[Sir] John Denham

Quotations

Life
1615-1669, b. Dublin, son of Lord Chief Justice of King’s Bench in Ireland; English Surveyor-Gen. to Charles II; baron of the Exchequer in 1641; issued Cooper’s Hill (1642), a topographical or loco-descriptive poem; The Sophy (1642), a tragedy said by John Aubrey to have ‘broke[n] out like the Irish rebellion [...] when no one [...] in the least suspected it’ [but see CAB]; Cato Major (1669), from Cicero; wrote The Famous Battle of the Catts in the Province of Ulster (1668), a satire in verse; also A True Presbyterian (London 1680), a verse satire; his lines on the Thames are classic; architect on Burlington House and Greenwich Hospital; bur. Westminster; lampooned by Samuel Butler, author of Hudibras. RR CAB ODNB PI JMC OCEL OCIL

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Works
Literary works (selection)
  • Coopers Hill: A Poeme (London: Printed for Tho. Walkley [...] 1642), 19pp. [infra];
  • The prologue to His Majesty at the first play presented at the Cock-pit in Whitehall: being part of that noble entertainment which their Maiesties received Novemb. 19. from his Grace the Duke of Albemarle (London: Printed for G. Bedell and T. Collins, at the Middle-Temple Gate in Fleet-street, 1660), 1 sh., fol.;
  • Comedies and Tragedies ... never printed before, and now published by the authours originall copies [Beaumont, Fletcher & Denham, with a port. of Fletcher] (London: Humphrey Robinson & Humphrey Moseley 1647), [fol. vols. 75, 143, 165, 71, 172, 92, 50, 48.pp.];
  • Certain Verses Written by Severall of the Authors Friends [i.e., Denham; Sir Wm. Davenant, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham ... et al.]: to be re-printed with the second edition of Gondibert (London: [s.n.] 1653), 24pp. [Microfilm in Early English books, 1641-1700, 866:3];
  • The Destruction of Troy: an essay upon the second book of Virgils Aeneis, Written in the year, 1636 (London: for H. Moseley 1656), 28pp.;
  • A Panegyrick on His Excellency the Lord General George Monck, Commander in Chief of all the Forces in England, Scotland, and Ireland (London: Printed for Richard Marriot 1659), [2], 5pp.;
  • Directions to a Painter for Describing our Naval Business: in Imitation of Mr. Waller, Being the Last Works of Sir John Denham. Whereunto is annexed, Clarindons house-warming. By an unknown author ([London] [s.n.] 1667), [2], 45, [3]pp., 8o. [see “Answer”, infra];
  • On Mr. Abraham Cowley: his death and burial amongst the ancient poets (London: printed for H. Herringman 1667), 4pp.), fol. [30 cm];
  • Poems and Translations: with The Sophy, Written by the Honourable Sir John Denham (London: Printed for H. Herringman 1668), [infra];
  • Cato Major of Old Age: A poem ([London]: Printed for Henry Herringman 1669, edns. 1710 & 1975 [facs.]), 52pp. [17 cm];
  • The Poems of Sir John Denham [with “The Life of Sir John Denham by Dr. Johnson”] (London: Johnson 1810; 1822), and Do. [new edn.] as The Poetical Works of John Denham [Sharpe’s edition of the British Poets, No. 15] (Whittingham 1807), 143pp., ill. [1 lf. of pls.], 13 cm.;
  • Theodore Howard Banks, ed. & intro., Poetical Works [of Sir John Denham] (New Haven & London 1928; rep. Archon Books 1969), xviii, 362pp.
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See also, The Book of Psalms: as translated, paraphrased, or imitated by some of the most eminent English poets [viz. Addison, Blacklock, Brady, Carter, Daniel, Denham, Doddridge, Merrick, Milton, Roscommon, Rowe, Sowden, Steele, Tate, Tollet, Watts ... and adapted to Christian worship (Bristol: Benj. Williams 1781), xii, [12], 513, [27]pp.
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Official (govt.) publications (selected)
  • An exact copy of a letter sent to William Laud, late Arch-bishop of Canterbury, now prisoner in the Tower, November the 5, 1641: at which his Lordship taking exceptions, the author visited him in his owne person, and having admittance to him, had some private discourse with him concerning the cruelty in which he formerly raigned in his power: the substance whereof is truly composed by the author himselfe, wherein doth appeare a sign of complying with the times and some hopes of his repentance (London: Printed for H. W. and T. B. 1641), [8]pp., ill. [attrib. to Denham in Wrenn Cat.]; Edward Ward [1667-1731],
  • The Whigs unmask’d: being the secret history of the Calf’s-Head-Club. Shewing the rise and progress of that infamous society since the Grand Rebellion. [...] Adorn’d with cuts suitable to every particular design. To which are added, several characters by Sir John Denham, and other valuable authors. Also a Vindication of the royal martyr, King Charles the First; wherein are expos’d, the hellish mysteries of the old republican rebellion. By Mr. Butler [8th Edn.; with large adds.] (London: printed & sold by J. Morphew 1713), [16], vi, 224pp., pls., 8vo. [19 cm.]
 
