Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Quarles, Francis
QUARLES, FRANCIS (1592–1644), poet, was born at his father's manor-house of Stewards at Romford, Essex, and was baptised at Romford on 8 May 1592. The father, James Quarles (d. 1599), who claimed descent from a family settled in England before the Norman conquest, was successively clerk of the royal kitchen, clerk of the Green Cloth, and surveyor-general for victuals of the navy under Elizabeth (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 289, 7th Rep. p. 655a). Norden, in his 'Description of Essex' in 1594, describes him as a man of account (p. 41). The poet's mother, Joan, was daughter of Edward or Eldred Dalton of Mores Place, Hadham, Kent. She died in 1606, and was buried with her husband at Romford. Francis was the third son; the eldest, Robert (1580–1640), on whom the poet wrote an elegy, succeeded to the manor of Stewards, was knighted by James I at Newmarket on 5 March 1607–8, and sat in parliament as member for Colchester in 1626. Francis, with his next eldest brother, James, was educated at a country school. To each of them their father, who died in their infancy, left by will 50l. a year. William Tichbourn, 'chaplain' of Romford, who in 1605 bequeathed them money to buy a book apiece, doubtless assisted in their education. When their mother died, in 1606, they had just settled at Cambridge, and in her will she directed the eldest son, Robert, to provide for the payment of the annuities due to them from their father's estate, but not yet fully paid. Francis became a member of Christ's College, Cambridge, and graduated B.A. in 1608. Subsequently he studied law at Lincoln's Inn, with the object, his wife tells us, of fitting himself for composing differences between friends and neighbours rather than of following the legal profession. At the same time he practised music, and on one occasion sold his ‘Inn-of-court gowne’ to pay for a lute-case (Anecdotes and Traditions, Camd. Soc. p. 48). But his mind ‘was chiefly set upon devotion and study.’ Despite an alleged antipathy to court life, he accepted the post of cup-bearer to Princess Elizabeth on her marriage to the elector palatine in 1613. Accompanying his mistress to Heidelberg, he met in Germany Robert Sidney, earl of Leicester, a patron of his father, and other English noblemen, who showed him attention. Returning to London before 1620, he published in that year his earliest work, which plainly indicated the path that he was to tread as a man of letters. It was a lugubrious paraphrase from the Bible in heroic verse, entitled ‘A Feast of Wormes set forth in a Poeme of the History of Jonah.’ It is prefaced by a dedication to the Earl of Leicester, and to it are appended a ‘Hymne to God,’ eleven pious meditations of some intensity, and a collection of fervid poems bearing the general title ‘Pentelogia, or the Quintessence of Meditation’ (other editions 1626 and 1642). Many similar efforts quickly followed. ‘Hadassa: History of Queene Ester,’ appeared in 1621, with a dedication to James I. In 1624 Quarles published ‘Job Militant, with Meditations Divine and Morall,’ dedicated to Charles, prince of Wales; ‘Sions Elegies wept by Jeremie the Prophet,’ dedicated to William Herbert, third earl of Pembroke (an engraved title-page is dated 1625), and ‘Sions Sonnets sung by Solomon the King,’ dedicated to James Hamilton, marquis of Hamilton. The last scriptural paraphrase which he published in his lifetime was the ‘Historie of Samson’ (1631), dedicated to Sir James Fullerton. In 1625 he turned his attention, for the first of many times, to elegiac verse, and issued an ‘Alphabet of Elegies upon the much and truly lamented death of Doctor Aylmer.’ There are twenty-two twelve-line stanzas and a verse epitaph, each line of which begins with a letter of the alphabet in regular order.
Quarles rapidly extended his acquaintance among serious-minded men and women in the higher ranks of society, and he made some friendships among men of letters. In 1631 he wrote an epitaph on Michael Drayton, which was inscribed on the poet's tomb in Westminster Abbey. He exchanged verses with Edward Benlowes [q. v.], a native of Essex like himself, who introduced him to Phineas Fletcher [q. v.] To the latter's ‘Purple Island’ (1633) Quarles contributed two commendatory poems, one of which, beginning ‘Mans bodies like a house,’ he printed in his ‘Divine Fancies.’ In 1626 he was in London, and prosecuted at the Clerkenwell sessions-house a woman, Frances Richardson, for picking his pocket in the parish of St. Clement Danes (Notes and Queries, 7th ser. iv. 521). At the time he was seeking, conjointly with Sir William Luckyn and two other Essex neighbours, an act of parliament to erect works for the manufacture of saltpetre by a new process (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 10).
