Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leighton, William (fl.1603-1614)
LEIGHTON, Sir WILLIAM (fl. 1603–1614), poet and composer, of Plash in Shropshire, eldest son of William Leighton (1533–1607), one of the council of the Welsh Marches, by Isabella, daughter of Thomas Onslowe of London, merchant, was at the accession of James I a gentleman-pensioner. He published in praise of his majesty an adulatory poem entitled ‘Vertue Triumphant, or a Lively Description of the Fovre Vertues Cardinall’ (London, 1603, 4to), with copious marginal references to the bible and classical authors, and an allusion to the author's ‘deepe-grounded root of his duteous loue’ to his late mistress, Queen Elizabeth. It was probably in return for this that he was knighted on 23 July 1603. In 1608 Leighton was sued for debts by Sir William Harmon, two years later was outlawed, and was subsequently imprisoned.
In January 1613 he published at London ‘The Teares or Lamentations of a Sorrowful Soule,’ dedicated to Prince Charles. Some prefatory verses by Arthur Hopton (1588?–1614) [see under Hopton, Sir Arthur] are inscribed to ‘my endeared friend and kinsman, Sir William Leighton.’ In the introduction to these ‘himnes and spiritual sonnets’ he says: ‘I intend … to divuldge very speadely in print some sweete Musicall Ayres and Tunable Accents.’ This promise was fulfilled by the appearance in 1614 of a work bearing that title, the music being described as composed ‘both for Voyces and diuers Instruments.’ This applies to the first part of the work only, which consists of ‘consort songs’ for four voices with accompaniments for a treble viol and a lute in tablature. The first eight pieces only are by Leighton. The remaining ones are by the leading English and Anglo-Italian musicians of the day. In the introduction he writes: ‘Some of the most excellent musitions this Age can afford haue in their loue to me composed … musicke’ expressly for the volume. The second and third parts of the work consist of unaccompanied part-songs for four and five voices. Leighton appears to have been still in prison at the time. The work is prefaced by some dozen short poems in praise of the author by various friends. Judging by the ‘long attendance on Majestie in the English Court,’ and the ‘many extremities and oppressions undergone in his later days,’ of which he writes in his ‘Musicall Ayres,’ Leighton must have been an elderly man in 1614, and cannot therefore be identical with the Sir William Leighton who was confined in the Tower in 1658–9 (Rawlinson MS. A. 57). Leighton had a son and two daughters by his wife Winifred, daughter of Simon Harcourt of Ellenhall in Staffordshire. She died in 1616. Copies of Leighton's three books are in the British Museum.
[Harley MSS. 1396 and 1241; Cotton MS. Claudius C. iii.; Addit. MS. 24489; Collectanea Top. et Geneal. v. 204; Shropshire Archæolog. Soc. Trans. ii. 293.]