Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Austin, Henry

AUSTIN, HENRY (17th cent.), was the author of a poem called 'The Scourge of Venus, or the Wanton Lady. With the Rare Birth of Adonis. The Second Impression, corrected and enlarged, by H. A.' (1614). It has been reprinted in Dr. Grosart's 'Occasional Issues of Unique and Extremely Rare Books' (1876). The poem was for long anonymous beyond its initials on the title-page and the 'epistle to the reader,' but an incidental reference to it by Thomas Heywood discloses its authorship. In his address to the reader before his 'Brazen Age' (1613) Heywood writes:—'What imperfection soeuer it haue, hauing a brazen face it cannot blush; much like a Pedant about this Towne, who, when all trades fail'd, turn'd Pedagogue, and once insinuating with me, borrowed frō me certaine Translations of Ouid, as his three books "De Arte Amandi," and two, "De Remedio Amoris," which since, his most brazen face hath most impudently challenged as his own, wherefore I must needs proclaime it as far as Ham, where he now keeps schoole, Hos ego versiculos feci, tulit alter honores, they were things which out of my iuniority and want of iudgement, I committed to the veiw of some priuate friends, but with no purpose of publishing, or further comunicating thē. Therfore I would entreate that Austin, for so his name is, to acknowledge his wrong to me in shewing them, and his owne impudence and ignorance in challenging thē. But courteous Reader, I can onely excuse him in this, that this is the Brazen Age.'

This invective referred to the first edition of the 'Scourge,' published in 1613. It is noticeable and suggestive that H[enry] A[ustin], so far from pleading guilty or acknowledging Heywood's claim, quietly republished his poem, and, what must have been exasperating to Heywood, with Heywood's own publisher of the 'Brazen Age.' A third edition appeared in 1620, also printed by Nicholas Okes, The full justice of Heywood's accusation maybe reasonably doubted. Its gravamen seems at most to amount to this, that Austin had constructed his poem by help of Heywood's 'juvenile' translations, and in his rather ambiguous epistle to the reader Austin apparently admits so much, 'If it were my owne wit,' he says in reference to his book, 'and you condemne it, I should be ashamed of my publike intrusion; but since it was the labour of a man wel-deseruing, forbeare open reprehending: For as I haue heard, 'twas done for his pleasure, without any intent of an Impression: thus much I excuse him that I know not, and commend that which deserueth well. If I be partiall, I pray patience.' The 'Scourge of Venus' shows traces of the influence of Shakespeare's poems upon its author.

[Dr. Grosart's Occasional Issues (1876), as above.]

A. B. G.