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

1084955Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 44 — Peacham, Henry1895no contributor recorded

PEACHAM, HENRY (1576?–1643?), author, was born at North Mimms, Hertfordshire, about 1576. His father, Henry Peacham, after serving the cure of North Mimms, became in 1597 rector of the north mediety of the parish of Leverton, near Boston, Lincolnshire. That benefice he was still holding in 1605. The elder Peacham was a good classical scholar, and published in 1577, with a dedication to John Elmer or Aylmer [q. v.], bishop of London, 'The Garden of Eloquence, conteyning the figures of Grammar and Rhetorick, from whence maye bee gathered all manner of Flowers, Colours, Ornaments, exornations, forms, and fashions of Speech,' London, 1577 (by H. Jackson), 4to. Another edition, 'corrected and augmented,' appeared with a dedication to Sir John Puckering in 1593. The elder Peacham was also author of 'A Sermon upon the three last verses of the first chapter of Job,' London, 1590, 16mo, dedicated to Margaret Clifford, countess of Cumberland, and Anne, countess of Warwick (Lowndes).

Henry the younger went to school, first near St. Albans and afterwards in London, and as a boy he saw Dick Tarleton on the stage (Truth of Our Times, p. 103). Subsequently he proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was admitted a scholar on 11 May 1593, along with George Ruggle [q. v.] and Thomas Comber, afterwards master of the college. He graduated B.A. in January 1594-5, and M.A. in 1598.

'Rawhe torn' from the university, and thrown on his own resources at an early age (ib. p. 13), he became master of the free school at Wymondham in Norfolk. He disliked the scholastic profession, but took an interest in his pupils (cf. Thalia's Banquet, epigrams 70 and 87). His accomplishments were far more varied than are usually found in a school-master. He could make competent Latin and English verses, knew something of botany, and was, besides, a musical composer, a student of heraldry, and a mathematician, being, he says, 'ever naturally addicted to those arts and sciences which consist of proportion and number.' Moreover he could paint, draw, and engrave portraits and landscapes. While at Cambridge he made a map of the town (Compleat Gentleman, p. 126). Horace Walpole commends a print that he engraved of Sir Thomas Cromwell after Holbein. His first essay in literary work was a practical treatise on art. It was entitled 'Graphice, or the most auncient and excellent Art of Drawing with the Pen and Limning in Water Colours,' London, 1606, 4to, and was dedicated to Sir Robert Cotton; it passed through many editions under the new title of 'The Gentleman's Exercise,' 1607, 1612, 1634, when it was dedicated to Sir Edmund Ashfield, deputy lieutenant of Buckinghamshire. In 1610 he translated King James's 'Basilicon Doron' into Latin verse, 'and presented it, with emblemes limned in liuely colours, to Prince Henry' (cf. Gentleman's Exercise, 1612, p. 7). The work a curious example of Peacham's versatility is still extant in Harl. MS. 6855, art. 15 (38 pp.), and bears the title 'Βασιλικὸν ΔDōronῶρον εἰς τὰ ἐμβλήματα βασιλικά totum versum,’ in three books, dedicated to James I. The penmanship and the pen-and-ink drawings are very neat. Each emblem is subscribed by four Latin verses, and each quatrain embodies the substance of a passage from the ‘Basilicon Doron,’ which is supplied in a footnote in an English translation. At the end of the manuscript are the music and words of a madrigal by Peacham in four parts, entitled ‘King James his quier;’ the first words are ‘Wake softly with singing Oriana sleeping.’

Peacham's reputation was sufficiently high in 1611 to lead Thomas Coryate [q. v.] to include four pieces of burlesque verse by him in his ‘Odcombian Banquet.’ In the same year he contributed verses to Arthur Standish's ‘Commons' Complaint.’ Next year he gave further proof of his skill as an artist by publishing ‘Minerva Britanna; or a Garden of Heroical Devises, furnished and adorned with emblemes and impresa's of sundry natures, newly devised, moralized, and published by Henry Peacham, Mr of Artes,’ London, 1612 (cf. Brydges, Restituta, ii. 148). In 1613 he displayed his loyalty in his ‘Period of Mourning in memorie of the late Prince [Henry], disposed into sixe visions, with nuptiall Hymnes in honour of the marriage between Frederick, Count Palatine … and Elizabeth’ (reprinted in Waldron's ‘Literary Museum,’ 1789). It is dedicated to Sir John Swinnerton, lord mayor of London, and contains both Latin and English verse.

