Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/King, Humphrey

KING, HUMPHREY (fl. 1613), verse-writer, a seller of tobacco in London, was author of ‘An Halfe-penny-worth of Wit, in a Pennyworth of Paper. Or, The Hermites Tale. The third impression,’ London, 1613, 4to, pp. 48. No earlier edition is known, but it must have been printed some years previously. ‘Robin the Devil his Two Penniworth of Wit in Half a Penniworth of Paper. By Robert Lee, a famous fencer of London, alias Robin the Devil’ (London, for N. Ling, 1607, 4to), is mentioned in West's ‘Sale Catalogue,’ 1773, and may have been an earlier edition, but it is not now known to be extant. As early as 1599 Nashe had dedicated his ‘Lenten Stuffe’ to ‘his worthie good patron, Lustie Humfrey, according as the townsmen doo christen him, little Numps as the Nobilitie and Courtiers do name him, and Honest Humfrey, as all his friendes and acquaintance esteeme him, king of the Tobacconists hic & ubique, and a singular Mecænas to the Pipe and the Tabour;’ and at the end of the dedicatory epistle refers to the forthcoming ‘sacred Poeme of the Hermites Tale, that will restore the golden age amongst us.’ Prefixed to King's poem is a jocular dedicatory epistle to the Countess of Sussex. He acknowledges that his work is ‘a course homespun linsey woolsey webbe of wit;’ but, seeing his ‘inferiours in the gifts of learning, wisedome, and vnderstanding torment the Print daily,’ he is ‘the bolder to shoulder in amongst thē.’ The epistle is followed by an address to the reader, to which succeed three short copies of verses (the second being ‘In discommendation of the Author’), and three unsigned sonnets. ‘The Hermites Tale’ takes the form of a dialogue between a hermit and a young man concerning the vices and follies of the age. Complaint is made of the growth of luxury and decay of hospitality, and the puritans are vigorously assailed.

[Collier's Bibliographical Catalogue; Corser's Collectanea; Hazlitt's Handbook.]

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