Francis Quarles - Encyclopedia

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FRANCIS QUARLES (1592-1644), English poet, was born at Romford, Essex, and baptized there on the 8th of May 1592. His father, James Quarles, held several places under Elizabeth, and traced his ancestry to a family settled in England before the Conquest. He was entered at Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1608, and subsequently at Lincoln's Inn. He was made cupbearer to the Princess Elizabeth, Electress Palatine, in 1613, remaining abroad for some years; and before 162 9 he was appointed secretary to Ussher, the primate of Ireland. About 1633 he returned to England, and spent the next two years in the preparation of his Emblems. In 163 9 he was made city chronologer, a post in which Ben Jonson and Thomas Middleton had preceded him. At the outbreak of the Civil War he took the Royalist side, drawing up three pamphlets in 1644 in support of the king's cause. It is said that his house was searched and his papers destroyed by the Parliamentarians in consequence of these publications. He died on the 8th of September in that year.

Quarles married in 1618 Ursula Woodgate, by whom he had eighteen children. His son, John Quarles (1624-1665), was exiled to Flanders for his Royalist sympathies and was the author of Forts Lachrymarum (1648) and other poems.

The work by which Quarles is best known, the Emblems, was originally published in 1635, with grotesque illustrations engraved by William Marshall and others. The forty-five prints in the last three books are borrowed from the Pia Desideria (Antwerp, 1624) of Herman Hugo. Each "emblem" consists of a paraphrase from a passage of Scripture, expressed in ornate and metaphorical language, followed by passages from the Christian Fathers, and concluding with an epigram of four lines. The Emblems was immensely popular with the vulgar, but the critics of the 17th and 18th centuries had no mercy on Quarles. Sir John Suckling in his Sessions of the Poets disrespectfully alluded to him as he "that makes God speak so big in's poetry." Pope in the Dunciad spoke of the Emblems, " Where the pictures for the page atone And Quarles is saved by beauties not his own." The works of Quarles include: A Feast for Wormes. Set forth in a Poeme of the History of Jonah (1620), which contains other scriptural paraphrases, besides the one that furnishes the title; Hadassa; or the History of Queene Ester (1621); Job Militant, with Meditations Divine and Morall (1624); Sions Elegies, wept by Jeremie the Prophet (1624); Sions Sonets sung by Solomon the King (1624), a paraphrase of the Canticles; The Historie of Samson (1631); Alphabet of Elegies upon ... Dr Aylmer (1625); Argalus and Parthenia (1629), the subject of which is borrowed from Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia; four books of Divine Fancies digested into Epigrams, Meditations and Observations (1632); a reissue of his scriptural paraphrases and the Alphabet of Elegies as Divine Poems (1633); Hieroglyphikes of the Life of Man (1638); Enchyridion, containing Institutions Divine and Moral (1640-41), a collection of four "centuries" of miscellaneous aphorisms; Observations concerning Princes and States upon Peace and Warre (1642), and Boanerges and Barnabas - Wine and Oyle for ... afflicted Soules (1644-46), both of which are collections of miscellaneous reflections; three violent Royalist tracts (1644), The Loyall Convert, The Whipper Whipt, and The New Distemper, reissued in one volume in 1645 with the title of The Profest Royalist; his quarrell with the Times, and some elegies. Solomon's Recantation ... (1645) contains a memoir by his widow. Other posthumous works are The Shepheards' Oracles (1646), a second part of Boanerges and Barnabas (1646), a broadside entitled A Direfull Anathema against Peace-haters (1647), and an interlude, The Virgin Widow (1649).

An edition of the Emblems (Edinburgh, 1857) was embellished with new illustrations by C. H. Bennett and W. A. Rogers These are reproduced in the complete edition (1874) of Quarles included in the "Chertsey Worthies Library" by Dr A. B. Grosart, who provides an introductory memoir and an appreciation which greatly overestimates Quarles's value as a poet.

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