The next two years (1613–14) Peacham spent in foreign travel. He acted for part of the time as tutor to the three elder sons of the great art collector, Thomas Howard, second earl of Arundel [q. v.], but apparently during a portion of the tour he was unaccompanied. He was always a diligent sightseer, and he made himself familiar with the chief cities of Holland, France, Italy, and Westphalia. In Italy he studied music under Orazio Vecchi of Modena (Compleat Gentleman, p. 102). In France he paid frequent visits to the house of M. de Ligny, an accomplished soldier and scholar, near Artois (ib. ded.). He visited Breda and Antwerp, and made a long stay in Leyden. One of his published epigrams is entitled ‘A Lattin Distich, which a Frier of Shertogen Bosch in Brabant wrote in my Greek Testament, while I was busie perusing some Bookes in their Library’ (Thalia's Banquet, p. 108). Another epigram (ib. p. 83) he addressed to a jovial host at Utrecht, where he saw much of the engraver Crispin van de Pas (cf. ib. p. 15). Subsequently he visited the elector's court at Heidelberg. In 1614 he was present with the army of Sir John Ogle [q. v.] at the operations in Juliers and Cleves, and in the next year published, with dedications to that general, two works which he wrote while in the Low Countries. One was ‘A most true relation of the affaires of Cleves and Gulick … unto the breaking up of our armie in the beginning of December last past;’ the second was a rambling poem, in both Latin and English, called ‘Prince Henrie revived; or a poeme upon the Birth and in Honor of the Hopefull young Prince Henrie Frederick, First Sonne and Heire apparant to the most Excellent Princes, Frederick Count Palatine of the Rhine, and the Mirrour of Ladies, Princesse Elizabeth his wife,’ London, 1615, 4to.

In 1615 Peacham seems to have settled at Hoxton, London (cf. Compleat Gentleman), and to have finally adopted the literary profession. He endeavoured to attract patrons, and the Earl of Dorset and Lord Dover viewed his efforts with favour. Meanwhile he gained admission to literary society. To Drayton, Selden, Ben Jonson, as well as to the musicians Bird and Dowland, he addressed epigrams (cf. Thalia's Banquet), and his intimate friends included Sir Clement Edmondes [q. v.] and Edward Wright the mathematician. He quickly established some popular reputation. In 1615, when Edmond Peacham [q. v.], the rebellious rector of Hinton St. George, was charged with having written a libel on the king, he resorted, in his defence, to the impotent device of declaring that the obnoxious work was from the pen of Peacham the traveller and author. The statement was made at random. ‘The author’ Peacham was described as a minister of religion, and the rector's knowledge of him obviously rested on the merest hearsay (Spedding, Bacon). In 1620 Peacham published ‘Thalia's Banquet, Furnished with an hundred and odde dishes of newly devised Epigrammes. Whereunto (beside many worthy friends) are invited all that love inoffensive mirth and the muses, by H. P.,’ London, 1620. In epigram 70 he notes that he has a piece of music ready for the press, ‘a set of four or five partes.’

Two years later Peacham published the work by which he is best known, the ‘Compleat Gentleman, fashioning him absolute in the most necessary and commendable qualities concerning minde or bodie that may be required in a noble gentleman.’ The treatise was written for William Howard, Lord Arundel's youngest son, a boy of eight, to whom it is dedicated. The lad had not been Peacham's pupil; but they had met at Norwich, while the boy was a pupil of the bishop there. The book was suggested to him by M. de Ligny of Artois, who called Peacham's attention to the defective equipment of English youths in the matter of accomplishments. It is an interesting endeavour to encourage young men to devote themselves at once to the arts and athletic exercises. A valuable survey is incidentally given of contemporary English efforts in science, art, and literature. A second impression, ‘much inlarged,’ appeared in 1626, and again in 1627, with an attractive chapter on fishing among other additions. This edition was reissued in 1634. A third edition, with additional notes on blazonry by Thomas Blount (1618–1679) [q. v.], is dated 1661; from this volume Dr. Johnson drew all the heraldic definitions in his dictionary. The 1634 edition was reprinted at Oxford in 1906.

