Francis Quarles

Short Name: Francis Quarles
Full Name: Quarles, Francis

Quarles, Francis. The life of this "fine old English gentleman" and charming essayist and quaint singer, will be found in full in the present writer's collective and complete edition of his works in verse and prose (3 vols. 4°, 1880-81, Chertsey Worthies’ Library). His father was James Quarles, of Stewards, Esq., and his mother Joan Dalton. He was their third son and child. In the registers of Romford, Essex, is this entry, "1592, May 8. Baptizatus fuit Franciscus filius magistm Jacobi Quarrilus." He lost his father in 1599. His first school was Eomford and his first tutor William Tiehbournc, chaplain of Romford. He lost his mother in 1606. He proceeded to Christ's College, Cambridge, and later was of Exeter College, Oxford. It is to be regretted that the College registers furnish no exact data. He passed from the University to Lincoln's Inn, where his widow-biographer tells us—

"He studied the laws of England; not po much out of desire to benefit himself thereby, as his friends and neighbours (showing therein his continual inclination to peace) by composing suits and differences amongst them."

Some years advance us from 1608 (at Lincoln's Inn) to probably 1612-13, or his 21st year. His widow continues,

"After he came to maturity he was not desirous to put himself into the world, otherwise he might have had greater preferments than he had. He was neither so unfit for Court preferment, or so ill-beloved there, but that he might have raised his fortunes thereby if he had had any inclination that way. But his mind was chiefly set upon his devotion and study; yet not altogether so much but that he faithfully discharged the place of cupbearer to the Queen of Bohemia."

How long Quarles continued with the Queen is unknown. He accompanied Frederick and Elizabeth to Germany. He married Ursely [= Ursula] Woodgate, of St. Andrew's, Holborn, on May 28, 1618. In 1620 appeared the first and most characteristic of his poems, entitled, after the odd phrasing of the period, A Feast for Worms. In the epistle he says, "Wonder not at the title, for it is a Song of Mercy: what greater Feast than Mercy? and what are men but worms" (vol. ii. p. 5). Kindred with the Feast followed Hadassa, or the History of Queene Esther. In 1621 he was in Dublin. He dated hisArgalus and Parthenia," Dublin, 4th March, 1021. "He filled the office of Secretary to the illustrious Ussher, on whose death John Quarles composed a memorable elegy. Ussher wrote to Vossius highly laudatory of our Quarles. His successive books are practically the only landmarks of his remaining years. (The reader is referred to our Life and the Works, ut supra.) The Emblems appeared in 1634-35, and his Hieroglyphics in 1637. In 1639 ho was appointed "Chronologer" of the City of London, an office which he held till his death.

From 1639 his various prose books were written, and became as popular as his poems. They are all in fine English. He was an out and out loyalist, and was with the king at Oxford. He had a numerous family. He died Sept. 8, 1644, and was buried in St. Olave's, Silver Street, London, "11 Sep. 1644." His title to a place in this work rests mainly on his versified Psalms. These appear in the famous Bay Psalter. [See Bay Psalter, p. 119, i.] Quarles's are Psalms xvi., xxv., li., lxxxviii., cxiii., cxxxvii. They were reclaimed by us for Quarles on the authority of John Josselyn's Account of Two Voyages to New England (1674). In the year 1638 he says, on his arrival in Massachusetts Bay,

"Having refreshed myself for a day or two at Noodles Island, I crossed the bay in a small boat to Boston, which then was rather a village than a town, there not being above twenty or thirty houses, and presented myself to Mr. Winthorpe, the Governor, and to Mr. Cotton, the teacher of Boston Church, to whom I delivered from Mr. Francis Quarles, the poet, the translations of Nos. 16,25, 51, 88,113 and 137 Psalms into English metre for his approbation," &c.

These "Psalms" are more curious than successful. But besides them the poetry of Francis Quarles is a virgin field for the capable hymnologist. It is a mystery and a sorrow that few only have been adapted and adopted. There are many of his verse-Emblems that fittingly married to music would be solemn and searching, and nobly displace accepted pious inanities. No. xii. of Book iii. of Emblems (vol. iii. pp. 75, 76), "Oh that Thou wouldst hide me in the grave," deserves a supreme effort of highest genius to mate it worthily. In delightful contrast in its vividness and sweetness is his "Like to the damask rose you see " (vol. iii. p. 285). Equally noticeable are his "Backsliding" (ibid. p. 66, xiv.), "Vain Physicians" (ibid, p. 189, iv.), "Waste not Life" (ibid. p. 194, xi.), "A Little While" (ibid, p. 196, xiv.). [Rev. A. B. Grosart, D.D., LL.D.]

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)


Texts by Francis Quarles (13)sort iconAsInstances
Behold how short a spanFrancis Quarles (Author)2
Close now thine eyes, and rest secureFrancis Quarles (Author)2
Close thine eyes and sleep secureFrancis Quarles (Author)2
I love, and have some cause to loveFrancis Quarles (Author)2
Lord, I have lainFrancis Quarles, 1592-1644 (Author)2
Lord, shall we grumble when thy flames do scourge us?Francis Quarles (Author)2
My sins are like the sands upon the shoreFrancis Quarles (Author)2
My sins are like the stares, within the skiesFrancis Quarles (Author)2
O that thou wouldst hide me in the graveFrancis Quarles (Author)2
Thou art my Life, if thou but turn awayFrancis Quarles, 1592-1644 (Author)6
When, before, my God commandedFrancis Quarles (Author)2
Why dost thou shade thy lovely faceFrancis Quarles (Author)2
Without thy presence earth gives no reflectionFrancis Quarles, 1592 (Author)2



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