Edward Benlowes (1603-1676). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Edward Benlowes
Born July 12 1603(1603-Template:MONTHNUMBER-12)
Died December 18 1676(1676-Template:MONTHNUMBER-18) (aged 73)
Nationality English
Alma mater St John's College, Cambridge
Genres Poetry

Edward Benlowes (July 12, 1602 - Dec. 18, 1676) was an English poet of the metaphysical school and a patron of the arts.[1]


Youth and educationEdit

Benlowes was born in Finchingfield, Essex,[1] the son and heir of Andrew Benlowes of Brent Hall, Essex.[2]

He matriculated at St John's College, Cambridge, in 1620. When he left Cambridge he made a valuable donation of books to St. John's College.[2]


On leaving the university he travelled with a tutor on the continent, visiting 7 courts of princes. Wood says that he returned tinged with Romanism; but according to Cole he had been bred in the Roman Catholic religion from his earliest years.[2]

On the death of his father he became possessed of the estate of Brent Hall, but being a man of a very liberal disposition he contrived "to squander it mostly away on poets, flatterers (which he loved), in buying of curiosities (which some called baubles), on musicians, buffoons, &c." (Wood).[2]

He often gave his bond for the payment of debts contracted by his friends, and on an occasion, being unable to meet the obligation he had incurred, was committed to prison at Oxford. To his niece at her marriage, he granted a handsome portion, and many poor scholars experienced his bounty.[2]

Among his friends, he numbered many distinguished men. In 1638, Phineas Fletcher dedicated to him The Purple Island. Sir William Davenant, Francis Quarles, Payne Fisher, and others, dedicated works to him or complimented him in epigrams.[2]

Final yearsEdit

Benlowes spent the last 8 years of his life at Oxford, studying much in the Bodleian Library. By his profuse liberality he had exhausted his patrimony, and at the close of his life he had to endure much privation. In his mature years he abandoned Roman Catholicism, and became a zealous protestant. His niece was an equally zealous catholic, and since Benlowes insisted on disputing "against papists and their opinions," an estrangement arose between them.[2]

The old poet, who in his early days had been named by way of anagram 'Benevolus,' on account of his generosity, "for want of conveniencies required fit for old age, as clothes, fewell, and warm things to refresh the body, marched off in a cold season, on 18 December at eight of the clock at night, an. 1676, aged 73 years or more."[3] [2]

A collection was made among the scholars who remembered his former condition, and the body was given an honorable burial in St. Mary's Church, Oxford.[2]

Writing Edit


Benlowes' chief work is entitled Theophila; or, Love's Sacrifice: A divine poem. Written by E. B. Esq. Several parts thereof set to fit aires, by Mr. J. Jenkins, 1652, folio.[2] The poem deals with mystical religion, telling how the soul, represented by Theophila, ascends by humility, zeal and contemplation, and triumphs over the sins of the senses. It is written in a curious stanza of 3 lines of unequal length rhyming together.[4]

The poem is divided into 13 cantos, most of which are preceded by large plates of Hollar and others. Prefixed to the opening canto, which is entitled the "Prelibation to the Sacrifice," is an engraving of a full-length figure (presumably the author) seated at a writing-table. The volume is valued rather for the engravings than for the text; but a reader who is not dismayed by the author's conceits and extravagances will be rewarded by finding passages where subtlety of thought is joined to felicity of diction. But at the time of its publication 'Theophila' was greatly applauded, and Wood mentions that a whole canto of it was turned into Latin verse in one day by the youthful John Hall of Durham, so much were his "tender affections ravished with that divine piece."[2]