Before 1629 Quarles's piety and literary ability had secured for him the post of private secretary to James Ussher, archbishop of Armagh. He lived with his family under his master's roof in Dublin, and helped Ussher in his historical researches. Writing to Vossius, Ussher spoke of him as ‘Vir ob sacratiorem poesim apud Anglos suos non incelebris.’ With a view to increasing his income, Quarles in 1631 obtained a lease in reversion of the impositions on tobacco and tobacco-pipes imported into Ireland (ib. 4th Rep. p. 369).
At Dublin, Quarles first attempted secular poetry, and in 1629 he published (in London) a poetic romance called ‘Argalus and Parthenia.’ It was dedicated to Henry Rich, earl of Holland. An address to the reader is dated from Dublin, 4 March 1628. Owing to a misprint of 1621 for the latter year in a new edition of 1647, bibliographers have assigned the first publication to 1621, but the book was not licensed for the press at Stationers' Hall till 27 March 1629. The story is drawn from Sidney's ‘Arcadia.’ In 1632 more of his sacred verse was collected in ‘Divine Fancies digested into Epigrams, Meditations, and Observations’ (in four books). A eulogy on Archbishop Ussher figures in book iv. (No. 100). This volume was dedicated to Prince Charles and the prince's governess, the Countess of Dorset, who deeply sympathised with Quarles's religious bent. Next year (1633) Quarles's growing fame justified the reissue in a single volume of all his biblical paraphrases, ‘newly augmented,’ together with his ‘Alphabet of Elegies.’ The volume was entitled ‘Divine Poems,’ and was dedicated to the king.
Before 1633 Quarles seems to have retired from Dublin to Roxwell in his native county of Essex, and there he prepared for publication in 1635 the work by which his fame was assured, his ‘Emblems’ (London, by G. M., and sold at John Marriot's shop), sm. 8vo. The volume is lavishly and quaintly illustrated mainly by William Marshall, whose work, as reproduced in the early issues, is admirable. Other plates by W. Simpson, Robert Vaughan, and I. Payne are of comparatively inferior quality. Quarles divided his volume into five books, but only the drawings and their poetic interpretations in the first two seem original; the forty-five prints in the last three books are borrowed, with the plates reversed, from the Jesuit Hermann Hugo's ‘Pia Desideria Emblematis, Elegiis et Affectibus SS. Patrum illustrata’ (Antwerp, 1624). Quarles's verses in the last three books are also translated or closely paraphrased from Hugo. Quarles dedicated his work to his old friend Edward Benlowes, whose long Latin poem, ‘Quarleis,’ in praise of the author, was appended, with a separate title-page finely engraved by Marshall; this poem, which is translated into English in Dr. Grosart's edition of Quarles's works, had been already published in 1634 both in Benlowes's ‘Lusus Poeticus Poetis,’ and with a new edition of Quarles's ‘Divine Poems.’ Quarles's ‘Emblems’ achieved an immediate and phenomenal popularity, and he followed up his success by a similar venture, ‘Hieroglyphikes of the Life of Man’ (1638), illustrated by Marshall, and dedicated to his patroness, the Countess of Dorset. The licence is dated 9 Jan. 1637–8. This book was bound up with later editions of the ‘Emblems.’
In 1638 Quarles gave to another Essex friend, John Josselyn [q. v.], metrical versions of six psalms (Nos. 16, 25, 51, 88, 113, and 137) to take out to John Winthrop and John Cotton in America. They were printed at Boston in the ‘Whole Booke of Psalms’ (1640). Other verse published in Quarles's later life consisted of separately issued elegies. These respectively commemorated Sir Julius Cæsar (1636, dedicated to the widow; in Huth Libr.; reprinted in Huth's Fugitive Poetical Tracts, 2nd ser. No. xii. 1875); ‘Mr. John Wheeler, sonne of Sir Edmund Wheeler of Riding Court, neare Windsor’ (1637); Dr. Wilson, master of the rolls (1638); Mildred, wife of Sir William Luckyn (whose elegy Quarles entitled ‘Mildreiados,’ 1638); his brother, Sir Robert Quarles (1639–40); and ‘those incomparable sisters, the Countesse of Cleaveland, and Mistresse Cicily Killigrue, daughters of Sir John Crofts, Knt.’ (1640).
