-man born,' and from notes on his life, written by himself, to be found in the Sloane MSS. in the British Museum (Addit. MS. No. 2105), it seems that he was born at Damerham, on the confines of the counties of Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Dorset, seven miles from Salisbury: that his father was Anthony Ashley, or Astley, of a knightly family in Dorset, and his mother Dorothy Lyte, of Lytes Carey, in Somerset. He further tells us that when a boy he delighted in reading 'Bevis of Hampton,' 'Guy of Warwick,' 'Valentine and Orson,' 'Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table,' and aftenvards the 'Decameron of Boccace' and the 'Heptameron of the Queen of Navarre.' He was at school under Hadrian Saravia, at Southampton. Wood says he became a fellow commoner of Hart Hall in 1580, and does not speak of his being a member of any other college in Oxford; but from his autobiography it appears that he was of Alban Hall and also of Magdalen College. He left the university without a degree, and was called to the bar by the Middle Temple. His mind was too mercurial for law, and he gave himself to the study of Dutch, French, Spanish, and Italian. 'Finding the practice of law,' says Wood, 'to have ebbs and tides, he applied himself to the learning of the languages of our neighbours, to the end that he might be partaker of the wisdom of those nations, having been many years of this opinion, that as no one soil or territory yieldeth all fruits alike, so no one climate or region affordeth all kind of knowledge in full measure.' In the preface to his 'Almansor' he speaks of having been in the library of the Escurial, where, he says, he saw a glorious golden library of Arabian books. He lived for many years in the Middle Temple, where he died, without issue, Oct. 1641. He was buried in the Temple Church, and gave many books to the Temple Library.
His principal works are 'Urania,' in Latin verse, London, 1589, 4to, translated from the French of Du Bartas; 'The Interchangeable Course,' 1594, fol., translated from the French of Louis le Roy; 'Almansor, the learned and victorious King that conquered Spain, his Life and Death,' London, 1627, 4to, translated from the Spanish; 'Relation of the Kingdom of Cochin-China, containing many admirable rarities and singularities of that country,' London, 1633, 4to, translated from the Italian of Christ. Barri; 'David Persecuted,' translated from the Italian of Malvezzi, London, 1637.
[Biog. Brit.; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Brit. Mus. Catal.; Wood, Ath. Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii.19; Bibl. Univ. des Voyages, v. 109.]