Giles Fletcher the Younger



The Poetical Works of Giles Fletcher and Phineas Fletcher, ed. Frederick S. Boas, 2 vols (Cambridge 1908-9).


The small corpus of extant poetical works by Giles Fletcher the Younger is almost entirely edited in Boas (I, 1-90, 265-73). Only one of the poems in that edition is preserved in manuscript (FlG 1), although there also exists in manuscript a poem by Fletcher not known to Boas: namely, Fletcher's contribution to the gratulatory anthology presented by Cambridge University to Frederick V, the Elector Palatine (FlG 2).

Boas notes (I, ix-x) that a manuscript entitled Aegidii Fletcheri Versio Poetica Lamentationum Jeremiae was formerly preserved in the library of King's College, Cambridge, but cannot now be found. It was described by William Cole (1714-82) as ‘a small manuscrript. given to it [the library] Febr. 2. 1654-5 by S. Th. Socius’ [i.e. Samuel Thomson] and containing a nineteen-verse dedication to Dr ‘Whytgyfte’. Cole assumed that the manuscript was the work of Giles Fletcher the Younger, but there is reason for attributing it to Giles Fletcher the Elder (1546-1611), who (unlike his son) was a member of King's College and was in residence at the same time as John Whitgift, the future Archbishop of Canterbury (1530/1-1604).

One other poem, found in manuscript sources, has some connection with Giles Fletcher. He contributed to the Epicedium Cantabrigiense (1612) an eight-line Latin elegy on Prince Henry, Carmen Sepulchrale (‘Miraris qui Saxa loqui didicere, Viator?’) (Boas, I, 270). An English version, beginning ‘Reader, wonder thinke it none’, achieved considerable popularity and occurs in very many seventeenth-century miscellanies, but there is no evidence that Fletcher was its author. The English version, which has been doubtfully attributed to Ben Jonson, is discussed in William Dinsmore Briggs, ‘Studies in Ben Jonson. III’, Anglia, 39 (1916), 16-44 (pp. 32-41), and in Ben Jonson, ed. C. H. Herford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson, 11 vols (Oxford, 1925-52), VIII, 432-3. In two sources (Folger, MS V.a.103, Part I, f. 3, and University of Nottingham, Portland MS Pw V 37, p. 4), both written in the same hand, the poem is ascribed to ‘Mr C. W.’

Two examples of Fletcher's handwriting have come to light: one his student subscription at Cambridge (*FlG 4); the other a letter to his benefactor, Sir Nathaniel Bacon (*FlG 3).

Peter Beal