Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Weaver, Thomas (1616-1663)

WEAVER, THOMAS (1616–1663), poetaster, son of Thomas Weaver, was born at Worcester in 1616. Several of the family were prominent members of the Stationers' Company in London. An uncle of the poetaster, Edmund Weaver (son of Thomas Weaver, a weaver of Worcester), was from 1603 until his death in 1638 an active London publisher. This Edmund Weaver's son, another Thomas Weaver (the poetaster's first cousin), became a freeman of the Stationers' Company in 1627, was called into the livery in 1633, and, retiring from business in 1639, seems to have entered as a student of Gray's Inn on 1 Nov. 1640 (Gray's Inn Register, p. 228; Arber, Transcript of Stationers' Company, ii. 176, iii. 686, iv. 29, 33, 449, 471, 499).

The poetaster matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, on 21 March 1633–4, at the age of eighteen, graduated B.A. on 19 Oct. 1637, and M.A. on 31 June 1640. In 1641 he was made one of the chaplains or petty canons of the cathedral. He was a sturdy royalist, and was accordingly ejected from his office by the parliamentary visitors in 1648 (Register of Visitors to Oxford, Camden Soc. p. 491). Under the Commonwealth he ‘shifted from place to place and lived upon his wits.’ Like Richard Corbet, William Strode, and other resident graduates of Christ Church in holy orders, he was an adept at lighter forms of verse, in which he took a more indulgent view of human frailties than is ordinarily reckoned becoming in the clerical profession. In October 1654 there was published a collection entitled ‘Songs and Poems of Love and Drollery, by T. W.’ It was dedicated ‘to my most obliging friend E. C. Esquire.’ The verse shows some lyrical capacity, and deals freely with amorous topics. Many of the pieces were skits on the author's political and theological foes; of these, a ballad, ‘to the tune of “Chevy Chase”’ (p. 21), called ‘Zeal overheated, or a relation of a lamentable fire which hapned in Oxon in a religious brother's shop,’ proved especially obnoxious to puritans. The ‘religious brother’ whom Weaver sarcastically denounced was Thomas Williams, an Oxford milliner, who belonged to the flock of Henry Cornish, the presbyterian minister at All Saints' Church. The work was declared to be seditious and libellous. Weaver was arrested in London, was imprisoned and tried on a capital charge of treason. At the trial (information about which seems only accessible in Wood's ‘Athenæ’), the book was produced; but the judge, after reading some pages of it, summed up strongly in favour of Weaver. He was unwilling, he said, to condemn ‘a scholar and a man of wit.’ A verdict of ‘not guilty’ was returned, and Weaver was set at liberty. His book is rare (Beloe, Anecdotes, vi. 86–9). Perfect copies are in the British Museum and in Malone's collection in the Bodleian Library. A poem by Weaver, called ‘The Archbishop of York's [John Williams's] Revels,’ was reprinted from his book in some editions of the works of John Cleaveland. Weaver is in no way responsible for the collection of verse called ‘Choice Drollery with Songs and Sonnets,’ which imitated his title and was published in 1656. Further specimens of his poetry are said, however, to be found in miscellanies of the date.

On the restoration of Charles II in 1660 Weaver was, according to Wood, made exciseman or collector of customs for Liverpool (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1670, p. 346). Wood further states that he was commonly called ‘Captan Weaver.’ He died at Liverpool on 3 Jan. 1662–3, ‘prosecuting too much the crimes of poets,’ and was buried there.

To Weaver has been frequently ascribed a second volume of verse, entitled ‘Plantaganets Tragicall Story: or, the Death of King Edward the Fourth: with the unnaturall voyage of Richard the Third through the Red Sea of his Nephews innocent bloud, to his usurped Crowne. Metaphrased by T. W. Gent.’ (London, by F. B. for George Badger, 1647). A portrait of the author, engraved by Marshall, is prefixed. The first book is dedicated ‘To the truly heroick Edward Benlowes, Esquire.’ There are commendatory verses by ‘I. C., Art. Mag.,’ ‘S. N.,’ and ‘I. S. Lincoln's Inn.’ I. C. refers to the surpassing merits of the more serious work of the writer, whom he describes as a soldier and a scholar, and addresses as ‘Captain T. W.’ ‘I. S.’ writes in a like vein, and calls ‘his ever-honoured friend Captain T. W.’ a ‘perfecter of poetry and patterne of gallantry.’ The second book of the poem is dedicated by the author to ‘D. W.,’ and the work is declared to be ‘the offspring of a country-muse’ (see Fry, Bibliographical Memorials, 1816, pp. 114–21). A copy of the book is in the British Museum. Internal evidence fails to connect the chronicle-poem with Weaver's acknowledged verse, and at the time of its publication in 1647 Weaver was a chaplain of Christ Church, Oxford—a rank which would not allow him to be designated on a title-page as ‘T. W. Gent.,’ or to be greeted as ‘captain’ by his friends.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 622–3; authorities cited.]

S. L.