THE Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that ‘no biographical details are known’ of Thomas Brewer, the writer active from 1605 to at least 1640.1 Nevertheless, Elizabeth Haresnape’s entry draws careful attention to Brewer’s links with John Taylor and Thomas Heywood. Both are recipients of Brewer’s commendatory verses and both appear alongside Brewer as he offers praise to others. In this note I aim to extend our knowledge of Brewer’s relationships with his fellow writers. I shall argue that Brewer’s liminary verse appears more widely within the ambit of both Taylor and Heywood than has previously been thought. Moreover, Thomas Brewer appears to have been the addressee of one of Robert Hayman’s epigrams in 1628; and the poem connects Brewer very precisely with a London location. These various associations—with Hayman, with Taylor, and with Heywood—not only reveal more about Brewer’s friendship circle; they also say something about the kind of writer that Brewer was. In particular, the link with Heywood places Brewer precisely within a significant network of dramatic and other authors during the late 1630s. One further commendatory poem by Brewer survives, and this is probably the most widely circulated of all Brewer’s writings: the signed verses that preface every edition of A Help to Discourse; or, A Miscellany of Merriment from 1619 through to 1682. This offers little insight into Brewer’s literary milieu because, aside from the volume’s original publisher, Leonard Becket, and the publisher’s seeming associate, William Lorte, only Brewer’s long commendatory poem gives the kind of contextual steer that a known composing or mediating agent may offer. This is because none of the other contributors besides Brewer and Lorte—that is, ‘Bibliop[hilus]’, ‘H.P.’, and ‘H.H.’, as well as the volume’s author-compilers, ‘W.B.’ and ‘E.P.’—has been persuasively identified.2 Still, there is an evident fit between the deep consciousness of mortality and the jaunty surface playfulness of A Help to Discourse and the qualities to appear in Brewer’s own writings. For Brewer was the composer of religiously inflected plague literature (The Weeping Lady, A Dialogue betwixt a Citizen and a Poor Countryman and his Wife, and Lord Have Mercy Upon Us: The World, a Sea, A Pest-house), the similarly slanted tale of a domestic crime (The Bloody Mother), comic verse (A Knot of Fools), comic prose (The Life and Death of the Merry Devil of Edmonton), and a broadsheet ballad celebrating the Company of Porters.3 Brewer’s coda to The Weeping Lady, for example—‘Foure things euer to bee remembred’—uses a formula that frequently recurs within Becket’s publishing corpus and it does so to the same solemn ends.4 As the connection between Hayman and Brewer is wholly unknown, I will begin with Hayman’s epigram. Hayman is himself a rarely studied writer. David Galloway’s biographical essay has cast light upon Hayman’s Devon family, his education at Oxford, Lincoln’s Inn, and abroad, and his various colonial ventures; and a principal source for Galloway is Hayman’s only known print publication, Quodlibets, Lately Come Over from New Britaniola, Old Newfoundland.5 This comprises four books of the author’s own epigrams together with translations from John Owen and Rabelais. Quodlibets appeared in 1628. It features several sequences of poems that bring together interrelated subjects. The first book of epigrams addresses various individuals from Lincoln’s Inn; the second looks towards many of Hayman’s fellow Newfoundland colonists; and the third celebrates a series of Bristol merchants and their families. In his fourth and final book Hayman presents a collection of verses addressed to fellow poets. These acknowledge, in turn, Sir John Stradling, Ben Jonson, George Wither (whose prefatory verses appear in Quodlibets), Michael Drayton (described as ‘my right worthy friend’), and John Vicars (‘my worthy and learned good friend’, Hayman’s predecessor as Owen’s translator, and another contributor of verses to Quodlibets). Hayman then writes ‘To my good friend, Mr T.B. Vintner, at the signe of the Sunne in Milke-Street’. The poem after this concerns the writing of epigrams. By doing so, the poem balances the couplet ‘Of Epigrams’ that preceded the verses to Stradling and thus brings to an end the series of tributes to poets.6 Book Four concludes with a separate sequence headed ‘Sinnes short Grammar’.7 Who is the ‘vintner’, ‘T.B.’, who appears amidst this small collection of tributes to poets? The epigram makes much of the sign of the sun, alluding to the seven ‘Celestiall Planets’ and glossing ‘via Lactea’ (that is, the Milky Way) as ‘Milk-street’. The poem finishes: And finding you no Brewer, as your due, He doth commit the charge thereof to You. And so Hayman seems teasingly to have addressed Thomas Brewer. ‘T.B.’ is squarely identified as a friend of Hayman’s and he appears as one of Hayman’s writer-associates. He is also linked to London’s Milk Street, a thoroughfare that ran north from Cheapside. If a friendship with Hayman forms a new item