Stapleton, Robert (DNB00)

STAPLETON or STAPYLTON, Sir ROBERT (d. 1669), dramatic poet and translator, was the third son of Richard Stapleton of Carlton by Snaith, Yorkshire, by Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Henry Pierrepoint of Holm Pierrepoint (Dugdale, Visitation of Yorkshire, ed. Davies, p. 265). He was educated in the Benedictine convent of St. Gregory at Douay, where he became a professed monk of the order on 30 March 1625 (Weldon, Chronicle, Appendix, p. 9). But being, as Wood observes, ‘too gay and poetical to be confined within a cloyster,’ he left the Benedictines, turned protestant, and was appointed one of the gentlemen in ordinary of the privy chamber to Prince Charles. He followed the king when his majesty left London, and was knighted at Nottingham on 13 Sept. 1642 (Metcalfe, Book of Knights, p. 199). After the battle of Edgehill he accompanied the king to Oxford, where he was created D.C.L. in November 1642. He remained at Oxford until its surrender to Fairfax in May 1645. Under the Commonwealth he lived a studious life, and at the Restoration he was made one of the gentlemen ushers to the privy chamber.

Stapleton died on 10 or 11 July 1669, and was buried on the 15th near the vestry door of Westminster Abbey (Chester, Registers of Westminster Abbey, p. 170). His will, dated 11 June 1669, was proved on 29 July by Elizabeth Simpson of Westminster, widow, to whom he left the bulk of his estate (although he had a wife living, whom he barely mentioned) in consideration, as he alleged, of the great care she had taken of him during his long illness. His wife was a Mrs. Hammond, widow (born Mainwaring).

For the stage he wrote:

  1. ‘The Royal Choice,’ a play entered in the register of the Stationers' Company, 29 Nov. 1653. No copy of this appears to have been preserved.
  2. ‘The Slighted Maid,’ London, 1663, 4to, a comedy, in five acts and in verse, which Pepys saw acted at the Duke's House, Lincoln's Inn Fields, on coronation day, 20 May 1603. The cast included the Bettertons, Cave Underhill [q. v.], and other well-known actors. Genest styles it ‘a pretty good comedy’ (History of the Stage, i. 46).
  3. ‘The Step-Mother,’ London, 1664, a tragi-comedy, in five acts and in verse, acted at Lincoln's Inn Fields by the Duke of York's servants on 28 May 1663. The cast was much the same as for the preceding play, but Genest says ‘the serious scenes of it are bad’ (ib. i. 46–7).
  4. ‘The Tragedie of Hero and Leander,’ London, 1669, 8vo, in five acts and in verse. ‘This is an indifferent tragedy—it is founded on the poem of Musæus—the original story being very simple, Stapylton was obliged to make large additions to it in order to form 5 acts—he has not been happy in these additions’ (ib. x. 142). It was never acted.

Stapleton published the following translations:

  1. ‘Pliny's Panegyricke: a Speech in the Senate, wherein publick Thanks are presented to the Emperor Trajan,’ Oxford, 1644, 4to, from the Latin of Pliny the younger, illustrated with annotations.
  2. ‘The first Six Satyrs of Juvenal … with annotations clearing the obscure places out of History, Laws, and Ceremonies of the Romans,’ Oxford, 1644, 8vo. Dr. Bartholomew Holyday used to say that Stapleton made use of his translation of Juvenal, having borrowed it in manuscript.
  3. ‘The Loves of Hero and Leander: a Greek poem [by Musæus] translated into English verse, with annotations upon the original,’ Oxford, 1645, 4to; London, 1647, 8vo.
  4. ‘Juvenal's Sixteen Satyrs [translated in verse]. Or, a Survey of the Manners and Actions of Mankind. With arguments, marginall notes, and annotations,’ London, 1647, 8vo; 1660, fol. 1673, 8vo.
  5. Translation of Faminius Strada's ‘De Bello Belgico,’ or ‘The History of the Low-Countrey Warres,’ London, 1650 and 1667, fol.

He has verses (a) before Harding's ‘Sicily and Naples,’ a play, 1640; (b) before the Earl of Monmouth's ‘Romulus and Tarquine,’ 1648; (c) before Cartwright's ‘Comedies,’ 1651; (d) before Gayton's ‘Case of Longevity,’ 1659; (e) in Ashmolean MS. 36.

Langbaine states that Stapleton executed the translations of De Marmet's ‘Entertainments of the Cours; or Academical Conversations,’ 1658, and of Cyrano de Bergerac's ‘Σεληναρχία, or the Government of the World in the Moon,’ 1659, both published under the name of Thomas Saint Serf. It appears, however, that the real translator was Thomas Sydserf or Saint Serfe, son of Thomas Sydserf [q. v.], bishop of Galloway and afterwards of Orkney (Miscellany of the Abbotsford Club, i. 85).

There are three engraved portraits of Stapleton. One is by William Marshall.

Sir Miles Stapleton (1628–1707), third son of Sir Robert's eldest brother Gilbert (d 1634), by his wife Eleanor, daughter of Sir John Gascoigne of Barnbow, first baronet, was born in 1628, and created a baronet on 20 March 1661–2. Being charged by the informer Bolron with being concerned in the plot of Sir Thomas Gascoigne [q. v.], in June 1680 he was sent from London to be tried at York (Luttrell, Historical Relation of State Affairs, i. 48). He was brought to the bar in the following month, but he challenged so many jurors that the trial was postponed. It came off on 18 July 1681, and there were three witnesses against him, viz. Bolron, Mowbray, and John Smith of Walworth, Durham. Sir Miles defended himself energetically, and brought many persons to throw discredit on the testimony of the informers. The jury immediately acquitted him; but, as Dodd observes, it is very surprising that when Thomas Thwing was afterwards tried upon the same evidence, he was condemned and executed (Church Hist. iii. 254). Sir Miles was a gentleman of great honour, position, and ability. On his death in 1707 the baronetcy became extinct. His first wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Bertie, earl of Lindsey [q. v.], by whom he had three sons, all dying in infancy; his second wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Langueville.

[Chetwynd-Stapylton's Stapeltons of Yorkshire, 1897, pp. 165, 169; Addit. MS. 24489, pp. 81, 366; Ashmolean MS. 788, art. 27; Baker's Biogr. Dramatica, 1812, i. 682, ii. 298, iii. 228, 283, 300; Brüggemann's English Editions of Greek and Latin Authors, pp. 13, 679, 699; Burke's Extinct Baronetage, p. 506; Cibber's Lives of the Poets, ii. 102; Courthope's Synopsis, p. 188; Dodd's Church Hist. iii. 252, 253; Foster's Alumni Oxon. (1500–1714), iv. 1413; Granger's Biogr. Hist. of England, 5th edit. iii. 134, iv. 53; Hazlitt's Manual of Old English Plays; Langbaine's Dramatick Poets, p. 491; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. ed. Bohn, p. 2495; Wood's Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 39; Depositions from the Castle of York, 1861.]

T. C.