Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Austin, Samuel (fl.1629)

AUSTIN, SAMUEL, the elder (fl. 1629), religious poet, was the son of Thomas Austin, Esq., of Lostwithiel, Cornwall. He entered Exeter College, Oxford, in 1623, at the age of seventeen, took the degree of B.A. in 1627, and that of M.A. in 1630, 'about which time, being numbered with the Levites,' he 'was beneficed in his own country' (Wood, Athen. Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 499). At Oxford he spent much time in composing a long poem on scriptural subjects, which was given to the world in 1629 under the title of 'Austin's Urania, or the Heavenly Muse,' 8vo. In the dedication to Dr. Prideaux, rector of Exeter College, the author describes the difficulties under which the book was written: 'If you knew but the paines i have suffer'd in travell hereof, how many precious houres and dayes I have detain'd from those sports and vanities which are common to others; yea, how much time I have stolne from my other private studies (which lay of necessitie on mee in this place), and sacred them only to this...in briefe, what heavy and hard conflicts, and what a tedious travell I have had (as God knowes) in the producing of it, I dare promise my selfe it would make your yielding heart e'en bleed to thinke on't....But now (thankes bee to my God) I have at length finished it.' Such prefatory words as these do not tempt the reader to proceed; but on the next page is a most interesting address in verse to 'my ever honoured friends, those most refined wits and favourers of most exquisite learning, Mr. M. Drayton, Mr. Will, Browne, and my most ingenious kinsman, Mr. Andrew Pollexfen.' It is pleasant to see with what affection and respect this devout young aspirant to poetic honours addresses the authors of the 'Polyolbion' and of 'Britannia's Pastorals,' and implores them to neglect the rural Pan and sing the praises of Divine Providence. Was it in answer to this appeal that Michael Drayton, in 1630, when publisliing his 'Muses' Elysium,' appended to the dainty pastorals, as leaden weights to drag them down, his 'Noah's Floud' and 'David and Goliath'? The 'Urania' itself is not so poor as one would have supposed from the author's admissions in the dedication. Book i. describes the Fall of Man, and book ii. deals with the Redemption. The verse runs fluently, and is not disfigured by harsh grammatical constructions. Evidently the writer had given a close study to 'Britannia's Pastorals;' but though there is little to blame, there is little to commend, and we must be content to admire the piety rather than the poetry of Austin's 'Urania.'

[Wood, Athen. Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 499; Corser's Collectanea, i. 85-90; Boase and Courtney, Biblioth. Cornub. i. 8.]

A. H. B.