Michael Drayton and His Circle

Michael Drayton and His Circle

Michael Drayton and His Circle

Michael Drayton and His Circle


The preface of a book is like a shop-window, at which the author is free to display some of the goods and especially some of the novelties that are on offer within. Let me draw attention here, therefore, to some of the episodes and aspects of Drayton's life about which I have written in these pages. Although there have been many stimulating studies of his poetry, notably by Arthur Henry Bullen, Harold Child, Cyril Brett and Oliver Elton, little has hitherto been known about his life beyond its barest outlines. I have here filled in some of the detail out of all that the late Professor Hebel, Mrs Tillotson and I have found while working on the Shakespeare Head edition of Drayton's poems, to which this book is supplementary.

Take Drayton's early years. It was known that he was born about the year 1563 at the village of Hartshill, near Atherstone in Warwickshire, probably of yeoman stock; that he studied under a tutor, and that when no more than

a proper goodly page
. . . scarce ten years of age

he already felt a call to the service of the Muses:

O my deare Master, cannot you (quoth I)
Make me a poet?

that for many years he was in the service of the Gooderes of Polesworth; that Anne, the younger daughter of that house, was the 'Idea' of his early verse. We have been able to add a good deal to these known facts. Research in parish registers and among the wills at Somerset House and in the Lichfield register, unhappily interrupted and left incomplete by the war, has brought to light many names and entries about members of the Drayton family. My chapter on Drayton's schooling, indeed, rests chiefly, but not wholly, on conjecture. From an interesting bit of evidence given by Drayton himself in the course of protracted legal proceedings for the succession to Polesworth, we learn that besides being . . .

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