Open main menu

GORGES, Sir ARTHUR (d. 1625), poet, and translator, was third son of Sir William Gorges, vice-admiral of the fleet; his mother was Winifred, daughter of Roger Budockshide of St. Budeaux, Devonshire, and first cousin to Sir Walter Raleigh [q. v.] He was also nephew of Sir Thomas Gorges, who married Helena Snakenburg, widow of William Parr, marquis of Northampton, and cousin of Sir Ferdinando Gorges [q. v.] Gorges belonged to that brilliant band of English nobles who combined active service with the finest literary acquirements. In 1582 he was a gentleman-pensioner, and on 13 Oct. 1584 he married Douglas, only child and heiress of Henry Howard, viscount Bindon. She was one of the greatest heiresses of the day, and the marriage appears to have incurred the royal displeasure. She died on 13 Aug. 1590, leaving an only daughter, Ambrosia, who died in 1600, about ten years of age. The early death of Gorges's wife was commemorated by her husband's friend, Spenser, the poet, in the poem entitled ‘Daphnaida.’ In this the disconsolate husband is introduced as ‘Alcyon,’ and again in the poem ‘Colin Clout's come home again.’ Gorges was associated with Raleigh as one of the volunteers against the Spanish invasion. In 1597 he commanded the Wast Spite, the ship in which Raleigh sailed as vice-admiral under Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex [q. v.], on the Islands Voyage. In 1607 Gorges wrote an account of this voyage, which he appears to have intended to publish, with a preface and dedication to Henry, prince of Wales, and also ‘with Marine and Martiall Discourses added according to the occurrences.’ It subsequently came into the hands of Samuel Purchas [q. v.], and was published by him in his ‘Pilgrimes,’ bk. x. chap. ix. It forms the chief account we have of this important voyage, and though Gorges has been accused of partiality towards Raleigh in his treatment of the latter's controversy with Essex, his account has always been accepted as true. Gorges was one of nine knights made on 29 Oct. 1597, and at that time had already married a second wife, Elizabeth Clinton, daughter of Henry, earl of Lincoln. She brought him considerable property in Chelsea, including the house which had once belonged to Sir Thomas More, and the chapel in Chelsea pertaining to it. About 1611 Gorges, together with Sir Walter Cope, was instrumental in starting a central office for the transaction and registration of the sale of lands, tenements, and goods, and also mercantile and other business, called ‘The Publicke Register for Generall Commerce,’ and to be erected in ‘Britain's Burse.’ For this they obtained royal letters patent, but it appears to have been unsuccessful, and was relinquished. Subsequently Gorges seems to have devoted himself to literature. Like many of his contemporaries he was a prolific verse-maker. Most of his poems remain in manuscript, but a few have been published (see Sir S. E. Brydges, Restituta, iv. 506, and British Bibliographer, iv. 134). They are worth rescuing from oblivion. In 1614 he translated Lucan's ‘Pharsalia,’ an achievement commemorated in his epitaph. In 1619 he published a translation of Bacon's ‘De Sapientia Veterum,’ and also a translation of Bacon's ‘Essays’ into French.

Gorges was member of parliament for Yarmouth in 1584, Camelford in 1588, Dorsetshire in 1592–3, and Rye in 1601. He had large property in Chelsea, and built a house there, where he died on 10 Oct. 1625. He was buried in Sir Thomas More's chapel, where a handsome monument remains to his memory. By his second wife he had six sons and five daughters. His eldest son, Arthur Gorges, was also knighted, and died in October 1661, leaving six children by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Chauncey of Edgcote, Northamptonshire.

[Oldys's Life of Sir W. Raleigh; Purchas's Pilgrimes, bk. x.; Todd's Life and Works of Spenser; authorities cited in the text; Cal. State Papers, Dom., March 1611, March 1623; information from the late Rev. Frederick Brown.]

L. C.