Sir John Beaumont


Bosworth-field (1629)

Bosworth-feild: with a taste of the variety of other poems, left by Sir J. Beaumont...Set forth by his sonne Sir John Beaumont, Baronet (London, 1629)


The Poems of Sir John Beaumont, Bart., ed. The Rev. Alexander B. Grosart (The Fuller Worthies Library, for private circulation, 1869)


The Shorter Poems of Sir John Beaumont: A Critical Edition, ed. Roger D. Sell (Abo, 1974)



Sir John Beaumont, though much less known than his brother, the playwright Francis Beaumont, was a prolific poet and possibly the author of an entertainment, The Theatre of Apollo (BeJ 56), written in 1625 but not published until 1926. His most celebrated poem is Bosworth Field, which survives in eight? contemporary manuscript copies (BeJ 12-16) and was posthumously published by his son, John, in 1629. This same edition saw the first publication of a number of shorter poems by Beaumont, which otherwise had had only limited manuscript circulation, as is witnessed by the relatively modest number of copies of poems by him in manuscript miscellanies known today.

The only recorded collection of Beaumont's poems in manuscript is British Library Stowe MS 960, sixteen leaves containing twenty-two of his poems and an anonymous memorial poem on him at the end, a collection probably made shortly after his death in 1627. Among other features of interest, this manuscript contains the unique known text of the poem ‘On the death of so many good People slaine by the fall of a floore att a Catholike Sermon in Black Friers’ (BeJ 36), a poem that was originally printed in the 1629 edition of Bosworth Field, but which, for presumably political reasons, was cut out of every exemplum of that edition. Similar considerations presumably led to the exclusion in that edition of Beaumont's poem ‘Of the Assumption of our Blessed Lady’, for which, again, the Stowe MS provides the unique text (BeJ 29).

The Canon

The canon of Beaumont's shorter poems accepted for present purposes is that established in Sell. He includes three poems of uncertain authorship (BeJ 48, BeJ 50, BeJ 52), to which may be added the lengthy and still unpublished religious poem The Crowne of Thornes (BeJ 47), which he accepts as a ‘work definitely by Beaumont’, who is recorded as having written a poem of that title in eight books. Given the manuscript's association with the Carthusian writer Robert Clarke, however, the authorshipof the extant twelve-book poem must remain open to debate.

Letters and Documents

Only two evidently autograph letters signed by Beaumont are hitherto known to survive (BeJ 57-58). Indeed, they are the only recorded examples of his handwriting but for his possible signature on a receipt (BeJ 59). Other letters by ‘Sir John Beaumont’, such as three written from Madrid, Grace Dieu, and London, in 1635-37, to Sir Gervase Clifton (University of Nottingham Library, Clifton MSS Cl C 25-27), were presumably written by his eldest son, John.

Peter Beal