John Chalkhill


John Chalkhill was a distant relation by marriage of Izaak Walton, who edited for posthumous publication Chalkhill's ‘Pastoral History’ in verse Thealma and Clearchus (London, 1683), as well as including two of his poems in his own Compleat Angler (first edition London, 1653). Otherwise Chalkhill was little known until 1958 when a group of autograph manuscripts of assorted verses and letters by him, of considerable interest, were discovered by P.J. Croft among the papers of the Gell family of Hopton Hall, Derbyshire. These papers were later sold and finally came to the Pierpont Morgan Library (*ChJ 1-9).

Chalkhill's distinctive rugged italic hand in these literary papers can be effectively verified by the only other known examples of his handwriting recorded by Croft: namely his signatures in the Scholars' Admission Book at Trinity College, Cambridge (in April 1611), and as witness to the will of his cousin Martha Walker (on 2 June 1633) in the National Archives, Kew.

Other poems subscribed ‘J. C.’, in both printed and manuscript sources, have occasionally been attributed to Chalkhill, but only speculatively: there are a considerable number of other people, including well-known poets, with those initials.

Two indentures relating to properties in Westminster, ‘The Katherine wheale’ and The ‘Green Dragon’ respectively, and dated 13 December 1585, bear the signature of ‘Jon Chalkhill’, who is identified as ‘of Barnardes Inne in Holborne’ and is presumably the poet's father (d.1615), coroner of Middlesex. These documents were owned by Dr Bent Juel-Jensen (1922-2006), Oxford physician and book collector and are now in the Bodleian Library (in Juel-Jensen E 3).

Peter Beal