Minor Poets of the Caroline Period - Vol. 3

Minor Poets of the Caroline Period - Vol. 3

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Minor Poets of the Caroline Period - Vol. 3

Minor Poets of the Caroline Period - Vol. 3

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Loughborough, and christened on June 20, 1613. His father, Thomas, was curate of the parish and assistant master at the Grammar School. Eight years later the father was made vicar of Hinckley, also provided with a grammar school, at which John appears to have been educated till in 1627 he went to Christ’s College, Cambridge—where, of course, the everlasting comparison with his elder contemporary Milton comes in again for those who like it. He remained at Christ’s for seven years as usual, performing divers college exercises on public occasions, occasionally of some importance; took his bachelor’s degree (also as usual) in 1631; and in 1634 was elected to a fellowship at St. John’s, proceeding to his M.A. next year. At the end of his probationary period he did not take orders, but was admitted as legista— perhaps also, though the statement is uncorroborated officially, to the third learned faculty of Physic. There is also doubt about his incorporation at Oxford. He served as Tutor and as Rhetoric Praelector: nor are we destitute of Orations and Epistles of an official character from his pen. Like the majority of university men at the time—and indeed like the majority of men of letters and education—he was a strong Royalist: and was unlikely to stay in Cambridge when the Roundhead mob of the town was assisted by a Parliamentary garrison in rabbling the University. It was natural that he should ‘retire to Oxon.’, and it is probable that Oxford was his head-quarters from 1642 to 1645. But he does not seem to have been actually deprived of his fellowship at St. John’s till the last-named year, when the Earl of Manchester, whom (especially as Lord Kimbolton) Cleveland had bitterly satirized, had his opportunity of revenge and took it.

For Cleveland had already been active with his pen in the Royalist cause, and was now appointed to a post of some importance as ‘Judge Advocate’ of Newark. The Governor was Sir Richard Willis, for whom Cleveland replied to Leven’s summons to surrender. They held the town for the King from November to May, when it was given up on Charles’s own order. Then comes the anecdote—more than a hundred years after date— of Leven’s dismissing him with contemptuous lenity. ‘Let the poor fellow go about his business and sell his ballads.’ This, though accepted by Carlyle, and a smart enough invention, has no contemporary authority, and is made extremely suspicious by its own addition that Cleveland was so vexed that he took to strong liquors which hastened his death. Now Newark fell in 1646 and Cleveland lived till 1658. It would make an interesting examination question, ‘How much must a man drink in a day in order to hasten his death thereby twelve years afterwards?’ And it must be admitted, if true, to be a strong argument on the side of the good fellow who pleaded that alcohol was a very slow poison.

He escaped somehow, however: and we hear nothing of his life for . . .

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