Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Aylett, Robert

AYLETT, ROBERT (1583–1655?), was author of a volume of religious verse entitled 'Divine and Moral Speculations in Metrical Numbers upon Various Subjects. By Doctor R. Aylet, one of the Masters of the High Court of Chancery. London . . . 1654.' It was dedicated to 'Henry Lord Marquesse of Dorchester and his incomparable lady,' as 'the humblest of their servants.' There are prefixed commendatory poems by Sir Robert Beaumont, Bart., and James Howell, and a W. Martin. In some copies there is inserted before the title-page a cunningly engraved portrait, with this inscription on the upper left-hand corner, 'Æt. 52, 1635.' Aylett was thus born about 1583. He was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and commenced LL.D. in 1614. He is represented as a hard student who lightened his professional labours with 'the relaxation of poetry.' Except his odd 'A Wife not readymade but bespoke, by Dicus the Batchelor, and made up for him by his fellow shepheard Tityrus; in four pastoral eclogues' (1653), his entire verse is 'sacred.' Its main feature is pious aphoristic thought, after the type of George Herbert's poems of 'The Temple.' His 'Divine and Moral Speculations' start with a semi-paraphrase of the 'Song of Songs,' which is succeeded by 'The Brides Ornaments' — a series of meditations of 'Heavenly Love,' 'Humility,' 'Repentance, 'Faith,' 'Hope,' 'Justice and Righteousness,' 'Truth,' 'Mercy,' 'Fortitude,' 'Heavenly Knowledge,' 'Zeal,' 'Temperance,' 'Bounty,' 'Joy,' 'Prudence,' 'Obedience,' 'Meeknesse,' 'God's Word,' 'Prayer,' &c. These 'four books' of meditations are followed firstly by 'Five Moral Meditations' of 'Concord and Peace, Chastity, Constancy, Courtesy, and Gravity;' and secondly by 'Five Divine and Moral Meditations' of 'Frugality, Providence, Diligence, Labour and Care, and Death.' The whole closes with 'A Funerall Elegy, consecrated to the memory of his ever honoured lord John King, late Lord Bishop of London.' We gather from the volume two personal facts, (a) that his 'muse' had been 'whilome swayd by lust of youth' to spend 'her strength in idle wanton toys,' but was now summoned to holy strains; (b) that he was in 1654 a sufferer from ague (p. 476). The 'Divine and Moral Speculations' were probably published separately long before 1654. Earlier impressions are found of two other poems by Aylett: 'Svsanna, or the Arraignment of the Two Unjust Elders' (in four books), and 'Joseph, or Pharaoh's Favorite' — both of which are often bound up with the 'Speculations,' and usually dated 1654. Of 'Svsanna ' an anonymous R. C. (wrongly assigned to Richard Crashaw) wrote:—

In all thy poems thou dost wondrous well,
But thy Susanna doth them all excell.

Of 'Joseph' another wrote :—

Susanna was of all thy poems best,
But Joseph her excels, as she the rest.

'Peace with her Four Gardens' (1622) (mentioned along with others in Censura Literaria, vol. v.) was incorporated with the 'Meditations' above enumerated, as was 'Thrift's Equipage' (1622).

Anthony à Wood queried whether Dr. Aylett were not author of 'Britannia Antiqua Illustrata,' published under the name of Aylett Sammes. Aylett disappears about 1655.

[Works, ut supra; Cens. Liter.; Wood's Fasti Oxon. (Bliss), i. 328, ii. 363; Granger's Portraits; Hazlitt's Handbook.]

A. B. G.