Laneham, Robert (DNB00)

LANEHAM, ROBERT (fl. 1575), writer on the Kenilworth festivities of 1575, was a native of Nottinghamshire. He attended successively St. Lincoln’s and St. Paul’s schools in London, and apparently reached the fifth form at the latter. He read Æsop and Terence and began Virgil. On leaving school be was apprenticed to a mercer of London named Bomsted, and in due course began business on his own account. He travelled abroad for the purposes of trade, especially in France and Flanders, and his travels were subsequently extensive to enable him to become an efficient linguist in Spanish and ‘Latin' (i.e. probably Ita1ian), as well as in French Dutch. The Earl of Leicester, attracted by his linguistic facility, seems to have taken him into his service, and helped him and his father to secure a patent for supplying the royal mews with beans. Finally, he was appointed door-keeper of the council chamber, and appears to ave accompanied the court on its periodical migrations. He was thus present at the great entertainment given by Leicester to Queen Elizabeth from 9 to 27 July 1575, and wrote a spirited description of the festivities in the form of s letter to his ‘good friend, Master Humphrey Martin,’ another mercer of London. The letter, which was dated ‘at Worcester 20 Aug. 1575,' was published without name of place with the title ‘A Letter: whearin part of the entertainment untoo the Queens Majesty at Killingwoorth Castle, in Warwick Sh’eer in this Soomers Progress, 1575, iz. signified: from a freemd officer attendant in the Coourt (Ro. Le. of the coounty Nosingham untoo his freend a citizen and merchaunt of London.' At the close Laneham describes himself as ‘mercer, merchant adventurer, clerk of the council chamber door, and also keeper of the same.' The accounts of the last week's festivities are somewhat scanty. Copies are in the British Museum and Bodleian Libraries. Laneham writes with much spirit, and his spelling is quaint and unconventional. Towards the close of the tract he gives an interesting account of himself. He claims to be a good dancer and singer, and an expert musician with the guitar, cithern, and virginals. Stories he delights in, especially when they are ancient and rare, and a very valuable part of his ‘Letter’ deals with the ballads and romances in the library of his friend Captain Cox of Coventry [q. v.] He was a lover of sack and sugar, and refers jovially to his rubicund nose and complexion. The work was reissued at Warwick in 1784 and was reprinted in Nichols's ‘Progresses of Queen Elizabeth.' Sir Walter Scott quoted from it in his novel of ‘Kenilworth' (1821), and introduces Laneham, with his pert manner and sense of official consequence. The popularity thus given to Laneham and his literary work led to the republication of the ‘Letter' in London in 1821. Subsequent reprints are to be found in George Adlard's ‘Amye Robert’ (1870), in the Rev. E. H. Knowles's ‘Kenilworth Castle' (1871), and in the publications of the Ballad Society (ed. Furnivall), 1871.

‘Old Lanam,' who may he identical with Laneham, is mentioned as lashing the puritan pamphleteers with ‘his rimes’ in ‘Rhythmes against Martin Marre Prelate' (1589?). One John Lanham was a player in the Earl of Leicester's company in 1574, and on 15 May 1589–90 he and another actor, described as two of the queen's players, received payment for producing two interludes at court.

[Laneham’s Letter, ed. Furnivall; Ballad Society, 1871 ; Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, i. 420 sq.]

S. L.