Edward Benlowes - Encyclopedia

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EDWARD BENLOWES (1603 ?-1676), English poet, son of Andrew Benlowes of Brent Hall, Essex, was born about 1603. He matriculated at St John's College, Cambridge, in 1620, and on leaving the university he made a prolonged tour on the continent of Europe. He was a Roman Catholic in middle life, but became a convert to Protestantism in his later years. He dissipated his fortune by openhanded generosity to his friends and relations, and possibly by serving in the Civil War;. so that he was in great poverty at the time of his death, which occurred on the r8th of December 1676. The last eight years of his life were passed at Oxford. Many of his writings are in Latin. His most important work is Theophila, or Love's Sacrifice, a Divine Poem (1652). The poem deals with mystical religion, telling how the soul, represented by Theophila, ascends by humility, zeal and contemplation, and triumphs over the sins of the senses. It is written in a curious stanza of three lines of unequal length rhyming together. Until recent times justice has hardly been done to Benlowes' poetical merits and indisputable piety. Samuel Butler, who satirized him in his "Character of a Small Poet," found abundant matter for ridicule in his eccentricities; and Pope and Warburton noted him as a patron of bad poets.

His Theophila was reprinted by S. W. Singer; and in Minor Poets of the Caroline Period, vol. i. (1905), Mr Saintsbury reprints Theophila and two other poems by Benlowes, "The Summary of Wisedome," and "A Poetic Descant upon a Private Music-Meeting."

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