Jasper Mayne


Jasper Mayne, clergyman, poet and playwright, is best known for his two anonymously published comedies or tragi-comedies The Citye Match (1639) and The Amorous Warre (Oxford, 1648). Neither of these reached the stage during his lifetime, though the first one did many years later in highly adapted forms: as W. Bromfield's The Schemers (published in 1755) and as J. R. Planché's The Merchant's Wedding (published in 1828).

In his younger days at Christ Church, Oxford, Mayne was better known as a poet and as a contributor to the manuscript verse circulation which flourished there. The consequence is that several of his poems survive in contemporary verse miscellanies, the most popular evidently being his verses on the table book of Anne King, sister of the poet and bishop Henry King (MyJ 10-27). The canon of poems attributed to him in these sources is by no means certain, some also being ascribed to other poets — for instance, an epitaph on the Earl of Pembroke usually ascribed to John Earle but ascribed to Mayne in EaJ 51, EaJ 52, EaJ 58. There are also poems (not recorded here) whose subscription ‘G. M.’ is sometimes thought to refer to him, but this is only speculative. Thus the present canon of Mayne's verse in manuscript is only provisional.

Among Mayne's published commendatory verses is one on the death of John Donne (MyJ 5-9), and he subsequently published his translation of Donne's ‘book’ of Latin epigrams in the 1652 edition of Paradoxes, Problems, Essayes, Characters written by Dr Donne. Since Donne's original epigrams were never published, and there is no trace of the manuscript that must have been used for the translation (supplied by John Donne Jr), Mayne's published translation remains among his most notable achievements in that it throws the only light we have on Donne's original Latin verses.

Unless other documents by him come to light, the only examples of Mayne's handwriting that can currently be recorded are signatures in his college disbursements books for 1626-30 (MyJ 33-39).

Peter Beal