Robert Aylett

Robert Aylett (?1583-1655) in 1652. Line engraving after Thomas Cross. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery and Wikimedia Commons.

Robert Aylett (?1583-1655) (sometimes Aylet) was an English poet and lawyer.


Aylett was born in Rivenhall, Essex. He was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he earned a B.A. in 1605, an M.A. in 1608, and a LL.D. in 1614.[1] He is represented as a hard student who lightened his professional labours with 'the relaxation of poetry.'[2]

Living at Feering, he acted for the archdeacon of Colchester and as justice of the peace.[3] He also acted in Essex as commissary for the Bishop of London, and judge of the Commissary Court; he played a large part in enforcing the Laudian reforms in the county.[4] He became Master of the Faculties in 1642.[2]

He was the author of a volume of religious verse entitled Divine and Moral Speculations in Metrical Numbers upon Various Subjects. By Doctor R. Aylet, one of the Masters of the High Court of Chancery. London . . . 1654. It was dedicated to 'Henry Lord Marquesse of Dorchester and his incomparable lady,' as 'the humblest of their servants.' There are prefixed commendatory poems by Sir Robert Beaumont, Bart., and James Howell, and a W. Martin. In some copies there is inserted before the title-page a cunningly engraved portrait, with this inscription on the upper left-hand corner, 'Æt. 52, 1635.'[2]


As a poet his work is related to George Herbert's, but he borrowed quite heavily from Edmund Spenser.[5] Susanna, or the Arraignment of the Two Unjust Elders, was published in 1622. Joseph, or Pharaoh's Favorite, Peace with her Four Gardens (1622) and Thrift's Equipage (1622) are other earlier works.[6]

Except his odd 'A Wife not readymade but bespoke, by Dicus the Batchelor, and made up for him by his fellow shepheard Tityrus; in four pastoral eclogues' (1653), his entire verse is 'sacred.' Its main feature is pious aphoristic thought, after the type of George Herbert's poems of The Temple.[2]

His 'Divine and Moral Speculations' start with a semi-paraphrase of the 'Song of Songs,' which is succeeded by 'The Brides Ornaments' — a series of meditations of 'Heavenly Love,' 'Humility,' 'Repentance, 'Faith,' 'Hope,' 'Justice and Righteousness,' 'Truth,' 'Mercy,' 'Fortitude,' 'Heavenly Knowledge,' 'Zeal,' 'Temperance,' 'Bounty,' 'Joy,' 'Prudence,' 'Obedience,' 'Meeknesse,' 'God's Word,' 'Prayer,' &c. These 'four books' of meditations are followed firstly by 'Five Moral Meditations' of 'Concord and Peace, Chastity, Constancy, Courtesy, and Gravity;' and secondly by 'Five Divine and Moral Meditations' of 'Frugality, Providence, Diligence, Labour and Care, and Death.' The whole closes with 'A Funerall Elegy, consecrated to the memory of his ever honoured lord John King, late Lord Bishop of London.' We gather from the volume two personal facts, (a) that his 'muse' had been 'whilome swayd by lust of youth' to spend 'her strength in idle wanton toys,' but was now summoned to holy strains; (b) that he was in 1654 a sufferer from ague (p. 476). The 'Divine and Moral Speculations' were probably published separately long before 1654.[2]

Earlier impressions are found of 2 other poems by Aylett: 'Svsanna, or the Arraignment of the Two Unjust Elders' (in four books), and 'Joseph, or Pharaoh's Favorite' — both of which are often bound up with the 'Speculations,' and usually dated 1654. Of 'Svsanna ' an anonymous R. C. (wrongly assigned to Richard Crashaw) wrote:—

In all thy poems thou dost wondrous well,
But thy Susanna doth them all excell.

Of 'Joseph' another wrote :—

Susanna was of all thy poems best,
But Joseph her excels, as she the rest.[2]

"Peace with her Four Gardens" (1622) (mentioned along with others in Censura Literaria, vol. v.) was incorporated with the Meditations above enumerated, as was "Thrift's Equipage" (1622).[2]



  • A Brief Chronologie of the Holie Scriptures. London: Iohn Harison, for Thomas Man, 1600.
  • Peace with her four garders. London: G. Purslowe, for Iohn Teage, 1622.
  • Susanna; or, the arraignment of the two unjust elders. London: Iohn Teage, 1622.
  • Thrifts Equipage; viz. Five divine and morall meditations. London: G. Purslowe, for Iohn Teage, 1622.
  • Joseph: or Pharoah's favorite. London: B. Alsop, for Matthew Lane, 1623.
  • Davids troubles remembred. London:Richard Hodgkinsonne, for Daniel Frere, 1638.
  • A Wife Not Ready Made but Bespoken. London: A.R., 1653.
  • Divine and Moral Speculations: In metrical numbers, on various subjects. London: Abel Roper, 1654.
  • Devotions. London: T.M. for Abel Roper, 1655.


  • The Song of Songs, which was Salomons: Metaphrased in English heroiks by way of dialogue; with Certayne of the brides ornaments, viz. poeticall essayes vpon a diuine subiect. London: William Stanby, 1621.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[7]


  • PD-icon.svg Grosart, Alexander Balloch (1885) "Aylett, Robert" in Stephen, Leslie Dictionary of National Biography 2 London: Smith, Elder, p. 279 . Wikisource, Web, Feb. 14, 2020.</ref>
  • John Horace Round, "Robert Aylett and Richard Argall," English Historical Review 38 (1923), 423-424.


  1. Template:Acad
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Grossart, 279.
  3. J.S. Cockburn, Crime in England, 1550-1800 (1977), p. 94.
  4. J. Horace Round, William Page, William Price (editor), Family Origins and Other Studies (1971), p. 108.
  5. R. M. Cummings, Edmund Spenser: the critical heritage (1995), p. 140.
  6. Robert Aylett, English Poetry, 1579-1830. Apr. 24, 2016.
  7. Search results = au:WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Apr. 21, 2016.

External linksEdit


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: "Aylett, Robert (1583-1655?)"

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