See also Presbytery Dissected: or a true description and character of a Presbyterian. By Sir John Denham, Knight (Dublin: 1733), 8pp., 8o [an unlikely attribution].
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Bibliographical details
Cooper’s Hill: A Poeme (London: Printed for Tho. Walkley, and are to be to be sold at his shop at the signe of the Flying Horse between York-house and Britaines Burse, 1642), [2], 19, [1]pp., and num. other edns [1650, 1709 &c., e.g.], Coopers-hill: A poem written by the Honourable Sir John Denham, Knight of the Bath (London: Printed and sold by H. Hills 1709), 16pp., 8o.; also Latin edns. as Coopers hill Latine redditum: ad nobilissimum d[omi]num Gulielmum d[omi]num Cavendish, honoratissimi Domini Gulielmi comitis Devoniæ filium unicum (Oxonii: E Theatro Sheldoniano, 1676), 21pp. REP EDN.: [Coopers Hill] Expans’d hieroglyphicks: A critical edition of Sir John Denham’s Cooper Hill [Single Works Ser.] (California UP 1969), xxix, 312pp., ill. [pl.], 24 cm.

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Poems and Translations: with The Sophy, Written by the Honourable Sir John Denham, 2 vols. (London: Printed for H. Herringman 1668), 4, 186pp.; [4], 2, 97pp., 8o [17 cm] [special title-pages for “The destruction of Troy” & “The Sophy”, both 1667, the latter with sep. pag.; new edns. in 1671 [2nd imp.], 1684, 1703, 1769, 1719, 1751, 1771, &c.; also facs. of 1684 1 vol. edn. in Early English Books Ser./Harvard UL 1983].

The Answer of Mr. Wallers painter, to his many new advisors [a reply, in verse, to the answers to E. Waller’s “Instructions to a Painter for the Drawing of the Posture & Progress of His Ma[jest]ies Forces at Sea”] (London: A. Maxwell 1667), [q.p.], 4o. [Note ‘to the answers’, viz., those variously published as The Second Advice to a Painter, The Second, and Third advice to a Painter and Directions to a Painter, purporting to be by Sir J. Denham and sometimes attributed to Andrew Marvell: COPAC.]

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Criticism
Brendan Ó Hehir, Harmony from Discords: A Life of Sir John Denham (California UP 1968), 288pp.; see also William Upcott, Bibliographical Account of Principal Works relating to English Topography [1818] (Wakefield: Simmons 1978); J. F. Foster, ‘Topographical Tradition in Anglo-Irish Poetry’ Colonial Consequences (1992), p.197ff. [infra]; ‘Encountering Traditions’, in J. W. Foster and Helena C. G. Chesney, ed., Nature in Ireland: A Scientific and Cultural History, Dublin: Lilliput 1997, espec. pp.58-59. See also Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, p.70-74.

See also Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, p.70-74; Peter Kavanagh, The Irish Theatre (Tralee: The Kerryman 1946) [infra].

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Commentary
Peter Kavanagh, The Irish Theatre (Tralee: The Kerryman 1946), cites The Sophy (acted Blackfriars, 1641; printed 1642); founded on Herbert’s Travels [i.e., Thomas A. Herbert, Travels in Persia, 1627-29], it in no way relates to Ireland; as Charles II’s surveyor of His Majesty’s buildings Denham succeeded Inigo Jones and had Christopher Wren as his deputy; also cites Langbaine on Sir John Denham: ‘before the foggy air of that climate could influence, or in any way adulerate his Mind, he was brought from thence’ (Dramatic Poets); Aubrey agrees with Langbaine in calling him ‘the dreamingst young fellow’ who, at college, ‘would game extremely’ and ‘was rooked by gamesters’; Aubrey also tells how he when he was a student a Lincoln’s Inn, he went out at night to ‘blott out all the signes betweeen Temple-barre and Charing-cross, which made great confusion the next day ...’ (Brief Lives, Vol. i, p.220; Kavanagh, p.27).