Other writingEdit

The following is a list of his works: 1. 'Sphinx Theologica, seu Musica Templi, ubi Discordia Concors,' Cantab. 1626, 8vo (2nd ed. 1628). 2. Lusus Poeticus Poetis, London, 1635, 8vo; 10 leaves of Latin verse addressed to Charles I, sometimes bound up with the 1st edition of Quarles's 'Emblems.' 3. 'A Buckler against the feare of Death, or Pyous and Proffitable Observations, Medytations and Consolations on Man's Mortality, by E. B., minister in G. B.,' London, 1640, 8vo. 4. 'Honorifica Armorum Cessatio sive Pacis et Fidei Associatio,' Feb. 11 an. 1643, 8vo. 5. 'Chronosticon Decollationis Caroli Regis,' 1648; a poem printed in red and black. 6. 'The Summary of Divine Wisdome,' 1657, 4to; ten leaves. 7. 'Threno-Thriambeuticon,' 1660, 4to; Latin poems on the Restoration, printed on one side of a large sheet (some copies were printed on white satin). 8. 'Oxonii Encomium,' Oxford, 1672; four sheets in folio. 9. 'Oxonii Elogia,' Oxford, 1673; a single large sheet. 10. 'Magia Cælestis,' Oxford, 1673; a single large sheet. 11. 'Veridica joco seria,' Oxford, 1673;[2] a Latin poem (against the pope, papists, &c.) on a side of a large sheet.[5]

To Sparke's Scintillula Altaris, 1652, he prefixed a copy of commendatory verses, and to John Sictor's Panegyricon inaugurale . . . Richardi Fenn, 1637, 4to, he contributed a Latin poem in praise of the lord major, the city, and the citizens. Wood mentions an undated copy of verses, entitled Truth's Touchstone, dedicated to his niece, Mrs. Philippa Blount, and 'Annotations for the better confirming the several Truths in the said poem.' 'A Glance at the Glories of Sacred Friendship, by E.B., Esq.,' London, 1657, a large sheet in verse, has also been assigned to Benlowes.[5]

Critical reputationEdit

Later writers were exceedingly severe on Benlowes's poetry. Warburton pronounced him to be not less famous for his own bad poetry than for patronizing bad poets, and Butler in his Remains in Verse and Prose[6] has a most ruthless attack upon him. Benlowes' name had fallen into such oblivion that the editor of Butler's Remains, E. Thyer, imagined the reference was to Sir John Denham.[2]

Recognition Edit

There is a portrait of him in the master's lodge at St. John's College, Cambridge, and another in the Bodleian Library.[2]

Theophila was reprinted by S.W. Singer; and in Minor Poets of the Caroline Period, vol. i. (1905), Mr Saintsbury reprinted Theophila and 2 other poems by Benlowes, "The Summary of Wisedome," and "A Poetic Descant upon a Private Music-Meeting."[4]





  • Sphinx Theologica: Sive musica temple. London: 1636.

Papa perstriclus, (Echo) ictus. London: Jacobi Junii, 1645.

  • Oxonii encomium. Oxford, UK: H. Hall, 1672.
  • Magna coelestis. 1673.[7]
  • Oxonia elogia. 1673.[7]

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[8]

See alsoEdit


  • PD-icon.svg Bullen, Arthur Henry (1885) "Benlowes, Edward" in Stephen, Leslie Dictionary of National Biography 4 London: Smith, Elder, pp. 226-227  Wikisource, Web, Feb. 24, 2020.
  • PD-icon.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Benlowes, Edward". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 740.  Wikisource, Web, Feb. 24, 2020.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Edward Benlowes, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Web, Oct. 23, 2011.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Bullen, 226.
  3. Wood
  4. 4.0 4.1 Britannica 3, 740.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bullen, 227.
  6. Remains in Verse and Prose ii. 119, ed. 1769
  7. 7.0 7.1 Edward Benlowes (1603ca.-1676) at English Poetry, 1579-1830, Virgina Polytechnic Institute & State University. Web, Apr. 28, 2016
  8. Search results = au:Edward Benlowes, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Apr. 28, 2016.

External linksEdit


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain, the 1911 Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Original article is at "Benlowes, Edward"
PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain, the Dictionary of National Biography (edited by Leslie Stephen). London: Smith, Elder, 1885-1900. Original article is at: "Benlowes, Edward"

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