Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Smith, William (fl.1596)

1904 Errata appended. The comment about A Notable Description of the World is apparently incorrect.

SMITH, WILLIAM (fl. 1596), poet, avowed himself a disciple of Spenser, and in 1596 published a collection of sonnets, entitled ‘Chloris, or the Complaint of the passionate despised Shepheard,’ printed by Edmund Bollifant, 1596, 4to. The volume opens with two sonnets, inscribed ‘To the most excellent and learned shepheard, Collin Cloute’ (i.e. Spenser), and signed ‘W. Smith.’ In a third sonnet addressed to Spenser at the close of the book Smith calls Spenser the patron of his maiden verse. The intervening pages are occupied by forty-eight sonnets, very artificially constructed, and by a poem of greater literary power, in twenty lines, called ‘Corins Dreame of the faire Chloris.’ One of the sonnets, ‘A Notable Description of the World,’ had been previously published in ‘The Phoenix-nest,’ 1595, and there bore the signature ‘W. S. gentleman.’ ‘Corins Dreame’ was transferred to ‘England's Helicon’ (1600 and 1614). Two copies of Smith's rare volume are now known: one is in the Bodleian Library; the other, in the Huth Library, formerly belonged successively to Narcissus Luttrell and to Thomas Park. It was reprinted in Mr. Edward Arber's ‘English Garner,’ viii. 171 sqq.

There is no means of determining whether the writer is identical with the ‘W. S.’ who prefixed verses ‘in commendation of the author’ to Grange's ‘Golden Aphroditis,’ 1577, or with the ‘W. S.’ who paid Breton a like compliment in his ‘Wil of Wit,’ 1606.

Heber owned a manuscript entitled ‘A New Yeares Guift, or a posie upon certen flowers presented to the Countesse of Pembrooke by the author of “Chloris, or the passionate despised Shepherd;”’ it is now in the British Museum, MS. Addit. 35186.

‘A booke called Amours by J. D., with certein other Sonnetes by W. S.,’ was licensed for publication by Eleazar Edgar, 3 Jan. 1599–1600 (Arber, Transcript, iii. 153). Collier suggested that ‘J. D.’ was a misprint for ‘M. D.,’ and that this entry implied an intention on the part of the publisher to reissue Michael Drayton's ‘Sonnets’ which the poet had entitled ‘Amours’ in the first edition of 1594, in conjunction with a collection of sonnets by ‘W. S.’—initials which Collier identified as those of Drayton's friend, Shakespeare. Shakespeare's ‘Sonnets’ were not published till 1609. It seems more likely that the publisher Edgar contemplated a republication of Smith's collection of sonnets with some work (since lost) by Sir John Davies [q. v.], but the point cannot be decided positively. Edgar does not seem to have actually published any book which can be identified with the description given in the Stationers' ‘Registers.’ Nine years later Edgar published a prose treatise of a different calibre by an author signing himself ‘W. S.’ It was entitled ‘Instructions for the increasing of Mulberie Trees and the breeding of Silk-wormes’ (London, 1609, 4to, with illustrations).

Smith appears to have usually signed his name ‘W. Smith,’ and some plays bearing that signature have been assigned to William Smith, but these were in all probability the work of Wentworth Smith [q. v.]

[Collier's Bibliographical Account; Ritson's Bibliographia Anglo-Poetica; Hunter's MS. Chorus Vatum in Brit. Mus. MS. Addit. 24489, p. 78.]

S. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.254
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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142 i 17-18 Smith, William (fl. 1596): for but its present whereabouts is unknown. read it is now in the British Museum (MS. Addit. 35186).