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J. W. Foster, Colonial Consequences (Dublin: Lilliput 1992), remarks on the significance of his being a Surveyor General, more widely of the pre-eminence of that profession in Settlement Ireland; expresses reservations on Denham as original of ‘Topographical Tradition in Anglo-Irish Poetry’ [197], The English tradition begins with Sir John Denham, who happens to be Irish but ‘it would be unhealthy to [treat] “Cooper’s Hill” as an Irish poem’. F urther: “Cooper’s Hill” and Pope’s “Windsor Castle” are constantly cited in the tradition as the important antecedents; the topographical poem is of course akin with the profession of surveyors [and] Denham was one; Irish surveyors of the period included Robert Gibson, A Treatise of Practical Surveying (1752; 2nd ed. Dublin 1763); Peter Callan’s A Dissertation on the Practice of Land Surveying in Ireland (Drog. 1758); Benjamin Noble’s Geodaesia Hibernica (Dublin 1763). [15] Foster further remarks that the number of surveyors and their works is undoubted ‘connected with the outrageous land situation and with the incidence of confiscation, forfeiture, and reapportionment.’ [15] Bibl., Brendan O’Hehir, critical ed. of Cooper’s Hill as Expans’d Hieroglyphics (Berkeley: California UP 1969)

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Quotations
Cooper’s Hill: The following line is quoted in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution (1790): ‘But wealth is crime enough to him that’s poor.’ The passage proceed (as indicated by editorial notes to the Gutenberg Project sources edition):
  
Who having spent the treasures of his crown,
Condemns their luxury to feed his own.
 And yet this act, to varnish o’er the shame
Of sacrilege, must bear devotion’s name.
No crime so bold, but would be understood
A real, or at least a seeming good;
Who fears not to do ill, yet fears the name,
And, free from conscience, is a slave to fame.
Thus he the church at once protects, and spoils;
But princes’ swords are sharper than their styles.
And thus to th’ ages past he makes amends,
Their charity destroys, their faith defends.
Then did religion in a lazy cell,
In empty aery contemplation dwell;
And, like the block, unmoved lay; but ours,
As much too active, like the stork devours.
Is there no temperate region can be known,
Betwixt their frigid and our torrid zone?

Could we not wake from that lethargic dream,
But to be restless in a worse extreme?
And for that lethargy was there no cure,
But to be cast into a calenture?
Can knowledge have no bound, but must advance
So far, to make us wish for ignorance?
And rather in the dark to grope our way,
Than, led by a false guide, to err by day?
Who sees these dismal heaps, but would demand,
What barbarous invader sacked the land?
But when he hears, no Goth, no Turk did bring
This desolation, but a Christian king;
When nothing, but the name of zeal, appears
’Twixt our best actions and the worst of theirs,
What does he think our sacrilege would spare,
When such th’ effects of our devotion are?  

Cooper’s Hill by Sir John Denham

 
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References
Dictionary of National Biography, refers to his father (1559-1639); Lord Chief Justice of King’s Bench in Ireland, 1612, and baron of the English exchequer [not the Irish]; author of brief opinion in Hampden’s favour and Cooper’s Hill, the first strictly descriptive poem in English; The Sophy, a verse trag., set in Turkey, taken from Sir Thomas Herbert’s Travels (1634). Note that no Irish connection is asserted here not any mention of Battle of the Catts and True Presbyterian.

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Charles Read, ed., A Cabinet of Irish Literature (3 vols., 1876-78), calls his mother a dg. of Sir Garrett More, baron of Mellefont; cites his tragedy The Sophy (1641) of which Waller said, ‘he broke out like the Irish rebellion, threescore thousand strong, when nobody was aware or in the least suspected it’ [quoted in John Aubrey’s Brief Lives; also in Thomas Campbell, Philosophical Survey, 1778]. Of Cooper’s Hill (1643), written at Eghem and is so noticed in Camden’s Britannia; Dryden called it ‘a poem which for majesty of style is, and ever will be, the standard of good writing’. Reade singles out Poem on the Death of Cowley, and quotes Dr. Johnson, ‘Denham is justly considered one of the fathers of English poetry ... improved our taste and advanced our language’; Pope speaks of ‘Denham’s strength and Waller’s sweetness’ in Essay on Criticism; works include Version of the Book of Psalms [DIW err. The famous battle of the Catts in the Province of Ulster, 1688 (sic)].

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COPAC lists 386 editions [i.e., copies of sundry titles incl. literary works and others relating to law and government (mostly pamphlets).

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Notes
Bit o’ strife: His second wife, Margaret Brookes, became acknowledged mistress of the Duke of York, an event which caused Denham’s temporary madness. In Memoir of [Antoine de] Grammont he is accused of poisoning her. John Aubrey says ‘she was poisoned by means of with chocolate - viz, ‘the fatal chocolate’. handed to her by the Countess of Rochester.

W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1984) remarks: among the earliest translations of the classics in the 17th century were Sir John Denham’s, Aeneid 2 (1656) and his rendering of Sarpedon’s speech in Iliad, [Bk] 12, praised by Pope in his note on Iliad, 12.2. [q.p.].

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