On 1 Feb. 1639 Quarles, on the recommendation of the Earl of Dorset, the husband of the lady to whom he had dedicated his ‘Divine Fancies’ and his ‘Hieroglyphikes,’ was appointed chronologer to the city of London. This post he filled till his death, but undertook no literary work in his official capacity. Thenceforth he appears to have resided in the parish either of St. Olave or St. Leonard, Foster Lane, and to have mainly devoted himself to the composition of prose manuals of piety. Of these the earliest was ‘Enchiridion, containing Institutions Divine and Moral,’ a collection of aphorisms on religious and ethical topics. The first edition, dated 1640, includes three centuries of essays and is dedicated to Ussher's daughter Elizabeth. Next year a new edition added a fourth century, and the volume was dedicated to Prince Charles (afterwards Charles II), the old address to Elizabeth Ussher serving to introduce the second century. The popularity of this volume almost equalled that of the ‘Emblems.’ Of like character were Quarles's ‘Observations concerning Princes and States upon Peace and Warre’ (1642), and ‘Barnabas and Boanerges … or Wine and Oyl for … afflicted Soules,’ London, 12mo, 1644, the first part of a curious collection of meditations, soliloquies, and prayers, adapted to the besetting sins of various worshippers.
A sturdy royalist, Quarles openly avowed his sympathy with the royal cause, and he is said to have visited Charles I at Oxford early in 1644. On 9 April in the same year, according to Thomason, he published, anonymously at Oxford, a defence of the king's political and ecclesiastical position in a prose tract entitled ‘The Loyall Convert.’ He denounced the parliamentarians as a ‘viperous generation,’ called Cromwell a ‘profest defacer of churches and rifeler of the monuments of the dead,’ and defended the employment of Roman catholics in the royalist army. He pursued the same line of argument in two later pamphlets, ‘The Whipper Whipt’ (1644), a defence of Cornelius Burges [q. v.], dedicated to the king, and ‘The New Distemper.’ The three tracts were reissued in one volume in 1645, with a new dedication to Charles I, and with the general title ‘The Profest Royalist in his Quarrel with the Times’ (copy in Trin. Coll. Dublin). Quarles's pronounced views brought on him the active animosity of the parliamentarians. His library was searched by parliamentary soldiers and his manuscripts destroyed. Moreover, ‘a petition was preferred against him by eight men.’ This ‘struck him so to the heart that he never recovered it.’
He died, according to his wife's account, on 8 Sept. 1644, and was buried, according to the parish register, in the church of St. Olave, Silver Street, three days later. His wife states in error that he was buried in St. Leonard's Church, Foster Lane. Letters of administration, in which he was described as ‘late of Ridley Hall, Essex,’ were granted to his widow on 4 Feb. 1644–5. On the margin appears the word ‘pauper’ (Wills from Doctors' Commons, Camd. Soc. p. 159).
Pope's contemptuous reference to Quarles as a pensioner of Charles I in the lines (Imitations of Horace, Ep. i. ll. 386–7):
The hero William and the martyr Charles,
One knighted Blackmore, and one pensioned Quarles,
seems based on no authentic testimony. Quarles dedicated many of his books to Charles I; and, after his death, a publisher, Richard Royston, dedicated to the king a second part of his ‘Barnabas and Boanerges,’ which bore the alternative title ‘Judgment and Mercy for Afflicted Soules’ (1646). There Royston speaks of Quarles as sacrificing his utmost abilities to the king's service ‘till death darkened that great light in his soul;’ but the implication seems to be that he went without reward.
On 28 May 1618 Quarles married at St. Andrew's, Holborn, Ursula (b. 1601), daughter of John Woodgate of the parish of St. Andrew's. By her he had eighteen children. The eldest son, John, is noticed separately. The baptisms of four younger children are entered in the parish register of Roxwell; but of these Joanna and Philadelphia only survived infancy.