of personal and literary information about Brewer, how then do his commendatory poems for Taylor and Heywood help to situate him? As Haresnape points out, Brewer’s verses stand first amongst those that preface the Works of John Taylor the water poet in 1630.8 Brewer’s poem was a straightforward reprint of the verses that appeared in Taylor’s Urania in 1616; indeed, Brewer alludes directly to Taylor’s title, and the contribution seems to be an odd choice for so prominent an inclusion in the Works. Urania’s position as the first of these ‘Works’ is presumably significant; and yet Brewer’s poem of eight lines had originally appeared without special prominence late in the array of Urania’s seven commendatory verses.9 It is very likely that the ‘Tho. B.’ whose poem praised his ‘friend’ Taylor in the previous year’s Fair and Foul Weather is also Brewer.10 The poem says of Fair and Foul Weather that ‘to me / It offers much desir’d varietie / To passe dull howres withall’. ‘Tho. B.’ also states that the sea’s ‘impetuous breath, / Makes Land-men quake, and Seamen oft see death’.11 The commendatory verses thereby catch the twofold register of Taylor’s book. This yoking of lightness and solemnity reflects the eclectic range of both poets. ‘Come laugh and spare not’ is part of the title page advertisement for Brewer’s Knot of Fools; and Laugh and be Fat is one of Taylor’s offerings.12 Taylor’s The Fearful Summer; or, London’s Calamity is very obviously in the tradition of Brewer’s The Weeping Lady; or, London like Ninevie.13 Brewer’s verses for Urania are immediately followed by those of Thomas Dekker, and Dekker was a yet more profuse writer of plague literature.14 The playwrights Robert Daborne and William Rowley, like Dekker, also wrote in praise of Taylor’s work, and both Taylor (The Waterman’s Suit concerning Players) and Brewer (The Life and Death of the Merry Devil of Edmonton) sought to capitalize on the reading public’s interest in plays, players, and playing.15 Another overlap between Brewer and Taylor further affirms their association and at the same time points to the most extensive of all Brewer’s literary associations. Brewer and Taylor salute the memory of the reclusive Henry Welsby in The Phoenix of these Late Times. Their poems appear at the end of the book and they are followed by an epitaph written by Thomas Heywood, who may indeed have written The Phoenix.16 This confluence of liminary verse connects the three writers with particular emphasis: Heywood, Taylor, and Brewer are the only three named poets to supply verses at the end of the publication, and they are joined only by one set of initialled verses, those of ‘I.T.’—almost certainly Taylor again.17 Brewer completes his tribute with the couplet: Forty four Winters one poore petty roome, To him, was all the World, to him a Tombe.18 The memorial burden of the volume is clearly an appropriate setting for Brewer’s verse, so alert as Brewer is to mortality; but here it is Brewer’s association with his fellow poets that is the point at issue. One of the two prefatory contributions to The Phoenix is that of Shackerley Marmion; and it is Marmion’s presence that indicates the writerly network which Brewer entered.19 Martin Butler has identified a group of poets—principally but not solely dramatic writers—whose interrelationship gains an airing within reciprocal liminary verse from 1637 to 1640. This network, Butler argues, evinces a loosely oppositional or anti-courtly set of values—or, at least, an appeal to ‘traditional and highly-charged popular sympathies’.20 Marmion and Heywood feature strongly in Butler’s argument, and Richard Brome, Robert Chamberlain, and Thomas Nabbes are each a part of this circle. The volume that demonstrates the connection most clearly is Humphrey Mill’s A Night Search (1640), for within the twenty commendatory poems that precede Mill’s text and the two that follow it, each of the five writers just mentioned appears.21 So, however, does Brewer, and his presence here indicates that Brewer was also part of this network; and in Brewer’s case it seems that a friendship with Heywood was instrumental in his inclusion within this grouping.22 Brewer’s name occurs for a third time in association with Heywood: Brewer’s verses ‘To the worthy reviver of these Nine Women worthies, Master Thomas Heywood, Gent.’ preceding Heywood’s Exemplary Lives (1640) includes a request ‘to present my love too’; and Brewer offers a glimpse of Heywood in the last full year of his long life, for Brewer describes his friend’s book as ‘This Golden issue of thy Siluer head’.23 These three liminary verses of Brewer’s, then, appearing from 1637 to 1640, situate Brewer alongside Heywood and within Heywood’s circle. Almost certainly, the publishing overlap between the writings of Heywood and Brewer extends further. Heywood wrote in commendation of Mary Fage’s Fame’s Rule in 1637; and the following verses are signed ‘T.B.’24 No one else with these initials writes in praise of Heywood’s work or writes alongside Heywood in praise of a third author. Fage’s