Richard Beacon

Life
fl. 1590; b. Suffolk, ed. St. John’s College, Cambridge, matric. 1567; incorp. Oxford, 1594; MA 1575, Gray’s Inns 1577, bar, 1585; attorney on Munster provincial council, 1586-91, defended plantation allocations on successive commissions to 1592; acquired Desmond lands in Bantry and met legal opposition from Nicholas Walshe; likewise in Waterford, where the MacCarthys resisted physically sold up and quit Ireland; issued Solon His Follie; or, Political Discourse Touching the Reformation of Commonwealth Conquered, Declined, or Corrupted (1594) in which he complains about the degeneration of the Old English; Solon, in his title, represents Sir William Russell whose actions are thus [compared with] the pretended madness of Plutarch’s character. FDA

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Works
‘Solon His Follie’, or a Politique Discourse, touching the Reformation of common-weales conquered, declined or corrupted (Oxford 1594), and Do., rep.as Clare Carroll and Vincent Carey, ed., An Annotated Edition of Richard Beacon’s ‘Solon His Follie’ [ ... &c] [Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies] (Binghamton, NY: Renaissance English Texts Society 1996), 166pp.

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Criticism
Sidney Ang[e]lo, ‘A Machiavellian Solution to the Irish Problem, Richard Beacon’s Solon His Follie (1594)’, in Edward Cheney & Peter Mack, eds., England and the Continental Renaissance: Essays in Honour of J. B. Trapp (Woodbridge: Boydell 1990), pp.153-64; Michael McCarthy-Murrogh, The Munster Plantation, English Migration to Southern Ireland 1583-91 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1986). See also John Venn and J. A. Venn, eds, Alumniae Cantabriensis (Cambridge UP 1922).

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Commentary
[Andrew Hadfield] ‘AH’, review of Solon his Follie (1990; rep. edn., in Times Literary Supplement (13 June, 1997), notes that it was published at the start of the Nine years War in Ireland when Queen Elizabeth’s rule was most seriously threatened; as an allegory it mixes Italian political history and Protestant apocalyptic rhetoric in urging a need for drastic action to forestall loss of Ireland to the Spanish; author turned to European republican tradition for inspiration; adapts Solon’s conquest of Salamis; attack on English complacency at home; reviewer considers Beacon as anticipating Engels’ formulation that unless Ireland is reformed, England will be lost also; commends lucid and informative introduction. (p.36.)

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, selects passages from Solon His Follie (1594) [203-10]; BIOG [233-34], notes that Beacon was attorney on provincial council, Munster, 1586-91, involved in defending allocation of plantation lands in successive commissions up to 1592; acquired Desmond lands in Bantry, and Waterford, the former impeded by suit of Old English lawyer Nicholas Walshe, the latter by the attacks of the Clancar[?ty] and other members of the MacCarthy sept; sold out to Henry Goldfinch of London; after leaving Ireland he wrote Solon His Follie; or, Political Discourse Touching the Reformation of Commonwealth Conquered, Declined, or Corrupted (Oxford 1594), showing bitterness towards all elements the Irish population, speaking of the ‘declination’ of the Old English; his title makes no allusion to Ireland, being based on Plutarch’s tale of Solon’s pretended madness as a means of circumventing the current embargo on discussions of Irish colonial projects. [Beacon is not listed in the Dictionary of National Biography.]

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