Great as was Quarles's popularity in his lifetime, it was largely increased by his posthumous publications. The earliest of these was ‘Solomons Recantation, entituled Ecclesiastes paraphrased. With a Soliloquie or Meditation upon every Chapter, &c. By Francis Quarles. Opus posthumum. Never before imprinted. London, printed by M. F. for Richard Royston, 1645,’ 4to. A portrait, ‘ætatis suæ 52,’ by William Marshall, forms the frontispiece; verses by Alexander Ross are subscribed. ‘Vrsula Quarles his sorrowful widow’ prefixed a sympathetic ‘short relation’ of Quarles's life and death, with a postscript by Nehemiah Rogers [q. v.]; and there are elegies by James Duport in Latin, and by R. Stable in English. Shortly afterwards there appeared another volume of verse, ‘The Shepheard's Oracles, delivered in certain Eglogues,’ 1646, 4to. This versifies the theological controversies of the times. The interlocutors include persons named Orthodoxus, Anarchus, Catholicus, Canonicus, and the like; and the volume concludes with a spirited ballad, sung by Anarchus, ironically denouncing all existing institutions in church and state. The address to the reader, dated 26 Nov. 1645 and signed John Marriott, who, with Richard Marriott, published the volume, gives a charmingly sympathetic picture of Quarles's peaceful pursuits, and describes him as an enthusiastic angler, which several passages in the book confirm. Internal evidence proves the author of the address to have been Izaak Walton, who was on friendly terms with the publisher Marriott (Compleat Angler, ed. Nicolas, pp. 36, 37). In 1646 Quarles's wife issued at Cambridge a second part of the popular ‘Barnabas and Boanerges’ under the title of ‘Judgment and Mercie for Afflicted Soules;’ she complained that two London editions of the same tract in the same year were unauthorised and inaccurate. ‘A direfull Anathema against Peace-haters, written by Fran. Quarles,’ beginning ‘Peace, vipers, peace,’ appeared as a broadside in 1647. Of different character was a fifth posthumous piece: ‘The Virgin Widow’ (1649, 4to, and 1656), an interlude, which was ‘acted privately at Chelsea, by a company of young gentlemen, with good approvement.’ The publisher describes it as the author's very first essay in that kind, and a proof which few modern readers would admit ‘that he knew as well to be delightfully facetious as divinely serious.’ Langbaine prudently describes it as ‘an innocent, inoffensive play.’ Some of the verses in Fuller's ‘Abel Redevivus’ (1651) are by Quarles; the rest are by his son John.
Quarles has been wrongly credited with ‘Anniversaries upon his Paranete continued’ (1635), a work by Richard Brathwaite; ‘Midnight Meditations of Death, with pious and profitable Observations and Consolations: perused by Francis Quarles a little before his Death, published by E[dward] B[enlowes],’ London, 1646; ‘Schola Cordis, or the Heart of itself gone away from God brought back again to Him and instructed by Him, in XLVII Emblems,’ London, 1647, 8vo (usually quoted as ‘The School of the Heart’). The last work was authoritatively assigned, in the edition of 1675, to the author of the ‘Synagogue’—i.e. Christopher Harvey [q. v.] Yet in a reprint edited by De Coetlogon in 1777, and many later issues, including one published at Bristol in 1808 by ‘Reginald Wolfe, Esq.’ (a pseudonym for Thomas Frognall Dibdin), and the Chiswick Press edition of 1812, it is positively assigned to Quarles. This mistaken ascription was adopted by Southey and by Samuel Weller Singer [q. v.], who edited it and other genuine works of Quarles in 1845.