long collection of acrostic tributes is an unusual work (as indeed are The Phoenix of these Late Times and A Night Search) and the co-commendation of Heywood and ‘T.B.’ of this pioneering work by a woman writer parallels the same pairing that would celebrate the ‘Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts of Nine the most Worthy Women of the World’ three years later. ‘T.B.’ explicitly identifies his own poem with those of his fellows, ‘M.F.’, ‘A. Death’, ‘I.C.’, and Thomas Heywood, declaring that ‘we to praise thee haue our pens ingag’d’.25 Finally, Arthur Melville Clark suggests that ‘Mr T.B.’, ‘kinseman and friend’ of the James Mettam to whom Heywood dedicated The Life of Merlin (1641), was ‘probably Thomas Brewer’.26 Thomas Brewer is the declared friend of Hayman, Taylor, and Heywood; he is part of the circle around Heywood, Marmion, Nabbes, and others in the late 1630 s; Hayman addresses Brewer with a jocular tone that markedly differs from the treatment offered to the other poets he saluted, mirroring the manner in which John Taylor’s commenders often addressed him; and Brewer’s identity as both a comic writer and a writer of funerary verse gains affirmation both from his own liminary poems and from the writers and writings that he chose to praise. Footnotes 1 Elizabeth Haresnape, ‘Brewer, Thomas (fl. 1605–1640)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3367>, accessed 5 Oct 2017. 2 W.B. and E.P., A Helpe to Discourse. Or a Miscelany of Merriment (1619), A4–A10v; W.B. and E.P., A Helpe to Discourse, or a Misscelany of Merriment (1629), A6v. 3 Brewer, The Weeping Lady: or, London like Ninivie (1629), A Dialogue betwixt a Cittizen, and a poore Countrey-man and his Wife, in the Countrey, where the Citizen remaineth now in this time of sicknesse (1636), Lord have Mercy vpon Vs. A World, A Sea, A Pest-house (1636), The Bloody Mother (1610), A knot of Fooles. But, Fooles, or Knaves, or both, I care not, Here they are; Come laugh and spare not (1624), The Life and Death of the merry Deuill of Edmonton (1631), A newe Ballad, composed in commendation of the Societie, or Companie of the Porters (1605). 4 Brewer, The Weeping Lady: or, London like Ninivie, C4v; see The Philosophers Banquet, trans. W.B. (1609), L3v–M2v; The Father’s Blessing (1616), F7v–F8; William Crashaw, The Embassador between Heauen and Earth (1613), Q6v–Q7. 5 Galloway, ‘Robert Hayman (1575–1629): Some Materials for the Life of a Colonial Governor and First “Canadian” Author’, William and Mary Quarterly, xxiv (1967), 75–87. 6 Hayman, Quodlibets, Lately come ouer from New Britaniola, Old Newfound-land (1628), I2v–I3v. 7 Hayman, Quodlibets, I3v–I4v. 8 Taylor, All the Workes of Iohn Taylor the Water Poet (1630), A. 9 Taylors Vrania, or His Heauenly Muse (1616), A5. 10 Although ‘Tho. B.’ is not, strictly speaking, a set of initials, the remarks of Franklin B. Williams, Jr., concerning the possible gains and risks of decoding the initials of writers of liminary verse apply in this instance and throughout this note: ‘An Initiation into Initials’, Studies in Bibliography, ix (1957), 163–78. I am thoroughly indebted to Williams’s Index of Dedications and Commendatory Verses in English Printed Books Before 1641 (London, 1962). 11 Taylor, Faire and fowle weather. Or A Sea and Land Storme, betweene two Calmes (1615), A3v. 12 Brewer, A knot of Fooles. But, Fooles, or Knaves, or both, I care not, Here they are; Come laugh and spare not (1624), title page, and see also ‘To the Reader’, Av: ‘as my Title saies: Come laugh and spare not’; Taylor, Laugh and be Fat (1612), and Workes, 69–80. 13 Taylor, The Fearefull Sommer: or Londons Calamitie, The Countreyes Discurtesie, & both their Miserie (1625), and Workes, 55–64. 14 Taylors Vrania, A5r–v. 15 For Daborne and Rowley, see Taylor, The Nipping and Snipping of Abvses (1614); Taylor, The Watermens Svit, concerning players (n.d.), and Workes, 171–6. 16 The Phoenix of these late times: or the life of Mr. Henry Welby, Esq;. who liued at his house in Grub-street forty foure yeares, and in that space, was neuer seene by any (1637), F, F2v–F3v. See Arthur Melville Clark, Thomas Heywood: Playwright and Miscellanist (1958; repr. New York, 1967), 173–4. 17 The Phoenix of these late times, Fv–F2. 18 The Phoenix of these late times, F. 19 The Phoenix of these late times, A3v–A4v. 20 Butler, Theatre and Crisis, 1632–1642 (Cambridge, 1984), 185, and, more generally, 185–93. 21 Mill, A Nights Search (1640), A2–A3v, Br–v, B3–B4v, B5r–v. 22 Mill, A Nights Search, A4r–v. 23 Heywood, The Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts of Nine the most Worthy Women of the World (1640), A2. 24 Fage, Fames Rovle (1637), ¶2r–v. Williams, Index of Dedications, 9, identifies a small number of other commendatory poems signed ‘T.B.’; none seems likely to be the work of Brewer. 25 Fage, Fames Rovle (1637), ¶–¶2, ¶2v. 26 Heywood, The Life of Merlin (London, 1641), ¶3; Clark, Thomas Heywood, 186. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 3, 2018
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