In 1624 Peacham lamented the death of his patron, Richard Sackville, earl of Dorset, in ‘An Aprill Shower.’ In 1638 he dedicated to Henry Carey, earl of Dover, a collection of anecdotes, mainly from late classical authors, suggested by a work of Pancirolla. It was entitled ‘The Valley of Varietie, a Discourse for the Times, containing very Learned and Rare Passages out of Antiquitie, Philosophy, and History’ (London, 1638, 4to). There is an engraved frontispiece of an oak encircled by flowers. In chapter xiv. Peacham says he was living in the parish of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, and describes some incombustible flax given him by an Arab who was residing in that neighbourhood. A gossiping autobiographical tract followed in the same year, ‘The Truth of our Times: revealed out of One Man's Experience by Way of Essay,’ dedicated to Henry Barnwell of Terrington, near King's Lynn (cf. Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. xii. 221–2).

Reduced to poverty in his old age, Peacham became subject to fits of melancholy, but tempted fortune in his last years in a series of pamphlets on politics and social topics. He is also said by the herald John Gibbon to have written children's books at a penny each. His political tracts, which are of a strong royalist tone, included: ‘The Duty of Subjects to their King, and Love of their Native Country in time of Extremity and Danger. In Two Books,’ 4to, London, 1639, dedicated to Sir Paul Pindar; ‘A Merry Discourse of Meum and Tuum, or Mine and Thine,’ 4to, London, 1639; ‘A Dialogue between the Crosse in Cheap and Charing Crosse … by Ryhen Pameach,’ 1641; ‘Paradox in Praise of a Dunce in Smectymnus,’ 1642; and ‘Square Caps turned into Round Heads, or the Bishop's Vindication and the Brownists' Conviction: a Dialogue … showing the Folly of one and the Worthiness of the other;’ 4to, with a curious woodcut, 1642.

Of greater literary interest were: ‘The Art of Living in London, or a Caution how Gentlemen, Countreymen, and Strangers, drawn by Occasion of Businesse, should dispose of themselves in the Thriftiest Way, not onely in the City, but in all other Populous Places,’ 1642, 4to (reprinted in the ‘Harleian Miscellany,’ vol. ix.); and ‘The Worth of a Peny, or a Caution to keep Money, with the Causes of the Scarcity and Misery of the Want thereof in these Hard and Merciless Times.’ The latter, which was first privately issued for presentation to the author's friends, was printed originally, as internal evidence shows, in 1641, and not in 1647—the year which appears, by an error, on the title-page. It was dedicated to Richard, eldest son of Richard Gipps, one of the judges of the Guildhall, London. It discusses, without much plan, the economic condition of the country, but includes many interesting anecdotes illustrating social life. A new edition in 1664 added some biographical observations by a friend of Peacham, who knew him in the Low Countries. To a third edition in 1667 were added the bills of mortality from 1642 to 1676 (cf. Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xii. 84). Another edition is dated 1695, and reprints were issued in 1814, and by Mr. Arber in his ‘English Garner’ (vi. 245 sq.) in 1883.

To Peacham is also doubtfully ascribed ‘History of the Five Wise Philosophers, or a Wonderful Relation of the Life of Jehosophat the Hermit, son of Avenario, King of Barma in India,’ 1672, with an address to the reader by Nicholas Herrick, who found the manuscript by accident (cf. ib. 3rd ser. xi. 217). It is quite possible, too, that Peacham, rather than Henry Parrot [q. v.], is the H. P. who published a volume of epigrams in 1608. They were published by John Helmes of St. Dunstan's Churchyard, who produced for Peacham ‘Henrie revived’ in 1615, and they contain at least one epigram which appears in Peacham's ‘Minerva,’ and is undoubtedly his.

Peacham, who was unmarried, died soon after 1641, when his ‘Worth of a Peny’ was first published.

[Collier's Bibl. Cat.; Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, iii. 160; Hawkins's Hist. of Music, iii. 194–5; Brydges's Censura and Restituta Lit.; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. xi. 218, 296, 407, 3rd ser. xii. 221; Cat. of Malone's Books in Bodleian Library, where the best collection of Peacham's work is preserved; Hazlitt's Bibliographical Handbook and Notes; information kindly furnished by Dr. Aldis Wright.]