Quarles's works were constantly reprinted for more than a century after his death. His ‘Argalus and Parthenia’ (1629), which was adorned with illustrations in the edition of 1656, was reissued in 1631, 1647, 1656, 1677, 1684, 1687, 1708, and 1726. The ‘Divine Poems,’ a collection of the paraphrases and some minor pieces, reappeared in 1664, 1669, 1674 (illustrated), 1706, 1714, and 1717; and the ‘Divine Fancies’ in 1652, 1657, 1660, 1664, 1671, 1675 (‘seventh edition’), 1679, and 1687. Of the ‘Emblems’ the reissues were far more numerous, but the plates in the first edition are alone of any value: the chief reissues are those of 1643 (Cambridge), 1660, 1663, 1696 (with the ‘Hieroglyphikes’), 1717, 1736, 1777 (edited by De Coetlogon with the ‘Hieroglyphikes’ and the ‘School of the Heart’); 1812 (Chiswick Press), 1814 (edited by the Rev. R. Wilson), 1839 (with notes by Toplady and Ryland), in 1845 (edited by S. W. Singer), in 1860 and 1871 (with new illustrations based on the old cuts by C. Bennett and W. H. Rogers). Of his pious manuals in prose, ‘Barnabas and Boanerges, or Judgment and Mercy’ reappeared in 1646, 1651, 1671, 1679, 1807 (edited by Reginald Wolfe—i.e. T. F. Dibdin), 1849, 1855; and the ‘Enchiridion’ in 1654, 1670, 1681, 1822, 1841, and 1856; a Swedish translation of the last appeared at Stockholm in 1656. A complete collection of Quarles's ‘Works,’ edited by Dr. A. B. Grosart, appeared in 1874 in the ‘Chertsey Worthies Library’ (3 vols.)
A painting of Quarles by William Dobson is in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Besides the engraved portrait by Marshall in ‘Solomon's Recantation’ (1645), which is often introduced into editions of the ‘Enchiridion’ and ‘Boanerges,’ there is another engraved portrait by Thomas Cross.
The wretchedness of man's earthly existence was the main topic of Quarles's muse, and it is exclusively in religious circles that the bulk of his work has been welcomed with any enthusiasm. In his own day he found very few admirers among persons of literary cultivation, and critics of a later age treated his literary pretensions with contempt. Anthony à Wood sneered at him as ‘an old puritanicall poet … the sometime darling of our plebeian judgment.’ Phillips, in his ‘Theatrum Poetarum’ (1675), wrote that his verses ‘have been ever, and still are, in wonderful veneration among the vulgar;’ Pope, who criticised his ‘Emblems’ in detail in a letter to Atterbury, denounces the book in the ‘Dunciad’ (bk. i. ll. 139–40) as one
Where the pictures for the page atone,
And Quarles is saved by beauties not his own.
Horace Walpole wrote that ‘Milton was forced to wait till the world had done admiring Quarles.’ But Quarles is not quite so contemptible as his seventeenth- and eighteenth-century critics assumed. Most of his verse is diffuse and dull; he abounds in fantastic, tortuous, and irrational conceits, and he often sinks into ludicrous bathos; but there is no volume of his verse which is not illumined by occasional flashes of poetic fire. Charles Lamb was undecided whether to prefer him to Wither, and finally reached the conclusion that Quarles was the wittier writer, although Wither ‘lays more hold of the heart’ (Letters, ed. Ainger, i. 95). Pope deemed Wither a better poet but a less honest man. Quarles's most distinguished admirer of the present century was the American writer, H. D. Thoreau, who asserted, not unjustly, that ‘he uses language sometimes as greatly as Shakespeare’ (Letters, 1865). Quarles's ‘Enchiridion,’ his most popular prose work, contains many aphorisms forcibly expressed.
[Ursula Quarles's Short Relation in Solomon's Recantation (1646) is the chief authority, but it is rarely possible to corroborate its statements from other sources. Dr. Grosart, in his edition of 1874, has printed the wills of the poet's parents; see E. J. Sage's articles on the Quarles family in the East Anglian; Collier's Bibliographical Catalogue; Addison's Works, 1726, ii. 293; Granger's Biogr. Hist. It is desirable to distinguish between Francis Quarles the poet and another Francis Quarles (1590–1658), son of Edmund Quarles, citizen of Norwich, who entered Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in 1605, obtained a scholarship there, and in 1613 was ‘major pensionarius’ and afterwards sacellanus. He was subsequently rector of Newton, Suffolk. His son Francis (1622–1683) was admitted pensioner of Sidney-Sussex College in 1639, and succeeded to the rectory of Newton (Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. p. 117, 3rd Rep. p. 328; and information kindly sent by the Rev. A. T. Wren, rector of Newton-by-Sudbury).]