Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Strode, William (1602-1645)

STRODE, WILLIAM (1602–1645), poet and dramatist, born, according to the entry in the Oxford matriculation register, in 1602, was only son of Philip Strode, who lived near Plympton, Devonshire, by his wife, Wilmot Hanton. Sir Richard Strode of Newnham, Devonshire, seems to have been his uncle. He gained a king's scholarship at Westminster, and was elected to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1617, but he did not matriculate in the university till 1 June 1621, when he was stated to be nineteen years old. He graduated B.A. on 6 Dec. 1621, M.A. on 17 June 1624, and B.D. on 10 Dec. 1631. Taking holy orders, he gained a reputation as ‘a most florid preacher,’ and became chaplain to Richard Corbet [q. v.], bishop of Oxford. Like the bishop, he amused his leisure by writing facile verse. In 1629 he was appointed public orator in the university, and served as proctor during the same year. In 1633 he was instituted to the rectory of East Bradenham, Norfolk, but apparently continued to reside in Oxford. When Charles I and Queen Henrietta visited the university in 1636, Strode welcomed them at the gate of Christ Church with a Latin oration, and on 29 Aug. 1636 a tragi-comedy by him, called ‘The Floating Island,’ was acted by the students of his college in the royal presence. The songs were set to music by Henry Lawes. The play was reported to be too full of morality to please the court, but the king commended it, and preferment followed. In 1638 Strode was made a canon of Christ Church, and vicar of Blackbourton, Oxfordshire, and he proceeded to the degree of D.D. (6 July 1638). From 1639 to 1642 he was vicar of Badby, Northamptonshire. He died at Christ Church on 11 March 1644–1645, and was buried in the divinity chapel of Christ Church Cathedral, but no memorial marked his grave.

Wood describes Strode as ‘a person of great parts, a pithy ostentatious preacher, an exquisite orator, and an eminent poet.’ He is referred to as ‘this renowned wit’ in an advertisement of his play in Phillips's ‘World of Words,’ 1658. Three sermons by him were published in his last years. His ‘Floating Island’ was first printed in 1655, with a dedication addressed by the writer to Sir John Hele. But his fame, like that of his Oxford friends, Bishop Corbet and Jasper Mayne, who were also divines, rests on his occasional verse, which shows a genuine lyrical faculty and sportive temperament. Specimens were included in many seventeenth-century anthologies and song-books, but much remains in manuscript, and well deserves printing. Two of his poems are in Henry Lawes's ‘Ayres for Three Voices,’ of which one, ‘To a Lady taking off her Veil,’ was reprinted in Beloe's ‘Anecdotes’ (vi. 207–8). Others, including ‘Melancholy Opposed,’ are in ‘Wit Restored’ (1658), in ‘Parnassus Biceps’ (1658), and in ‘Poems written by William, Earl of Pembroke’ (1660). An anthem by him was set to music by Richard Gibbs, organist at Norwich. A poem on kisses, in the manner of Lyly's ‘Cupid and Campaspe,’ appeared in ‘New Court Songs and Poems, by R. V. Gent.’ (1672), and in Dryden's ‘Miscellany Poems’ (pt. iv. 1716, p. 131); it was reprinted in ‘Notes and Queries’ (1st ser. i. 302) and elsewhere. Six poems by him from ‘an old manuscript volume’ are in ‘Gent. Mag.’ 1823, ii. 7–8; two of these are in Ellis's ‘Specimens,’ iii. 173. A song in Devonshire dialect, recounting a countryman's visit to Plymouth, is assigned to Strode (printed from Harl. MS. in ‘Notes and Queries,’ 2nd ser. x. 462). Some unpublished pieces are among Rawlinson Ms. 142 and the Sancroft manuscripts at the Bodleian Library, and the Harleian manuscripts at the British Museum.

Prince's Worthies of Devon, pp. 562–6; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 151–3; Langbaine's Dramatick Poets; Fleay's Biographical Chronicle of the English Drama; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Welch's Alumni Westmonast. p. 86; cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 464.]

S. L.